Tuesday, October 27, 2009

H.G. Wells and the failure of democracy. . .

I used to think we were learning something from history but the more I see the more I agree with H.G. Wells; that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history! I grew up in the US during the tumultuous time of the war in Indo-China. And I thought this would cure the US population from gullibly supporting another neo-imperialist war. But no. The US is now actively involved in two such wars with no end in sight. I guess I used to be naïve about a lot of things. But I am cured now. Not only is Obama a huge fraud who supports many of the policies of George Bush without any of the backlash, but voters everywhere seem to have an infinite capacity to ignore what is going on all around them. Our government in Canada is frighteningly awful. It not only has poisoned the entire political culture of the nation beyond repair, but it lies continually, has abandoned every principle it claimed to stand for, is centralizing power to a dangerous degree, is dismantling democracy in every way that it can, it is hopelessly incompetent and corrupt. And every day they become more popular. Why? Because democracy is an epic failure at the whim of those who have the most money and can manipulate the system most effectively.

And here is the rub. . . if the Conservatives left office today, it would be far too late to save Canada from the damage they have done. The only moment of amusement we have to look forward to is when the next government is in power and it cripples the conservative with the very standards that the Conservatives have instituted. Though amusing, it will be a hollow victory because as often happens the Conservatives will have pushed the political agenda in this country so far to the right that it won’t change for several generations. Have fun. . . . 

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Problem of paradigms . . .

Blogging has confirmed in my mind at least one particular idea; that one of the primary problems people have in understanding each other and finding creative solutions to our problems is that they think quite firmly within a particular paradigm. The inability to think outside the paradigm in which they are operating makes it very difficult for people to see that certain social interactions or even scientific problems have numerous, sometimes countless, solutions but they are prevented from seeing them because a paradigm, or worldview, is like a hard frame that forms around our thought preventing us from seeing beyond our thought to creative solutions. The philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn wrote extensively about this idea in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. But his conclusions are easily transferable to other areas of society. Ironically, academics are probably some of the people who are most vulnerable to paradigmatic blindness because they are steeped in a certain culture so deeply and because they are well educated they imagine that they are very open minded. It is doubly ironic that the process of peer review continually reinforces this process. Living as I did for many years on the margins of the academic community, I saw this process first hand and was continually shocked by it. But it happens everywhere in our society; in the arts, in politics, in religion, etc. Thus we often discuss things at cross purposes because people can seldom even identify the paradigm in which they are operating and if you don’t even understand that you are operating from a particular world view that is confining the ways and patterns in which you think, breaking out of this will be nearly impossible. Thus we often discuss issues at cross purposes with very little, if any hope, of coming to an understanding because we are operating from conflicting and unidentified world views. People are usually convinced that they are objective and can see all points of view but are only operating in an inter-objective manner, that is, within the confines of their own paradigm what they are arguing makes sense but looked at from another point of view the same argument might be entirely senseless.

I have no solutions for this problem. I just mention it because many of the comments I have received on my blog have been so completely beside the point that it has amazed me. But when I realize that the person is operating in a different paradigm it makes more sense. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A few words about global-warming. . . .

I was listening this evening to a ultra-right wing radio host here in Ottawa (I won't say his name because it will just give him free advertising - among my three regular readers), and was just amazed by what he said. He was one of these complete skeptics concerning global warming. Now while I am an avid skeptic regarding most things that scientists say, I think global warming is happening. I am not convinced that humans are the cause, but there seems to be general agreement that something is going on. But this guy went further than claiming that it wasn't happening, he claimed that the idea has been orchestrated by a bunch of people like Al Gore with the idea of making money from various things including carbon credit trading. (I love it when right-wingers engage in conspiracy theories because they are usually telling us that such things are the result of left-wing stupidity.) All the while ignoring the fact that those who deny the existence of global-warming usually have a stake in the oil and gas industry. 

Anyway, what I found most amazing about all this was that even if you don't believe in global-warming, this is only one reason among many to reduce our use of fossil fuels. There is clearly unanimous agreement that carbon particulates lead to numerous human and animal health problems, including cancer, asthma, emphysema, etc. Furthermore, fossil fuels contribute to numerous other environmental problems. Also, there is agreement that fossil fuels are a dwindling resource and will eventually run out. The development of renewable alternatives, therefore is necessary and will in the long term be very profitable. And to cap it all off, the use of fossil fuels as an energy source is very expensive. If we can develop better and cheaper alternatives we can make life better for a great many people. 

Thus, we must ask why was this (and other) right-wing ideologues are going on about how terrible this whole global-warming 'hoax' is? Three reasons: 1. Money, the establishment in this and many other countries has a vested interest in maintaining the current use of carbon fuels. 2. Ideology: these people can't stand that the majority of environmental activist are generally 'left-wing' and they would deny anything that these people asserted. 3. Conservatism: conservatives generally hate change, particularly anything that demands that we change our lifestyles and potentially our power structures. Right-wingers advocate the global power structure that modern capitalism has established and this system relies largely on fossil fuels, any change in this could threaten this system. Any serious innovation that creates a viable, cheap, and readily available energy alternative to fossil fuels could change the global power structure, potentially taking away the advantage that wealthy northern nations now enjoy.  This is certainly the last thing that right-wingers want. 

There you have it. . . 

A new book. . .

Today I got a new book in the mail which looks like it will be quite good. It is The Life and Times of Thomas Spence by Mary Ashraf. Thomas Spence was a radical democratic reformer who lived between the years 1750 and 1814. He was one of the most radical reformers of his time, outstripping the even Godwin and Thomas Paine. Spence anticipated a great deal of Marx and was one of the first of the modern European radicals to call for common property. 

Leafing through the book I hit upon this paragraph which is an excellent indication of the books interest and quality. 

"Labour gives the title no only to its products but to its means; not because it produces things but because it does so socially and is in fact the universal provider and civilizer. The claims to superiority of those who monopolize and misuse the bounty of labour or of nature are contemptible and ludicrous. Without workers the- gentry would revert to savagery, like Saltykov-Shchrendrin's 'wild squire.'"

Good stuff. . . .

So much for accountability . . .

One of the only issues that Harper ran on when he initially became prime-minister was accountability. Anyone who really paid attention at all knows that this was never really in the cards. From day one this government has centralized power and information and failed completely to be open, honest, and accountable. But their secretiveness is finally catching up with the Tories and it will eventually take them down. 

This government is spending billions on so-called stimulus and anytime you have that much money around people like this something is bound to go wrong. Though multiple sources are saying that the money is favoring Conservative ridings, exactly what is going on is unclear. This is because the government is not telling anyone, even the parliamentary budget officer, where the money is being spent. Because it is not difficult to track this kind of money, there must be a reason that the Conservatives are hiding the money trail. If there was nothing to hide they would simply put it on a government web site as they did with Harper's rather embarrassing singing. When Martin ran a long election campaign in 2006, he did so with the hope that the Conservatives, given enough rope, would hang themselves. Unfortunately, thanks to corruption at the RCMP, (with the release of information concerning an investigation into the budget leak against their own rules), the opposite happened. However, though it took a while, the Conservatives now have the rope and they seem to be using it liberally (no pun intended). This sh*t is eventually going to hit the proverbial fan. Let us not forget that Nixon was reelected after the Watergate break-in. But once the ship started to sink, it did so in an epic manner. Harper, the most secretive, corrupt, partisan, undemocratic prime-minister in this country's history is just now beginning to come undone. But like Nixon, his strength will eventually prove to be his weakness.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Harper and the egoism of politics. . .

As we all know, one of the primary problems with social and political reform is that those who resist it are driven by powerful egos and are convinced in almost all matters of life that they are correct in their judgments and that anyone who opposes them must be naive and/or stupid. Those who resist reform, who oppose the extension of democracy and the increase in generalized social interests, live in a constant state of irony because they accept major parts of society that were once considered radical and foolish by their political predecessors who would have rejected them as foolish and naïve.  Yet they accept these ideas while being convinced that while reforms toward greater social education and health, more worker’s rights and reduction of power for the  wealthiest class were fine in the past we have now reached the de facto ‘end of history’ and further reforms will end in total disaster. The conservatives told us that any system of minimum wage would make capitalism explode in total destruction. They told us that women voting would end society. Etc. Etc. Thus conservatives are people who accept radical ideas a hundred years after the rest of us understood them.

But the present class of ‘neo-liberal’ conservatives are much worse than traditional conservatives. A conservative like Edmund Burke, who is often considered the intellectual founder of Toryism, argued that social changes happen slowly through the gradual change in society. He understood at some level the powerful in society had an important social responsibility to society as a whole. Noblesse oblige, if you will. Modern Conservatives like Harper have a whole different M.O. They actually want to turn society backwards to a time when health and education was not universal but was the pleasure of those who could afford it. They want to take away the rights to collective bargaining and legislated safer workplaces. Harper and his ilk would like to take us back to a time when money and class made the decisions about whether some got a decent education or had decent housing. And they believe these things because they are driven by an extreme ego illness that convinces them that they are naturally part of the privileged class by dint of their A-Type personalities and that in a society of extreme inequality they will be somewhere near the top of the heap. This is why Harper never actually talks to average Canadians; he imagines himself as some kind of king who is complete beyond association with such commoners. And when people disagree with Harper or his ministers they get belligerent because they can’t believe that someone has the gall to disagree with them, their opinions must a priori be correct because they are the privileged ones. Thus the Conservatives never actually have a political discourse. They just deride and marginalize everyone else because no one deserve respect except those who agree with them.

This is the poison that has infected the Canadian political system, and democracy itself will be in danger until it has been purged. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Politicians and the letters we've sent

I have consistently criticized the Harper government for their corruption, lack of ethics, and total disregard for the people of this country. I do this even when many of the voters don't seem to care that they the government is acting consistently against the interest of the vast majority of the people. 

However, regardless of my politics, I will not indulge the perception that the other parties are somehow more concerned with average voters. 

Over the past seven years I have sent no less than twenty letters and countless emails to politicians of all political stripes. I have sent at least six of those to Jack Layton, two to Dion, two to Ignatieff, and one to Harper. And of course I have sent many to MPs of all parties. But here is the sad fact. I have never received a single reply from anyone except my local (Tory) MP, the dreaded racist Pierre Poilievre. Even though my politics, although non-partisan, would be closer to the NDP than any other party, no one in the NDP has ever bothered to reply to my letters or concerns. My letters to Jack Layton were clear and articulated my concerns about the course of the party and the country but he didn't bother reply to any of them. 

If you want to know why so many people are sick of politics and politicians you only have to look as far as your mailbox. These people just don't care, period.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cheque-scam and the voting public. . .

The fact that the Harper government is corrupt is easily demonstrable. Chose one of a dozen scandals. The In and Out scheme for example. This was considerably worse than the sponsorship scandal which so damaged the Liberal Party brand because the sponsorship scandal was a few peons trying to make money for themselves, while the In and Out scandal is a case of a party attempting, through corruption, to manipulate democracy at the highest level. However, even if one were a Conservative supporter and thought that the sponsorship scandal was worse, the only defense you have is that the Liberals were corrupt too (a school yard defense for a party that was elected claiming it would be the direct opposite of the Liberals). And there are plenty of other issues that demonstrate the Tory corruption is just as bad as Liberal corruption used to be. But of course then there is the fact that the Tories, beside being corrupt, are also rabidly anti-democratic, anti-woman, anti-gay, they hate any kind of genuine people's representation, or any kind of equity. 

Yet, the worse the Tories get the higher their poll numbers go. I for one can't entirely figure this out even with the incredibly biased work of CTV. Of course, like the explanation for most phenomena it is a confluence of factors. Many people just don't pay attention. Many are just not very politically savvy and don't understand the issues. Many people are so partisan that they could have pictures of Harper molesting Collies and they would still think he was a great leader. And many people actually support the total destruction of our democracy and social safety net. After all, the NAZI party was brought to power through the ballot-box, a fact many forget. 

The only part that is really a bit of a mystery to me is that most leaders who are blatantly corrupt like Harper is, and manage to maintain  a degree of popularity, have a good deal of charisma. Now, regardless of one's political stripes it is obvious that Harper is fairly deficient in the charisma department. And herein lies the rub; the real reason we are where we are is that while Harper appeals to the worst in people politically speaking (something which always gains in popularity during troubled times - again remember the Hitler lesson) , the only real bulwark against Fascist tendencies in difficult times is an opposition leader with real charisma. This is, of course, what we are sadly lacking. And in the absence of this there will continue to be a large part of the population in difficult times which finds the easy way out - the path of anger, blame, and hate. And this phenomenon will only get worse as the population ages because in my experience the older that people get the more susceptible they become to this kind of ideological trap. It seems to me that as many people age they too often fall into two poor political habits. One is that they become disappointed with their lives and start to lay blame for their supposed failures on other people. This it the - "It is single-mothers on welfare, or gay people that are getting all the government's attention and resources, and the rest of us are getting nothing" attitude. Or they begin to imagine that despite all the public services they enjoyed in the past - they were solely responsible for their successes. This it the - "I got there with absolutely no help from anyone, and anyone who can't do the same is just lazy" attitude. 

Anyway, as capitalism slowly changes and decays, one of the possible responses that people inevitably take is the one that many in Germany took in the early 1930s, to wit; things are getting bad because minorities and moral degenerates have taken advantage of our kindness and we need to attack these elements of society which are sapping our strength and wealth. This is precisely what Harper's politics represent, and even without the Charisma of Hitler there are enough people who take this negative response in our troubled times to make it a very real and dangerous possibility. Of course, as is almost always the case, conservatives will lead us to a disaster, and when things get really bad progressive people will have to clean up the mess. In the meantime, we must watch the difficult pendulum of history feed people's  anger and negativity and watch one more right-wing fool dismantle democracy and equality with the support of many of those who will eventually suffer the terrible consequences. The angry, spiteful, disgusting tirades of men like John Baird will fill our airwaves and some people will eat it up, as though MR. Baird is being publicly hateful the way many would like to be. And as the distribution of wealth gets worse and the education system decays, and democracy is dismantled, and workers lose their rights, and the gap between the rich and the poor increases, what is good in the human spirit will endeavor to persevere in the face of Harper's hatred and we, or our children will attempt, once again, to clean up the mess. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Time to go Mr. Layton. . . .

It is time for people on the left of Centre to take back the NDP and make it a party of principle. I don't care what your political stripes, if you are committed to democracy (unfortunately many conservatives are not so committed) you must know that there is a place for a party at the left of center to make a contribution. Unfortunately, under Jacky Layton the NDP has become a party that seems to change positions with the changing of the weather. Unfortunately there are other NDP MPs who are even worse that Layton like Mr. Mulcaire. In recent decades we have have watched the political spectrum shift slowly to the right and the result has been more inequality of wealth, the centralization of power, radical increases in corporate crime against the environment and human rights, decreases in political participation, media concentration. The fact is that a handful of people have most of the wealth and through that wealth they control most of the political agenda. Global capitalism is failing and so is democracy. The NDP under Layton is part of the shift to the right. It is time for a change. It is time for principles to return. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Conservative government of Canada is more than just bad, it is evil. It is evil because they want social democracy to fail, they want all the things that make a country civilized to break down. They want a society run by the rich for the rich. They are the very reason the human soul is being lost in a quagmire of greed, self-interest, hate, and anger. 

And here is the irony; they want society to fail, and it is failing. The fact that the Conservatives register even a few points in the polls is a sign that democracy in the age of media concentration simply is not working. People are either not paying attention or so lost in a cloud of ideological misrepresentation and spin that they have lost all sense of reason. 

From the beginning, it has been central to the Conservative strategy to destroy the system. And, as always, it is easier to destroy than to create. The cons know that there is a certain group of society that wallows in hate and ignorance that will always vote conservative no matter what. All the conservatives have had to do is hold on to these and then create an atmosphere of cynicism and disgust at the system and it would alienate enough of the rest that they could stay in power because not enough people would bother with the system. It is a basic divide and conquer strategy that can be very effective. I believe that Harper probably even held meetings with ministers like Baird and told them to be as obnoxious and offensive as they could because that would help destroy confidence in the system itself. Surely nothing else explains such behavior from a party that was initially elected with the claim that they would bring decorum and legitimacy back to the system. (And I would like to believe that no one could be naturally as offensive and ignorant as men like Baird or Polleivre.)

So it goes.....