Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our political discourse. . . . .

A couple of events in the blogosphere over the past couple of days have got me thinking about the process of political discourse, (if I may dignify what we do here with the epithet 'discourse'). One is the comment left on my last post by a reader who was somewhat offended by my little photoshop endeavor. Now, the reader's offense was really based on a misunderstanding because he/she thought it was a photoshop of Harper on Hitler's body which he/she thought was uncalled for and lowered the level of debate. Fair enough. Of course I had actually used an image of Charlie Chaplin from his amazing film 'The Great Dictator,' but still the critique was fair in as much as it could be easily misinterpreted. The other issue was from the Blog 'Troy's Journal' in which Troy apologized to me and other bloggers for the inflammatory language that he had used over the past months etc. The one exchange between Troy and me that I know of was based again on a misunderstanding in which I criticized him for something I thought he had said but what was actually just a missing word that changed the meaning of a sentence to the exact opposite of its actually intended meaning. Troy in turn replied with an excessive number of expletives and the rest, as they say, is history. 

But all of this got me thinking about the subtlety of words and the difficulties of political discourse, particularly in such troubled times. There is no doubt that the style of recent governments, particularly the Harper lead government, has poisoned the field of public discourse to a point that may in fact be irreparable. And we are all susceptible to the effects of this poisoned atmosphere. I honestly believe, and have said on a number of occasions, that this government has knowingly employed a strategy of lowering the level of public debate in order to turn many people off politics. They know that their core supporters will always vote for them because of the nature of contemporary political demographics, and the more people that they can turn off from the process in general the better chance they have of maintaining power. And many people have fallen into to this rather fiendishly simple idea. And it is hard not too. I mean me like John Baird are so monumentally offensive and mean-spirited that sometimes you just want to tear your hair out in frustration that such men can have jobs of power and respect. These are the types of men who, in their school days, beat up the handicapped kids and publicly humiliated all those who were 'different.' Yet here they are in our nations parliament. The recent events over the testimony of Richard Colvin is such a prime, and frustrating, example. The idea that you would attempt to publicly humiliate and discredit a civil servant who was giving sworn testimony in a public hearing is just so awful that it makes you mourn for the whole political process in this country. 

I genuinely believe that Harper's government is a serious threat to democracy and the future of human rights and this nation in general. And I believe that one can demonstrate that in clear, rational arguments. However, this begs the question; "how is one to face the threat of 
fascism?" I mean, as Woody Allen said so amusingly in 'Manhattan,' "it is hard to satirize a guy in shiny boots." We face a serious dilemma, to wit: 'how to we deal with a dangerous government which insists on using abusive, bullying, irrational tactics? How do we deal with people respectfully who demonstrate absolutely no respect for opposition, for the law, for the public, or for the House of Commons? Honestly, I am really not sure. It is profoundly difficult to function in such an atmosphere. It is particularly difficult because I believe that many people are unaware of the magnitude of the crisis and many in the official opposition are so close to the government on so many issues that there is very little push back. In the thirties, fascism rose to power in large part because there was no unified opposition to it in many countries. The Communists wouldn't talk to the Socialists, the Socialists wouldn't talk to the Social Democrats, etc. Today we have a similar problem. There is a genuine threat to democracy but no one seems capable of unifying against it, and so we edge slowly toward the precipice. 

There is no doubt that some people on the left say some inflammatory things, angry words that can seem counter-productive. But Harper is gradually backing the people of this country into a corner, and that corner is called tyranny. And there comes a time in the face of tyranny when flowery words and eloquent phrases are drowned out by the winds of despotism. And our voices are becoming sore with the screaming we are having to do just to be heard above the din of bluster and domination. 

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