Monday, April 26, 2010

Poilievre and Baird; Tweedle-de and Tweedle-dumber. . . .

I haven't been blogging about politics lately but I just couldn't let this go without a comment. Yesterday here in Ottawa the rather dodgey group which calls itself The Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group held a meeting to further the their agenda of undermining real government and furthering the cause of purely managerial government which servers the demands of Capital. Nothing surprising really, just a bunch of whack jobs who have bought into an globalizing ideology of Capitalism, the long term objective of which is to convince people that we can't actually control the economy in the interests of people but that we are pawns in a system of reification.

But what is the nature of the disease? The nature is, of course, hypocrisy. And you will know it by this sign - John Baird and Pierre Poilievre showed up at the meeting to slam the Ottawa city council for their irresponsible spending habits! And in case you missed that or were too shocked to register the fact, I will repeat it. John Baird and Pierre Poilievre showed up to slam the Ottawa City council for their irresponsible spending!!!

WAKE UP BOYS! Your government, which you both defend like little mindless, party-hack, lapdogs, made the largest spending increases in the history of Canada and has administered the largest deficit that Canada has ever seen. You undermined the tax base and increased spending on the lead up to a global recession that a 12 year old child could have seen coming and then you increased the deficit beyond anyone's imagination. Furthermore, your government has increased taxes on many citizen through various marginal fees and your advocacy of the HST.

By showing up at a meeting and accusing other politicians of spending irresponsibly, John Baird and Pierre Poilievre have demonstrated simply that they are hypocrites on an epic scale; ignorant, self-interested, thoughtless hypocrites. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where is Hell. . .

Traditionally I have believed that when you die you are dead. That's it, that's all. But I recently had a dream in which I realized, much to my horror, that when bad people die they have to spend eternity at a golf resort in Palm Springs.

Now I pray, just in case.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Comfort of Secrets. . . . .

On consideration of recent and past events on the front of modern democracy I have concluded that in troubled times there is a certain percentage of the population that is attracted and comforted by significant government secrecy. I think of the election of Hitler and the re-election of Nixon, two blatantly evil and corrupt figures who enjoyed amazing public popularity. And of course now we have our own example popularity in the face of obvious evil in the Harper regime. When times are uncertain and troubled I think there are many people who react with feelings of fear which are placated by a leader who they perceive to be extremely secretive, shifty, and ethically dodgey. Perhaps it makes these people believe at some (almost subconscious) level that their leader must be doing something to insulate them from the uncertainty and looming disaster.

Think about it for a bit. It was not when Nixon's secretive corruption was simply obvious that his popularity waned in the public eye. It was only when the secrets themselves were exposed that people reacted against this man who was so blatantly evil. Anyone who was paying attention at the time knew that Nixon was up to no good in Indochina and that he was doing dubious things at home. But his so-called 'silent majority' were comforted by Nixon's secretiveness; it made them feel as though their leader was behind the scenes acting on behalf of their interests in ways that would be difficult for him to do openly. It was only when the secrets began to be exposed that people realized, of course, that Nixon was not very interested in 'the people's' interests but was just another (slightly mad) sap who was conniving and grasping in his own bizarre self-interest.

I believe that the same phenomenon is going on here today. One would have to be blind or simply stupid not to see that Stephen Harper is conniving and grasping man who is up to no good. At the very least it is obvious that he has created a government pattern of, in one official's words, "obliterating" public accountability. Slowly the pattern has emerged of a government that is trying to shut down all avenues of information surrounding what the government is doing at every level, from the use of public funds to the actions of our armed forces. And like all good Orwellians, the government actually constantly talks about their openness and accountability while doing the exact opposite.

But in the struggle to understand why Harper has maintained a certain degree of popularity while acting so secretive and ethically dubious, I have concluded that it is this very secretiveness that is maintaining him in the eye of a certain group of the public. As long as the secrets that he is holding do not suddenly become exposed there are many people that are comforted by his secretive approach of denial and cover-up. It is only after his exposure and ouster that people will say "Oh my God, this man was dismantling decades of democracy building in which we have created institutions that are supposed to respond to the people's needs and the people's will!" And then there will be a period of shock and grief much like there was after the Nixon years or, to a different degree, when the population of Germany, Spain, and Italy, had to come to grips with the fact that fascism had actually been very popular in those countries for a time.

We are like children who, when very young, look at the mysteriousness of our parents with awe and are comforted by the power we believe them to have. It is only when we begin to grow up that we see that they are human like everyone else and that they sometimes have feet of clay, that we begin to demand a degree of accountability and reciprocity from them. Every citizenry eventually matures out of a period of fear and vulnerability and begins to ask the questions. Wait for it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

To Hell with Politics part deux. . .

I was pleasantly surprised to find six sympathetic comments on my rather depressing blog post which I made late last night in a fit of pique. I think I struck a chord with a number of people who are perhaps feeling the same kinds of frustrations that I am concerning these difficult times in which we live. Thank you to all that sent me their sympathies. I didn't even know that many people read my blog, but I appreciate the thoughts.

Whenever you lose someone you care about it makes you think about a lot of things in your life. And the fact that my father spent so much energy thinking about politics, makes my heart ache for our failures in gaining justice for all those causes for which we fight. Whenever my dad began to feel fed up with it all he would just say sometimes 'we need to enjoy being alive.' Indeed, I will always appreciate my father for this advice. It is important just to enjoy the simplest things of life. My dad loved my daughter Cairo so very much, he once told me that seeing her grow up had been the very greatest joy of his whole life. Though he missed her sixth birthday by only a few days, he would have appreciated seeing her joy as the Clown that came to her party turned a balloon into a bunny. These are the little things. These are the joys my father loved to embrace.

When the revolutions of 1848 failed, Karl Marx began, correctly, to believe that Europe was going to go through a quiet conservative period in which the forces of radicalism would be in retreat for many years. He was right. So instead of his normal political activity, Marx began a long period of study that would eventually lead to his monumental work Das Kapital.

I feel a bit like Marx must have felt. We are going through a period in which the right has in some sense gained an ascendancy at least at an abstract level. Certain basic assumptions are lately being made about the 'natural' supremacy of 'markets' and the values that they supposedly promote. Perhaps instead of worrying about the day to day politics which are so frustrating for those of us who are living through hard times, we should be starting a more meaningful discourse about basic values and the big problems with the system itself. I think my father would have appreciated this.

Here is the type of thing I am talking about. The next time you are having an argument with someone who claims to believe in the so-called ''Free-market," ask them if they think that labor should be treated like any other commodity in the market. At first you will probably receive a look of confusion. They won't really know how to answer this question. But keep in mind that this was one of the fundamental principles of many early capitalists. They thought that labor itself was a commodity and that it should be bought and sold like any other commodity. This attitude conveniently reduced human beings to their most basic function in the market. Many so-called free-marketeers will want to react by saying that labor should indeed be treated like other commodities. Anyone should be able to buy and sell labor the whenever and for whatever duration or price they like, so they will assume. But of course any serious exploration of this question will make one quickly realize that we can't treat labor like we treat, say, plastic widgets. We cannot, de facto, buy labor at any price we'd like because of legislated minimum wage laws. But even if some capitalist believes we shouldn't have such laws, there are other more serious problems. When we go shopping for towels we can choose to purchase only white towels. If labor were the same as any other commodity then we should be able to purchase only 'white' labor. Aha! Therein lies the rub. If someone went out to buy only white laborers or male laborers we all know that implies and what would happen. Then ask this capitalist with whom you are having this discussion, 'If people really are commodities why can't they sell themselves into slavery?"

So what does all that mean? Well, it begs such questions as 'what exactly is a commodity' and 'why can't we buy and sell commodities exactly how we would like?" Well the answer is simple and incredibly important. As much as free-marketeers would like us to believe that markets are supreme, the truth is fairly simple, as this question demonstrates, "Our values stand over and above markets, and markets must be held in service to our values rather than the other way around." And when markets fail to serve our values they must be changed or eliminated. Labor must not be treated as a commodity because people must not be treated like commodities. And if our values must be treated as supreme in relation to markets, the capitalist system itself (as most people understand it) must be questioned. A serious and real public discourse must be initiated about these problems before men like Harper take us back to the 'good old days' when children worked in factories. We must take back the discourse on values that the right has tried to colonize. Only then will we begin to win the struggle against modern neo-liberal barbarism.

It is in honor of my father that I will wage a more abstract political fight in the future. Not a struggle for the merely possible or a fight for what is expedient. But a fight for what is right at the most basic level. Harper and his bullies will no longer dehumanize me because our struggle must be for what is most inherently human.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

To Hell with Politics. . . .

I have blogged very little since my father died a few weeks ago. This is partly because I have just been too depressed. But it is partly because politics just seems increasingly stupid to me nowadays. My father spent years thinking about politics on a personal level and in the normal sense of the word. And now it all seems like just a giant waste of time. Almost every politician is just a nauseating A-type egomaniac who cares little for the actual issues they claim to be passionate about, or they retain their passion only because in the long run they hope to benefit personally from their cause. Meanwhile the people that follow the politicians are little more than blinkered, hyper-partisan, poorly informed, ignoramuses. Yes, I know it sounds cynical but it just doesn't seem worth bothering with politics in a time and place where a man (and I use that term loosely) like Harper can get elected twice and still, in the face of the most incompetent and blatantly self-interested regime in Canadian history, have a fair degree of popularity. I suppose that many Germans felt this way in 1934 when the people of Germany brought a man like Hitler to power through the ballot box.

It is no wonder that so many young people just don't bother with electoral politics. Yes, I know that this is exactly how Harper and is corrupt gang of bullies want us to feel. They want as many people as possible alienated from the political process because that will help them stay in power. Well, I will still exercise my so-called democratic right and I will cast a ballot in the next election. But I am giving up on politics once and for all. If nearly forty percent of Canadians still think Harper's regime is not too bad, there is something so desperately wrong with our society that it is just not worth saving. (And this doesn't even touch upon places like the US which are significantly worse that Canada)

And keep in mind this is not only true of the Right-wing. In the past twenty years I have been exposed to people who have been active left-wingers who are, at a personal level, little better than pond-scum. There are many people in the world actively working for what is right and just. But it is the power hungry scum-bags that gain the power and constantly override all the good that the rest try to do.

Let me make it clear, Harper and his gang are corrupt, self-interested, anti-democratic, ignorant, racist, sexist, fascist, trash. But until the people of Canada wake up from this nightmare, I am finished with the lot of them. A few weeks ago I watched the last breath go out of my father's body. I am not going to waste one more of my own breaths worrying about people who can't even worry about themselves. People like Harper and his supporters will drag us slowly back to the primordial ooze from whence we came. Maybe we just don't deserve any better. See you all in Hell.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Harper's retreat from Governance. . . .

In today's Ottawa citizen there is an article about the Harper government's strategy on the environmental front. The gist of the article was to say that the Harper strategy is to essentially end the role that the federal government plays in environmental protection and hand it on to the provinces. The article quotes from a couple of environmentalists including Elizabeth May. What I found most interesting was that in the comments to the article the wackos who read the Citizen were suggesting that this was the stuff of conspiracy theory.

In American politics it has always been a de facto strategy of the right-wing to undermine the power of the federal government. States rights has long been the slogan and banner of the right in America. This was the South's excuse for seceding from the union and the southern states used this slogan as a defense of Jim Crow laws and the effort to resist integration. The basis of this strategy, of course, that any genuine social effort has to have a major federal component. You cannot really institute social healthcare or education etc. without a real and strong process of national regulation and national organization. Services can be delivered in various ways but without a federal role, genuine social welfare cannot really take place. Harper is a student of right-wing American politics and his knows this strategy very well. Harper's main political impulse since he became Prime Minister has been to undermine the power of the Federal Government in anyway that he can while taking advantage of his federal position to undermine democratic processes at all levels. There is nothing conspiratorial about it folks. It is just a basic right-wing strategy; retreat from federal governance.

Rona Ambrose, Harper's first environmental minister, not only doesn't believe in global warming but is a serious follower of Ayn Rand and believes that all national strategies are necessarily evil. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Harper's government does only the most minimal effort on the environmental front, that is an effort that will not make alienate too many voters. Meanwhile that have done almost nothing on the environmental file. Retreat from governance is the strategy, it has been from the beginning.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Regrets and hope. . . .

Obviously there are many reasons to be sad when a loved one passes away. The feelings of loss are particularly acute when one has been very close to the person that has gone. You miss the comradeship, the simple association, it didn't always have to mean a great deal but when you have been close for a very long time you have such a deep understanding of each other that the loss feels like a huge void, something which was full and real and is now just a strangely empty space. This feeling obviously cannot be described; it is too large for explanation, to big to grapple with in any normal sense.

I am feeling this injury and struggling with how to cope with it. There are many regrets and feelings of frustration.

But of all my frustrations one that stands out is that my dad passed away at a time when politics seem to have continued down a road of cruelty and selfishness in unprecedented ways. My dad was always political to a degree. His father had been a very early member of the Communist Party in England, and his sister and mother had also been members of the party. They were members of this movement when many of its members still believed in the principles of cooperation, justice, equality, peace, etc. My dad was never a member of the party. He knew that, despite the principles of the movement, the communists had failed to stand up for these principles. Like me, my dad also shied away from 'joining' things. It rubs against the grain to join political organizations at a formal level because it undermines one's intellectual liberty. But my dad was always a committed socialist in the wider sense. He believed that though the so-called market may work in some ways and in some sectors, the human race must move toward more cooperative and social solutions if we are to avoid complete barbarism.

Given his political views, views which deepened and strengthen over time, my dad had been profoundly disappointed over the past few years of his life as our politics have seemed to become less concerned with the vulnerable, less concentrated on equality and justice. My dad, like all of us, watched politics become harsher and more cruel in recent years. The transparency of government is worse, the gap between rich and poor is wider, the future of most working people is less secure. In his last years my dad tried not to think too much about these things because he wanted to be happy and enjoy, as he said, "just being alive." But there was a certain sadness in the background of his mind at the failure of people to move toward a more just and caring society.

Politics is something of a pendulum and moves from times of hope and radicalism to times of cruelty and injustice in which the rich and powerful entrench their power for a time and hold it for all they are worth. Things will change, but I am very sad that my dad passed away at cruel and right-wing swing of this pendulum.

I miss you Roy, but I will keep hope alive as well as I can, and the next generation will not give up the mantle. The struggle continues.