Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Little Children in Government. . . .

I think most people would agree that a person's inability to think long-term is a sign of a kind of immaturity.  Kids, for example, suffere from this notion of immediacy, they have trouble thinking about what might happen tomorrow, or even later the same day. I know if my daughter is too hot to wear her big, winter coat, she is almost incapable of conceiving that she might need it later when she will be cold. And I have read research that suggests that before a certain age, kids are not nearly as able to learn from experience as we would like them to be. So when they are really young we see them making the same mistakes over and over when those mistakes involve complex predictions about future states.

Now, has anyone noticed the degree to which our present government suffers from this syndrome of immaturity? They seem congenitally incapable of conceiving of how their decisions today may effect them tomorrow. Many governments have been plagued by various scandals; events in which some rogue MP or Minister makes some bad decisions which reflect poorly on the reigning government and on the office of government more generally. Our current government is certainly no exception to this tendency. We have had MP make racist comments, Ministers lie to the House or leave sensitive documents where they shouldn't be. This is par for the course. But since we can be certain that every government will be subject to these difficulties, it is not the difficulties themselves that are the problem (unless they get completely out of hand), rather, it is the way that a government reacts to these scandals which is one of the true tests of a government's maturity. Can they own their shortcomings, face them head on, deal with them and move on? In our current case, I think we all know the answer - no matter how deep or remarkable the scandal, this government simply ignores them. It makes one wonder how profound a scandal would have to be for Harper and his cronies before they would face it and not simply ride out the news cycle. Given their recent history I can't imagine how bad things would have to be before Harper would be willing to own up to a mistake.

However, all this being said, it doesn't speak directly to my first point which is the ability to guide one's behaviour according to certain future implications. They are so bent on controlling everything they just can't use their imaginations to look into the future. Take something which seems relatively small such as their tendency to exclude opposition members from being included in various foreign events or conferences. Traditionally, even bad governments have allowed opposition members to attend such conferences because, after all, we are supposed to see the other party as the "loyal opposition" - in other words, people who have a central role in the process of democracy and how government works. The Harpercons exclude someone like Megan Leslie from the recent Durban Conference because they don't care about the idea of a "loyal opposition;" they care about the message and the news cycle. They simply imagine that if they can control the message effectively enough, they can maintain their power. Here is where their immaturity is so evident. Someday, the Conservative Party will no longer be in power. No matter how hard they attempt to control the message, alienate voters, discredit or smear those who oppose them, eventually the CPC will be ousted from power one way or another. This is an absolute, irrefutable fact. The only constant is change and eventually the CPC will succumb to this basic law of motion. And when that time comes and the CPC find themselves in the political wilderness their actions and the precedents that they have set will become the standards by which their successors will act. And the more ruthlessly that this government acts, the more angry and vindictive the next government will be toward them. The next government will prorogue parliament, shut down committees, cut short debate, fire and discredit whistle-blowers, exclude opposition members from every process of government, use constant advertising and dishonest methods to maintain power, etc, etc. And like little children who were unable to predict the implications of their acts, they will cry and carry-on about the injustice of it all. Anyone who has supported this government up until this point really needs to be mature and think about our collective future and what kind of country their children will inherit. Will it be one in which the government supports certain principles of accountability, honesty, and democratic rights, or will it act like this one?


Anonymous said...

Well put. But I think it unlikely that the next government will act any differently. This isn't just a CPC problem, it's a pervasive problem with our political culture. The CPC are just capitalizing on it now - and, yes, feeding back into that culture - but this is a long-term trend (most people point to Trudeau's changes as the source).

I'm reminded of the Late-Republic of Ancient Rome (though of course there a limitations to this comparison) when the 'ideals of the Republic' (if they ever existed) fell into disuse, but for a few rigid souls (Cato, the younger). But long before Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the Republic had long been doomed. Before Sulla too.

Perhaps it is always the case that ideals are too abstract, too distant, when eclipsed by the immediacy of near fortunes to be made, and close friends with which to share.

We are merely human, after all.

kirbycairo said...

Yes Anonymous - this kind of politics has been "trending" as they say. And the terrible ways that this government is acting is providing a terrible precedent to the next government. And unfortunately the greater inequalities there are in the economic system, the worse it will get because the governments are increasingly functioning to protect those inequalities. As long as money has so much influence in the system, so will those in power ignore the very principles which they supposedly mean to uphold.

But we have to ask ourselves, is there a point at which people will no longer tolerate such corruption? There have been moments historically even in the past 150 years when things have changed significantly.

Either way, a few years from now we are going to be watching a bunch of Conservative clowns in opposition condemning the government (whatever that government is) for doing the very same things they made into the new normal. And we will be the losers.