Saturday, 13 March 2010

Paranoia, Suspicion and L'art du vivre ensemble...

As I prepare to go on a family vacation to South Carolina (my 'family' has not taken a 'vacation' in five years together), I have realized that I have not posted in fifteen days, nor in this month of March. Several subjects entered my mind over the course of this time, but the job is wearing on my senses and my ability to stay awake. However, there has been no shortage of fodder for this soapbox; politics, environment, extremism, you name it. No rest for the wicked

I was disappointed to see this morning twin editorials from our two distinguished Toronto papers pooh-pooing the Quebec government's decision to prohibit niqab wearing in free, government provided, immigrant French class. They have committed the mother of politically-corrected narrow minded errors by saying that banning one thing is a slippery slope and soon there will just be human rights cases piled on human rights cases over what's acceptable in the public sphere and who's to say what's what and blah blah.

I don't want to debate what is reasonable and what is acceptable here because I think those things are subjective and relative and we waste too much time, breath, and ink as it is on them, none of which will ever in any case produce any reasonable conclusion or consensus. But I do think this political correctness inhibits our ability to have honest debates and speak our minds freely. I want to make this overexposed (pardon the irony) woman a proposition: could I go to Cairo, her hometown, and run down the street in a leather thong-tutu BDSM contraption with matching Rob Halford leather policeman hat? No, I wouldn't survive. Just as I thought. And by the same token, Canadian men do not for the most part engage publicly such behaviour nor is it representative of us. If, however, one of us did it there, the imams and religious opinion leaders would be tubthumping on about western depravity and moral bankruptcy (not that they don't already), fanning ever more the flames of intolerance. Just as one woman's choice to dress up like a lump of coal fuels streams of anti-muslim ranting on the article comment pages and across the blogosphere in this country.

The question I have for the medias is why they are going after the mostly tolerant and forward looking Quebec government over its decision to have a pair and not after Mark Steyn's monthly anti-Muslim rant in Maclean's (published by Ken Whyte, a Harper friend) or the CPAC conventions with Dick Cheney on stage complaining about muslim terrorists, body scanners, and how (this is what I think he is really trying to say in most of his public speaking) we need to subject all the islamofascists to, well, fascism.

The fact that is 2010 we have nothing better to do than pursue this lame, tired, old east vs. west, evangelicalism vs. islamic extremism, spineless political correctness vs. rabid intolerance debate is telling. When I was a kid, I thought we'd be on hoverboards and living in jetson style pods by this year. Apparently not. To sell papers, its all about preying on people's economic worries and insecurity while reinforcing their comfort in the status quo.

Because in the big empty peaceable kingdom, some shocks appear to be in the works. CHeck out the Alberta government's decision to reverse it's hikes on oil sands royalties this week. In response to an upstart populist right wing movement (Wildrose Alliance) that just got Albertans so darn angry that the government dared to get some money back for them from the tar sands, the sitting government changed its tone. It was no longer going to be taxing oil sands profit and using the money for useful things like...expensive studies on unproven technology figuring out ways to store carbon in the ground and ad campaigns to greenwash the oil industry...out of the question now. Now, the oil companies can just keep all the money they suck out of the ground in Northern Alberta. The decision overjoyed the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Why wouldn't it? It comes back to that typical North American mentality of finding a scientific solution, even a costly, idiotic one to a problem rather than simply addressing the problem itself. When this is shown to have no credibility, or just not to be a priority on people's mind, the Daniel Plainview character that is the Canadian Natural Resources industry steps in and persuades the dumb to keep on being dumber. The political landscape of this province shows me we got big problems.

And the fact that this is a provincial government in the Canadian federation causes problems. The federal government knows it can't alienate this province and it also knows a giant fissure is forming on the Ontario border. Answer? Say nothing, be unavailable, and place head firmly in sand. Just like the budget last week...spend more, cut more, and as for the demographic title wave on the horizon...head back in the sand. Sorry, what did you say? Environment? You meant "economy", right? Why plan for tomorrow when you can score political points today?

Because people will continue to remain distracted, after all, by the stock market ticker, Sarah P.'s antics, the weather, the mosque opening up next door or just about anything. We may have learned to live together better in 2010 but in our isolation from each other we don't necessarily like each other any better. And Paranoia, suspicion and indifference are distracting and preventing us from tackling the real big problems which will be our downfall.

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