Saturday, 1 May 2010

Asymmetrical Measures

Asymmetrical Measures

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an email I wrote to the ministries of transport and finance about how angry I was at the cancellation of funding for transit for Toronto. I was elated several times in the period that has since lapsed to see the reinstatement of this funding being actively campaigned for on TTC vehicles and property and at rallies in Toronto. But of course, this has not been met by any official response from our provincial government, although I am eagerly anticipating the written reply to my email my local MP's office told me I could expect. If the decision is changed to the right one, the one in favour of the public interest, you can be sure it will be staged and aloof, the government deciding it is generous enough to grudgingly concede us lowly transit takers what it took away in this huge miscalculation. And it is in no hurry to do that, knowing the car driving, suburb dwelling folks who vote and read the paper do not have this front and centre on their radars.

So in light of this waffling inaction, you can imagine my disbelief this week when the government changed course within TWO DAYS on the 2010 decade edition of sex ed it was planning on rolling out in classrooms. The jubilant triumphalism of religious conservatives rang out loud and clear in the halls of public opinion about how their grassroots tactics backed their nanny state opponent into a corner. This wishy-washy, whiny government of ours buckled its knees and kowtowed to the religious lobby, ducking away from the hellfire and brimstone threats of Harper buddy Charles McVety and the irrepressible Elizabeth Witmer, former education minister and still sitting MPP in this area. Our kids are NOT to be told about reality, do you hear me?! This is a 1955 Leave it to Beaver episode we're living in, and even you and the majority choose to acknowledge the reality that it's not, WE say and decide that it is.

So our kids will NOT be learning about the myriad possibilities of human sexuality from responsible, trained, well-paid adults, they'll be learning about them on their own by visiting youjizz and xtube and ordering $9.99 XXX movies on their parents' satellite dishes and firsthand in the back alleys and empty houses of their neighbourhoods. IS THAT CLEAR MR. PREMIER? Don't ever THINK about touching this issue EVER again.

Why can't we get this kind of action on an issue that actually matters? (wimpy voice) "Please Mr. Premier, a few pennies for our transit system'. I'm not so much bothered by the irrelevance of the evangelical lobby's constant obsession over the same three things (gays, sex and abortion) that have little significance to anybody but themselves as by what a colossal waste of time and energy it is. Let's put aside some divisive issues for a minute that they still need some decades to wrap their pious skulls around, like the environment and consumption-based economy, and ask this: If they were to focus those formidable energies, that incredible power they seem to have to obtain the ear of governments, and focus them on three things everybody can agree exist and are bad: war, poverty, and famine, how much better off would we be in this country and the world at large? That's what I want to know.

Deux Poids, Deux Mesures

I really like this French expression which means different treatment for different priorities. Sort of like George Orwell in Animal Farm when he wrote all animals are created equal but some are more equal than others. I would now like to take some time to talk about social unrest in Greece and Iceland due to those nation's financial problems, and the rejection by their populations of the responsibility for those problems. These nations are portrayed in the media as basket cases and examples of risky behaviour and corruption to be avoided by us ultra-scrupulous North Americans. They do not and will not apply this scrutiny and critiquing to North America even though many of the same problems exist here in different forms.

Greece is the worst. A whole blog and website could be fully dedicated to the chronicling and documenting of rotten corruption and fishy business in the halls of power in that country, and a summary is attached here for your convienience
How to make sense of it? The government swears it's cutting spending and clamping down to appease international investors and secure a bailout, but demonstrations of a violent nature have been regular there for some time now. Last year the place was riotous was for months over the police's killing of a 15 year old boy. Lately the demos over the economy have involved molotovs and serious confrontation. I think ongoing tensions might be due to a sense of frustration in the population, restive over their relative powerlessness to the parasitic middle class that bankrupted the country through the public sector and led to its having the lowest birthrate in Europe. No wonder then young people have it in them to act out and cause social unrest. What is truly pathetic is seeing the government and a police state try to legitimize itself in the international 24 hour news cycle by punishing a population for things which it cannot understand and has no direct connection to. It shows how the whole model of people supporting the system by being 1)consumers 2)taxpayers 3) sheep 4)cattle and 5) citizens, in that order is ridiculous. How can people expect to feel connected to things like the G20 and the byzantine structure of international finance and commerce which governs them?

Simply put, if you ask them to, they won't. Which is why Iceland voted 83% in a referendum not to pay back Britain and the Netherlands, who had to bail out their own citizens that invested in bogus 6% interest Icesave accounts. Yes, the bank was set up in Iceland. Yes, it was unscrupulous Icelanders who didn't know what they were doing running the bank. But how much sympathy can you have for things that mean nothing to you? Why do you want to invest your money, which amounts to your time and your energy, in things that have nothing to do with you? When the question was put to them, Icelanders answered they didn't. I am convinced that if all the auto sector and financial bailouts had to be approved in referendum by taxpayers, they too would have been overwhelmingly rejected, just as any tax increases are unpopular and criticized even when they are necessary to right a nation's financial ship. Many people are unable to grasp finance at the personal level, and a very much smaller precious few, I believe, at the macro government-global level.

Which leads to my last point. Here at home, the media is now in full blather mode about growth, exuberant consumer spending and recovery, and the nation and its businesses' finances are indeed in relatively good shape. Over the past ten years, however, the individual consumer has become a trainwreck. Canadian households are now indebted to the tune of 95% of their economic output and 67% of Canadians would be in serious trouble if they missed one paycheque. These are the same people who buy the Conservatives garbage about their sound economic management and hector Greece and Iceland on comment boards to buck up and pay back. What they don't realize is they've created a vast unknown for themselves, and they will more than likely not have access to any recourse with the means to prop them up should everything go to shit at some point. Western governments have created things like the IMF and the World Bank and sweatshops which sap the little cash and productivity developing countries have out of them. These countries don't have the option to print money and bail themselves out like the US treasury, or declare bankruptcy like the North American consumer citizen. What is clear is this unbalanced set of rules and lopsided structure will not be able to continue when everything goes to shit. Which it will.

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