Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Stephen Harper's Terminator Cultural Revolution

For the first few years of his prime ministership, Stephen Harper was often described by political observers as obsessive, vindictive, megalomaniacal, controlling, partisan, and petty.  I have to say that when I judged him by his actions for myself, I tended to agree with them during those years
In 2010, possibly due in part to the departure of the hyper neo-con chief of staff and former Harris crony Guy Giorno, or just as possibly due to Steve's realisation (the man is not, after all, a total tin-eared idiot) that his venom filled sorties rallied more people against him than there already were and were preventing him from expanding his appeal (stuck at 30-35% support among the 55-60% of citizens who vote, political situation now entering its fifth year.  Gee, you think?), he seems to have calmed down and shut up.  Positive traits used by the media sympathetic to the prime minister to describe him in the past have included strategic thinker, brilliant strategist, and person who thinks non stop about strategy.  But thundering popularity is not one of them.
Yet how does one reconcile this observation with the PM's noticeable toning down this year, in the form of long absences and silences? The man whose position arguably gives him the most consistently high public profile in Canada has been rarely mentioned, if not missing in action, in the media for months.  Probably because he senses that people don't really care about him as a leader or a person, and he certainly doesn't care about them. The result, I sense, is a mutual antipathy that makes the Canadian government no longer a source for leadership, inspiration, and definitely not vision, but rather an EI cheque producing, tax refund producing, military funding machine with endlessly churning gears.  These are about the only substantial things the government does; the photo-ops and public statements are all just bullshit, the keeping up of appearance filler to pander to the masses of what they think they want to hear.  I suspect also that the sudden lack, or comparative drying up compared to 2006-2009, of writing on the PM and federal scene is because the commentary-editorial section of the media can only navel gaze for so many hundred columns over what strategy the elusive and enigmatic man will pull next to achieve his ultimate goal of completely shutting down this democracy for at least five years. The man has done literally nothing in at least two years other than play coy about a majority, and other than the pathetic and persistent hero-worship Maclean's showers on him, the mainstream media outlets have not been shy about pointing that out.  His party's initiatives - Senate reform, national securities regulator, prisons, military procurement, and abolishing the gun registry, have all been killed or delayed multiple times by prorogation, blocked by the opposition using the shards that remain of our democracy, or sent to court for being outside their mandate and/or just unconstitutional,
So, in his obsessive and now immortalized quest for a majority, Sir Harpalot believes he has now pulled the sword from the stone that will allow him to slay a divided and struggling-to-stay relevant opposition.  The sword is called taking direct credit for dubious accomplishments, and has Olympics-G20-Queens Visit-Economy engraved across its blade.  I'm serious.  For the entire year of 2010 I literally heard nothing from this man except tightly scripted feelgood soundbites on what resounding successes these four things were, pronounced as though they vindicated the man and his government, and raised them to such a morally high plane that he no longer had any need to address any questions or concerns, not that he did before, and he had nothing else to say that was not a personal pat on the back, to Steve from Steve.  To which my response was, and is: Huh?

The Olympics were almost a year ago; the best players in the NHL won a gold medal and approximately eight billion shitty red mittens that were made in china were sold.  Can you remind me what was so special about that again?  The G20 was a legal and financial disaster, just like the only other time in Canadian history habeus corpus was suspended by a politician.  Why exactly do they have that power again?  I'm pretty sure we never agreed to give it to them  and I'm 100% certain we need to remove whatever mechanism or pretext they use it with.  Moving on, how does an octogenarian is a veiled seafoam green hat and matching outfit waving her white gloved hand represent an achievement for his government or this country?  And finally, as I've written in this space before, what sort of day to day involvement can his government claim to have in an "economy" they are so proud to "run" and "manage"?  Seems to me the economy runs like it does regardless of what they perceive themselves to be doing, and if the only actions of theirs that come to my mind, which are greasing the gears of a real estate bubble, piling on hundreds of billions of dollars onto the country's debt, and  shovelling much of that to bay street through the bOc constitute "economic management", then I guess I will have to concede them that one point.  These announcements, however, typically invite one reaction and one reaction only in the average working person who is not a true blue-C believer, which a friend of mine and reader summed up perfectly: "Wow, is he the one who is completely out of touch, or am I the one who is completely out of touch?"

Well, the truth is in today's world, one is never really "out of touch".  There is an infinite and growing amount of quality programming and content out there that makes you think.  Gives pause for reflection and in the end, perspective.  What I am referring to is an excellent and quite moving interview I listened to today on Eleanor Wachtel's podcast that she did with Anchee Min, on my way home after writing most of what you just read.  I highly recommend you listen to it, because any summary I try to make will not do it any justice, but Jesus I have to say this.  People in Mao's China were starving, had TB, and this poor woman, after developing a portobello mushroom sized callous on her shoulder from working in a labour camp and tapeworms from eating out of the garbage, escaped to America after she was cast in a propaganda film but then had a regime change, Mao's death in '76, make things complicated for her.  The logic ditch that people fall into when they consider such facts, when they acquire conscience of the truly miserable and rotten lives people have been and are forced to lead all across the globe today and in recent history, is having things "put into perspective".  We would never allow people to be brutalized and mistreated in those inhumane ways of China's cultural revolution in this country, we say.  Maybe we haven't (except for those Japanese internment camps and that boatload of eastern European Jews that we sent back to Europe in mid full-swing holocaust), at least in recent memory, and that is where the dangerous trap of complacence and self-confidence set in.  People with legitimate concerns about their cities, provinces, country and Earth in Canada are drowned out by the wall of voices shouting that we have created the greatest, safest, most prosperous place on Earth because we are doing exactly what we are doing, and to hell already with all these doom and gloomers, bleeding hearts, and naysayers who say otherwise.

But in the form of future inevitable outcomes, the plug will be pulled on this charade.  Old grandpapa Harp isn't going to get to play Santa anymore when the fossil fuel plug gets pulled on his and all of our asses simultaneously.  This will happen through either shortages or unreliable supply/price spikes (already happening), inevitable basic math that none of the insipid fifty-something males who run North America care to acknowledge in public.  His government's environmental ministry and record, whose sole activity thus far has consisted of defending and accommodating oil and mining companies, two hours commuters and 10,000 square foot dwellers, is proof of the fact that like a sadistic dictator who cannot see his own twisted logic and folly, he is taking us 360 degrees away from the direction in which we need to be progressing, powering down and sane living conditions.  Oh sure, his series of stooge environment ministers have all affirmed that our country will be fossil fuel free by 2050.  Let me get my megaphone out:  "HEY, DIPSHITS! I'M GOING TO BE 67 YEARS OLD IN 2050.  YOU'RE ALL GOING TO BE DEAD.  HOW ABOUT SOME ACTION NOW, EH, INSTEAD OF PASSING THE BUCK?!  YOU'RE NOT EXACTLY PUTTING YOURSELVES ON THE PATH TO GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS HEROES"

We are, I'm sorry to disrespect Anshee by taking the North America that has been lucky enough up until now to provide her with the means to escape from her horrible life under Mao to task, going to be experiencing some of the bullshit that other parts of the world have been experiencing for a long time, and its not going to be pretty.  Especially when you are dealing with a population 5 generations deep that considers itself entitled to endlessly rising standards of living and sleeps comfortably on a mental bedrock of government entitlements and "growth".  The set-up has been made for a new kind of famine, in the midst of a new cultural revolution.  It is the continual wilful daily ignoring of this reality that assures it.  And what is causing the ignorance?  Machines.

Yes, my friends.  The rise of the machines.  Like terminator.  But the Cameron franchise missed the mark, I'm afraid.  We are not nor are we going to be at the mercy of growling robots laying the smackdown.  We are distracted to death by gadgets which do not replace others, but simply add to the noise now reaching fever pitch.  Good luck starting that revolution, when you have to get the attention of 10 billion eyes texting, reading Tiger Woods' twitter feed, checking their facebooks, ipads, BBM, and still finding time to watch more hours of TV than ever before of shows more awful than anything on record.  How many seasons has Dancing with the Stars been on the air?  Once serious channels like A&E and TLC are now relegated to total shamelessness with their Dog the Bounty Hunter and Say Yes To The Dress marathons.  Yes, you are free to ignore it, but who does?  I think the connection to this crap enjoying such success while the world burns around us and our smug, self satisfied 51 year old leader doing and saying jack shit about any of it makes him a terminator for our time, and his unwillingness to use his pulpit to at least try to make a wake-up call may end up making him look as bad as Mao or someone of equal stature down the road.

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