Saturday, June 6, 2015

... Your Young Men Will See Visions, Your Old Men Will Dream Dreams.

Although far from a biblical scholar, I find the above line, taken from the Book of Acts, to be an apt title. Even though I am taking it out of context, it encapsulates for me a capacity that the world in general, and Canada in particular, has lost: the capacity to dream of and envisage a better reality than what we have settled for.

Under the relentless barrage of neoconservative propaganda, we have succumbed to the kind of existence epitomized in the video I posted the other day, a world of mindless consumerism, relentless environmental despoliation, and spiritual barrenness. if they are good at anything, those of the reactionary right are very good at limiting, even destroying hope.

Consider the insidious narratives they spin - government as an impediment, government as a thief in your tax pocket, government as the obstruction without which all would be well. Like all effective narratives, each chapter of theirs may contain an element of truth, but only a small part of the truth.

Forgotten is the role that government plays for the collective good, without which all of us would be lost. Imagine no libraries, no public roads, no health care, no pensions, no labour laws, no public police or fire services - all the logical conclusions to the extreme right-wing dream, a dream that would be a nightmare for the vast majority of us, especially those without the means or the wherewithal to escape consignment to the trash heap - economic Darwinianism run amok.

But from those vying for our electoral support, where are the visions, where are the dreams? From Stephen Harper, of course we get the above vision. Justin Trudeau offers more money for families, and a 'new way of doing politics,' whatever that means, and a bit of tinkering around the edges. Thomas Mulcair promises a national daycare program and more money for municipalities, important bread and butter issues, to be sure, but singularly uninspiring and pedestrian, and, to be quite blunt, safe.

Bold initiatives that require more from us via taxes have become verboten, thanks to the narrative the media brings us. So neither Thomas Mulcair nor Justin Trudeau will suggest, for example, a national pharmacare system that would ultimately save everyone, including government and private health plans, huge sums of money (upwards of $12 billion annually) through pooled purchases and far less hospitalizations owing to people either not getting their prescriptions filled or not taking the required dosages in order to stretch out their costly medicationss.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. I have made no reference to the truly critical issues confronting us for an obvious reason. If our leadership is too timid to address matters that are well within reach, such as pharmacare, what likelihood beyond a bit of rhetorical toe-dipping is there of bold measures to remediate child poverty, homelessness and our greatest threat, climate change?

Zero to nil, would be my guess.


  1. It's telling, Lorne, that our political champions have so completely failed to present prescriptive solutions to something largely of their own creation and corrosive to society - inequality of wealth, income and, especially, of opportunity. Have we , as a people, become so shackled to their thinking as to accept servility?

    For the Liberals, Ignatieff ushered in the era of political expediency trumping the needs of the state. Junior is following the same course. He supported C-51 because he feared for what Harper might do to the Libs in he stood up for Canada. You might have thought that, in this bind, he would have at least tried to make a reasoned case for C-51.

    It seems a common trait of societies heading for collapse is the ability to see existential challenges and the utter inability to change direction to meet them. That seems to be why civilizations collapse quite abruptly and at their peak. Instead of accepting some form of realignment or even measured decline, we choose not to remediate a threat but instead pursue a course that can only lead to implosion.

    Mankind's history is rich with this sort of thing and the precedents have been explored and analyzed and digested but to no real avail. It has become accepted that all civilizations eventually fail as though that has achieved the status of natural law. Nature, however, rarely plays much of a hand in these events except through mankind's denial or even defiance of nature with predictable consequences.

    Dear, dear, dear, dear, dear. Here's a little challenge to keep your mind churning this weekend. Imagine that we did decide to accept the finite bounds of our environment and introduce new ways specifically designed to work in harmony with the environment. What would that mean? What would it look like? What would happen to political capital and social capital? What would it mean for industry and commerce? What sort of economic organization would it need? Would wealth and power become even more concentrated or would we be compelled to find highly equitable means of distribution?

    My guess is you would have to imagine something vaguely reminiscent of what the public experienced in the last major war. The public would have to be intensely mobilized to make a transition from what has become dysfunctional to new ways devoted to advancing the functional. Not a lot of room in that to indulge social Darwinism.

    1. Your comments and questions here do pose quite the challenge, Mound; it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine either the kind of leadership or the qualities of character and personality that would galvanize the people into revolutionary thinking and living. That such a response is possible under the right leadership, I have no doubt, as your WW11 reference attests to. As well, when you think of how the world reacted to moral giants like Nelson Mandela and is responding to the innate humility and goodness that seems to flow from Pope Francis, you sense that under leadership with passion, integrity and vision, people can be moved to make the right choices. But the political process itself seems to be one of the greatest impediments to having such leadership in place, doesn't it?

    2. You're right, Lorne. The political process, or political caste, has been tamed into adherence to neoliberalism and in service to the masters of corporatism. The process has bred us a lovely species of technocrats, unquestioning, blinkered. They drive the ship from the engine room, not the wheel house. They're administrators, grimy engineers, their focus on keeping the boilers stoked, the machinery well oiled and the propellers spinning.

  2. Lorne, leadership at the federal level is depressing. Harper is a dead loss. Justine Trudeau is inexperienced and he is no Pierre Eliot Trudeau. Thomas Mulcair is not inspiring either. However I feel anyone will be better than Emperor Harper.

    1. Getting rid of Harper has to be the first step without question, LD. But i wonder if we will be so glad to accomplish that that we will expect and demand little of his successor?

  3. Have the Libs become putty in their Master's hands? It can seem as though Harper figured out he could draw the Libs far enough to the Right into a place where they would become irrelevant. This traces right back to the early months of 2009 when Ignatieff, with nothing better to offer from the Libs, was forced to back Harper's woefully hapless "stimulus budget." Even Iggy knew he'd thrown the game, boasting how he was putting Harper "on probation." As if.

    Ignatieff couldn't even hold Stornoway and his successor, Junior, languishes in a room at Motel 6 on the Gloucester Highway even as he seals his party's fate by supporting Harper's omnibus spy bill, C-51. The same party Pierre did so much to make great, his wife's son now lays low.

    In a better time, now seemingly lost, political parties would be attentive to the aspirations and worries of the voting public and formulate policies that would resonate with those concerns. The public were engaged with their national politics. Now the public has become increasingly disaffected. What is there that connects them to Ottawa? Damn little.

    Whatever happened to our "just society"? No nation can't be a surveillance state and a just society. Neoliberalism and market fundamentalism are the just society's kryptonite.

    What happens when you cannot see your government as enabling, empowering but, instead, predatory? What does it mean when your government is persistently at odds with your deep values? How long can the relationship between citizen and state, the great bargain, continue?

    1. I can't help but wonder, Mound, whether the yawning gulf between the governed and those wielding powr that you describe has emboldened the parties in their craven obeisance to the necocon agenda. If one thinks, for example, of what aspirants like Trudeau promise to the people, it is a new style, not new substance. Surely he thinks this thin gruel will be enough to convince the masses, now so massively disaffected from politics, to support him.

      Only if we reach a point when people demand much more from those who would lead us can we have any hope of change..


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