Monday, January 13, 2014

A Faint Ray Of Hope?

Those of us who write blogs on a regular basis, I suspect, have a high tolerance for the uglier aspects of humanity that we regularly confront in our exploration of the political arena. Greed, deception, avarice and rampant egoism seem pervasive, concern for the collective good little more than a platitude. Yet we continue on, in part buoyed by the hope of a better future landscape where demagoguery and ideology are supplanted by reason and empiricism. One lives in hope.

Over at Northern Reflections, Owen, as usual, has an excellent post, this one on how the American politicos in their war on the poor seem to embrace an Old Testament avenging God, viewing victims of poverty and unemployment as having a moral failing.

On the other side of the coin, however, is the apparently positive effect that Pope Francis is having on some political leaders and commentators. In today's Toronto Star, Carol Goar writes the following:

Right-wing pundit Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, 2012 Republican presidential contender, inventor of workfare and forerunner of the Tea Party movement, issued this plea in a recent episode of CNN’s Crossfire: “I think every Republican should embrace the Pope’s core critique that you do not want to live on a planet with billionaires and people who do not have enough food.”

This was the man who advocated that poor people fend for themselves and Washington slash taxes on capital gains, dividends and inheritances. This was the inspiration for Preston Manning, Mike Harris, Jason Kenney and a host of other neo-conservatives.

She writes that Barack Obama gave a major speech on inequality that echoed what Pope Francis has been saying:

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Obama asked, echoing the pontiff. Within days, Senate majority leader Harry Reid pressed his colleagues to put inequality on their 2014 agenda.

Goar goes on to relate how Angela Merkel, David Cameron and others have been impressed and influenced by the Pope's direction. Notably absent, however, is any sign of a spiritual regeneration taking place within the Harper cabal:

Stephen Harper’s government shows no interest in narrowing the gap between rich and poor or reining in the excesses of capitalism.

As Parliament adjourned for its Christmas recess, its finance committee — dominated by Conservative MPs — tabled a report saying there was no need to change course. All the government had to do to address inequality was keep taxes low, remove disincentives to work (such as employment insurance benefits), boost the skilled trades and maintain an attractive investment climate — exactly the policies that fuelled the income disparities in the first place.

But as Goar also points out, with an election looming, Harper and his ilk cannot afford to ignore shifting public opinion nor their political rivals, who have made the fate of the middle class a mainstay of their rhetoric. (I can't say policies since they have none that are apparent to me.)

While the cynic in me cautions against putting too much faith in Damascene conversions changing the political landscape and conversation, the dormant optimist counsels me not to abandon all hope, either.


  1. I hate to be a wet blanket Lorne, but words seem to have pretty flexible meanings to politicians. I'm heartened by the words of Pope Francis, and I'm happy that he seems pretty relentless about his message, but it's more what he does that matters. As far as the politicians go, their actions are almost the opposite of their words. It's as if up suddenly means down.

    1. I hear you loud and clear, Karen. I too have little faith in mere words; politicians have quite the talent for subverting language as you suggest. What is perhaps a basis for at least a small degree of hope is that increasingly, income inequality is becoming part of the international lexicon and conversation. Some of that is, I feel, attributable to the pope's persistence of message and his humble demeanor. Anything that forces people to confront the real meaning of faith has to be a positive development.

  2. Lorne, I have serious doubts that Harper government will be influenced by Pope or anyone else. His goal is to make the rich more rich. Last night I watched a documentary "Silence of Labs" which exposed the Harper government on silencing the scientists.

    I have done a post on it Silence of the Labs. The video is worth watching. In his policies 'poor' is invisible and he is enlarging that group.

    1. Hi LD. i will check out your post. I chose not to watch the show when it was on because knowing what I know about the Harper assault on knowledge, I thought it would be too distressing even for me.

      I agree with your assessment of Harper. He isn't going to change, but if enough Canadians reengage in the political process, we can work hard to get rid of him and his cabal at the next election.

  3. I look out and all I see are miles of empty light posts going completely to waste.

  4. Ooh, a truly evocative and tempting image, Mound!