Monday, September 26, 2016

A Boost To The Spirit

Fifty years ago, Star Trek - The Original Series - began. As a young person at the time, I was quite enthralled by a series that depicted a time when humanity had apparently solved its myriad problems on Earth and had expanded outward to seek out new life and new civilizations. Although Earth was never shown, one was left with the distinct impression that it had evolved into the closest thing to a Utopia, where harmony and understanding prevailed. The series served as a soothing counterbalance to the tumultuous nature of the Sixties, with war, race divisions, crime and poverty being our reality.

I am far from the somewhat optimistic lad I was 50 years ago, but visiting Word On The Street always reminds me of the idealized world that Star Trek presented: thousands of people milling about, examining, buying and discussing books, a diverse crowd both racially and demographically, citizens engaged and knowledgeable about the world. A hint of Utopia, one I found uplifting in part due to the fact that graybeards like me, although quite sizably represented as we tend to be, were flanked by much younger people for whom knowledge, information and engagement on issues are also very important. it gives me some hope.

We spent three hours at The Star tent, and were fortunate to have arrived early enough for seats, as it turned out to be standing room only. I won't bore you with the details of what was discussed, but I will mention the response I got to a question I asked of Chantal Hebert, Paul Wells and Bruce Campion-Smith (Ottawa bureau chief), who were discussing Trudeau's first year in power. They suggested that with the ousting of Harper, many Canadians feet they can get back to their 'normal' lives for the next four years, given that the polarization and divisiveness of the old regime ended with Harper's ouster. I asked if that is likely to continue, given that issues such as CETA and pipelines will likely prove controversial for the government. The answer that I got is one I am not sure I agree with. The feeling was that few people follow free trade agreements like Ceta, and that pipeline issues are primarily of concern to those living in British Columbia.

I hope they are wrong. Judging by the very large attendance at the greatly expanded Star tent, they may just be.

In any event, I leave you with this letter from today's Star. Clearly, some people are thinking about the issues:
It’s not like we don’t know how trade deals work. And NAFTA is small potatoes compared to CETA and TPP.

While we sit complacently, the Liberals have dispatched Chrystia Freeland to save CETA from wavering European politicians faced with voters actively taking to the streets in displeasure about more compromise on jobs, services, taxes and the environment, all in the name of further enriching the 1 per cent.

Under the guise of global trade have we not lost enough well-paying permanent jobs and seen a decline in important services such as education and health to know we are getting taken to the cleaners, again? Are the unimaginable billions already hidden in tax havens not sufficient for the proponents of one sided trade deals?

Shame on the Liberals who promised change. Shame on Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super Rich and shame on Canadians for not speaking up loud enough to be heard.

Nancy Stevens, Institute of Technical Trades, Toronto


  1. Was it really 50 years ago? Damn, I feel older than dirt. Thanks, Lorne. Thanks for nothing.

    As for CETA, TPP, pipelines and climate change, I have to agree with Hebert, Wells and company. Canadians are withdrawn and disengaged which means they're disempowered. The corporate sector, by contrast, is deeply engaged to the point of becoming embedded in government.

    Even on climate change, the greatest threat posed to every nation and every society on Earth, Trudeau will do a dainty carbon price or cap and trade dance that might but probably won't meet even Harper's emissions reduction target. It's the sort of thinking that pretty much ensures we're on track for 3+ degrees Celsius of man-made warming this century (plus the 'extra' nature is beginning to deliver) and a fairly abrupt collapse of our lethally integrated global civilization.

    It's easy to condemn Trudeau for his indifference to our peril but how would the public react if he chose to rapidly decarbonize our society and our economy? That can't be done without sacrifice that would require a complete societal reconfiguration to avert the unrest that would result from the inevitable inequality it would inflict. The public would turn on any prime minister who so inconvenienced them. He'd be thrown out at the next election and Kellie Leitch would be the next Conservative prime minister.

    It's a helluva state to be in when time is not on our side and is quickly running out. Quite frankly, given what I've been reading about the mental health impacts of climate change I would not be remotely surprised to see a renaissance of climate change denialism. That might be the best coping mechanism for the masses. If that should happen you'll know the battle against climate change is lost, it's over.

    1. It is a grim scenario, any way you look at it, Mound. Time is short, but action, when it comes, will be too little, too late, for the reasons you cite. If we had a sense of national peril, as during the Great Depression and WW11, things might be different, but when the acute stages of climate change sets in and perhaps a sense of purpose results, it will be far, far too late.