Sunday, February 6, 2011

If Stephen Harper had a love child with a unicorn it would look like this

From a letter to The Ottawa Citizen:

In Dan Gardner’s February 4th piece, “Harper’s supposed evil plan isn’t panning out”, we “non-fans” of the prime minister, characterized by the intensity of our loathing for the man, are assured that he is, in fact, a “nasty but inconsequential” being whose true threat to Canadian society is overstated. We are encouraged to resist the temptation to think of Harper as Sauron spreading the darkness of Mordor across the land, because that sort of rhetorical finger-pointing is precisely the sort of tool that Harper makes such devastating use of. We’re the rational ones. We should not presume to use the One Ring to good effect.

It’s an age-old problem that nobody has ever really figured out how to address. In the eternal struggle of light versus the darkness, goodness has to act honourably, while evil is allowed to cheat. Well, at least goodness is allowed to be smug once in a while.

Bless Gardner for his caution and his Gandalfian words of wisdom, but allow me to play devil’s advocate for just a moment, and express a few thoughts that I think are salient in this discussion of what sort of damage Stephen Harper’s reign is really doing to our society.

Famously and quite recently, Obama addressed Americans in a frank and earnest manner (he does earnest really well, that man) and told them to get off their collective asses and rise to the challenges of the day, which are considerable. Embedded in that cryptic entreaty (us? Do something?) was a subtext hinting that a lowering of expectations might not be the worst thing in the world in light of what’s coming.

China is on the rise. Climate change is real and it’s happening now. The economy has tanked and may not recover. The middle class is gone and it isn’t coming back. The internet is destroying or transforming everything in its path – bookstores, bookshelves, libraries, video rentals, dirty magazines, readable magazines, newspapers, the music industry, nations, dictators, the stock market, banking. The entire public service is about to retire, and the best and brightest of our generation are working hard at making video games. That sounds like a bad thing, but really, these days, setting up shop in a crummy little apartment and playing World of Warcraft until China takes over isn’t an illogical alternative to raising a family in good faith that they’ll have a chance to compete and enjoy a decent life.

It is, indeed, the future. It is a brave new world. It is a twittering, facebooking, globally warm, peak-oil apprehending, overpopulated, underfed, increasingly less biodiverse world we live in, right now. This being the case, I don’t see how Stephen Harper’s rudderless, bent, pseudo-messianic drive to clamp down on criminals and layabouts, to import Fox News north of the border, or to do whatever other batshit insane thing he seems to think worthwhile, can be seen as anything but singularly destructive to our national dream, to our hopes for the future, to the continuance of our species.

Many of us still think of the political landscape as being one of right versus left, where good-natured people of differing ideologies can politely agree to disagree about which direction is the best one. This thinking is, sadly, becoming dated. The talk in Universities these days is that democracy is a demonstrable failure, because a four-year planning horizon cannot adapt to the challenges facing humanity. The Chinese understand this, and they have a government run by engineers, while ours is run by idealogues, propagandists, lawyers, and self-interested lobbyists. The United States stands paralyzed in the high-beam staring contest between those who love reason and those who feel threatened by it. The coming years will not be kind to them. Just watch what happens.

The truth is, reason plays very little part in helping people to make up their minds. We all like to think of ourselves as reasonable people, but we’re not… or, if we are, it’s a trick we’ve learned to play when we have an audience, like a dog standing on its hind legs.

What changes people’s minds is advertising. Harper understands this. It’s why he’s sticking around. Those of us on the left, those of us huddled up in Gondor, we like to think of truthful things to say, say them once, and let our sense of moral superiority be the rocky ground on which those few scattered seeds fail to find purchase. Harper understands that bullshit grows better gardens. In a time when truth and action are what we are being called to, that makes him anything but inconsequential. It makes him dangerous, and evil.

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