Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Mess We're In

One of the more common themes in my recent writing is that, when it comes down to the challenges confronting our country and our people, we cannot depend on our political classes for leadership.  We entrust them exclusively with all the powers needed to confront the threats of the day and of tomorrow but they choose not to use them.   When it comes to the future, you and me and the rest of us are on our own.

This was borne out in a comment received today from a character calling himself "Tom Sangfroid."  I suspect TS might have created his Blogger identity specifically for the purpose of posting his remarks.  A quick check showed Sangfroid created his account just this month and I was the first to view his or her profile.

Tom identified himself as "working in politics."   He chided me for criticizing Jack Layton and Bob Rae in my previous post for their abject indifference to the perils posed to our country by climate change.

"...the failure of our political parties to behave the way you think they should is in part the result of our failure to mobilize the population effectively on said issue, coupled with the indifference and complacency of the larger population.

"...no matter what people tell pollsters, the larger Canadian public just doesn’t give a shit about climate change. The average person finds the arguments complex, and would sell their grandchildren’s ability to breathe clean air in the future for a properly targeted tax rebate today."

The cynicism is breathtaking yet it is consistent with the attitudes of Harper, Layton and Rae.   Tom then goes on to absolve Layton and Rae for their abject neglect.

"That’s the brute reality we operate in. And that this is so is not the fault of Jack Layton. Hell, it probably isn’t the fault of Bob Rae. The responsibility lies with us, and with our neighbours and fellow citizens."

So you see, it's quite simple.   We who truly don't have power must take the blame for the inaction of those who do.  It's not their failing, it's not their fault, it's ours.  What nerve for us to expect them to lead.  By what right do we expect them to mobilize public opinion?   We can't expect them to lead from the front but, instead, to follow a safe distance behind public opinion.

From what I have witnessed over the past decade, Tom is merely speaking the truth.   The politics of Ignatieff and Layton and Rae is an emasculated politics, form over substance, or as they say in Texas, "all hat and no cattle."   They want to rule but they don't want to lead.

Many years ago when David Frost extensively interviewed disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon there was a moment when Nixon said something for which I've admired him ever since.  He was asked to describe the essence of true political leadership.   Nixon replied that leadership was the ability to persuade the people to accept measures that are necessary but unpleasant, even unpopular.  People like Tom Sangfroid and the masters they serve can't grasp what even somebody like Nixon understood.

In my reply to Tom I characterized him and those of the same ilk as "useless shits."   The more I dwell on that, the less badly I feel about it.  They are, indeed, useless shits and until we are rid of them we have no hope of getting the leadership these troubled times so loudly call for.

6 comments:

ck said...

It looks like even Green Elizabeth May will be concentrating less on climate change during her time in parliament as well.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1005023--may-to-focus-on-democracy-not-climate-change?bn=1#article

While Democracy or lack thereof is an admirable issue to focus on, she is kind of taking away the raison d'etre of her own party, imho.

ck said...

Do you really think invoking Nixon is a good idea? He of Watergate?

Most of what he did was certainly not good for the country.

Greg Fingas said...

I don't much buy the argument about voters not caring about issues like climate change. And I don't think any of the political parties do either.

Even as the Cons fail to do anything about climate change by any reasonable standard, they refuse to defend the position that nothing should be done. Instead, they make occasional noises (particularly during campaigns) pretending to be doing more than they are - and lower-information voters who can't cut through the competing claims of the various parties thus don't differentiate enough between their options to vote based on the issue.

So the problem isn't one of a willingness to sell future generations down the river, but a need to make more clear how it can be avoided - in the face of a government prepared to use every dime of public money at its disposal necessary to claim otherwise.

The Mound of Sound said...

@GF - your take on the neo-Cons duplicity is spot on. What troubles me is why Layton and Rae don't gore them with it? It is surely a case where their silence, no matter how grounded in reluctance, amounts to collaboration.

@CK - at the time, Nixon was a hard-core, bad-ass, far Right Republican. Today he would be tossed out of the GOP as a "socialist."

Yes he was an arrogant bastard with criminal leanings but, in fairness, he also did several genuinely good things. He got America out of Vietnam. Nixon recognized China and normalized relations between those countries. Most telling, however, is that Nixon advanced the civil rights reforms initiated by his predecessors, Kennedy and Johnson. So I'm not willing to take Nixon for more or less than he truly was and, on the point cited, he was genuinely inspirational.

Sixth Estate said...

I have yet to see a poll in which tax rebates rank at the top of a list of issues when voters are asked to name their concerns. The reason they ascend to the top of political debate is because they're a useful bit of blather for politicians to talk about when they have no other agenda of actual substance, or when they do have an agenda but think it would be unpopular.

I am reminded of a kneejerk reaction from the bumbling Jim Hacker in Yes, Minister: "I am the people's leader. I must follow them!"

The Mound of Sound said...

I guess we've had peace and prosperity for so long that our political classes are incapable of grasping the sort of leadership required in times of emergency or national peril.

It is one thing to follow shifting public attitudes in setting welfare rates but quite another thing altogether to look to public whim when your land is being attacked by a foreign power - or nature itself. In these situations it is no longer fitting that political leadership languishes behind the public nor that it poll the public to shape policy.

We grant these people enormous power over our lives, our communities, our nation and implicit in vesting those powers in our leaders is their undertaking to use those powers as need be for our welfare and protection.

This undertaking is not discretionary. If the nation or our people need protection our leadership is obliged to act accordingly to the full measure of the powers they hold on our collective behalf.