Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Won't Our Politicians Discuss What Really Matters?

Is it really any wonder that so many eligible Canadian voters are so disengaged from federal politics?   What's happening is the entirely foreseeable result of the degenerated form of politics being practised by every major party today.  It's hapless, pathetic even and it simply doesn't connect with the electorate.

A couple of weeks back I came up with the term "mercantile politics"   to describe what seemed to be the use of a mishmash of policies, disjointed and sometimes incoherent, that seem to be clutched out of a bag and tossed out in the hope of getting traction with the public.   It's like fishing for votes, trying out this lure and then the next in search of whatever will get the voter to bite. 

To me, today's political scene is like going into a store for particular items and finding the shelves stocked with everything except the stuff you came in to buy.   You turn on your heel and walk out.

The Tyee's Murray Dobbins voices a somewhat similar complaint:

In trying to anticipate what a federal election campaign will look like ...it is striking that the biggest issues facing humankind are not even on the radar, yet alone being framed as planks in any party's campaign platform.

This amounts to whistling past the graveyard with potentially fatal consequences. In our conventional political universe we are talking about jet fighters, corporate tax cuts, growing the economy and abolishing the Senate -- and if we are lucky some mention of climate change, poverty and the dire financial straits of seniors.

But the other universe is virtually invisible despite the fact that it is very real and well known. That parallel road that no one in authority wants to acknowledge is one which is taking us over a cliff. That universe tells us that we are rapidly reaching the planet's limits to growth, that we are well past the start of a global fresh water crisis, that we have already reached peak oil, that climate change will have ever-increasing planet-changing impacts and that rapidly rising food prices will lead to mass starvation in the developing world.

Why can't we talk about what really matters?

...It is as if we need a whole new set of institutions from civil society to the formal political level in order to even sensibly begin the conversation. The ones we have simply cannot cope with the looming human catastrophe because, in its totality, it tells us that everything we are doing now and are planning to do, and how we now think and talk about the present and the future are simply irrelevant.

Read the rest of Dobbin's column here.

I'm at that point in life where I should be set in my ways, seeking the assuring comfort of the familiar.   Yet reality has set in to show me that "my ways" were largely illusions, conveniences of a time that floated on untenable precepts.  We have become riveted to values that can do us no good.

I watched one of Steve Harper's nauseating promo ads, the one in which he steals a play from The Gipper.   Remember when Reagan trashed Calvinist Carter by promising his voters that America's best days were still to come?  Harper is using that same sideshow pitch today.   Yet it was bullshit when Reagan conned his people with it and it's bullshit when Harper uses it on us today.  It's the sort of fable that depends on the outright lie of infinite expansion.

Many Americans are waking up to the reality that they've been brutally conned by Reagan and his Age of Ruin.  They now begin to grasp the greatest transfer of wealth in American history -  wealth that has been siphoned from America's once robust middle class, the beating heart of their country's former greatness, into the pockets of the ultra-rich who have played such a dominant role in America's decline.   Income inequality, the enormous gap between rich and poor, has corroded America, undermined its society, sapped it of its strength and vitality.  Yet this too no one will discuss.

Canada is following in America's trail.   We, too, have seen an unhealthy growth in the wealth gap.

There's a huge difference between wanting to govern a country and simply wanting to control its political process.  Unfortunately, the latter seems to have eclipsed the former on today's political agenda.  Governing the country appears just too hard for the digestive tracts of Conservatives, Liberals or New Democrats.  They don't want to tackle the Herculean job of governing, managing.  They simply want to rule.

I have always winced when I read people rattling on about how the "important thing" is to get rid of Harper.  What matters is restoring the Liberals to power.  Who says?  Why?  I don't want a change of rulers, I want a leader who isn't so self-serving, dishonest even that he can't bring himself to address the enormous, looming problems confronting this country and that will plague my children's and grandchildren's future.   I'm sorry, Liberal supporters, but you haven't put that guy forward.  The guy you have on offer believes our country's future is tied to becoming a filthy fossil fuel superpower.  How bent do you have to be to believe we ought to support that?  No thanks.


Dana said...

They do discuss what really matters.

To them.

The optimal skill set for a politician is convincing us that what matters to them is what should matter to us.

And by and large we're stupid enough to buy.

Sixth Estate said...

"And by and large we're stupid enough to buy."

Supposedly we have institutions to check this, namely the media, which have failed as well.

I think this oil superpower nonsense is incredibly dangerous, borderline traitorous -- even before we talk about the environmental consequences. These people seem to have deluded themselves into thinking that being one of the last large reservoirs of oil is going to make our country very powerful and very rich.

That will be true for a small segment at the top, but historically (and today), being a weak country with a wealthy resource next to a powerful country with a big appetite almost never ends well for the little guy. The most important goal of Canadian foreign policy today should be to divert American interest from oil to alternative energy at least enough that we get out of this intact. It isn't.

Dana said...

"Supposedly we have institutions to check this, namely the media, which have failed as well."

True in a very limited and largely mythical sense.

For the most part the media heroes who've made a significant difference have always been iconoclasts, swimming against the tide of the conventional media wisdom of their moment.

The few we had in this country are no longer employed.

The press may be free but the words are not.