Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shades of Grey

I'm wrestling with how to vote on Monday and I probably will be even as I take pencil in hand in the booth.  It's unfortunate they don't have a specific  "none of the above" option because that's the way I'm feeling right now.

A good deal of my problem is that I'm coming to see the NDP, Liberal and Conservative leadership as something of a gelatinous mass.  I suppose it's the predictable result of the Liberal leadership/policy vacuum that left the centre ground up for grabs.   Harper moved to the left, Layton to the right and Iggy fought for air between them.

Travis Fast, over at Relentlessly Progressive Political Economy, illustrates the point:

...The NDP has long since jettisoned, something Stephen celebrates and I lament, any commitment to the types policies that would restore the governments capacity to unwind the inordinate amount of power the corporate sector wields over the public. Without such “radical” options in their public policy arsenal they will be more or less forced to make the same type of trade-off’s. 

The fix is in.  Just as America fell to a corporatist Congress, Canada has been overtaken by a corporatist Parliament.   Nobody, including Jack, seems willing to accept that 18th century capitalism, 19th century industrialism  and 20th century geopolitics have run their course, have lost much of their former utility.  Layton, Ignatieff and Harper all seem committed to governing as though we were still in the 80's.  They're all stuck in the "growth and jobs" paradigm, a mechanical frame of mind that all but rules out vision at the very moment when we most need vision from our political leadership.

It's becoming increasingly harder to shove our heads in the sand.  Globally we're already well into what has been called the "Century of Revolution."  The evidence of the unrest that has already broken out or is quietly building through the developing economies and Third World is everywhere.  Yet the reality of this is not even on the radar screens of our leadership.   Are we to assume that, even if Canada remains stable, we'll be immune to the upheaval elsewhere?  The indifference of our amorphous political leadership appears to assume just that.

Our civilization is beginning to slam into a wall that limits what is a genuinely finite world.  Many resources remain in abundance but others, including some essential to a stable world, are becoming depleted or critically scarce.  When demand (as in the sum of both want and need) exceeds supply, want loses its currency while need persists and grows in importance.   This is where we either shift from a growth-based consumption model into an equity-based allocation model or else accept some seriously brutal alternatives.  Again our amorphous political leadership appears oblivious.

Anthropogenic or man-made global warming is here and spawning climate change effects.   Some of the best and brightest warn that we have a limited time left to break our carbon addiction or risk triggering unstoppable feedback mechanisms, runaway global warming that will move earth into a new climate mode that will render most of our planet inhospitable to most life.  Yet again our amorphous political leadership mumbles vague promises about cap and trade measures that experience shows they have no intention of implementing on any effective basis.  It's all greenwash and nothing more unless it is harnessed to a powerful break in our carbon addiction.

Even if we were willing and able to end our carbon addiction tomorrow and managed to do just that on a global scale, existing carbon emissions will continue the heating process for at least another century.  We're in for a century of sea level rise; severe storm events of increasing frequency and intensity; precipitation pattern changes leading to extended drought and flood cycles impacting on our food security; species migration and extinction (and the resulting spread of pests and disease) - and this is just for starters. 

We're not alone.  Every corner of the planet is in for this.  We are, however, unique.  We're one of just a handful of countries that, by virtue of their geographical placement, stand to be the last and least affected.  We also enjoy certain demographic and resource advantages necessary to meet these challenges.  Yet most of this bounty, these advantages, won't be realized on their own unless they're harnessed to our service in a timely and effective manner.  Again we're met with a deafening silence from our amorphous political leadership.  They alone have the power and resources absolutely essential to initiating the information, evaluation, planning and implementation processes of climate change adaptation but they show absolutely no willingness to act.

I suspect the reason that Layton, Ignatieff and Harper seem so amorphous, so gelatinous is because none of them has any real vision and I'm pretty sure the reason they're all so devoid of vision is because each is working so hard to avoid acknowledging the great and pressing challenges facing our country.  They have no vision because they're all looking backward, imagining they're still in the 80's.  None of them has the courage to look forward and tell us what they see.


A Eliz. said...

It really matters that you vote to get rid of Harper.. vote against him by voting strategically

Uncommoner said...

I agree with you that none of the three major leaders have a serious vision. I saw that during their interviews with Peter Mansbridge.

Harper is a self-centered control freak who wants to rule rather than govern. Michael Ignatieff struck me as an ambitious careerist, someone who could do the job well but would be doing it for his own benefit rather than to serve the nation. Jack Layton gave me much the same feeling, and the way the NDP have shifted towards the center leaves me thinking that he'd be little different from a Liberal Leader.

Just my views. Your mileage may vary.

But I will be voting strategically, to try to unseat the local CPC candidate. Because Harper is bad for this country. The others may not be good, but they're lesser villains. People we can live with. Harper, on the other hand, is something very different. He makes everyone he's in contact with a little worse, just by contamination.

My $0.02. Take it as you will

Anonymous said...

One of the best articles I have read .
The truth is out there!
The problem is no one is listening.

Anonymous said...

I really think they have to be careful about what they campaign on... Harper can't go out and say he wants to create a two tiered health care system, criminalize marijuana possession and lock up every pot head in the country, and bring back capital punishment for example... And a minority government has kept him from a lot of his goals I would imagine. I voted NDP, they are the closest to what I want, and the best choice to defeat the conservatives.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not sure there's a way to vote "for" a candidate/party that's not based on trust. I don't trust any of them because they don't begin to address my concerns. In other words they strike me as being much more interested in ruling the country than in governing it.

"They" really are the only game in town. To them alone do we entrust the resources and authority with which to meet these unwanted but inescapable challenges.

I've lived in BC for well more than three decades, long enough to grasp the futility of voting "against" someone. Others, of course, see it differently but it's an admission of a truly shitty slate of parties, leaders and, in many cases, candidates to have to vote strategically.

travis fast said...

Before this election started there was no indication that the electorate had any stomach for contemplating serious change. And the sad fact is that had Jack and the NDP run on a platform that sought to actually address climate change, multinational corporate black mail (globalization)etc., we would be witnessing the orange getting crushed.

I am afraid that we will need a new party that is willing to champion these hard choices and who is willing to sit at 10% in polls.

Thanks for the link.

The Mound of Sound said...

Travis, you're right. Corporatism, as we experience it today, and environmentalism are incompatible.

It troubles me that it has become a left/right issue when elsewhere, as in Europe for example, the Right is onside with the climate change issue. Indeed it was Margaret Thatcher who was the first Western leader to sound the alarm on global warming.

The "growth and jobs" elixir that has so besotted our politicos of all stripes blocks any serious, effective effort at climate change remediation or even adaptation. It prevents us from developing 21st century approaches to this basket of 21st century challenges.

Growth is the needle in the forearm of consumption-driven economics. Our political classes have become addicted to growing our way out of problems. I tend to agree with James Lovelock that our only way out of this is to accept "sustainable retreat" as the way forward. The sad part is that it's a language our political classes don't speak.

Anonymous said...

What good would it do the ndp for example if they ran on making radical changes though? They would have no chance in the election, and then we would get no change at all (or change in the opposite direction). Most people I talk to still don't believe in climate change. They want to pay less for gas, and have more highway lanes.

The Mound of Sound said...

This really isn't about making radical change, Anon. It's about starting a process, one that's already well underway in the UK and Europe. It begins by getting timely and accurate information to the public because you'll never get the necessary changes without their support.

The people you talk to may not believe in climate change but that is due to the terrible job our governments have done at informing the public and the terrific job the fossil fuelers have done at sowing doubt and confusion.

Once you have an adequate level of public awareness you can then start the process of evaluating needs and options.

This really isn't as radical as it might seem.

Atlanta Roofing said...

It has been an exciting election because it has seemed anything is possible. In fact, it has never been more clear that an election campaign is designed to get a party (re)elected and absolutely NOT to debate policy issues and ideas in the light of day. We need to maintain multi-party choice in Canada and we need more professional journalists shining light in the dark corners.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm!! Try what is happening in Newfoundland. At the advanced voting stations, people are voting and then drawing a black line through their vote or, tearing the ballot into. I'm not saying it's right or wrong...people have done that. Has it been reported? No!! Word of mouth. Cheers

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Atlanta Roofing. I was thinking along the same lines this morning. What policy initiatives should Layton work to force through with Liberal support? The first thing that came to mind was press freedom in effect the de-corporatizing of the Canadian news media. This entails both concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership. The principle is that a democratic society benefits from the greatest variety of voices and opinions and suffers when that variety is eliminated. Layton could ask the Liberal leader to join in a commission of inquiry into the Canadian media.

The Mound of Sound said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Mound of Sound said...

@Anon5:15. Of course it's perfectly proper to spoil one's vote. What type of democracy would we have if we were obliged to accept someone as the lesser of several evils? That would be a herd mentality, painfully undemocratic.

There is a world of difference between attending a poll to spoil one's ballot and simply abstaining. Abstention is indifference to democracy. A spoiled ballot is very much a real vote, a protest vote against the lot. It's our right to do just that when we feel it's necessary.