Friday, August 29, 2014

And a Happy Labour Day Weekend to You, Mr. Harper

The Times Colonist got the Labour Day weekend off to an early start with two op-eds this morning.  Both of them concerned our prime minister, Stephen J. Harper.

Mike Robinson provided a piece exploring Harper's performance as Canada's CEO.  Robinson, who has spent 28-years as CEO of various science and cultural NGOs, concludes that Harper's executive tenure has been a flop. Canada, say the last eight years, corporate dominance has so overshadowed our federal political scene that many question the independence of thought in the Conservative party, and especially the Prime Minister’s Office.
On economic policy and foreign affairs files, Canada now speaks increasingly with the voice of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers — the industry’s lobby group — and seems to draw its economic policy from the Fraser Institute, both western organizations with great empathy for profit, small government and tax breaks for corporations.
...What becomes problematic is advancing these causes as the primary purpose of democratic government in a civil society. A majority government, even a plurality majority, has the duty to govern in the best interests of all the citizens and to promote the public good.
These duties require leadership that is comfortable with nuances, that listens and reflects, and has a searching eye for the middle ground. It is not well served by a leader in the thrall of dogmatism, who bases decisions on how they will serve his corporate base. To paraphrase former prime minister Jean Chrétien, Canada’s PM cannot be headwaiter to the oil patch.
Robinson goes on to evaluate Harper on several CEO criteria before concluding:L
Overall, our CEO PM has never looked comfortable in the position. If the economy stays flat and the pipelines fizzle; if the PM stays out of the gym; if more stupid mistakes occur; if the vision remains more of the same — this CEO is cruising towards a deserved involuntary dismissal.
Next up is a tale of triumphalism misplaced by our prime ministerial Chicken Hawk by Charlotte Gray, author of nine, non-fiction best sellers and former chairwoman of Canada's History Society.  Without mentioning Harper by name, Gray excoriates those who want to "celebrate" Canada's role in WWI.
Am I the only person feeling increasingly uncomfortable in the tidal wave of articles, ceremonies, television programs and speeches triggered by the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War?
Obviously there is a lot to remember. The extraordinary myopia of kings, emperors and prime ministers who let their countries roll inexorably toward conflict. The helplessness of those caught up in events beyond their control — both the troops and the families they left behind. The terrifying new weapons that ensured that this war would be slaughter on an industrial scale, rather than a limited engagement between professional armies.
And most of all, the bravery of those young men who endured the nightmare of mud, poison gas, rats, disease, hunger, lice, cold, fear and homesickness in the trenches.
Gray writes that there was precious little to celebrate in the outcome of WWI.
As early as October 1914, Maclean’s magazine called the bloody conflict in Europe “the Great War.” But it wasn’t a great war, let alone “the war to end all wars,” as British writer H.G. Wells suggested. It was a failed war. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was supposed to ensure that the major European powers would never go to war again.
In fact, the Versailles Treaty turned out to be the peace to end all peace. Within 20 years of the treaty being signed, brutal conflict had erupted again in Europe.
The boundaries that the victorious powers slapped onto their maps of the Middle East reflected their own self-interest, rather than the religious and ethnic realities on the ground. The current turmoil in the Arab world can be traced back, in part, to decisions taken in the Hall of Mirrors and subsequent diplomatic get-togethers.
The second reason for my increasing unease is a disturbing thread in some of the First World War commemorations. Military battles are being presented to Canadians as significant moments in our coming of age as a country.
But you only have to read about the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge (see historian Tim Cook’s wonderful Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918) to know that this coming of age was the result of poor military planning by British generals, and involved hundreds of needless deaths.
Among those Canadians who returned, there was an undercurrent of resentment that they had been embroiled in a British imperial crusade.
This is a funny place to start the national mythology.
How much is our past being manipulated for nationalist reasons? Many of the citizens in today’s multicultural Canada have their roots in countries that were either defeated in 1918 or played no part in the conflict. What should the killing fields of Europe mean to them?
Gray has little time for people like Harper who appropriate to themselves the sacrifice made by so many and sully that sacrifice by transforming it into mythical narratives to suit their own purposes.
So, happy Labour Day weekend to you, Mr. Harper, and thank you, Times Colonist, for giving us so much to mull over this holiday.


Anonymous said...

When I was a young boy, I asked my Grandfather what is was like to fight in WW I. He told me it was great, and that he had the best time of his life in Paris. He said, though, that as a motorcycle dispatch rider to the front lines, he still had to dodge the bullets.

I asked my father what it felt like to drop bombs on innocent people. He said the targets they bombed were industrial, and did not involve civilian deaths. Given the inaccuracy of the bomb sites of the time, that's hard to believe. But he refused to discuss the topic any further.

My mother died last year and bequeathed to me all of my father's and grandfather's military memorabilia. Being the only pacifist in the family, I thought my mother had made a strange choice. But, now, I think that maybe there was a method in her madness.

My sons tell me that my father's wartime logbook, mission maps included, is an important historical document. I tell them that there are tens of thousands of these documents scattered across Canada.

Happy Labour Day!

Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary, all of it.

the salamander said...

.. our bloated, greasy and mealy Prime Minister ..
what to make of his bizarre twilight reality?
The embedded in his head Royal grandiosity

A twisting Franklinesque cannibal compulsion
Boy Wonder buffalo wars on colonial Canada eh !

And he won't stop selling his smallpox blanket vision
till he personally sees them super tankers from China
escorted by liege lorde Jason, Twit of Kenney's
hordes of imported TFW 'local' pilots into Kitimat
or any damn tidywater port in a storm of the week
smashing whales, snails, orca and otter with sonar

His backroom prince Ray Novak, ooh ah .. mmn
the ludicrous leveraging of Laureen.. for shame
the court jester Poilievre, the loud & proud Baird
the oily greaseguns Oliver Clement Moore et al..
the late great sellout saint Flaherty
and all the other failures seated at the Harper table
stuperized by the stuperous 'Speaker' (of what?)

more and more i see the Toronto boy genius
who reached for the top.. as a cheap squeezebox..
an accordian if you will, quite possibly succeeding
at sucking and blowing at the same time
p'raps better scribed as a woeful bag ass piper shill
a sacrilege of sound.. a sickning windigo soundbag

All at the same time.. the great supressor
and the ultimate oppressor.. of the land called Canada
A conplicated extreme sour shrill note of ego
Creepy personal ideology, in lipstick painted

all dressed up in toxic legislation.. newspeak..

'the bill to enhance future election prospects
eliminate sadness, tax the poor f'ers into compliance
and entrain, plane or float our dilbit to Chinee
whilst denying those faker Afghan vets
leftover Korean vets.. or from Desert Storm..
and protect us all from
First Nation Elder tree huggin Radicals
or any caring charities us brave Reformers don't like'

Oh.. thanks for that 'Steve'

The legacy? Ah yes.. the great omnibus bully boy
and his thousands of 'justice' lawyers
the Silky Arthur Hamiltons, the Jenni Byrne's
the snidely Dimitris and Ezras & DeLoreys
Lecces Sonas and Prescotts by the hundreds

What scumbags all of them ..
caterwauling of their love for war vets, history, pomp
whining their own empty ceremonious faux courage
as they bravely attack health care, pensions
wild salmon, caribou, navigable waters
our elections, democracy, truth and jobs
What warriors.... not ..

This is the personality party of Stephen Harper
the party feast of illusion and delusion,
deceit & duplicity.. partisan juvenile cancer
evangelism blended with Israel Big Energy Greed
Bloated Constipation of the Nation
by the great economissed .. and western hero

Oh spare us all .. you witless conniving thugs.. ..

Edstock said...

"this coming of age was the result of poor military planning by British generals, and involved hundreds of needless deaths" — 10-4 that. Ironically, it was a Canadian, Arthur Currie, who saved Field Marshall Haig's career as chief of staff, because he was the only general to figure out how to do trench warfare attacks with 'acceptable' casualty rates, unlike the Somme or Paschendaele.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Currie - somehow related albeit quite distantly on my mother's side. That said, I do agree that WWI was a nasty, unnecessary business; a war waged poorly with great carnage and concluded ineptly so as to ensure the 20th century would be one of mass conflict. This business that it forged our country is nationalistic pap. We went to fight for Mother England and, save for that, Canada had no dog in that fight.

BTW, there's an excellent book, "The Remittance Men" that deals with this horde of young Brits - non-inheriting sons of Brit nobility - paid to clear out and come to Canada to make new lives for themselves, invariably in the wild west. They virtually all disappeared when the war began and they returned home to defend King and country.

Anonymous said...

I like the salamander's poetry. If it was all put together in a book, I think it would be eligible for a Governor General's award.

the salamander said...

.. thank you Anonymous ..
but MoS is Pulitzer bound.. deserving
Opening doorways & comprehension
to quiet creatures of Canada ..