What's worse, Italy now joining other European states that have succumbed to the far right, Erdogan cementing strongman rule in Turkey or the growing concern that Trump might win the presidency again in 2020? It's probably not the rise of the far right in Germany or France or Britain, at least not yet. And we're not losing much sleep over what has spread through Poland or Hungary or the Philippines either. Did I mention Burma or India?
It's all of these things taken together that should trouble us. There's an inescapable truth to these developments - liberal democracy is under attack and, in my opinion, it's supposedly well-intentioned but myopic leaders unable or unwilling to steer their nations clear of the scrap heap that awaits democracies beset too long by neoliberalism who must bear the blame.
Neoliberalism benefits the few, not the many. It shifts not only economic but also political power into the hands of those who control commerce and finance. The populace, left on the outside looking in, lose their faith in liberal democracy for having failed them.
Only their problem isn't liberal democracy. By the time the economic and political power shift happens, liberal democracy remains in name only, a mere trapping of popular legitimacy.
Globalism, of the sort we've endured these past 30+ years, treats progressivism as obsolete, a quaint vestige of times past. Yet it is that very progressivism that binds the political caste to the public and their wellbeing in service to the public interest instead of the narrow, private interest. It is progressivism that bonds the people to their nation. It is the glue of social cohesion so essential when hard times arrive.
Alas we have a generation of political types suckled on the idea that globalism, multi-national trade pacts, agreements among governments that really serve a silent third party, the private sector, are imbued with some inevitability. They pursue this path, failing or refusing to see the devastating role neoliberalism has played in undermining liberal democracy in so many other nations.
This is the way of the world. We must not deviate. Perpetual, exponential growth must be pursued at all costs. Who says, Justin Trudeau? Bill Morneau? The far-from-liberal Liberal caucus? Or is it Andrew Scheer or even Jagmeet Singh? The fact is they all say it. We are shackled to it.
When Morneau warned young Canadians to accept that their fate was one of "job churn," life in the precariat with little hope of security, he was speaking from a corporate sector perspective. He didn't say we're going to prevent this, we're going to fight this so that you can have a good chance of a secure, worthwhile future. There was none of that.
If you're a young person listening to Morneau's crap, how endeared are you to liberal democracy in the age of neoliberalism? How must it feel to be written off as the "collateral damage" of neoliberalism, taking one for the team that won't be making a place for you? Do you feel your government has your best interests at heart? How could you possibly feel good about a government that so indifferently throws your future under the bus? Unless you come from Trudeau-grade wealth and privilege, how could you not feel disaffected, alienated from your government?
Earlier this month former Bank of Canada governor, David Dodge, predicted that some Canadians protesting the TransMountain pipeline will pay for it with their lives. He followed that urging that the government hold fast, keep the courage to take those lives:
“Nevertheless, we have to be willing to enforce the law once it’s there … It’s going to take some fortitude to stand up.”Those opposed to this dark farce know the Trudeau government is incredibly selective about the laws it will enforce and the laws it skirts shamelessly where this pipeline is involved. You're not enforcing the law if you only enforce the bits that work for you.
So, how does that make you feel about liberal democracy in the age of neoliberalism or any form of democracy in a petro-state?
Do we really imagine that we're that much better than the people of other nations? Is our democracy immune to the contagion that has spread through former liberal democracies?
That Justin Trudeau cares very little about rebuilding democracy in Canada was manifest in his quick and facile rejection of his campaign promise for electoral reform. All the excuses he gave were pap, self-serving bullshit.
Where is Trudeau's commitment to defending Canadian democracy in this era of spreading authoritarianism and illiberal democracy? He remains the loyal servant of neoliberalism and globalism, despite all the evidence of how much those two forces have done to foment disaffection, undermine democracy and clear the path for the rise of authoritarian pimps stoking xenophobia and nativism.
You'll never have the measure of this prime minister until you manage to discern the difference between platitude and principle. This prime minister goes heavy on the first and extremely light on the second. He's offered us no grand vision for steering Canada safely through the tumult that's sweeping so many other nations. Perhaps he imagines that Canada will safely tick along without more. We're suckers if we fall for that.