Sunday, March 24, 2019

Instead of Whinging About Boomers, Explain Yourself.

Millennials and Gen-Xers are fond of blaming the Boomer generation for their woes. Cheap talk from people who vote for parties that keep the Canadian petro-state locked into fossil fuels. That means young-ish Conservative supporters, and young-ish Liberal supporters, their NDP counterparts to boot.

Don't complain about your condition, don't blame others, if you wish to support those who have delivered your fate.  The Liberals we Boomers supported are not the wet cardboard Liberals of today. We supported the Liberal Party of Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, not this sham of a party that now holds power.

So many of this new bunch like to brand themselves "progressives" but there's nothing remotely progressive in supporting those parties, not with the looming danger of plunging the world into catastrophic climate change just 12 years off.

What is progressive in a leader who lavishes solemn promises to win votes only to discard them, one by one, after he has succeeded in duping a hopeful public?

A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life.

If there is one overarching progressive principle it is to improve the well being of the people, now and in the future. Wrapped up in that is the duty to leave the country a better place than you found it. Even Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, espoused that much. So did this guy:
- Of conservation I shall speak more at length elsewhere. Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation.
Of that generation of men to whom we owe so much, the man to whom we owe most is, of course, Lincoln. Part of our debt to him is because he forecast our present struggle and saw the way out. He said:"I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind."
It is inevitable in neoliberalism that the loyalty the elected owe those who put them in office, the voting public, is instead to various degrees given to others, powerful interests, special interests, the corporate sector - firms such as KPMG, SNC-Lavalin, any of the fossil fuel giants of Athabasca.
- For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.
- The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows.
At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth. 
"Job Churn" - carrying the burden of the special privileges of another beggars us all.  Morneau, the prime minister's very affluent finance minister, has the audacity to tell our people that we, and especially our children, will just have to accept a future of job churn, lifetime membership in the new precariat. Wealth for the few, insecurity and worse for most. That the man was brazen enough to say that and not be rebuked or contradicted by this man Trudeau, speaks volumes for this government's supposed progressive nature.
Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled.
- No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered-not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means.
- The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare.  ...No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load.
These passages capture the spirit of progressivism. This is not some Communist Manifesto. It is, instead, taken from a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt to a farmer's gathering in Osawatomie, Kansas in 1910. In this speech, Roosevelt drew heavily from the words of Abraham Lincoln.
The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs,-but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well,-just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success. 
These passages are not an exhaustive compendium of progressive thought. They simply convey the focus and spirit of progressivism, once powerful influences that have long been purged from this modern politic and, by its absence, the decline of liberal democracy.

Simply being somewhat to the left of the Conservatives doesn't earn you the laurel of progressive. Being a progressive is about the relationship between government and the public, government and the individual, government and the corporate sector and other special interests. It is not compatible with the neoliberal order embraced on both sides of the aisle in our House of Commons.

The Liberal Party may be slightly, very slightly progressive socially but not to the extent that pries loose the grip of neoliberalism that pervades the party.

Don't sing the praises of those young people around the world striking for action on climate change if you intend to support the very politics they march against. You can't be on their side and work against them at the same time.


The Mound of Sound said...

Funny, isn't it? On most arguments I expect, and receive, some measure of pushback. Yet, whenever I throw out the issue of progressive thought and principle, nary a peep. What does that signify?

My take is that we've come to perceive progressivism as a social issue, not a mode of governance, a formula for interaction between government and its people. That's an emasculated progressivism, a toothless, kumbaya bit of 'feel good' nonsense.

Purple library guy said...

I'm not clear exactly what you're saying when you get into the generational thing. I mean, Millennials are not now and never have been in charge of politics or the economy. Boomers, on the other hand, have. So if you're going to go into who's to blame for anything wrong with political economy today, it seems pretty dashed clear that it can't be the Millennials. So was the present a sort of immaculate conception?

Sure, you can say the Liberals the boomers voted for are not the lousy Liberals of today . . . but who oversaw that transformation from Liberals of yesteryear to lousy Liberals of today? Mostly boomers. Who was in charge of the arguably-good Liberals back then, that the boomers voted for? Pierre Trudeau, born in 1919, and others of that sort of age group--clearly not boomers. The boomers can't really take credit for the political class of that era, any more than the Millennials can be blamed for the political class of this one.

Plus, you talk as if the Millennials have been mounting a massive series of unprovoked attacks on us older people, and how dare they and how awful of them. But you should know perfectly well it's not like that. Millennials have been insulted and mocked and lied about at a frantic rate. Here's the generation living the most precarious life that's been seen since the Depression, and you get boomers constantly on their case for being, of all things, entitled! People who took advantage of fast-growing economies, low unemployment, generous social programs, and cheap education, people who could save money while working minimum wage jobs as long as they lived in a one-bedroom, talk down to Millennials who have none of that stuff, trying to claim Millennials are the ones who have it easy. This while the Millennials are deep in debt, there's no steady work, they're running as fast as they can not to stay in the same place but rather to only lose ground gradually. So some Millennials occasionally push back a bit and point out that it's not them who ruined everything, so what?

This whining about Millennials is pointless and divisive. Nobody's saying that you personally broke the world. But collectively yes, it's we older people who did, so we should just suck it up when people point it out. Sure, I, and maybe you, were against all the bastards of our generations that did the ruining, but there you go--we lost, they won, so who defines our generations?

And if we want to start arguing about who's more progressive than whom, the polls make it clear that on average, the young are more progressive, whether in terms of identity politics, left economics, or environmentalism, than older people. Unfortunately, they have nothing to work with because as you pointed out, the political landscape, the available institutions, political parties and so on, not to mention the dominant sources of information, are worthless or worse than worthless, designed to funnel people's positive energies into pointless activity. But this again wasn't the Millennials' doing. Given the way older people with political and economic power put in so much effort setting them up to fail, they're not doing bad.

Purple library guy said...

Long story short: I think you're blaming the victims here.