Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Smoke Screens

        Mr. Harper is at it again: making cheap appeals to his populist base (one wonders if this is a conscious strategy on the part of him and his handlers or an simply unconscious political reflex). Be that as it may..

        Here's how it works. You appeal to your base: their vote has to be assured. Québec, on the other hand has probably been written off as a lost cause by the Harper team (more on this a bit later..)  Seeing the rightward shift in political and social attitudes taking place in Western societies, Harper and co. seem to be betting that mean-spirited, hairy chested populist demagogy will probably pick up more votes from the soft Right  than will be lost on the Left. And they are probably right..

        In the present context, Harper's most recent appeal to the populist base lies in his fufilling his electoral promise to eliminate the long gun registry - ONE promise he manages to keep at least!  His recent gaining of a parliamentary majority assures passage of the bill..

         Planified coup or savy political instinct, this vindictive move strikes deep into a core of resentment burning in the heart of the Canadian electorate. Lest we be accused of "Left wing bias", it is instructive to recall that the gun registry program, instituted by a Liberal government in the wake of the Montréal Polytechnique Massacre (6 Dec, 1989), soon degenerated into an obscene boondoggle, racking up unprecedented cost overruns during its implementation. To rub salt in the wounds of the taxpayer, no heads ever rolled over the cost overruns but the voters - and especially conservative, gun-owning rural voters - remembered. They remembered..

           Here is an example of the masterful manipulation of the rural / small town / suburban voter's smoldering resentment at being ripped off and imposed on by "big city crooked politicians". Note, especially, the tone of righteous indignation (justified) and deep sense of victimization (a perennial theme of populist militants): "These are good salt-of-the-earth people".

“They’re upstanding citizens who work hard. They take their kids and grandkids out hunting and shooting and those kids, by the way, probably aren’t involved in gangs in the streets,” she said.
“These are good salt-of-the-earth people and for so long they have had really nobody in government who has been able to make any changes on their behalf. So it really was very gratifying to know how thankful they were and how much it meant to them to have someone who was going to be promoting good policy, policy that was fair and wasn’t targeting them.”

                The depth of the anger and the sense of betrayal of the conservative, grassroots voter is probably reflected in the meanspirited, pyrrhic vindictiveness of the proposed legislation: Harper wants not merely to suspend the long gun registry but intends to destroy the data bases..

                As seems so often the case these past few decades, conservatives (especially neos) and reactionaries have reaped the fruits of years of liberal (small "l" liberal here) corruption and incompetence. Truth be known, neither the Right nor the Left in modern Western societies has much of a clue what to do next. All parties are in bed with the plutocrats who rule the world. Before the unfolding economic, ecological and climatological meltdown of our planet and its life support systems, they can offer nothing but platitudes ("economic growth", "fighting for democracy"), symbolic gestures ("Millennium Goals" of the United Nations), improvisation and - at the limit - the outright delusions of Magical Thinking:

“God is not capricious. He’s given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything.”

               What the heck is he talking about: what does "dynamically stable" actually mean in the present context?? Can anyone tell me..

                 Since neither Left nor Right has a clue how to get us out of the quagmire (since both are products of the system that created the quagmire), they both lack any coherent Strategy ("game plan"). But the forces of reaction have one huge, short term advantage: Tactics. The Right knows no better than the Left what to do next but they are past masters of the fine art of public opinion manipulation. Lefties are - to strike a caricature - college profs and garrett intellectuals from the Arts and Humanities. They are not the real shakers and movers of modernity. They do not possess the tools, intellectual or otherwise, to effectively jerk the strings of the increasingly frightened and disoriented "masses". The real shakers and movers - the technicians, engineers, programmers, business types, PR men, admen, bureaucrats and technocrats - are basically, by blood and breeding, men of the Right. They understand the tools of mass manipulation: they invented them in the first place!

                 Thus, while Rome burns, our elites fiddle. The public's attention is deftly turned aside from the real problems our world faces: overpopulation, resource depletion, Peak Oil, the need to develop renewable energy sources and to learn to do things more efficiently, to learn to live with less in dignity and in justice.. Thus these pressing real, high priority, problems are never addressed. Instead, just as the Roman mob was given bread and circuses to entertain them, we too are given gory spectacles and entertainment. We are enroled in pseudo-crusades, so that we don't have the time or the courage to pose the really important questions. Instead we fight the terrors of abortion, family planning, gay marriage, the "liberal media bias", creeping secularism, humanism and socialism. Reality check: defeating family planning and abortion in Africa will likely lead to more deaths from malnutrition and the attendant political instability and warfare. We are provided abundant scapegoats to hate - liberals, "socialists", "secular humanists", "baby killers", "Islamofascists", "green nazis".. - all of course to divert our attention from the real issues and who really benefits from maintaining society on its suicidal course.

                  To return to the Canadian situation in conclusion, Harper's team have probably decided that Québec is a lost cause. The gun registry, let's not forget, was born in the aftermath of the infamous Dec 6, 1989, Montéal Polytechnique massacre of women students by a misogynist gunman who then took his own life. Québec will not therefore take the elimination of the long gun registry lightly. Above all, the province wants the info in the data bases referring to guns registered in Québec in order to create its own provincial registry. Harper's move to destroy the data bases may pander to the smoldering anger of his core constituents but can only outrage Québécois voters. Harper's legislation threatens to reopen old mutual incomprehensions between Québec and the rest of the country in order to obtain short term political gain. In the long run it may be the country as a whole that will have to pay the price of his political myopia.

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