Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So this is governmental Transparency, eh?

            Lest we forget, Steven Harper was elected on promises of "responsible government, Law 'n Order, and transparency". And what do we get? An unenviable record of electoral dirty tricks that would even neo-conservative tactician Karl Rove would be proud of.

             During the last election, people in contested ridings received automated phone messages ("robocalls") purporting to originate with Elections Canada. Victims were told that their voting stations had been changed and were directed to new (non-existant) locales. Impersonating officials of Elections Canada to prevent voters from exercising their right is, of course, illegal. 

            We suspect that neocons stoop to the level of negative ad bashing because they have nothing to put on the table: no program, no ideas, no vision. Just maintaining the dying, suicidal status quo on life support for a few more years at which time the boomers will all be dead in our graves. A sad commentary on a generation - who were given so much! - and our times..
             To conceal the intellectual vacuity of their positions on pressing issues like climate change, alternative energy, environment, rising disparity in income.. reactionaries turn - instinctively it seems - to the ad hominen / personal attack, to the victimization of scapegoats or to delusional national projects (historically, imperial wars were often used to this end). 
            Given that no less than 34 counties and some 79 individuals have come forward to date with complaints, one suspects that this issue is not going to go away very soon. We may be dealing with a breaking Watergate type scandal.
 internal blog link: 14 dec, 2011, Dirty Tricks, the New World Order

Friday, February 24, 2012

Krista puts her hoof in it again

           Kista Erikson at Sun News has taken ombage at the fact that Québécois film director Philippe Falardeau's Oscar nominated film "Monsieur Lazhar" received - gasp! - money from the Federal government (hence - double gasp! - from the taxpayer).

            Montréal Gazette writer Brendan Kelly finds her behavior "goofy" but we think there may be more here than meets the eye. Look behind the goofiness and find, perhaps, a political motivation..

           Ironincally, Mr Kelly himself appears to find the trace only to lose it again. Thus he writes quizically:

"What an outrage! Apparently our tax dollars went into this film. Actually I really have no clue why the folks at Sun News are so outraged. Is it ’cause the film is in the French? That the main character is an Algerian refugee? That it takes place in that noted communist hotbed Montreal?"

            Yes, Mr Kelly we are suggesting that Krista lost it - unreflectedly or with premeditation (we do not know) - exactly because the film is in French, the main character is an Algerian refugee (both the fact that he is Algerian AND a refugee can be held against him), and that it takes place in a "communist hotbed" like Montréal.

             If such an interpretation is true, one can only speculate. However, it does tie in with the rightwing, redneck, reactionary, populist tone of the Harper government in all its doings and gestures. If true, a new level of hypocrisy of neoconservative thinking would be revealed. We all know that the Harper government has made significant overtures to immigrant communities - at least during electoral campaigns, apparently in an attempt to tap into two potential sources of votes within immigrant communities: 1- the immigrant business community and 2- the conservative / reactionary social attitudes of many New Immigrant communities. This would constitute a delicate balancing act indeed because many Canadian rightwingers appreciate neither immigrants nor their particular brands of reaction (Islam as the One True Faith, outside of which there is no salvation, for example). At the limit, one might argue that the populist ideologues are attempting to play off one group of bigots against another so as to muster the intolerance of both against a common enemy ("the Left": liberals, moderates, social democrats, Québécois nationalists, feminists, "secularists"..) We note however that such hypocrisy and internal division would are, by no means, foreign to populists if their past actions are any judge. One need only consider the state of US politics before John F Kennedy and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Traditionally, the democratic party was the "natural ruling party" founded on an unholy alliance of "Jim Crow" - anti-black - local and state politicians in the South and northern working class / immigrant / labor union voters.

               Another example is found in Québec during the "Grande Noirceur" - the Great Darkness, the reign of Québécois Premier Maurice Duplessis  (reigned 1936 - 1959). Dupessis promulgated a nationalistic, patriotic - Québécois patriotism, anti-State and anti-labor message. Government spending was cut to a minimum as were labor safety regulations. Result: extractive industries (mining, forestry) payed next to nothing in royalties and taxes, environmental regulations were nil, the death toll from industrial accidents for Québécois workers was four times that of neighboring Ontario, Québécois were among the most uneducated and underpayed Canadians. New immigrants - Italian workers in Montréal - actually earned $200 per annum more than  unilingual French Montréal citizens, circa 1960. In return, the Québécois were promised they would go to heaven for all eternity while their oppressors, "les Anglais et les Juifs" - the English and the Jews - would burn in hell for all eternity. The irony is that the greatest turn out of voters for Duplessis' Union Nationale party was in wealthy Westmount where the rich Anglais business owners lived! The populist voice often speaks different messages from both sides of its mouth..

             Once again, we observe what can only be called the "prostitution of religion" to serve Ceasar. I recall conversations with people that grew up in Québec under the Duplessis regime. At election times, nuns in school would have kids recite the follow ditty:

Bleu est pour le ciel, Rouge est pour l'enfer

Blue is for heaven, Red is for hell

              Blue was the color of the Union Nationale party, Red that of the Liberal party. Kids were told to instruct their parents they would go to hell if they voted the wrong color!

              Do we not see echos of these attitudes in today's political scene..

              We are witnessing a disturbing trend in contemporary societies: a rejection of the "Universalist" perspective of the Enlightenment. Universalism is a deep, "intuitive" ethical or philosophical insight which demands a recognition of the shared humanity or "human nature" of all people and groups of people, a common humanity expressed variously in different socio-cultural, historical environments.

             Unfortunately, with the rising tide of reactionary thought and values, it is now becoming acceptable - even excpected in some quarters - to reject "cultural or moral relativism". We are warned in ominous tones and grandiose gestures that such "relativism" poses great moral risks for our collective security. Although what, exactly, is so evil about possessing the capacity to see complex entitities like people, nations, cultures, political views, other religions.. in their complexity and mulitiplicy is never explained. In this game, facts don't count but the "Great Gesture", the knowing - or insinuating - look. One does not argue or debate, one POSES. Politics as theater - some call it demagogy.. I even recall hearing reactionaries calling for a ban on Einstein's Theory of Relativity apparently because it contains the word "relativity" and therefore would, presumably, incite people to think "relatively". Reactionaries, as decades of social psychological research has shown, choose to live in a simplified - not say "mutilated" - world of Black / White, Good versus Evil dichotomies. At its worst, this mutilated and mutilating thinking projects a delusional / paranoid Manichean world view, a full blown retreat from reality into an all embracing, self-reinforcing, autoreferential delusional system: a social or collective psychosis. (All White, all Good) "fortress America" - or "fortress Russia", "fortress Islamic Community".. - is ringed in, surrounded by the omnipresent, omnipotent, insidious corrupting forces of Total Evil, attacking from both within and without. When mass paranoia develops around racial / ethnic / religious identity, we can only speak of "neotribalism" at its worst..

               I am currently studying Fascist thought / ideology because I recognize the danger it represents to all that I hold good and valuable and noble in Western culture. One of the common threads in fascist / reactionary thinking is the duping of exploited classes so that, adopting a totally "inauthentic", "alienated"stance toward the world, they identify with the values of their oppressors and support those values to their own detriment.  (footnote 1)Truly, truly twisted! As we wrote above: ".. the Québécois were promised they would go to heaven for all eternity while their oppressors, "les Anglais et les Juifs" - the English and the Jews - would burn in hell for all eternity. The irony is that the greatest turn out of voters for Duplessis' Union Nationale party was in wealthy Westmount where the rich Anglais business owners lived! The populist voice often speaks different messages from both sides of its mouth.." Indeed it does, it does indeed..

              For Krista's commentary on government funding of the film "Monsieur Lazhar": 

              Internal blog link An earlier story on Krista's bullying populist attack on dance artist Margie Gillis:;postID=1372087197201984404  

footnote 1 - "Inauthentic" is an insight drawn by Existential philosophers of the 20th century (Camus, Satre) to describe the modern consciousness. We claim to be "for the environment" yet buy SUVs! "Alienated" is Karl Marx's description of the relation of the industrial worker to his labor the results of that labor. The worker does not "own" the "fruits of his labor", his work does not express his personhood or value. It has become "alien" or "foreign". Work is no longer a blessing but a curse, at best a mere economic necessity. Social psychologists use the general term "anomia" or "anomie" to describe the sense of confused disorder, meaningless and insignificance resulting from a preceived lack of common norms, goals or values. In general, anomia is one of the major breeders of fascist, reactionary thought and movements.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Steven Harper - Québec separatists' best friend??

         bumptious: crudely or loudly assertive; pushy

         The idea might seem a bit bizarre but there is an argument that Harper's populist tub-thumping style may end up driving Québec into the hands of the seperatists, reviving what many consider a "dead issue"..
          Quebecers, on the whole, see themselves as (squishy soft) "social democrats" on many issues such as abortion, gun regulation, social programs, crime and punishment of adolescents.. Many of us find the recent destruction of the long gun registry repellent and offensive: the gun registry was, after all, created by the activism of Quebecers after the Montréal Polytechnique massacre of 14 female students by a misogynist gunman, 6 december, 1989. The fact that Harper, in good populist funk, went so far as to take part in a celebration - !sic! - of the long gun registry destruction really did not sit well with many Quebecers: it's hard not to feel it as salt deliberately rubbed in an open wound..

            Populist, redneck, neocon triumphalism - or just bumptious naïveté?

            Justin Trudeau, son of former PM Pierre Trudeau and himself Federal Liberal MP, recently shocked Canadians in a French language CBC interview. Trudeau said he was saddened by the right wing direction Canada was taking under the Harper government. He went so far as to say that if things continued this way he might consider the separatist option: this from a son of  arch-federalist Pierre Trudeau! (Obviously, this has separatists chuckling under their breath; I've heard them on the radio..) In the French language clip below the juicy part begins at 13 minutes.

              Quebecers are feeling increasingly under-represented, misunderstood and unheeded. The longterm effects of Harper's populist bumptiousness are hard to predict but separatist leader (Parti Québécois) Pauline Marois seems ready to make hay while the sun shines..

               In her open letter Madame Marois addresses what many Quebecers feel most offensive in the Harper government's handling of the deregistration process (aside from that damned celebratory cocktail party), the mean-spirited refusal of the Feds to turn over to Québec the portion of the long gun registry applying to citizens of the Province (my translation):

"We have proposed, with the Provincial government, the creation of a Québécois gun registry. To avoid prohibitive expenditures, the elected members of the Assemblée nationale have unanimously requested that Ottawa preserve the registry data relating to the Province of Québec. Unfortunately, your government has announced its intention to destroy these data. The people of Québec have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create these files which are indespensible to the creation of a Québécois gun registry. Transferring these files to Québec will cost your government nothing. All that we are asking your government is the freedom for Québec to act in its own interests.."

                 Indeed! But Mr Harper seems far more occupied with short term political gain but populist tub thumping and bumptiousness may be this country's undoing. 

                 Watch out Mr. Harper, what goes round, comes round..

Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind / Qui sème le vent récolte la tempête