Friday, November 28, 2014

The Space Between

We put a lot of trust in systems, yes we do. Police officers, MP's, public broadcasters, celebrities, schools and universities, governments.

And when all of these things let us down, as they so very often do and as they have over the past short while, we like to blame certain things, like ticking checkboxes. We talk about cultures that protect abusers, and systemic racism, and lack of due process and consultation. All of this is very, very much in vogue these days.

What we can't do is see the flaw in ourselves. There's Jian Ghomeshi, and there's us. There's Mike Brown, and there's us. There's a nice little separation there. Very clean.

Once we have allegations of sexual abuse or a police officer shooting someone or a government blowing it hugely, then the door is opened and we can have a big important public conversation about the issue. Not before. Sure, we may feel like things are not right beforehand, but it's not the right time to say anything.

Then the next disaster happens, and the time for having conversations is over and everyone scrambles to take the next position and hold it. There might not even be enough time to have consistent positions. You can emerge from Ghomeshigate promising to believe each and every single allegation of sexual assault, no matter how trivial, and still believe that the allegations made by the as-yet unnamed NDP MP against Massimo Pacetti are baseless and that he's a victim. Gotta be appropriately concerned about abuse in the one case because we have a face to put the allegations to, but it's OK to want to wait for more evidence in the other.

I guess I shouldn't judge too harshly, After all, nobody has the first ever loving clue what to do in any of these situations. You can be a police officer with the full weight of the law behind you, or you can be one of this country's elected officials, and suddenly you discover that, whoopsy-doodle, there's no "procedure" in place for the sticky situation you find yourself in, even though it might be something that happens all the damn time as a consequence of the job you do. So you panic and do something really stupid. Then everyone else around you panics until they can find a talking point that everyone can stick to or until someone emerges who doesn't have their head up their ass.

I shudder to think what would happen that day if Kevin Vickers hadn't been functional enough that day on Parliament Hill. Too damn close. So let's give Mr. Vickers every honour we can throw at him, and justifiably so. But let's just take a step back and think for a minute what it means that he, and he alone, had the stones to draw his weapon and kill when the head of state was in danger. You probably wouldn't have done it. You would have defaulted to some other type of primitive state, fashioning spears out of flagpoles against a man with a gun, praying, falling to the floor in the fetal position.

We are so ridiculously close to doing unspeakable things to others or falling apart completely that it  is absolutely terrifying. Once we turn Big Ears Teddy's head to face the wall so he can't see what's happening, all bets are off.

The truth of life is fundamentally, deeply conservative. It is everyone for themselves. And the rallying points, the institutions we build, the cultures we maintain, are distractions from that truth.  That's why, despite the knowledge that institutions can't protect us most of the time, we maintain our belief in their sanctity. Stand up for the CBC. Support the troops. #NeverRapedNeverReported. Signals and symbols and hashtags is all that's keeping this species together. It's far, far too hard to accept the truth about human beings and how we need scripts, written for us by others who look like they know what they're doing.

Don't ask people to educate themselves or dig themselves out of their ruts. It's too damn hard. You're asking way, way too much. Only the very rare and the very strong can and do divest themselves from this closed loop and live free, on their terms.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

He Who Hesitates.....

Partisans yakking away all over the place about Monday's byelections, working themselves up into a fury, throwing talking points back and forth, analyzing charts, graphs, polls and trends, all in the name of trying to predict what's going to happen at the big dance federally next year.

Crap. All of it. Crap, crap, crap.

We don't need to ask questions or throw around talking points. We know, because we've seen repeatedly over the past few years, what it takes to win an election. We know what the voters want, even though we can't say it out loud. They don't want half measures. They don't want timidity or cautiousness. They don't want lukewarm populism, half-assed attempts to reach out to non-traditional voters, or focus grouped slogans. They want blood and fire. 

They want the guy, or lady, who will say anything, do anything, and believes regardless of what anyone else says or does that the top spot is theirs and has been theirs since minute one, and behind that guy or lady there must be legions of supporters ready to throw themselves on grenades for the cause at a moment's notice. Any pussyfooting, any fooling around, and above all, any assumption that the other side is done for and doesn't need to be kicked all the way down the hill is fatal. The voters know this, but still the party elites, the men and women pushing toy soldiers around on a map, believe a more moderate approach is called for. They know better, you see; everyone they know who's worth listening to tells them so. 

The Liberals might never have won Whitby-Oshawa, but they probably should have been a lot closer if they want to take Harper's head off or force him into early retirement beforehand. So I have no choice but to conclude that somewhere between the latest revelations from the Senate and Del Mastro's resignation they decided that they had it in the bag. They didn't make enough voters believe that they were doing God's own work.

Of course, you wouldn't know it to have heard Justin's concession speech, which wasn't a concession speech at all but, creepily, a victory speech. Unsurprisingly, these two losses haven't done a thing to diminish his belief in his own inevitability. He sees the increased share of the Liberal vote and he knows that more people- not enough, but more- are being conned into believing once again in the enormous scam that is Trudeaumania Redux. If he annihilates the NDP in the next election yet falls short of wiping out the CPC, that'll be a victory as well. For, as we all well know, the left is at its terrifying best when it's clawing out handhold after handhold, slowly moving the line down the playing field.

It seems like centuries ago, but once we were the ones gaining on the LPC. So it went, for five long years. Inch by inch. Bit by bit. After Harper's majority was won, we stared across a wide gulf at the NDP, ready for political Armageddon. But then the generals on both sides started losing their nerve, assuming the Liberals were dead and buried, listening to the whiners who called for an end to Harper's endless partisanship and the politics of division. Maybe it was the furor over the wet fart that the robocalls affair shaped up to be, or maybe it was the griping from the true believers that they didn't get everything they wanted once the votes were counted. Either way, the magnificent cataclysm we all wanted but couldn't admit to wanting never happened.  And even if we hadn't lost our nerve, the NDP made an even bigger blunder; assuming that now that the Liberals were toast, it was their duty to pick up where they left off.

Reduced to their lowest standing ever, the Liberals threw their high-minded principles out the window and embraced, without admitting it, the extremely conservative notion that power must be taken by force, and picked Trudeau specifically because, and only because, of his supposed ability to beat Harper. It's amazing how, no matter how educated and sensitive and questioning of the culture we are, we always return to these basic, violent qualities when times get hard.  

As such, it is time for the Conservative Party of Canada to permanently return to what made it the governing party, something it only seems to do around by-election time these days. Not a dependence on poorly articulated "conservative principles", not curbing its more aggressive tendencies because the grandees in Toronto are offended, and not writing off the Liberals and Trudeau the way the Liberals once wrote Harper off as an Alberta redneck with wonky ideas.

We read Mark Steyn's exhortations to change the culture instead of just winning the election and calling it a day, and we remember when the CPC was chugging its way uphill and there was no time to sit back and relax, and we can compare those glorious days to being under siege right now. Instead of patting ourselves on the back for holding two safe ridings, we need to be asking ourselves how we can win all- ALL- of the ridings that we don't already have, and then how we can hold them for the next few hundred millennia, and then we need to be asking how we can ensure that every living being on this earth accepts the conservative facts of life for the facts of life that they are. That'd be a good start.

We don't need to blow stacks of cash paying consultants to tell us what we already know, and, for that matter, neither do the Liberals. Life is a war for dominance, and when that war ends, life ends.