Sunday, January 22, 2017

Been 2 days, the world is still here, a rant

Trump was inaugurated on Friday. As I write this Sunday afternoon, the world is still here. No atomic bombs exploding in the South China Sea or elsewhere. So far it's just been more of the same, the Trump team denying reality. To me it's blatantly obvious far more people attended Obama's inauguration than Trump's, given the photos. But Trump can't have that, can he?

Thus the spectacle of his spokesperson attacking the media and presenting "alternative facts." There are only 3 possible situations. That many more attended Obama's, that many more attended Trump's, or there were about the same. The photo evidence is clear. If Trump can't face facts like a grownup, and admit the truth when it's obvious, how can anyone trust him about anything else he says, when perhaps the facts are not so obvious?

One of my rules for life is to judge people by those around them. If you see someone hanging around with X, it's a pretty safe assumption they are X as well. Doesn't matter what X is, losers, winners, smokers, drug users, triathletes, whatever. There are some exceptions. I've hung out with the black lung guild for short periods, standing upwind; they sometimes have the best gossip.

What does appointing a secretary of education who thinks guns should be in schools to protect the kids from grizzly bears, tell you about Trump? Or an Energy secretary that wanted to shut it down and didn't even know what it does? Or a press secretary that presents "alternative facts" in contrast to reality? Or appointing lobbyists?

I can understand voter frustration with the government. I can see them wanting to 'drain the swamp.' What baffles me is why they thought Trump would be the one to do that, when all the evidence shows that Trump only thinks of himself. The one thing we can be sure of throughout his administration, is that Trump will take care of Trump, first, second, always. Enough about him, lets get closer to home.

My main concern is preventing the same thing from happening here. I'd like to think that Canadians are more sensible, and not as easily taken in by a con man, but Jason Kenny thinks he can win the leadership of the Alberta Conservative party.

These demagogues have much the same pattern to get into power. Make people fear and distrust each other, particularly immigrants. Denigrate the media, unions (except the police union), and the non-profit organizations that disagree with you. Say that crime is out of control and you will bring law and order. Appeal to a former greatness that you alone can restore. Indulge in wedge politics to prioritize a particular issue with a particular group, regardless what's good overall, or even true. Talk about taxes as an evil thing the government does, and how you will cut the waste. How you will provide leadership.

It baffles me why people fall for this. Immigration, for example. Unless you're sure of your Native ancestry, you are the children of immigrants. All four of my grandparents were born in Canada, but I think all of their parents came to Canada from elsewhere, and it wasn't so long ago, historically speaking.

I can remember the flap about the Vietnamese boat people. There were people that seriously believed it would be the end of Canada. Disease, crime, foreign customs, taking jobs from 'real' Canadians, it went on and on. Well, it was part of the end of Canada as they knew it, British to the core, with white Protestant men in charge and everyone else knowing their place. It's a better place now.

Canada accepted more than 100,000 of the boat people over the late 70's and early 80's and that's when the overall population was smaller. I can't find specific crime statistics for them alone, but crime overall dropped. From what I can read, most of them settled in as best they could, and their children are proud Canadians.

As for the rest of it, remember when a politician starts spouting that nonsense, think about who they are talking about. It's not some mysterious 'THEM.' It's your neighbours, your co-workers, the people you see at the gym or on public transit or stuck in traffic in the next car. It's the person that owns and  cooks in that ethnic restaurant you love. It's that nice person at the lab that takes a blood sample, or tests your urine to see what sort of health you're in. It's the foreign nurse that takes care of your elderly relatives. It's the person that worked in the public sector for 30 years as a nurse, a teacher, a cop, a firefighter, and are now retired with a modest pension. It's the people that are sick, disabled, homeless, marginalized for whatever reason, often through no fault of their own. It's the person that believes pipeline companies need to be held to a higher standard on leak prevention, and that it's important to review the economic case of oil and gas development, while recognizing that industry is a significant economic driver and source of well-paying jobs. It's every group of people trying to find their way in a complex world that you haven't got around to meeting yet. Remember that refugees are likely fleeing a situation you can't even imagine, and have every motivation to join a peaceful society here.

Demand the facts. Make the demagogue explain why they think something is true, then go look it up. Better yet be prepared and throw the facts in their face. Laugh at them when they say something stupid. Stick together, and understand that just because you don't appear to be on their hit list, that's this audience, this week. Next week, talking to a different group, you might be the one being demonized.

Remember that votes count! During the last provincial election one riding was tied exactly. They had a judicial recount, and I think three votes moved. That could be one car-load of voters. There's no excuse, get your ass out there to vote when offered the opportunity.

That said, I'd like to make voting more effective. This first past the post system leads to false majorities, where 40% of the votes leads to a strong majority government. I'd like to see some form of proportional representation that more accurately reflected the wishes of the electorate. And don't try to scare me with minority governments. Check Canadian history. There's been lots of minority government with significant accomplishments. Harper governed a significant part of the time as a minority. It just means the government has to work a little harder to pass their agenda, and that's not a bad thing.

Lots of people think that the world is going to hell in a hand cart, and there seems to be lots of evidence for that. Then again, you can read the same thing in Latin from letters written during the Roman Empire 2000 years ago.

Yes, we face challenges, no doubt of that. But the thing I keep in mind is that half of the smartest people that have ever lived, are alive now and able to communicate with each other in ways unimaginable only a few decades ago. There is amazing stuff happening, from advances in harnessing solar and wind power, to self driving cars, automated technology, medical technology that helps us live longer, and more that I haven't heard about.

We can't lose hope. It's up to all of us to work towards a better life for us and our children in the face of people that want to make it worse because they can profit from it. There's no room for loafers. What are you doing to make this a better place?


  1. I was reminded today that fake news is a misnomer. It should really be called propaganda, and treated as such. I agree with Cindi - Good rant!


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