Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Destruction is easier

I'm not sure where this is going to end up, so I'm going to write it and find out.

It's easy to be appalled at the world as you get older. Consider Socrates, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Just to remind you, he died a little over 2,400 years ago. So this isn't new.

People have been saying the world is going to hell in a hand cart since language was invented. Except it's not true. Not even close. Go find the oldest person you know. In my case that's a grandmother closing in on 100. Maybe it's your great aunt or uncle. Or someone in your knitting circle. Whatever.

Ask that really old person what it was like as a child. Bypass the reminisce of a simpler time and ask how they got around. Ask if they remember people talking about their friends and relatives that died during the Spanish Flu. (That was a THING 100 years ago in a few months, tens of millions died.) Ask about their reaction to electric lights, the automobile, penicillin, air travel (Zeppelin if they're old enough, DC-3 otherwise), indoor plumbing, or anything else that comes into your mind. Think about how you'd cope with that world.

Those are all things that smart people discovered, or invented, or made affordable. Usually over the protests of the people around them. The automobile has turned out to be a mixed blessing, I'll grant you that. Penicillin and other vaccines? No brainer good stuff, and in case you were wondering, not vaccinating your children is child abuse, unless an actual medical doctor tells you it shouldn't be done. Those homeopathy quacks and the like have nothing to say in the matter.

Electric lights, indoor plumbing, and other so-called conveniences of life are all good things, though it's fair to say we could be smarter about how some of them are used. Advances in science and learning how to live with each other in a democratic society have created the safest and most comfortable place to live that humans have ever had.

Yes, there are some blots on the copy book, as one saying goes. Canadian treatment of Natives. American treatment of essentially anyone that isn't a well off white man. German treatment of Jews and other minorities before and during WWII. Russian treatment of Ukrainians. This is hardly a complete list, forgive me if I haven't mentioned one that's important to you.

Previous societies have gone to war or endured civil strife over a great many issues, some of which seem important now, some of which are barely mentioned in history books. Since 1900 alone, millions of people volunteered to fight in some of the most horrific wars we've known. They had many reasons but lots of them include "just doing my duty", or "it's the right thing." Or one grunt saying laconically, "three square meals a day if I don't get killed."

We live in a peaceful safe place, but that doesn't mean the strife is over. When your founding documents start off saying "All men are created equal..." and when the Charter that has become the heart of our legal code says "
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.",

the people that don't have those things want in. Of course they do. You would too. Why wouldn't they? They want the same as what everyone else has, something that the documents say is theirs by birth, yet the gravy train has left them behind.

Except there is a faction of society that says, "Fuck you Jack, I've got mine." These are the people that set dogs on peaceful marchers for civil rights. These are the people who set the full weight of various para-military forces against people protesting pipeline construction. These are the people that turn a blind eye to acts of violence by white people. These are the people that gerrymander political boundaries to restrict voting effectiveness. These are the people that use the power of the state to control what can be said in public (think of Harper muzzling scientists), control who can be out in public, and restrict access to the levers of power to 'one of us.'

We have a free and open society that generally lets people say what they like in public, except there are limits. The classic one is that you can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre. In Canada you can't disseminate hatred, though that's a bit of a squishy line, and some people like to push the boundaries.

Civil rights was a test of 60's USA society. Now they have an idiot president stoking the flames of hatred by pandering to Nazi's. The Nazi regime was one of the most murderous and evil regimes in history, and it baffles me why anyone would willingly identify with it. Yet they do, marching with their tiki torches, doing the KKK salute, spouting Nazi slogans of hatred, trying to intimidate everyone else into letting them have their way. This mainly involves them being on top of whatever heap is important to them, and everyone else kowtowing or getting shot.

Donald Trump and his Nazi base are going to be the great test of our time in the USA. Are they going to come through and become a stronger society? Or is this going to break them, and they'll become another failed nation state? I certainly hope for the first of these.

Which brings me to Canada. We aren't immune. We have the same right wing idiots and their dog whistle politics, just not quite as blatant. I'd have hoped it would get better with Harper gone, but some of his toadies are still around, peeing the the water.

We have Jason Kenney trying to build a new (extremely) Conservative party on the ruins of the old ones. He's been using classic Harper tactics of division and abuse to get his way. Anyone from the progressive wing of the party is long gone, and it doesn't matter if they were pushed or jumped. It's funny, they have the same slogan (Unite the Right) as the Nazis marching in Charlottesville. I'm pretty sure Kenney has some of the same ideas, he just hasn't said so out loud yet.

One of his fellow travellers is Derek Fildebrandt. He didn't see anything wrong with claiming for an apartment paid for by the taxpayers (so far so good), and renting it out on AirBnB. Or claiming a per diem (again, so far so good) and claiming the individual meals. If I tried that when I was on an expense account the company would quite rightly have called it theft. So it is, and so it should be treated. He's resigned from the party (whatever it calls itself now), but he's still sucking on the public tit, to use his own language. He should be in court for theft, as well as the current hit and run charge.

We can't be complacent here. We have to watch our politicians like a hawk looking for lunch. All of them, and the wannabe's too. We have to call them on their dog whistling, call them on their efforts to graft more money (think of the committee that never met and billed for doing so), and call them on the stupid hateful things they say. Push back on their supports, even if it's your brother-in-law. Ask them if they agree with Kenney that a 15 year old should be held responsible for a murder he didn't commit, yet are too young to decide if they want to belong to a GSA. Ask them if they really trust a guy that won't say what his election platform is.

A lot of people have done a lot of work building up this country to what it is now. The work is ongoing, finding a way to involve everyone here, disaffected citizens, First Nations, recent immigrants and refugees, along with everyone else. It's hard building things. Deciding what, exactly to build, and where to put it, to say nothing of how to pay for it. I respect people that bring passion to these discussions, working for a greater good, even if they don't have all the facts.

I have no respect for people that want to tear down what's been built. Letting the poor fall into the cracks and paving them over is a common conservative tactic, all in the name of saving money, and those people were moral failures anyways. Rolling back equality laws. Restricting basic freedoms. These things are easy to do, if you have the required mindset. Trump has been a brilliant example. The only thing he seems to know what to do is undo what Obama had done.

I come back to that Australian General again. "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." If you want better politicians, you have to demand they be better, and encourage better people to run for office. Yes it's hard. Yes you feel you have to keep up with Game of Thrones and your social media. Your job is really tough and leaves you knackered. Suck it up. Remember what that really old person said about life back in the day.

Our test is coming.

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