... And don't follow the Haters...
There's a great post over at CAITI-Online about Diane Ablonzcy the Western Canada Concept Member, turned Reform MP, turned Alliance MP, turned Conservative MP... Worth a read.
I'm astonished that Canadians know so little (or have forgotten so much) about the "Party Of Haters" as I like to call them (today's rally in Calgary was just another example of the hate). Perhaps the media has stopped reporting this as "old stories". Let's face it, there is a "news cycle", which really dissuades our consolidated, three-owner media monopoly to report these things again. You see, in 1993, when the Reform Party first came to national attention by winning a ton of seats, the hate was news. In 1997, it was still "news". In 2000, it was less news, but the "disorganized right" was (still, Harper and others made ignorant, hateful, and xenophobic comments). By 2004, it took quite a Liberal effort to remind the media about the feelings many Reformers harbored. In 2006, the Liberals were the focus, and things like false allegations made by Conservatives about good men like Ralph Goodale... In the two years since, the media has all but forgotten these very recent statements and heart-felt convictions.
You see, they really don't want to "repeat news". Even though, it is pretty obvious that fully-grown "mature" adults tend to carry their strongly held political convictions with them for a lot longer than 2-5 years (more like a lifetime). These people (Reformers) destroyed a powerful old Canadian political party back in 1993 and bolstered a new one - such was the strength of their hatred and convictions. Yet, some claim they have "changed".
What do they hate? Well... let's see...
Minorities, Multi-Culturalism, and Women: From bolstering protests against Sikhs wearing turbans in the RCMP; attacking First Nations persons; fighting immigration; fighting gay rights; fighting women's rights; labeling minorities "special interests", and claiming loudly that minorities had more rights than they (the "majority")... Reformers also want to abolish official multiculturalism in this country.
First Nations: While a part of the minority section (above), most Reformers hatred for the First Nations is legendary. It bears separate mention here. Reformers have always believed that First Nations person's treaty rights be taken away. They somehow imagine that First Nations people "don't pay taxes". Ignorance and hate - a Reform/Con trademark.
French and French People: Yeah, sure, the media has blathered on about Harper's "courting" of Quebec votes in the past 4 years. Sure. Just don't go to a Reform/Conservative policy convention and ask rural Western delegates what they feel about Quebec, or of French. Oh wait... you can't do that anymore, since Conservative Policy conventions are held behind closed (to media) doors, with "agenda items" handed down from the Party Central Committe (or Minstry of Propaganda). Growing up in the rural Prairies, and living in Regina, Saskatoon, and Calgary, I know (and have heard often) what the typical Reformer view of French is: "It's something that f@cking Pierre Trudeau shoved down our throats, along with Metric". They would LOVE to change official bilingualism - as in, get rid of it.
"Ists" - Communists, Socialist, Biologists, Sociologists, Climatologists, and any other "ist": Reformers, and Reform-Conservatives, embroiled in their right-wing religious views are decidedly "anti-science". Don't have a Epidemiologist tell them about listeria. Don't have a climatologist (or 99.9% of the world's scientists) tell them about climate change - they'd rather hear from the 0.1% that were bought and paid for by big oil. Don't have any sociologist or psychologist tell them about crime and punishment. They prefer NRA "justice". Biologists talking about the benefits of stem cell research? No way Jose. They hate communists and socialists more than they hate fascists (preferential "ist-ism"?). There is really no arm of established scientific thought they do agree with. They challenge common sense and thousands of years of acquired scientific fact for their own personal gain, but also out of sheer ignorance.
Stupid people fear what they don't know. This fear can be quickly turned into anger and hatred by the right manipulative minds. Ignorance breeds fear and hatred. Today, we seem to live in a North America that celebrates the inanely stupid. We glorify movies like "Jackass", ignorant hockey moms from Wasila, and "Joe the Plumber". The most popular radio talk shows are the one's where a Grade 10 drop-out host crudely pokes fun at the most marginalized groups, and makes ignorant comments about subjects too complex for their minds to fathom. When they are challenged, intelligent debate presenting established facts takes a back seat to 'top of lungs' screaming and rants.
There are some forces gathering - related or not, which will potentially change our country, and our world:
1) General veneration of ignorance - As outlined above, we are too forgiving of the "stupid" and the ignorant. This is a huge challenge for a so-called "modern" society. We don't need to fall back to the hyper-religious days of the Dark Ages... As someone who did quite well in Grade 10 Social Studies, I am quite shocked at the media and general public's reaction to the 62% majority in Parliament. Was everyone else sleeping in class? Calling it a "coup"? Seriously? "Oh Canada" is right... I beg Rick Mercer to do a "Talking to Canadians" show...
2) Media cross-ownership and monopolies - Too much voter and consumer influencing power in the hands of too few. In Canada, CanWest Global, Bell-Globe Media, Shaw, and Quebecor control almost all of the daily papers, radio stations, cable, tv, and satellite feeds. They control advertising on those media. They control "news" content. Their best interest is served promoting the needs of their biggest corporate clients (the ones who buy full page ads and multi-page pull-outs). In fact, of the media that continuously gets drummed into your brain - even if you don't or can't read (radio, tv), CanWest Global, Bell, Shaw, and Rogers control it ALL. They have bought up ALL the stations (outside of CBC) that anyone finds worth listening to. Even access to new media technologies are controlled. Think your blog is "free" and "independant"? Guess who "runs" your internet (or access to it)??? Did you know they have entire departments dedicated to "sniffing" your data and monitoring your usage? Did you know they have wording in your service contracts explicitly outlying that "your" email address is THEIR property?
3) Corporate culture which prefers stupid, unquestioning consumers over thinking, informed ones. Corporations are inherently anti-democratic. The "perfect" citizen for corporations are those who sit on their couch all day flicking channels, never questioning anything they see or hear, and watch commercials as if they were tv shows (not that most TV shows aren't hour long commercials anyway). They love consumers who are all too eager to wear corporate logos on the chests, hip pockets, and shoes of sub-par quality items they purchase. They prefer to produce items which have "planned obsolescence" - meaning they will only last 2 to 3 years, tops (to wit: the American automobile). They hate lawyers, because of legal actions when their products hurt someone (if they can find the truth - which at times takes decades, as in the case of tobacco). They spread this hatred of lawyers to the public via their TV programming and news. They spread this fear and hatred of lawyers through their political friends (Republicans and Conservatives), who further emphasize how bad lawyers "are". The bottom line is the bottom line: just shut up and buy. They promote consumerism, while at the same time marginalizing the legal community (the very same people who would challenge government absurdities and oppression of minorities, as well as consumer rights).
4) The Haters: Spurred on by so called "freedom" of speech, these clowns think they can say anything and get away with it. They believe they can trample minority rights and get away with that too... If you are tough enough to stand up to them, they threaten to break away from the country. They PREFER to build "firewalls" over accepting and growing. Enough of them have coalesced together to form the "neoConservative" movements in the US and Canada (Reformers). We used to be a tolerant nation. We also used to be vocal and take a stand for the oppressed. Today, we are more concerned about our "stuff".
When you combine the factors above - and consider the interaction between the 4 - you have a potent political cocktail for the nation. In a nation as small as Canada, it is entirely too easy to allow such a cross-pollenation of well-funded like causes to assume control over the national debate (or lack of it). Being a nation of few cities and citizens, faced with a media that provides little true choice, supported by loud-mouth, populist "talking heads", and with elevated status for willful ignorance, we are at risk of full capitulation to a right-wing demagoguery of the type not seen since the early days of the Bush administration. Our American friends at least temporarily tossed off the yolk of this new "Idiot Nation" mentality. We - on the other hand - "have work to do", in the words of a famous Liberal.
How do we do this? We'll discuss solutions in the weeks to come (think restrictions on media cross-ownership and foreign ownership, civics lessons for "dummies", real debate, etc.)...