This article appeared first at: http://drdawgsblawg.ca/2012/04/dystopia.shtml#disqus_thread
April 14, 2012 – Epiphany: last evening I got into it with a few Liberal partisans on Twitter, and the usual barbs were hurled. My fave was the one accusing the NDP of giving Harper his majority in exchange for Official Opposition status, which assumes a level of conspiracy that makes Roboscam look like a parlour trick.
It all began because a Liberal claimed that Harper’s $45,000 trip to the bleachers wasn’t worth criticizing. In fact, Justin Trudeau, who is everywhere and nowhere (which works well in the ring, but less so in politics), claimed earlier that the CBC article was “garbage.”
I took exception to this little excursion on my nickel as a taxpayer, not as a partisan, but those familiar with Twitter know how these things go. It soon became a barfight without alcohol (at least, I’m assuming the latter). And from such melees nobody emerges unscathed or looking very good.
But this morning I realized that we are all in trouble—“we” being those of us, just a shade shy of a supermajority, who stand opposed to the Harper government, its misuse of power, its corruption, its philistine vandalism, and every slimy value that drives it on. And I realized just what it was that was really bothering me last night as Liberal after Liberal piled on.
It’s not that we were fighting among ourselves. That was utterly inconsequential. It’s that we’re all trapped in a web of mutual understandings that no longer apply to the world we live in.
To a greater or lesser degree, we still think elections are important. We still, in our heart of hearts, imagine that Parliament matters. We hope all the bad stuff will go away if we can just join ranks—whether that means joining hands and singing Kumbaya or merging or forming coalitions or voting “strategically” or being nice to each other on the Internet.
We’ve got it all wrong.
Things have gone way too far for any of us to remain stupefied in a matrix of false assumptions. Take Parliament, for example: a venerable institution held together by centuries of tradition rather than formal rules, requiring a fundamental good faith on the part of all sides for it to function. In Canada, we call our parliamentary system “responsible government.” The government of the day is held to be responsible to the whole legislature, which, after all, is composed of the people’s representatives.
But this proves to be a flimsy construction if the aforesaid government simply ignores that complex of founding assumptions. Successive Liberal governments concentrated more and more power in the Prime Minister’s Office, to the point that even Cabinet became little more than a focus group for the PM. But under the Harper administration a full-scale demolition of Parliament is well under way.
Didn’t change a damn thing.
And presently, with a majority that was quite possibly stolen by means of massive and organized electoral fraud, the Harper government has demonstrated increasing contempt for Parliament.
Just a handful of examples of the latter should suffice. The government no longer deigns to answer written questions from the Opposition, formerly a vital component of its accountability to Parliament. Ministers caught in lies and corruption and unethical conduct don’t resign. Parliamentary watchdogs have been neutered or fired. Defying a century of tradition, government departments have been used for nakedly partisan political purposes.
Our runaway government, of course, isn’t content with merely blowing up centuries of evolved Parliamentary checks and balances that have operated in the past not by edicts but by consent and trust. It has also launched a ferocious attack upon the citizens of Canada, corrupting the electoral process; suppressing dissent of all kinds, presiding over the mass brutalizing of innocent citizens; end-running its constitutional obligations to First Nations and Inuit (and evidently trying to wipe them out through attrition); placing environmental groups under surveillance and threat; engaging in xenophobic conspiracy-mongering; institutionalizing strike-breaking; running Star Chamber-like proceedings when a Minister’s feelings are hurt; subverting individual opposition MPs by appointing shadow “MPs” of their own and deceiving constituents with fraudulent robocalls; extraditing innocent Canadian citizens whose names aren’t Anglo-Saxon enough, or exiling them; neutering the media; muzzling scientists; introducing legislation to place Internet users under continual warrantless surveillance; making its first cautious moves to re-criminalize abortion; slashing Old Age Security; cramming more people into prison even for minor crimes; and so on, ad nauseam.
Is there anyone this gang has missed? Well, yes. The far-right evangelists will get their Office of Religious Freedom. Big Oil (much of it in the hands of the oh-so-ethical Chinese) will get unrestricted access to the Alberta tar sands, unhampered by thorough environmental assessments. Conservative hacks will continue to be richly rewarded. And the Conservative camp-followers in the corporate media and the blogosphere will, of course, be giddy with delight.
We’re not going to beat this all back by writing letters and signing petitions, by exercising our franchise every few years (even that option having now been corrupted, possibly beyond repair), or by composing blogposts.
None of that works against this:
Things have progressed well beyond the point of rapprochements and mergers. It’s sauve qui peut, right across the political spectrum—even libertarians who lined up with Harper for strategic reasons have seen his authoritarian statism in action and become his sworn enemies—even my good friend Connie.
The Internet is a wonderful place to work, to scrap, to exchange information, to bludgeon each other with opposing views, to play. But none of it matters much, except as an organizing tool. Harper and his appalling cadre of thugs work in the real world. So must we. And that doesn’t—it mustn’t—mean politics as usual. We can’t afford to wait until the next election to put an end to this madness.
How do we free Canada from the bandits who are holding it captive? We have to be strategic as well as tactical. Recovering our country will come down to massive, spontaneous resistance—individual and collective refusal to submit. We can and should continue our protests in whatever venue we choose to work in, of course: we can’t be silent simply because our words have no effect against the raw use of power to subjugate and control. We can play the mainstream politics game, too, and engage in all kinds of political theatre with enthusiasm as we have in the past. But at some point, words in cyberspace, on paper and at rallies and demonstrations will have to give way to brave deeds of defiance in the real world.
We can’t take three more years of this. Anyone disagree?