Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Governance by absence and regulation

I'm not just a political junkie, I'm also a policy wonk. I like thinking about technical issues of policy development as much as I enjoy the spectator sport of political discourse - ie, not the attention-grabbers, publicity stunts, outragous trail balloons, etc. but the subtler policy stance of political parties and their potential impact on us as a country.

I watch and observe and try and interpret what I see. I was watching a PBS documentary yesterday called, Civilization: the west & rest, where the narrator made a compelling case how and why the West has been so successful in dominating world history for so long.

In the dark ages, fundamental religious thought and scholasticism predominated all of life in Europe for centuries. The basic impetus of fundamentalism and scholasticism is the articulation and defense of orthodoxy, whether it be theology or philosophy (ideology). It was cultural stagnation at a massive scale (temporal, intellectual and geographical) after the fall of the Roman empire. During this time period, it was the Muslim culture that was the light of the world, preserving, advancing scientific, philosophical and mathematical knowledge of the ancients. As the Muslim world has withdrawn inwards, it has been the West that has looked beyond and forwards, picking up the baton and running forward from where the Muslim collapsed inwards.

The thing that I find disconcerting and dismaying about Harper's and American right-wing brand of ideology is that self-same kind of political, sectarian, scientific and fiscal introversion and fundamentalist reaction that brings about the dark ages. I've often heard it said that Harper is a "history buff" but it seems to me a rather selective kind of history he studies, the neo-scholastic type. Like scholasticism of old, his brand distinctly lacks intellectual, historical and factual honesty: we've heard him say in all innocence that Canada "fortunately" has no history of imperial colonialism, this right after "apologizing" for the residential school experience; he has also said that the NDP opposed military action against Hitler when the NDP didn't even exist then; when this was pointed out to him, his response was: "same difference".

Now, I just read this very insighful article written by Brian Topp in the Globe&Mail website whose suggestions and points I think are very much worth serious national reflection. Disregrading his political stripes for the moment, his piece is very informative and educational.

I once brought up the absence of a National Energy Policy to my best friend whose well-founded fears of divisiveness are based on Canada's experience with such a discourse. I've always thought that (perhaps rather simplistically) that this unfortunate exercise played out in part the way it did because of emotional, visceral resistence from the gas and oil lobby rather than honest political and policy discussion. I still think that this fact had a huge impact on the absence of a national energy policy. Reading through Topp's insightful piece I have a better appreciation now of the need for sensitivity and decorum for the complexities of the issues, and the resulting regional strife when corporate - not Canada's - interests are brought to bear.

I dispair for our great country: Harper's style of governance does not bode well for an equitible and fair shot for such an exercise to ever take place. His interests seem to lie in never bringing up the "spectre" of "dead" possibilities. I strongly suspect honest examination on his part and ideological interpretation of historical facts are very much against his interests. His hubris will never countenance such a possibility. It is not in his national vision for Canada. Shame also on Mulcair for his cheap, self-serving political shots on the issue.

Canada's long-term interests are not being served by either side of the Parliamentary divide just now.


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