Saturday, 1 November 2014

"There is no inner circle. Just a dot"

I started reading Michael Harris' book, Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada's Radical Makeover. The title of this entry is taken from a pollster Harris quotes in the opening pages of the book.

Now, as a person suspicious of Harper, one would think I'd devour the book almost uncritically. What Harris does have to say about Harper actually makes sense in that what we now consider typically Harper is traced back to his earliest days as a public figure (even the behind the scenes stints he served as a hand for Deb Grey and Preston Manning).

The man is odd.

As an odd-ball myself I do not want to be seen as too unkind to a fellow misfit (Grotius said that even our enemies are yet human and, according to natural justice, "the Rules of Charity reach farther than those of Right"). But the guy is defined by his "enemies", and there is something freakishly pathological about people who connive and plot to better their enemies for the simple of bettering them. There is no vision, no guiding principles, just visceral will to redress for real and perceived slights and vindictive meanness about the man.

I just read an article on Huffington Post website that Harper has been completely silent on the issue of anti-Muslim sentiments in the wake of the attacks on Canadian soldiers in Quebec and Ottawa (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/11/01/harper-silence-anti-muslim-backlash_n_6086228.html). This is totally in line with Harper's modus operandi. His track record with the treatment of Canadian war vets, of aboriginals, of the poor, of our social and environmental protections would suggest his dismissive view of Canadian Muslims is merely coincidental.

The writings of Grotius have at some level lurked behind Canada's place in the world if not outright recognized as such. There is a long tradition of brokering between enemies and backdoor diplomacy, and this attitude is not merely a characteristic of "liberal elitism" but the defining characteristic of all governments of note both Liberal and Conservative especially after WWII. Canada's causes have always been vetted through a system of world-class diplomatic corps and many of them have anticipated and influenced policies of the world. I need not really supply examples only that we compare that with the distinctly severe isolationism that has characterised Harper's tenure in the PMO.

I've been keeping track of posted comments sections in the media outlets that I frequent and have noticed in articles and columns that do not really draw controversy upon Harper himself the level of "support" seems invariably low (or quiet) while the more controversial the story is the incidence of "the best prime minister Canada has ever had" shoots right up. Is the coincidence? I think not. The media monitoring machinery under Harper has burgeoned. While there are real supporters like the guy whose hot rod was built by Jesus Himself, there are many more that diverge little from the central messaging: "the best PM ever".

This phrase is rather meaningless but powerful. It is the sort of the kind that one is exposed to in successful advertising campaigns: "Premier bath is the best bath I ever gave to myself..."

Am I one of those "h8ers"? I don't think I am. I can even concede honestly that Harper represents a big section of our society (top 40s, easy-going, kind of shallow). Harper rather represents a failure of sorts of our education system. No matter how you cut it, it really is a sad and despairing indictment. It needn't be that way; it is not genetic.

Jay

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