There’s a seduction in fanaticism. It simplifies things. The leader decides everything for you and suddenly you have no more problems. – Elie Wiesel
The sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of workers, peasants and the intelligentsia, the solidarity of the nation, the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience. – Lech Walesa
French President Georges Clemenceau once commented, “America is the only nation in history, which, miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneracy without the usual interval of civilization.” That’s a harsh judgement from many decades ago but, unfair or not, it could easily be the verdict of today’s generation of relentless self-reference and self-reverence, folks taking endless photos of themselves and reporting on Facebook every aspect of their lives as if each minutiae was of such transcendent beauty and meaning that the world must surely be as eager to lap up the offerings as the presenter is to share. Occasionally however, reality barges in with shockingly graphic images: cops shooting blacks for no apparent reason other than their blackness. On the whole, however, thus far, there really is no there there as we suck in bromides as pearls, oh and ah over every cute picture of kids and cats and drool over every silly image of celebrity stars including our prime minister and his wife for whom no camera must be ignored and offer thunderous applause for every ignorant hate-filled utterance that somehow elevates us with suggestions that we are not to blame for any aspect of our own miserable hate-filled lives: it’s them, foreigners, the leeches on welfare, the old who left us a mess – well, the list is endless. We ceaselessly troll the web looking for the beautiful because we are not, perhaps hoping somehow some of that beauty and good life will rub off on us. But it’s not all beauty; we also troll the web in search of victims, the poor and ugly with smaller even meaner lives in hopes of bullying and destroying them because they are less skilful, less adept and weaker than ourselves. If you’re that shallow why not be mean?
In a time of decay, we wallow in a pit of hedonism, of narcissism and of sadism where judgement, intelligence, examination, and integrity are viewed with suspicion and dread; bellicosity, superficiality, dishonesty and meanness fuelled by stupidity and the rhetoric of fear, intolerance and ignorance fomented by the ilk of America’s Donald Trump, Britain’s Nigel Farage, and France’s Marine Le Pen appear to be winning the day: the virtuous many, they would have us believe, are victimized by the corrupt elite few who can be defeated only if the common man recognizes the dangers and works together.
Of course, we Canadians are not immune to such simple-mindedness; we’ve had our Ford brothers and for nine years the vile Harper gang Conservatives who last election proved themselves as despicable as any group can be with their campaign of racial and religious intolerance and today sit as official opposition pretending, as did those who voted them in, they were never part of that vile history. The ugly frog has been replaced by the handsome Prince with his Princess wife and all the little princes and princesses in his cabinet and Canada all agog and agag wowed by all that breathless freshness, the handsome youthful faces of such enchantment that the hoi poiloi and elites alike behave as religious ecstatics with every princely appearance and for every easy promise kept while studiously ignoring those broken or watered down or simply shelved. Criticize at your peril.
Not surprisingly, that populist line doesn’t offer the whole truth, though there is some in it: there are folks, though few, in politics and the corporate world who do have real power, who do conspire to keep wages low, who do conspire to quell dissent, who do conspire to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of those who haven’t. But the thing is, many of those who see themselves as “victims” seldom admit the role they themselves play in their own victimization, rewarding those very folks who seek their vote with vague and/or extravagant promises (often broken) while at the same time meeting in secret, often for a price (let’s call it kickback) with those very special-interest folks who would suppress their (the voters’) wages, ship jobs overseas, destroy their social safety nets, and feed from the public trough with government handouts with assurances, almost always broken once they’ve got the money, that the jobs will be kept here. But if it’s our man or woman making the promises and screwing others even more disadvantaged than us, we will gladly turn a blind eye: We’ll get ours if not today, tomorrow – one day, maybe taking longer than we hoped for but one day. Yeah, they’ll get theirs – one day. Meanwhile they’ll stay “victims” living in eternal hope and swallowing the endless bilge: those that have it all did it all by themselves; work hard, we can all be kings; those who fail are stupid, lazy; unions are ruining and running the country; union workers are greedy, lazy, fat cats; everyone has to tighten their belt, work harder, expect less (but when was the last time corporate taxes were raised?).
We can see it today, everyday, the “victims” as applauding enablers to the rude, crude, vulgar, ignorant, stupid, misogynistic, racist, bigoted billionaire because he, that billionaire, has convinced them he is one of them, and he often is in rudeness, crudity, vulgarity, ignorance, stupidity, misogyny, racism, bigotry; Trump is not only their man, he is the man because his wealth is somehow proof he has no vested interests, that he is immune to corruption and influence. These are not intelligent people. If they were, they would weep that this is all American Republicanism is able to offer as presidential candidate.
Whether Trump believes what he says does not really matter. What does is that he says them. When he talks of building a wall, of barring entry to Syrians and Muslims, when he voices admiration for Saddam Hussein “because he kills terrorists”, because “they [sic] didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk” one wonders if there are any limits to hate uttered under the banner of free speech. The “terrorists” that Hussein slaughtered were often his own citizens their only crime likely opposition or perceived opposition to his tyranny. That this individual imagines himself presidential material and yet routinely talks of “killing” the bad guys suggesting America is too concerned with protecting their rights beggars belief while also giving a good indication of his thoughts regarding protections offered by the American Constitution. Clearly, for Trump, it is enough to be “suspect”. The hell with due process, if he was innocent he wouldn’t be a Muslim or a Mexican.
Trump may be a lunatic but he is a dangerous one and cannot easily be dismissed.
He tells his fans he is successful, he is “smart”, but ignores, as do his supporters, the evidence of his many failures in his business and personal life. He boasted on television of walking away with millions from his Casino in Atlantic City while stiffing his creditors and workers saying that’s what businessmen do. Is that right? Is that what successful people do, wash their hands of any responsibility and stiff others, folks just like those very ones who identify themselves as Trump supporters and plain working class Joes trying to earn a decent wage? Is this the man they would want for their boss? Imagine him running the country with that attitude; he’d have America bankrupt in every way while, doubtless, lining his own pockets. Shameless, unconscionable, he has tapped the support of those possessed of such stupidity they may not even grasp the depth of Trump’s amorality. I apologize for the previous sentence: in putting depth and Trump together I appear to give him too much credit.
“Smart”? The ignoramus can barely articulate a sentence let alone a coherent thought. If he does say something remotely intelligent, you can bet it was by accident. Even so, we cannot easily dismiss him for all his ignorance and offensiveness. It is not enough to ridicule him, not enough to say he ate his brain the first time he picked his nose. We cannot trust that he will lose his bid for American president because voters find him more offensive and dangerous than Hillary Clinton. That’s a mug’s position and too much is at stake.
Yet, having said all of the above, as much as it pains me to admit this, I understand why he does draw some to his side.
He would renegotiate or scrap NAFTA calling it the worst trade deal ever and do the same for TPP calling it “a disaster”. Now this is the part that hurts: He is right.
Now I am no isolationist. I am, however, as much a fan of Big Business as Big Business is of unions. On NAFTA and TPP, I find myself on Trump’s side. Now Big Business will tell us that everyone wins with globalization. Not so. There are winners but they certainly are not working stiffs; workers just get stiffed. Perhaps that’s why, giving his past comments, I have doubts about Trump’s stand on the trade agreements. For many workers, NAFTA is associated with the beginning of the new age of chronic hard times. Jobs lost and shipped overseas or wages kept low under threat of same. The despair is palpable; it is real and not easily healed. Workers feel powerless and voiceless because they are powerless and voiceless. Ignored by their own political leaders, workers watch from the sidelines as politicians and company CEOs work together to suppress wages, as did the Harper regime with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, and work to destroy unions and rollback gains made by them for their workers. With NAFTA, Canadians experienced first-hand the loss of sovereignty as Canadian laws meant to protect Canadian consumers have been repealed or born dead because of corporate lawsuits brought against Canada with claims that laws to protect consumers interfere with the ability of corporations to make and maximize profits. In other words, Canadian laws have become subservient to corporate interests. For ordinary working Canadians struggling to survive with two or three jobs while feeding a family, there appears to be no protections against governments that collude with Big Business. This is not just a rant of an old delusional white geezer though I may be all three. No less an authority than Fortune Magazine has pointed out some of the missteps of the NAFTA trade deal. In a piece for Fortune on NAFTA’s impact on America (there is no reason to believe the same could not be said of Canada), Jeffrey E. Garten (Fortune, March 29, 2016) wrote:
We failed to see that the benefits of trade, like all other economic benefits, were not shared equitably by the population. We failed to gauge how fast trade patterns could shift, how quickly industries were transforming themselves, and how much of a gap was created by the evisceration of unions which could negotiate protections and benefits for their members. As a result, those at the top of the economic pyramid benefitted. The other 80% were hit with low wage competition, outsourcing, lower paid jobs, or unemployment. All this was made worse by job-destroying technology that the Internet and digitalization was spawning, not to mention the great recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis that extinguished most economic growth. The meteoric rise of China, with its vast industrious labor force, was the coup de grace for millions of US workers, as was the ascent of so many other emerging market nations.
The highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “Made In America” deal as the Americans themselves have crowed, threatens to be even worse according to The Council of Canadians (http://canadians.org/tpp-info), especially for Canadians, controlling how governments may regulate corporate activity, expand the sharing of personal information across nations, extend the life of pharmaceutical patents (thus placing limits on generic drugs and greatly increasing costs of government health plans) and, under the ISD (investor-state dispute) clauses, and allow corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals and fix the amount of compensation when government regulation interfere with profitmaking. Under NAFTA, Canada has been successfully sued several times costing taxpayers $160 million. Under TPP, corporate ability to sue governments has been expedited thus making the transformation of a Canadian democracy into a Corporatocracy all but a fait accompli. By the time Canadians actually do get to learn the details, it will already be too late.
Are Canadians better off? Well, some, just as in the United States, but they do not hold minimum wage jobs, do not work on factory floors, are, in fact, called boss, owner, shareholder. The losers, and there are losers, have been those who have always lost, the real workers, the men and women who are the backbone of every business and who are the real individuals that make a company a success, farmers, truckers, floor sweepers, janitors, nurses, doctors, technologists, educators, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers, public servants – well, you get the drift – the stiffs shafted, sold out and betrayed by the bosses and the politicians bought and paid for by those bosses.
Trudeau, if he had a speck of backbone, would look towards renegotiating NAFTA. If he had a speck of decency he would reject TPP unless significant changes are made that protect workers, create new jobs, opportunities and offer greater take-home pay. But first he must inform Canadians bout the deal itself: what’s in it, who gains, who loses, what does it mean for all Canadians? I expect nothing from Trudeau except that he, as did Harper, will make trade and business interests a priority. We have seen this already. So no one can really claim to be surprised that Justin Trudeau, who promised to do things differently from the Conservatives, spent July 6 at Sun Valley, Idaho attending the secretive meeting of 300 business and tech elites labelled the “Summer Camp for Billionaires”. For Trudeau, this may just be an opportunity to rub shoulders with global movers and shakers and to promote Canadian business opportunities and expertize but the secrecy is troublesome suggesting that nothing innocent is going on there. Is this the man who will give them what they want?
Probably. Likely. Absolutely!
One thing is certain. If things are better, it is not for the poor, not for the single parent holding down several jobs, not for minimum wage earners. Chances are things are not better for you. The world will go on and we will let it leaving it to others to worry while we do as we always have: nothing. We will not hear, we will not listen, we will not change.
But we will always listen to the shameless liars and opportunists, the Trumps of the world who have tapped into this well of resentment, tap into the worst in us, tap into our fears and bigotry milking and massaging the inarticulate rage offering the snake oil salesman’s promises of the all-in-one cure-all. And dolts that we are we’ll buy it because we have always bought it, bought the easy answers and quick fixes rather than looking around for those folks who really will listen, really will hear, really will work for us. It’s not quick fixes or easy answers that we need but politicians who will listen or be forced to listen. And those politicians are not the Christy Clarks who lend their ear to the highest bidder. Nor does solution lie with the likes of federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, barely in office when she’s attending a private fundraiser put on by lawyers, a clear conflict of interest if ever there was one. And the answer does not lie with Justin Trudeau who saw nothing wrong with the justice minister tending such an affair and who signed off on the Saudi Arabia LAV trade deal, a deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. No, the answer certainly does not lie with a single member of the old Harper regime who all, all, went along with the vicious Tory campaign of racial and religious intolerance including the promise to create the odious snitch line to report barbaric cultural practices by you-know-who.
If there will ever be a solution, it must come from voters who will no longer blindly swallow every line of bullshit because it sounds nice or jibes with their own biases, or because the speaker is glib and handsome or has wealth which surely must mean he or she is absolutely intelligent, honest and would never lie to you. The voter must take responsibility for his own destiny. When politicians have lied to you, deliberately misled you, when they hold secret meetings with special interests and accept funds in return, when they pad their expenses, refuse to answer questions, when they sneak in legislation, or break Canadian regulations regarding trade with nation states that abuse human rights, they must be punished, booted from office and shunned like the pariah they are. They are scum.
Trump embodies the worst of politics if not humanity. He promises everything to everyone. He panders to the worst in Americans. But he, at the least, has promised to do something about NAFTA and TPP. I don’t trust him to follow through on either but he has raised the issue. The first has already harmed American and Canadian workers. The second will inflict even more harm.
Trudeau? Can we trust him? He could step up and do what is right for Canadians. I don’t expect that. He’ll be preoccupied. There’s always another photo-op.
But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.
They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin