Canadian politics


With the exception of kindergarten and my undergrad years, I attended Catholic schools my entire life. Religion. Religion. Religion. Even in university, I fulfilled my humanities requirements with religion classes. As a result, I am pretty well grounded in the ideas that motivate a lot of conservatives.

In the Canadian province where I live, the government turned over from 40 plus years of conservative rule to a social democratic government a few years ago. One would have thought – given the wailing and gnashing of teeth – that end times were upon us. The concern came from a somewhat genuine place as the province was sliding rapidly into an economic downturn that pounded the province financially and conservatives, being who they are, never feel safe even in good times with “lefties” at the wheel, so the angst was raging at eleven most of those early days.

But, the new provincial government went with the tested and true method of taking on some debt and not drastically cutting anything and now, nearly three years on, things are really looking up.

Looking up is never a good thing for conservative parties who are out of power. They don’t have much to offer citizens in good times. So, they fall back on what they do best – social issues. And understand, when I say “do best”, I don’t mean they are offering great ideas. I mean they are incredibly efficient at stirring up bitterness, bigotry and outrage because say what you will, those things absolutely work with the disenfranchised, ill-formed and people who get all their talking points from a pulpit.

Where I come from in the US Midwest, and was a teacher for many years, curriculum updates are normal and slightly boring for non-educational wonks. They are undertaken at regular intervals to little fanfare.

Here, they are seen in the farther reaches of conservative-land as communist agendas made flesh. Zombie flesh that will devour the souls of good little future conservatives by distorting the cold hard facts of life with unicorns, rainbows and puppies. Children who might have entered a solid trade are rendered useless university students by a social studies curriculum that doesn’t spend significant man hours on Bahamian British troops sacking the White House during the War of 1812 or the importance of Canadian soldiers being used by the British as cannon fodder at Paschendale. Important factoids, don’t misunderstand, but less important than children understanding that we live on treaty land, our obligations as a society and how our parliamentarian system works and what our Charter Rights actually are and how they differentiate us from our southern neighbor.

The feeling among the “concerned” conservatives is that the provincial government is using the curriculum update to instill thoughts and feelings in students that will keep them from voting conservative as adults. It’s brainwashing for future votes.

I attended a school system where “brainwashing” was a primary mandate. In theory, I should be a Catholic rather than an atheist and militant feminist, so anecdotally, I roll my eyes a bit. Even my school mates who still consider themselves Catholic are cafeteria at best. Having gone to  agenda laden Catholic grade school and high school, I am super dubious about the brainwashing potential of social studies or science.

When I look back, I can pinpoint the moment I began to doubt and my usefulness as a future member of the Women’s Conservative Auxillary probably ended. It was grade two. I announced I wanted to be a priest. I was told, “But you’re just a girl, so you can’t.”

The beginning of the end.

We like to believe children are blank slates, and what fills them up is what we actively write on them, but that isn’t true.

My Dad sent me to a Catholic school because he wanted me to be a conservative really. Like he was. But if he’d truly wanted that, he’d have lived a conservative life and been more aware that he really wasn’t as conservative as he thought he was and with his own upbringing, never really stood a chance at being one anyway.

Yes, he was a sexist and voted against the ERA. He was hurt by my anger when I found that out because he never  thought that his vote would impact me because he raised three daughters to be independent and able to take care of themselves. He never told us we couldn’t do things because we were girls. He expected us to do well in school. In math. He didn’t think we needed to marry and never offered his opinion on our dating or living arrangements. He thought in his Depression Era influenced way that this was enough.

He taught me the basics of politics during the Watergate crisis, and when I was 12 and wanted to volunteer at Jimmy Carter’s campaign headquarters in our town, he drove me there. He was proud as hell of me. When Carter won, he assured me that my volunteering had mattered in that win.

Dad was a democratic socialist by actions. He believed we had a duty to our communities via taxes and volunteering. He helped found the first credit union in our city. He was on the board of directors for 40 years, and I remember going along with him when he went to talk with people who’d fallen behind on their loan payments. He was helpful and understanding. His family was wiped out during the tulmultous years leading up to the Depression. His baby sister died in childbirth because they couldn’t afford a hospital birth and they grew up shuffling from one relatives farm to another. Charity cases. He understood being that poor, and what a credit union represented to people and could do for them.

He sent me to a Catholic school believing that it would teach me to be a Christ like person and conservative. In school I heard one thing and watched the nuns and priests be something else.

And all the while I had a front-row seat for hypocrisy in school, I had a Dad who volunteered for church groups, pray lines, tutoring at the alternative high school, Meals on Wheels, read the newspaper from front to back to stay informed and modeled a commitment to casting his ballot in every election long after he stopped believing in partisan politics because he believed his vote could add up with others and matter. Not every time but enough times to make a difference over the long haul.

If a person is worried that their child might not grow up to think, behave or vote in ways they’d prefer they didn’t, it’s not the schools they showed be worried about.

Dad could never figure out why I wasn’t conservative  but of course I wasn’t because he didn’t raise me to be.

Schools don’t raise children. Parents do.


2017 arrived on a sleigh of smoking turds pulled by the four horseman of biblical fame, and still, we made it to 2018. Don’t ask me how. Last year was a blur. The world reeled, staggering from one shallow foxhole to the next with the various status quo in flames all around.

It reminded me of my favorite scene from that stink bomb of a psycho-drama The Birds.

Crows have just attacked the school, and the adults are huddled in a bar (kinda fitting) discussing a complete and terrifying turn of the table by Mother Nature (well played by the way) as though there was something rational to be found, if they just used their indoor voices, with town drunk – the only rational voice in the room – punctuating the discussion with occasional “It’s the end of the world”.

Is it though? Really? The end of the world.

Probably more reasonable to take our cultural reference cue from REM. It’s the end of the world … as we know it.

Because that happens throughout history, and if we are really ready to be honest, it’s happened more than once in living memory.

Someone on Twitter today had a list of all things that didn’t exist in 2003. On that list was pretty much the entirety of the internet as we use it today. Certainly most of our communication devices. The way we interact socially has been completely altered by social media.

Generation Zed knows nothing about an existence before hand held devices. They’ve literally been born and grown along with them. Our world is basically a teenager entering the end stages of puberty. And that, explains a lot.

So it makes sense that a political and economic world that our great-grandparents would still recognize and feel comfortable with simply can’t adapt. Things are giving way. It’s not like there are other options.

And okay, I will grant that the nuclear code rattling by America and North Korea could maybe sort of bring about an Armageddonish crisis, but I am going to throw caution to the wind and bet on us still being here in a year. What I will not claim is that the world will have settled down much. The current version of Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t transform itself in a couple of years anymore than the last Rome did. Change takes time even when it feels like the exact opposite.

Happy New Year then. Congratulate yourself if you aren’t a Nazi or one of their enablers, yet, and remind yourself that whatever is coming, you are not the only one going through it. Look around your neighborhood, workplace, gym, school, community and find those like-minded, who are out there, and connect a bit more than you currently are. There is safety in numbers, but also laughs, joys and fiendish plots to thwart those bags of dicks who thrive in the chaos of change.

Bring it 2018. If the world could survive 2017, it’s ready for you.


 

The latest silliness in Alberta politics disguised as concerned activism stems from the announcement by Earls restaurant that they will be sourcing the beef for their meat laden menu only from suppliers that are certified “humane”.

Given the apparent lack of “humanely” procured raw meat in Canada, this means that Earls will be looking to our southern neighbor for the dead animals it needs to keep the ravenous consumers sated.

The official opposition party, Wildrose, which never misses an opportunity to lustily engage in drama and antics that most people lost interest in when they grew up, decided to support a boycott of Earls’ chain. Never mind that they were choosing one group of Albertan workers over another, or that as a political party perhaps their efforts might be better spent calmly assessing the situation and thoughtfully offering a solution for the ranchers and farmers who now appear to need to new certifications to compete with American producers.

No. A boycott is the go to. A gold standard move.

Politicians shouldn’t be expected to think any harder than the average toddler about issues that arise. Gut reactions and mindless pandering is what has made Alberta – indeed all of Canada – the superpower nation it is after all.

Boycotts as a political tool generally are about highlighting social or rights issues and forcing change by striking at fiscal bottom lines.

Increasingly, in Alberta anyway, boycotts are grounded in the notion that change is bad, and no one should ever have to do it for whatever reason.

Just to disclaim a bit, I’ve eaten at Earls two, maybe three, times. Ever. Red meat is the staple of their menu, and though I enjoy a burger or piece of steak here and there, I have never been much of a red meat-eater. Earls is just not on my radar.

If I were to boycott it though, my objections would be about the sexist way it expects its female wait staff to dress. I frown a lot about chains which put the servers on the menu as though they were a meat dish too.

But, that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I am finding the whole #BoycottEarls to be yet another cynical move by an increasingly desperate right-wing conservative movement to remain relevant.

Because connecting with people and inspiring them with real ideas and policies that speak to life in 2016 and a future that is sure to be different from our parent and grandparents is a lot more work than fanning (or creating) frivolous outrage in the current news cycle.

And who wants to work hard?

Let’s leave that to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Such a fool. Look where paying attention, giving a shit about everyone and working hard has gotten him, eh?

There’s everything consumer oriented with a business wanting to let customers decide about products on offer. It’s capitalism, as I understand it. And personally, I like knowing what I am consuming. So Earls is just following the growing interest of customers who aren’t as inclined to mindlessly shovel shit into their mouths anymore.

That said, it’s just as okay for people to decide not to eat at Earls because it offends their delicate sense of privilege or their politics.

But let’s not pretend that this boycott is about anything of importance. No one’s rights are at stake. There aren’t any great social issues in play.

#EarlsBoycott is another minor skirmish in the Alberta poli-war, which is important in its own way but certainly not worth jeopardizing the employment of Earls’ kitchen and wait staff.

In an atmosphere where Alberta is still shedding jobs, it begs a query as to why the Wildrose Party would so eagerly play partisan politics with the employment of some of the provinces less affluent workers. It seems to be a game to them, and Albertans should be wary of political parties that see jobs and citizens as pawns on a board to be played with in such an off-handed manner.