This post will not be like the others. I’m struggling right now, and Feel a real need to express myself publicly. I’m despairing because of what I see politically, and what I see so many people choosing in my country. After a summer of hope I see an autumn of despair, and I’m not sure how to respond to it.
No doubt most who read my screed know that among many other things I’m a compassionate progressive, someone who cares deeply about humanity and where history is taking us. I’m extremely well informed and read a great deal about what has happened politically in Canada, and where, I fear, it is headed.
I’ll be clear from the beginning: after ten years of Mr. Harper as Canada’s prime minister, I believe that anyone who chooses to still vote for him is either a fool, criminally ignorant, or simply a miserable, dark-hearted person. To call them ideological is insufficient, because to be an ideological right-winger is to embrace these, perhaps all of them.
Okay, that’s the rhetoric, but it’s based on a great deal of documented fact. Look, the information is out there for those who want to know. Suffice it to say that we have never had a PM so without scruples, integrity, or basic human decency. Politics is a dirty sport and I realize that, but like the politics to the south of us, never have we seen such blatant ugliness before, such a wanton lusting for power at any cost, such an undermining of the basic standards in which civilized peoples should conduct themselves. Under Mr. Harper’s watch this country has declined in so many objective metrics, not unnoticed by our global neighbours and allies.
I don’t blame Mr. Harper: he is what he is, and I’m glad I never knew the man personally. But that he commands so much (increasing) support speaks volumes about the state of humanity. I suppose I had thought that Canadians were better somehow, more civilized and tolerant, more respectful and helpful than your average citizen elsewhere. But I’ve been shown to be wrong, and so deeply humbled. We’re just like folks everywhere else, and as awful as any other people can be.
My objections to him run far, far deeper than a simple left-right disagreement about how the economy should be run, or whether Israel is too heavy-handed in it’s dealing with Palestinians. There are right and wrong on both sides, and the answers can be extremely nuanced. There are so ways that conservative ideas and values have a place, and sometimes lefties are dreaming in colour.
But voting Conservative now isn’t about whether women should be allowed to wear a niqab at a citizen’s swearing-in ceremony, or whether you agree we should be promoting tar sands oil; those are issues for debate, and compromises can be made. However you may feel about these (the former is by any rational measure a non-issue, in my opinion), if you vote for the current Conservative administration, you are legitimizing a profound erosion of Canadian democracy, a government that lies continuously to its citizens, a government that vilifies and oppresses anyone who opposes Stephen Harper himself, a government that spies on it’s citizens, a government that literally burns books, loathes knowledge and supresses the voices of academics in its employ, a government that has no care or respect for the environment that we all live in, a government that, due to it’s antipathy to fact, has the worst economic record in two generations. A government that has had many criminals employed at its highest levels. A government that appeals to racism, fear, ignorance and bigotry among the citizenry in order to cling to power.
The fact that millions of Canadians are willing to vote for this man and his party is not testament to him, but their willingness to ignore the above (and a great many more faults) in his government. You may believe that supporting Israel is very important, but at what cost? How is that thinking possibly defensible in the face of everything else? No matter your feeling or belief on a whole host of political issues, given the transgressions this government is guilty of – all well documented – it is impossible for someone to call themselves rational or moral while continuing to support the man’s agenda.
I can’t help but think of early 30s in Europe, especially in Germany and Italy. The coming conflagration is far in the future and the brownshirts had yet to march on the defenseless, but the rhetoric of the National Socialists, which was design to appeal to the worst in human nature, had drawn a great many to their ranks. People of thought and of conscience were alarmed and distressed by the words of hate and ignorance being publicly declaimed, and how they attracted so many of their countrymen. And the helplessness they must have felt in trying to stop the march towards barbarism.
I’m not equating Harper with Hitler; that’s beyond absurd. But as is so common on the right, his is a blatant grab for power through fear, lies and bigotry. And like the rhetoric of the 30s, the Conservative machine doesn’t even try to hide the lies anymore: Stats Canada, or a scientist or the Bank of Canada says one thing, and a minister will come out and on the record tell the people the exact opposite, without batting an eye. They understand that their core constituency will believe their gospel-speakers over anyone else.
Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I believe that those willing to vote Conservative now would be the same ilk who would have voted National Socialist in the 1930s – people who willingly turn away from fact for comforting platitudes, who would rather cling to bigotry and small-minded ideas rather than challenge ignorant belief systems. People who will swear loyalty to someone who seems strong and unequivocating, who soothes their own small, scared, angry world.
What’s worse is that research has shown that the more you give a Conservative factual information that opposes their belief, the more strongly they will cling to it. You simply cannot illuminate that darkness. This makes them perfect tools for men smarter than they, but share the same bigotry.
I want to believe in the essential goodness of people, but the sight of so many millions of Canadians willing to embrace such ugliness is massive evidence to the contrary. The only excuse I can offer is simple stupidity: if you have an IQ of 80 I don’t expect much critical thought. But the vast majority of Conservative voters don’t have that luxury and therefore, in my mind, are dangerous, unthinking, bigoted, irrational believers of something truly awful. I just can’t see any other possible explanation for it, and it greatly despairs me.
Of course I’m not including the wealthy and powerful in this. Men and women without mores or conscience will support him, because his is an agenda that benefits them to the detriment of all others. These people are obvious, and their self-interestedness all too predictable. More than a half dozen major papers in the country endorse the Harper Conservatives despite his record, and that shows the reach and influence of this class. These papers claim he is best to manage the economy (the stats show the worst record since WWII), but what they are referring to is their economy, not Canada’s.
I even know some Conservative voters, and looking at their choice I have to decide how to deal with them. In other aspects they seem like fine, decent, people, and yet fine, decent people cannot claim to be so and support what Mr. Harper stands for. I just can’t believe them to be hateful bigots so all I can point to is wilful ignorance, which is no defense at all. I’m sure a great many Germans regretted after the fact for supporting “the party”, but does that make them unaccountable? And these days when information is a click away, if you choose to remain uninformed and you vote in a political force that causes suffering and damage, can you honestly claim ignorance as a defense? The law doesn’t allow it, nor should society.
I really had to get this off my chest, although I know it won’t be a fiddler’s fart in a hurricane to a true Conservative; I’ve argued with the type before, and inevitably it’s a waste of time. No matter how many facts you have at your disposal, no matter how much info you can source, they simply dismiss it. Their opinion, their truth supersedes any documented fact. You can play them a recording of their Dear Leader saying something they dispute, and they’ll just claim that it’s real, that it must be doctored somehow. You can’t debate with minds like that. But it’s my dearest hope that even one or two fence-sitting readers will change their vote, or an apathetic non-voter will get off their duff and make it to the polling station on Monday.
Because make no mistake, the road to things terrible starts much more banal, and the further you go, the darkness increases until you reach the point where there’s no turning back, and catastrophe is inevitable. Mr. Harper admires and emulates the US Republican Party (he has been aided by several of their advisors) and yet in the United States there have been over 50 school shootings this year, Republicans lie constantly to their followers, misinformation is peddled more often than fact by right-wind media, huge segments of the population are in prison, people of colour are being gunned down by the state in enormous numbers, some of the most basic facts of science are being contested in schools and the courts, civil rights are being trampled everywhere, inequality is growing in leaps and bounds, and the political system has been bought by the powerful rich. And there’s no telling how much worse it will get; now even presidential nominees casually toss out misogynist and racist slurs.
Under Mr. Harper Canada has taken some pretty bold steps down that same ugly road, but we have still a chance to turn back on October 19th.
Buy my book and learn a little about Canadian history. It’s got great reviews: