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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 6 December 2013

You Can Only Fall: Rob Ford and Chlöe Howl

There's been this silly notion floating around to varying degrees of prominence over the past half-century or so (and of course, even worse before then) that rights and freedom imply a lack of responsibility.  

Government is The Man, the villain, oppressive of individual rights with its rules and regulations.  The 1% are oppressors with their stingy control of resources and unwillingness to let people be.  Of course, the reverse is true, too - it's those damned voters not turning out who are mucking with democracy, it's those welfare bums who refuse to get out and work for themselves that are killing the economy.

Someone else is to blame for our woes and if they'd just piss off, all would be well.  Well, if everyone did piss off, we'd be on our own, wouldn't we?  But we're not - we live in a dense, increasingly urban environment where inactions have as many consequences as actions; laissez-faire isn't an option, because choosing not to choose still impacts results.  

Besides, those people you want to piss off provide something of value to you - those bumpkins rural folk produce food; those urban elitists stimulate the economy and permit for things like risk management programs.  The inter-dependencies are alarming, or encouraging - either way they're there.

So, what happens when we opt not to care for the people we don't like/challenge us and refuse to accept anything resembling responsibility for our own choices?

The culmination of this "it's someone else's fault, piss on them" attitude is a familiar picture, actually.  You've got Golden Dawn in Greece, supported by people who have abdicated responsibility in favour of blame and hatred.  You've got extreme tyrants and potential war-criminals like Bashar al-Assad at the worst end of the spectrum, but in less egregious cases you have mirco-managers like Stephen Harper who abjectly refuse, even to themselves, to accept the accountability that comes with their roles.

More famously, we have Toronto's "I made mistakes, I can't but move on, I'm only human" crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford.  Who cares if he consorted with people who have committed crimes, if he has put the lives of innocents at risk through driving drunk, who has exposed himself to extortion and possibly threatened to use City resources for private vendettas?  So long as my taxes are low, what's it got to me?  

Of course we've had variants on the theme for ages now - I'm entitled, you're to blame, that's the whole story.  When no one is accountable for the common good, though, we know what happens - tragedy ensues.  

The angrier people are, the more likely they are to vote for hateful people that appeal to their baser instincts.  It's a vicious spiral that we've witnessed before.  It doesn't end until a lot of people have lost their heads.

How many of the world's problems are related to neo-colonial, objectivist, short-sighted approaches to engagement with others?  How many of the world's great conflicts have been fueled on the kindling of self-interest?  World War II was catalyzed by Hitler, but the only reason Hitler found an audience was because Germany had been so disadvantged by the winners post-World War I.  It could have been avoided.

War Room politics may polarize constituencies and generate ink (er... 0s and 1s?) but it also disillusions voters and fuels revolutionary sentiment.  Put simply - War Room politics is one step on the road towards war.

The all rights, no responsibility approach is a dismal flop.  Not having agency, not feeling accountable for something sucks rocks.  It's decidedly unpleasant blaming everyone else for blaming you for not doing something.   Leaders who refuse to lead are a farce.  It may have been endearing once and funny for a while, but we've seen this movie too many times - nobody's bothering to digitize it.

And so the pendulum starts to swing again.  The tip of the Roger's Curve is all about accountability, responsibility and long-term, pro-social planning.  Whatever their demographic, wherever they come from, the sorts of folk that embody this new mentality simply don't have time for self-serving, delusional bullshit.  They want metrics, they want clarity and above all they want to be part of change.

We'll see what kind of staying power Chlöe Howl has, but she may just be this accountability shift's answer to Johnny Rotten, giving a finger to the prevailing elites not by excusing herself from the system but opting to pick up the torch and run with it.

It's early days yet, and we still have the vast majority of society landing on the burning the platform, not tending the garden side of the equation.  Whether it's this crop of young leaders or the next, though, you can count on this - there will come a point in the near future when our children realize how far previous generations have fallen and pulled society down with them - and will decide it's up to them to pull us collectively back up.

Greatest Generations are a bit like Christmas trees, that way - you don't get them often, but they always seem to be better than the last.

UPDATE 18/12/13: When you look at the data, every time you sincerely try to help someone else without strings attached, you enhance the probability that somebody else at some point is going to do something for you. 

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