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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.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Stephen Harper: On the Wrong Side of Sociology

Stephen Harper doesn't think there's ever a good time to commit sociology - especially not when it comes to reverse-engineering criminal activity.  

For him, criminal acts are criminal acts; they don't have context, they aren't the result of pre-mitigating factors - they just are.  It's like Vincent from Collateral; it wasn't his pulling the trigger that killed the guy, it was the bullet and the fall.  

No connection whatsoever, see?  There are no venn diagrams in Harper's world.

Harper believes people are rational actors motivated by financial self-interest - except for those who aren't. Considering how statistics suggest that ethnic minorities make up the bulk of prison inmates and social service users, it's a good thing he doesn't make generalizations - he'd end up being one of those guys who thinks Islam is evil or black protesters in Ferguson are animals.

When PM Harper talks tough on crime, reduced regulation for corporations, etc., he's simply trying to create a fully-functioning free-market economy where rational, self-interested actors compete through their labour and pricing to achieve a balance of consumption and cost, supply and demand.

It's a political narrative that helps distinguish him from his foes, but it's also a perspective he is functionally fixed on, unable to waver from.  

Yet his position is full of holes.  Was Mike Duffy a rational actor?  How about Nigel Wright?  Was Kouvalis in the right with misleading phone calls, or Peter MacKay with his political truths?  Is trying to portray your chief rival as a feminine poof a rational and financially-motivated, or is it relying on what his team has identified as social perceptions?  

By theorizing that Canadians don't care about the workings of Parliament, is he suggesting Parliament - the engine of democracy - isn't rational, or in the interests of the people?

Harper is incapable of lateral thinking, incapable of understanding his foe - he's a bully, and that's his ultimate limitation.  The reason he's so adverse to meeting with all the Premiers at once is that in that type of scenario, he's Prime Minister among many rather than the top dog in the room.  Harper needs to be the most authoritative person in the room - he's simply uncomfortable with the notion of peers.

In this, he's like the folk on Wall Street - they figure that power is theirs and the kids they want to hire are in it for the money.  Pay people enough and they'll do whatever; the more you pay, the better the talent you can attract, plus afford to weed out lesser talent.

Thing is, Wall Street is losing the battle for talent and innovation.  The sorts of people they should be attracting are more interested in growth, empowerment and contributing to something of social value than they are in their personal financial interest.  

It makes sense; in an increasingly interconnected world, most of us are seeing quite clearly how connected we all are.  The broader impacts of our action or inaction are more and more clear, meaning that we're getting that to commit sociology is the best way to promote our own self-interest.

Altruism is selfishness that plans ahead, after all.

Yet Harper and Wall Street both seem to think there's a general ignorance among the general public that serves as a natural resource for their consumption.  In practice, both act as though people aren't rational, but rather, easily manipulated.  Both are paying the price as a result.

While other governments are committing sociology - through education programs, through behavioural insights and the like, Canada is an innovation laggard.  While the US military is the biggest North American consumer of Positive Psychology, Team Harper refuse to accept their own findings around mental health and social-emotional resilience.

So focused are they on the notion that they are history's actors, they are willfully blinding themselves to just how quickly they (and as a result, we) are falling behind at social evolution.

In the Knowledge Economy, it's people who think and work in the exact opposite way Harper does that will succeed, attract the best talent, build the strongest brands and have the greatest impact on society. Companies are pursuing more employee-sensitive onboarding practices and becoming more Open with their information at the same time Harper's government is moving to become more closed.  

User-Generated-Content is being encouraged at the same time as all political parties are pushing canned messages.

The truly innovative providers are looking at differing cultures not as threats or irrelevancies, but as idea mines to be tapped for new solutions, services and products.  As we're focused on structural wellness and whole-person health that bridges the work/life divide, First Nation practices ranging from the talking circle to the medicine wheel are being explored.

Meanwhile, Harper's numbers aren't as great as they once were.  Clearly, there's no connection between his fall in popularity and the inability of his party to adapt to the times.  They just need to stick their head in the sand on internal conflicts/systematic issues and keep poking civic fears about the zombie hoard, and they'll come out on top again.  Then they'll have to tweak the rules again to keep those crazy sociology-committers from succeeding under the existing, democratic rules of engagement.

Which brings us neatly back to Sellinger's words.  

From Ferguson to the Middle East to murdered Aboriginal Women and at-risk youth, we are all aware that increasingly closed and top-down governments are fuelling civic unrest and allowing structural issues to exacerbate.  We worry less about seas of troubles then potential domestic collapse.

We want the confidence of knowing our leadership shares our views and is prepared with a vision and a plan to do something about this burning platform.

At this stage in the game, it's almost criminal not to be committing sociology.  Such are the pitfalls of not thinking ahead, I guess.

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