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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 13 April 2012

Stephen Harper’s Pompeii: Evidence-Based vs. The Reality-Based Community

-       Carol Goar

- Attributed to Karl Rove

There was the Census.  There's the National Council of Welfare.  It's a long list, really, of institutions that have been gutted or completely eliminated by the Harper government.  They will tell us their focus is on reducing waste, on saving the public money, etc.  They might even believe that, to some degree.

I think it's pretty clear the Harper Conservatives are following the reality-based community model; they don't feel they need facts now that they've got power.  They can make them up as they go along.

It is beyond tragic that at this time in history, when economic, social and ecological challenges and pressures are mounting, we have a government that is turning its back on information.  You know, that thing that fuels the Knowledge Economy.  But then, this government has made it clear they don't believe in the value of knowledge - who needs to think when you have natural resources to exploit?

Team Harper thinks they are being clever, that they have it all figured out.  In reality, their policy track is the equivalent of building a city next to an active volcano.  You've got the rich soil for a short-term fix, but the short-sightedness of that view is going to see them, and Canada, burned in the long run.  There are social laws that do not waver, just as there are natural laws that cannot be escaped.  By trying to ignore social and ecological gravity - by trying to play political God - Harper is pulling on a push door.

Information is essential to making wise (informed) choices.  That's why humanity developed science in the first place; think what you might, the need for evidence-based policy to actually overcome our problems will not waver.  If you doubt that, look at witch-burninigs and the stigma around left-handed people, or viewing mercury-as-a-cure and the flat-earth model. 

Poverty is not addressed by ignorning it, hoping competition will somewhow lead to a trickle-down of accumulated wealth.  Competition is about survival and dominance, which comes at the expense of others.

Poverty begets poverty and poor people breed faster than rich people.  The rich people can try to isolate themselves from the poor, but eventually you end up with either a revolution or North Korea, neither a desirable outcome.

You can blame poverty on genetics, but again, that's been tried before.  At the end of the day, we have to face facts - society is dependent on internal functioning.  We move forward together.

There are only so many trips you can make to the natural well before you leave yourself with nothing.  If you care about the next generation, you have to plan, manage your resources and, shockingly, conserve what we have now.  Once again - knowledge and collaboration are essential.

The number one thing Team Harper and all our politicians should be keeping in mind?

Are the Conservatives really that blind to the consequence of their actions, or are they so callous as to want to piss off Canadians against foreigners so that they'll be more likely to vote with their gut for extremist Parties?

This is what Capitalism does in the Global Village - wages don't go up, they trickle down to whoever will take less pay.  In this case it's foreign workers - the same foreign workers that Tim Hudak railed against during the last provincial election.  I can tell you from reactions at many doors, people are just frustrated and angry enough to believe that message.

By encouraging indentured servitude and telling Canadians to take lower-paying jobs or else, the Harper Tories are piling on the kindling.  Tensions are already on the rise in Canada; this is going to make it a hell of a lot worse.  With the dollar rising (thanks partly to Harper's push on Alberta Oil) the cost of living isn't going down - yet Jim Flaherty thinks Canadians should work for less or be left with nothing?  I have images of the Grapes of Wrath in my head.

Those who once had and now find themselves without will look for scapegoats - that's human nature.  The Hard Right politicians and would-bes in this country (Wild Rose, I'm looking at you) will make it clear who they think is the problem - urban, special interest groups, foreigners.  It's wedge politics at its worst and could lead, taken to the most polarizing extremes, to social collapse.

Harper used to wax on about trouble lapping at our shores; now, he's doing a hell of a job to foster them right here at home.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Nothing to Fear...

Although the approach he takes is a bit facetious, he's not wrong in his analysis.  The Bushido code required Samurai to embrace death - this wasn't intended to foster a cult of dying, but rather to enforce  a way of living.

See, when you accept death as inevitable, you stop hiding from it.  You stop living in death's shadow and as a consequence, slowly cease to be controlled by fear.

It's surprising how clearly you see once you start to put fear behind you.  Like waking from a dream, you perceive depth and nuance; patterns emerge that aren't based on offense and defence, but on connections, like a puzzle.

It's self-interest - dominance and fear - that blind us to this broader reality.

Fly Blind, Fall Hard

The Concious Society: Something Beginning

- Senator Michael Kirby

 - Don Drummond

 - Ragtime

I am an optimistic person.  I'm by no means the only one.  The evidence, the historical trends, the challenges we face today and the only possible solutions to them are mounting, converging, crystallizing.  People are slowly finding that the answers they are looking for lie with each other.  Like a snake shedding it's skin, we just need to shrug off the constraining parts of our outdated systems to allow for the realization of our full, collective potential.

We need to look at our minds as part of our bodies; we do ourselves too much harm and deny each other too much opportunity not to.  That means revisiting some key notions we have about ourselves and our society:

There are no stupid, bad, useless people - there's only the conversation and how much effort we're willing to put into understanding and being understood.

Motivating creativity and collaboration isn't about carrots and sticks - the models we rely on are proven-ineffective for inspiring the kind of behaviours our economy needs today.

Mental health and mental fitness; innovation and productivity; health care costs, service silos, workplace wellness, quality of life, bitter and short-term policy vs more thoughtful, balanced approaches, interpersonal and international relations.

They are all connected. 

People from all sectors are feeling their piece of the elephant, blindly, slowly working there way towards the centre where collectively, they'll realize they've been exploring different facets of the same animal all along.

That animal is us - we are all part of the same, complex, beautiful human social organism.

We can only move forward when we leave no one behind.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Democracy and Service Delivery Renewal in Canada

Here's the thing that, for some reason, doesn't get discussed as much as it should - when you have a system that's designed like a series of fiefdoms, of course there is money lost to duplication, gaps and overlaps, while overall service delivery suffers.

You don't have to cut services to save money.  You don' t necessarily need to spend more for better services, either.  There is lots of money in the system that is being spent, but not being spent strategically.  It takes coordinated, specialized collaboration to achieve that level of forward-moving efficiency; a network, not a collection of silos.  The focus has to be on the two things people seem to have the most trouble doing; breaking old habits to form new ones appropriate for the times and giving up individual control for collective benefit.

Put it another way - the only way forward?  Together.

Monday 9 April 2012

American Yin, Chinese Yang - and Canada's Tao

This is so true, yet so counter-intuitive to progress:

It's invariable that the big powers will see each other as competitors; it was by being competitors to previous big dogs that they attained their own supremacy in the first place.  When everyone is waving around national pride through sticks, flags and rhetoric, though, it becomes increasingly hard to back down gracefully - unless there is an intermediary to facilitate that process.

This has always been Canada's best, most natural role.  We are a nation that represents all others - as such, we are the world's pre-eminent negotiators, peacekeepers and solution-finders.  Prime Minister Harper has perhaps tried to side-track us from this true calling, but frankly, now is when the world needs Canada as an international Centre more than ever.

After all, doesn't history teach us that the only way forward is together?

Robbing the Future to Pay for the Present

   - Ronald Wright, Time Among the Maya

The ancient Maya didn't look at time the way we in the Western World do today.  They believed in temporal patterns which could not be changed.  Fortune was predetermined in a cyclical way; endings are followed by beginnings.

Of course, we don't buy that - for the most part, we believe we our destiny rests entirely in our own hands.  Funny how we seem perpetually doomed to repeat history, then, isn't it?

Sunday 8 April 2012

Secrecy Be Dammed, But the Wall Is Coming Down

There's nothing new about shady dealings in business.  The same holds true in politics - something we're seeing to a stronger degree at the federal level than we have in a long time. 

Here's the problem - information is increasingly available and increasingly in our sights.  The urge to share means more leaks, more opportunity for leaks and a greater demand for the facts, not the spin.  Nobody wants to get caught with egg on their face for willful ignorance.

Some quick examples:

Of course there are those who will say I'm woefully naive.  Maybe it is easy to hide behind cynicism, but also so constricting.  It's like boiling a frog; you can only deny the emergent truth for so long before you get burned.  Plus, there are those who want to maintain the wall of secrecy so they feel safe behind it.  Too bad for them.  The reality is, ethics matter.

The truth, as they say, will set you free.