Archives for category: Politics

More reflective criticisms of communism, outside of the absurd mainstay of communism being the antithesis to “America” that most critics rely on, focus on the centralized government being in complete control of the economy. Economies work best when dictated by the invisible hand of supply and demand, and if a powerful bureaucracy were to attempt to fumble their way through managing the intricacies of varying economic factors, they would inevitably fail. An economy inherently cannot be managed by a centralized power. Just look at the Soviet Union, or Cuba, or Venezuela, or any of the other “failed” communist states who weren’t able to trade with other countries due to economic sanctions. It was The Communism that crippled their economy because their governments were too hands on; it wasn’t their isolation from markets. Also, don’t look at China because they seem to be managing their economy fine and are one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

IGNORE US! MILLIONS OF PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY NEVER HAPPENED!

I’m not here to be a defender of communism or to detail about how it isn’t even necessarily linked to a managed economy (I’ve already done that). Nor am I trying to defend China (the Muslim-minority Uyghurs don’t seem to benefit from a prosperous GDP) or get into a debate about the extent of capitalism that exists under a self-described “communist” government (that’s why Western governments are totally fine with Huawei’s networks in their countries and are fully supportive of the Belt and Road Initiative – there is no government management in their economy whatsoever). I want to talk about managed economies in general as someone who has never formally studied economics. Strap in!

Let’s take the conservative view that any kind of government oversight is going to hinder economic growth. We’ll imagine the libertarian paradise where government finally leaves companies and corporations alone to competitively spar with grit and vigour. Of course, in competitions there are winners and losers, and when a company loses, it either folds or is bought up by the winning company it was competing against. Once a company wins, it dominates its market and becomes more powerful making it harder for newer, innovative companies to compete. It would sort of be like if Mike Tyson ate the heart of everyone he beat in a boxing match and gained their strength on top of his own. Or I guess the literal plot of the movie Highlander. And much like the film, there can be only one, and that’s why capitalism tends toward monopoly. You can look at Alphabet Inc., the corporation that owns Google, for instance: they’ve cornered the market, and bought up 243 companies that came up with innovative ideas related to internet-y type stuff. If some young entrepreneur working in their parents’ garage came up with some new technology that improved the way searching works, you think they’d be able to compete with Google? Or not be bought out in an instant? Even a trillion dollar company like Microsoft can’t compete with Google in its market, and if you use Bing, you’ll know why.

Most of the memes comparing Google and Bing are pretty dark, I’ve just now discovered, looking for an image to break up this text. I went with one that illustrates my point instead.

With further expansion of corporate assets, one can imagine quite a spread. Amazon, an online retailer, has made inroads into grocery chains, robotics, video streaming, and news media. With this diverse portfolio already existing within a world with already too much nanny-ing in its state, it’s easy to see these big corporations building their own empires of employment were governments to dissolve. The abolition of government in favour of capitalism wouldn’t lead to any kind of libertarian paradise, but to more of a corporate feudalism where one’s national identity would be better defined by where they worked rather than where they lived.

Jeff Bezos would be king, the managerial class would be his aristocracy, and the workers would be his peasants. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and the other b(tr)illionaire owners would be neighbouring monarchies. The metaphor works quite well. Current day governments are the centralized Catholic church; the church had control over the identity of their subjects for hundreds of years. Then the individual, national monarchies got stronger and stronger, and identity was shifting. In the end, Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife, the Pope said no, and King Henry said fuck you and started his own damn church. We’re at the stage now where there is an uneasy alliance between the two superpowers of government and corporation, and there is a real possibility that some corporate lord is going to have his own Henry VIII moment where he doesn’t want to do what governments are regulating and decides to secede.

Anti-trust laws are the only thing standing between me and my Anne Boleyn

Maybe this isn’t so bad because capitalism relies on pecuniary wealth as its measure of power rather than land ownership, right? Well, that’s not technically correct because capitalist power resides in ownership just as much as feudal power; Jeff Bezos is powerful because he has a say in how Amazon, the Washington Post, and Blue Origin are run. And within capitalism, this power manifests itself much in the same way as between warring monarchies. When Iran’s Prime Minister Mossadegh wanted oversight on his country’s oil reserves, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) pushed American and British forces to assassinate him to accommodate their corporate interest. When the United Fruit Company (now Chiquitas Brands International) didn’t like how the democratically-elected government of Guatemala was challenging its monopoly of their arable land, they lobbied the American government to arrange a coup. Both instances led to the installation of brutal dictatorships – notably, brutal to their people, but quite friendly to corporate interests.

This capitalist utopia would ultimately be a regression of civilization, and more importantly, the economy would still be managed! Jeff Bezos is already talking about it! He wants to solve global warming by sending industries into space, which, however unreasonable it might be given the timeframe that climate change has allowed us, is a goal he intends to use his vast wealth and influence to realize. The examples I listed above were governments working in tandem with corporate management of the economy, and that could be the only reason we haven’t had our King Henry moment – governments are quite content to whore themselves out to corporate mercenary interests. They’ve got fewer scruples than the Borgias.

By “we” I obviously mean the West, since Iran and Guatemala did actually have their own King Henry moments. Quite viscerally, in fact.

The thing is, Chiquitas is still around. BP is still around. Greenpeace recently tricked an Exxon lobbyist into admitting the ways that the oil industry manages the economy by curtailing green initiatives and reducing oil regulations in government. We’re already living in a plutocracy where the wealthy and ownership class manipulate government to exert their will. Cutting back government will only make their manipulations more open because they will be able to act on the economy much more directly.

Economies will always be managed; whether it’s by a communist government or a Keynesian one, whether by a feudal king or a corporate one. Once we accept that there is no such thing as a free market within capitalism due to accumulations of power, we can approach the problem of a managed economy with open eyes. I think everyone is in agreement that a concentration of control and power is bad and corrupt. Even Bezos’s “benevolence” toward climate change is myopic and likely influenced by an echo chamber of sycophants and power hungry trolls.

I think Bezos’s real goal is to make Elysium just as prophetic as Idiocracy.

The right happens to think that this concentration of power exists in government and calls it communist, and the left sees it in corporations more subtly exerting their influence. When the government and corporations work hand in glove, the distinction really becomes inconsequential. Both right and left even seek the same goal: a diffusion of that control. It’s just that the right wants that diffusion to take place in an environment where power cannot be diffused due to the tendency of monopoly within capitalism. The left seeks democratic control to replace this concentration, democracy in both community and organizational levels.

A managed economy isn’t such a scary thing because they always have been and they always will be. The invisible hand doesn’t exist – Adam Smith was a naïve idealist. The question you have to ask yourself is, who should be in charge?

It would be nice to say that this began with the 215 dead kids found on the site of a Kamloops residential school, followed shortly thereafter by the 751 unmarked graves found in the grounds of the Cowessess residential school (unmarked likely due to being bulldozed by a spiteful priest), and then 182 more unmarked graves in the Kootenays. There will be more. While not all of the unmarked graves are children, dead Indigenous children have been a thing for a long time. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008 estimated about 4,100 children died in residential schools. Survivors and those who listen to them have known about the tragedies associated with residential schools since this shit was going on. Dead children in residential schools is not a surprise. These were schools that needed on-site graveyards to accommodate all the bodies that were piling up. It’s not a great look.

Colonization is way easier when you strip people of their connection to their land, culture, and people! Or their lives, I guess, for those who didn’t quite make it.

David Hume is famous for his philosophical guillotine that posits that what objectively is cannot prescribe what one ought to do – there exists an impenetrable barrier between reality and our moral compass. We look at the world and see thousands of kids that died under the direction of the state and at the hands of the church. What we do about it is unclear. The best example I can give on the is/ought divide is the coverage of this news from Breitbart which released a fairly uncontroversial article about the 215 children found in Kamloops. Where it gets fun is the comment section where there are only two replies:

“So they were democrat owner slaves like in the south here in America.”

Tip of the iceberg. Demonic, satan-worshiping people did that to innocent children. They must have really enjoyed what they did.

Bet you didn’t think this blog would be about QAnon when you clicked into it, did you?

Anyone who looks at the systemically-induced deaths of thousands of children is going to have an opinion on it. If your worldview doesn’t include an acknowledgement of the southern strategy or you believe that there is a global cabal of satan-worshipping child sex traffickers secretly trying to undermine Donald Trump, your opinion on these dead children will be shaped by that worldview. You might advocate for the American annexation of seemingly progressive Canada because progressivism is the real slavery, or perhaps you might champion Donald Trump becoming the God King of Earth because clearly the Satan worshippers are spread out across the globe. There is a fallacious belief on the left that once people catch a glimpse of the reality that oppressed groups endure, they will automatically adopt progressive idealism because how could they be so blind otherwise? It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of empathy. There is no greater reality-check than headlines screaming about the bodies of children as young as three years old being callously dumped into the ground and left to rot, and I’m not hearing Ezra Levant calling for a socialist utopia.

Are you telling me that individual context shapes our relationship and feelings toward the world? God dammit, we were so close! Ugh, I guess I’ll try making a compelling argument…

There are already some proposals for how to react to this news. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is fuming about how the left wants to ‘cancel’ Canada Day like employees will somehow have to give up their stat holiday pay or something. He is the only Canadian leader who actually loves Canada after all, and anyone who wants to reflect on the very present atrocities systemically perpetrated by Canada on this day is just siding with the terrorists. The thing is, there is no individual person to point to on this; responsibility lies symbolically in the entity of Canada itself. Celebrating ‘Canada’ while we’re still sifting through the bones of dead children killed by over a century and a half of Canadiana seems a little uncouth.

Personally, I don’t think wearing an orange shirt and teetotaling for a day, regardless of how symbolic that day might be, is going to accomplish much. It sets the limit on how much time we’re going to spend on these dead children to July 2nd. Certainly some Indigenous communities are calling for restraint as a means to pay respect to the present moment, and I can appreciate not wanting to mourn while people are next door loudly celebrating the colonial death of your cousin and aunty. I see this as an easy ‘thoughts and prayers’ moment for Canada that we’re somehow still bungling despite its very superficial and simple implementation. It’s nice to have, but it’s not a solution to the actual problem. This really didn’t need to become part of the culture war, but it has and that focus concerns me because now we’re talking about a culture war instead of what we actually do about thousands of dead children.

Solid rhyme, though!

The next proposal that is also gaining some traction is to follow the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC didn’t rely on people’s empathic progressivism to solve the problem; they actually put forward some guidelines on how to address it. The news has tended to focus on Calls to Action 71 through 76 because those are the ones that focus on the missing and dead children covered up by the residential school system, and boy howdy are governments going to town on that one! The federal Liberals are promising $27 million; Alberta is pledging $8 million; Saskatchewan is at $2 million; Ontario, $10 million; BC, $12 million. It’s not a contest. Don’t get excited.

The thing is, the laser focus on actions 71 through 76 ignores the 88 other Calls to Action that exist on that list. It’s important to note that these children weren’t killed in Holocaust-style gas chambers, despite residential schools being part of Canada’s “final solution” to the “Indian problem.” “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man” seems like a philosophy that doesn’t particularly care whether the man dies in the process, but its goal is still not mass murder. These children died of neglect, loneliness, unequal health conditions, and obviously the physical and sexual abuse didn’t help. However, it’s crucial to recognize that it wasn’t systematic murder. If we appreciate that fact, then we can see that the conditions that led to all these dead kids are still ongoing. There are still brutally unequal health outcomes; there is still inequality in services; there is still marginalization; there is still explicit and implicit forces pushing to disconnect Indigenous people from their land and culture. Canada as a system is still killing Indigenous people, including Indigenous children, and because it’s not overtly a mass murder with bodies hanging from the steeples, we don’t seem to care. We are impacted by this current news because it has the feel of a mass murder due to the vast number of bodies being found. People are having to go on the record to explain that these are not mass graves, but simply unmarked ones, because that is the feeling people are getting from these revelations. The reality may not be as sexy as people want it to be, but we still have to deal with it. That’s why it’s important to focus on more than just the Calls to Action that address where the bodies are buried.

“The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him,” the implication being that the coexistence of normality and bottomless cruelty explodes our ordinary conceptions and present the true enigma of the trial.” Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

The 94 Calls to Action begin by looking at the legacy of residential schools. They expose the child welfare system as still perpetuating colonialism and requiring significant adjustments. They demand better educational and employment opportunities for Indigenous people. They demand the promotion of Indigenous languages that were stolen from them. They demand an acknowledgement that the health disparities existing in Indigenous communities resulted from Canadian policies, and then obviously demand steps to address them. They call for reevaluating the relationship of police and the justice system toward Indigenous communities and populations. The impacts on health, education, employment, and the detriments imposed by ongoing discrimination within the justice system are all held to be a part of the legacy of residential schools and other colonial policies.

The second half seeks to address how reconciliation could be possible, given the, you know, genocide. They call on the government to work together with Indigenous communities to figure out a game plan. They call for recognition of Indigenous title rights. They want a national council of reconciliation. They call for the training and education of public servants on the history of Canadian colonialism. They want an apology from the churches responsible, especially the Pope. They want this shit to be taught in schools in an effective way. They want youth programs and museums, a national centre for Truth and Reconciliation, commemoration of Indigenous sites, and acknowledgement of Indigenous athletes. They demand media support from government-funded media to provide Indigenous programming. They call on the corporate sector to follow these similar principles. They want Canada’s real history to be a part of the welcoming of immigrants into this nation.

This is what the Erin O’Toole’s of the world don’t seem to get: nobody is cancelling Canada. They want Canada to be more honest and to work toward addressing and moving past the historical injustices of colonialism. Maybe that means that you can’t blindly celebrate the Canadian heroes of the past with statues and universities, but like, if you murdered somebody, and all you had to do to move on from that was to get rid of some statues, that’s a pretty damned good deal! The demands of reconciliation are things that no individual would receive in any Canadian court of law if they committed these crimes in any other context. I did not list out all 94 Calls to Action. Go and read my hyperlink there. Criminal negligence resulting in death can get you up to life sentence in Canada. Kidnapping a child is also a life sentence. See if there is anything resembling that in the Calls to Action.

When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal!

Given my use of Hume’s relativism, I feel I should justify why following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action is any better than putting Trump in a position of global leadership. It comes down to sovereignty. Indigenous people aren’t calling for Donald Trump to fly in on a golden chariot to save them. Saying “We know what’s best for Indigenous people!” is what got us trying to kill the Indian within them to begin with. What are Indigenous people asking for?

Canada has been disproportionately underfunding child welfare services in Indigenous jurisdictions despite being told repeatedly by the Human Rights Council that they should probably fund all services equally. Indigenous people are in court trying to fix that – as good a place to start as any. Indigenous people would like to be able to lobster fish through the year because they’ve been doing that for millennia, but they’re facing a whole whack of violence and pushback for doing so – this is despite this exception being legally implemented way back in 1999. The police, the alleged enforcers of the law, did nothing. Indigenous people would like clean drinking water and a society that doesn’t bully their children into suicide with racism and systematic neglect. Indigenous people would like Canada to stop building random shit on their land – like a housing development or a golf course or a pipeline. Keep in mind a good chunk of Canada is unceded, in that we never actually came to an agreement with the Indigenous people who were already living here. We just came to this country and started building – fun fact, my family personally benefited from the Dominion Lands Act when the Canadian government encouraged European immigrants to expand westward by providing them with free land which was then defended violently by the RCMP against reasonably confused and angry Indigenous people. Canada is still basically building shit without Indigenous consent.

I have painted with very broad strokes here, and I am fully aware of the dangers of utilizing a pan-Indigenous approach to reconciliation. Indigenous people are not a monolith; for example, there are some Indigenous people who do want pipelines – it’s a thing. However, the whole argument of this entire post is that the same behaviours that resulted in the horrifying stories that we’re hearing in the news are on-going, and the very least we could do is stop those behaviours.

Even in those areas with treaties, I wonder how often those treaties are actually respected by current day policies?

Now I know that Critical Race Theory says that every single white person is an evil racist who should be ashamed of themselves. The only solution possible is for white people to surrender to the judgment of the BIPOC Marxist authorities and embrace their summary execution. Oh wait, nobody seriously says that. Not even Critical Race Theory says that. I’ve already addressed that the Calls to Action are about reconciliation – people living in peace, love, and harmony, man! The 94 Calls to Action are not an exhaustive list, and do not lay out guidelines for the practical implementations that might be required given we live in a practical world. They don’t say anything on how to react when the Canadian government says that they know residential schools were meant to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children, but that there is no evidence that they “sought to destroy the ability … to speak their Indigenous language or to lose the customs or traditions of their culture.” I mean, I don’t know if the TRC explicitly defines what ‘assimilate’ means, but surely the Canadian government has access to a dictionary.

Thousands of dead Indigenous children cannot be undone. What we do for the future matters. There are plenty of avenues to follow when addressing Indigenous issues in Canada, but some are better than others. Governments need to work with Indigenous communities and leadership to reconcile atrocious Canadian history. Canada isn’t all bad – we live in a democracy; we can hold governments accountable to this. When we say Canada did a bad thing, it only means we want justice for that, not annihilation. Let’s work for justice. You’d think that with thousands of dead Indigenous children, that much would be obvious.

The maxim that “the personal is political” has been around since its origin in the 1960s feminist movement. It postulates that what happens in one’s personal and private life is actually quite relevant to and influenced by the larger, structural factors at play on a macro scale. But really, everything is political. Mezzo level institutions and organizations are political. Media is political. Neutrality is political. Everything is interconnected, and what happens anywhere is going to be shaped by, and will shape in its own discrete way, the world and its ideology.

When it comes to film and television, the same holds true. In general terms, action and horror films are inherently conservative. I appreciate a wide diversity exists across all genres, and some great films are great because they subvert common tropes, but by and large, action and horror films are inherently conservative. There is some threat to the in-group from an outside force, and the only difference between the two is whether the protagonist goes on the offensive or the defensive. Action films are usually a bit more broad in that the threat is typically to upset the status quo (think of the Joker who wants to change the world, and Batman who wants it to stay the same – Batman’s ‘solution’ to the world’s problems is ultimately to remove all the deviants). Or you can think of Captain America: Civil War which is one long advertisement for libertarianism (don’t let oversight committees hold me accountable; I, as an individual, know best). Horror films are more personal in that the threat is much more intimate. The threat is more overwhelming and overpowering. The viscera is embellished. But the overarching theme between the two is clear: the Other is dangerous, and you better fight or the bogeyman will get you. Think about it this way, conservative politicians and pundits use horror movie rhetoric to justify action movie policies.

They may seem like us, but there is just enough of a difference that their inhumanity is truly revealed

In contrast, adventure films are inherently progressive. The protagonist leaves their comfort zone, goes on their hero’s journey, and learns something from having experienced the different. Consider the original trilogy of Star Wars which would be incredibly problematic by today’s standards of identity politics: every human is white except for the one black guy who is pretty shady. Yet by the end of the story, Luke has found friends, teachers, and allies across a wide range of species with different languages, cultures, and lifestyles. The final confrontation is an overcoming of hatred, and the humanity of the antagonist is very literally revealed when Darth Vader connects with his son in his dying moments. It isn’t an outsider that is the villain of Star Wars, it’s hatred. It’s an ideology that can be overcome through non-violent resistance – Luke wins by refusing to fight.

The politics of a thing doesn’t have to be overt. It can be baked into the structure of the way a story is told. A character can have an exploratory relationship with the different, or it can be a threat. Protagonists in stories are paragons of how to interact with the world, and the way that the storytellers frame that interaction will inherently be political one way or another. Even the really obvious political messages like in Civil War don’t seem obvious because it is the framework of the story shaping the message rather than a character yelling at you that libertarianism is amazing. Though the beard Steve Rogers grows afterward may be telling…

Sharks, the Thanoses (Thanii?) of the sea, being shown here in a radical propaganda film that tells us that even those maligned as unthinkingly violent can be our friends… if we leave our comfort zone

Superficial politics is what is commonly associated with politics in movies today. Movies that base their entire marketing campaign on how much of a woman their protagonist is, or ensure that a minor character is Asian, or show a brief allusion to the existence of homosexuality in the corner of their film: these are what instigate the great political debates of our time.

When a film goes to great lengths to include every identity, it feels hollow. Films are finite, which means they have only so much time for character development, and peppering the screen with diverse, one-line characters is far more tokenistic than it is a genuine political statement. Even a television series doesn’t have enough time to invest in all the colours of the rainbow. Representation is important in films, but tokenism is not representation. Better to have less representation than just a rich tapestry of background characters, and then produce greater depth.

There is just… boy! There is just one of every kind of you, isn’t there?

I’ve written previously about feminist ethics in ‘feminist’ films. In this case I want to look at the politics. Replacing the male lead of an action film with a female doesn’t change the inherently conservative nature of the format. This likely contributes to the intense backlash that these types of films receive from white men: they are no longer presented as the in-group, which means they must be part of the out-group, which means they are closer to the one-dimensionally monstrous villains than to the heroine saving her own status quo. When Captain Marvel destroys the patriarchy with her laser fists, she isn’t creating a new, brighter future because the world she is saving belongs only to the in-group of the comfortable female watching the film from home. The world isn’t actually changed in any meaningful way, it just doesn’t have Jude Law in it anymore. The dynamic of the out-group threat remains the same; it is simply the content that is shifting. Here the narrative is exulting my elimination, and it doesn’t feel all that great. Hence, backlash.

Jonathan Haidt paints purity as an inherently conservative virtue, and I agree that it is, but it exists within progressive circles as well. When the left cancels itself on Twitter because someone isn’t being the perfect incarnation of allyship, that is the same manifestation of out-group exclusion found in any conservative diatribe. Framing old, white men as the dastardly fiends to be destroyed by a quick-witted teenage white girl and her motley crew of minority friends and LGBT acronyms is a shallow political message of identity and a deeper presentation of group categorization. The categories may be new and turn traditional categorization on its head, but the process remains the same.

A girl!? Inventing things!? Harumph and such!

Superficial politics in media will never change anyone’s mind because it isn’t intending to. It’s probably encouraging further divisiveness because conservative ideology is inherently divisive. Its intentions are to make money. Is it such a shock that billion dollar corporations aren’t actually as progressive as they pretend to be? Controversy breeds money, and enough people buy into shallow political pandering to turn a profit because they’re thrilled to be a part of an in-group for once, and their political education has come from triple-digit character count polemics on social media. Plus it pisses off the alt-right, and therefore it must be good! This kind of film will continue to be made so long as this continues to be the state of our world. If Fox News really wanted to end this manufactured culture war, they’d just stop ranting about it, and it would probably go away. I guess they have their own ratings to consider.

The thing is, though, more people probably learned how to open up to the outside world and fight against fascism from Star Wars than they did from the Ghostbusters remake. Ideology has a place in film, but it needs good storytelling to be effective. The right complains about Hollywood’s conversion to ‘woke’ culture, but progressive ideals have always found their home in fiction. The issue is panderous, bad writing and tired conservative tropes dressed up in progressive clothing that are alienating to the new out-group.

My political activism involves liking movies with really rabid comment sections on their YouTube trailers

I like action movies. Batman is my favourite superhero, and I thought Civil War was better than Infinity War. I dislike horror movies for the most part, but not for the reasons listed here. You can enjoy things and ignore the politics within them, but that doesn’t mean that the politics aren’t there. Those who don’t recognize them are going to be much more susceptible, and that sounds ominous, but it goes both ways. Maybe people will learn to be kind to strangers if they saw it in a movie once? There is a difference between good politics and bad politics, despite what those evil, relativistic postmodernists think!! Good politics represented as preachy and tokenistic only reinforces bad politics. Good politics embedded in a good story will go infinitely further.