Archives for category: Politics

I have a hard time caring about the Trucker (Freedom) Convoy occupying the capital city of my country right now. This could be because I’m on the West Coast, and the noise from all the car horns fades out somewhere over the middle of Alberta, so I’m not directly impacted by the enhanced interrogation being meted out on hapless Ottawans. Unfortunately for me, and for those who only follow this blog out of spite, I’m forced to write about it because despite my best efforts to evade the garbage fire of social media that defends far-right protests, the garbage fire found me. I won’t get into it. Anyway: freedom! That’s never been a toxic buzzword belying oppressive undertones! Let’s get into it!

The garbage fire demands that I ignore all the images and stories of atrocious behaviour because there are nice people in the protest too. Yes, there may have been cheers and people shouting, “Yes! Right here!” when a speaker asked what a white supremacist looked like, but some protesters also cleaned up the Terry Fox statue after it had been previously defaced by the crowd. So like, just because residents of a women’s shelter are being harassed for wearing masks, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some benevolent act of kindness happening elsewhere to cancel it out.

The thing is, the behaviour of protesters has nothing to do with the content of their protest. Does a Nazi in a nice suit having a polite conversation eliminate the violence intrinsic in the belief of callous disregard for the humanity of “lesser races”? No. It’s all public relations. If people looked at the burning of a Target during the Black Lives Matter protests and thought, “Well, I guess I think unarmed black people minding their own business should be killed more now!” then… there’s a protest in Ottawa that might interest you.

The Canadian South will rise again! I mean, unless that flag has some other connotation…

This is all very lucky because despite the Canadians demanding States’ Rights by protesting Provincial guidelines in front of the Federal Government, all they want is freedom! It’s the name of the damned convoy, after all! Just a wee bit of freedom! When you started asking freedom to do what, or freedom from what, that’s when it starts getting a little wonky.

In theory, this protest started as a bunch of truckers upset that they would be mandated to receive a vaccine despite being an essential service that didn’t even need to quarantine during the worst of the pre-vaccine pandemic. Honestly? Given the historical amnesty to truckers the government had been providing thus far, an about-face of that magnitude could reasonably be demonstrated against to some degree if only on principle. However, the big trucking alliance of Canada didn’t organize this. They’re against it. The people who organized this convoy have something else on their mind.

Canada Unity, which did organize the rally, proudly posted their Memorandum of Understanding to their website. It has since been taken down because people keep pointing out how problematic a polemic demanding the overthrow of a democratically elected government is, but fortunately links to it still exist. Now, it cannot be overstated how dumb this Memorandum is – I’d recommend giving it a read. Anyone listening to the news has probably heard that they’re calling for the Senate and the Governor General to ally themselves with Canada Unity to overthrow the Liberals and band together to eliminate pandemic restrictions; again, a provincial jurisdiction. That’s not why I’m dedicating a whole paragraph to this thing. They refer to every single piece of human rights legislation in the last hundred years, including the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, without actually pointing to where any of those human rights are being violated within the strictures of the legislation. It’s like they did a Google search for “human rights” and “medicine” and just copied out everything they could find without reading any of it. They also wrote out, “This Memorandum shall be construed in accordance with the Laws of Canada and the International
Human Rights Commissions” as if wishing could make it so. Ultimately, my reason for writing so much about this Memorandum is this:

Because real legal documents go all the way to the end of the page, so we have to let people know that we left this space intentionally. This is the 4D chess we are playing!

Because it’s funny.

Other organizers include Tamara Lich, former secretary for a Western separatist party that wants to abandon the federal state, and Benjamin Dichter who is a smidge racist, but so far hasn’t been overtly demanding the overthrow of the Canadian government. With these players behind the scenes, it kinda seems like the whole convoy is being driven by a far-right desire to abandon democracy and get rid of the government because they just hate the Liberals and Trudeau so much. The pandemic is more of a pretext. This would certainly explain why they went to Ottawa rather than, say, the provincial governments who are, and I can’t stress this enough, actually in control of the mandates and restrictions that impact every day Canadians.

Now, it’s entirely possible that the organizers of a protest are merely the catalyst for a movement that spiraled out of their control, and the vast majority of protesters don’t align with what the convoy organizers had in mind when they sent them all to the nation’s capital. Fine. Let’s say they really do just want to get rid of all vaccine mandates, all restrictions, everything to do with the pandemic and go back to normal. Unfortunately, at its core, what this belief entails is a tacit acceptance with the dying off of the elderly, the immuno-compromised, and the vulnerable. Even if the convoy is only about what its most ardent apologists say it’s about, it still espouses a eugenicist belief that makes sense for white supremacists and Nazis to hop on to. The weak must be purged to allow normalcy for the strong. Pointing to a few ethnic minorities at the protest doesn’t eliminate that fact.

Other Nazis are fine

Let’s look at some context. The Americans recently surpassed over 900,000 Covid deaths. Let’s compare that to the number of American deaths from every war they’ve ever been in since the Revolutionary War that started the dang country. Take a moment to think of what that number might be, and then read that it’s 1.35 million. In two years, America has had almost as many deaths as they’ve ever had from war. Add in a new variant after Omicron, and they just might beat it in another year. People have made jokes that the anti-maskers wouldn’t have survived the Blitz on England during WW2 with their whinging about having to wear a piece of fabric over their mouths for a much more destructive catastrophe, but if we’re making war analogies, they wouldn’t be whiny babies, they would be collaborators, traitors to the common good of society by facilitating the spread of the virus.

Masks work. Vaccines work and are safe. The vast majority of people are in favour vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and restrictions because the vast majority of people understand that masks and vaccines and all of those things are effective in saving lives and keeping the world going. It’s arguable that the Liberals won over the Conservatives in the last election because Justin Trudeau was stronger on vaccine mandates than Erin O’Toole. We have plenty of government mandates that nobody argues about; you can’t smoke in restaurants anymore because people noticed that what smokers exhaled was toxic to those around them when it was contained in an indoor space – sound familiar? And how many in the convoy do you think wore their seatbelts, used their turn signals, and stayed on the right side of the road on their trek to Ottawa? Data doesn’t exist on this, but I can safely imagine it’s all of them. Could be because these mandates keep road users safe, and the truckers didn’t want to die on the way to their protest demanding their right to spread a deadly disease. Golly gee.

When the garbage fire expresses shock at the mainstream media disregarding the “good” happening in the convoy and wish they took the protest’s message more seriously, this is why nobody takes it seriously. What the protest is asking for doesn’t work in protecting people from the virus, isn’t popular, and wouldn’t even return life back to normal, economically-speaking. #BestSummerEver! Unless what is being asked for is actually to overthrow the Canadian government, what is being asked for doesn’t actually make empirical sense. At least a far-right coup is logically consistent.

If no one can work because they’re sick, and no one can obtain any services because those workplaces are now closed or impoverished in staffing, and the hospitals are overflowing because people keep dying, at least our Prime Minister won’t be wearing those dumb socks anymore

With all that said, the same article I linked to suggesting that very few people are against Covid restrictions still outlines that mental health levels are reaching critically low points, and government approval is tanking. Nobody is enjoying the pandemic; nobody is enjoying restrictions. Most people just recognize that extreme measures are needed to make sure we don’t kill off all our loved ones. That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done.

If I turned this into a blog about all the things that could be done to ameliorate people’s lives during the pandemic, it would be way too long and I’ve already spent more time than I wanted writing it. Just-In-Time supply lines have proven ineffective, and the general motive to consistently seek out the lowest bidder to develop every aspect of our economy has proven incredibly destructive. The number of hospital beds in 1980 was 6.75 per 1000 inhabitants, and that dropped to 2.5 in 2019 – we have been very much neglecting our health sector. “Flattening the curve” was argued to ensure our healthcare system wouldn’t be overwhelmed, but it was overwhelmed every day before the pandemic even started. There’s lots more that could have been done. Uniform and reliable paid sick leave would have been nice. Maybe a Universal Basic Income so that people wouldn’t be forced into unsafe working conditions? We’ve tried it successfully before…

Wouldn’t it be nice if the convoy expressed ideas that might actually make lives better? Become a communist today!

The idea of protesting pandemic measures, or seeing the nuance in guideline enforcement, is necessary because we haven’t done it perfectly. We can always be smarter in how we handle the pandemic, and democracy demands public accountability. Heck, most provinces have even already cut back a lot of restrictions, though a gradual return makes far more sense than quitting cold turkey. However, Covid-19 has highlighted a significant number of issues in our society that I never even got into: the deadly consequences of insufficient housing and evictions, what counts as essential to society and how well it’s respected, and so on. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us turned to Tiger King to comfort us in our ennui rather than do something about it. The far right decided to do something about it; they’re just myopically focused on their hatred of liberals and Liberals. People who might have more nuanced views about how pandemic measures could have been done better either keep their mouths shut, or join a thinly-veiled fascist and ableist mob. That’s not a binary that’s going to make the world more livable. I mean, doing nothing is clearly the better choice, but it’s choosing the conditions that are allowing the fascistic percolation to maintain itself. Who knows what kind of monster the status quo will birth if we give it enough time.

The war in Afghanistan began with the oppressive, theocratic Taliban in power, and ended with the oppressive, theocratic Taliban in power. Sisyphus rolled his Katamari Damacy boulder up the mountain, and it rolled right back down again. The absurdity of the war is obvious on its face, but there is a desperation to find meaning within it that would make Camus blush. Though it’s somewhat old news by now, during the American withdrawal, there was all sorts of noise about how Western forces were abandoning their Afghan comrades to the brutality of the Taliban.

I am not trying to diminish the severity of what the Taliban has done and will continue to do with those dissenting under its rule. My glibness comes as a result of the crocodile tears shed over the bodies of those slain during the withdrawal from the war that ignore the over a hundred thousand bodies that accumulated preceding it. Losing a war is bloody; that’s the reality of war. If you don’t like it, maybe question the war itself rather than the means of its end.

The realities of war

The tears come from the bipartisan desire to create meaning in a pointless war: if there are good Afghans to save, it means that the war produced good Afghans worth saving. Nobody would have given a shit about them otherwise; the West would be much more inclined toward taking refugees if there was a heartfelt belief that we need to create a safe haven for those fleeing violence and persecution. The sad irony is that those whose freedom from the Taliban was being demanded were those who had aligned themselves with the invaders, cementing the linking of a “good” Afghan with their complicity in the war.

Another central tenet that the war in Afghanistan was meaningful is the women’s liberation that the war provided. Some women were able to go to school, and therefore 20 years of death, torture, and war crimes are vindicated. Those women are worse off now than they were before; again, no argument, but finding miniscule acts of success to justify what is otherwise 20 years of pointless war is incredibly ignorant. In actuality, using war to generate feminism is more likely to produce a nation of incels who see feminism as cancer than an Islamic Feminine Mystique.

Thanks, Betty Friedan!

Using feminism as justification for the war in Afghanistan, and gesturing loosely toward the mostly urban women who benefited, pointedly ignores the majority of women who live in rural settings where most of the war took place. Afghan women were certainly not benefitting from the war when they and their families were dying from it. The quick rise of the Taliban points to a nation hungry for incel-logic; Afghanistan may actually be worse off than it was 20 years ago from the perspective of democratic and liberal reformation due to the brutality used allegedly in its name. Sisyphus’s boulder fell back down the mountain and into a ravine. The West tried to viciously impose liberal secularism in Iran with the Shah, and he too was violently overthrown by a virulently religious fundamentalist group. Any positive regard held for Western ideals is just as dead as all the rest of them.

The war made Afghanistan worse, and for what? The bipartisan narrative adopted in much of the media paints the picture of a blundering but ultimately benevolent force trying so hard to do good but occasionally failing in simple but horrific ways. Like if Rocky Balboa knocked out Apollo Creed in the first round, but because his eyes were all bruised up and he couldn’t see, he wandered into the crowd and begun striking civilians at random. At home we’re watching and thinking, no! Rocky! If only Mickey had cut you so you could see! We are helpless as Rocky bludgeons old women and children in his missteps. Then, after the crowd boos too loudly for too long, we lament Rocky leaving, shaking our heads at the blows he receives on his way out the door. Meanwhile, Apollo Creed has gotten up and dusted himself off, and being the only one left standing in the ring, claims victory.

YO AMERICAAAAAAAA!

We could still love Rocky after such a blunder. It’s forgivable. But that’s not how war works. The better analogy would be if Rocky was at a bus stop where Apollo Creed was reading a newspaper, and Rocky was like, “I heard you hate women!” and then pulled out a gun and shot him. Then he wandered away from the bus stop to a nearby wedding reception and shot up the guests. And he did so with eyes wide open.

The West knew what was going on in Afghanistan. They’re actively preventing themselves from being held accountable to international law. We’ve had whistleblowers point out the war’s criminality to us repeatedly and they’re all being punished for it by both American political parties. And for what? For what? For literally no reason. Terrorism didn’t go away; Al-Qaeda evolved into ISIS-K. Afghanistan is fully red pilled. America wanted war instead of justice, the rest of the West went along with it, and this is what we’re left with.

Cartoons make the villains easy to spot!

I’ve purposefully avoided talking about the military-industrial complex and how the reason for the war is obviously all the money that was made by the defense contractors and weapons manufacturers. It’s not that I disagree, it’s that we don’t have a smoking gun pointing to that level of Machiavellianism, and I want to be as convincing as possible. The war is provably pointless in a way that ought to make us reflect on why it ever happened in the first place. When there is no justification for a war, it’s a lot easier to compare it to straight-up murder. The war in Afghanistan was criminal. Those who participated in it are criminals. Anyone saying otherwise is covering up a crime.

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?