Archives for posts with tag: Democracy

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.

In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, Bernie Sanders recently went on Fox News to discuss his vision for America. I say “recently” in the sense that Blog for Chumps is updated only ever infrequently, so this is about as Breaking News as you’re going to get. I’m only going to focus on the one section that I’ve set up in the hyperlink there, when Sanders is asked, if he likes high taxes so much, why doesn’t he take the initiative and pay more? Be the Leninist vanguard of the Keynesian welfare state!

Sanders, despite the positive reaction from the crowd, actually answers this question rather poorly. He states that he pays what he is obligated to pay, and then turns to whataboutism to ask for Donald Trump to release his tax returns to see if the President is following those same obligations. Of course, the question was not about meeting obligations, but exceeding expectations in order to conform with the ideology that Sanders allegedly espouses. Namely, higher taxes on the wealthy.

There is a much better response to this question: ignore it entirely and respond to the underlying ideology that drives it instead.

Social change is not an individualistic concept. Slavery was not abolished because one slave owner decided he didn’t think it was such a great idea anymore, and then everyone else fell in line like plantation-owning dominoes. Democracy didn’t come about because some monarch took it upon himself to diffuse his absolute power. Democracy is by definition a collective concept; imagining an individual shifting the gears of government, on their own, toward a government that literally requires the will of demos, is patently nonsensical.

Voting

I live under a monarchy. I’m going to cast a ballot, and just hope that everyone else follows my shining example. NO OTHER EFFORT REQUIRED! YAY FREEDOM!

There is a prevailing myth about Rosa Parks that she was just some random woman who had had enough, and her stubbornness ultimately lead to the dissolution of the segregated seating on Montgomery transit. Yet Parks was already an active activist and member of the NAACP before her refusal, and then she engaged with the activist community in a lengthy bus boycott to overcome the racist practice. Her decision and the consequences that followed were heavily steeped in collective action.

It’s neither individuals nor their actions that change the world. It is when individuals organize into groups that they become effective. The Civil Rights movement overturned segregated buses, just as revolution brought about democracy. Bernie Sanders paying more in taxes would do absolutely nothing to implement his goals. The question is attempting to twist hypocrisy into a situation where the very premise it is pushing is meaningless. However, there is an even darker side to the way this question (and those like it) is framed.

What this question is suggesting, beyond twisted hypocrisy, is that individual action is the solution to social problems. Billionaires just need to start changing their minds about a system that privileges them indiscriminately, and income inequality will become a thing of the past. The peasants can just wait for the king to give them rights. The slaves can wait for their masters to have a change of heart.

slave master

I tire of owning people. I guess you can have your freedom…

Immanuel Kant famously wrote that ought implies can. You are only morally obligated to make change in situations where you are actually capable of doing so. If individuals can’t change the world, then it’s not their fault. Poor people certainly can’t impact policy on their own, so they just shouldn’t worry about it. The moral duty to change the world falls entirely on the corporation, I suppose, since corporations are the only entities with the means to do so.

Individually, maybe, we bear no responsibility for the world, but we are useless as individuals. Collectively, however, we are capable of much, and that is where the responsibility lies. Here’s what Sanders should have said:

“I assume you’re asking this question because you want to frame me as a hypocrite. However, you’re assuming that anything I do makes a difference. The reason I’m sitting here talking to you at all is because I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a grassroots campaign, years in the making, that has relied almost entirely on a collection of regular people who believe this kind of policy is needed. My taking of any action on my own means nothing; it’s what we’re doing as a group that’s making a difference. In fact, in even asking this question, you’re asking the American people to look to me, or people like me, to improve their lives by, in this case, individually paying more than is legally required in taxes. Don’t do anything else, just wait for ol’ Bernie to pay more in taxes. That will start the revolution! That’s not what they should be doing, and shame on you for suggesting it! What they should be doing is joining this movement, join a union or an activist group, and push forward change that doesn’t rely on any one person to make a statement. ”

SANDERS

No idea if I’ve captured his cadence or speaking style, but who gives a shit. I think I just want Bernie Sanders to refer to himself as “Ol’ Bernie”

 

As someone on the left wing, communism tends to come up every now and then, often as more of an accusation than anything else. Now, people don’t generally understand what communism is, and whatever, but when people describe what they think it is, what they inevitably end up describing is the basic structure of a multinational corporation: a small, unelected group of elites holding tyrannical power over all those under their jurisdiction, dictating from on high the direction the collective will follow, and also everyone at the bottom is impoverished and starving.

starving-child-5

Communism: Because believing in propaganda is easier than reading books!

If the Soviet Union failed because Joe Comrade was starving rather than living in utopian abundance, then why isn’t Apple considered a failure when it has enduring criticisms of sweatshop labour conditions? Poisonous work environments and suicide epidemics? And of course, child labour, because why not? I mean sure, Apple has made a few people very, very rich to the point where movies get made about them, and now we have a whole new kind of addiction that drug addicts of the past could never even conceive of, which, I guess, kudos for changing the world, but if Stalin invented the iPhone instead of Steve Jobs, would that really change our opinion of the USSR as a country? I mean, for the sake of argument, if a company that had fruit in its name were to indirectly hire a mercenary army to overthrow a democratic government, we’d rage with equal fury to Russian interference in an election, right?

Consider Saudi Arabia. What you might not know about the Saudi kingdom is that it is technically a “socialist” state, similar to the “socialism” of the Soviet Union… Not, you know, real socialism, but the fake propaganda socialism we’ve been talking about that is interchangeable with communism. The Saudi state owns the oil production within Saudi Arabia. And wouldn’t you know it, people go nuts for that shit. People love oil, maybe even more than their iPhones. And much like the Soviet Union, the human rights record in Saudi Arabia isn’t all that great either. And, for added serendipity, it recently endured what could quite easily be compared to a Stalinistic purge. Comparisons for days!

The Saud family is hella rich. Richer than Steve Jobs. Does that mean that we have finally found that successful communist state that those on the Right routinely demand of their progressive interlocutors? I suppose that depends on a long series of ever-changing definitions. Unfortunately, nobody ever calls Saudi Arabia communist, mostly because that would lead to conflicting propagandas.

mohammad-bin-salman

MbS: The revolutionary new face of the definitely-not-communist Wahhabi regime

The differences between a privately-owned company and a privately-owned country are slim. The only objective measure of success seems to be economic (Apple would never change its working conditions if it thought it wouldn’t lose any money from the blowback; I mean, they’re still doing it, and still making money, so). Subjectively, all you have to do is play ball with the Western powers, and people will literally define words differently to suit you.

What made the Soviet Union a failure was that the people were oppressed by a tyrannical government. The solution, according to even the propaganda, is having the people direct their own future by collectively agreeing which direction they wish to go: you know, democracy. Well, the same applies to any company: the workers should direct their own future and collectively agree which direction they wish to go: you know, socialism (not communism… it’s different. Learn what words mean).