Sunday, October 21, 2018

stephen harper's new buk

So, plodding dullard, pants-pissing coward, anti-democratic doofus, brazen hypocrite, overall incompetent, stephen harper has (in a desperate attempt to appear relevant) farted out a book of sorts.

It's called I'm Really Stupid Now (or something). In it, he apparently says that something he calls the global free-market economy has produced winners and losers and that these fucking losers are turning to extremists such as Donald Trump (on the right) and Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn (on the left).

Of the two extremes, harper says that he's more scared of the left. [Since harper is on "coward" mode full-time he's obviously terrified to the point of nausea and incontinence.] What is necessary to combat this extremism is to construct a "conservatism" that pays attention to working people's concerns.

I'll give Andrew Coyne a word-in here. (While I think Coyne's own political-economic theories are incredibly dangerous, he showed himself to be one of the more principled critics of harper's contemptuous treatment of Canada's parliamentary institutions, and he therefore has my respect.)

And yet the mind it reveals is not that of the subtle, sometimes rueful voice of experience he clearly wishes the reader to imagine. It is, rather, all too conventional, even banal. What are presented as iconoclastic insights, in which the rise of populism is explained in terms of the failings of conservatism — former Conservative prime minister breaks with decades of conservative orthodoxy! — are a mix of received wisdom and undergraduate shibboleths, many of them long debunked.

It was Jim Owen, guest-blogging at Dr. Dawg's who first hepped me to harper's sad effort. I'll quote a couple of sections wherein he, like Coyne, exposes harper for the banality that he is:

Apparently globalists are doing much better than localists, but in Mr. Harper’s argument this remains a hidden premise, which spares him the trouble of explaining it. How globalists came to be independent of the nation-state, and how exactly this confers invulnerability from the woes affecting localists, is left to our imagination. One supposes that perhaps they are wealthier, and that there might be a class conflict between a wealthy globalist elite and a dispossessed state-bound proletariat. Certainly Harper employs the claim, in explaining the West’s restive populism, that “incomes of working people have stagnated or even declined over the past quarter-century.” But, curiously for an economist, he does not clearly connect the growing wealth gap with the dominant form of economic activity in the West, that is to say, a capitalism that actively resists state regulation....It is a regrettable trait of ideological thinking to start with an answer, and then apply it to whatever problems one observes. Stephen Harper has correctly identified a growing class conflict between the well-to-do and “working people” — an idea he might have encountered in another form during his studies in economics — but has made the colossal blunder of failing to work from this observation towards a rational and unprejudiced course of action. Instead he clings to a set of “values” that must guide us, notwithstanding their suspicious resemblance to the very principles that he says got us into the mess in the first place: pro-market, pro-trade, pro-globalization, pro-immigration. More than this, he says that any unnamed alternatives would be “a big mistake” without offering any reasons why, at least in this excerpt....There is more to be said about this book excerpt. Its analysis of the Make America Great Again movement in terms of the international politics of Iraq and Afghanistan is regrettably shallow. According to Mr. Harper, these misadventures incurred “enormous human and financial costs…with very little success.” As a result, “global security deteriorated,” which fed the populist America-first movement. One longs to explore the failures of these initiatives, and to trace the concomitant deterioration of security, in order to learn what mistakes were made and how they might be prevented.

In short, harper has produced what could only be expected of him. A dully written set of shallow assertions about the state of the world and his wholly inadequate suggested solutions. Some people are evil geniuses. They're terrifying in their creativity and their practical accomplishments. Whereas others people, like stephen harper, are more like this small lump of foul-smelling evil sitting in the middle of the room. It's best when faced with a turd like stephen harper, to get a dustpan and a broom and sweep it up and toss it outside.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Traumatized Societies

I once watched a documentary about Berlin in the interwar period. "City of Sex" was the title I believe. I was interested because Weimar Berlin was also a hot-spot of artistic creativity: Dada (brought in by the German ex-pats who created it in Zurich during WWI, Expressionism, Bauhaus, Brecht, Gross, the cabarets,etc., etc.,). Also, I was interested in just how those stodgy old-folks from the 1920s (okay, they were youngsters then) were able to shake-off the Victorian-era prudery that persisted everywhere else until the late-1960s.

Ah! Here's a link to the documentary: "Cultural Alchemy Special Berlin Sin City of the 1920's." Now, it's either in that documentary or I heard it somewhere else, but this is what I heard; That (with a little joke about typical German organizational abilities) in 1920's Berlin you could go to one street and find mother-daughter prostitute teams. Another street was pregnant prostitutes. Another one was fat prostitutes. And so-on and such-forth.

Now, here's the thing: There had never been such a time in Berlin's past or in its future when the women of that city decided to do such things. I'm guessing that they were desperately poor due to the unemployment and the hyper-inflation and the other economic fall-outs from defeat in the First World War. I'll also go out on a limb and imagine that their clients were the war-profiteers, speculators and con-men of the era, plus wealthy foreigners from England, the USA, and France mostly.

Meanwhile, the men (who were not starving at home, perhaps getting drunk and disagreeable while spending the money their prostitute wives were earning) were fighting each other in the streets as socialists, communists and fascists. Again, this was due to the economic crises resulting from the War.

These economic crises were on top of  the moral crises that come out of defeat in war. I know that we Canadians get a little thrill out of having bested the Yanks in 1812-14 (even though that was the achievement of British regulars and Iroquois warriors; the latter of whom we've have treated abysmally ever since) and out of having been on the winning side in most of our other conflicts. The British certainly puff-out their chests over their victories in the two World Wars (and many others besides). France was subjected to an intense round of soul-searching over the 1941-44 period. And they weren't plunged into anything like the interwar catastrophes following WWII.

So, the Germans, a proud and militaristic people, were defeated in WWI, subsequently disarmed and demoralized and then ground down into the gutter by economic crises for two decades. They were traumatized as a society. And the response of those desperate times (as allowed for by German capitalism) was Hitler's fascism. And we all know how well that worked out.

But Hitler wouldn't have gotten anywhere if capitalism hadn't have fucked-up so badly. Hitler's rise was assisted by the immediate dislocations of 1918-19. Then by the hyper-inflation of 1921-23. His Nazi Party's support was ebbing in the late-1920's before soaring again in the Great Depression of 1929-33. The point is that traumatized societies are not healthy societies and they go in unhealthy directions.

An obvious indicator of this is the Trump presidency. True, he didn't win the popular vote. True, Hillary Clinton won more votes in absolute numbers than any of her predecessors. This BBC article gives a good analysis of the numbers though, and adjusting for population growth and other things, Hillary Clinton did better than Gore did against Bush II, but not so staggeringly well as her proponents insist.
The 2004 election had a higher turnout than the 2016 election by about 1.7% of the voting age population, Stanford University political scientist David Brady points out.
If the 2016 election had the same percentage of voting age population, about 2 million more voters would have gone to the polls.
Important fact that. Anyway, the point is (I keep having to use that phrase) that Trump is a symptom of a sick society. If things weren't so consistently shitty, then the level of anger and hatred against the status-quo wouldn't be so intense. (Stupid and/or ignorant people have always blamed scapegoats for their plight, and the more people for whom the word "plight" sums up their situation, the more support you have for racist blowhards like Trump.)

Women are traumatized. This has just occurred to me. Some guys hate women because they've been hurt or rejected by them. They'll bloviate about their hate and loathing of women at great length on the internet amongst like-minded "Men's Rights Activists" or "MGTOW" or "Incel" sub-groups. But these same men can't wrap their heads around the idea that women might therefore have good reasons to hate men. And if they do, they're just engaging in "typical man-hating feminism." But read the accounts of sexual assault survivors. And of victims of sexual discrimination and harassment throughout this patriarchal society's institutions and across history. (In all honesty, I meant to write about something else here but this just dawned on me. And, you know, I think if there's one thing that makes this notion of "trauma" not apply here, it's that "trauma" applies to a profound change of circumstances. Women and long-oppressed minorities generally don't act traumatized because they've spent their entire lives under such conditions. They've been conditioned/reconciled to their state of affairs since birth basically. Still and all, abuse is abuse.

The Jews were traumatized by the Holocaust. They'd been an oppressed minority for over a century in Europe. But the industrial-scale slaughter carried out by Hitler and his Nazis was unheard of. It traumatized them. The helplessness and the humiliations. And, so, they started acting-out. Everything they've done in the Middle East, in Palestine, since 1945, has been the result of the societal trauma created by the Holocaust. And for too long (and not for entirely this reason) we've indulged them out of guilt over their trauma. But it's not good to enable a traumatized person's indulgences. A trauma victim might turn to booze or drugs. They might abuse the people around them. They might became selfish, entitled, self-pitying human wreaks if nobody steps in to teach them more proper ways to heal.

Unfortunately that's not what we've done with Israel. They've been enabled, and enabled, and forgiven and indulged and now they're a sickeningly racist, blubbering self-pitying, murderous, disgusting nation. From top-to-bottom they're moral imbeciles and their judgments upon others are looked at with derision by sane people.

The Middle East is being traumatized right now. Just as the Jews suffered in Europe, the whole Middle East; Arabs, Muslims, Kurds, etc., ... what do we think the long-term ramifications are going to be from millions slaughtered, tens of millions made refugees, tens of millions losing their countries and being governed by US-puppets or (often the same thing) Jihaadist psychopaths? The helplessness and the humiliation. If it wasn't for the fact that the monsters in Washington DC like terrorism because terrorism provides excuses for the military-industrial-complex and the surveillance state, this would be seen as a bad thing. But for those witless foolish monsters, it's GOING to be a bad thing, by their definition, because the level of terrorism created by the massive trauma of tens of millions of people since the beginning of the Great Bullshit War on Terror will be much bigger than they think they can control.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

More Easy Answers

So, yeah. Easy answers. Achievement without effort. This desire for maximum output with minimum input is hard-wired into us. Being able to figure out the simplest way to achieve one's goals is a survival mechanism. But sometime's evolutionary traits can backfire. Especially when one lives within a self-reinforcing protective bubble of information.

The climate change deniers, the anti-vaxxers, right-wing troglodytes, Hillary-bots, partisans of all stripes, hive off into their little communities of self-adulation and self-praise and become so enamored of the endless stream of mental rewards they dole out to one another that they become disconnected from reality.

And when the deluded praise supplants the actual achievements, they don't even notice how insane they're acting. Personally, I'm of the opinion that Justin Trudeau is probably not a bad guy. I'm sure he's somewhat arrogant due to the prestige of his father's name and due to his own astonishingly good looks. Combine this with what appears to be a definite mental shallowness and I'm also sure that he's not an individual I'd ordinarily seek out for his company. (He'll live, I'm sure.) But overall, he's probably a fairly agreeable chap.

So why is he pushing these bitumen pipelines and running roughshod over promises (very important promises) to the First Nations? Why is he continuing with stephen harper's Orwellian surveillance legislation? Why is he so prepared to be a neo-liberal thug in so many areas (albeit while wiping a tear from his liberal eye)?

Probably because he has immersed himself in the bubble of delusion that is the Liberal Party of Canada.

Think about it. He spends all day either very busy reading reports made by like-minded researchers, or speaking with like-minded partisans. And much of his workplace discussion focuses on convincing a conservative, corporatist media on the soundness of Liberal approaches to ideas and policies. He has neither the time, nor the inclination, nor the incentive to genuinely consider and interact with contrary sources of opinion.

And, when he suffers cognitive dissonance from encountering new facts that are unexplainable by his Liberal worldview, he simply stops thinking about them. And, of course, this process works for previously accepted knowledge that no longer fits with his present Liberal world-view bubble. This explains his ability to have had sincere, fruitful discussions with David Suzuki about the dangers of Climate Change and what is necessary to counteract these grave dangers, and then, following his attaining power, to simply stop talking to Suzuki. Upon gaining power, Trudeau and the Liberals immediately embraced "pragmatism," or, balancing the "needs" of the psychopaths in Calgary and Toronto's Bay Street with those of the environment and the human race.

This has to be done of course because there's a competing political party that's vying for power: The morons and troglodytes and sleazy con-artists and religious freaks and pathetic closet-cases who comprise the Conservative Party of Canada. These shit-heads deny the reality of climate change and make no pretense of serving anyone other than the capitalist elite. (That's not exactly true. They DO gratify their voting base with policies of discrimination and racism and other forms of bigotry towards scapegoats and the weak. The low-functioning level of their voting base is such as to be easily requited with the abuse of "the other" even as their own lives continue to deteriorate as a result of the main thrust of their own party's policies.)

So it is with Trudeau's false promises to the First Nations. Whatever he wants to think, Trudeau remains part of an imperialist-colonialist project of genocide against the First Nations. Their precedence on these lands, and their existing claims on rights and resources are a hindrance to the capitalist project of exploitation and so they are to be eliminated. Canada did not have the power to simply massacre them all at once and so has settled for long-term "low-intensity-conflict" wherein we destroy their languages and cultures and deprive them of services and resources (while forbidding them from accessing their own resources) and, when necessary, we break solemn promises to them while continuing to deny them the resources they surrendered and the actions they had taken, in return for those promises.

And Trudeau justifies all of this behaviour with standard Liberal platitudes, and he is able to do this because he exists within a bubble of self-reinforcing Liberal platitudes. That's how he and his witless Environment Minister can pose in super-hero costumes as "Climate Superheroes" while they continue to suck dirty tar out of the ground to give to the Chinese to burn. It's how Trudeau can continue to give heartfelt apologies to past crimes against the First Nations while continuing to inflict new ones upon them and pretending that the vast majority of the First Nations do not now hate his guts and despise the sound of his voice.

Because he's surrounded himself with a bubble of stupid Liberals and stupid Liberal platitudes. All day, every day, he's immersed in a soothing bath of "We make sure that every Canadian has a chance to reach their fullest potential" and "Politics is the art of the possible and we are the ultimate in what is possible" and "We represent ALL Canadians, rich and poor, all creeds and colours."

How to conclude this little shpiel? I don't know. Break that bubble. But how? I've sent my own Liberal MP some e-mails but I can't even be sure that he reads them.