Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Benevolent Dictator isn't a Fascist

In a post a while back I advocate the best of our worst options for saving our species:  a government that forces us be less wasteful.  It's an idea that James Lovelock proposed, and some called it fascist. But there's a world of difference between enforcing legislation that actually protects the citizens in the long term and a police state.

John Oliver did a series of clips about how Australia managed to change their laws to ban semi-automatic weapons and seriously restrict other guns.  The trilogy is well worth a watch at only 18 minutes in total.  But the part that interests me is the idea that politicians had to commit political suicide in order to pass the legislation through, AND they were willing to do this for the good of the country.  People protested the new restrictions and voted the politicians who supported it out of office.  But it had already passed.  This was in 1996, and since then, the citizens have gotten used to the restrictions on their freedom and appreciate that mass shootings have gone from almost one/year down to zero.

Restrictions on freedom aren't always something to rebel.  Sometimes having a few boundaries in place to keep us from doing stupid things is useful.  I have two new kittens and, even though the older cat gets to come and go as he pleases, the kittens will be kept indoors for the first year.  I do that because it's in that time outside too young that previous kittens have lost their lives.  They're just too dopey to run from the looming noise of a car.  But if I can restrict their freedoms for a period, they can survive to their natural lifespan.  And they are protesting the perceived injustice of this by howling and literally climbing the screens.  They want out there.  But it's my job, as the queen of the house, to keep them safe from their own stupidity.  

So proposing that we have leaders who work for the people by protecting us from harm through restrictive legislation, is not to say I think we need some healthy fascism!  We need governments, stripped from corporate control (that's the hard part) to make us stop producing GHGs willy nilly.  California is on the right track with Title 24.  And Ontario's MicroFIT program, that essentially pays people to put solar on their homes, is also moving us in the right direction (except they advertised it so poorly, few people got on board).  I think we can go further by making some serious changes to the way industry operates - but worldwide so they don't all just move to some place with fewer laws or enforcement.  And we can plan the best locations for wind turbines and get them up and running regardless the protests.  Reducing GHG has to become priority one.  

Residentially, where the citizenry will feel it most, what if we were made to ration the amount of electricity we use?  Monbiot suggested it years ago, and we're at a point that, while there'll definitely be protests, many people will accept a restriction in consumption.  Maybe some technology that prevents the heat going too high, or the A/C going too low.  I'd appreciate that on hot days when stores and offices seem to keep the A/C at 12 and I have to shiver in a tank top waiting my turn.  And then there's all the unnecessary driving people do.  I'm sure we can find a way to put the brakes on that too!

But it takes politicians with ball of steel to be willing to push it all through knowing they'll be voted out of office in the next round.  They have to be willing to commit political suicide for the good of the country - and the world - and our species!  We need to be saved from ourselves.   Harper's not the one, but maybe next time we'll find someone who sees the forest for the trees - and doesn't cut them all down.


Lorne said...

There may indeed be merit in your suggestion, Marie, but I think the problem is found in your identification of the solution: politicians who are willing to commit political suicide. I know of no such animal in this country, and I believe he/she is on the endangered species list worldwide.

As I was out on my bike this morning, enjoying the offerings are nature that are abundant in my environs, I could only think of how so many people are isolated by their sedentary and insulated lives from the larger world by and its most pressing threat, climate change. Any real prospect for change, as dim a hope as that may be, has to come from people demanding it our politicians. As long as they remain mute, passive and distracted, things will only get worse, the self-sacrificing politician a nice idea but, unfortunately, little more than a vain hope.

Marie Snyder said...

I agree with the first bit, but have a problem with the second. Absolutely the self-sacrificing politician is a vain hope, but it is possible. It happened in Australia, so it's possible it could happen here. We're not so different. But first they have to cut ties with corporations. That's the trickiest bit of all. I think only the NDP or Greens have a shot at that. Maybe.

But my fear is that it's actually far less likely that the citizen will rise from the couch and join en masse to protest the government. I'm a cyclist, and just stepped inside for the first time today to cool my head from the baking sun, and I have an enormous love of nature. But I think our kind is few and far between. I work with school groups and neighbourhood groups and associations that claim to be environmental but won't write letters, use travel mugs, build composters, put up laundry lines, or walk to the store. They'll talk at length about one day building a straw-bale house while they drink water from a disposable bottle. I'm pretty much giving up on us. We're an easily distracted lot. The other environmental teacher at my school is forwarding on facebook accolades about a letter that complains that Tim Horton's lids are hard to manage - not that the plastic is wasteful, the cups use 6 million trees a year, or the ease of buying a travel mug - but that he sometimes spills on himself.

We're doomed. Cheers!

Anyong said...

Marie: I certainly agree with your observation regarding people who say they are environmental but don't act. I had the great pleasure on Wed. past, to attend a meeting about rebuilding a seniors centre destroyed by the recent flood in Albeta. I was not allowed to ask my several questions regarding the cost of raising the centre above the flood line as apposed to building a new building somewhere else or refurbishing an existing building. Why? I mentioned the mayor not by name but what had taken place in the city hall meeting earlier in the week regarding this issue. People were favoured in the crowed to ask questions. When this sort of behaviour takes place, do we have to wonder why we have the PM we do in Ottawa at the present time?

The Mound of Sound said...

The problem with corporatism, Marie, is that it is an essential part of politics in a petro-state. Perhaps the single greatest threat to our already beleaguered democracy is our corporate media cartel. In the 70s we understood the role that media plays in keeping democracy healthy. We agreed that for the media to perform its role it was essential that it offer the public the broadest range of information and opinion from the far right to the far left and everything in between. It was accepted as a given that this could only be achieved by keeping two vices in check - concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership.

When media ownership becomes tightly concentrated as it is in Canada today there are very few voices, a narrow and shallow range of opinion. They speak as one, reading from the corporate agenda. Diversity is gone and, with it, the instrument by which we can maintain an informed public.

Worse yet, with concentration of ownership comes the discounting of information. Facts are public and anything that can't be owned is a poor commodity. However facts spun become messaging and messaging is proprietary and to certain groups or individuals massively valuable.

Once the media cartel transforms into a vehicle for messaging it enhances its political utility. It is no coincidence that the ascendancy of our corporate media cartel marked a profound switch from media as the watchdog of government to media as the lapdog of government. Our media cartel can only serve the political classes at the expense of its obligations to serve the public.

Now, Marie, do you hear Trudeau the Lesser championing the cause of breaking up the media cartel? No? Well what about Tommy Mulcair? No? That demonstrates their fealty to the corporatist order, itself a precursor to oligarchy.

Which leaves us with the lone progressive voice in federal politics, the Greens. I discovered, shortly after parting ways with the Liberals and joining the Greens, that my new party has a clear policy platform on breaking up the cartel, forcing divestiture of media outlets.

It's obvious to me that we don't stand much chance of restoring progressive democracy with either the Libs or the NDP. These are parties that are committed to doing very, very little that might be remotely controversial.

Marie Snyder said...

It's the kind of thing that points to the notion that we already don't have a democracy - not really. Not that we should throw out the idea, but.... it just has to get better somehow. Something's got to give.

Marie Snyder said...

The one hope I have for media, if it can go in the right direction, is the internet. So many alternative mags are out there, often for free, and people can read what the opposition says. I list some of them on my school website so students can access them for weekly article assignments. For people who read and think (and care), they can find the truth out there. It's a long shot for the masses, but it's possible.

On the NDP - I was really disappointed with Mulcair wanted to maintain or lower taxes. WTF? I'm too left for the current NDP, but they're finally making some headway! I'm not sure the Greens can get there in time, and I wish they could amalgamate and go at the other two balls out!

Lorne said...

Marie, I checked out your alternative media website. Some excellent and provocative choices! I've bookmarked them. It sounds like your students are very fortunate to have a teacher who is inculcating critical thinking skills. I used to try to do some of what you are doing with a six-week unit inspired by Orwell's Politics and the English Language, but it sounds like your work is ongoing throughout the semester. Excellent work!

Marie Snyder said...

Thanks Lorne - Yes I've totally deserted the actual curriculum (largely demographics - the difference between the elderly and youth - yawn) in favour of globalization issues. Nobody's called me on it yet!