January 10, 2009

The Vicious Side of Politics

It's only a few weeks until Canadians finally get to see the Conservatives latest bastard-proposal of a budget. With the economy in the midst of death throws and our minority government doing, well, nothing of note, there are more than a few people worried about what's to come. Flaherty has done little to calm nerves as he continues to speak in some type of personal code and mentioning ambiguous and cliché terms. However, one thing that might be certain is that whatever is thrown around on January 27th is likely to be not far from what Canadians have already seen - more vicious partisan and ideological maneuvering.

There isn't necessarily anything inherently wrong with either partisanship or ideology except for one glaring exception. Both of these, if too strongly adhered to, indicates a person is close-minded and thinks in extremely marginal ways. Even this can be benign in many circumstances unless that person is in a position where they hold influence or power. In this manner, subsequent actions can become, and are often, unintentionally destructive because the lack of various perspectives that are given consideration. In other ways, these are consciously relied upon or are the driving force in decision-making and therefore are intentionally destructive and still will cause some unintentional collateral.

In politics especially there are many examples that give cause for concern about those that would rely too much on their partisanship or ideology. The most obvious and easiest one is Iraq. By now there is little doubt that Iraq has gone horribly wrong. For whatever reason GWB went into Iraq, it is clear that his intentions were less than honourable and the outcome has been pure disaster. Whether its the war crimes that have been committed, the bungling of the rebuilding, the ensuing civil war, etc. Iraq hasn't turned out at all like it could/should have.

Another recent example is the fall 'financial update' from the Conservatives. Harper and Flaherty attempted to use the economic crisis to push an agenda that would crippled the opposition parties, attempt to further erode women's equity and break workers' rights. In the end Canada saw an unprecedented unification of the opposition and the fall of a six-week old government. Or we can also look at the Conservatives decision to cut the GST by 2% which has all but crippled Canada's ability to truly be effective in dealing with the economic crisis.

The problem that truly underlies vicious politics is intention. When making decision or taking a course of action, intention plays a massive role. Intention affects how a policy is carried out, how hard a person or team works, the effort put into the completion of the task. Everything from the leadership down to grassroots is affected by the intent.

If Iraq was a truly honourable conflict, there may not have been companies such as Blackwater or Haliburton taking advantage of the crisis because oversights and management would have been better regulated and monitored. It's likely fewer troops would have been caught committing war crimes because there would have been less pressure from the media, Americans back home, Iraqi's, etc. and pride in their mission would have been greater.

Closer to home, if Harper and Flaherty's concerns were truly about the economy when attempting to cut political subsidies or attacking workers' rights, then we would have seen greater consultation. Whether this was with the opposition parties, public employees, Canadians or whomever, if the Conservatives had spent any effort actually trying to be fiscally prudent rather than playing political games then we might have seen unprecedented cooperation between all of parliament in dealing with the economic crisis. Or Canada may have been without any real concern of assisting industries, paying for infrastructure or making any other considerable decision if the GST hadn't been cut for reasons of power.

It doesn't matter that sometimes through these politically motivated actions that positives do emerge. Saddam Hussein being removed from power is especially positive for Iraq but that is overshadowed and pales in comparison to what Iraq is now facing and how the situation has been and continues to be handled. If removing Hussein from power was the purpose in the first place - for Iraqis' sake not GWB wanting to do what his father didn't - then maybe American and allied troops wouldn't be seen as invaders or occupiers and Iraq . Maybe the conflict wouldn't be as severe or wouldn't be still ongoing. And while Andrew Coyne has argued that it doesn't matter why the Conservatives were looking to axe political subsidies, that it only matters it's a positive within itself (which it is) and that is reason alone to do it, he missed that the intent that it is based on is also the reason why the proposal failed and is still around. The underlying intent is a major reason why the opposition stood up and fought hard together, why our government prorogued and is now seemingly incapable of doing anything, and why much is falling down around average Canadians and Canadian industries.

Intent is almost everything when it comes to making decisions and taking action. That is why when intent is based on deeply rooted ideology or partisanship it almost surely becomes destructive. It becomes vicious. There will be negative outcomes. There will be uncertainty and instability. That potentional, positive outcomes are never explored or given a chance. But worst of all; there will be victims. And therein lies the real problem. In most cases, people get left behind. Or worse.


WesternGrit said...

I have to say that most Canadians agree with political subsidies to ensure that only the rich parties don't dominate our democracy. We don't want to have a situation similar to the US, where money dictates who governs, rather than pure policy and public opinion...

Kyle said...

I'm not completely against the idea. I just think in its current form it's a poor program and that it can be reworked to be fair for all parties, yet force parties to rely on their own efforts on raising cash.

The Rational Number said...

I support public financing for political parties. Viz Andrew Coyne, it is a negative by itself.

I'd also like to take a look at pre-write spending, lest we enter into American-style perpetual election mode, and lose further voter turnout.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)