A quiet panic clawing my throat, barely held at bay by the frequent and deliberate redirection of my attention, grew to a fevered pitch this morning with the rash of mainstream media headlines proclaiming Harper storming to a majority. I guzzled some Bromo Seltzer, tuned into Judge Judy for half an hour and my world began to morph back into the craggy, slightly psychotic but comfortably familiar mien I have come to know. There are some stragglers still stuck in my craw though. I keep coming back to one pulsating question: Seriously Canada, this is who we are?
This man, Stephen Harper, is who we select time and time again to represent our values, aspirations and ideals? Are we no more than a mean-spirited, fear-guzzling, self-centered, xenophobic, reactionary, nation of apathetic tv watchers stuffed to the gills with sound bites and outright lies, whose favourite past time is the stalking and capture of the almighty dollar? Have we become such middle class gourmands that we can afford to carry the cellulite Harper world view around our midriffs in all its spare tire glory? Be damned the clogging of our arteries!
Yes, the economy is important but for very different reasons than the corporatists, who now hold sway, would have us believe. Their concern for the middle and lower class is fickle, superficial and ephemeral; were their need for labourers to disappear tomorrow, all but the very elite would find themselves soon kicked to the curb. A strong economy is important because it allows us to surpass the hard-scrabble battle of survival and to give of ourselves, to our families, our neighbours and strangers. This is why we join in the struggle to better the economy.
The Harper mantra for this election is “economy”. I can almost see him reclined in the lotus position, his tantra opens in his mind’s eye and he starts his chant, “E…connn… aummm…y…E…connn…aummm…y“. Well, you get the idea. Oh, a quick aside to any real right wing readers, just because I mentioned the lotus flower does not a Maoist of me make. In any case, it’s almost as if Harper’s relentless chanting of this basic mantra has swept the nation into a transcendental, robotic state of acquiescence. We all nod in rhythmic, automaton agreement, “Yes master, the economy is supreme”. But we should stop and consider why the economy is important to us on an individual and national level. It is not an end in and of itself, rather, it is a means to an end. A strong economy lets us fulfill our better instincts; to feed and educate our children, to ensure that every citizen has equal access to healthcare and education, to offer refuge to, both, citizens and foreigners in distress, to improve the world we leave to future generations, to promote universal human rights, to facilitate and maintain peace amongst individuals and nations and to ensure that justice is applied in an even handed, non-discriminatory fashion. These are only a few of the jewels in the crown of a thriving economy but each one has far greater value and longevity than any accumulation of wealth could ever aspire to.
Despite this, the Harper Tories, given their druthers, would pry out the gems, melt down the gold and divide it all amongst corporations and the wealthiest few, while attempting to convince the rest of us, who have been left to wrestle over the slag, that this is all doable due to some previously untapped alchemical process. Jets, prisons, corporate tax cuts – no worries! We can haz it all! Just eat your slag and shut up. Huzzah!
Harper’s Tories want us to believe that we are on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, hunted by the Balrog and that they alone can fend off the monster. “Fly, you fools”, Harper shouts as he wrestles the great, unearthly economic undoing into the abyss. I fervently believe that we are better than that. We still have it in us to be the nation we were building towards when we abolished the death penalty, introduced universal health care, led the way in peacekeeping and threw our doors open to refugees and immigrants. We have it in us to be that nation because that is the country we inherited from our forefathers whose footprints, albeit somewhat faint these days, are, nonetheless, indelible . It is the spirit of Canada and though it may be dormant now, the time for hibernation always comes to an end. When that slumbering beast awakes, rubs the sleep from its eyes and gathers its wits, it will find it has an insatiable hunger for the progressive, fair and kind Canada that once filled its belly. If only the progressive centre-left would take its hand off the self-destruct button, that beast might have a chance of finding much needed sustenance.
Looking at you Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Elizabeth May.