Bob Rae, PWOPA’s & Other Words I Invented

9 06 2012

The intertoobz have been awhirl with proclamations and castigations since it was discovered that the Liberal Party may change their rules and let Bob Rae run for leadership. This revelation was, coincidentally, on the same day that we became aware that Tory wonk Dean Del Mastro was being investigated by Elections Canada. So aligned were the gods of political opportunity for HarperCons on this fateful day that the Minister of Education may as well have announced that Bob Rae’s name would forthwith be spelled D.I.V.E.R.S.I.O.N.

Nonetheless we’ve all been there, done that and, dare I say, even got the t-shirt (which was promptly stripped off our backs). Nothing about these HarperCon tactics is new or even surprising. Harper drew a line in the sandbox a long time ago and he’s been hurling Tonka toys at anyone who disturbs it with such ho-hum regularity that I find myself stifling a yawn even describing it.

If you would indulge my whim, I’d rather talk about something that WAS surprising. It lies not within the folds of Liberal party mechanics which may reverse course on the Bob Rae ticket because this is, after all, politics. “It’s politics, duh!” – the new and improved iteration of “It’s the economy stupid!”. The surprise, for me at least, is in the vehemence with which non-Liberals are decrying the potential Rae run. Akin to someone yelling fire in a crowded theatre, I almost believed, but only for a fleeting moment, that the end of the world was going to chase me down the street, into Harper’s sandbox and hold me down until I cried uncle – though I’ve never understood why calling the word uncle was ever able to satisfy a bully’s need for dominance, but that’s just me. (Oh and I’d like to apologize to the old man I knocked down when I raced in abject terror from the theatre. Sorry dude. My bad.)

These “People With Other Party Affiliations”, or PWOPA’s™ as I affectionately call them, have dusted off and trotted out talking points that until now had been neatly stashed away in their petticoats. Someone please pass them the smelling salts quick before they faint again at the outrage of it all! Bob Rae running for Liberal leader! Harrumph!

These aforementioned petticoats remained perfectly unruffled when Bob Rae was doing a powerful job in opposition during the time of up-for-grabs leadership in the NDP. But like a wild-west gunman’s fingers twitching just above the holster, so did their talking points fidget to be freed.

Talking points: 1)“Bob Rae lied” … 2)“He used his position as interim Liberal leader to advance his agenda of becoming permanent leader” … 3)“He wasn’t able to change the needle on Liberal Party popularity during his tenure as interim leader”. In reality these are all non-issues. To adherents of talking point number one I say he did not lie, he said he would adhere to party regulations which he is doing. On the second point I counter that he was a strong voice on behalf of Canadians and progressivism – would they have found it more acceptable if he’d been a shrinking violet in an especially divisive House of Commons, I wonder? But more than that why does that mean he shouldn’t run for the top job? I don’t care if he used his position as a springboard for a leadership run (it would have been foolish to have done otherwise), I just want to choose the best possible leader. On the third talking point put forth by PWOPA’s™ I would argue that polls are not the political overlord that we are led to believe. In fact, don’t even get me started on polls or I may have to get out my sombrero and do the Hat Dance on a Nanos poll and, believe me, that would not be a pretty sight. Suffice it to say that three years are an eternity within the Canadian political aperture.

But here’s the nutshell: So what? So what if he didn’t move the poll numbers, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have the right to have him included in the pool of candidates. So what if he had a higher profile due to his position as interim leader – in fact, more reason to have him in the pool. There’s no smoke without fire… unless you include dry ice, which I won’t since it would render my adage meaningless.

None of these detractors has shown even a spark of appreciation for the work Rae did in standing up not just for Liberal values but – hold your breath while I tiptoe onto a limb here for a moment – progressive Canadian values. So, fine we have party politics as usual – you demean my leader and I’ll demean yours and we’ll all feel good about ourselves after. What bothers me, intensely, about this twaddle is the implied limitation non-Liberals feel they need to impose on my choices for Liberal leader. The Harper arrgle-bargle and fog of politics is spreading to the progressives of this country and making them behave in a HarperCon kind of way (read cynical). It has permeated our mentality so much so that some are now able to pronounce on outcomes before the empirical data is in. In fact before these outcomes have even ‘outcomed’, so to speak! (Science! Huh-yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again!)

Let me give you an example: it has been suggested by these modern day prophesiers and PWOPA’s™ that the new mechanics by which the Liberals propose to choose their next leader have failed. Wait! What? It hasn’t even happened yet, has it? Has Stephen Hawking been throwing tachyons of providence into our political mix? Let’s calm the hyper-partisan spin down and stick to the facts, when we get them in the future after the Liberal leadership experiment has been tried and tested.

My puzzlement about the wrath of non-Liberals over a potential run by Rae centres on why they are so passionate about the Liberal choice for leader. Why are they, seemingly, intent on limiting our choices? Most of us prefer to squeeze the fruit and pick the most delectable before throwing our money in the till and so it should be with those who we choose to represent us in government. I say give me options, give me all the options, tell me your plans and values and let it percolate and only then will I throw my money in the till. Only when I have squeezed your fruit, so to speak. But don’t expect me to believe that an apple is rotten when I haven’t squeezed it for myself. I don’t know who my vote will go to in the Leadership convention for the simple reason that no one has even officially thrown their hat in the ring and no platforms have yet been heard. The assumption that Liberals will vote based on celebrity as opposed to policy is a miscalculation and is immediately revelatory of a shallow understanding of core Liberal values.

I don’t know if Bob Rae is the best choice for the Liberal party going forward. I don’t care about poll numbers, particularly since an election is three years away. I don’t care about age or celebrity because in the end excellence is the great unifier. I do care about core values and policy. I do care about preventing the slow and painful erosion of my country due to the ideologically driven HarperCon agenda. And I do know that Bob Rae has done a great job for all progressives as interim leader and for that I am grateful. Bring on the leadership race and allow us to choose from a pool of strong, varied and interesting candidates, a pool which would be all the poorer were Bob Rae to be excluded.

P.S. Guys I was only kidding about the ™ symbol on PWOPA – I just thought it would make it look all academic and thoughtful.



19 06 2009

There has been much written recently regarding the etiquette of Twitter;  what is the generally accepted thing to do in terms of who to follow, and whether wanting big follow numbers is just a superficial reflection of a, heretofore, unacknowledged, post-pubescent,  high-school need to be popular. It strikes me that, with the millions of people now taking advantage of the “twitterverse” (a word which in some circles might bring you scorn were you to use it), it would be ludicrous to attempt to impose such regimental boundaries and values on the wide-ranging, culturally, ethnically and geographically diverse group of users that Twitter represents.

I have ardently followed many of the recent  Twitter news blogs and articles and the most outstanding leit-motif amongst them seems to be a need to stand out from the masses – a not uncommon phenomenon in mass media. Articles delineating why the author chose to unfollow thousands of people, articles berating people for playing the big “follow” game, and articles giving advice about who to follow and not follow depending on, of all things, their avatar or their bio (ie. If it says Location: Planet Earth then don’t follow).

In most circumstances the Twitter elite are categorized by the fact that they have a lot of followers without having to follow too many people back, if any. Why does this make them elite? It relies on pre-Twitter norms of societal judgment – celebrity. And yet, we should aspire to better things with a communication tool such as Twitter. The currently accepted norm is: You are elite if you don’t have to work hard to get people to follow you and you don’t even have to really acknowledge those followers by returning the favour of following them.

One would hope that with the trans-ethnic, trans-gender and trans-border reach of Twitter, we would be able to establish a new definition of importance. The very world “elite” itself invokes a colonialism and class-distinction whose time came and went in the 1800’s and yet still excludes people whose ideas and words we dismiss simply because they aren’t Oprah or AplusK.  Do we really have a dialogue with these so-called Twitter elite? I think, rather, we just serve as their serfs in on-going publicity wars.

Yes, I am one of those people who follows a lot of people in order to gain followers. Why has this suddenly become anathema to good Twitter manners? Are we perpetuating a new form of snobbism by suggesting that all of our followers aren’t really worthy of following back? Granted, some aren’t worth the time of day,  but methinks they count in the lower percentage. I follow back a lot of people because I would like to have a greater reach for my conversation, interaction, and, yes, influence. That being influence in terms of socio-political ideas not mass-marketing of some ridiculous software programme that will make millions of untold income for the poor sods who purchase it.

In any case, I strongly believe that all of the scolding Twitter users are receiving on a regular basis regarding how they should behave  is no more than another venue for some people to differentiate themselves from the masses. If we followed their advice and cut out the bulk of our followers or only followed the so-called elite or those with acceptable avatars,  we would severely limit the reaches of our conversations through a media that begs for, and whose very purpose is  greater global outreach.


16 06 2009

I don’t ever respond to new people who follow me! Is it rude? Does it equate to  antiquated rules of sending thank you cards whenever a person attended an event at your home or gave you a gift? I don’t think so. Thank you DM’s on Twitter have all the trappings of calling cards and thank you cards (in bygone eras they were enfolded in silk envelopes with wax seals) which fell by the way-side many decades ago – much to the chagrin of many traditionalists out there.  Let me emphasize, however, that I would never profess to know the socially acceptable mores  of the day. What I do know is what works for me.

On Twitter I follow a lot of people for the pure, unadulterated purpose of gaining followers. BLASPHEME!  Maybe, but that is what I do.  The reasons for it may not be those that the aesthetically oriented critics of Twitter would choose to acclaim – I just want to make the acquaintance of a large swath of the world’s population. I will mine the mountain to find the gems. And, quite frankly, I have found many, many gems through this method. They are more multitudinous than some Twitter observers would have us believe. I have previously  lamented the socially stratifying criticism that has been sewn on the hoards by the elite of Twitter for following more people than follow them. I don’t get the criticism. I never have and never will. It would seem that they assume that any real value in Twitter communication only arises through the celebrity ability to attract followers while following literally no one back. Rather than seeing this as just another platform for some PR programme, they have been duped into believing that this is what makes certain Tweeters special.

What does it really matter to these people if I follow more people than follow me? I have always lived my life like that. Reaching out to people with the hope of making a friendship, a communication, a thread of humanity.  And I have always treasured that connection (as much as I hate to use the word “connection”  nowadays due to its overuse on reality dating shows).

In any case, I have strayed off course, I don’t respond to my new followers because I rarely read the DM’s I get (most of them are automated) from the people I have newly followed.  Yes, I scroll down the DM’s, scouring for something unique, something meaningful. Rarely do I find it. This does not mean, however, that I believe the people who have sent them aren’t worthwhile. We all know that most of these DM’s are automated. Just like the thank you cards sent out decades ago. It’s an expectation that is easily met by using automated responses. And yes, I do agree that automated response are,  largely,  ignorable which is why I don’t send any. For that very same reason I rarely pay attention to the DM’s I get.  I don’t think there has ever been one person who has followed me who chose to unfollow simply because I didn’t send them a thank you note. Essentially, that is why thank you notes fell out of use. They became redundant. In the end we all know that the next person appreciates what you did whether it was to follow them on Twitter, send them a birthday card or give them a present. Normally we express our gratitude through every day communication – maybe some antiquated medium like the telephone or in person exchange – not through some formal thank you medium.

So let me just take this opportunity to thank all of my followers for following me. Let me also take this moment to stake my place amongst the legions of Twitterers who choose to buck the elitist system which pre-defines the value of people through a statistical sleight of numbers and which seems to be enveloping this wonderful new means of communication. BUCK IT!