Kill The Meme

January 21, 2011

Overhearing a conversation beside me… well alright, eavesdropping on a conversation beside me between a couple guys I didn’t know, one who represents some sort of Blah Blah Taxation Coalition, translation: a group who hates paying taxes… follow me here on a semi-related tangent and one more ellipitical deficiency… I want to start a group, a coalition called something like The We’re Faring Pretty Well Taxpayers Coalition and we’d advocate not necessarily for increased taxes but we’d also not summarily dismiss them as nothing less than the work of the devil himself. The WFPWTC (note: need zazzier acronym) would put out press releases and do the media circuit, arguing that for the amount of money we hand over to our governments, we get a fair bit back in return. We’d point out the many jurisdictions with much higher rates of taxation, like say, Scandinavia, that consistently best us in standard of living indices. We’d hire darling Margaret Watson of the Canadian Pensioners’ Concern who’ll say things like, We can’t get what we won’t pay for and sometimes we are our brother’s keeper with that slight Scottish burr of hers. Don’t old people say the darndest things?

Back in the real world where it’s perfectly unnatural not to loathe taxes with a passion, the guy from Grrr! I Hate Taxation Coalition states matter-of-factly and as if it’s as plain on the nose on his face and not in the least bit simple-minded, that governments just have to operate like a household. You don’t spend more than you earn, do you? Well, leaving aside the notion that if you own a house and carry a mortgage, you probably very well do spend more than you earn. It’s all about manageable debt, and we can have that conversation whether this city’s carrying a manageable debt load.

But can we cease and desist with this empty talking point about governments being just like households or businesses? It’s tired. It’s old. The first time I remember hearing it is back in the early-90s from a cheque book waving Preston Manning and his nascent Reform Party. It’s brain-dead sloganeering that leads to destructive policies brought in under the banner of Common Sense.

Governments are not just like households.

Unless of course your household spends, oh I dunno, a third or so of its annual operating budget (your household does have an official annual operating budget, yes?) on emergency services. While it’s true, I do hand over an inordinate amount of money to my wireless, internet and cable provider, a quick tally of the bills reveals it to be nowhere near a third of the household budget on such must needs. How about feeding, sheltering and basically caring for the less fortunate? Your household spend 20% of its budget on that? Jesus Christ demanded a whole lot more from us to help out the poor. I’m not even a believer and I’m a bit ashamed of not meeting his target. Transportation costs? You spend another 20% of your budget moving family, friends, neighbours and complete strangers back and forth around town?

You see what I’m getting at here? Governments are nothing like households; nor should they be expected to run like for-profit businesses either. That’s just a cheap, lazy concept. A useful canard tossed around by those who hate government in general and taxes specifically. Disagreeable sociopaths if I don’t care about being diplomatic. It’s too weak to carry even a long conversation. Yet somehow we’ve allowed an entire ideology to be propped up onto it to the detriment of many and benefit for the precious few.

So let’s just stop catering to such barren rhetoric and start having a rational discussion on the kind of society we want to live in.

annoyedly submitted by Cityslikr


Organized Bands Of Roving Thugs

June 29, 2010

Thanks to a conspiratorial roving band of criminals/anarchists/ … (fill in the blank as to your dismissive name of choice) who chose not to disavow the use of violence and instead burnt and tore some shit up on Saturday, the well-armed and equipped security forces entrenched in downtown Toronto for the G20 gathering had all the excuses they needed to respond in kind, justifying not only their heavy-handed presence but the exorbitant cost of maintaining them here. If you build a barricade, they will attempt to storm it. From the very beginning, the organizing of the summit was a provocative act, used to demonstrate the need for a police state apparatus to keep us safe from the onslaught of threats swirling around us. Crazed terrorists from the outside; civil unresters on the inside.

It strikes me as funny that law and order types, mostly right of centre leaning, will throw unlimited money and resources at what they perceive to be a problem of national security but when it comes to issues of a more social nature, well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Matters like poverty, the environment, unemployment are all best dealt with in a less is more fashion. There’s never enough money to go around especially if you’re doling out a billion dollars plus for a three day event hosting the world’s most vulnerable leaders.

But at least we know where these people stand and what it is they truly believe in.

What about the rest of us, many who merely shrugged a miffed shrug at what we felt was little more than an inconvenience albeit a costly inconvenience? Those that saw this gathering arbitrarily enforced and organized very much out of the public eye as simply an excuse for an extended summer getaway. To the cottage. To Scotland. (Yes, readers. I am indeed making a very pointed reference to those I once thought of as like-minded colleagues and fellow foot soldiers in the battle for progressive causes. I see them now as merely co-workers. Strangers sharing nothing but office space. Shame, shame I say to them and yesterday’s mea culpa should only be the beginning of their rehabilitation.) What exactly is it that they believe in?

Clearly it isn’t democratic principles. Those, we have just failed miserably. We stood idly by and watched as governments dismantled long, hard won ideals like freedom of expression and the right to open public assembly. “Designated areas of protest” do not constitute either of those freedoms. The provincial Liberal government’s Public Work Protection Act, secretively enacted by cabinet fiat earlier this month, handed over broad and very likely unconstitutional powers to the police, allowing them “to demand identification from and search without warrant anyone who comes within five metres of the security zone.” How did we find out about it? After someone was arrested and charged. Your papers! Where are your papers?!

We have not seen such intrusive, far-reaching powers granted to the government by the government since the fallout from 9/11 and, before that, Trudeau’s War Measures Act in response to the FLQ crisis. No longer does it take an actual threat for us to cravenly hand over our rights and responsibilities to the authorities. Any old perceived threat will do these days. Do we deserve any sort of freedom when we so easily hand it over with barely a peep of disgruntled complaint whenever we`re asked?

People on both sides of this battle line seem to agree on one thing: the violence we saw on Saturday did nothing to help the situation. There were many like Craig Kielburger who wrote that the nasty turn only served to diminish all of the protesters in the eyes of the public. “This group [Black Bloc] doesn’t deserve to be called protesters. Martin Luther King was a protester. He campaigned against racial segregation through non-violent tactics. The groups that marched peacefully on series of social issues, they were protesters.”

May I remind Mr. Kielburger that while Martin Luther King played an integral role in the civil rights movement, he was hardly alone in the effort. There was a more militant strain also at work within the African-American community epitomized by the likes of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. I don’t believe that one would’ve worked successfully without the other. For every Ghandi pacifist led march to independence there is the blood soaked path as witnessed in places like Algeria. The world’s beacon of freedom, the United States of America, was born from the womb of violent insurrection.

Am I likening the Black Bloc to early American revolutionaries? No. We’re simply talking tactics and I do empathize with those who feel the need to rage. While many will simply brush the riot-inclined off as professional agitators, I would suggest they’re missing the bigger picture.

When those we have elected stop listening to our concerns or wilfully ignore the requests we make upon them, what recourse is left us? The dangerous route is to throw our hands up in the air and dismiss them as only politicians doing what politicians do and head off to the cottage in disgust. Politicians will only do what we let them do and every so often they have to be reminded of that fact. Sometimes at the ballot box. Sometimes by peaceful protest. And sometimes by any means necessary.

Attempting to diminish that option with media massaged propaganda about anarchic radicals bent on nothing other than mindless destruction or trying to take it off the table entirely by an overwhelming show of official force emphasizes rather than addresses the underlying causes of dissatisfaction and anger. It is the growing disconnect between the citizens and those they have chosen to represent them that lies at the heart of the conflict that flares up every time the world’s leaders gather behind locked gates within our midst to discuss our collective future. We want to be heard not dictated to and if it requires the odd petulant outburst, so be it. Other, more reasonable methods don’t seem to be working at the moment.

violently submitted by Acaphlegmic