Keep On Your Mean Side

“How many kids drowned in pools in Canada this last summer? Do you blame the government for that?”

I imagine most of us can picture that statement erupting from a relative at some family gathering where the boozy conversation has turned political. angryfamilygatheringNot necessarily a close relative. Maybe not even a relative. How about the boyfriend of a 2nd cousin, say, a boyfriend who was apparently raised by wolves, wolves devoid of any feeling of empathy toward their own.

Such a mean streak is not a new phenomenon. We’ve all had those kinds of relatives or acquaintances in our lives, either tolerating them with a tight smile and pivot to another gathering of people at the party or responding with a bellicose, Fuck you, you fucking idiot fuckity fuck!

But I’d argue that it’s relatively recent that we’ve started putting those holding such extreme anti-social views to positions of power. On the whole, we managed to marginalize them on the fringes, shouting their ridiculous cant at the passing clouds. Any appearance of contributing to actual decision making was merely a formality. Oh, right. Enough people thought you capable of holding public office to elect you. manyellsatcloudSo just sit down, shut up and we can make it look as if you’re somehow involved in the process.

In these parts that all changed in 1995 with the coming of the Common Sense Revolution and the election of Mike Harris as premier of Ontario. Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto in 2010. Stephen Harper’s eventual ascension to majority status in 2011 that began its slow crawl to the Prime Minister’s office in 2006.

His hideous non-response this week to the Syrian refugee crisis now spilling over its Middle East borders, manifest in the drowning of two young children fleeing the war zone across the Mediterranean (and eliciting the above outburst from one of his vetted supporters at a campaign rally) represents everything that comes from indulging our mean streak. “This is a challenge for African and European countries in and around the Mediterranean,” then Conservative Defence Minister Jason Kenney said back in April. “We do not bear responsibility for decisions that people make to hire unscrupulous human traffickers and put them in danger’s way.”

A shrug. Not my problem. People fleeing death and destruction should be more careful who they trust when trying to stay alive.

Forget the fact this very same Conservative government loved to boast how it was playing its part in bringing the death and destruction with bombing sorties in the region. meanstreakIt was about killing the bad guys. The collateral damage just came with the territory and we bore no responsibility in dealing with that aspect of our warmongering.

When the grim reality of the situation finally sank in this week, many harkened back to a more enlightened and humanitarian time in our history. 1979 and 60000 ‘Indochinese refugees’ fleeing a war we weren’t even involved in relocated here. What happened to that Canada, we wondered.

That was a blip in our national consciousness, I’d argue, the result of a federal leadership’s aspirational call for a Just Society. Implicit in that, of course, is that we as a country hadn’t always endeavoured toward justice. Every example of compassionate goodwill and generosity can be clouded by evidence of cowardly and vitriolic intolerance. Hell, the notion of Canada is built on a foundation of genocidal colonialism that still reverberates, grudgingly acknowledged but hardly addressed.

So maybe it’s not good enough to simply try to keep our collective mean streak in check and relegated to the sidelines in a dim spotlight. blindfoldedTo keep pretending that it’s not really us, not who we are, really. A few bad apples who don’t represent our true, more benevolent nature.

Let’s dispense with that willful affectation that keeps us feeling better about ourselves. It’s time, long past time, to confront who we actually are as a country, what values we represent, the kind of community, society, world we want to build and be part of. We have to face down our mean streak and either defeat it resolutely or accept the nasty fact that’s just who were are and stop feigning anything different.

angrily submitted by Cityslikr