Death To My Hometown

June 2, 2012

To some of us of a certain vintage (aged nicely like a bottle of wine), Bruce Springsteen holds a special place in our musical hearts. He appealed to our youthful restlessness, a passionate desire to be someplace other than where we were, someplace that had to be more exciting, more grittily rock-and-roll. Where there was an opera out on the turnpike and a ballet being fought in the alley.

Teen-aged intensity gave way to a certain level of disinterest which I blame more on our move from vinyl to CDs rather than to any decline in quality in Springsteen’s output. We became more distant, less engaged and hands-on with our music. Our attention wavered and The Boss demanded utter devotion.

Or we just got old. I’m willing to accept that distinct possibility. But at some point Born To Run became less an anthem than a song that filled the dance floor with drunken wedding guests.

I bring this up not as some sort of Saturday nostalgia trip but because I came across an excerpt of Marc Dolan’s “Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock and Roll” earlier this week in Salon. Even if you aren’t a Springsteen fan or even know who he is, I highly recommend reading the article as it traces the politicization of the musician during the Reagan era and Springsteen’s own rise from cult status to full blown superstar. It is truly fascinating.

In my beer drinking days before I became a Chardonnay swilling elitist, I remember having a heated drunken barroom argument about the politics of Springsteen’s Born in the USA song. “What do you mean it’s all rah-rah America’s great!” I said indignantly. “Have you listened to the lyrics aside from the chorus?” Born down in a dead man town/The first kick I took was when I hit the ground/You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much/Till you spend half your life just covering up. “What part of that screams, Morning in America to you?”

In his book, Dolan suggests that both Reagan and Springsteen shared an overlapping ideology if not politics. A particular rugged individualism and a dream of freedom for people to pursue life on their own terms, unhindered. So much so that during the re-election campaign in 1984, the president’s handlers overtly sought to piggyback on Springsteen’s growing popularity in order to expand beyond Reagan’s traditional base. There’s a hilarious description of a buttoned-down and bow-tied George Will attending a Springsteen concert.

“In general, Will found Springsteen androgynous, noisy and surrounded by pot smokers, yet in the end he concluded that the singer was ‘a wholesome cultural portent’  As a political commentator, Will may not have cared about rock ’n’ roll’s future, but he did see Springsteen’s abundant success as an emblem of a robust American present.

The difference was, ironically, the politics of freedom and individualism espoused by the much older Reagan’s was formed by a combination of his fervid anti-communism and an adherence to the nascent neo-conservative belief in the supremacy of the free market while, according to Dolan, “…Springsteen finally moved beyond his 1960s rock ’n’ roll individualism, back to the New Deal communalism he had instinctively absorbed from his parents.” Freedom from the tyranny of the state versus being free only if we’re all free. Freedom for me versus freedom for all.

What’s all this got to do with the forum I’m currently writing in? [I was just about to ask that question. – ed.] Well, Ronald Reagan’s vision triumphed and, despite its worst excesses still afflicting the world at large, it continues a slow creep, further perverted by conservative zealots who would be unrecognizable to the man they claim as their idol. This includes an extreme form of it here in Toronto under the Ford administration.

But nowhere does this type of ideology fit worse than it does at the municipal level. It’s hardly surprising that when a society turns inward and gives primacy to individual rights above all else, the first place it’s felt is in our cities. Not for not are they called communities and by pulling more and more out of the public sphere, the impact is felt almost immediately. Roads crumble. Parks go untended longer. Pools open later and close sooner. Libraries reduce their hours. Busses appear less frequently. [Or, as a certain member of Team Ford says: Widows and orphans make do with less cupcakes. – ed.]

 

It simply runs contrary to the building of better cities. Cut is the opposite of build. You can’t untax your way to a better city. The numbers simply won’t add up.

In the end, what you have is a Tenth Avenue Freeze Out in the midst of a Jungleland with the bridges all fallen down and no way to get yourself over for that Meeting Across the River.

[Yeah, yeah. We got it. You know every word to every song on Born To Run. Now take your white wine and vamoose. – ed.]

bossily submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Return To Civilization. Such As It Is.

August 3, 2011

I am the first to re-emerge from the woods.

It was an eventful few days, full of surprises, undercooked food and questionably cooked alcohol. The blindness, mercifully, turned out to be only temporary. The holes in the mind, I fear, may be longer to diagnose and repair.

Arriving at the homestead/hunting cabin/inherited family real estate/squatting place, Cityslikr and I were surprised by the presence of our long lost colleague Acaphlegmic who, judging by the lived in look and smell of the place, had been camped out there for some time. As regular readers of this site know, Acaphlegmic self embedded into Ford Nation just after election night last October to try and understand the heart of the beast we had just installed as our next mayor. To what end was never quite clear as his irregular posts (here and here) bordered on the, if not delusional, let’s call it fantastical. Instructional would not be an adjective I’d attach to his correspondence.

But there he was, in all his feral splendor, awaiting our appearance. How long he’d been there, he wouldn’t say. Why he was there, also left unanswered. He was sphinx-like with any information, saying that what he saw, what he learned, all the knowledge he’d gleaned from his time in Ford Nation was not going to be handed over to some nowhere blog without adequate recompense. There was a book to be written and he was just the person to write it. Any evidence suggesting that’s what he’d been doing out in the wilderness was scant.

What was evident was Acaphlegmic had been rolling around contentedly in his own approbation along with, as our noses hinted at, many fish carcasses that had washed ashore. The reason for such sentiment was pasted to the inside of the cabin. Copy after copy of his mayoral endorsement last year covered every inch of the walls. Standing in the centre of the room, it wasn’t as spooky as, say, Shelley Duvall discovering pages and pages of her husband typing out All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy. Still, it was somewhat unsettling. We were miles away from anything resembling civilization and it was an awfully deep lake we had just crossed. It would take months to discover our bodies.

Fortunately, Acaphlegmic wasn’t in a killing kind of mood. Mostly. It was all about the crowing, the chest beating, the I-Told-You-Sos. “I was right, wasn’t I, chaps. Bulls-eye. Correctamundo. Fucking dead on.” Agreeing with him, even heartily, didn’t seem to lessen his demands that we agree with him.

Admittedly, given the last few months, it’s difficult not to concede he’d been accurate in his assessment of how a Mayor Ford scenario would play out. Who amongst us didn’t see that train wreck coming? Who amongst us, that is, who didn’t vote for the man. It’s all been as grisly, divisive and dispiriting as we feared it would be if such a thing came to pass. The difference is, very few of us were reveling in the situation to any degree. Certainly not to the degree Acaphlegmic appeared to be.

“It is as how I prophesized!” Acaphlegmic bellowed at us intermittently throughout the weekend. Not meaning to draw any comparisons between either Cityslikr or myself to Jesus but it did feel a little like we were in the presence of crazy John the Baptist. “Our time is soon at hand.” Yes, he did actually say that. On more than one occasion.

I will distill Acaphlegmic because I don’t think, at this point, you could handle pure Acaphlegmic.

What we are witnessing now in Toronto is the radical right wing, neoconservative, small government, anti-tax, deranged Ayn Randian libertarianism end game of the radical right wing, neoconservative, small government, anti-tax, deranged Ayn Randian libertarians. From Margaret Thatcher to Ronald Reagan to Mike Harris to George W. Bush to the Tea Party to Stephen Harper to Tim Hudak to Rob Ford with some willing and conciliatory liberals (both small and big ‘L’) thrown in for good measure. The slashing and burning, vilifying and demonizing has all trickled down to where the rubber meets the road, municipalities. This is where we all discover exactly what they mean by ‘small government’, ‘finding efficiencies’ and ‘respect for the taxpayer’.

It all sounds so reasonable and mainstream when it’s stated hypothetically. Who doesn’t want to find efficiencies? I’m a taxpayer. Hells yeah, I want respect. A leaner, meaner, smaller government? You betcha. Go right ahead. Cut our libraries. Reduce public transit. Gut environment—

No, wait. What?

At the municipal level, we’re getting all close up and personal with what these people mean when they talk about small government. It’s really all about less government. Reduce. Eliminate. Obliterate. Fewer helping hands. Less shared sacrifice. Watching the men of KPMG present their Core Services Review over the last couple weeks, the realization sunk in that it’s only about throwing citizens to the wolves of privatization and free marketeers. No guarantees we’d be paying less or services improved. And absolutely no word on any negative social impacts of guts and cuts. Not in our purview.

Trickle down neoliberalism, offloading and downloading costs and responsibilities from the feds to the provinces to the municipalities. Now with a mayor and his administration in place as willing waterboys, poised to do the dirty work, Toronto is realizing the implications and consequences of such radical ideology where everything is on the table. Everything, that is, that makes a city livable, desirable and place which encourages its citizens to reach their fullest potential. There’s no more hiding from that fact.

Acaphlegmic called it back in October. We wrote it off as the rantings of a crank and alarmist. It’s hard not to admit he may’ve been barking up the right tree.

contritely submitted by Urban Sophisticat


A Sheepish Admission

July 25, 2011

Standing outside the tent on Saturday night, listening to The Sheepdogs rip through their 2nd set of the day (the first being an acoustic one in the blazing sunshine) at Hillside, my thoughts turned to the 70s. How could they not? Here was a band channeling the spirit of Southern Fried Rock in both sound and look with a touch of The Black Crows and My Morning Jacket thrown in for good measure to a capacity crowd that consisted largely of folks who weren’t even born when this sound first emerged.

Kids these days, with all their rap and bleep-blop electronic music, enthusiastically embracing the more countrified roots rock sound of their parents. Nothing wrong with that although, for me, if I want to listen to the Allman Brothers (an impulse which occurs almost never – my musical taste tends more to the bands that bracketed The Sheepdogs, Hooded Fang and Hollerado) I’ll listen to the Allman Brothers. But certainly, there are worse things to adopt from the recent past as I await the re-arrival of wide, wide ties with some trepidation.

I have mixed emotions about the decade I came of age in. While many of us benefited from the social and political freedoms that opened up as a result of the upheavals of the 1960s, we also wound up stunting them, stopped the march of progress far short of its goals, twisting and bending the ideals into an almost unrecognizable shape that called itself the Reagan (Neo-Conservative) Revolution. In 1969, America put a man on the moon. By 1980, we’d convinced ourselves that government was a problem not the solution. The 1970s just don’t hold up well in that light.

I was still mightily in my pre-teens during the tumultuous year of 1968 but I do remember that mixed sense of fear and, if not hope, a curious anticipation of what might be right around the corner. Protestors derailed a presidential re-election bid in a fight against an illegal, immoral war. Cities exploded in riots, set alight by inequality and racial oppression. Assassinations. First, Martin Luther King. Then, Bobby Kennedy. More riots.

It was Kennedy’s death that we can now see as something of a turning point for progressivism. Not that it was any more important or devastating than the slaying of King but RFK’s journey from his privileged, elite upbringing and early rabid anti-communism to the moral conscience of a country as presidential candidate signaled that the old order was rotten to the core. A fundamental change of course was needed and underway.

And then he was dead.

The politics of spite and tribalism filled the void and prospered. Even the downfall of the petty tyrant of vindictiveness, Richard Nixon, in 1974 only served to temporarily delay the triumphant of reactionism. It emerged in its full blown hideousness with the ascent to power of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and so on and so forth.

So by the time those younger Sheepdogs fans began sitting up and noticing the wider world around them, radical conservatism had become the entrenched orthodoxy. We who had benefited from progressive ideas in action – livable wages and working conditions, accessible and affordable health care and education, reasonable expectations of fair pensions and a well earned retirement, all that solid middle class claptrap – had decided that enough was enough. No longer would or should we extend such luxuries. They only served to sap our work ethic and encourage lolly-gagging and freeloading. Nose to the grindstone, pull yourself up by your boot-straps and all that.

The flagrant hypocrisy of such I-Got-Mine-Jackism manifested itself to me last week when I came across a video of Paul Ainslie’s maiden speech at Toronto city council (h/t Jonathan Goldsbie) after he was appointed councillor in 2006. Ignoring for the moment his vow never, ever to run for council in ‘Ward 41 or any other ward in this city’ after his interim time was up (he did run both in the 2006 and 2010 election, successfully unfortunately), what really got my goat was Ainslie’s citing of a Bobby Kennedy quote as a source of his political and public service inspiration.

The task of leadership, the first task of concerned people, is not to condemn or castigate or deplore; it is to search out the reason for disillusionment and alienation, the rationale of protest and dissent — perhaps, indeed, to learn from it.

Councillor Ainslie is a nose-pick of a politician who is a certified member of Mayor Ford’s wrecking crew, intent on dismantling much of what makes this city work so well. Rather than searching out and learning from ‘the reason for disillusionment and alienation’ as Robert Kennedy implored, Councillor Ainslie, the mayor and his other enablers only seek to exploit the disillusionment and alienation in order to reduce government to impotency. The exact opposite of what RFK was seeking to do.

That a politician of Ainslie’s low caliber was able to co-opt the words of Robert Kennedy goes a long way to explaining our modern political dynamic. The Reactionary as Revolutionary. I’m a neo-conservative politician and Robert Kennedy would endorse these words I’m about to speak.

It takes me to the words of another icon of the 60s, Hunter S. Thompson. The best known passage from his best known book, and perhaps the best analysis of the end of what we now think of as the end of the 60s and the birth of a generation of swine.

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

And it’s been rolling back now for over 40 years, slowly and surely drowning much of the progress that had come before it. Just when you think it’s crested, unbelievably you’re hit with another surge. Stephen Harper. Rob Ford. This has to peak too, doesn’t it? That’s the way waves work. Where is the neoconservative ‘high-water mark’? Have we just not seen it yet? Are we lacking the ‘right kind of eyes’?

So kids, follow in our musical steps all you want. Remake it. Remix it. Rejig it. It’s all harmless, nostalgic fun. But stop listening to our politics. We’re sell-outs and con artists. We’ve shirked our duties and responsibilities, leaving us all worse for wear. Our taste in music far exceeded our sense of citizenship, and the sooner you learn that the better.

guiltily submitted by Urban Sophisticat


On The Road To Metropolis

June 14, 2011

Mission Accomplished.

In less than two generations, conservative “thinkers” and politicians have succeeded in their undertaking of denigrating and vilifying the notion of government as a force for good. It can’t help, only hinder. The best form of governance is less governance. As St. Ronnie intoned (and everybody say it along with me), government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.

So it is that we have arrived at a spot in history where the eminence grise of Canadian conservative thought, Preston Manning (which should say a lot about the sad sack state of conservative thought), is able to boast that Canadians are not looking to governments for grand visions or designs for society. “Managerial Conservatism” is now the buzzword we should all rally around. Competence replacing edifying or lofty in the expectations we now look for in our elected representatives.It’s all about lowering the bar which makes it more palatable when the likes of George W. Bush, Stephen Harper and Rob Ford assume the mantle of office. Governments can’t do anything positive for us, so why elect anyone who claims they can? It’s a virus that has fully infected non-conservative parties and politicians as well. Dumb down their rhetoric. Eliminate any thoughts of grand visions or designs they might have. We don’t want leaders. We want managers. Bad managers are even preferred to those wanting to impose their dreamy dreams upon us.

With the advent of managers business think invariably displaces political discourse. It’s all about finding efficiencies, value for dollars, bangs for you bucks. We become taxpayers rather than citizens. Customers, clients and stakeholders. In fact, it’s much worse. We’re little more than widgets to the minds of manager/politicians. (Oh, where has our veneration for warrior-poets gone?)

Witness the insidious creep of some icky, sci-fi/Scientology sounding Lean Six Sigma into our public sphere. Down in the States, it’s claiming the brains of various GOP presidential candidates. Lean Six Sigma is already in practice even closer to home in Erie County, New York where County Executive Chris Collins has credited the system with aiding him in slashing jobs. Our very own budget chief, Michael Del Grande, also seems to be brushing up on his knowledge base as he expensed two books on the subject earlier this year.

While I don’t expect our modern political leaders to be well versed in their Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Tocqueville, it distresses me that they might be filling their hearts and minds with such soulless ideas as these:

  • Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.
  • Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets (cost reduction or profit increase).
  • The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes.
  • In Six Sigma, a defect is defined as any process output that does not meet customer specifications, or that could lead to creating an output that does not meet customer specifications.
  • Like its predecessors, Six Sigma doctrine asserts that:
  • Continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process results (i.e., reduce process variation) are of vital importance to business success.

It’s all about things and processes not people. Perfectly acceptable if you’re talking about manufacturing products but how does it align with governing society? It feels like we’re on the road to Metropolis. All of us replaceable parts, judged and viewed not by our merits or character but by our lack of defects. If our elected leaders are endeavouring to be nothing more than our managers, doesn’t that make us simply staff or the hired help?

If a country or a city no longer aspires to grand visions or designs, what’s there left to do? The answer that immediately springs to my mind is: lead lives of quiet desperation. That may be what managers want from their employees but it hardly seems like something leaders should have us aspire to. And that certainly shouldn’t be the quality we’re looking for in our leaders.

desperately submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Oh Happy Days

June 4, 2011

Coming of age in the 1970s as the revolutionary ethos of the previous decade waned, the rearguard, reactionary counter-attack came in the form of a nostalgic, totally manufactured pining for the good ol’ simple days and ways of the 1950s. These Happy Days are yours and mine (oh Happy Days). Culminating, of course, in the election of Ronald Reagan and Morning in America.

More than 30 years on and those forces haven’t budged an inch. I guess that’s the nature of reactionary thinking. Pick a period and stick with it. Talk of change or getting with it is for the kids. Pure heresy. No retreat, no surrender.

This world view manifested itself here in Toronto over the past week or so… actually, since October 25th… with City Hall’s declared war on graffiti. In their righteous march to scrub city walls clean and put on a shiny face, it seems our soldiers of blight removal eradicated a mural out the Junction way that the city had commissioned just a couple years ago. Oops. A mistake of over-zealousness? Perhaps, but there was talk the administration wasn’t crazy about the politics they perceived behind the piece.

Provincial Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, out in campaign mode with his Changebook, then got in on the anti-graffiti act. According to the CBC’s Queen’s Park coverage, in a speech he gave to the Canadian Club earlier this week, Hudak suggested that graffiti is a sign that “gangs rule here”. Yes, people. If you’re wandering around the streets of Toronto and come across any graffiti, immediately call 9-1-1, identify yourself and exact location before heading for the nearest house with a Block Parent sign in the window.

I mean, seriously. How old are these people anyway? It’s like their whole world view has been formed by the 70s movie The Warriors. No, wait. Footloose. Like John Lithgow’s Reverend Shaw Moore, they abhor and condemn anything they don’t agree with or understand. It’s the handiwork of the devil. Or gangs.

Graffiti? Gone. Ad hoc displays of public art? Get it out of here. Street festivals and charity bike rides down expressways? Leads to horseplay and unwanted pregnancies.

We’ve given the keys of power over to the Abe Simpsons amongst us. In my day—zzzzzzzz. Tiresome and irksome in our elders, straight up creepy in those we call contemporaries.

Of course, when it comes to Abe Simpson, none do a better job around these parts than our Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday. (At least he’s of the same vintage.) Councillor Holyday was at it himself recently, yammering on about the need to clean up the streets of panhandlers and the homeless. To hear him tell it, it’s a veritable obstacle course of filth and aggressive begging out there. “I know that when I’m downtown,” the deputy mayor tells the National Post, “sometimes you have to walk around these people, they’re right in the middle of the sidewalk and you’ll run over them if you don’t pay attention.”

Sometimes we’re actually forced to walk around these people. The indignity of it! We, upstanding citizens and taxpayers, actually have to change our course slightly because people, neither upstanding or taxpayers (probably), have made the choice of living and sleeping right smack dab in the middle of our thoroughfares, and asking us, sometimes forcefully, to pay their way to living the high life on easy street.

What can we do? According to Mr. Holyday “…we’re paying millions of dollars to try to help people…” and what thanks do we get for it? Disrespectfully having our way blocked.

In my day, beggars knew their place. In flophouses located on Skid Row, safely tucked away from where the tourists and thrill seeking suburbanites came and got the wrong impression of us. Where all the buildings were scarred and marred by senseless graffiti which invariably led to senseless criminal behaviour, lewd acts and smoking of the Mary Jane. In my day, if somebody got out of line, some impertinent hobo or reprobate, not knowing their place, made me step over them as they took a little drunk nap during the middle of the day right in the middle of the sidewalk, it wasn’t frowned upon if you gave them a short, sharp boot heel to the ribs. Let them know you didn’t approve of their lifestyle.

“In my day” is how the fearful and unimaginative see the world. The past was perfect. The future dire. The present, a hand basket on route straight to hell. Everything new or different is suspect. A deviation, in all the negative connotations of that word.

With it, we grind to a standstill, missing exciting opportunities when they arise and embracing values and notions that, if they ever really existed in the first place, are probably in need of some serious updating to their software. Like most of us. Try as you might, you can’t simply wipe clean that which you don’t like or understand.Believe me, I know. I’ve been trying to eradicate the last six months or so. No matter how much I scrub or sandblast, it just keeps reappearing in all its ugly, depressing reality.

nostalgically submitted by Urban Sophisticat


The Day Conservatism Died

April 19, 2011

Does anyone know the exact date when conservatism ceased operations as a productive, positive contributor to society? At what point of time in its supposed illustrious history did it stop offering up ideas and solutions that consisted of more complex notions than could fit perfectly on a placard, bumper sticker or that a two year-old could remember and recite? Was it a sudden jolt like a meteor strike that made the post-Enlightenment air toxic to the more progressives in their movement or did they just gradually rid themselves of reason, rational thought and a belief in the common good?

Was the last true conservative of the Burkian mold in the plane with Buddy Holly that fateful night in February 1959?

We know traditional political conservatism has been under attack in the U.S. since the crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. It was put on the endangered list under Richard Nixon and the last species spotted during the Reagan Revolution. Our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents’ conservatism went extinct when George W. Bush move into the Oval Office in January 2001.

But here in Canada, conservatism survived a little longer, dying a slower death. Perhaps it was fatally infected with the 1988 Free Trade Deal and our closer integration with the United States. The ‘neo’ in neo-conservatism began to rub off on us. With the rise of western alienation, the Reform Party and Alberta with its U.S. style conservatism as an oil producing, economic force. The progressive in the Progressive Conservative leaked away, lapped up by the Jean Chretien-Paul Martin Liberals, eager to bolster their right flank.

Ontario dipped its toe into the new conservative waters when it embraced Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution in the mid-90s, rejecting and ultimately putting a bullet in the head of the red Toryism that had ruled the land for over 40 years until 1985. After 8 years, the province return to its traditional progressive conservative roots when it elected Liberal Dalton McGuinty. The actual Progressive Conservative now exists in name only.

Unlike their neo-conservative soul mates at the federal level who, with the PC-Canadian Alliance/Reform Party amalgamation, jettisoned any last vestige of progressive thought or policy. Finally, it’s Morning in Canada. Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem. Taxes are bad. Science is bad. Peacekeeping is for pussies. In-depth gathering of data in order to more thoroughly define and guide public policy is an invasion of privacy and must be eliminated. An added bonus if you’re planning to build more prisons and get tougher on crime in the face of evidence pointing to dropping rates of criminal behaviour.

Statistics and facts be damned when we’ve got naked ideology to propel us forward back to the 17-century!

It wasn’t too long ago that kind of political thinking would’ve relegated you to the fringes. Yet now the Conservatives are within serious striking distance of securing a majority victory, able to count on a third of the electorate for steadfast support for what can only be described as an antediluvian outlook. Hell, in the so-called liberal hotbed of Toronto, nearly 50% of the voters rallied behind Rob Ford – the poster child for narrow-minded, anti-government, pithy slogans as policy platforms politicians — as their choice for mayor last fall. We are now in the process of witnessing up close and personal just much how respect we taxpayers should expect from neo-conservative politicians.

Which, judging by the craziness going on to the south of us at the hands of the self-proclaimed Tea Party movement, should be next to nil. The thing is, when conservatives abandoned their core principle as stated by Glen Worthington, “…the essence of conservatism lies not in a body of theory, but in the disposition to maintain those institutions seen as central to the beliefs and practices of society”, the day traditional conservatism died, all bets were off. Neo-conservatives bear no responsibility to anyone aside from themselves. What’s good for them as individuals is good for society. End stop. Edmund Burke and the like deposed by Ayn Rand. Ask not what your country can do for you because it’s going to do fuck all. And certainly don’t ask what you can do for your country as, well, that would just be an imposition, an impingement of my individual freedom and liberty.

And those of us not sharing that particularly libertarian worldview have much blame to shoulder for the current conservative-less situation. By accepting any tenets of the faith, from its creeping anti-governmentalism to the bogus trickle-down economic theory, we lent it credibility and gave it traction. We helped make the lunatic acceptable and now find ourselves having to defend against what is essentially an alternate reality where up is down, black is white and tax cuts generate increased revenue for the public purse.

An alternate reality where the likes of Ezra Levant are considered worthy of having a spot on television to discuss politics. Yes, as a matter of fact, he did compare the CBC to a North Korean state run broadcast. With a straight face!

Watching what I could stomach of yesterday’s launch of Sun TV, two words immediately sprung to mind: cable access. Back when honest to god conservatism was still alive and well, that’s where crackpots like Mr. Levant et al would’ve been relegated if they wanted to air their fetid, malignant views out in public. Or a soapbox in the corner of a park.While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly how it is traditional conservatism died, I think we can officially call time of death. It was April 18th 2011, 4:30pm EDT.

sympathetically submitted by Cityslikr


Citizens V Taxpayers

February 11, 2011

Are We Not Men? We Are Devo! Are We Not Citizens? We Are Taxpayers!

People who think of themselves as ‘taxpayers’ or ‘stakeholders’ rarely act like citizens.

What’s the difference, you ask?

Citizens engage. Taxpayers and stakeholders are units in a monetary transaction. They pay. They demand goods and/or services in return. Civic commitment ends there.

This thought struck me as I booted a half-filled bottle of juice that had rolled out from under a seat as I made my way down the aisle of a streetcar a couple nights back. Sitting down, I looked around. Cue my inner Bette Davis: What a dump! (Although it always comes out sounding more like Katherine Hepburn circa On Golden Pond.) It looked as if some sort of evil gust of wind had blown through and deposited a couple blocks worth of litter around the place. Newspapers. Paper bags and dirty napkins. Bottles and cans.

Citizens take their garbage with them. Taxpayers leave it behind on buses, streetcars and subways, reasoning that they pay the lazy union’s outrageous wages, so they can clean it up. Citizens pick up their dog’s poo. Stakeholders pretend that it’s not their dog. Citizens park illegally, get a ticket and pay it. Taxpayers and stakeholders park illegally, bitch about the ticket being a money grab and clog up the legal system trying to fight it in the hopes the issuing officer doesn’t appear in court.

Taxpayers and stakeholders see every government action as an intrusion and imposition into their lives, every tax a reach into their wallets. Citizens see government as an extension of themselves, duly elected to perform the task of keeping society functioning in an equitable and constructive manner. Citizens pay taxes (sing it along with me as it’s become a familiar refrain) in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., to… buy civilization.

Taxpayers and stakeholders instead quote their patron saint, Ronald Reagan, and pronounce: Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem. They call for smaller government. Citizens do not see small government as a panacea to our problems. In fact, citizens regard the call for smaller government with suspicion, a coded phrase for deregulation and lack of oversight. Smaller government leads to increased Walkertons, Gulf oil spills, near economic collapse.

Taxpayers and stakeholders represent the screaming id of civics discourse. What’s in it for me? I pay too much in taxes. I get too little in return. Me, me, me. I, I, I.

Citizens engage. With their neighbours. With their politicians. With the wider world. Citizenry self-interest extends beyond personal bank accounts and cheap parking. Citizens realize that their well-being is best served when everyone’s welfare is tended to not just their own.

And as we witnessed over the past month or so, with events transpiring as they have in Tunisia and Egypt, it is citizens not taxpayers or stakeholders who overthrow the forces of repression, fear and brutality.

happily submitted by Cityslikr