Is This Progress? This Is Progress.

What Is Kaputall?

Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

If The Olympics Made Us Prouder Canadians.....

When I woke up on Monday morning to the news of Jack Layton's untimely death, I was completely devastated. My first thought was that I was not in Ottawa when it happened, which made me feel the loss even hard. However, I was fortunate enough that a state funeral was held for him in his home city of Toronto, and I was able to attend with the help of the local NDP Riding Associations.

Getting on the bus yesterday morning was such a fantastic experience. I rekindled relationships with members of the party I haven't seen since the 2008 Federal Election. It made me really think about our conceptualisation of democracy as citizens - that elections are neat bookends and that in between it's not our job to act. For Jack, there was never rest. Trying to change our political, social, and economic systems is a venture that simply has no breaks. Sadly, it took such a devastating event to make us realise this. I hope that the energy that people put into memorialising such a great life will be channelled to make our country a better place.

What probably struck me most - out of the whole experience - was walking to City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square to see the messages of hope and remembrance written on the cold concrete landscape. I took a quick moment to write my own very brief tag, one that read "May your legacy inspire". My voice was lost in a sea of outpouring, but I still felt that others would be moved, as I was moved by others.

While I was taken aback by almost everything I experienced, I would like to cast some light on what I thought was so interesting and lovely about the events. I would like to say that seeing so many people.... tens of thousands of them..... gather together to celebrate a great Canadian was incredibly moving. Regardless of people's political stripes they were there to support someone who mixed honour with politics. Someone who strove to make lives materially better for millions of people in our country. And you could see it by what was said, and by the looks on people's faces, or by what they were saying.

But I think what spoke loudest - to me anyway - was the sheer diversity of people around me, all laughing and crying - remembering and envisioning - together. I sat between a same sex couple, immigrants that barely spoke English, people with an array of disabilities, children, the elderly, Muslims and Christians and aetheists. Everyone celebrating together in what I can only say that Jack's memory can do. It's amazing to think about how divisive and negative politics can be - no other figure in recent history could have garnered this support. It made me feel bad for a brief second when I saw Stephen Harper sitting uncomfortably in the audience. I wondered if he was thinking: "would this be how I'd be remembered?"

I wish that I could write more about Jack, but I'll leave that to the eulogist, NDP statesman and activist Steven Lewis.

"Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we've seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss.

Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto, so unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us, he was to us. Until he was so suddenly gone, cruelly gone, at the pinnacle of his career.

To hear so many Canadians speak so open-heartedly of love, to see young and old take chalk in hand to write without embarrassment of hope, or hang banners from overpasses to express their grief and loss. It's astonishing.

Somehow Jack connected with Canadians in a way that vanquished the cynicism that erodes our political culture. He connected whether you knew him or didn't know him, whether you were with him or against him.

Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we know realize we've been thirsting for. He was so civil, so open, so accessible that he made politics seem so natural and good as breathing. There was no guile. That's why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous.

But it obviously goes much deeper than that. Jack, I think, tapped into a yearning, sometimes ephemeral, rarely articulated, a yearning that politics be conducted in a different way, and from that difference would emerge a better Canada"

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Politics and Public Broadcasting

CBC/Radio-Canada just announced today that former Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe will be participating once weekly on a daily programme on on La Première Chaine. I stumbled upon this because I am a fan of CBC on Facebook, and I was appalled at the responses from Anglo Canadians. My favourite being:

"this makes my head explode .... how much more $$$$ does the ROC have to "give" this man - whose whole political life has been spent trying to rip this country apart ... the whole thing disgusts me. "

But why the hate? In a poll conducted for the 2008 General Election, CBC reported that Duceppe was an "elegant separatist" with an impressive political background dating back to 1997 when he became party leader. Unlike many other Québec nationalists, he has managed to gain some popularity outside of Québec, mostly because of his fervent criticism of liberals and conservatives alike. In the past decade the Bloc has become increasingly renowned for its social democratic principles than for its desire to break out of confederation, and this is owing to Duceppe's leadership. The idea being that if Québec is not going to legally secede from Canada, then the Bloc should be a voice of representation in parliament.

And with respect to the financing issue, all Québec residents who pay their federal taxes fund the CBC/Radio-Canada. Since approximately 40 per cent of Québecers support sovereignty and social democracy, it only seems fair that the organisation is selected Duceppe to host a show in that market. This hasn't stopped large Anglo news agencies from attacking the move, such as the Toronto Sun.

So why don't we delve deeper into Duceppe's past to figure just what about him irks non-Francophones? Well, as soon as I started investigating this, I determined that it has a lot less to do with him and a lot more to do with a few other variables.

First, the longstanding Anglo-French rift in Canada. It is no surprise that the disdain directed at Duceppe is mostly because he is a symbol of this divide. I think it would be counter-productive to go on a diatribe about French-English relations in our country, but it's important to consider that this has been, and most likely will continue to be, a sensitive issue for most Canadians.

However, equally important seems to be the legitimacy of having a separatist party in our federal legislature. And of course this point is tied to the first - people seem to have trouble recognising that Québec wants to, and should have every right to, represent their interests as best as they can in parliament. We tend to forget that other political parties often have bases of support that are very regional in nature, for example, the NDP historically. A good example of this is the 1972 Federal Election, where the NDP didn't win any votes east of Ontario. The reality is this, Canada: we very rarely have political parties that can represent the will of Canadians across the country.

Given that Canada is federated (click here to learn more about federalism) we should invest in our regional differences, not look for reasons to introduce a monoculture. And if that's the case, the CBC, which is a public, national broadcaster, should certainly promote a show that is hosted by Duceppe.

What it all seems to come down to ultimately is that parliament doesn't have the right to select who should be on the radio. While the CBC/Radio-Canada is a public enterprise, it'll ultimately be listeners who decide whether or not Duceppe will make a good host. Looking forward to your first show, Mr. Duceppe.