Tag Archives: 2011

Emotional Hangover: The Morning After

A Conservative majority was elected in with barely 60% of the country’s registered voters caring enough to do their civic duty.

For all you cynics out there who bitch about governments then don’t vote, claiming “it doesn’t work anyhow,” you get the government you deserve: A government that legislates as it sees fit because too many of its residents are more pleased to whine and moan about policies than get involved.

It’s devastating.

I don’t know what I’m more angry about today — that some 40% of registered voters never showed up, never mind the eligible asshats who’ve never bothered to register — OR the fact that some ridings had, say, 70+% of residents voting for several LEFT-wing candidates, but because none could amass a sizable lead, a Conservative could win with less than 30%.

Our system is broken. It’s a fucking joke.

I’m forced to strategically cast a YES/NO vote because I’m more concerned with end-numbers and whose figurehead will get into power as our Prime Minister, because Canadians vote for one Member of Parliament for their little pocket of the world, a “riding.” The dude(tte) who wins the “riding” goes to Ottawa and represents that town/city/region, and their “seat” is counted into a total, and whomever’s party wins the most “seats” out of the 308 available then forms the ruling government. We don’t vote for a leader, just our local MP.

Minority/majority breaking point is at 155 seats. The Conservatives didn’t just win, they spanked the Left.

With 167 right-wing seats, there’s a whopping 26-vote lead over the 141-seat TOTAL opposition. That’s four political parties that somehow have to work together and still have about a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding at defeating measures that are likely to throw the Canadian social safety net’s sanctity into question.

I expected the Conservatives to win, and secretly wouldn’t have minded it. I didn’t want a majority. I wanted a weak minority, mostly because I do fear messing much with the national financial mix in a world where the global economy has the stability of hitching a unicycle ride with a drunk.

I’m not a fan of extremism in any form.

I was a profoundly religious child who grew up with bad experiences in the Catholic church, I’ve seen both sides of the financial coin from a first-person-life point of view, have paid for my own education and worked my way through school, have seen what abuse and addiction and crime can do to families, and how long even smart, capable people can be unemployed in hard times. My politics are absolutely shaped by my experience, but as sympathetic as I am to the left, I favour a more centrist view. Too bad that party got smoked like Bob Marley on a fatty last night.

I’m scared of a majority government that stands unsympathetic to most of the issues I hold dear, with a party run by a man who has shown tones of wishing autocracy was doable in Canada, and who is profoundly religious, and who I consider one of the SHREWDEST political tacticians Canada has ever seen.

I’ve said over the years that Harper was like a man on a tight-rope who understands to his very core what the advantage of balance was when faced with a minority government. Has he pushed his limits in the past? Yes, but not often.

Will he seek that balance now that he has nearly a 10% lead over the combined opposition? Heh. Insert cynical chuckle here.

I find it hard to believe a man who tried to rename the country’s government from “The Government of Canada” to the “Harper Government” is likely to squelch any ambitions now that he’s been handed a broad mandate.

I’d love to be wrong.

So, today I’m stuck here with this pretty sullen state of mind as I realize this is the shape of the government until October, 2015. Someone last night said “Cheer up, the Americans suffered 8 years with Bush and got Obama!” I countered with, “Yeah. We’ve suffered 7 years under Harper to get 4.5 more years of Harper. Great.”

Canada’s system is broken on several levels.

Our citizens, with their apathy and refusal to get involved, are a mockery of democracy. You people don’t even deserve to vote. You don’t deserve the advantages of a socialist nation if you refuse to participate in its operation. And that’s what you’re going to get, a lack of social systems, more prisons, and more defense spending, because that’s the platform you elected. You embraced the status quo by choosing to have NO vote.

So, you get what you apathetically chose, Canada.

My parents used to take me along on the odd election day. They said, this is what you do when you live in democracy, you vote. They taught me civic responsibility. Have you taught your kids? Or are you teaching them cynicism and that you have zero power to change the world? Are you okay with that? Are you okay with your friends raising kids that way?

People often say “Oh, we have no real power anyhow.”

Yes, you do. If you, and enough like-minded people, all believe and fight for something, you can get it. Sometimes it’s as easy as putting check-marks on paper.

It’s called voting. It’s powerful. It shapes laws that define everything from how much tax is on your bottle of wine tonight to whether your kid can afford university or whether your spouse will be struggling to pay medical bills after your death like Americans do, or just mourning you like Canadians usually do.

So, way to fuck that one up, you 40% who didn’t show up, and the countless others who’ve just never registered.

The take away I’m hoping to see grow into something bigger?

  • Justin Trudeau won his riding, and as much as he’s been a bit of an idiot in the past, the Liberal party is too important to his family’s legacy for him not to get a reality-check slap in the face and grow up FAST as far as developing a political acumen goes. He’s his father’s son, and I can’t see him not reading this election correctly and growing very quickly from the experience. If anyone can resurrect some of Canada’s dream for its left-of-centre roots, it’s a Trudeau–but the kid has a lot of savvying-up to do. (The whole family in fur coats on a Christmas card. Really, Justin? Sable farmers are a big electoral backer? Slick.)
  • The NDP are more likely to continue in an idealistic point of view, and I think the country needs that with all the crap going on in the world today, and given more time to campaign, they might have turned this election into something for the history books. They don’t have the economic know-how to get this country through tough financial times YET, but they have 4.5 years to really strap on those big-boy pants and get sound policies that embrace reality rather that fairytale finance.
  • A lot of people I see who are smart, motivated, and driven are now wanting to get involved politically, because it’s clearly not happening with the people we’ve got.
  • The chance of Canada’s political system melding down into fewer politics are stronger this morning than they’ve ever been. While I loathe the one-or-the-other system in the United States, the alternative in Canada hasn’t exactly floated my boat either. Maybe less is more in a frustrating political time like this.

This morning, I’m trying not to conjure my inner-Darth Vader and give in to the Dark Side, but it’s really hard to pretend to have optimism about Canada’s future.

Four and a half years… that’s a long-ass time, friends. That’s a big majority.

We need more anger in Canada. The passive-aggressive bend-over-and-take-it nature that seems to come with a Canadian passport really shows up come election time, and it’s tired and old.

We should expect more. We’re Canada, for fuck’s sake.

If YOU care, then you have 4.5 years to make your compatriots care.

No vote is a vote for the status quo.

You wanted it? You got it. Enjoy your government.

Me, I’m just getting started.

Japan’s Tsunami: A Few Personal Thoughts, and a Plea for Your Donation TODAY

As I write this, my morning is bleeding away. Afternoon is nigh and I still need to work.

Across the world, however, a series tsunami alerts are either slowing being lifted, or still cautiously being heeded, in the literal wake of Japan’s terrifying 8.9 quake, only 14 hours old now.

I worked late last evening, came home, was relaxing and enjoying my first hour to myself, then suddenly my mood plummeted. I describe it as a “disturbance in the Force” — the unsettling knowledge that something has just gone horribly awry somewhere. Then the news flowed: A tsunami had already begun to land in Japan. A big one.

Only twice before have I had that feeling of a shift in “the Force.” The first was at 4:15 AM on August 6th, 1999. I was already awake when my cousin came in 20 minutes later to say my mother had died at 4:13, that the hospital had just called.

The other was at 5:55 on September 11, 2001. Only, I didn’t have cable at the time and didn’t know what had happened. The world was freakishly quiet and unsettling. Later, I arrived at work to the news, and it made sense then.

I’m not new-agey, I don’t really believe in an afterlife. I shouldn’t say I don’t believe in it, either. I don’t know what I know, or believe, because of these “Force” experiences, and a couple other reasons.

But, last night, there it was again. Boom. Pit of the stomach, bang.

I couldn’t turn the television off. My reasoning is simple — it’s easy to turn it off, walk away, but when it’s something they’re living through, I’m not watching it to be sensationalist — I’m watching it because I feel I owe it to them to be as present as I can be in their moment. That’s the human condition we all need to share. We have the power to experience — if only peripherally — our fellow man’s struggles; it’s our humanitarian obligation to be aware of them.

Thus, I was up till nearly 3am.

A friend phoned me in a panic at midnight, she being without cable or computer — like I had been in 2001 — and she had seen my update status on Facebook. “I need you to tell me what’s going on in Japan,” she said, trying to quell the understandable fear in her voice. “My brother lives there, and I don’t know the name of his town.”

Her phone call shook me, because the ripple effects of a tragedy like this has to be measured on so many levels — human, structural, financial, global.

But then it comes down to the simplest things we know — that guy who’s a friend of that woman you went to school with, he was a teacher there, they’re looking for him. Still. Washed away, they say.

Because, soon, we’ll hear stories like that.

Not today. Not yet. The scope isn’t even apparent. In three or four hours, it’ll be dawn in the land of the Rising Sun. And then we will know. From massive catastrophe, human stories will emerge. Who was taken, who was not.

But, in the end, what we’ll remember most about the fateful Sendai quake of March 11th will be images and numbers.

Today I’m cognizant of one thing… however bad this quake is, it could have been so much more horrific.

Had the quake happened under Japan? The destruction would’ve been far greater. Had the epicentre been deeper, and not remarkably shallow? Ditto. Had the tsunami first landed with full force further south? Ditto. Had the engineering not been Japan’s great obsession for decades, always thinking proactively about the future, rather than penny-pinching? Ditto.

And that will unfold for weeks, months, even years. But if any country knows how to rebuild and survive, we’ve already seen that it is Japan.

Land of the Rising Sun, indeed.

***

Today, you have one thing you need to do.

You need to donate money.

If every North American donated only $5, we’d raise close to $2 billion for relief efforts. So, do that. Donate $5. If you’re American, texting REDCROSS to 90999 will automatically donate $10 to relief efforts via adding $10 to your cell bill. If you’re Canadian, the donation is $5, and you donate that specifically to Japan relief efforts by the Red Cross in texting ASIA to 30333.

Why should you donate to Red Cross? Because cholera, dysentery, search-and-rescue efforts, these all need IMMEDIATE on-the-ground resources — and the Red Cross is best positioned for First Response efforts.

Forget about clothes and belongings — it will take weeks to get that stuff to them, and it costs more to ship than giving donations and letting them locally source the needed supplies.

Today, donate money. Anything. Don’t wait. Every penny you donate TODAY is a penny the Red Cross knows it can allocate TODAY. More is more, and sooner is best.

Here in Vancouver, Canada, we feel especially empathetic to Japan. They’re a Pacific Rim sister nation, they’re a trading partner, they’re a cultural influence on the streets of Vancouver, and where many of our landed immigrants hail from. Today, we watch with bated breath and broken hearts as we see the destruction unfold.

Please, donate.