Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cultural shifts...outstripping our capacity to govern?

By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, July 12, 2011
As for the country moving in a conservative direction, who can doubt it? There’s the new lock-’em-up law-and-order mentality, there’s the glorification of the military. On foreign policy, the country has sped from the image of peacemaker to one of the hawks of the Western world. One of our major roles now, the PM said recently, will be that of warrior – “courageous warrior.”
Who can disagree with these observations from Mr. Martin? No one.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of things  besides Harper's 40% numbers in the last election that contribute to this conservatism.
For at least two decades, there has been a galloping cultural movement in favour of the corporation as well as in favour of something corporations called globalism. And in that cultural shift come some very dangerous attitudes, some might call them values:
  • the pursuit of profit at the expense of a corporate sense of social responsibility
  • the demise of any voice that would advocate for worker's respect, worker's safety and health and worker's long-term needs like pensions
  • the collapse of the press, as indicated in the current Murdoch hacking scandal, in an attempt to get in bed with the political class
  • the collapse of the spirit and now even the letter of any statue that supports public financing of elections
  • the tranformation of the universities into little more than vocational training institutes, and the consequent demise of the liberal arts
  • the near collapse of respect for the political process and its practitioners
  • the rise of non-nation-state incited conflict by gangs, internet supported and technologically connected, aspiring to seize nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of war to attack anywhere anytime, raising the fear of many and opening the door to "legitimate" governmental overreaction of the hard power variety
  • the refusal of many of the best brains and characters even to consider entering the political arena leaving the stage open for those with minimal vision and maximum personal ambition
  • a nearly total transformation in the use of social media, leaving many of the traditional outlets scrambling for respectability while twitter and facebook, linkedin and other such devices now carry many of the gossip messages that formerly were transmitted by phone in relative privacy
  • a change in the exercise of power that now includes permanent drone activity (by the U.S.) without the consent and even the consideration of the Congress (no boots on the ground, no declaration of war)
  • a growing religious fundamentalism that attempts to provide a veneer of ethical 'cover' for those in leadership, amounting to little more than self-declared sanctimony for political posturing and image
  • a dramatic shift up in our cultural tolerance of others, without the needed search for evidence and the accompanying need for profound reflection on the meaning of that evidence
  • a dramatic shift in the actors who possess private and heretofore secret information, including government cables, private diplomatic notes and political innuendo and gossip from governments to private citizens
Many of these forces, all of them human, are becoming unmanageable, because many of them have outstripped the actual laws that apply to their execution. The political process is much slower than the speed of the process of the development of new technology whose power and whose capacity to seduce reaches into the bowels of all organizations. Not to be part of the technwave is to be irrelevant and thereby trashed.
Consequently, there is a "rush to acceptance" at the core of our insecurity that could be demonstrated to be at the heart of a frightened electorate that misreads "alpha" as strength, and the evolved, sensitive and more poetic kind of leadership and reflection as out of touch with the drama of the times.
It is our own neurosis projected onto the canvas of the national stage that we are watching, certainly not our best angels or our highest aspirations. And Harper is riding a wave whose disintegration is merely a few months down the calendar....although there are "monster" productions in the movie business that seem to continue to suck billions from the pockets of the masses as a measure of their "success".

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