Monday, February 25, 2013

Liberals shun existential reflection for slick charisma

Whatever may be the case, nearly two years after that catastrophic election, the party shows no interest in reinventing itself, still less in any healthy existential introspection.(from "Andrew Coyne: Liberal Party would rather be a personality cult than transform itself" by Andrew Coyne, Natinoal Post, February 20, 2013, excerpted below)
The "existential moment" is defined as that moment in which one recognizes one's own meaninglessness and it is the responsibility of that one to focus on one's own meaning and seek to generate and accomplish it. If this is not a moment in which the Liberal Party of Canada does not, or cannot, recognize and acknowledge its own meaninglessness, and begin to take appropriate steps to generate and accomplish something that looks like "meaning" in the existential sense of that word, then when would that moment be?
Introspection, existential reflection, policy alternatives debated and refined, intellectual rigour and leadership discipline....these are not only not the direction of the Liberal Party of Canada, but sadly, they are also not the temper, the culture, or the ethos in which the current political landscape in Canada operates. Individuals who dig deeply into their own misfortunes, seeking honest answers to questions like "What was my role in that debacle?" are considered to be narcissistic and addicted to the past and to its tragic impacts. "Leave the past in the past" is a familiar adage for those determined not to conduct what amount to archaelogic digs into memory, character, motives and a discipline to learn.
In a star-fraught culture, inculcated in a "great-man" archetype, hungry if not avaricious for instant gratification, with visions of electoral power through purchased public manipulation, there is simply no room for deep and profound and existential reflection. And those who engage in such pursuits, individually, or collectively, and certainly corporately, especially ecclesially, are considered anathema to both the 'status quo' (something those accustomed to power seem addicted to preserving) and to a formal denial of the theme of nature, change.
Change simply does not apply to those who know best.
Change is not part of the vocabulary of those steeped in the alchemy of the elite.
Change is not part of the theology, for example, of a Roman Catholic church, whose leaders are paid to protect its many fossils of dogma, tradition, ritual, liturgy and impenetrability, including the preservation of the "great-man" at the top.
And make no mistake, if you have not attended a Liberal Party gathering lately, one of the first comments one hears from long-term members, is that it is the party of Roman Catholics...or at least was! That was my experience, on attending my first party gathering just prior to the last federal election, coming from one who really didn't comprehend fully the impact of his proud observation.
The party may elect some very good candidates, and will, unfortunately, wrap itself in the Trudeau banner once again, hoping against hope, cynical though it is, that Canadians will be seduced by the Trudeau mystique, or charisma, and will throw the Harper government out with the trash.
Yet, this is not 1968!
And Justin Trudeau is not Pierre Trudeau, not even a pale imitation of the deceased Prime Minister.
And the Liberal Party is not the Liberal Party of 1968, and no attempt to paint the mascara of faux excitement and faux energy on its self-inflicted, and potentially fatal wounds, too numerous to list again,
can prevent another electoral mistake when they choose another leader...without having undergone the rigours of a critical public self-reflection, including a disciplined debate of substantive, complex issues and potential solutions, demonstrating a mastery of the many files, so that, when it comes time for the 2015 federal election, Canadians will have the kind of clear policy and philosophy alternatives we deserve.
So far, only the NDP offers the kind of credible alternative to Harper, and in spite of the new book by Ibbitson et al, on the projected long-term political success of Harper's new conservatism, Tom Mulcair and his band of earnest, eager, industrious and even neophyte members, along with seasoned veterans, provides the most promise for a return to sanity and evidence-based policies, for all Canadians, in 2015. And I'm proud to be a member of the federal NDP!

Andrew Coyne: Liberal Party would rather be a personality cult than transform itself

By Andrew Coyne, National Post, February 20, 2013
Perhaps it was an impossible thing to expect. Perhaps it was even unfair. To demand that the Liberal Party of Canada, after a century and more as the party of power, should reinvent itself as a party of ideas; that it should, after a string of ever-worse election results culminating in the worst thumping in its history, ask itself some searching questions, including whether Canada still needed a Liberal Party, and if so on what basis — perhaps it was all too much to ask.

Because, on the evidence, the party isn’t capable of it. Or perhaps it simply doesn’t want to. Either it does not believe such a process is necessary. Or it does, but can’t bear it. Whatever may be the case, nearly two years after that catastrophic election, the party shows no interest in reinventing itself, still less in any healthy existential introspection. The policy conference that was to be the occasion for this came and went; the months that followed were similarly void.
And the leadership race, so long delayed, so eagerly awaited? Not the ideal place for a party to reflect on who it is and what it stands for — that’s why the race was put off for so long, to get all of that out of the way beforehand — but perhaps it was the only realistic shot. As they chose between candidates, Liberals (and “supporters”!) would also be choosing between competing visions of the party, sharpening and forcing issues that until now the party had preferred to avoid. Only that’s not really how it’s turning out, is it?
I don’t mean the candidates, some of them at least, haven’t tried, sort of. At various times, various candidates have issued the odd policy proposal that would set the party apart from its rivals — abolish supply management (Martha Hall Findlay), open telecoms to foreign competition (Marc Garneau), scrap the “net benefit” rule on foreign takeovers (George Takach). Even those candidates offering more traditional Liberal policy fare — increasingly indistinguishable from the NDP’s — have at least set out some sort of a direction for the party. And all of them might as well not have bothered.

Because the party seems determined to give itself to Justin Trudeau, come what may. Now, it is true that Trudeau has himself offered up a policy morsel or two. He favours liberalizing the drug laws and accepting takeovers by foreign state-owned enterprises in the oil sands. He opposes tightening Quebec’s language laws and boutique corporate tax credits. He was for the long-gun registry, but is against bringing it back.
But beyond that? He has his father’s views on the Quebec question, without doubt. But the only broad statement of his economic policy we have is his unswerving devotion to “the middle class.” And while the same criticism could be made of the other candidates — a grab bag of positions does not add up to a philosophy, still less a raison d’etre for the party — only Trudeau has made a virtue of his opacity. To take more forthright positions now, he argues, would prejudge the sorts of grassroots consultations he intends to hold — after he is leader.
It’s tempting to suggest this amounts to asking party members (and “supporters”!) to accept him on faith now, on the promise that he will listen to their views later. Except to most of his followers, it doesn’t matter whether he listens to them or not: he had them at hello. Trudeau may not be wholly uninterested in ideas himself, but he is plainly the candidate of those who are. All many of them know is his name and his face, and all the rest need to know is that, for much of the population, that is enough. He will spare them the hard work of looking within. He will rescue them from doubt, from debate, from having to choose to be this and not that.

For Trudeau’s rivals, this presents something of a conundrum. It’s all very well to point out that Trudeau has not only said little of where he would lead the party, but has next to no qualifications for the job. For anyone even half-way inclined to vote for Trudeau these are irrelevant, if not positive virtues. If you have to point it out, you’ve already lost....

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