It is very difficult to mine a leader’s world view, especially when that view is filtered through the world view of what that leader considers his “constituency”. If the leader has spent time among and been exposed to and even been steeped in the culture of a world view, it is inevitable that some of that world view will glomb onto his world view.
Stephen Harper, one of those leaders attending the G7 meeting in southern Germany, used words in his press conference at the close of the meeting that many thought would never come from his mouth. Words to the effect that we will have to find other ways to power our industries than fossil fuels, effectively pronouncing a death knell for both coal and oil/gas, surprised some given his government’s record of sycophancy to the fossil fuel sector.
Angela Merkel, host of the G7 meeting, had urged the leaders to opt for a deadline of 2050, with measureable targets of carbon reduction; she, however, had to settle for a more ephermeral and much less binding deadline of 2100, when all of the leaders will have long since passed away. For his part, Harper’s signature is another of his many “tokenisms” leading to an election campaign in October when he hopes, and would probably predict, he will win a majority government for his Conservative party.
A photo-op with the Pope, a warm and fuzzy send-off for retiring political foe, Peter McKay, a national commercial of the Prime Minister sitting at his desk pondering the world’s problems as if his decisions were measureable against those of Mount Olympus to the Greek gods, and of course the requisite “law-and-order” Bill C-51 that, according to a legion of academics much smarter and better informed that this scribe say threatens civil liberties, while shrugging his shoulders at the massive and seemingly endless buy-out of the Canadian resource and industrial economy by foreign corporate.....these are just some of the more visible signs of the marketing of the prime minister, now another “brand” for the private sector to sell to a gullible electorate. Getting elected, and continuing to campaign, all the while demonizing anything and anyone who hints of a view contrary to Harpers, seems to be his modus operandi.
What is quite bothersome, however, is the pattern of targeting and demonizing individual humans, as the primary focus of Harper’s political ‘ideology’ and world view. Criminals need stiffer sentences; political opponents require a scorched earth approach to the ‘war’ of a campaign; thousands of academic researchers inside the federal government need to be declared redundant, presumably because they might unearth truths that contradict the policies of the government; all government communications must be filtered through a massive and new bureaucracy that keeps the message free of any information or opinion that would even hint at an opinion that would blur the simplistic rifle shots of the talking points that have already been cleared by the Prime Minister’s Office. The most recent market statistics, especially those pointing to the rise in stock prices, are like manna from heaven for this government, given its dual constituency of the corporation board rooms and the rural homesteads and villages. And of course, these two constituencies espouse capitalism, militarism, and a capacity to demonize their opponents in a Darwinian manner known as “eating their own”.
Touting his government’s investments in new technologies, like wind and solar, in the final press briefing at the G7, Harper belies the real truth: that his government has consistently turned both a blind eye and a deaf ear to all reasonable arguments from all reasonable sources like David Suzuki to protect the environment, over the last decade of his tenure. Arguing that to have moved to alternative energy sources would eliminate jobs and increase the cost of doing business is another of Harper’s half-truths: it would increase job opportunities, and probably, in the short run, would require some increase in production costs for industry.
However, the costs of doing nothing, or of pushing any real commitment to the end of this century as the G7 and Harper have done, are much higher than taking positive action now to protect our grandchildren’s air, water, land and the many ecosystems that are threatened.
It has been said that economists have been producing mathematical models of economic activity for decades, many of which they, the economists themselves, do not understand, but which give them fodder for academic meetings and degrees. Harper’s work as a student of economics may have given him the vocabulary and the illusion that his words (like the mathematical symbols of those models) are so captivating that they are in fact seducing him into believing his own delusions.
Building prisons, incarcerating criminals for longer periods for lesser crimes, while removing judicial flexibility in making their judgements, pouring money into the military (now branded with the sacred “royal” moniker), providing tax breaks for the rich and the corporations, especially those engaged in the extraction of gas and oil, tossing crumbs like tax credits for piano lessons (Harper plays keyboard in a band), and for kids soccer, and striding boldly (and hallowly) against Putin and ISIS, and withholding millions of budgeted funds for aboriginal health, education and employment (arguing that the money is reserved to settle land claims)....this is not a legacy that warrants another term in government.
More importantly, the ad-hominum nature of his world view that renders all issues, not merely local but personal. Requiring both a human target (the enemy) and a military hero and self-righteous battle using propaganda, dollars, character assassination and hollow and strident rhetoric to defeat, is a towering insult to the intelligence of the Prime Minister, his muzzled Cabinet, his wooden and programmed members, and the electorate. Scientific abstractions, like the global ozone and its depletion, without a single human being who is the poster-child to attack for its destruction, or long-term trends that foreshadow demographics of tomorrow, provided historically and very professionally y Statistics Canada...these are enemies of the Harper state, given their complexity, even their ambiguity and their need for increased funds to both study and to remediate. The elimination of the long-term census, for example, along with the thousands of scientists in the civil service, a cadre of which Canada has been historically and internationally proud, is another example of Harper’s determination to impose his world view on the Canadian electorate and culture through the “defeat” as if he were a military general on some mythic battlefield, of all perceived or hypothetical enemies.
Unfortunately, playing heroically and mythically with some “joy stick” in order to demonstrate digital power over enemies is not analogous to the many and subtle complexities and contradictions and ambiguities of governing a highly sophisticated, intelligent, contemporary, liberal democracy. His determination to eradicate the word “liberal” from the Canadian lexicon, however, will ultimately and permanently fail and Harper’s signature will be all over his government’s defeat.