The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Me Me Me!

As with so many other things and especially during elections, public transit policies seem to be more a matter for politicking than of substance: not least since every one of the leaders seems to have an attitude in this matter of "Do as I suggest, not as I do". After all, limousines and party-owned jets are endemic in the political world: and if environment had really been so much of an issue, why is not a single one of the leaders even trying to minimise the amount of travel in this campaign, perhaps by planning out campaign stops so as to only cross the country twice? In large part this indifference, sourced in the classic economics "tragedy of the commons" parable, probably arises out of the perhaps inevitable sense of entitlement that always seems to accompany wealth in every societal structure with which humankind has as yet experimented. Always, there seems to exist an unspoken internal demand that in parallel with the existence of wealth comes the right to use it in any way the individual sees fit: and, perhaps even more relevantly, that consequences of such use (be they on an individual or mass scale) somehow do not apply to me.

Just take a look at the latest Liberal press release:
Jack Layton's 'politics over principle' approach has cost cities across the country dearly by delaying $800 million in public transit funding by bringing down the government before any bilateral transit deals could be signed.
The release goes on to discuss gas tax transfers for the purpose of funding public transit in the New Deal for Cities and Communities: but by all means don't give a single hint of anything even suggesting substance during an election without also demonstrating how the other party is working against you. Otherise we might actually start to take you seriously; and maybe even (gasp!) start to think about actual practical alternatives.

I give Stephen Harper full credit for releasing his current campaign promise of a 16% tax credit for holders of monthly public transit passes without so much as a breath of comparison -- and in addition the proposal is a solid one, such that I will be adapting some variant into my own taxation proposal. (Incidentally, although I rely absolutely on public transit, this proposal will not benefit me in the slightest: I don't have a monthly pass.) It does touch on part of the incentive to remain on welfare (and obtain a free public transit pass) rather than take a minimum wage job and have to absorb the full cost of transportation. I would wonder, however, what incentive could part Stephen Harper from his own beloved limousine? If there exists no sufficient incentive: then we have to recognise that at the core, Stephen Harper -- just like every other federal party leader, Green notwithstanding -- fundamentally holds that the environment is someone else's problem.

Finally, to Jack Layton and Olivia Chow: get over it. Bloggers are dumb. (I don't exclude myself.) With the exponential rise of self-publishing media in a pseudo-anonymous world of thinly-veiled inferiority complexes, insult humour is currently as popular as ever it has been. How could it be otherwise? There is nothing particularly exceptional about the blogging community: average people, most of us, who generally seem to hold actual in-depth consideration of anything more than the immediate "what" to be too time-consuming and too much of an effort. (What do we save all this time and brain power for, anyway? One would think we had solved the issue of world peace by now.) Pointed political satire requires effort: effort to understand the issue in the first place, effort to translate that issue into an unexpected context -- which not infrequently leads to greater public understanding of that issue. This is nothing more than personal insult humour, below even the level of Triumph the Insult Dog ... and I hope I don't need to remind you how popular Triumph the Insult Dog continues to be in English Canada, and how that humour instantly breaks down the moment it steps outside its "play along, you know what I am doing here" context.

But if you are still upset even after a fellow politico lost his job over this incident, remember what Goethe once said, that men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable ... and I add to this also, in nothing more clearly than what mockery they cannot simply shrug off.

Should I have had to explain this to a social sciences PhD? unless, of course, the PhD in question also buys absolutely into appearances above substance?