Yesterday morning, a nation stared in the face of political chaos for two hours and saw - a double glass door in Ottawa. No terrorists, no anthrax. But would we be saved from the dreaded coalition?
Yes! By a timeout, the Harper government's term for salvation. And what did it need a timeout from? The possibility of a change of government that is negotiated, constitutional and peaceful. If that's chaos, what would it make of Mumbai, 9/11, the Depression, a plant shutdown or an unexpected death in the family? Grow up. Life doesn't give timeouts, and people cope anyway. Kids get timeouts and theirs don't last seven weeks; it's 20 minutes, max. Adults deal with problems, especially when homes and jobs are at stake or already lost.
Why did Stephen Harper create this fiasco? He seemed about to morph into a conciliator and a Keynesian. At APEC, he said deficits were "essential" now. Then he returned to Ottawa and issued an economic statement with no stimulus, a surplus, along with attacks on women workers, the right to strike and public funding for political parties. Huh? Why did he do a 180? It's his nature.
(A scorpion asked a frog for a ride across the river. The frog said no, because he didn't want to get stung and die. But I'd die, too, said the scorpion. So the frog agreed and, halfway there, got stung. As both sank, the frog said: You'll die now. Yes, said the scorpion, but it's my nature.)
I dislike psychological explanations in politics. I prefer the tradition that looks for socio-economic "root causes." But this one fits. I don't think Stephen Harper's problem is that he's an ideologue. It's that he's one of those people who only feels truly alive when voicing hostility and contempt for his "enemies." Without that, he starts gasping for air. It's his nature. Go find a better explanation for that self-destructive turnaround.
Most other politicians seem to get this about him now. I don't think I've ever said a kind word for Jack Layton but, this week, he looked statesmanlike and genuinely furious over abandoning desperate people to take a "timeout." Gilles Duceppe, who knows the legal risks for calling someone a liar outside the House, did it anyway. Only Stéphane Dion, who said the PM might undergo a "monumental change," didn't get it. But he gets nothing. "In that format," said a filmmaker about his Wednesday night video, "the only thing you could really do is take off your clothes." If the Liberal Party doesn't find a way to ditch him in the next 10 minutes, it should lose its public funding.
So where's the silver lining? Aha, there really is one. Jack Layton called this a great moment in Ottawa. He meant breaking the mould of 19th century, two-party, majority-only government through alliances that are more inclusive and democratic. It even has a name not widely used before: coalition. New words help think the unthinkable. This kind of basic renewal is always slow and painful. Its sign is often an immediate emotional shudder, followed by a rush for silly reasons to justify the fear, like an e-mailer who said a coalition "sends a clear message to our youth that their vote DOES NOT count." But it's kids who vote Green now who see their votes don't count.
Sociologist Thorstein Veblen said countries that industrialized late, such as Germany, had an advantage over manufacturing pioneers such as England, since they didn't need to retool and rethink old methods. This also goes for democracy. Most European countries are at ease with coalitions or creative forms such as French cohabitation. Israel has never had a government that wasn't a coalition. We're still stuck, mentally, in the rotten and pocket boroughs of 200 years ago. The first step is always striking off the mental chains.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.