Category: politics

Boris, Unleashed

The people of the United Kingdom have spoken and revealed themselves to be even more ill-informed and gullible than I ever would’ve believed.

This was, for all intents and purposes, a second Brexit referendum and, guess what, the Leavers easily won the day, despite the so-called “youth quake” and every bit of “Momentum” they could muster.

Labour took a big hit but what is equally interesting is that the Liberal Democrats, pro-Remain and proud of it, were also swept from the electoral board. Take that, all you Labourites who insisted Jeremy Corbyn should have more aggressively stumped for the European Union while out on the hustings.

Ah, Jeremy Corbyn.

He’s finished, of course, and so is the Left wing of the Labour Party. Now Tony Blair and his minions will have all the ammunition they need to gut the party and return it to the golden days when they hugged the middle of the road like a near-sighted motorist. No more of this shite about “the many vs. the few” and shaking up the ruling hegemony. There are many affluent Labour members and supporters who were never comfortable with Corbyn’s intentions to redistribute wealth and shore up the “nanny state”. Cradle to grave medical coverage, free tuition, reinvesting in social services? Fuck that. The wealthy are happy to claim a progressive mantle as long as their interests aren’t threatened. Once that happens, they lose all trappings of liberalism and socialism, siding with their economic equals and peers. Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg called it over a hundred years ago and little has changed since.

It’s a class thing and nothing else matters once privilege is called into question.

Going to get very, very ugly, very, very fast in the U.K. but here are a few predictions for what lies ahead, and one doesn’t have to be a swami or mentalist to see this coming:

Boris Johnson’s star won’t be long in ascent. At heart, he’s a creep and compulsive liar and his true colors will be revealed in very short order.

The U.K. will sign a final Brexit deal…but will never escape the economic reach and power of the European Union. The final draft will be a huge eye-opener to the rabid Leave folks, Brussels setting the agenda and calling the shots, including a free movement of people across borders and many other clauses that kinda, sorta resemble the old agreement.

Scotland is gone. Independence, baby. The Scots are a wise people who know which way the wind is blowing. While the rest of the U.K. limps along, its power and influence much diminished, Scotland will cut a new deal with the E.U. and before long will be out-performing their Brit, northern Irish and Welsh counterparts.

The powers that be will double down on their control of the “free press”, learning to better manage the message. Despite a heavily biased news media (including the once-vaunted BBC), Labour was able to starkly depict the plight of the poor, disenfranchised, youth and precariously employed, exposing the underlying anger people are experiencing while suffering under the yolk of neo-liberal capitalism. That must be checked—can’t allow reality to defeat the carefully maintained illusion of a united, contented populace.

I’m in grieving mode today, distraught that ordinary, hard-working people had an opportunity to take a sober, second look at Brexit and remake their society into a fairer, more sustainable and democratic dominion where everyone is treated equally.

This was a chance for real, generational change, a revolution from below.

It’s over and won’t come again in my life time.

The good guys have lost and now the U.K. is at the mercy of a black-hearted bunch of bastards who are going to loot the public purse, secret the proceeds of their crimes in tax havens, while having a bloody good laugh at the expense of the stupid proles who put them in power, voting (yet again) against their own interests, deserving of nothing but contempt.

“The worst slavery is that of heavily indoctrinated happy morons who adore their chains and cannot wait to thank their masters for the joy of their subservience.”

Yanis Varoufakis

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

H.L. Mencken

 

 

Justin Trudeau in “Black Face” is not the issue

Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with me is aware that I despise mealy-mouthed liberals in general and Justin Trudeau in particular.

For nearly two decades I have regarded Trudeau, Jr. as a prime example of the kind of vapid, insufferable personality that has made a home on the centre-Left of the political spectrum. The sheer hypocrisy of these people is something to behold. They’re in favor of all the grand social causes of the day, any issue that doesn’t endanger their personal interests or cause them to lose their privileged status. They call themselves “progressives” because it makes them feel better, but their political activism comes to a screeching halt when their bank accounts and vacation homes are threatened or if their kids can no longer attend elite private schools that help prep them for life among the one-percenters.

J.T. is the embodiment of a “on one hand this, on the other hand that” breed of people that can utter contradictory positions without realizing (or caring about) the intellectual and ideological cowardice of their stance. Look at the way he championed the notion of proportional representation before the last federal election, abandoning it as soon as he had secured a comfortable majority in the House of Commons. He can bemoan the poor state of the environment, offer his support to the Kyoto Protocol and other climate accords, yet spend billions of taxpayer $$$ on new pipelines that, if Canada aggressively pursued alternative energy strategies and technologies, will be obsolete in a decade. He and his office personally intervened on behalf of SNC-Lavalin, trying to ensure that corruption-plagued company would receive special treatment from our judicial system, a lenient slap on the wrist for consorting with despicable regimes, bribing their way into the good books of the likes of Muammar Gaddafi.

Yet instead of being continually raked over the coals for these cynical ploys, today J.T. finds himself vilified for photos and video from the distant past, the politically correct posse baying for blood. Remember, apologizing and showing remorse isn’t enough for these arbiters of decency and morality, they want your existence permanently expunged from the record, the very mention of your name subject to boos and hisses from the peanut gallery.

Some of the wisest words ever uttered are: “Let those without sin be the first to cast stones”. How many of us have something to hide, some indiscretion, ill-advised joke, stupid quip we’re ashamed of? Have you never behaved badly or caused distress to someone else, deliberately or inadvertently? Well, then, you’re among a very tiny minority and good for you. And, by the way, you’re also a big, fat liar, liar, pants on fire.

Folks, the reason our politicians suck these days, why we have difficulty convincing thoughtful individuals to run for public office, is because of the ridiculous standards we impose on them, insisting that everything they’ve done in their lives either be above reproach or so well concealed they never have a chance of seeing the light of day. If you happened to fart in church back in 2003 and wish to run for mayor, town dogcatcher or, God help you, member of Parliament, well, someone is bound to bring it up and use it against you. Never mind your genuine desire to serve others—less fortunate people who have (rightfully) become disenchanted with the candidates they’ve been offered and would like to see a politician possessing new, exciting ideas and the mettle to carry them through.

How many of our best leaders and statesmen, men and women who made their mark on history, could bear the kind of scrutiny they’d be subjected to today? How many would be denied the opportunity to contribute their unique gifts and visions to the world? Mackenzie King talked to ghosts, JFK was a serial philanderer, Lincoln famously stated that if given a choice between preserving the union and outlawing slavery, he would choose the former option.

And Jesus Christ, we’re told, regularly hung around with whores and tax-collectors (shame on him!).

We get the kind of government we deserve and if the self-appointed poobahs of righteousness and virtue have their way democracy will suffer grievously…and we will continue to be represented by officials unstained by scandal, but lacking any of the passion and fire required to enact real change in our unequal, superficial, broken society.

Getting caught with your pants down is one thing—being exposed for lack of conviction, duplicity, a paucity of empathy and compassion, wanton disregard for democratic institutions and values is something quite different.

It’s perfectly okay to be a Justin Trudeau hater…just make sure you’re hating him for all the right reasons.

 

 

“Mouth”: The Table of Contents

My new book Mouth: Rants and Routines contains over 40 broadsides on a variety of subjects near and drear to my heart.

I’m posting the Table of Contents below, just to illustrate the breadth and diversity of the subject matter.

In the meantime, I urge you to pop over to a site that has recently posted one of the most personal essays from Mouth, a warts-and-all overview of my three-decade long writing career, with the promising title “Man of Constant Failure”. Click here to read it.

I also posted one of my favorite bits, a takedown of stupid comic book movies and the critics who laud them, over at my film site, Cinema Arete. Click here to read it.

And don’t forget the live performance of some of the essays from Mouth I recorded in my living room before a very appreciative audience. I loaded it on to Bandcamp for free listening. Click here to tune in.

And now, the aforementioned Table of Contents. The roll call of infamy:

Introduction

Disgraceland (I)

The Attractions of Misanthropy

White Riot

Phone Sex

This movie sucks (and so do you)

Paris is Burning

Coming Soon to Your Hometown

I’ve Seen the Future, Baby, and It’s Boring

God, A Concept

Self-Loathing

Bad At Sex

Agents of Control

Profanity

Who are you? (I)

Good, Honest Hatred

Family

Friends

Kissing

Chicken Little

Disgraceland (II)

Man to Man

Christians & Taliban

Foot in Mouth Disease

Who are you? (II)

First Impressions

Uncommon Fears

Questions

Stupid People: A Case For Eugenics?

I Don’t Care

Kill Yourself

Trades People

Get Out Your Hankies

Gun Crazy

Dreamer

Who are you? (III)

Single People

Man of Constant Failure

People Who Take Signs to Public Events

Between the Idea and the Reality

In Praise of Book Burning

Killing Alexander

Anger Management

MADM

I Hate White People

Love

Distress Call

Disgraceland (Coda)

Acknowledgements

* * * * *

Mouth: Rants & Routines is currently being prepped for publication as an e-book/Kindle and will be available for sale and downloading by the last week of May.

Check back here in the coming days for further updates.

 

 

Live! From our living room!

What a night.

I confess to feeling nervous—how would people, even enlightened, progressive types, react to my rants on subjects that would strike many as too close to home?

As the clock wound down and the reading date we’d chosen inched closer and closer, I felt my nerves twanging like guitar strings. On the day in question, I set up chairs in our living room, cleaned the house from top to bottom and wondered if I’d be a few friends shyer once the evening was over.

My latest book, Mouth: Rants and Routines, is a no-holds-barred attack on political correctness and its dim-witted minions, except this time, the criticism is coming from the far Left. This will be considered unconscionable by some, a betrayal of my roots.

Bullshit.

PC and its accompanying trendy social causes have diverted the attention of progressives and advanced the agenda of people only interested in narrow, single issues, rather than trying to build a giant tent that would encompass all those who struggle in the crushing grip of capitalism, men, women and children who lack food and health and shelter security. I’m talking about folks working two or three part-time jobs in a precarious economic climate; single mothers, people living on fixed incomes that amount to no incomes at all, once the rent and bills are paid.

And then there is the existential threat presented by climate change: while some of us fuss about, wondering where we fit on the sexual spectrum or fret over what bathroom is most appropriate or which personal pronoun to use when referring to ourselves, half the world is burning.

Mouth is a bitter pill to swallow, no question, and will offend a lot of individuals who like to wear their beliefs on their sleeves, visible to everyone, a display of righteousness and piety and sanctimoniousness that would make a medieval Pope blush.

As my Introduction to the book warns:

“If you’re a wishy-washy liberal, someone who sits on the fence until their ass is black and blue, this probably isn’t the book for you. Likewise if you recently enrolled in a Gender Studies program and/or believe that one day, God willing, Caitlyn Jenner will win a Nobel Prize for…something. If you frequently use the words ‘men’ and ‘rape culture’ in the same sentence, if you self-identify according to a particular animal clan, or consider your pets surrogate children, well, there’s the door, please use it.”

The folks in attendance that night were surprisingly receptive to my heresy and in the recording we made you’ll hear lots of laughter and noises of agreement. I was thrilled and very, very relieved.

I know I’ll take some stick for daring poke at some Lefty/liberal causes that many people hold as sacred, inviolable, untouchable. But I also know there is a strong undercurrent among political progressives and contrarians who agree with me and cheer my decision to slay these sacred cows with as much invective and sarcasm as I possibly can.

Here’s a link to that reading, recorded in our home earlier this week. I have quite a bit of spoken word material and ambient music posted over at Bandcamp, all of it available for free listening and downloading. Please, tuck in.

I welcome your responses, whether you agree with me or not.

We need to have this discussion. The Left has no hope of defeating the entrenched interests opposing us unless we act in a unified, cohesive manner, refusing to allow ourselves to be hijacked by special interest groups and a tiny, vocal minority who eschew Big Ticket issues (income inequality, poverty, hunger) in favor of identity, gender politics, etc.

Stop the atomization and division and come together in one massive plurality of those who demand fairness and equality for ALL.

It really is our only hope of slowing down or, at least, humanizing the capitalist juggernaut bearing down on us, the horrible future it portends.

  • Special thanks to my pal, Laird Brittin, who bravely agreed to open the evening with some of his new, original songs. He set the tone early, warmed up the crowd and, oh, yeah, played a helluva set. A true and valued friend…

No such thing as “class system”

Moment of Truth

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s just common sense that the right to vote should be reserved for those who own property.

They say it’s not a class thing, but it isn’t society’s responsibility to look after the poor.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s that higher education was never intended for everyone, just a select few.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s because handicapped parking discriminates against the able-bodied.

They say it’s not a class thing, but shouldn’t those who make more get to keep more?

They say it’s not a class thing, but does their daughter have to sit next to her?

They say it’s not a class thing, but too much is made out of raising the minimum wage.

They say it’s not a class thing, but wouldn’t our neighbourhoods be a lot safer if we had more cops and prisons?

They say it’s not a class thing, but what’s all this nonsense about minority rights?

They say it’s not a class thing, but aren’t the best cleaners and maids from Central America—El Salvador and Honduras especially—because those people have the most to be thankful for.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s just that offhand they don’t know the price of a quart of milk or carton of eggs.

They say it’s not a class thing, they really do need that great, big house all to themselves.

They say it’s not a class thing, they don’t mind shelling out seven bucks for a quality cup of coffee.

They say it’s not a class thing, but as a rule they never give to panhandlers.

They say it’s not a class thing, some people are natural leaders, while others are meant to serve.

They insist it’s not a class thing, then grin sheepishly and admit yeah, it probably is.

 

 

Finding Normal (Blog Post #499)

Only a few days left to go, the countdown on, people across our home and native land waiting with bated breath for October 17th, the day recreational cannabis will officially be available for sale in Canada.

Actually, to be honest I detect very little sense of anticipation or concern, even in my small prairie city which is, ah, conservative/redneck, not exactly pothead central. But I wonder what overall effect the normalization of marijuana will have on the Great Green North, how long it will take to defeat the pervasive stupidity of the “reefer madness” mentality that has poisoned legalization discussions for the past century.

Will it be a non-issue, like the legalization of casinos a generation ago? There’s a similar mentality involved, cash-strapped governments seeking coins for their hungry coffers wherever they can hoover them up. If they can’t raise income tax, they’ll raise consumption taxes, make us pay for every item or service we require. Remember when gambling was bad? I can, but only just, and the same thing will happen with demon weed. All the doom-sayers and worry-mongers will be shown to be full of hot air and other than a few more red-eyed people walking around and pizza sales shooting through the roof (at least initially), I predict pot legalization will produce a general feeling of “So what was the big deal?”

And after pot, what next? Has to be prostitution—government-inspected brothels, sex workers better protected from predatory johns…and the Feds and provinces gain yet another tidy, dependable revenue stream.

They’ll need it because they’re going to be forced to inject more capital into a system that is currently running on vapors. It will be necessary to prime the economic pump, and soon. That’s why you’ll eventually see a $15 minimum wage AND, not long afterward, a guaranteed annual income for every Canadian. There’s just not enough money going around, not enough offerings being shovelled into the hungry maw of Mammon. Trickledown economics NEVER worked and that fact becomes ever clearer. When people can no longer to afford the basic goods and services of capitalism, the machine crashes and burns, chaos results.

The poobahs in charge don’t want that. They’re going to do whatever is necessary to perpetuate their power structure, the benefits they enjoy. If that means skimming off some spare change and casting it at the feet of the plebs, so be it.

Except I have a feeling that poor and struggling workers will no longer settle for morsels. They’re falling farther and farther behind, their wages stagnant, their kids can’t improve their prospects because post-secondary education is so expensive, they’re on the downward spiral AND THEY KNOW IT.

Legalizing pot is a temporary—and, frankly, cynical—holding measure. Buying off the electorate with pseudo-progressive policies and symbolic concessions while doing next to nothing to actually, y’know, address economic inequality and health security. Surely our masters aren’t foolish enough to think the rest of us don’t see through their transparent ploy.

Real change is required, to preserve social mobility and address fundamental flaws in a self-perpetuating system that rewards the few at the expense of the many.

That system is not democratic or sustainable and, in light of the current climate crisis, quite demonstrably insane.

What will it take to convince our political masters and elites that we’re serious this time?

Must they hear the awful roll of the tumbrils once again?

Quote of the day: Jim Shepard (Blog Post #498)

Longtime patrons of this blog know of my deep and profound respect for American author Jim Shepard.

He’s one of my literary heroes—he and George Saunders are the two best short story writers in the English language.

For a number of years he wrote a column for The Believer and in 2017 Tin House Books (great little press) released a collection of those pieces titled The Tunnel at the End of the Light.

It is, needless to say, a smart, articulate book and I wanted to quote a passage from Shepard’s Introduction to give you an idea of why I revere the man so much:

“The Republican Party has for decades claimed that the American government is the implacable enemy of the American people. This administration (Trump) is working to make that statement true for the first time for a very large majority of citizens.

That leaves the streets, and we can already see what’s in store for us there. The militarization of the police over the past forty years, begun with the war on drugs and amped up a thousandfold by the war on terror, was never really about threats from without and has always been about anticipating threats from within: as in, What happens when economic inequality and political irrelevance become so grotesque that they lead to civic unrest? The solution to the problem, for the Republicans and the corporate Democrats who have held power, has never been, So I guess we should do something to alleviate economic inequality. It’s always been, When the have-nots have nothing left but the streets, we need to be ready to take the streets away as well. And of course the exponential growth of the surveillance state will help with that. Hence our leaders’ seeming lack of concern over the last decade or so about all the metadata about US citizens—citizens who haven’t been suspected of a crime—that’s being hovered up.”

 

Blog Post #497–New poetry

Lost Art

After Otto Dix we know
why they send them home
in closed caskets

The war dead lack elegance
refusing to conform to
classic depictions of beauty

Their wounds gape
wet and labial, inviting
unwelcome comparisons

Death and Eros
indecently clutching, an
untitled lost gouache on cardboard

2018; All Rights Reserved

Otto Dix, pencil on cardboard; 1930

Ryan Meili, at the Gog

Sherron and I hosted a fund-raiser for NDP leadership candidate Ryan Meili last night at the Gog.

The atmosphere was terrific, the audience engaged and appreciative of the opportunity to meet and question a man who could well be the premier of our province in 2-3 years.

Ryan, I think it’s safe to say, is on the progressive side of the party and so I felt comfortable in my preamble excoriating the stupidity, cowardice and arrogance displayed by “center-Left” politicians and (gritting his teeth) liberal democrats.

I loathe both vile species, will never forgive them for the betrayals they’ve perpetrated on the people they purport to be serving.

I’ve posted the text of those remarks below and, as always, encourage readers to respond to or debate with any of my points and assumptions.

The evening began with my friend Laird Brittin performing a rousing rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”.

Here’s what I said immediately following the song:

 *  *  *  *

Thank you, Laird.

And thank you, thank you, thank you, Woody Guthrie.

Does anyone happen to remember what Woody had printed on the body of his guitar in big, block letters?

“This Machine Kills Fascists.”

Woody wouldn’t have had much tolerance, I’m afraid, for those people who like to refer to themselves the “Alt-Right”. He was well-acquainted with the danger they represent and I have no doubt he would have called them by their real name.

I also think that Woody, if he was alive today, would be disappointed by the state of the political Left, how muzzled and tamed and tepid it is. And how sadly compromised, its program and rhetoric in many instances almost indistinguishable from the Tories and neo-liberals it allegedly opposes. In the name of expediency and electability, the Left has abandoned its most basic principles and lost its historical solidarity with the working class—also known as the “precariate” or “anxious class” among certain contemporary sociologists and commentators.

Our fellow citizens are disillusioned, depressed, indebted, cynical, lacking any kind of hope for a better future, the scantest possibility for improvement. They’re losing faith in notions like “social mobility” and, yes, “democracy”.

Woody could have predicted that. In the midst of the Great Depression, experiencing the horrors of the Dust Bowl firsthand, he witnessed people giving up, the light in their eyes going out as they watched their livelihoods, the very source of their identity, swept away by powers beyond their control. Such men and women are easy prey for demagogues and dictators, anyone who’s quick to supply easy answers to their questions (along with a convenient scapegoat or two).

And so it is today.

Vulnerable workers, people in low-wage jobs with no benefits, men and women one paycheck away from a repossessed car…or a notice of eviction. Folks who look around and don’t see their lives getting any better…and no one addressing their fears and anxieties.

As the saying goes, a drowning man will clutch the point of a sword.

Especially if that’s all they’re being offered.

Clearly, progressives have been doing a poor job of presenting a relevant, well-articulated alternative to the neo-liberal/corporate agenda and we’ve failed to connect with people who are at the end of their rope and desperately in need of some relief from the constant strain and pressure of daily existence.

From their point of view, we’ve abandoned them—and did so once we started spouting the same jargon as the other guys and kept gutlessly tacking to the middle of the road in the hope of making our policies more palatable to international money markets and guys in suits worshipping at the altar of the Chicago School of Economics.

We need to spare struggling citizens our rote sympathy and manufactured outrage and, instead, help them better cope with a fluid, volatile world that, without some kind of outside intervention, will treat them like chattel, while reducing our environment to the equivalent of a smoldering rubbish tip.

Our counterparts on the Right are quick to put forward solutions that promise the electorate the efficiency and rigorous structure of a Toyota factory floor. Conservative ideologues–many of them, not coincidentally, wealthy businessmen—cannot conceive of why every government service can’t either be privatized, down-sized or delivered in a manner that conforms to sound management practices and tried-and-true business methodologies.

But do we really want the profit motive and neo-liberal economics applied to our education and health care systems?

Doesn’t that kind of top-down, austerity-driven model lead, in other spheres, to boom-and-bust cycles, insolvency, mass layoffs, cronyism, corruption…and is that the mindset we want to embed in our hospitals and schools?

Tariq Ali calls it “tooth-and-nails capitalism” and I think he’s bang on.

And since I’m tossing quotes around, I’ll throw in another one, this one from Terence McKenna:

“Gradual change is a luxury of the past.”

Because the future is rushing toward us and it is a future for which we are wholly unprepared. We approach dangerous new frontiers in almost every branch of science and find ourselves confronted with technologies that will alter our conception and definition of humanity. Genetic engineering and the development of artificial intelligence present us with extraordinary ethical dilemmas. And if we prove to be unable or incapable of facing up to our responsibilities, others will be more than happy to make critical decisions on our behalf.

But these are huge issues and so we feel helpless and stupid when we try wrapping our minds around them. How can we manage?

May I remind everyone that we live in the birthplace of the cooperative movement? At one point in time, we were the bellwether as far as the socialist experiment in North America was concerned.

Individually we might feel overwhelmed, but by acting in concert, with a shared vision and a shared sense of urgency, we might have a chance to slow this juggernaut down and introduce some kind of sustainability and human compassion into a world-spanning ideology that is starting to eat itself.

We need people in the vanguard who are willing to defy the status quo and resist the temptations and blandishments offered by the ruling class.

Dr. Meili’s prescription for a healthy society requires that we recognize the role of scarcity and insecurity in undermining wellness in all its guises.

It acknowledges that without a strong social safety net, too many will founder when faced with the innate indifference of market forces and rampant consumerism.

Any government that refuses to protect its citizens from unemployment, social exclusion, inequality and marginalization based on race, class or gender, has abdicated its constitutional responsibilities and is unfit to represent the people who mistakenly elected it.

Tonight, we’re dreaming big.

We’re looking down the road a few years when there will be an opportunity to show the people of Saskatchewan that there is a real alternative, another course to choose.

It will involve innumerable challenges and it will ask each of us to contribute what we can toward forging a brighter future…for us, and generations to come. A participatory, grassroots-oriented democracy that values the ideas and input of one and all, harnessing the tremendous creative and entrepreneurial energies of our people.

A special kind of leader is required for a movement like that—someone who understands the enormous potential that exists when we pool our collective resources, achieving more in concert that we ever could have alone.

Since announcing his candidacy, Ryan Meili has impressed many of us with his composure, his candour, his comprehensive understanding of the vital issues facing us…and the personable, thoughtful manner in which he responds to them.

It’s my pleasure to welcome Ryan to the Gog tonight and invite him to step forward and present his platform to you and, later, take your questions.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce our special guest and featured speaker, Dr. Ryan Meili.

Laird Brittin