Sunday, December 20, 2009

Politics


They sell the above poster at a little shop on Sparks Street here in Ottawa. It's popular among the poli sci students that make up a sizable portion of the sizable student population in the Nation's Capital. More specifically, it's popular with those calling themselves "conservatives". It gives them conservative street cred. Provides a link between themselves and the proud history of conservative politics in Canada... or so they tell themselves. Anyone who actually knows anything of John A. Macdonald and the history of Canada knows how farcical it is for these regionalists, these free traders, these self-hating Canadians, to conjure up the image of Canada's first Prime Minister as a symbol for their cause.

Yet, up until the summer of 2004 I counted myself among them. In 2004 I was a student in the public affairs department at Carleton University. I had recently signed up to help out my local CPC candidate in the federal election. I told myself that the Conservatives under Stephen Harper were fighting for the real Canada, that we were fighting to remove the Liberals and their perverted view of the country from power so that we could bring the country back to its roots. I was stupid. I had fallen prey to the non-stop rage of conservative commentators. I regularly listened in on Ottawa blow hard Lowell Green and his daily prophecies of doom if the corrupt Liberals were allowed to stay in power. I wrung my hands when confronted with spittle flecking Albertans, willing to do anything to make our hard done by Western brothers and sisters fall in love with Canada again. I was a true believer. However, all it took to bring me back from the edge was a bad joke.

I was out canvassing with some other campaign workers on a lovely Saturday. We were in a pretty affluent neighbourhood and were walking from house to house. We came upon a home that had recently had its lawn sprayed. The grass on the property was bright green and of uniform length. On the other side of the sidewalk, the city's property, the grass was brown and weeds stood out along the curb. One of the door knockers giggled a bit to himself and waddled up to share what he just came up with. He stood on the private property and said "Private" and then shuffled over to the municipally owned land and said "Socialism". The other 3 campaign workers burst into loud, sustained laughter. It was, one would assume, the funniest thing they had ever heard. I looked at them in horror, the realization of who it was I had thrown my lot in with dawning on me for the first time. These people were insane.

The next couple weeks just reinforced that conclusion. I liked the candidate, he was a nice guy and undeniably bright. He was disgusted with adscam and was doing his part to kick the bastards out. But just about every low-level worker was nuts. They were angry all the time. They were angry at everything. Most importantly, and disturbingly, they seemed to despise Canada. They revered the United States. Spoke longingly of low taxes, easily accessibly guns, low paid teachers, and strict immigration rules. I realized I was with the bad guys.

I hung in there until the end of the election (I still liked the candidate and still thought the Liberals needed a time out), but afterwards distanced myself from the party and the Carleton conservative organization. I was disillusioned and in a political no mans land. Frankly, I stopped knowing what to believe.

Then two things happened. First, I met the professor that made my university career worth while. He was a young political science professor. He was the most passionate lecturer I had encountered in the 4 years I had been at Carleton. I took three of his courses and looked forward to them every week. He assigned McClung, Lord Durham, Grant, Frye, and, most importantly, Canada's Founding Debates. He taught me what conservatism actually meant, what being Canadian actually meant. By the time I had finished my degree he had helped firm up my political beliefs. I was a conservative, but I was not a Conservative.

My second formative experience was my time in Europe. After university I moved to Ireland and operated a youth hostel. It was the perfect job for a year abroad, providing ample time for me to jet around Europe and see the sites. I learned what government could be. I learned that with a little imagination and the support of the populace, government could accomplish things that private enterprise could not, or, did rarely. I came back to Canada with a respect for our European roots and how much better this country would be if we only embraced them.

Since stumbling upon the blogosphere I have become more committed to this vision of Canada. Old style tories like Sir Francis, middle of the road folks like Red Tory, and even far left commentators like the intelligent Dr. Dawg, have all contributed to my understanding of politics and this country. I can't hope to write as intelligently or eloquently as bloggers such as these, but hopefully I can get my points across somewhat intelligibly.

So that's where I'm coming from. I hope I can provide something a bit different to the Canadian blogging community.

36 comments:

  1. Well said, Shiner, and welcome.

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  2. Thanks for the welcome. Slow out of the gate, but 'tis the season and all that!

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  3. You had my hooked by the poster, and I read the whole thing!

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  4. Conservatives are rarely conservative, I agree and look foward to reading some more. Especially about the different lecturing experiences you had at college. You glossed over what made the one lecturer a standout.

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  5. Good luck, and enjoy yourself! I don't blog about politics so much these days, but I still enjoy dipping a toe in to read what people have to say. You've got some greats in your blog roll.

    I had a similar experience, starting way to the right (supporting the Reform party) and pretty much worshipping the right-wing in the United States. No longer. Never again.

    Have fun with this!

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  6. Yeah... it's why I don't call Harper et al Tories... just can't bring myself to do it.

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  7. They aren't Tories at all. They are radicals, attempting to overthrow conservatism altogether. So no...it's not accurate to call them Tories, Conservatives, or anything like that.

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  8. Great post. Welcome to the fold. I look forward to your next.

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  9. We really should just call them Republicans for clarity's sake.

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  10. Welcome aboard! There is, indeed, a difference between a conservative and a Conservative.

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  11. pleasure to read and informative as well. Looking forward to much more. Welcome!

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  12. Whew, nothing like a quick kick from the Dawg to get things moving. Thanks everyone.

    Post coming this evening covering my other, far more enjoyable, passion: beer.

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  13. Enjoy basking in the encouragements from progressives and those left-of-centre folks.

    Sadly, you should expect to be bashed, trashed and denounced by your former political acquaintances.

    As Unrepentant Old Hippie would say: Incoming!!!

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  14. Have now bookmarked your site. Cheers,

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  15. I'm reading as well. It's wonderful to have a conservative commentator who doesn't have shit for brains. Welcome to the fray.

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  16. That was a good start shiner, write on. We're interested. I too, would like to hear more about your education, as well as ways we might take our democracy progressively into the future!

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  17. Not so much a kick, more like a nudge. :)

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  18. Welcome to the 'sphere.

    I think you might find that many of us on the right have as much time for the CPC as you do; but for rather different reasons.

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  19. Welcome to the blogosphere! You write eloquently, thoughtfully; I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

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  20. If we were going with the usual insight that Harper is a Bush/Obama 'Mini Me' we would be calling them neo-cons : those that hijack representative government and debate for Rovian tricks ( that's as in Karl ). The loose mouthed religionists have had discipline added to the agenda so as not to spoil the spin.
    You do not seem to have a proper Canadian perspective of what 'Left Wing' means in this country. Our perspectives are not those of the 'Free' south of the 49th.
    Hopefully such a lack can be remedied
    http://mollymew.blogspot.com/
    ( heheheh )
    I'm at http://opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/

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  21. Thanks Jay and Chrystal.

    opit, I don't believe that Harper is a neo-con. I don't believe he's very interested in foreign affairs at all beyond the domestic political aspects of various policies.

    I'm not sure what you mean about not having a proper perspective of the Canadian left. I self-identify as a progressive because I have more in common with progressives than I do with "conservatives".

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  22. Can we expect you to act like the real King of the Shiners, Peter Aylen? If so we can anticipate a lot of drinking, fighting and general mayhem.
    The 1830s in Ottawa (Bytown) were a lot of fun.

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  23. Thanks for existing, Shiner! Although I am an a libertarian socialist (polite way of saying anarchist) I look fondly upon the old style (ie real) conservatives. Might have something to do with starting my political life as a Diefenbaker supporter, but also has something to do with a preference for people who put ethics ahead of power and money-grubbing.

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  24. The 'Left' quip was because you called Dr. Dawg 'left'. I thought that worth 'rattling your cage' somewhat as a dubious proposition.
    The reason I consider Harperites neocons has much to do with commentary made by Verbena19 when she was blogging at WordPress : though there were other sources of stories missed in what we laughingly call media. Bush election strategists were reported prepping the PC candidates some time back : but I must admit I can't recall the particulars 'off the cuff', so to speak.However, secret treaties and arrangements with the USA were bruited about : harassment of the Council of Canadians part of overbearing secrecy and skulduggery.
    The CBC had a story about secret Canadian treaty obligations related to shared intel with the US : something that I learned much later includes the UK and goes back to WW I.
    But the Macdonald cover is redolent of another heritage. The first 40 years of Confederation were fought establishing a tariff barrier to protect Canadian suppliers from competition from US suppliers able to shut out home team players because of shorter routes north to south compared to east to west leading to a freight advantage. Sir John A. was in the thick of it.
    And in '93 the PCs ran on GST and NAFTA. The 'Liberals' ran against both...and promptly enshrined both.That little scenario was on Nelson Rockefeller's wishlist at the CIA in 1945.'The more things change,the more they stay the same.'
    Some background information
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/4514938/Intelligence-sharing-between-Britain-and-the-United-States-dates-back-to-First-World-War.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABCA_Armies
    ABCA Armies refers to a program aimed at optimizing interoperability between member armies on combined operations. "ABCA" stands for America, Britain, Canada and Australia. Current membership consists of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.[1]
    In 1947, the Armies of the United States, Britain and Canada joined into a standardisation agreement as a means of continuing to capitalize on the close cooperation during World War II and to improve standardization. The group became known as the ABC Armies.
    In 1963, Australia joined the organization, and on 10 October 1964, the four member armies signed a new standardization agreement to formally create the current ABCA program. In 1965 New Zealand was granted observer status under Australia's sponsorship. New Zealand became a full member of ABCA in late 2006

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  25. Excellent post -- though us progressives can get pissed off too, at least we aren't trying to turn Canada into a Rush Limbaugh kind of place.

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  26. Good catch Michael. Ottawa has a fascinating history that's pretty overshadowed by its current roll and population. Know the the big fella is behind the blog title up top???

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  27. Larry:

    Although I am an a libertarian socialist (polite way of saying anarchist) I look fondly upon the old style (ie real) conservatives.

    I presume that's only since we became squeamish about hanging radicals and burning heretics?

    Shiner:

    Very good post, although surely there is something very Canadian about having a Damascene moment while pondering Lord Durham in an Irish youth hostel. Might your American publisher not suggest you change that to contemplating Burke on the Parthenon? :-)

    That story about the angry, nerdish hacks accompanying the Con candidate rings very true--I've met some and they are a gruesome bunch. The Dippers around here would never admit it, but the NDP has the same problem. There is a bit of Robespierre and Madame Desfarges in even the best of them. It's the non-ideological Libs who have mastered the art of embracing everyone warmly while sealing their government contracts.

    A bit of advice: Do be a little wary that all these dangerous leftist subversives are rushing here to congratulate you. Red Toryism can be heady stuff, but it can also devolve into a kind of parochial goo that leaves you a super, incisive critic, but at sea about what you would actually like to see done. One warning sign will be when you find yourself lecturing dinner parties at length on the differences between atomistic and organic societies, but defer in confusion to the Dipper at the end of the table when someone asks you what the current government should actually do.

    Good luck.

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  28. Peter, to be fair, I met many lovely people in the CPC, a couple of them even call themselves libertarians.
    Thanks.

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  29. Welcome Shiner ... I recall Walt Kelly, who with Pogo in the 50s came up with the concept of: "We have found the enemy - and it is us." He began to make some very right wing speaches in the late 60s.

    When asked 'why the change' he said that he had not changed - the world had around him.

    I was once a run-of-the-mill (literally) union member until I 'con'ed the Alberta Fed into letting me take some courses from the Canadian Labour College. I realized that a lot of the things I took as a matter of course had been hard fought for and won with cost.

    Now I find that I once again those things that had been normal - beginning with a right to organize - are having to be won all over again.

    My description of myself is of a conservative - my problem is that I believe all that stuff about truth and equality. JG Diefenbaker is the one that quipped: "There are not different classes of Canadians, there are no second class Canadians."

    He was not talking about class warfare - but about situations like we had last year when various Canadian were stuck in foreign gaols and countries, and Canada could do something about it, and did not.

    Stay where you are Shiner .. it sounds like a good place to be and best of luck.

    (Even if Napoleon remarked that "good luck consists in having good generals')

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  30. Hello Shiner,

    I look forward to your contributions. It is hard to shake personal experiences that can then turn you away from political involvement, though it is charitable of you to recognize that there are some great CPC supporters. From what I read, I get the impression that you can see beyond the common and easily constructed labels and derive your own sense of political self. I do hope you continue in formulating this through your writings as current discourse using very plastic words have almost excluded the possibility of having a mixed view such as your own. I do encourage you though to comment of Red's and Sir Francis' blogs if you have the time. Take care and hope to hear more from you.

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  31. Never mind "Tory" (or even "Conservative"), there are many who persist in calling them "PCs" -- which, of course, they are not. I also won't call them "Conservatives", "neo-cons" or even "Reform-a-Tories", as they have even moved beyond their populist Reform/Alliance days. In an effort to affix the credit (blame?) for this party where it best belongs, I call them "Harpokons" -- something I think is appropriate, because that party would have imploded years ago without the machinations of that paranoid sociopath at the helm. Fortunately, with no "heir apparent" in sight, it might well be that if we can knock the evil "brain" off the shoulders of the Harpokon golem, the entire structure might well shamble to a stop and fall over.

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