Monday, November 17, 2008
And then I said goodbye.
Because I'm never going to another convention again.*
People kept asking me why and I couldn't express it succinctly other than to say "Just because it's time."
I tried writing a big long explanation of it, complete with detailed Canadian political history and my little role in it. But that just got boring and self-absorbed so I ditched it.
Long and short: that whole part of my life has just become a dry hole - emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. If I cut the cord now, I can get out before the bad memories completely overwhelm the good ones.
So that's that. Nothing much else worth saying, but there's some music worth sharing. Here's a little playlist I put together in tribute to my partisan life:
To the beginning:
The Partisan - Leonard Cohen
The Minstrel Boy - The Clancy Brothers (trad. arr.)
To the middle:
Tub-thumping - Chumba-wumba
To the end:
Tonight I have to leave it - The Shout Out Louds
Sally MacLennane - The Pogues
And, finally, to the future. This song shuffled up on the drive home and, overwhelmed by a sudden sense of liberation, I just started uncontrollably giggling and clapping like a child.
Let's Replace the Cityscapes - The Triangles
Before I go, I have to give some big shout-outs to my old college buddy Rob (one of my groomsmen, actually, who seemed to drop off the face of the Earth almost immediately after the wedding) and my old blogging buddy Fil, who happened to be in Winnipeg on business. They each added further happy dimensions to what was already a momentous weekend for me. Cheers, dudes!
*To be utterly clear: I'm not going to go to another convention voluntarily. If I'm required to go to one because of a job or a client, that's different.
posted by Mentok @ 10:26 AM, ,
Friday, November 07, 2008
The next few days are going to be pretty hectic so I thought I'd do my Remembrance Day post early.
Remembrance Day calls on us to reflect on war and those who have sacrificed for our country. I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about the nature of war lately and I've coming to a rather surprising conclusion.
The cause of most war is morality.
It's true. For starters, it's part of the standard playbook of every politician and general in time of war. From Sun Tzu onward, strategists have advised that the first preparation for war is to create a moral cause to get the general public on your side.
In this context, things that we would normally think of as "pure" emotions - things like sympathy, compassion, moral outrage, righteous anger - become simply tools of the war machine and can become the root causes of some of the most monstrous behaviour in human history.
Just take a look at Hitler. In the adjustable lens of history, Hitler is usually viewed as an ultra-right wing dictator, but he didn't start off positioning himself that way. Remember the full name of the Nazi Party: the National Socialist German Workers Party.
And remember the context of 1930s Germany. The economy was in collapse. Hyperinflation was rampant. Working people not only saw their life savings vanish, they saw their daily earnings vanish. It was in this environment that Hitler made his original sales pitch: "I will defend working German people from being exploited by those evil rich people who own all the banks."
Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot... over and over again, we see the most profound evil arising from those who presented themselves as (and perhaps even believed themselves to be) great defenders of the common people.
But these monsters did not achieve absolute power on their own. They were popular leaders who were originally raised up on the shoulders of millions of people who were inspired... people who believed, fervently and absolutely, that this leader would transform society, change the world and make life better for everyone, the whole human race. Once people believe this... really believe it... it becomes so much easier to convince them with arguments about the ends justifying the means.
No, I'm not making any sort of veiled reference. OK, well, maybe a little bit. I just don't care for excess and hype in politics, in any form.
I'm certainly not suggesting any direct comparisons, but I want to make a point about the great dangers of moral certainty. Let me leave you with this thought: When George Bush said America had to go to war with Iraq to stop the terrorist threat, the chest-thumping patriots, social conservatives and rednecks of America happily supplied their sons and their noisy blind loyalty, at least at first. Will America's liberals act any differently if and when Obama (like Clinton) orders a military intervention in some other part of the world?
If any of us are to make progress in building peace in the world, it is worth our time to take a close look at the beam in our own eye, as well as the mote in our brother's.
posted by Mentok @ 12:53 PM, ,
Thursday, November 06, 2008
You gotta hand it to that Stephen Harper for clever strategery ... although, at times it's maybe too clever.
Obama's election puts Harper in a pickle since it will no doubt inspire a worldwide enthusiasm for left-wingery of all sorts. So what does Harper do? He comes at him on the left!
Obama has barely had his post-election breakfast but Harper is inviting him to negotiate a North American climate change accord. I predict that we will see the Canadian Tories take a harder line on the environment than we have ever seen them take before. Hard, hard, hard. They'll probably appoint David Suzuki to be the special ambassador to negotiate with Obama's people.
In other words, they will set Obama up to fail. The US can't possibly afford a hard-over environmental policy right now, so Obama will have to sternly rebuff Harper's crusade to save the environment. This spectacle, if it plays out - Harper as enviro hero, Obama as enviro scrooge - would send the Canadian left into a blank-stare, hand-spinning catatonic state comparable only to autism.
My main concern about this strategy is that it seems just too clever. The last time the Tories tried something this subtle was with the arts cuts strategy during the election, and they made just an awful mess of that - in fact, that was probably the single factor that cost them majority government this time.
So there's a substantial risk of backfire. For starters, I don't think Obama's people are stupid and they'll probably see through this ploy pretty quickly. They'll get their own little Risk armies set up to outflank Harper on this issue.
On the whole, I think Harper might be better off taking the traditional Canadian approach to influencing US policy i.e. schmoozing senators at big swanky booze-filled Washington receptions. Leave the chess board and the Risk game on the shelf for awhile.
posted by Mentok @ 10:18 AM, ,
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I hate to name the elephant in the room (especially since I'm sure it will earn me the wrath of many) but Obama's speech was really freakin' boring. Really, any two-bit political hack could have written it. I could have written it. I dozed off listening to it. His speaking style, whaddaya call that... Shatneresque, maybe?
These people who get all weepy about Obama's oratorical ability ... meh, I just don't get it. I've known many politicians of many political stripes, enough so that I think I'm a pretty good judge of political character. I hate to break to you, loyal readers, but Obama strikes me as a very, very ordinary politician. For that matter, so does John McCain.
But, of course, none of that matters. What matters is that the Republican Party and it's former president screwed up massively, so someone had to pay for it. For the Republicans to have made a comeback after Bush would have been a failure of democratic accountability and that, to me, is a principle that should go beyond any partisan considerations.
For what it's worth , I think McCain, like Obama, is a perfectly decent, marginally competent guy. His speech was more interesting in its graciousness and I was absolutely captivated by that utterly appropriate defeat music they played after his speech. What sort of campaign manager decides to spend money to commission defeat music? It boggles the mind.
Anyway, the whole messy business is done with now, so let's hope. Let's hope that Obama is half as brilliant as his fanatic, weepy true believers think he is. Let's hope McCain meant it when he said he would reach across the aisle to support Obama. Let's hope the American public listens to all these Abraham Lincoln/Civil War retrospectives, takes a look at those popular vote totals and pulls themselves back from the brink of a new-age civil war - a Civil Cold War, if you will.
Because all of this matters to all of us in the Western world. Because things are pretty messed up and, whether we "foreigners" like to admit it or not, we need our biggest ally to be a strong leader right now, rather than all fucked up and chaotic.
So here's hoping.
posted by Mentok @ 12:06 AM, ,
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
So, those idiots at KIA finally got the electronics sorted out on my van and, as I was driving home, I noticed this indicator light I'd never noticed before. Except, I didn't know whether it was an indicator or a warning, 'cause I'd never seen it before.
So, I haul out the driver's manual and start looking for a description. I don't think I fully realized until that moment how utterly useless driver's manuals usually are.
For starters, the table of contents gave no help in narrowing down where to look for the information. All the headings were things like "Getting to know your vehicle", "Driving your vehicle" and "Frequently asked questions about your vehicle", all of which could apply to anything.
Searching manually (har, getit?), I soon discovered that the first half of the manual is dedicated to topics like how to turn on the ignition; how to adjust the seats; how to fill the vehicle with gas; the location of the cup-holders; and other such precious nuggets of wisdom.
I'm tempted to say something like "How stupid do they think we are?" but humans are pretty stupid so I guess they just have to cover their butts legally.
(It was the "fog lights engaged" indicator. Apparently, fog lights are standard on my vehicle, which I didn't know before.)
posted by Mentok @ 4:23 PM, ,