Saturday, April 27, 2013

Signifying Nothing

Michael  Harris writes that the Canadian Bar Association does not support Bill S7, the Harper government's recently passed anti terrorism legislation:

The CBA makes the point that the legislation does not give investigators new tools, but merely duplicates, with a few new wrinkles, laws that already exist. So why would any society based on the rule of law want to bring in legislation that doesn’t prevent terrorist acts and doesn’t make people safer?

That question becomes all the more pressing when you consider that S-7 will authorize the arrest, detention and forced testimony of people who have not been charged with any offence, and who don’t know the evidence against them. In fact, S-7 could be used against a citizen who is not even suspected of a crime, but simply suspected of knowing other people who might be cooking up a plot.

It is a bill which seeks to take out anyone who is suspicious about this government's motives. But why the paranoia? The reason, perhaps, is that the Harperites are afraid that Canadians will cotton on to the fact that they are the northern version of the Republican Party, a party -- which according to Michael Tomasky, -- is "an immovable wall of nays." The Republicans, he writes, have become the Seinfeld Party -- "the Party of Nothing." The proof  is in the agenda of the Republican controlled House of Representatives:

Yesterday in Salon, political scientist Jonathan Bernstein wrote up the following little discovery, which has to do with the numbering of bills. Historically, the party that controls the House of Representatives reserves for itself the first 10 slots—HR 1, HR 2, and so on. Usually, the majority party has filled at least most of those slots with the pieces of legislation that it wants to announce to the world as its top priorities. When the Democrats ran the House, for example, HR 1 was always John Dingell’s health-care bill, in homage to his father, a congressman who pushed for national health care back in the day.

Today, nine of the 10 slots are empty. Nine of the 10. The one that is occupied, HR 3, is taken up by a bill calling on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Even this, insiders will tell you in an honest moment, is completely symbolic and empty: the general expectation among Democrats and Republicans is that Obama will approve the pipeline sometime in this term, but that eleventy-jillion lawsuits will immediately be filed, and the thing won’t be built for years if at all, and nothing about this short and general bill can or is designed to change that. One other slot, HR 1, is provisionally reserved for a tax-reform bill, so at least they have settled on a subject matter, but if you click on HR 1, you will learn that “the text of HR 1 has not yet been received.”

The Republicans were defeated twice by Obama, who ran on a platform of "hope and change." One can argue about how much hope and change Obama has achieved. The point, though, is that the Republican response to Obama was to demonize him. Now, Harris writes,

There is more than a whiff of political opportunism in the air. Just when the polls show that Justin Trudeau is getting Canadians to think about hope, the PM returns them to his special metier — fear.

A paranoid party has nothing to offer but fear itself. It is full of sound and fury -- signifying nothing.


Lorne said...

Your post, Owen, amply articulates how debased politics has become under Harper. Your quote from Macbeth reminds me too of what the Elizabethans believed about government. The king, if he was the true and rightful representative of God, helped to maintain the health of the land and its people. In the case of Macbeth, a usurper and subverter, the land and its people suffer greatly both physically and morally.

Although politics today has largely cast aside the theology underpinnings of The Great Chain of Being (except for the extreme right-wing, of course), there is little question in my mind that the politics of fear, suspicion and debasement that permeate so much policy under Harper's regime is egregiously unhealthy for the collective Canadian soul.

Owen Gray said...

For Shakespeare -- and the Greeks, too -- an illegitimate ruler was a blight upon the land, Lorne.

Oedipus didn't understand that he was the source of his kingdom's illness. Harper, in his blindness, is likewise a blight upon the land.

kirbycairo said...

Nice post Owen. It speaks directly to the new research that demonstrates how rightwingers process fear differently from those on the left - with a more reactive and primitive part of the brain. But this suggests that the fear agenda is extremely limited and it arguably has only delivered majorities for a guy like Harper because of an historical coincidence and a twisted electoral system.

Owen Gray said...

In the end, Kirby, hope trumps fear. But the person delivering that message has to be believable.