Monday, May 25, 2015

An Empty Chair


An empty chair can symbolize a lot of things. John F. Kennedy's empty rocking chair symbolized the loss a nation felt after the president's assassination. But, in Stephen Harper's case, an empty chair at the consortium's leaders debate would symbolize many things -- none of them good.

To begin with, an empty chair is a pregnant emblem for a leader whose most salient characteristic is arrogance. Michael Harris writes:

Canada’s national political conversation has been emptied out by a sitting prime minister who is contemptuous of anything he can’t control. He believes that he can pay his way to re-election through the black magic of marketing and the usual bribing of the electorate with taxpayers’ money. There is nothing left but Harper’s cynicism – and his personal conviction that Canadians don’t want to talk about government anymore.

And that arrogance has led him to conclude that he has no obligation to talk to anyone:

When you think about it, Harper has never really wanted to talk with anyone other than the country’s corporate elites, and then really only a few resource peddlers. He talks at the rest.

He doesn’t answer the Opposition in parliament. Harper has never convened a first minister’s meeting where the premiers as a group could talk with him about the state of the country. Instead he talks down to them, if he talks to them at all.

Harper didn’t want to talk with Chief Theresa Spence about tangible ways to improve the lives of First Nations people some time before there is a human colony on Mars. He doesn’t talk with organized Labour about anything. He has more interaction with cats and chinchillas than journalists.

But, more than anything else, an empty chair at the consortium debate would symbolize Harper's cowardice:

Harper might be able to spin the 2015 election process into a vast electronic cattle-drive. That, after all, is what he has done with governance in Canada. But avoiding the huge audiences of the TV debates being staged by Canada’s major broadcasters can also be viewed as chickening out on the rumble.

At least Patrick Brazeau climbed into the ring with Justin Trudeau. Perhaps Harper has figured out what Brazeau never did – that underestimating your opponent can make you look weak. At the same time, hiding away from the electorate is no place to be for a man who keeps telling everyone he’s a leader. Then again, Harper is no stranger to hiding from things.

When historians write the saga of the last ten years, Stephen Harper may go down as the prime minister who hid in the closet. That's why his chair was empty.


Rural said...

Indeed that empty chair will represent his contempt for the Canadian public, his fellow MPs of all stripes, for the press and other public media, for the truth and for parliamentary process. How someone with this much disregard for all but a select few can even be considered to be a "leader" is totally beyond me Owen.

Lorne said...

That empty chair is a potent emblem of Harper's contempt for all of us, Owen.

Mogs Moglio said...

"He has more interaction with cats and chinchillas than journalists" and also criminals eh Michael?


Toby said...

Are the various Leaders and organizers wilful enough to hold their usual TV debates? Do they have enough gumption to have Harper's chair ready for all the audience to see? Will they comment on Harper's audience?

Harper has done what he always does, thrown a monkey wrench into the works, probably to see everyone else run around like headless chickens. So far, all and sundry are doing that. As long as others play Harper's games, no matter how grotesque, he wins. That's the point.

So far, both May and Mulcair promised to debate Harper whenever and wherever. Neither has told Harper that the debates will be on TV as usual with or without him.

Will there be a TV debate? The networks seem to be playing Harper's game too. That may be the biggest problem.

Owen Gray said...

Nothing will change until the leaders and the networks call Harper out, Toby.

As long as they allow him to set the rules, he will continue to do so.

Owen Gray said...

He continues to believe that he can choose his audience, Mogs. And that audience is a very small minority of Canadians.

Owen Gray said...

You have to wonder if anyone is offering Harper any advice, Lorne. That empty chair could well become a symbol of stupidity.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Rural. You have to work hard to insult as many people as Harper does.

That's not leadership. It's folly.

ron wilton said...

My high school Latin teacher was constantly asking me if I knew the difference between 'kicking' and 'being kicked'.
I thought I did but apparently not in a Latin tense.

Harper seems to have a similar disconnect.
He may have contempt for parliament and the 'vast majority' of Canadians but that pales in comparison to the contempt that the 'vast majority' of Canadians have for him.

I suspect that come October 19 he will learn the difference between kicking and being kicked.

Owen Gray said...

It's a distinction he should be made aware of, ron. And only an overwhelming majority of Canadians has a hope of gaining his attention.

Mogs Moglio said...

"It was a far cry from previous swearing-in ceremonies, which have occurred far from public view, in boardrooms and government offices."

Ah a fresh breath because Alberta was the heart and soul of the Con Party of Canada. Three cheers for Muster Mark can we call it a seventh quark? Maybe so...

My phrasing is not exactly correct so I'll steer you to this to get the real story:

I actually lived in Murray Gell-Mann's guest suite and could keep up to this Nobel prize winning physicist in conversation. It was an interesting time. His third home where I inhabited the guest suite was not far from here:

It was up and had a splendid view. He also had a home in Colorado and Pasadena where he taught physics at Caltech. Actually one of his students was Steven Hawking. Stephen however was a well educated physicist he just attended Cal-tech to pick Murray's mind [I think]. So was he really a student or a sponge? Makes me giggle!

I certainly don't know for a fact. I base my assumption on Gell-Mann telling me that he was nervous every time Hawking would ask a question. Hawking had a voice box because of his Lou Gehrig's disease.

And Gell-Mann was afraid he said when Hawking started his voice box because he sometime times asked questions that Murray could not answer...

Lovely ain't it life? Ya it is and can be fun.

Enjoy your day Owen.

Mogs Moglio

Owen Gray said...

The people who ask questions we can't answer are the ones who make life better, Mogs.