Category Archives: Conservative

USA: Is this a country without Honour?

 

I love America; I love Americans. They are a wonderful people, but they have gone seriously awry. But sometimes they are seriously misguided. And when that happens a friend should be able to say that to the friend. This is one of those times. It is not enough to claim that you are honorable—you have to walk the walk and talk the talk.

Honor used to be an important value among Conservatives—genuine conservatives I mean. But increasingly among modern conservatives at least, honor is no longer important.

When Donald Trump realized what he had done in letting loose the Turks on his allies the Kurds, and realized that to some of his supporters, honor still meant something, this is what he announced, by tweet of course:

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I in my great and unmatched wisdom consider off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey (I’ve done before)”

Stephen Colbert described this as Trump going “full God Emperor.”  This is on a level with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.  But ignore the incoherence of this quote. Ignore the corrupt and idle boasting. Just look for the honor. You won’t find it. This is what America elected as their President. A man without honor! And 63 million Americans seem to like it. Does that mean American without honor too?

I don’t accept that Americans can blame it all on an ill chosen President. 63 million people voted for this one and I have been told most of those who did, still support him.  This is not an issue about Trump. He is too easy a target. But what about the country? It is not as if Donald Trump ever concealed his lack of honor. He boasted about. He said that in the Vietnam War he served by managing to avoid getting a venereal disease. Then he dismissed John McCain as a poor war hero because he got caught. Trump escaped the Vietnam War the way many rich boys did, by getting dubious health deferments as a result of alleged bone spurs, so that he could stay behind and chase models and starlets, while other young men and women, usually poor men and women, risked their lives and fought the war. Americans knew exactly what they were getting, and although 66 million voted for Hillary Clinton, 63 million voted for him. That is no aberrant number. That is a lot of support. This is where the problem lies. Trump himself is easy prey, but not 66 million Americans. Is the country without honor? I think it is time for Americans to step up and be counted. I think it is time for Americans to think about this.

Big Ideas

I agree with Greta Thunberg. We are in a climate emergency but no one is acting like it. At best, our political leaders are treating it like a problem, not an emergency.  We really need to transform our thinking. It is much too late for little ideas. We need big ones.

Norman Brandson, the former deputy minister of Manitoba Department of Environments wrote well on the subject in the Winnipeg Free Press. He said,

 

Big ideas are transformative, visionary. U.S. president John F. Kennedy did not check with the General Accountability Office before presenting the American people with the vision of reaching the moon.

Although having a big idea ought to be part and parcel of political party agendas, it’s also necessary to have a good big idea, one that captures the imagination, enthusiasm and support of the voters, and is achievable. If either test fails, the big idea fails.

 

If we had dealt with the climate change issue 50, or even 30 years ago, when we were first alerted to the danger, we might have got by on modest ideas. Frankly, I have a deep preference for modest ideas over radical ideas. I guess that makes me fundamentally conservative (in the true sense of the word, not in the modern perverted sense of the word.) We squandered those decades, now it is too late for anything other radical new transformative ideas. Now we need ideas as radical as the Green New Deal in the United States. I will comment on that later.

Brandson put it this way:

“The big idea we ought to be talking about — not just at election time, but all the time — is the transformations necessary to enable the transition to a world economy that runs on renewable energy and is carbon-neutral (zero net emission of greenhouse gases); the essential precursor to the Green party’s big idea.”

Actually we need to discuss an even bigger idea—the need to change from a consumptive society to a much more modest society, but I will leave that as well for a future occasion. I am thinking about the election that we just had in Canada. Brandson mentioned that Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party in Canada is much too savvy to be talking about transformative ideas like that during an election. This reminds me of what Kim Campbell said in her one and only election while she was leader of the Conservative Party of Canada: “An election is no time to discuss serious issues.” Sadly, she might be right.

.        I have called the idea of constant growth the original sin of economics and the capitalist system. David Suzuki called this the creed of cancer. The idea that it would be possible and even desirable to have constant growth is what is killing us. This idea is poisonous. It does not have legs. It is the current big idea, but it is dead. We need a new big idea. This new idea was described by Norman Branson this way:

“It would be seen as an attack on the universally accepted measure of economic success — at least in the financial sector — growth. It would be a challenge to the reigning economic philosophy so successfully promoted by the Chicago School of Economics and its acolytes — deregulated free-market capitalism.

The Green party has called for a war on climate change, but of course you don’t wage war against a phenomenon; you wage it against the causes or, in this case, the economic and social paradigms that are the cause of climate change and the interests vested in those paradigms. Such talk is not likely to win too many seats in Parliament, at least not yet.

What we require is an adjustment to, not an abandonment of, our current economic thinking. We need a Chicago School-style philosophical revolution that articulates an economic philosophy appropriate for our time, a time in which we are facing the existential threat of climate change. We need to decouple economic health and growth, leading to a system that generates profit without growth.”

Many people are not sure this is possible. Pundits keep saying if we don’t have growth we have stagnation or worse, decline. If they are right, capitalism is dead in the water.

Naomi Klein is right about one thing: the climate emergency “changes everything.”  This was what America conservatives feared for decades and they proved to be right. Climate change is a fundamental challenge to capitalism. Their worst nightmare is coming to fruition and frankly they have no one to blame but themselves. American conservatives for years have been spending vast sums of money to convince people that the climate crisis is not a crisis and as a result they caused people in the US and Canada to delay action for decades, during which time they reaped enormous profits, but during which time the fuel for a revolution, like fuel in national forests, was increasing every year, until we are all now about to experience a conflagration of epic proportions. This is the hell that America conservatives have purchased. They bought it with vast sums of money that was used to manufacture lies that have now been exposed. They have sown the wind, now they have to reap the storm. I can’t believe these conservatives will ever be believed again, but particularly in America, though in Canada too, one should never under estimate what people can be persuaded to believe no matter how unbelievable.

I don’t know if this big idea is the right idea; I just know that no small idea is the right idea.

We need Conservatives

Where are the conservatives when we need them? Around here all they want to conserve is the right to earn money without barriers, and the right to continue their destruction of the natural world. None of them want to conserve what is critically important—the natural world.

The science is clear—unless we change course we are headed towards a disaster and it is a disaster that we cannot really calculate.  We are conducting an experiment with our planet unlike any done before. The dangers are extreme.  One would think that conservatives would want to avoid such foolish risks.  Yet the Conservatives I see want to ignore the risks and continue with business as usual. They are not prepared to make even modest changes to our behaviors. In the face of an emergency, that is not conservative, that is batshit crazy.

Greta Thunberg is mocked by most of the conservatives I know. But she has a very simple message: ‘Listen to the scientists.” To me that seem simple and rational. The conservatives around here seem content to ignore the warnings from scientists. To me that seems radical.

Most of us see going on strike, as Thunberg’s young climate change resisters did recently, is usually understood as an extreme act done only when all else fails. Is that not what has happened? All Thunberg and other young climate strikers are saying is that they want a future for their generation. This is not really radical is it?  All they are asking for, as Simon Dalby explained in a recent Winnipeg Free Press article, it is this:

“A future in which one can live well, have children and obtain a decent job, maintaining a world of predictable social order, is what conservatives usually wish for. Instead, so-called conservatives across much of the English speaking world are telling us we have to burn more stuff—oil, gas, and coal—and ship it around the world so others can join in on burning things as well…There is nothing remotely conservative about assuming we can destabilize the climate system and somehow society will be fine because at least some people have amassed major wealth with money made by burning things.”

With the consequences of climate change now clear, and the science able to much more accurately predict what is coming if we stay on our existing course of using ever more fossil fuels, it is the fossil fuel industry, its propagandists and supporters who are the radicals, and very dangerous ones at that.

I wish conservatives had not abandoned conservativism. But at least we have the young conservatives.

Cherish the Old

 

This old building, I found in western Manitoba,  was one of my favourites until it sank into this pond.  I thought it was beautiful. Until then I enjoyed it. Joy can be short-lived, but that does not make it less real.

Wabi-sabi is a philosophy that is a determined opponent  of  soulless consumption.   It resists consumer society that insists always on something new. It cherishes the old. It reject  the modern fetish of the new. It accepts  the old for what it is—something of lasting durable value, even where the outer appearance is shabby is worn. The real value of the thing remains. It is what endures, no matter what blows are suffered upon it. Until it disappears that is.

It is only the dull, shallow, and shabby who no longer appreciate old thing or old people. People who are swindled by the temptation of shiny appearances, baubles in other words, are the same ones who can no longer recognize true value. There is an enduring value in things that the genuine conservative wants to preserve. The conservative wants to conserve the valuable no matter how old or no matter how likely to decay and die.

Those who don’t see the enduring value think that time spent on repairing, protecting, or restoring is time wasted. So often in today’s shallow world as soon as something is apparently not working as well as it should it is discarded. Not only is that wasteful, it is foolishness. The person of Wabi-Sabi cherish  what is of enduring value.