Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

never resign the public sphere

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Often I find myself engaging on Facebook, as do we all — the problem is that such conversations disappear. Time to start archiving them more properly, and to resurrect the role of this blog. The conversation below jumpstarted from an offhand suggestion to writer Leslie Anthony that we start pooling our energies to work that critiques the Harper regime in Canada. This brought about some surprise criticism.

Before I begin, I believe that one of the most urgent tasks of leftists who can craft a word or two is overcoming defeatism from within — as well as turning to the task of producing penetrating and readable critique of the right, at all levels from popular journalism to philosophical jousting. The ideological problem is that many leftists have been convinced that the realm of media critique and the public sphere has been all but deflated by the right. Oddly, this forces the call for action, but rather than mobilizing action and taking ahold of the opportunity, this forces many into resignation — and into the defeatism of resigning control of the public sphere and media to the right. This is strategically handing the board over to your opponent, pieces and all.

Click on the screenshots to make them bigger.

resignation 101


The problem is not “what is the alternative” — as if those opposed are grasping around at straws. Perhaps we can begin with restoring the rule of law, organising governance for the many and not the few, and taking as principles the equitable redistribution of wealth within an ethics that takes as paramount ecological sustainability and human rights? Even these old, classic, liberal values appear as revolutionary today.

Our not-to-be-named respondent (I respect the privacy of Facebook here, however slight) makes some very good points that are indicative of widespread malaise and disenchantment. This of course needs to be ousted openly, like airing our dirty laundry, exposing this little secret of resignation so we can get over it and move forward with the energy of an attack.

resignation (again)

To wit, and to reply, then: a letter to one so resigned.

dear [name removed], I agree that action is necessary, but what you’re asking for is a solution on a plate: you don’t want action unless someone hands you a “solution,” readymade and consumable, and until then, you take the defeatist attitude of “there is no alternative” or “what’s the point.” Your “solution” is silence and complicity. This is not only defeatist, its strategically plays into the hands of the neoCons — just like your vote for a Liberal, even though you didn’t support their elected leader or party. In short, your strategy failed, so continuing to pursue it seems to be a mistake, no?

As for the possible action of writers — the very reason the neoCons are attacking CBC as well as StatsCan and information services (health, science research) is because they are creating the conditions for a deficit of informed decision-maing in the public sphere, thus paving the way for ever more irrational policies (or lack of policy entirely). Amassing critical writers by wresting back control of the public sphere, and by defining and remaking that public sphere itself as exterior to the mentality of consumer capital, is a powerful weapon and should never be discounted; in fact it has been the leverage for most change in political currency for millenia, besides, of course, brute force.

So I don’t agree with you that investigative reporting and critical media is worthless unless we “provide a course of action immediately.” That is asking us as writers to be your Great Leader(s) and to hand you all the answers when such action is the responsibility of ALL, not just some cabal — it’s the same ideological ploy that the neoCons exploit (“why do anything? why bother? why isn’t anyone telling me what to do?” etc).

I also don’t buy the argument that otherwise “you lose their [and who is this “their”?]” attention.” Believing in mass ADD perpetuates it. Taking the other tack ignites attention. In any case, to reflect once gain upon your voting strategy, it has clearly demonstrated that the alternative is the NDP, front and centre. The numbers do not agree with you: the rest of the country is not split. It is quite unified around the left, and predominantly around the NDP. Your own observations above demonstrate that. This is a long process; it took 10+ years to unite the right; don’t think it will be a magic bullet for the left. Nor is the right completely unified; the budget has disenchanted right-wing voters too, and this disenchantment needs to be exploited — by targeting queasy right voters who voted conservative for economic reasons that are now being shown up as awash not in capitalism but religious ideology and irrational cuts. And this is the work of critical media; to sway opinion with research and fact, to expose the underlying and ugly truths. And this is speaking truth to power and the moment one gives up this belief, one is dead — a corpse of resignation.

Vote where your heart is, write where your heart is, and get strategically savvy. Otherwise you’re in the resignation camp — enjoy the bedfellows; they are but the true bitchers. The rest of us are moving forward. Can we count on you?


Here’s some words that followed in regards to (dialectical) strategy.

^^ Do you know what I read daily? The Economist, which is hardly left. But even The Economist openly ridicules both the GOP/Tea Party and — guess what — Harper’s Canada, which they see as more of the same, though in softer, court-jester form. In short, the lack of a Canadian environmental policy means that for oil-exploiting capitalists there is uncertainty in the markets as they cannot think ahead nor invest with confidence. Canada’s position in regards to the environment and fossil fuels is unclear and ambiguous. So on this front alone, there is dissension in the right. This gap needs to be widened so that the true issue of self-destructive environmental exploitation can be exposed and brought to light: not only that Canada needs an environmental policy, but this policy needs to be one that addresses capitalism as the root of ecological exploitation to begin with. This is a big step but one always possible through a leap over the abyss, and this is the moment of action, of explaining precisely this shift to the many: this lack of a policy, in this case, opens the door for us, as leftists, to create a policy much more radical and far-reaching. Present this policy openly, and suddenly, it fills a hole, creates a gap where the Conservatives have no reply and no ideas. This is precisely what the Liberal/NDP opposition are doing right now in regards to the F-35s; they are turning the logic of capitalist competition back upon the Conservatives themselves by asking why the jets were not sent out for tender…


Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


Yesterday — a day of mourning. Close family, a beautiful & pioneering female skier, and CBC. But right now it’s the Harper agenda against our public broadcaster that has me infuriated. Radio One’s Dispatches has been axed completely — one of the only venues for independent, international, investigative news reporting. Gone. Should we speculate why? Perhaps one Canadian mining or oil and gas expose too many? The erosion of democracy is so easy to accomplish against the backdrop of complacency. Ownership of the media — à la Berlusconi — is the first step to consolidating absolutist power. Dispatches is but one casualty in a coordinated, slow erosion of public institutions and media in Canada. Fight back, Dispatches crew. DO NOT GO QUIETLY.

Berlusconi’s reign over Italy is an interesting example. Did he go because of public uprising, because of political overthrow? No, it was only when Berlusconi’s use of the State as his personal fiefdom endangered the power of capital that the multinational bankers stepped in and installed a technocratic council to rule the State. The catalyst to this was not social unrest, mass protest, or democratic upheaval, but the 2008 financial crisis. Like Greece, Italy is now run by unelected technocrats. Berlusconi has managed to evade every single charge brought against him; he publicly flaunts his largesse and lack of ethics.

Harper is the shadow to Berlusconi’s fireworks. All the same strategies are in play — slow erosion of democratic institutions; the flaunting of power and wealth; the complete monopolization of state media. Unlike fascists of the 1930s, today’s neoconservatives know to move slowly by strategically defunding independent public services from the environment and sciences to public broadcasting and food safety. The result is an unstable state lacking the communications and critical media to report upon its wholesale privatization.

A week ago I heard an anti-CBC caller played back on As It Happens: “You should compete like everyone else,” she said, “If I had my way the CBC would receive no funding at all.” Here we have a perfect example of neoconservative, capitalist ideology: here, it is the market, and not public space, which is the norm. Compete like everyone else, join the market; the idea that the market is a private space, and that the space of collective realisation — the “everyone else” — is that of public space, publicly funded from the common wealth, has been completely reversed: now it is the market of competing monopolies that is the “everyone else,” the “we” in which we all feel included. Of course this makes sense given that the self-identity of the caller assumes that of the consumer; the CBC is an imposed purchase under this logic, and s/he doesn’t like what s/he’s hearing. The logic is simple: news is a product, as is all media, and I only want to buy what I like, what I want to hear or see. Of course, such consumerist self-identification undermines the basic principle of journalism, which is to expose all to the ugly truths we don’t like to hear or see.

The more the world approaches ecological catastrophe, increasing impoverishment, permanent militarization, rogue state conflict, the inequality of wealth and power, etc., the more this “everyone else” rebels, creating bunkers of ideology, erecting barriers and fences to the in-common, collective experience of facing ugly truths. The right-wing, Tea Party insanity of the GOP and militant Islam are reactions to the destabilizing and ultimately self-destructive effects of global capitalism. That both aim to fight each other in a duel to the death ignores the true apocalypse brought on by global capital itself—a simultaneous erosion of democracy and the pending ecological catastrophe.

The lesson is bitter and clear: the state political elites serve capital, they are unable and/or unwilling to control and regulate capital even when the very survival of the human race is ultimately at stake. (Slavoj Zizek, Living in the End Times 334)

This is the final logic, the end times. Zizek’s book is highly recommended.