A good friend said the other day that he had almost completely turned off Canadian politics and that British Columbian politics had “all but disappeared.” He then noted, “Well maybe I am keeping up with the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion debate.”
The bottom line is that American political blather, mostly about you know who, is taking up many people’s entire political awareness, or appetite or capacity for political absorption.
And this comes at a cost.
When I think of my consumption of political news, it certainly veers into deep Trumpdom. My primary social media platform is Facebook and although the Cambridge Analytica scandal temporarily dented my enthusiasm, I still report many times a day to my echo-chamber. Here I’m awash in contributed articles and friends’ posts from The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Those publications inexorably focus on the asinine, childish and endlessly fascinating breakdown of intelligent political life to our south.
My Facebook friends and I seem to have developed endless political fascination with sexism, vulgarity, chaos, idiocy, farce, narcissism and sociopathy in the White House. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if this attraction borders on addiction – skilfully manipulated by some Cambridge Analytica-derived algorithm that selects for people who are susceptible to specific deviant political stimuli. Have we been captured by the math nerds who make money exploiting this kind of hype and tripe?
If so, the capture comes at a cost. For example, most Canadians, if pressed for the defining political moment of the first quarter of 2018, would probably opine on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family trip to India. The audience seems broadly divided between horror at the wearing of ethnic wedding apparel and pleasure at the appearance of our cosmopolitan first family abroad. The issue is primarily visual and cultural, and lends little to economic or even sectarian awareness in India or Canada. It simply allows for Conservative horror at the sartorial embrace of diversity and Liberal pleasure in the same behaviour.
Think a little harder though. What are you reading and retaining of the lethargy of the Canadian economy in 2018’s first quarter? Are you following the impact of provincial carbon taxes, the extended slide in oil prices, the economic impact of real estate taxation on foreign purchasers, flippers and speculators? Are you well apprised of the impact of unaffordable rents (forget house purchases for the time being) on millennials? For that matter, what do you think of the ‘gig economy’ that promises short contracts with no pensions or benefits to millennial workers? Are your children happy in their work?
These issues are slipping by many citizens without any real constructive analysis because too many of us allow our fascination with American political oligarchs and their hangers-on to dominate our field of vision. There are of course good reasons to follow the actions of Donald Trump, the Mercers, the suddenly worldly Steve Bannon and the Koch brothers, but not to our acute and immediate disadvantage.
I think we’ve reached the point where a steady media diet of excessively privileged white dotards has peaked in its entertainment and analytic value. They are what they are. They’re revealed for who they are. They really have no more secrets. They never were possessed of many subtleties. From this point, our ethnography of their culture is complete. It’s what we do with the ethnography that counts more than anything.
We need to plan our investments and make economic decisions in the knowledge that these septuagenarian and octogenarian men are going to time out. We need to politically orient ourselves to millennial jobs, careers and interests. We need to start thinking about the politics of just beyond now, rather than the orchestrated media-borne chaos of now.
Canada’s ‘just beyond now’ requires a renewed embrace of enlightenment values, humanities and sciences, free trade and broad global interests. It needs to embrace multicultural neighbourhoods, towns and cities, and realize that our species – knowing man – requires a politics of reaching out, not entrenchment.
In this process, we’re free to bypass those who disagree. And we’re free to turn our attention back to a Canadian politics that really encapsulates our spirit and frees its expression.
Troy Media columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery.
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