Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our Prime Minister


I was having a conversation with my uncle Russell, brother of my father and my brother, your grand-uncle, Kareem. Kareem had just started this basketball camp for youth and was remarking about how important it was to demonstrate leadership skills -- to take initiative in directing people and coordinating individual actions toward group success that benefits everyone. He was marveling at how this simple idea of a basketball camp had all sorts of people just showing up to volunteer their time, offer funding support and sponsorship, bringing people together. It seemed like the first time that the importance of the idea, that entrepreneurial spark, the inspired notion, became real to him and the endless possibilities of moving large groups of people filled his eye. He immediately started to talk of one day entering politics.

My uncle stopped short at the suggestion. Politics is where the ideas go to die, he said. It's where the inspiration stops at words and never turns to deed. Flowery phrases and paying taxes. Kareem protested. He said that the people who get into politics aren't natural leaders, naturals at uniting and directing people. Politics is considered in such low regard because of the good people who refuse to go into politics, leaving this important role to those who see politics not as a means to improve the world, but as an end onto itself, namely, a job that pays well.

That brings me to our Prime Minister here in Canada, a man by the name of Stephen Harper. He's philosophically and politically conservative in a country that largely is not. And it's obvious that he dislikes a great deal about Canada and would like to change it.

Think for a moment of the most innocuous thing that the government does for its people, the thing that the most people would have the least problem with. That certainly wouldn't be maintaining the military. Militaries could be used against the citizens. It couldn't be central banking - some people feel the market should control all. It damn sure isn't social programs - giving a dollar to one person means that you're not giving it to another - which I would say is reasonably contentious. And above all, I think its safe to say that taxation in all its form, regardless of the justification, would be one of the prime targets of public angst against government control typical of the Conservative worldview.

But so pervasive is Stephen Harper's dissatisfaction with Canada that he can't even reserve his need to change his country to the big ticket items. He and his government -- my government -- feel it necessary to take aim at one of the most innocuous and universally accepted responsibilities of the government...

Counting the amount of people in the country. Quantifying their habits. Getting a statistical picture of the population and comparing it to years past.

The census.

I'm shaking my head even as I write this. It seems so nonsensical to me that I can't even...

The census.

I want to sit down and meet the person who has a problem with the census. I want to talk to them and discover the source of their resentment to a task that they are asked to do once every 5 years, that expends no physical effort, costs them no money, that provides answers to questions that they're probably one day going to ask, and actually gives some rational basis for the things that government do. I'd want to ask them what they think of voting. How can someone be against the census, but okay with voting? That would be like saying that it's okay for the people to make to leaders but not okay for the leaders to know who they're leading. If one is essential for the state, how could the other not be?

The census, the quantification of the people of the country, is the most essential function of the federal government after keeping other people from invading us or killing us. And the Prime Minister's apparent mission to destroy it is to my mind a chilling example of the hypocrisy of Stephen Harper and the Conservative mindset in general. If he hates government so much, how can he be so comfortable using government to destroy the government? If he thinks its wrong for government to intrude in the life of Canadians by asking about their lives, why is it okay for his government to intrude in my life by robbing my country of the means to measure itself?

I have in general an enlightened perspective on politics. The country is about homeostasis. Homeostasis is not about everything staying the same. It's about having mechanisms to bring an unbalanced system back to balance. A Liberal government goes too far with some scheme or idea, an election puts the other guys in power. The Conservatives pass a law that undermines the Charter, the courts strike the law down. But the Census. The census tells us what's working and what doesn't. It tells us who's here and who's not. If someone tries to strike down elections, they'd be done for. If someone tried to destroy the courts, there'd be war. But the census. It only comes about once every 4 years. Gut the census and no one would notice. But the effects would be obvious.

Make the census voluntary and those who don't understand what the census is for - the least educated in our society - won't fill it out, causing them to be underrepresented. Make the census voluntary and the educated and well-to-do members of society will become overrepresented and get an even larger voice in the political spectrum than they already have. A voluntary census is worse than no census at all. No census would be simple ignorance, a voluntary census is a lie: a simple and unvarnished lie, a distortion of what the country really is.

It takes a special kind of ideologue to take aim at the census. You'd have to have a special distaste for government to try and blind it to any mechanism for rational policy-making. Oh, that Stephen Harper could just be any old, average politician, concerned only with getting re-elected. But he isn't. He's a leader, he wants to use political power to change the country. He's also a meglomaniac, a hypocrit, and leading my country where it doesn't want to go. Barack Obama is taking his country where it doesn't want to go, but he's building healthcare, fighting oil spills and keeping banks and auto companies from failing. Stephen Harper's trying to gut the census. He changes things that no one complains about, when there are real tangible problems out there that need solving. And that's why I am firmly convinced that I will never vote for his party.

Travers telling it like it is.

Siddiqui: and I guess my question is - when did "dumb" start being a partisan issue? If Chretian had tried to gut the census and wanted to build prisons when the crime rate was falling and while the country was running a $5 B deficit, would I be throwing a party?


Blogger Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

I may not be able to introduce you to them, but I know two such individuals.

Making the census voluntary would have been better for StatsCan in the long run.

2:18 pm  
Blogger Kamil said...

Wow, someone actually reads my blog?

Isn't the census a lot like voting? Less people involved makes it less legitimate. Sure people can lie...just as people can vote for the wrong party. But until we can force people to tell the truth, or cast an informed ballot, you have to get more data not less. More data and you can sift out the bad data. But if there are gaps in the's just a gap and the data is just, well, incomplete.

11:40 am  

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