Saturday, October 09, 2010

Secular religion

3:44 PM on October 9, 2010

TruerNorth - Well, of course, you, and Marcus Gee, are correct. However, dreams come from two motivations: a desire to escape an unpleasant reality, or an ambition to change that reality.

What Mr. Ford is doing is allowing an extremely dissatisfied segment of the voters, perhaps the majority, to shift their dreams from the former to the latter.

It doesn’t matter if the dream is realized, the shift is uplifting in itself. This is the catharsis that democracy, on a spiritual level, can sometimes provide. If you wish an illustration of this, just watch any Frank Capra movie.

- James Corbett

I have to say that as a grown-up, after all this time, I'm still a little dumbstruck at how little grown-ups understand well enough to control. You'd think a city or a country was important enough to have people proven - in managing, finance, hiring practices, productivity - running the show. And you'd think data and figures - customer service satisfaction, surpluses to deficits, employee satisfaction, service benchmarks - would be the proof that would indicate who should be running the show. But, no. No money in it, no motivation.

I'm looking now at Toronto politics for the first time. Looking at the numbers and the books and hearing people's dissatisfaction. And I'm looking at these candidates themselves. And three things are very clear to me. One, almost no one votes in this municipal election even though its the level of government they should be vested in the most. Two, those who do vote generally don't look at the numbers. And three, politics isn't meant to work this way.

The real problem is that there is so much rhetoric out there that when a politician actually says what's really going on, it's taken for talk as well. More lies from a politician. If Barack Obama says that the economy is going to take a while for things to return to normal, that this wouldn't be easy, it's going to take time, that might actually be the truth. But how can anyone tell when it's been so mutually beneficial for politicians to say what we want to hear? We put off for tomorrow and they get re-elected. How can we recognize truth when we spend so much time deluding ourselves?

Politics without numbers is just begging to be lied to. I mean, numbers can lie. People without numbers can lie without even knowing. How can someone lament dishonesty in politics and not hold politicians accountable through simple fiscal management?

We'd like to think that we can just say "enough is enough" and stop spending and stop inflation and stop escalation. But we have expectations - good wages, good prices, good services, good roads, good transit, good commutes, good schools, good utilities - that build and build upon each other as more people come to this city looking for a good life. We want the peace of living out in the suburbs and the comfort of being a 10 minute drive from work downtown. We want to be far and near at the same time. This is impossible. And it shouldn't surprise us that pursuing the impossible is expensive. But, for some reason it does.

If someone votes for Rob Ford, they are voting for what they want to believe. Simple as that. They are voting on the idea that wanting to do the impossible is more important than what is possible. Ford's platform is bunk - but he desperately wants to make it true. Wanting to believe, irrespective of facts or numbers, that is a system of faith. It's a religion and that is what politics has become in a world of unengaged voters. It's a place where people of similar beliefs get together and put their faith in a new messiah to fight a world of unpleasant facts with a barrage of empty rhetoric. To this people will say: What's the danger in trying Rob Ford?...We can't do any worse. Has politics come to that? Is it so bad that we'll take a chance on anyone? How about the illiterate vagrant living in downtown Vancouver who has never even been to Toronto?

When are we going to take politics seriously enough for us to force the best leaders and managers in our cities and our countries to run our cities and our countries?



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