Sunday, June 05, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 172: Interpretation


I'm gonna try not to take a side here. But I probably will…

After Canada's Federal election last month, there was a lot of whining from the losing parties. That's to be expected. Losing hurts. It's never pleasant to discover that a lot of your friends and neighbors don't share your particular beliefs and values, especially those which you hold passionately.

That's life. It takes all kinds to make a world. And sometimes a lot of us think "otherwise" or even "wrong".

We all interpret the passing scene differently, read into it based on our own experiences and seldom make our choices with all the facts we should have in front of us.

People! They're just not perfect. And they'll never be as perfect as you are.

But what has struck me most about the reaction is the ongoing unwillingness to realize that something has changed and that maybe something needs to be addressed in your own approach if you want to counter it.

I really don't have a problem with the young woman who put her job as a Senate Page on the line to make her personal statement during Thursday's Speech from the Throne. What she did took a lot of courage and commitment. She knew the potential price and she was willing to pay it.

Maybe her statement of hoping to spark an "Arab Spring" in this country was a little naive. But luckily she lives in a place where nobody took her off for a "Virginity Test" after she'd made her stand.

Overall, my problem isn't with her.

Moments after she was escorted from the Senate chamber, she became a hero among some in the social media. The same people who had for weeks decried Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "contempt of Parliament" were now more than happy to embrace someone who had exhibited similar contempt.

Perhaps not on the same scale or with the potential ramifications. But if you want to wrap yourself in a particular sanctimony, maybe you need to apply it to everybody and not just the folks you don't really like.

Moments after the above moment of protest, Opposition leader Jack Layton pinched his face and said the new government had clearly not taken his views under advisement in constructing the Parliamentary agenda.

Weeks after the election, he still seemed unaware that most of the country had rejected his personal version of the future.

Yeah, 60% of the country didn't vote for Mr. Harper, Jack. But 75% of them didn't vote for you. And 80% didn't get onboard with the other losing party's vision.

Maybe that means everybody needs to look in a mirror and figure out what they're doing wrong. Meanwhile, somebody has to govern on the platform that got them placed in the position of power.

You don't defeat an enemy by whining or insisting you have right on your side. You do it by getting to know them, discovering their weaknesses and using that knowledge to your advantage.

Winning is all a matter of interpretation -- as the last line of this week's video makes abundantly clear.

Think about what that message means to your own world view. And Enjoy your Sunday.


DMc said...

Yeah, Jim. You really worked hard not to take a side there. :)

I hate to say it because it sounds pretty solipsistic, but I found my own response to this story a little edumacating.

When I first heard about the story, my first reaction was, "Well, I don't like Harper, but that's totally inappropriate in the Senate chamber."

But then I saw the real media - the ones who are always supposed to be so in the Liberal tank -- pile on. There were a few who pointed out the irony of this -- that Harper got to laugh off Contempt of Parliament but this one girl's protest was beyond the pale - but for the most part, the Canadian media did what they always do: deferred to power.

And that's where we're in trouble these days. Canadians are so risk-averse, and closed that they never challenge orthodoxy -- no matter whose it may be. What was interesting about this woman is that she stood up to make an individual statement of protest. And like whistleblowers and iconoclasts before her, she's being pilloried for it.

On further reflection, I applaud what she did. She deserved to get fired because that's "paying the price" for what she did. Which to my mind puts her morally above the PM -- but that's me creeping my bias in.

She certainly will never get a civil service job now, and isn't that a bigger risk than most in Canada take for their principles?

I agree with you that the automatic zero sum of excusing anything someone from your 'side' does is poisonous, and silly.

In reading back and forth on the Ken Levine-Roseanne dustup over Roseanne's "New York" complaint, I was mystified to see someone dragging in Patricia Heaton b/c she's Republican. There is not a Grand Unified Theory of Getting things done.

In an unequal system that we are stuck with, the PM is now unqualified Top Dog. He has the freedom to ram through his agenda, or to be smart and choose a magnanimous road that just might give him a "real" (ie: not a smash and grab) majority next time. He could choose to be PM for all.

I'm not holding my breath.

And so long as nobody else seems willing to take the risk of personal sacrifice Brigitte did for what she believed in, I don't think other Canadians should, either.

jimhenshaw said...

Self-edumacation is always good, DMc.

As for little Brigette, according to CBC, she's just been offered a job with the Public Service Alliance of Canada -- so there goes that civil service theory.

But more important, I've been following the Levine/Rosanne thread too while reading David Mamet's new book "The Secret Knowledge" and Ben Shapiro's "Primetime Propaganda".

You should read 'em too and then come on here for a, uh, discussion.

I promise you last word.

Since you usually take it anyway.

Gregory said...

I've gone a little back and forth on this, because my knee-jerk reaction was to roll my eyes at another gesture that plays to the pews but does nothing to convince more people to join the congregation.

But first a quibble: I do take a small issue with those (yup, that's you Jim, and you DMc) who refer to Brigette DePape by her first name. Some in the print media have been scrupulous in using her last name when referring to her in the body of a story, but many pieces I've seen on the boob-tube and most comments I've read on the interwebs use her first name. It comes off as condescending and for some intentionally diminishing. Were I to refer to the PM as "Steve", you would know that I was probably not a fan, and that I was aware of my (admittedly minor) disrespect. DePape is an adult, and if we're wanting to talk about her and what she did with any kind of neutrality, we ought to at least use her last name.

Okay, my scold is done.

As for her actions, I've got to say I've got issues with both of your interpretations.

Yep, DePape's actions were in contempt of Parliament, and I'm annoyed, if not surprised, at some of my friends who were up in arms over Harper's contempt because of "the principle of the thing!"

Well, here's a woman who has interrupted the presentation of the throne speech in one of the people's houses. The speech of a government that has not actually done anything yet. This might come off as overly legalistic, but every parliament is a brand new beast. The previous Harper-led parliament was (contrary to what many on the Left are saying) fired for its contempt. Yes DMc, they paid the price for contempt the same as DePape did. But then the Canadian people, in their wisdom, decided to rehire a bunch of them and their friends. I don't like it, but that's how our system works.

That being said, I think Jim is being a little disingenuous to to lump the two contempt actions together qualitatively. DePape interrupted the decorum of the speech from the throne for all of 20 seconds, and in fact the GG didn't even slow down in his reading. She didn't shout, heckle, or make any sound at all as she was led out.

Mr.Harper's government (in the person of Bev Oda) was found by the Speaker to be possibly in contempt for lying to the house, and in fact in contempt for refusing to provide information parliament required to do its job.

You did say "perhaps not on the same scale or with the potential ramifications". But you also called them "similar", so I think it's fair to call you out on this one. Apples and oranges.

Gregory said...

When it comes to Layton hoping that Harper would be willing to listen to suggestions from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, I don't understand how this expectation is beyond the pale. Once upon a day the very first thing a winning pol would say in his or her victory speech was that they would lead all the people, not just their supporters. Harper said as much in the wee hours of May 3. Is it so wrong to ask him to, without abandoning his core principles, to at least listen to some ideas from the other side of the aisle?

I guess my problem with this post is that is has the feel of extremely polite triumphalism. Even if the Conservatives had received votes totaling more than half the population, the government still has an obligation to listen without reflexive dismissal to any sincere contributions from other elected representatives. Calling this whining doesn't add to our national discourse. To follow this through to its logical end would be to dismiss anything from the opposition for 4 years as "whining". Not helpful.

One last thing. One of my disappointments with this whole episode is that the usual suspects on social media are getting their slacktivist rocks off by clicking 'like' over and over and thinking that they're affecting change. I'm not saying I'm better that that - I'm just saying that if you don't like Harper, ranting in an echo chamber ain't gonna help.

I have nothing to say about Roseanne and Ken Levine. You guys are the teevee people. Go at it.

jimhenshaw said...

Thanks for the comments, Gregory. Valid points all -- even those I don't agree with.

Find it hard to accept, however, that calling somebody by their first name is somehow condescending.

I've actually referred to PM Harper around here as "Steve" with no derision intended and he's never seemed offended when I've used it to his face either.

Maybe this doesn't apply to you, but with the political divides the way they currently are, I've started wondering if many of us go out of our way to search for the Shiboleths (Sp?) that will mark another as not being one of "us" or can be construed as an attempt to sneak some rudeness under the radar.

I think it's a sign of how thin-skinned we've become and that makes it that much harder to have an open discussion that might bring us closer together.

As for the government, you're right -- they do need to govern all of us fairly. And I haven't sensed that the Cons are saying, "Good we've got a majority. Now we can drop the gloves and do anything we want." Although I'm sure it suits some to spin it that way.

That said, they were pretty clear on their platform and that's most of what I saw in the first throne speech. After that? Well, isn't that where we are with any government?

DMc said...

Polite triumphalism and a scold. Just in case you didn't know we were in fucking Canada.

I confess to not paying attention enough to know the girl's last name, so I went with the one I knew.

But so long as people can object to the way people are saying things more than actually standing up and saying things themselves guaranteeing less things will be said, I guess we'll all continue to chug along in our semi-great perfectly adequate nation. ish.