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September 8, 2009

Canada, Refusing the Insupportable

Dr. Peter Eglin

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Things are intolerable. The killing and torturing. The ruinous neglect and abandonment. The inequality. The refusal to act. The lying. The equanimity. The exploitation.

Peter EglinThings are intolerable. The killing and torturing. The ruinous neglect and abandonment. The inequality. The refusal to act. The lying. The equanimity. The exploitation.

Afghan civilians being blown to bits with Canadian complicity is intolerable. The Canadian state being a partner in the torture of Canadians is intolerable.

The atrocious conditions of life on the still-existing, disgraceful system of aboriginal reserves in Canada is intolerable.

Growing economic inequality in the world as a whole, in the rich countries (of the OECD) and in Canada is intolerable.

The Canadian state’s pusillanimous response to the disaster posed by global warming is intolerable.

Lying in the media is intolerable. The war in Afghanistan is not just, it is not noble, and it is not in defence of human rights. It is unjust, ignoble, inhuman, immoral, criminal and driven by elite interest in power and profit. It’s about pipelines, not people.

The equanimity with which state, corporate, media and university elites accept, if regretfully, Canadian state-sanctioned murder, torture, neglect, abandonment, impoverishment, inaction, propaganda and, above all, exploitation is intolerable.

By “exploitation” I mean the mass of the people being forced to go down on their knees to beg the rich to allow them to enrich them further.

I mean the mass of the people with no productive property save for their invested pensions being forced to appease the stock market to stay alive.

I mean the mass of the people being forced into the virtual market stadium to be spectators while their state-corporate rulers send in the bulls and bears to tear them apart.

What I cannot wait longer for is democracy, the rule of the (common) people.

Not the god-awful, blanched imitation of political democracy we get at election time, but democracy where it really counts, in the workplace, in the economy.

Those who work together should be their own board of directors, as Richard Wolff puts it in his inspired and inspiring October lecture, “Capitalism hits the fan: a socialist solution” (Google it; you can watch him speak).

What I cannot tolerate any longer is (the sight of) the owners of the planet continuing to be both the cause of, and the always temporary cure for, the disempowered, disenfranchised, precarious and usually impoverished lives of the mass of the earth’s people, including Canada’s people.

What we are witnessing as state-corporate leaders talk and spend our wealth on themselves is a tactical re-balancing of the pendulum of the people’s exploitation and domination.

Too much financial de-regulation needs mending by some re-regulation, they say. There they go, back and forth. But the “fundamentals” they so love to talk about (and which are always “strong,” notice) remain in place. And what are these fundamentals? That they own everything, and the people virtually nothing.

As long as this fundamental lack of democracy in economic life remains, they will continue to make the decisions about the production, investment and distribution of goods and services.

The harmful consequences will always be borne disproportionately by others, by the people, while they reap the profits: the privatization of profit, the socialization of loss. It doesn’t matter whether as individuals they care about this or not, whether they are wholly decent or wholly selfish, charitable or greedy. Others will always pay more. That, for me, is intolerable.

So what I propose is getting together with work-mates, friends, fellow consumers to figure out how to make what is ours truly ours, so that we decide what we produce, how we make it, how we divide up the profits and losses, so that we become fully participating, accountable and free members of society.

Then, perhaps, it would never cross our minds to spend our and the planet’s wealth on arms to kill brown people, to torture and imprison them, to serve US power and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

Paying Canadian debts to the first nations of this country and the rest of the world would seem only fair and way overdue, greening our way of life just common sense, and creating untold ways of telling ourselves truthful stories just the art of everyday life.

Dr. Peter Eglin is Professor of Sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada.

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