A Post Election Rant

By Norbert Ruebsaat | May 18, 2011

What’s in the cards for us? Machiavelli for our Prime Minister, a clown for the opposition leader? This could all be very Shakespearean, were it not for the fact we live in a media world which allows neither tragedy nor comedy, only farce, to configure public discourse. We must live with icon consumption. There’ll be hard times. Harper will execute his Plan, which is to turn Canada into a market autocracy; Layton will continue with his party-piece style of self presentation, blind to the fact that his Quebec contingent is a flash in the pan, a mistake, at best an experiment, and hop around like the poor man’s rock opera star he aspires to be. The Liberals are toast; the bad Ignatieff dream is thankfully over, and no, the youth vote, like so many media-invented phenomena, did not materialize. Voting percentage was up only a couple of points from the last election, no data is available that tells us which percentage of voters came from the youth demographic. Old media just doesn’t do this kind of reporting.

Harper’s “strong majority” is running on gasoline provided by forty percent of the Canadian electorate.  I worry, again, that the “new media” hullabaloo, about which I can at times get excited, is a self-referential circular system in which reality bubbles appear and burst when reality sets in with a strong purpose, as it will with Harper. I hope I’m wrong about this but I do not feel gleeful at the moment. I worry that by the time Harper finishes with us it will be too late—as our attempts at halting climate change will come too late—to disarm the traps we’re getting into. A dark day for Canada. In dark days, people, like abused kids, rush to strong leaders.

7 May 11

Harper’s big majority (take a deep breath, lie back and think of England) was garnered with a 2% increase in his popular vote in the last election. The rest of us did not vote for him. The fundamentally undemocratic first-past-post electoral system brings this about: the strong get majorities because they are strong, not because they have the support of the majority.

Harper’s great desire, his life project, was to kill the Liberal Party. He’s succeeded. He lives in an epic age, in which your main job is to kill your enemy. That’s his thinking.  Now he’ll try to build an empire. But he may not know how, and will try instead to find a new enemy. Having no natural enemy left, he may in fact not know what to do. It’s useful, I think, to compare him to boy gamers. You get points for vanquishing the enemy, monsters, etc., then you go downstairs where mom has cooked supper for you. You get status and kudos from your imaginary peers, the other boys and their super toys.

So let’s assume that our prime minister—I don’t think I’m wrong about this—lives in this sort of boy-in-his-room-battling-monsters kind of reality. Layton, meanwhile, is a boy scout. He mouths truisms he doesn’t quite understand and couldn’t make good on if his mother’s life depended on it. He’s a man of platitudes and a cute face who likes himself so much as a celeb that he daily pees his pants with joy. Layton’s the jester figure to Harper’s hero-king. The two might need each other to keep this story-line going—and what I fear sometimes in my darkest moments, is that the real kids, raised on hero-meets-monster fiction and media, will willy nilly take to such a story line. This is a great catastrophe, if you ask me. Harper’s so out of touch my teeth hurt when I think of it; Layton makes my gums bleed.

The media, meanwhile, are gleeful. They got a story where they worried there wasn’t one: but now, just imagine, we have the demise of the Liberals, for the first time in history, they, the end of the natural governing party, are neither….etc. etc.. We have the rise of the NDP, for the first time in history a serious contender, as Marlon Brando would have put it, as official opposition. An orange revolution, here in commonplace Canada, imagine that! And the collapse of the BQ. How much happier can a journalist get? We have neophyte kids from Quebec who don’t speak French forming the majority of the NDP caucus, how cool is that—as a story, not as reality, remember? Media people love history because they so rarely, in fact never, make it. Meanwhile the true issues mount up: climate change, the oil sands (remember when they were tar sands?) Afghanistan, Obama—I mean Osama—and the end of the 9/11 era. Another computer game tribal killing with no relation to legal reality, without due national or international process: a wild west show. Obama reminds me of Ignatieff, which is a sad comparison to be making.

The young, who I think wish to vote and have influence, don’t quite know how to do it. They don’t get the concept: it’s not enough like shopping. What do I get in return for voting? Their networks encourage them—and us old farts—to act, and one has hope, but youth needs more guidance from people, not from social networking software. Facebook is a different animal here in North.America than in Egypt, where people talk and then text, not vice versa. I do have hope that when Harper gets going on his many projects the kids’ll wake up and smell the rats. How they will deal with them I don’t know. Some of the kids have kids themselves, though, and that’ll make a difference. I have hope, see?

11 May 11

I’ve calmed a bit and today I am more worried about Harper’s neo-con agenda bee buzzing into Canada’s cultural and political fabric. He’ll abolish public funding for political parties, thus giving the corporations the say over who’ll get elected; he’ll slash CBC funding and support his crony media outlets like Sun TV; he’ll, needless to say, slash arts funding even more; he’ll cut corporate taxes, privatize healthcare delivery, deregulate guns,  balloon up the prison system, throw money at the military, make love to the tar sands, and make Canada the laughing stock of global efforts to curb climate change or address any other environmental matter. He’s a disgrace, an embarrassment, a Bush holdover, a menace to Canadian democracy: all the things we knew before the election, and didn’t prevent.

1080 words,  May 18, 2011


  • Norbert Ruebsaat

    Norbert Ruebsaat teaches Media and Communication Studies at Columbia Collage and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver B.C. He publishes regularly in periodicals and newspapers, has produced documentaries for CBC Radio’s Ideas program, and has twice been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards in fiction and creative non-fiction.

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