All The President’s Men


With two of Trump’s main cohorts, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, now actual convicted felons, it certainly looks like we’re nearing the end of a long and rocky road in American politics. Trump’s misdeeds are beginning to emerge thru the swampy miasma, and while he may continue to scream, “no collusion!” it’s becoming very clear that the ‘best people’ with whom he has surrounded himself, are not being ‘best’ at all. They are felons, and he himself is now the ‘unindicted co-conspirator‘ in the room.

The midterms will – if fair and unrigged – leave Trump in the same place Obama found himself after his first midterms … bound and gagged until his term peters out.

I wonder how these trump junkies are going to survive without their daily doses of vitriol and madness, from the twitler machine. His rage against .. well, everyone who is not him and who DARES to try and stop his putsch … is especially appealing to those who believe they’ve been ‘done the dirty’ by others. “How is it that everyone does not see my shining worthiness, and give me the respect I believe I’m due? ” these egotists wonder, these, the true “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” of whom Steinbeck wrote.

History and reality have no toehold here; the delusions run so deep that they are truly convinced that a loss of over 3 million votes still somehow guaranteed a mandate for their boy, and that ‘half the country’ wanted him .. instead of the barely 1/4th of the country that bothered to vote. Over 60 million people cast their ballots for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, while 59.8 million voted for Trump.

In truth, a total of less than 120 million our of the 250 million Americans eligible to vote in 2016, actually did, and out of that, he still lost. He has never had a majority .. no popular vote .. and certainly no mandate to reshape America in his gilded image.

They tell themselves that it was the ‘real American’ that wanted Trump .. the downtrodden, the grass roots, those left behind by the economy. But again, they are swallowing whole the lies fed to them by accomplished liars.

By income, Clinton led among voters with a 2015 family income of under $50,000 — a group that included 36% of the voters in the exit polls. In reality, Trump’s supporters were 70% white, and male, who earned, on average, between $80 and $90K a year.

Their votes were never about the economy, or the ‘good old days’ when America was ‘great’ .. it was about racism, and making sure that they kept themselves well fed, and that others had no place at the table.

It was about the Religious Right screaming about their own victimization, and their need to force their religious beliefs upon all Americans, like it or not.

It was about terrorizing a historically gullible nation, partial to conspiracy theories, by painting ‘the others’ – be they immigrants, refugees, Muslims or Mexicans – as a demonizing force, set on consuming America’s goodies like so many frenzied zombies.

They still insist that what they want is a better economy .. when they were already sitting on a terrific economy that is now being torn apart by foolish trade wars and a destabilizing of faith in America.

It was about painting ‘regular American’s’ as being taken advantage of by other nations, through globalization. The trade wars were put into place willy nilly, without foresight or forethought, or knowledge .. lead by Peter Navarro, a fool that Jared found on Amazon while he browsed for info on China, and whose theories have been soundly derided by any real economists.

But it made Americans feel good, because Trump told them they were victims .. and for some reason, being a victim that has evil done to THEM, rather than their being the one doing evil, is a historic change that makes a lot of Americans very happy.

They still insist that it is only the natives of other countries that ‘bought into’ the Obama story, regardless of the millions who march against their orange haired boy. They refuse to look at the millions of words written by economists, ecologists, and others far more educated and intelligent than themselves, to see that their boy lives in a fantasy world of his own making. (And it’s one that does not include them – never did, never will.)

advocates devilAs much as Trump’s ‘devil’s advocates‘ …. and has their ever been a truer name for those who twist and turn the law into something more favourable for their vile and demented client … attempt to ‘explain’ why every law, regulation, ethical consideration, or moral tenet he’s driven over actually ALLOWS him to have his way – the time is coming when, barring gerrymandering, vote rigging, and Russian interference … the evil spirit in the White House will be exorcised.

When that happens .. and it will … all of us who have been – willingly or unwillingly – jacked into politics, 24/7, are going to have to deal with a withdrawal from this poison. At first, it will seem like we want that intoxication back. Don’t kid yourself .. it’s gonna be a serious withdrawal.

But hopefully, little by little and day by day, we will eventually get back to a place where our days and minds are not continually hijacked by the worst president and horrific events that most of us have ever had to live though.

Hang in there … as with all addictions, it’s gonna be hard to get straight. But we can do it. The world needs us to do it.

 

An Open Letter to the Canadian Senate on Bill C-51


There are few moments in time so pivotal to a nation’s ongoing health and democracy. Such a moment is facing you, as you decide how you will cast your vote on Bill C-51. The question is: will Canadians continue to live in freedom and peace, or bow to a largely non-existent threat that calls for national paranoia, fear and the silence of her citizens?

Those of you who will make this decision, those of you who hold Canada’s future in your hands, have an enormous weight on your shoulders. Do you abide by partisan lines, obeying your country’s Prime Minister and his directives, no matter how potentially dangerous they may be? Or do you rise to this occasion and tell the truth – that Bill C-51 is a travesty, a declaration of war not on terrorism, but rather an assault on Canada that fundamentally contravenes rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  (image, Stephen Lautens)

Canadian Charter After Bill C-51

Bill C-51 would label those few who still care enough about their country to demand change and accountability from what is increasingly seen to be a battle for corporate wealth over Canada’s health, as terrorists. It would do the same to Natives who demonstrate peacefully against their own ceded lands being ruined or stolen from them in the name of economic growth. It would stop people from speaking out against justice being perverted by the wealthy and the corrupt. It would allow democracy to be eaten away by the demands for unlimited corporate expansion at the expense of the lower and middle class.

C51 tearsThis bill disproportionately targets indigenous communities, environmental activists, dissidents, and Muslims, many of whom are already subjected to questionable and overreaching powers by security officials. This bill will make it easier and ostensibly lawful for government to continue infringing upon the rights of peaceful people.” (http://stopc51.ca/about-c51)

It would change our very souls as we became afraid to speak out against any wrongdoing or injustice. It would end our precious Freedom of Speech. Perhaps you remember when world leaders gathered In France in support of the Charlie Hebdo journalists rights to free speech? How quickly we revert from courage to cowardice when the cameras are turned off.

c51policebootWe are a nation of peace keepers – or at least, we used to be. Bill C-51 throws down the gauntlet, daring terrorists to do their worse, in spite of the fact that the only terrorist attacks in this country were not ideologically based, but the ravings of shattered, mentally ill men who should have received treatment for their illnesses, but instead, were preyed upon by the very police this bill is asking us to trust.

So I beg you, those of you who stand poised to yea or nay the most important bill of this century, to think long and hard about where you really stand. Are you truly the “sober second thought” that Canadians have been led to believe? Or are you entangled in a game of partisan one-upmanship, a veritable race to the bottom, and dragging 35 million Canadians down that rabbit hole with you?

Stop Bill C-51We are watching you. The whole world is watching you. A vote to approve this bill, despite all of the input you’ve received on this subject from everyone from former Prime Ministers of Canada, to international economists, political experts, and Canadian citizens, will send a clear message to Canadians and the world that Canadian democracy is on life support, with a callous “Do Not Resuscitate” sign hanging over the death bed.

  • Less than 33% of Canadians are in favor of the bill
  • virtually all of Canada’s national newspaper editorials have spoken out against it along with, the Green Party, the NDP, 4 former prime ministers, civil liberties advocates, Canada’s privacy commissioners, former supreme court justices, Former attorney generals, 60 Canadian Business Leaders Sign Letter Against Bill C-51, The Canadian bar association representing over 36,000 lawyers, the people behind Mozilla’s Firefox Internet browser, 100 Quebec organizations, Seven leading Canadian Human rights groups, The Union representing over 51,000 Canada Post workers, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and over 100 organizations, hundreds of constitutional lawyers, Native Chiefs across the nations, former CSIS agents, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, Ralph Nader

 Tell Your Senator to Stop Bill C-51

The government’s controversial “secret police” Bill C-51 has made its way to the Senate. We have to stop it now. Find out below if your Senator wants to #RejectFear and #StopC51.

https://stopc51.ca/

Moving The Goal Posts


malena arpeAs we get older, we move the goal posts of what we think we can accomplish. When I heard that Toronto writer/humourist Malena Arpe had died this week, I was gutted. “But she was so young! Only 50!” I said to friends.

2001 vhsOnly 50. When you’re a kid, 30 seems ancient. When you’re 30, you can’t imagine being 60. I remember a time when I wondered if I’d be around to see the turn of the century; the year 2000 was so far away, and 2001 was just a sci-fi notion.

The year I turned 40, and we released the eponymous Delta Tango CD, we were told that the music was good, but we were just too old for anyone to get excited about.delta tango frt bck 002-001 It was hard to get that CD together, at our own expense, and while we all raised families and worked demanding day jobs. We promoted the music, played showcase gigs, and had airplay across Canada and in Europe. But even with some success, the words of that A&R idiot echoed in our heads, whispering “too old,” whenever the going got tough. And eventually, we caved to that nasty voice, and gave up trying.

I think of those days when I hear about kids who found a cause and stuck to it, despite peer pressure, and despite being teenagers with raging hormones. There are multiple turning points in our lives, and how we react to them says a great deal, not only about ourselves, but about those people around us, who likely have no idea how much impact they have upon our successes and failures. Those people can be the good or bad little voices we hear when it’s hard to carry on. We can’t do it all by ourselves. And there’s strength in numbers. thumbs up successThat’s why the best way to succeed in any walk of live is to surround yourself with positive people who believe that you, and they, have the right, the voice, and the ability to make positive changes in your worlds.

Malala Yousafzai’s family ran a chain of schools in the Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan. malalaWhen she was about 11 ½, she began to write a blog for the BBC (under a pseudonym,) detailing her life under Taliban occupation. The next year, a New York Times journalist made a documentary about her life, which brought Malala to prominence, but unfortunately, also brought attention to her determination to make schooling available for Pakistani females, as it was illegal under Taliban rule.

At 15, as she boarded her school bus, a gunman shot her three times in the head. She was unconscious for three days before being airlifted to England, where she was treated, and began intensive rehabilitation. The attempted assassination caught the media’s attention, worldwide, with one German newspaper dubbing her “the most famous teenager in the world.”

Malala-YousafzaiUpon recovering, she continued her fight for women’s and children’s rights. In 2013, she spoke at the United Nations headquarters to call for worldwide access to education, In 2014, at 17, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.

But you needn’t look to the world stage to find young activists who seek to bring information and change to the planet. We have several kids right here in Canada who aren’t afraid to speak up. Kids with good parents who support their children’s need to raise their voices against what those young, clear eyes see is wrong in our civilization.

At yesterday’s March Against Monsanto, I spoke to Rachel Parent, 16, who was a featured speaker. Rachel Parent 2At 11, Rachel was plagued by allergies that interfered with her life, and rather than whine, she tried to find the cause. After reading that organic foods might help with the symptoms, she changed her diet and saw an improvement. More study on the subject made her realize that the advent of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in food coincided with a massive increase in allergies, especially in children.

Rachel began to speak on the subject of GMOs, first in her school, then in ever widening circles. At 14, she challenged Kevin O’Leary, of The Lang and O’Leary Exchange , to a debate, after he’d accused her of being a “shill” for environmentalists. As you can see, the man did not fare well in this particular exchange.

rachel parent not science experimentAs her reputation grew, so did her access to politicians, and her frustration with their vague protestations that they could do little to require companies to label GMO foods. (The U.S. and Canada are the only two world powers who will not label.) She calls this “corporate wealth over human health.” The clip below is of an interview from two days ago. To keep up with Rachel, follow her blog at KidsRightToKnow.com.

Hannah AlperAnother young activist currently making waves is Hannah Alper. At the age of 12, Hannah addresses topics like eco-friendly living, anti-bullying, wildlife conservation, and fair trade on her blog and through various initiatives. She began her blog, CallMeHannah.ca, at age nine to ”share her growing knowledge and concern for the environment.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/hannah-alper/

Proud papa Eric Alper (Director of Media Relations at eOne Music Canada, and an enthusiastic blogger himself) told me about Hannah’s latest writing venture with The Huffington Post when I ran into him at an eOne event during CMW. I’m very surprised he didn’t mention this wonderful and inspiring speech she made at the TEDxDistilleryDistrictWomen event last year, on “How to find your spark.”

Both Rachel and Hannah can point to Craig Kielburger as a role model. In 1995, when he was 12 years old, he began researching child labour after reading a newspaper article about forced child labour in Pakistan. craig kielburgerHe was so angered by what he read that he took the article to his Thornhill school, and eventually gathered a group of friends of his own age to found a group he called the “Twelve-Twelve-Year-Olds.” This group evolved into “Free the Children“, an international organization that has 45 countries participating in helping the world become a better place. In 2007, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada. (Wikipedia)

At the age of 9, Severn Cullis-Suzuki (yes, the daughter of Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki) “founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other youngsters about environmental issues. severn cullis suzukiIn 1992, at age 12, Cullis-Suzuki raised money with members of ECO to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Along with group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttie, and Morgan Geisler, Cullis-Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit, where she was applauded for a speech to the delegates.” 

“Today she is a Canadian environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. She has spoken around the world about environmental issues, urging listeners to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility.” (wikipedia)

What drove those kids to pursue their dreams of making the world a better place? What support was in place for them, and how did the people around them – their parents, their friends, their teachers – keep the spark of their passions alive?

passion MandelaWell, for starters, these young activists didn’t listen to those who told them to “just be grateful you don’t live in (insert third world country/war torn area here).” They didn’t just get mad and rant, they got off their butts and put themselves on the line. If you want change, you can’t just kick back just because no one’s bombed your house lately. We have the opportunity to improve upon what we have already, if we make enough noise. Too many people think we should just shut up and take whatever we get – from our families, our friends, and our government.

My cat will yowl at me until I give her what she wants. All I, as the stupid human, have to do is figure out what that is. She’ll sit beside my chair for ages, letting out that piercing Siamese meowl, breaking my concentration as I’m tippy typing away. What is it, Lady Jade? Food? Out? Brush? Water? Door? Until finally, I hit upon what it is that she’s requesting. “I want a treat. Now now now wow ow!”

Sweet Black CatShe doesn’t stop because she’s determined to get what she wants, and she knows that she will, if she just yells long and loud enough. Persistence comes naturally to a small black cat that is loved and respected, and thus fearless.

A lot of us get that determination beaten out of us by life, and at an early age. if you want to go fastWe can always find a reason why our dreams are just too hard to achieve. We know what it is we want to accomplish, but the barriers seem insurmountable, the couch is so comfy, and that funny show is on the telly. That’s when you most need people around you who’ll help you climb those barriers. The difference between those who fail and those who succeed is the people around us, who make us fearless, and encourage us on our journey.

be ashamed to die

(originally published May 24, 2015 at bobsegarini.wordpress.com)

Canada’s Heartaches by the Numbers


crude oil boomingOur dollar depreciated more than 2 cents on Wednesday, and is now worth .81 of the U.S. dollar, the lowest level since 2011. The Harper government put all Canada’s eggs in one basket by banking on North American crude oil, our top export, but the commodity has plunged from a high of $85 US a barrel in October of 2014, to a low of $46.US on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced this week that he would be delaying his budget from the usual February-March date until at least April, due to “market instability.”

Unable or unwilling to admit Canada’s damaged economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday that “These things are creating some shocks that will impact us but they’re not going to throw us off our fundamental growth path or undermine the very strong fundamentals of the Canadian economy.” He added that “The government has complete confidence in the Bank of Canada in the actions that it has taken.”

The Bank of Canada cut the rate on overnight loans between commercial banks by a quarter point to 0.75% on Wednesday, in a response to the recent drop in oil prices. The previous rate had been at 1% since September 2010.  market failure

“The drop in oil prices is unambiguously negative for the Canadian economy. Canada’s income from oil exports will be reduced, and investment and employment in the energy sector are already being cut,” BoC’s Governor Stephen Poloz explained.

Many, including NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen, think Harper is in denial. The Conservatives had hoped to sail into 2015 on a high of oil fumes and the elimination of the$2.9-billion federal deficit , but it looks like their plans may be tanked as predicted federal tax revenues could be reduced by several billions of dollars thanks to global oil price shake-ups.

No worries, though, as Harper is relying on the annual $3 billion contingency fund built into the budget for “unforeseen circumstances.”

He also said that “The oil industry isn’t remotely the entire Canadian economy.” So … what is the Canadian economy?Canadian economy

Our population of 36 million boasts a 6.6% unemployment rate, with approximately 62% employed (16-64 years of age). (The United States, with 316.1 million, is at 5.6% unemployed, and 59.2% employed, while the United Kingdom, with 64.1 million people, has an unemployment rate of 6.0%, and 73% of people are employed.)

In Canada, wealth inequality, while an issue, is not quite as visible as in America; our Canadian 1% holds 12.5 per cent of Canada’s total income. 29 per cent earn $135,000 or more. But our incomes are generally lower – 95 per cent of working Canadians earn less than $100,000 a year. Our definition of ‘wealthy’ begins at $150,000.00 per year – chump change for wealthy Americans.

One of the reasons Canadians have not felt as impacted by wealth inequality is that, beginning in the late 1970’s, women surged into the workforce in record numbers. A household with two incomes could manage quite well. With the inclusion of children into the family, however, things got shakier financially. If one of the two wage earners has to stay home with the kids, they’ve effectively halved the family income, in order to raise children and run the home. As baby boomers aged, that child care burden lifted for a large portion of the middle class.

canadian workforceEducation, and it’s inevitable costs, are a factor. In order to succeed in a technological society, we need workers with complex skills and higher education. 64.1% of adults aged 25 to 64 had post-secondary qualifications in 2011, with women aged 25 to 34 holding a larger share of university degrees. 8 in 10 Registered Apprenticeship certificates were held by men.

In 2011, Almost two-thirds of adult Canadians had post-secondary qualifications, Stemwhile 2.1 million adults had a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree in STEM (science and technology, engineering and engineering technology or mathematics and computer sciences) but half of STEM university degrees were held by immigrants who have lived in Canada for many years, and Canadian newcomers.

waiterUnfortunately, Canada has the third-highest proportion of low-paying jobs in the world, with only the U.S. and Ireland having a higher percentage of low-paying jobs. Canada is becoming a ‘nation of part-timers’; part-time employment may still outgrow full-time employment for some years as the baby boomers reduce their working hours or retire.

But the big, well-paying manufacturing companies have left Canada to take advantage of lower labour costs abroad. What’s left for those with or without special skills are low-wage service and retail jobs, which generally lack the benefits associated with higher paying positions, and are becomingly increasingly insecure.

StatsCan released this information in January 2015:statscan

In December (2014), Canada lost 4,300 jobs as full-time employment rose by 53,500 while there was a decline of 57,700 in part time jobs… Employment gains in 2014 amounted to 186,000 (+1.0 percent), with increases in the second half of the year accounting for most of the growth. Compared with 12 months earlier, the total number of hours worked increased by 0.7 percent.”

“There were 24,000 fewer women aged 25 to 54 employed in December. Their unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.2%, as fewer of them participated in the labour market. Employment among men aged 25 to 54 increased by 23,000 in December and their unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 5.5%, their lowest rate since 2008.”

This month, however, it was announced that five large retail companies will be closing Canadian operations. Lured to Canada by massive tax breaks, cuts and incentives, they’ll be leaving more than 21,000 unemployed by March or April.

Stephen-Harper-CowboyIn Alberta’s tar sands, Suncor cut 1000 jobs last week as oil prices crashed. They also announced that they’d decrease their capital spending program by a $1-billion, and reduce operating expense s by another $200 million.

Canada’s largest growth sector in jobs has been in service and retail industries. Only Alberta has seen respectable job growth. Mr. Harper’s blithe suggestion that the current oil crisis will fail to impact the economy as a whole, sounds very much like a man whistling past the graveyardcanada bleak future

Update Jan 24/15: Last week on Global TVs The West Block, Jason Kenny (MP, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism) told host Tom Clark, “We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.”

But during an interview for this week’s episode of The West Block, Canada’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver told Tom Clark, “The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system and, you know, the oil price decline – which was a dramatic one – would fall in that category. I’m speaking as minister of finance so I’m sort of current on the thinking here.”

Running On Empty


It’s minus -21C today – that’s 5 below zero in Fahrenheit – and it’s so cold my cats have cat I has a sadgone beyond being angry and have become despondent, either staring sadly into space or denying the existence of the world with their heads smacked up against a wall. I’m sitting at my desk, wrapped in a black flannel poncho, and wondering where I’ve left my fingerless gloves.

I sprang from my bed this morning, rested and brimming with ideas of ‘great social and political import,’ but instead of researching, I’m waiting for oatmeal to cook – this is not the sort of day you face on an empty stomach.

On days like this I am very grateful for the science and technology that allows me to stay warm. I’m over the moon that I can flip a switch and have light to see by, and flip another switch to start up my computer and read mail and messages from family and friends. I’m really pleased that I have warm clothing that just rests in my closet until I want to wear it, and I’m grateful for the closet being part of a house that has walls and a roof that keep out the worst of the cold.

Silly-HolidaysWe often take for granted what less fortunate people would consider luxuries. We set aside a day here and a day there to give lip service to the giving of thanks, the honouring of lovers, parents, veterans and a host of others to whom we see fit to throw a bone. “Here you go, secretaries. It’s not much, but we’re calling today National Secretary Day! As soon as you’ve read that card, I’ll have a coffee with two sugars. Thanks for being you!”

Our culture has moulded us into people that can never have enough. Everywhere we turn we’re told that we’re missing out on something – a new power drill, an iPhone6, a bigger or tidier home, a more luxurious car, vacations in the sun, and most importantly … money, money, money!

and then we'll get himEven though studies have definitively shown that those with heaps of money are not significantly happier than those with enough to comfortably cover their needs, we’re still told that it is only with the amassing of wealth that we can really be content.

In reality, rich people are not all tanning by their dollar-shaped pools while chatting casually with the men and women we’ve elevated to media stardom. They’re far more likely to be spending their time trying to get yet more money, in any way possible, and are probably more anxious and hostile than you are when trying to decide whether to go with a name brand tin of peas or the generic house brand.

Scrooge-PorpoiseBeing addicted to money is like being addicted to drugs; at first, a small amount gives you a buzz, but as time goes by, you need higher and higher doses to maintain the high. And if money is your drug, that upward spiral contains another component – a need to have more than anyone else, to have it all, regardless of whom it damages. Exorbitant, mindless wealth precludes empathy towards those who struggle to survive on minimum wage or government assistance.

“The peasants have no bread!” “Then let them eat cake,” tittered Queen Marie Antoinette. Her joke, rather than having them rolling in the aisles, soon had heads rolling from the guillotine instead.

That anecdote is likely only the fabrication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiographical, “Confessions,” but has been used ever since as a cautionary tale of the perils of great wealth and self-indulgence in the face of social unrest. One would think the lesson would be self-explanatory, but apparently the accumulation of wealth does not always translate to the accumulation of historical knowledge.

In Canada, we can point to arriviste Kevin O’Leary, who, with a net worth of US$300 million that the true 1% would consider pocket change, can’t seem to stop patting himself on the back. When he’s not crowing over his own wealth, he’s exhorting the poor of the world to pull themselves up by their socks – even if they don’t own any socks.

But of course, that’s the dream we’ve been sold since the Industrial Revolution. “Come, work for me, make me wealthy and I will share my largesse. You too can be like me, all you need do is work hard, save your money, and keep your nose to the grindstone.” And we bought it, for decades. We called it the Protestant work ethic, and called anyone who didn’t agree lazy and stupid.

scrooge silly pleasures“The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and diligence as a constant display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition.

The phrase was initially coined in 1904–5 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” (Wikipedia.org)

We forget that his essay was his observations on the Germany of his time, and not a ‘how-to’ manual. Weber considered himself agnostic. His argument was that Catholicism, with its emphasis on doing good works in the hope of eternal salvation, rather than pursuing wealth for its own sake, impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West.

Capitalism depends upon everyone in the society believing in the same goals. When the West had a booming middle class, there was room within the prosperity to dream of a country free of traditional constraints. We could reach out a hand to those who needed help, be they poor or infirm, or young or old. That sense of community resulted in government safety nets and a surge of infrastructure building that connected and included all of the people, regardless of their economic place.

North America looked at what they had wrought in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and found it good. Good enough to not make a priority again until it started to collapse around us.

glittering TorontoIt’s been decades since the roads and bridges and communities were put in place, decades in which the needs of the wealthy became more important in politics than the needs of the tax payer. In Toronto, once Canada’s most glittering city, our highways are clogged with commuters, while our transit system is woefully inadequate to shuttle workers from their homes to their jobs. The local politicians have been arguing about whether to tear down the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway since the 1990’s. And the majority of our subway system, which opened in 1954, is held together with patches and prayers.

business and politicsThere’s blame enough for everyone at this sorry state. Although we love to complain about ‘the system,’ every aspiring politician has to present a platform that will be seen to not only address community issues, but cost the tax payer less. Once in office, the newly elected official can point to budgetary concerns, and remind us all that there aren’t any funds since he’s cut taxes, just as we requested. Or that they are working on a solution, but we mustn’t hope to see real change until some year in the future where they will hopefully no longer be held accountable for the project and the additional costs incurred during the delay.

Politics on crosswordFor corporations, political concerns are less about the community, and more about expediting the accumulation of more wealth. Despite needing an infrastructure that allows workers to arrive at the work place on time, and roads and other delivery systems to get product to consumers, the emphasis is placed squarely on tax cuts that they have convinced politicians, and even many consumers, will result in a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Corporations spend billions on pushing forward measures that will deny workers fair wages and benefits, and will spend yet more on media essentially blackmailing consumers into giving them what they demand. Health care, no. More tax cuts, yes. Or we’ll take our ball (company, franchise) and go home. Many even believe that we have no other alternative but to agree.

The last several decades of austerity for the general public, but unheard of wealth for the few, is slowly shaping us into a timid, obedient mass, who are only valued as long as we are able to further enrich business through our labour and consumption of goods and services.

hedonic-treadmillThe pursuit of happiness has become a joyless pursuit of money, dooming its followers to an endless treadmill of greed and desperation. You’ll never catch up to the 1%, no matter how hard you try, but real happiness and satisfaction can be had in a life that encompasses empathy, generosity, and gratitude for what you’ve achieved.