It seems necessary to remind fellow Canadians that our country was not always a malfeasant, blood-thirsty, islamophobic, imperialist-driven state whose actions are now protested across the third-world. The old Canada, the Canada too old for my generation to remember, was a mainstream country.
But that perception (Canada as a moderate mediator in international affairs) has long been replaced by one indistinguishable from the United States. The new Canada is a country that helps stage coups in Latin America, a country that stands as one of the leading impediments to a comprehensive climate agreement. We help push through measures that worsen income inequality and degrade our local and global environment to irreversible degrees. And most frightening of all is our new Commander in Chief: the Christian fundamentalist promising economic prosperity for all if we simply sacrifice our environment and a handful of countries in the process.
This is the new Canada — although you wouldn’t know it listening to CBC. The level of Canadian reporting is truly unbelievable. I was driving this morning, flicking through the stations. The first CBC story I hear is titled “Gaza militants accused of violating war crimes.” The word “civilian” must have been mentioned at least 4 times, but not once was it coupled with the word “Palestinian.” Not once. They talked exclusively about the Palestinian rockets, the three Israeli civilians killed and the dozens of Israelis wounded … as if Israeli blood is worth more than the blood of Palestinians.
What about the some 100 women and children slaughtered in Gaza? What about the family of 10 annihilated that had no affiliation with Hamas? Or the media compound hit by Israeli shells? Another story was about a family’s puppy running away from US customs.
The problems that plague the industrialized world, from the gutting of the humanities, a decline in the major media outlets, religious institutions, and culture, to the sellout of so-called liberal parties, stem from a concentration of economic power into hands of the top few. Canada is home to some 1.5 million corporations. The top 60 account for over 60 percent of total corporate profit — marking a 58 fold increase in 5 decades. Needless to say, this has helped shape Canada’s political economy in seismic proportions, sweeping through a number of legislative measures that seek to further consolidate wealth and render the citizen powerless.
This trend (a steady monopolization by the rich) seems a timeless theme endemic to complex societies. There’s always a few among us, a small money-hungry elite, who will stop at nothing to further their empire at the expense of the Many.
In the late Roman Republic, about 150 B.C., a handful of oligarchs and plutocrats had successfully (and illegally) acquired an overwhelming majority of Rome’s public and commercial land. The once stable occupation of farming was slowly eroded until farmers were driven from their land to further congest the urban slums of the late Republic. Tiberius Gracchus, an aristocrat with strong democratic leanings, sought to address the crying need for a more equitable land distribution.
He passed legislation that reversed the illegal activity of the oligarchs, won the overwhelming support of the people, and carried it out in the most respectable way possible, compensating the rich for any reclaimed land.
Then as now, the rich couldn’t tolerate such benevolence. During the reelection of Tiberius, a group of oligarchic senators accompanied with a gang of hired thugs burst into the Tribal Assembly (the only remnants of democracy within Rome) and slashed to death him and 300 supporters, effectively eliminating the threat.
Harper, along with the venal figures who populate our political system, is no different. Actual force is not necessary in most cases. The surveillance and police state, put on stage during the G-20, crush active dissenters while the media represents all opinion in the range between A and B. No effort can be made within the establishment to interrupt this process, such an effort would mean your extinction — at least in a careerist sense.
We have away from the Kyoto Accords so we can exploit the tar sands, what climate scientists have coined the “ticking time bomb of climate change.” And as well as opposing attempts to reduce emissions, Harper has implemented new rules on our systems of information that would have surprised even Orwell. The rules include a requirement for Environment Canada scientists to get prior consent, usually through political thugs who deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change, to speak with the media surrounding issues of our changing climate. In effect, since the law came into existence in 2007, media coverage related to global warming has declined by 80%.
The new Canada is one that has seen an 80 fold increase in mining assets in Africa, from over 250 million in the early 90s to 20 billion last year. There wasn’t a single Canadian mine in Mexico in the early 90s, now there are 275. We are expropriating the natural capital of Earth at an ever-increasing rate, leaving a trail of bodies and decimated lands, to further enrich a tiny elite in the final chapter of industrial civilization.
Plutarch, addressing the landless plebs of Rome, captures the timelessness of the human predicament:
“Heartless and homeless, they must take their wives and families and tramp the roads like beggars …. They fight and fall to serve no other end but to multiply the possessions and comforts of the rich. They are called masters of the world, but they posses not a clod of earth that is truly their own.”
Tristan A. Shaw is a 21 year-old student who is a prolific reader and writer on issues concerning the state of governance in North America. He resides in British Columbia, Canada, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.