Skeptics and outsiders perform a vital function in a democracy. It is they who ask the most uncomfortable questions, who gaze most critically at the existing arrangements of our politics and culture.
All this illuminates a central truth of human nature. Most of us are liberal and conservative:
Sam Tanenhaus, The Death of Conservatism
My first American experience was as a young boy visiting my American cousins on summer vacations in Minot ND. There I acquired a playmate who asked me where I was from. I replied, “Saskatchewan,” a mere hundred miles to the north. I was astounded he had never heard of our fair province. Even at that young age I was generally aware of the giant to the south of us and expected the same reciprocity from my playmate. While our two countries are inextricably linked especially in matters of commerce to this very day there is still a certain reciprocity lacking.
This lack of reciprocity is understandable as the US is the pre-eminent world superpower with ten times our population and Canada is only one of many countries that fall under its hegemony. While Uncle Sam wages war and builds empire we cower in his shadow struggling to retain our last remnants of sovereignty and hope that we do not suffer Washington's displeasure.
While Washington consolidates empire we Canadians (especially us nationalists) worry about Ottawa selling out the country. Our political elites are too often artless in their actions and not overly astute in our relations with you.
We are too quick to adopt things American and Stan Tanenhaus's book The Death of Conservatism brings to mind but one more example. His book is a history of conservatism in America and documents the emergence of an aberrant form of conservatism he calls “revanchist”(revenge) or “movement conservatism.” It is a form of anti-conservatism that goes against classical conservatism. Sure enough a faction of Canadian conservatives were quick to adopt this aberrant form of conservatism and through an expedient political betrayal killed off our own Red Tory form of classical conservatism. They now govern our country, but thankfully have so far been denied a majority government. Regrettable too, is the fact that the general public is color blind to the various shades of conservatism.
With the Wall Street meltdown we see the sort of hegemony that spills over borders like a tidal wave. Its whacks people in the pocketbook and now Canadians and Americans alike are a lot poorer because of the scurrilous activities of the “best and brightest” and the failure of government to maintain the regulatory frame work that held their greed and poor judgment in check. The revenge conservatives got their wish of the market -driven -neoliberal -deregulated -privatized economy and now we see the devastation everywhere. In the aftermath there is little will to reregulate which assures it is only a matter of time before it happens again. Bubbles, financial and other wise, are by nature going to burst at inconvenient moments much to the surprise of astonished onlookers like the redoubtable Alan Greenspan.
The revenge conservatives have done a masterful job of privatizing wealth and socializing debt- in other words after they have their fun the public gets to bail them out and generations right down to our great grandchildren get to pick up the tab.
It pains me to see my American cousins being denied affordable and effective health care. It pains me even more the reasons it is being denied is a series of grand deceits.
Many conservatives proudly introduce themselves as “fiscal conservatives” as if to imply they have a monopoly on money matters. If they are politically inclined their “expertise” extends to public expenditures. It is mainly conservatives who are telling Americans they cannot afford universal single payer Medicare when the reverse is true America cannot afford to not implement such a program. Many governments learned long ago that the only cost effective way to deliver certain services, specifically Medicare, to the public was through universal programs where the cost was spread over the entire population; in other words a collectivity-or that dreaded word that strikes fear in to the heart of every American-socialism.
This writer has the benefit of our national Medicare plan, a group benefit plan through my employer, and government run universal car insurance. These services become affordable or much more affordable only because a very large number of people make it so by pooling resources. A so-called fiscal conservative who denies the cost benefits and efficiencies of this sort of collectivity denies an immutable truth and one that is ageless.
The idea the private sector provides goods and services more efficiently than government is only one of the big lies of our times- and another of the sins of the revenge conservatives has been to denigrate the role of government to facilitate their greed.
While the debate over Medicare stumbles on it has to be noted that almost half your national budget is squandered on excessive military spending. As Americans are denied affordable health care insurance billions of dollars exit the country weekly to finance foreign adventurism. Your obsessive need for “national security” is really no more than imperialism and enslavement to militarism.
So it is my good cousins, on the one hand I am very concerned for your well being, and on the other the mismanagement of your financial matters has made us all, more than ever, de facto Americans. We can not be indifferent to how you manage your affairs and now claim the entitlement to speak to you on the issues. The price of hegemony is to acquire adopted citizens who may or may not agree with your status quo and who must for our own preservation insert ourselves into your national debates. You may find this impertinent, so be it, but the “global village” continues to shrink and none of us can afford to live in our isles of delusion.
In my Minot days (the height of the Cold War) there were ICBM's being trundled down the local highways to their concrete bunkers. All these decades later Minot has fallen on hard times. Cold War relics are every where; missile bunkers, nuclear bombs and bombers stand ready for a war that will never happen, and can never happen. And Americans wonder why single payer universal health insurance is so elusive.
Robert Billyard 2009
Robert Billyard is an artist and writer living in the bucolic hinterlands of British Columbia Canada. He reads widely on history, politics, and social issues.Tweet
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