03 July 2012

What the cod moratorium wrought #nlpoli

The cod might be gone these 20 years but there are no shortage of people making a fine dollar telling us what it all means.

Surely the one making the most cash is Ryan Cleary, pulling down a pay cheque as a member of parliament partly on the pledge to have an inquiry into why there are no cod.  Hint:  a whole bunch of people, including Cleary’s friend Gus Etchegary, killed just about all of them.

If he had been around a century and a half ago, Cleary would have been campaigning to find out where all the Great Auks went.  Hint:  we killed them all.

Cleary is full of shit, in case you hadn’t noticed, but that never stopped people from voting for Cleary and his ilk before.  He is just the latest in a long line of people who are utterly full of shit who got themselves elected to provincial or federal office where they continue to be full of shit at public expense.

True to form, Cleary couldn’t be doing anything else on July 2, 2012 than hosting a public event to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the cod slaughter.  He has hired the same room at the same hotel where John Crosbie – when he was fisheries minister – announced the end of the commercial cod fishery. The only reason anyone would be beat down the doors to the room this time is if they forgot the key or if Cleary hired a few actors to re-create the event.

Not to be outdone, the provincial fisheries minister Darin King and John Crosbie – these days earning his crust as the Lieutenant Governor – will also mark the solemn occasion.   They and a bunch of people who were and are involved in the fishing industry got together in the main government building in Capital City to do something unspecified.

King will probably dazzle us all with tales of how good the fishery is these days.  On the Friday beforehand, King called one of the local open line shows to talk about the celebrat…errr…commemoration. Voice of the cabinet minister paraphrased him this way:
King says with a few exceptions, harvesters are doing well with multi-species of seafood products. He doesn't think you'll find any harvesters who will say they want to go back to the way it was twenty years ago.
Some of the “multi-species” that King talked about included sea cucumbers and whelks.  This is a sign of how bad things are in the fishery, not how good they are.  If Cleary wants to know why the fish disappeared he need only look in the mirror or look to King. 

We has found the enemy and he is them:  politicians. They don’t know the difference between a punter and a punt and yet imagine, all the same, that they, and only they, can direct the fishery.  Because, after all, they have done such a fine job of it so far, the decimation of the cod notwithstanding.

Along with the burgeoning sea snot harvest, the other industry born of the moratorium has been the regular safari by mainland journalists.  This year, the Ceeb in Toronto sent down a fellow named Rex Murphy for a few days.  Murphy, who once lived here,  grabbed a flight back to Toronto as soon as the budget allowed but he stayed long enough, as he told the Ceeb’s weekend arts show on Canada Day,  to get to a few communities within driving distance of St. John’s. Armed with those insights, he filed his story.

Murphy’s local pedigree gives him the privilege to join with the likes of Cleary or Lisa Moore to explain the great blow the cod moratorium wrought on who “we” are as a people, to “our” culture.  So devastating has been the blow, according to Murphy,  that the people the moratorium affected don’t describe its impact in lurid detail.  In fact, if Murphy told the whole tale, they don’t talk about it at all.  Talk to them in their expensive homes in Alberta, though, and you can see a sadness in them.

But they don’t say anything about that, either.

How convenient. 

How convenient for Murphy, that is:  the absence of evidence - like a sign that the cod moratorium has rent even one soul enough for the soul to say so -  becomes evidence to confirm the theory in the first place.

What Bwana Murphy is doing is nothing more than what he and his kind have been doing since 1992. It is what Cleary and King and John Crosbie are doing.  They impose a meaning on an event. They invent a story to go with a set of circumstances. And in the process of re-telling the story among themselves, they displace reality and their fabricated version becomes the accepted “facts”.

Meanwhile, as Murphy noted, people did what they have always done.  They got on with life.  In the 1920s, as Murphy noted, these people moved to the United States.  In the 1990s, they could go somewhere else in the new country to which they belonged.  Some of them left permanently.  Others became migrant labourers.

No one thinks about the difference between those two times.  No one writes about it, certainly not Bwana Murphy or Lisa or Ryan.  That would get in the way of a good narrative line, a good story arc. 

But that is where a powerful story sits, just like there is a more powerful story in the reality of what led to the cod moratorium and what came in its wake, than in all the bullshit you heard from all the talking heads at all the events on July 2.