13 June 2016

What's wrong #nlpoli

As with a lot of things in local politics,  the most interesting thing wasn't the fact that Steve Marshall barred Roger Grimes from a hockey rink Marshall owns.

What was fascinating was the response of plenty of folks in the province.  Some just blew it off as childish or small.  And at least one even tried the old game of blaming "both sides" for being a good example of what's wrong with local politics.

And in the process, they all approved of the behaviour.

Political scientist Kelly Blidook asked a serious question:  "are there other examples of: "You may not enter my place of business because your politics don't fit' around?"

That's a good question because discriminating against people based on politics, religion, sex, sexual orientation and all those sorts of things is against the law. The provincial human rights code makes that clear, as does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

For the folks who offered the view that individuals couldn't infringe on someone's freedom of speech, only the state could, consider the implication of a grocery store owner refusing to sell food to someone based on their political views?  How about refusing to sell a property to someone or to rent them a room because you don't like their politics?

It wasn't so long ago when that effort to suppress any contrary voices was a common behaviour in local politics. It started in the Premier's Office and radiated out from the Premier's close associates.  With very few exceptions,  no one spoke up about the behaviour and certainly there was very little if any official condemnation from columnists and the conventional media.

There's a panel discussion this evening sponsored by the Harris Centre at Memorial University. The panel will tackle the issue of our current financial mess in light of the financial crisis that led to the collapse of self-government in 1934.  There are a couple of things about this panel that seemed a little off.  One of them was the absence of a professional historian on the panel or someone with a specific knowledge of the 1934 world in Newfoundland.

The second troubling matter was how they framed the question the panel will consider:
So how did our institutional structure let us down? Did our current institutions not perform their function, or are we missing some key institutions? How can we make sure that those organizations to whom we, as a society, have entrusted our well-being do their work and avoid crises such as the one we are facing today? How can we avoid history repeating itself?
Institutions aren't the issue.

It's a cultural thing.

It's a people thing.

It is the people who are afraid to criticise the powerful and influential openly.

It is the people who suppress political conflict and confrontation.

It is not censorship but the self-censorship that goes with such a fundamentally repressed bunch of people.

It is the people like Steve Marshall who think not only that what Marshall did is right but that he has a right to ban Grimes for doing nothing other than say something about Marshall's brother.

And it's not just the folks who behave badly: it's all the people who just walk away rather than tell Steve Marshall he is wrong.

Not that he is behaving childishly.

Not the people who dismiss both Marshall and Grimes equally when Grimes did nothing wrong, but the people who do that because they refuse to just tell Steve Marshall that not only is he wrong in what he did but that our community will not tolerate his behaviour.

It's the people who complain every time someone points out the individuals who created this mess and the political attitudes that allowed those individuals to create the current mess we now face.  It's the people driving trucks worth more than the average person takes up every year before taxes who loved up the crowd who created the mess and who now bitch about the modest increase in gas prices they have to pay in order to try and help clean up about 14% of the mess.

Institutions didn't fail in 1934 just like they haven't failed right now.

The fault lies in ourselves.