We all live in peril, surrounded by monsters of ignorance and ideology.
by Ish Theilheimer
The Life of Pi – the Canadian bestselling novel turned 3-D movie smash — offers a preview of what 2013 offers. Narrator Pi Patel is a smart and interpid shipwreck survivor who tells an incredible but strangely plausible story of coexisting for months at sea, in a lifeboat also occupied by a Bengal tiger.
A lot of us feel like Pi right about now. We know we're living with wild forces ready to eat us alive. We're going to have to be as clever as Pi says he was to survive.
Big or small, the monsters loom everywhere. Barack Obama won re-election as US president despite widespread voter suppression and truly ghastly attack ads. He won on the simple proposition that rich people should pay more taxes. Still, it took him until New Year's Eve to fend off the "fiscal cliff" blackmail of the defeated Republicans.
The Harper majority monster is baring its teeth now at organized labour and threatening to devastate medicare when it comes up for renewal next year.
Tea Party crazies greeted the New Year with a promise to try again to take food from the mouths and homes from over the heads of seniors and poor people. On January 2, they proved themselves capable of any level of violence and savagery, by denying $60 billion in aid to Hurricane Sandy survivors.
Many Canadians feel threatened by the prospect of two and a half more years in the same lifeboat with a Harper majority. Since hatching in May, 2011, the majority monster has rivalled Godzilla for devastation of public services, environmental protection, workers' and human rights, old age security and more. The monster is baring its teeth now at organized labour and threatening to devastate medicare when it comes up for renewal next year. In 2013, we can expect it to continue where it left off in 2012, with nothing the opposition can actually do to stop it.
The Ontario lifeboat is also full of scary monsters, with an election inevitable this spring. Any new leader the Liberals elect this month is unlikely to be able to undo the damage to the party's brand done by Dalton McGuinty's poor handling of too many files.
McGuinty chose to cut public services rather than tax the rich. His government wasted billions on privatization schemes in health care and energy and infuriated rural Ontario with ill-designed energy and environmental policies intended to court urban votes. Now his government is caught up in a no-win dispute with the province's teachers — a group that used to be one of McGuinty's biggest supporters.
McGuinty’s failures provide opportunity for arch-conservative Tim Hudak to finally win power, a prospect most Ontario progressives find not much better than being in a lifeboat with a tiger. Hudak, until now, has been accident-prone, often putting his mouth in gear before his brain seemed engaged, but the current weaknesses of the Liberals could give him a chance even he is incapable of blowing.
Only another plucky performance from Andrea Horwath and the NDP can keep Hudak from devouring more public services and poor people than Mike Harris ever dreamed of in the 1990s. Polls show she continues to lead in popularity. If Ontario is lucky, she'll keep Hudak from a majority. If Horwath is very lucky, given the province's huge economic problems, she won't be elected Premier herself.
Then there's the climate monster roaring overhead of the boat. Last year it ate the New York metropolitan area and subjected much of North America to the worst droughts in 80 years. It practically ate Greenland. What's most alarming is that we know how to starve the monster but a bunch of damn fools keep insisting on feeding it.
Like poor Pi, humanity is trapped in a lifeboat, at the mercy of demonic beasts. We have to look deep within if we are to survive. On the positive side, signs abound that people are alarmed and ready to act. Spontaneous movements like Occupy, the Quebec student protests, Idle No More and the outrage in India over state-sanctioned violence against women, speak of an underlying discontent with a world run by rich old boys. Obama's re-election did too.
Whether that discontent can translate into concrete action and save us from this terrifying lifeboat remains to be seen. Like Pi, too, we'll need a lot of pluck and some divine help.© Copyright 2013 Ish Theilheimer, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca