THE OUTSIDE WORLD (part II, the personal blog, is forthcoming before the New Year)
"May you live in interesting times".
--known as "the Chinese curse", this expression is not of Chinese origin. Nevertheless, there is no doubt it applies to 2018.
For me, what happened is only part of the story, and the less...interesting...part at that. The real story of 2018 lies in people's reactions to what happened.
Take the story I read last night about the impending (October, 2019) legalization of cannabis edibles in Canada. It noted that the market for CBD-infused cookies, brownies etc was absolutely huge, and the tax dividend would be as well. The very first comment went something like this:
"Good, we'll need all the money we can get to fund Turdeau's (sic) neverending river of illegal migrants"
...and things went downhill from there.
It doesn't matter what the topic is, somehow this manufactured crisis manages to come up.
- there's nothing even remotely "illegal" about asylum
- calling people "illegal" is dehumanizing
- we'll see similar numbers of asylum seekers in 2018 as we did in 2017; there has been no massive spike
- refugees commit fewer crimes per capita than natural born Canadians (which somehow doesn't stop any single crime committed by one refugee from exemplifying all the rest)
- and finally, what the hell does this have to do with legalization of marijuana edibles?
This was the year the Toronto SUN was caught blatantly making shit up to push its xenophobic agenda, and to this day I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians convinced the Radisson Hotel in Toronto was the scene of ritualistic goat slaughter.
Or take this Facebook post:
Friendly reminder that the GoFundMe for that fuckin' wall is at $14.6mil... & in 2017 a man named Shane Patrick Boyles DIED because he couldn't raise the last $50 for his insulin. There are many more people on GoFundMe that are worthy of donations, AMERICANS trying to raise money to afford the medication they need to survive or procedures that would allow them to keep living. If you're on my friends list and have donated to that fuckin' wall instead of one of your fellow Americans that's struggling to survive- I want you to find the closest mirror, look deep into your eyes, & ask yourself, "What the fuck is wrong with me?"
The very first comment:
"Well...what's your view on Obama, he spent a lot of money building a part of that so-called Wall"
Times have changed. My parents told me many times that "two wrongs don't make a right". But apparently now they do. If your political enemy did something, no matter how wrong it was, then you can do it too, and shouting "he did it first" will supposedly exonerate you of all responsibility. If someone calls you on it, select from a nearly endless list of insults, hurl with maximum force, and proceed smugly on your way, content that you have "won".
Except you haven't. The U.S. health care system is still an abomination. Flint, Michigan, STILL doesn't have drinkable water: where's the outrage about that? Children are dying on the U.S. border and so help me God, somebody on Fox News's site wrote "we'll have to kill a lot more than that to repel this invasion". People loved this comment. Many people loved this comment.
Ask when Mexico is going to pay for this wall, as promised ad nauseam by Trump, and you'll be variously informed that they already have, or will, through the "ass-kicking" they took signing the USMCA, and also that was a joke that "all you libtards" promptly fell for. Well, I for one find it intriguing that Mexico was so eager to get its ass kicked that it signed the deal before Canada did...and if you're really going to say that anything your leader says is just a joke, I'll have to counter with your leader being an even bigger joke.
In Canada, it's easier to hate Trudeau than to question why Alberta, notoriously reliant on a commodity that is itself notoriously subject to boom and bust cycles, never bothered to diversify its economy. We now respond to the most egregious abuses of power with "we won, you lost, get over it."
How do you bridge this kind of divide? I'm still at a loss. But bridge it we must, or we will be at each other's throats, literally, before too much longer.
So 2018 was when populism reared its ugly head in Ontario, in the form of Douglas Ford. He rode to power with a whopping 23.6% of the vote, employing a novel strategy involving a distinct lack of a platform. I'm unsure which provincial problem is being solved with "buck-a-beer" and extended LCBO hours of operation, but I don't think it's one that needed solving, somehow.
Ford, a Trump fan, is clearly stealing from The Donald's playbook by implementing a regressive physical health curriculum, reaping outraged feedback from thousands of parents which he summarily dismissed as "skewed" by "certain groups". He slashed Toronto city council in the middle of an election as a supposed cost-cutting measure, which forced council to hire twice as many staff as planned, saving no money at all. He's also gutting all manner of environmental regulations, because the lack of oversight never has any real-world consequences. Ford's solution to climate change is to give money to polluters.
This was, in short, a year in which real atrocities were greeted with yawns and gloating, while fabricated atrocities ("white genocide" is not a thing) sparked explosive debate. Brett Kavanaugh's hissy fit was only fitting and exactly what you would expect from a white male temporarily denied his rightful privilege, while Serena Williams "had a meltdown" and "embarrassed herself". Canada is seeking to implement a carbon tax on polluters that will see 80% of Canadians rebated more money than they pay; getting government rebates is apparently a non-starter for many people, presumably because they're coming from Trudeau.
In case you think I'm being too one-sided:
In 2018, people who used to rail bitterly against free trade are railing even more bitterly against tariffs, which were completely normal prior to 1993; the same people who claim to hate U.S. imperialism are inexplicably pissed that Trump is withdrawing U.S. troops from all over the place. Amidst the shrieking tantrums thrown by people who don't understand that "political correctness' is really just "treating people with respect" and all politics are identity politics, we do find such dubious gems as a help wanted ad for "reliable, hardworking" people rejected because it could be deemed offensive to unreliable, lazy people. Deliberately unpronounceable terms like "womxn" are being shoved into the mainstream and people are going nuclear over the tiniest perceived improprieties. We live in a world where nearly everyone, it seems, is poised to erupt at any time over any thing.
General Motors took $3 billion in Canadian taxpayer money. None of it was ever repaid, and this year GM announced it would abandon Oshawa (bye-bye, 2800 well-paying jobs). GM has thus joined Heinz and Monsanto on the list of companies I will no longer have anything to do with.
Facebook has truly had an annus horribilus. Apple and Google are also beset by problems: the former's stock was at one point up by 40% this year as it became the first publicly traded company to hit $1 trillion in market value. But it then lost 30% very quickly as it discovered what BlackBerry discovered before it: when you start dictating what your customers want rather than the other way around, you will be punished. All manner of things are not well at Google, either. Nor at Amazon.
It may seem odd to remark on this, but these companies shape our world now. I'd have left Facebook in protest this year were there anything even remotely comparable to go to.
2019 is hard to predict. The Mueller investigation should be drawing to a close: it seems inevitable we'll be treated to a Donald Trump penis portrait. Pardon me while I reach for the eye bleach. Those who believe Trump will be impeached are startlingly ignorant of the U.S. Constitution: that path goes through the solidly Republican Senate, and Trump is far, far too useful an idiot to sacrifice just now. But great forces are bubbling on both sides of the American political divide and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see bloodshed soon. You keep hearing how the U.S. economy is on fire, but if that's the case, why is it that 44% of Americans can't cover a $400 emergency expense (pdf)?
In Canada, it's pretty fair to say Trudeau is toast. I'm afraid to see Scheer implement the politics of hatred nationwide, the way Ford has in Ontario...but it's an axiom that we get everything the U.S. does, just an electoral cycle or two behind. Harper was our Dubya and Trudeau is our Obama: our Trump is on the horizon.
Personally, this year has been jam-packed and INTENSELY rewarding. More on that in the next instalment, which I promise will make for much more enjoyable reading.