Thursday, 2 May 2019

Populism

This morning, I came across this in my readings:
"Among the best measures of the rise of the new reality is the recent flurry of denunciations of “populism” in the mainstream media. And what, pray tell, is populism? It’s the political stance that says that the majority has the right to have a voice in the making of collective decisions. The opposite of populism, though you won’t hear that mentioned in the denunciations I have in mind, is elitism: the viewpoint that only the self-proclaimed Good People have the right to a voice in decisions. That’s a core feature of the ["left-wing"] ideology that’s going to bits just now." -- J.M.Greer
My soc-media feed has been full of fulminations against populism and our current Premier and gloating from the pseudo-conservatives, salivating like a hungry dog presented with a nice steak, about how they have been taking over province after province and how they are poised to take over the country in the fall and how then, everything'll jump back to some wonderful golden time of prosperity and social order when people didn't worry about grocery bills. This is called 'populism' and it's going to fail as miserably as it always does. But no one is asking why. Why are so many turning in this direction? The official excuse of the self-proclaimed Good People is that all those others are idiotic, racist misogynists. That, of course, is the easiest way to let themselves off the hook for their own mistakes.
I'd say populism is less a political stance, and more of an opportunistic exploitation of the sad fact that, for increasingly large numbers of people, despite the demurring, and the reports, and the statistics, and the proofs, &c., &c., continually trotted out by academics with lots of letters after their names and other assorted highly-paid Knowledgeable Experts with lots of titles in front of and letters after their names, that 'everything is just fine' and and that we, the common folk, should just settle down and let them keep on running everything, that in fact everything is very much not fine at all and none of their social and economic prescriptions are working at any meaningful level.
The problem is that we have been convinced for two generations now that our current collective lifestyle, i.e. a huge suburban house in the sprawl with two SUVs and a need to drive to the shopping plaza to buy made-overseas everything, is the ne-plus-ultra of living arrangements. Of course, that means that when prices for the energy needed to run said lifestyle started to rise -- reality check here: sources of cheap and plentiful energy were becoming scarce and thus expensive starting back in 2005, BTW -- most people experienced low-level, subconscious anxiety because everything was getting more expensive, except their paycheque. Any psych 101 student can explain what happened next: they looked around for the most proximate, plausible cause (that sort-of bugged them) for a reason why, and latched onto that. Taxes. Yeah, a 15c tax on gas must be why the price has gone up 75c therefore it's the Liberal government. Overpaid civil servants who are more focused on art events than cleaning snow of sidewalks. (Really? They have to deal with people like you all day. They aren't paid enough, IMO.) Overpaid unions who collect your vast piles of garbage (who negotiated good deals when times were good and the aforesaid experts believed we could afford it because times were just going to keep on getting better, in accordance with the dominant mythology). Whatever infuriates. Enter the populist, who is really a grab-bag of soothing, reassuring platitudes that we can return to an earlier time when people lived in a world of hopeful expectation that things would keep on getting better and better, until we could spend our days leisurely enjoying life while robot servants did all the nasty work.
e.g. People were furious about electricity prices in the last days of the Wynne government. 15 years of Liberals running the province, notwithstanding the 2008 depression, had managed to run up the largest sub-sovereign debt with little to show for it. And so a new government was elected by a dominant majority of 40% of the vote (yes, that's sarcasm) whose first act was to fire the admittedly-overpaid CEO of Hydro1. I've seen no actual effect on my hydro bills. Winter and Spring of 2018 my soc-media feed was bursting with cute memes about electricity prices driving good people into poverty &c. &c. &c. No one creates or passes those around any more.
I'd say I wonder why, but, obviously, I don't.
The unpleasant fact is that we cannot sustain our current lifestyle, no matter how many electric cars we buy or how many wind-turbines we foist onto the unwilling countryside. It's just not possible. For individuals, this is going to become an increasingly miserable life. There is a way to have a decent living, but it's going to look a lot more like the technology of the late 19th/early 20th centuries (minus the social mores, of course). The longer we try to maintain our current living arrangements, with cottages and suburban homes on floodplains and gigantic glass condo skyscrapers and driving everywhere, the longer we keep electing parties who reassure us that this is the only way to live, the harsher the next, inevitable drop will be.

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