Comparing Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Adolf Hitler

It’s a big-time taboo to compare any leader in a democracy to the notorious Adolf Hitler. People are justifiably loathe to ascribe to anyone the pathology that would lead Hitler to commit such terrible atrocities. I suggest that by NOT making comparisons, we are putting ourselves more at risk for some version of the same thing happening in our own place and time.

When we think of Hitler, we think mainly of the ultimate atrocity that he committed: genocide against the Jews. The horror of it is how coldly systematic and how terrible it was. Compared to this atrocity, the other transgressions of Hitler are diminished. But we mustn’t forget those other transgressions. We mustn’t forget that Hitler’s ability to create a totalitarian dictatorship depended on a lot of initial groundwork.

I don’t actually believe that the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is a deranged psychopath of the order of Adolph Hitler. Nonetheless, he is the leader of a nation, and as such, wields power that has the potential to cause much harm, as well as much good. Therefore, we are fools NOT to compare his proclivities to those of world leaders throughout history – including Adolf Hitler.

Here is a laundry list of things that Harper has done that scare me:

1. He has used the media extensively to advertise his initiatives, and to discredit his adversaries. This is called propaganda.

2. He has allowed the surveillance of his own people, including using a state-sponsored spy agency.

3. He has demonstrated extremely right of centre policy attitudes.

4. He has identified a religion as the biggest threat to Canadian security (“Islamicism”).

5. He has used legislation to attack trade unions.

6. He has tried to politicize and discredit the judiciary.

7. He has espoused extremely unorthodox science in order to squelch environmental issues.

8. He has suppressed intellectuals, especially those who might stand in the way of his policies.

9. He has an almost pathological obsession with controlling the dissemination of information.

10. He has increased penalties for crimes.

11. He has covered up manipulations of elections.

12. He is currently creating policy that will give him an electoral advantage.

13. He has increased the militarization of the country.

14. He has, through an advertising campaign, and through funding (and de-funding) initiatives, tried to re-create the history of Canada as a militaristic history.

These are but a few observations. As I have already said, I don’t believe that Harper is a mad dictator like Adolf Hitler, but I DO compare his behaviours to Hitler’s. Why shouldn’t I? And I DO think that in many ways, he is taking Canada down a very unhealthy path.

I haven’t bothered to substantiate my claims with links or references. I would appreciate measured comments that take issue with my concerns, as much as I’d appreciate comments supporting them.

 

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Corruption threatens our democracy and our health

A likely reason that young people are no longer engaging in politics (voting) or participating in societal initiatives (getting their children vaccinated) is that they don’t know whom they can trust. Will a vote for Candidate A be a vote for someone corrupt? Is my child’s Guardasil vaccination in her best interest, or is there some kind of profit motive behind it? Certainly, there is reason to doubt the interests of “Big Pharma”. Meanwhile, the prevailing ideology of government these days is to not get involved. Laissez-faire! Let the market work out all of these things. Powerful lobbyists are seeing to that.

One of the defining phenomena of my lifetime has been the exposure of corruption among the powerful.

Corporations have been outed for their machiavellian manipulation of politics, for their sleazy marketing techniques, and for their abject disregard for any kind of law, including health and safety regulations and anti-trust laws. The leaders of big banks have paid themselves obscene salaries and bonuses while their employees struggle month to month.

Politicians have been outed over and over for corruption. One of my earliest memories of politics is when I was a little kid and Nixon’s men bugged the Democratic convention at Watergate.

With all this corruption, and all of the cross purposes in government, it is hard to know whom to believe. Again and again, conspiracy theories and cynical doubts turn out to be well-founded. Our own shiny Canadian democracy is besmirched with omnibus bills, robo-call scandals, sponsorship scandals, conflict-of-interest scandals, overspending scandals. These extend from the grassroots to the prime ministers themselves. Wasn’t the Airbus scandal attributed to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney? And the Shawnigate scandal — Wasn’t Prime Minister Chretien deeply involved in that? And now Prime Minister Harper is mired in the PMO Senate Bailout scandal.

Even the defining moment of our generation – the Trade Tower bombing in the U.S., is surrounded by controversy and doubt.

And then there are the attack ads, especially from the right wing parties like the BC Liberals and the Conservative Party of Canada, dragging everyone into the mud.

I can certainly see why a young person growing up amidst this depravity would be disinclined to vote. And I can see how a bit of misinformation could ignite doubt about the validity and safety of mass health initiatives like inoculations.

The core principles of our democracy, written in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is under attack as governments keep passing laws that violate the Charter. These threaten the finances, privacy and mobility of ordinary Canadians.

A recent measles outbreak in BC lurks in the shadows and threatens to become a deadly epidemic as schools re-open after spring break next week. The spread of measles is absolutely preventable, but the level of distrust that has been cultivated has militated against responsible citizenship.

The more the corruption goes on, the more we become a threat to ourselves.

The Fair Elections Act benefits the Conservatives, and hurts everyone else.

I wish I could believe that the mainstream press would analyze the Fair Elections Act bill in terms of its implications for future democracy, or that the public most affected by it could look up from Flappybird long enough to read such an analysis. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being fatalistic, but the passing of this bill is pretty much a certainty, and its implications will be felt as soon as the next federal election. It will create a political advantage for the Conservative Party because it will remove limits on campaign funding, and it will decrease Elections Canada’s ability to govern fairness in elections.

Money is able to buy very manipulative ad campaigns that distract people from “the other hand” of any debate. And if you manipulate election rules well enough, you can ensure that the your message saturates the media and the “other hand” is never heard. You can also make it harder for your detractors to exercise their franchise. The new Act allows the Conservatives, who are so well funded by oil corporations, to do all these things.

The Act will increase the Identification requirements of voters, ensuring that the most marginalized people – the homeless and mentally ill, will have a more difficult time voting. If you’ve ever dealt with people who live on the margins of society, you know how hard it is for them to complete the process of getting required government issued ID. Currently, we have a “vouch for” system, in which someone with ID can witness to someone’s ID when he doesn’t have it. This system will be removed by the act.

The more stringent ID requirement will be advertised as a way to ensure that people can’t cheat by voting more than once. And who wouldn’t think it a good idea to stop this kind of election fraud? But underlying this measure is a straw man: the measure assumes that the “vouch for” system is a big source of election fraud. In fact, it is NOT. What was certainly a problem in the last federal election was a barrage of automated phone calls (robocalls), that fraudulently told self-identified non-Conservative voters that their local polling stations were closed, thereby discouraging them from voting . But the Act does not address this type of fraud which was orchestrated by the Conservatives.

So we’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist, while conveniently giving an advantage to the party that is currently governing.

This bill is another attack on the democratic process by the Conservatives. It irks me that our more conservative governments are willing to produce legislation that is in their own partisan interest rather than the long-term best interest of Canada. Theirs is the same shortsightedness that exploits the environment for short term economic gain. But what is worse – what saddens me deeply, is the fact that no one seems to care. We’ve been anaesthetized. Cap in hand we accept these things without so much as a whimper.

When did we lose our idealism? We now have a governing party that actively tries to prevent open-minded intellectual debate, and instead tries to win through manipulation of the system, and through the use of Orwellian advertising.

Don’t tell me you’re sorry, Mayor Ford.

Just a few moments ago, Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford said the words, “I’m sorry”. I’m seeing this more and more. The consequence for misbehaviour is simply to apologize. To wit, Canada’s federal government apologized to the aboriginal communities against whom our colonial forefathers committed terrible atrocities. I’ve seen students in schools made to apologize to for misbehaviour – often with the expectation that simply saying “I’m sorry” will wipe the slate clean.

This is a problem. The words “I’m sorry” are so often just words: hollow – meaningless utterancesSo often they lack any true substance.

I guess it’s my Catholic upbringing speaking, but I don’t believe you’re sorry unless you explicate your sorrow. true apology is accompanied by a clear admission of what one has done wrong, and a clear desire to embrace restitution. The words, “I’m sorry” are not the alpha and omega of the apology. Absolution depends on a sincere heart-felt acceptance of your true culpability. It means a desire to start anew. It means a clear sense of the wrong that you have done, and a deep sense of shame. It means more than regret of getting caught; it means true regret of the offending act, and a desire to make amends where possible. It means that you wish there were some way you could make amends.

A true apology means that you surrender everything you that you ever gained from your transgression. It means that you don’t expect forgiveness from those you have victimized, and that you gratefully throw yourself to their mercy. For most politicians, a true apology would likely have to be accompanied with the announcement of a leadership review that allows the party the opportunity to reject him if they so choose.

Someone who appeared in the much celebrated Rob Ford video is dead – his young life taken through violence. How can Ford even get on with his life knowing this? Where is the true sorrow? I want to see it.

Bernie Taupin’s line “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” should resonate with us. We should never cheapen the words “I’m sorry” by allowing them to be used expediently, as if the utterance of three syllables can make up for so much disgrace.