This post may meander, because I’m not entirely sure what my point in writing it is. Suddenly, we’ve got a federal election that will be taking place *before* the American election, which feels strange given how we’ve been hearing about the latter for, oh, about two years now. This weekend, I still heard more conversation about Barack Obama than I did about Stephen Harper even though, y’know, dissolving parliament is kinda big news and stuff.
It’s not even a little bit insightful to note that Canadians think of their politics as boring. I heard three or four people lament the fact that we have to vote in this election and even express a desire for our politics to be more exciting, more dramatic, explicitly, more American. To my mind, our politics are still more or less politics, as opposed to reality TV, mythologies and grand sweeping narratives, and for that I remain eternally grateful. We’re obviously not immune from that mass media influence, and the ongoing battles in the US are not exclusively those things, but comparing the discourse on either side of the border, I don’t think it’s terribly radical to suggest that the southern side tends toward the latter behaviour more than we do.
But goddamn are we disengaged from our politics. The vast majority of the population doesn’t have a clue why this election is happening and why it’s happening now. There’s a large proportion of people whose biggest complaint is that an election is a waste of taxpayers’ money, so content are they to stick with the status quo. These aren’t people who are particularly fond of Harper, and even includes some who oppose the bulk of what he stands for. The latter category mostly consists of people who see Harper as innocuous and irrelevant, partially because that’s how they see Canadian politics in general, partially because Harper really does come off as a buffoon who may very well literally be made of rubber.
And in between all of these conversations, I’m reading the brilliant work of Taiaiake Alfred:
Politics is the force that channels social, cultural, and economic powers and makes them imminent in our lives. Abstaining from politics is like turning your back on a beast when it is angry and intent on ripping your guts out. (Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom, p.20)
Many Canadians can’t relate to the second half of that statement, especially if they’re white, middle-class, educated, privileged. I can’t entirely relate to it myself, because I don’t have such direct experience of that anger, but I’ve been paying enough attention to believe it’s true. That first sentence, however, is, in and of itself, being overlooked by the general Canadian public who is bored and disengaged, and even if the beast is relatively tame, or is focussing its gut-ripping rage on another food source, that’s incredibly dangerous. Politics is seen as big decisions, military actions, legal arguments – something distant and decidedly not imminent. Thirty years after “the personal is political”, the political is still personal and we still haven’t learned that damned lesson.
Even beyond all of the issues that are being contested in this election, even beyond the likely outcome and the impact (or lack thereof) that each possible outcome might have on the political trends in this country, even beyond the long list of issues that we as Canadians should, but won’t, be talking about and demanding, I really wish we would take bother to recognize that we do, in fact, have politics. I really do think that there’s a quiet humility in some of the positive aspects of our national culture/identity, but far more often, I see that massively overblown, incredibly destructive and decidedly not humble inferiority complex running the show (because there’s a huge difference between humility and feeling shitty about yourself, though that’s another psychological story, really). Being bored is the latter. Being bored is a political statement. Being pissed off that our government is daring to ask us to fucking vote is…shit, I don’t even know what that is.