In his column this morning, Thomas Walkom suggests that Mike Duffy's current scandal-plagued problems are representative of much deeper ones in the Senate, namely that our much-cossetted members of that 'chamber of sober second thought' are appointed, not because of their expertise (many of them have none), not because of intimate knowledge of a particular province (Duffy has none, having lived in Ottawa for over 30 years and not even legally qualified to represent P.E.I.), but because the Senate has become, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, a repository of party strategists and bagmen where they can continue their partisan wizardry.
No doubt Walkom is correct as far as he goes. But the above, it seems to me, are simply symptomatic of two much deeper problems in public life, the widespread disengagement of our citizens, about which I have written before, and the shocking dearth of integrity in those who achieve high office.
For example, all of the events surrounding the Duffy porkbarreling have, quite rightly, provoked widespread outrage. However, when the abuses and betrayals of the public trust are not so obvious or so sensational, far too many citizens just shrug their shoulders and say that politics doesn't interest them. This marked indifference is precisely what has permitted, even encouraged, the depradatory environmental, science, economic and social policies the Harper regime has so avidly embraced and promoted. It is this indifference that enabled Harper to prorogue Parliament twice. It is this indifference that enabled, without even a hint of contrition, the excesses of Treasury Board President Tony 'gazeebo' Clement. I could go on and on.
A sleeping public enables, even encourages the unethical, the unprincipled, those for whom integrity is an alien concept, to prey upon and erode the public good.
I have always tried to live my life with principle and integrity, as do so many others throughout the world. Because we inhabit a world requiring adaptation and compromise, integrity and principle are ideals toward which we strive, providing, as they do, a moral compass and the recognition that the solely material and secular things of this world often come with a price too high to pay.
I will close this post with a quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth, a man who learned that hard truth far too late, recognizing, as the end of his life approaches, that he has sacrificed everything of enduring value in his lust for power and pomp:
My way of life
Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but in their stead
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not.
-- Act v, Sc. 3
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Now does he feel
His secret murders sticking on his hands.
Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach.
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.
Despite the fact that English literature is dismissed by many of our current 'masters of the universe' as something of a frill, with nothing to offer the practical, results-driven mentality of our times, perhaps the likes of Stephen Harper, Senator Duff, Nigel Wright et al should have paid more attention to the classics during their formative years. They then might not be facing what I hope is soon a 'palace' revolt against corruption by their former enablers:
A strange, $90,000 gift to the undeserving Senator Duffy
Mike Duffy scandal finds the Tories in a moral maze without a compass
The only right thing left for Mike Duffy to do now is resign
How can the Tories keep Mike Duffy on now?
Duffy claimed Senate expenses while campaigning in 2011 election
STEVEN CHASE, KIM MACKRAEL AND BILL CURRY
Ethics watchdog to review Harper aide's $90,000 gift to Duffy
RCMP probes payments to senators Duffy, Brazeau, Harb
Then there is this from the always-reliable Toronto Star:
Questions and answers on the $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy
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* Show an absolute absence of anything that could be even remotely interpreted as integrity. Recommend this Post
If you want to see his full address, you can access it here.
It must be very comforting indeed to the increasingly odious Senator Duffy that his relationship with the Prime Minister is so 'special' that the latter is willing to exercise unethical, perhaps even illegal interference on his behalf during the Senate's investigation into his fraudulent expense claims.
For the rest of us, the stench of corruption has reached near-asphyxiation levels.
With each story that I read about her, my respect for Elizabeth Warren grows. Would that Canada had someone similar to inspire us.
Give them hope and you will reconnect with those disaffected, disengaged voters. Give them something to believe in, something to aspire to and you won't have to wait until Harper loses an election, you can actually win one on your merits. - The Disaffected Lib
The above is an excerpt from a post The Mound of Sound wrote last evening, a post that calls for re-engagement in and revitalization of our democracy. I offered the following comment on his site:
Your incisive comments are much appreciated, Mound. The question, however, seems to be how we motivate people to start caring about the dangerous departure from traditional values that has taken place in Canada, a departure that started well before the ascension of the Harper regime which, in my view, has only perfected the art of alienating the electorate from the political process.
All of the possible solutions to our dilemma seem to be rooted in having a party that truly cares about democracy in this country and is willing to work assiduously to reengage the public in the process, something I'm not sure the other two major parties really want beyond serving their political goal of wresting power from the Conservatives. I am frankly very dubious of Justin Trudeau who, as far as I can see, differs from Harper only in style, not in substance. If you examine the language of the NDP, they seem, if anything, to be vying for the centrist position on the spectrum, a position once occupied by the Liberals, with nary a word for 'the working class,' which has been largely supplanted by the phrase 'working families,' almost as if the former phrase is an embarrassing reminder of their provenance.
I have said several times on my own blog that Harper is quite happy to push the politics of disaffection and disillusionment to discourage people from participating in the political process, including elections, thereby leaving the field open for the 'true believers' who prevailed in the 2011 election.
People, I think, are hungry for genuine change. I just don't see that it is forthcoming from the other two major parties.
However, perhaps I have been looking at the issue too narrowly, placing too much responsibility on the other two major parties to lead the revitalization charge.
In a very interesting piece today, The Globe and Mail's Lawrence Martin discusses a new initiative by the Broadbent Institute that very well may help in the process. Taking its inspiration from the Manning Centre's success in cultivating the right,
The Broadbent Institute, viewed to date as a New Democratic front, is switching focus to the broader progressive cause, working not from a party point of view, but a policy and organizational one. As an example, in a few weeks, it will begin running training seminars across the country for political activists. They will pay a nominal fee for the type of instruction that young righties have been getting for years.
The problem, Martin observes, is that there is no unified left or, as I prefer, progressive movement. While entities deemed progressive abound in political, labour, environmental and economic spheres, the lack of a common cause or purpose has hampered any real coordination of effort. Nonetheless, these new efforts may ultimately bear fruit. For example, next week the Insitute is
... bringing to Ottawa the head honchos from the mother ship of U.S. progressive institutes, the Center for American Progress. With its $35-million budget, CAP is a huge support system for Democratic policies and political activity.
One awaits the outcome of this new direction with both hope and anticipation.
Here is a video of Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, for whom I have a great deal of respect, on her proposal for dealing with that scourge. Eminently reasonable, one can safely predict that her approach will inflame the right-wing zealots:
Within the post I included an excerpt of a piece written by Matthew Heesing, a United Church worker in Columbia, on the importance of presence in helping us to bear the vicissitudes that life has to offer, whether they be of a personal or a societal nature. This morning I received a comment from him, which directed me to the full version of what he wrote.
I reproduce both the comment and the link below. I hope you will take the time to read his original blog post, as it reminds us of the strength we can all derive knowing that we stand not alone, something that I think is especially helpful in these very troubled times in Canada under the Harper regime:
My name is Matthew Heesing, and the author of the above excerpt! I was surprised to see my own words in a local church bulletin...a wider search brought me here!
I just wanted to share a fuller reflection, for your own interest--the cut-and-pasted version above is taken from a previous blog post of mine, which you can find here:
Thanks for sharing, and I'm honoured to play a role in your reflections!