There is more than ample evidence now to draw the full, dark picture of where the Harper Government agenda is taking us. The focus on oil and gas as the only option for the Canadian economy—at a point in history when some countries have made bold plans to end their dependence upon non-renewable energy—is one clear indicator. The gutting of much of the country’s environmental protection policies, and the apparent rush to show the door to virtually every scientist currently in the public employ, is another. While scientists, environmentalists, and even many policy makers and governments are showing us the way to the sort of future we might be able to have—the sort of future we will need if we are to avoid some of the worst consequences of the path we are now on—the Harper Government is bent on one thing and one thing only: rolling backwards, into the dark, oily days of an earlier phase of full-throttle resource extraction and environmental exploitation. And to hell with all consequences.
I say this in all honesty: this government cares little for the future of Canadians, this country, or the world. Fixated on a demographic that is 55 and over, willing to completely write off a generation of young Canadians, and interested only in the cabal of power and profit that cycles through the oil industry, finance, and government, this is an old-style “politics” of influence and cronyism, of patriarchy and privilege. It is a government which stands for profit now, because it has no stake in tomorrow. It is a government which—long after its aging “base” and its recidivistic policies have faded from view—will leave us, perhaps for generations, trying to recover from the damage its policies will have caused. Ecological damage. Economic damage. And social damage.
I find myself turning to the science and learning this government has spurned to understand the full implications of the ecological, economic, and social dark age that Harper’s government is in the process of trying to cast us all into.
The key adaptation in human evolution is, arguably, culture. It has allowed us to pass on information to our progeny outside of, and in addition to, the information all animals pass along with their genes. Culture has meant, first and foremost, language and society. In time it has meant everything we now associate with art, science, and democracy. More crucially in terms of what I think we need to be talking about now—the future—“Culture provides the vantage point from which we can see how to change the trajectories into the future that have been laid down by the blind explorations of our genes,” as Daniel Dennett argues in Freedom Evolves. “Shared knowledge is the key to our greater freedom from ‘genetic determinism’” (165-66).
Harper and his cronies, quite literally, are attempting to deprive us of the “vantage point” from which we can plot alternate “trajectories into the future.” Their policies would have the effect, over time, of returning humanity to “genetic determinism.” If it were at all possible to turn back the evolutionary clock, that is, Harper’s are the policies that would do it. No, Enbridge, pipelines are not “a path to our future”—they are a pathway to profit for the few, and a road to nowhere for the rest of us.
Luckily Harper wont be in government long enough to effect evolution (!). But the after effects of his policies might.
It’s also no surprise that the Harper Government’s war on science and the environment is at the same time a war on democracy. It is crucial that the people do not participate, and that there is little transparency, if you are forcing a country back into a veritable dark age. The last thing you want is freely available information and a public trying to act, socially, upon that information. Thus what we are seeing in the legislation the Harper Government has been bringing forward is a broad program that opens the environment for the unrestrained development of resource extraction projects, punishes the poor and marginalized, and rolls back our freedom of expression and our ability to participate in the political process.
When I accuse the Harper Government here, I also accuse their provincial allies and bedfellows—the Charest and Clark “Liberals” in Quebec and British Columbia. But Charest, in Quebec, has gone too far with Loi 78. And this has opened the door to a new possibility—a new awakening and a renewed resistance to the agenda of the new dark ages. A light has been struck once again, and Canadians are donning their red squares, and heading out into their streets with pots and pans in hand.
As many commentators are noting, it’s about more than tuition, more than Quebec Students now. The movement has morphed into a broad-based opposition to government policies which benefit only the privileged, deprive the future of its potentiality, and dismantle democracy with authoritarian laws and phalanxes of riot cops. Our hope is in the joy and simplicity of these protests, which draw so many to their light. Our hope is in our continuing to share our knowledge (often, the sort of ecological knowledge that the Harper Government wants to deprive us of) and our enthusiasm for each other, so that we can plot different trajectories into more sustainable futures we can all share.
What we seem to be witnessing now are waves of movements—rising, cresting, ebbing, and then rising again—all over the globe. One building upon the next—Arab Spring, Indignatos, Occupy, Maple Spring—these waves are all part of one growing surge of change, a rising tide of opposition to the current world order. A threshold we have hovered upon for some months now—years even—may at last be in the process of being crossed. That’s what the racket of pots and pans tells us: we’re in the streets now, on our way somewhere else. Those planning the new Dark Ages had better take note. But it’s probably too late for them—they are stuck in their yesterday, but we, we are tomorrow.