For a radio show, I have to come up with five topics which I consider major events of the year. It's a tough choice - though I notice that none of the major stories got the press coverage they should have. The big news media failure, perhaps the fatal one, of 2010 was the dissolving of the press into trivia. War news from Afghanistan is whatever military press officers tell the reporters is news. Wikileaks has degenerated into gossip about the sex life of Assange, with scarcely a word about what Wikileaks have revealed. Other, very big events were ignored altogether.
As a tryout:
1. There is a dangerous decline of faith in political parties, any parties, in Canada and the US. Voter participation in both countries has been dropping for years. Bush was president with only 27% of the eligible voters. Canada's Conservatives were worse. Obama has been a crashing disappointment. Few want an election in Canada because few want any of the current choices. Both Canada and the US are getting unpleasntly close to Germany about 1930 - in economic crisis, in hysteria over preceived threats, and ripe to try any saviour-demagogue.
2. Canada has obviously become second violin in the US orchestra. As one result, the plunge in Canada's status around the world was evident in our failure to win a seat on the UN Security Countil. The world figures we are a US puppet. And we are. We have, for example, bought a fighter place useless for any Canadian initiative, but one that will define our foreign policy for the next twenty years. It is useless for offshore surveillance, far north patrols, fisheries protection, peacekeeping. In fact, there is only one thing it could be useful for, a major war against an enemy with conventional and very modern forces. Since we are most unnlikely to start such a war, that means we have an airforce that can be used only to fight American wars. And that's it for the next twenty years.
3. Powerful gains by big business in privatizing government. The main attack force has been well financed propaganda groups (like The Fraser Institute and the Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies) called think thanks, have gained a great deal of influence, thanks to news media that publicize their latest reports as though they were the additions to the tablets that Moses brought down from the mount. A prime target of these reports has been public education. The claim is that "scientific" ranking of schools and teachers is possible through standardized tests - administered by private contractors. Effectively, it puts private contractors in charge of the education system. This is scientific nonsense, and it takes money away from areas of education that need it. The US public schools have gone far down this road with the result that their international standing, already scandalously low, is now at the bottom of the industrialized world. Canada, currently offering public education at a very high level by world standards, is actually copying an American disaster. Such pseudo-scientific schemes (like the MacLean's ranking of universities) are not only fraudulent and wasteful, they do real damage to students.
The US has gone a long way to the elimination of democracy and indivicual rights with the Suprerme Court ruling that corporations are persons. Freedom has come to mean not personal freedom, but corporation freedom, including the right to spend all they like on politicians and lobbying. One result? More Obamas in future - presidents that talk a good line, but act very much like Bush.
New Brunswick has gone even further. The CEO of the largest corporation in the province, Irving Industries, has announced that a group, largely of business leaders, has now formed a coalition with the provincial government. Coalition means they are now part of the government - not in cooperation or in discussion - a part of the elected government. Except that we didn't elect them. A government like that, one that pushes aside the rights of the individual to mover toward the rights of those belonging to a group, is called corporatism. And corporatism was a basic theory of the Mussolini government in Italy. It's where fascism came from. What we are becoming openly is what we have long been under the covers - government by big business. The difference now is that there is even less pretence that people, as individuals, matter at all.
4. There has been a huge growth in the gap between rich and poor over the past thirty years. The US now has one-third living below the poverty line. Canada is moving in the same direction, if a little more slowly. The gap has been international as well as national. For example, though it has been under direct American control for close to a century, Haiti has remained the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Now, long after the earthquake, it has received very little aid - and not a cent of the money the US promised. It has received lots of soldiers to point guns at them; but little food or medicine or rebuilding or even cleanup of rubble. That is because there is no intention of rebuilding Haiti. There never was. It is deliberately being kept poor as a source of cheap labour for factory plantations, and urban factories with wages and safety standards so low they have produced some of the worst slums in the world. The misery that we call Haiti was a deliberate creation long before the earthquake.
5. The war on terrorism has killed close to two milliion people, most of them quite innocent, has broken the American economy, and shifted the US and Canada into political hysteria. And it's been a complete failure. A war on terrorism is the fuel that terrorism runs on. War has made terrorism bigger. As it continues, it will destroy our political systems as surely as it is destroying our economies.
The biggest story of the year is that war is no longer practical. Why it is no longer practical. Our problems are not military ones. That should become obvious (to everyone but the most of the Canadian and all of the American news media) in the course of 2011.