Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 24: Where we are; and where we are going

The popular myth is that we are in a democracy in which all are born equal - which suggests that we all have an equal voice in government. That is obvious nonsense. With very few exceptions, the children of the very rich are the ones who grow up to become very rich, themselves. The children of the very rich, no matter of how low intelligence, are sent to expensive schools with lots and lots and extra help. The children of the rest of us go to public schools which are, for the most part, very good. But, partly because the rich don't like paying taxes, they really never have enough money and, when times are bad, face cuts that don't ever happen in the schools of the children of the rich. But that's not the only difference in opportunity. Children of the very rich are raised in a world in which getting higher education is accepted as a natural part of life. They aren't necessarily bright. But they further in school than most children because it's as natural as learning how to brush one's teeth. As you go down the social scale, that naturalness disappears. I began grade one in a school for which the highest expectations were that a child might complete high school. But that was at the edge of phantasyland. Most parents couldn't afford to even think of university. Not one of those kids in my grade one class ever finished high school. They weren't stupid. They were certainly as bright (brighter) as some of the super-rich kids I would later meet and teach. But university was a concept simply foreign to their world. To this day, it is true that school grades are profoundly affected by social and economic background In the latter respect, Chinese children often do well in school - despite economic origins. That has much to do with the influence of Confucianism in exalting the importance of respect for parents, and of maintaining the honour of the family. (When I taught in China, no student ever missed a class. No paper was ever late.) Jewish children are raised in an atmosphere of respect for discussion, for opinion, for knowledge. I was frequently (perhaps 30 times a year) invited to speak in synagogues - and they expected a serious speech. But, in a period of 35 years, I can remember being invited to speak in Christian churches on no more than four or give occasions. Jewish kids often do better in school. They aren't more intelligent. They simply come from a culture which respects intellectual activity. Synagogues invite speakers to discuss current events, books, art.... Christian churches have pancake suppers. Being born into a certain social class, like being born into a certain religion means that the working class, native peoples, lower middle class (in short, most of us) are not created equal. From the starting gun,the race is a very uneven one. Nor does it end there. The rich child grows up with an assumption that he has a right to rule. No matter how intellectually vapid the person may be, there is that sense of a right to rule others. The British monarchy and its aristocracy produced some stunning morons. But they never doubted their right to rule. Big business is much like that. Would you call a meeting of people from across the province, including university presidents, to plan the economic future of the province? (And if you did, would it raise more than a giggle?) Would you then announce to the government and the public that you were now a member of the government? And that you were going to appoint your own advisors to tell the minister of finance how to plan the economy? If you did, you would have them rolling in the aisles. and the premier, if he was feeling polite, would tell you to get lost. Irving did it. He did all that. The university presidents, who should have told him he was being a pompous ass as well as being highly improper in all this, couldn't scamper fast enough to turn out. The premier accepted Irving's aristocratic right to be a member of the government without being asked or even being elected. People in big business openly claim the right to be partners with government in this province. They have no such right - any more than you or I have it. Any such claim is pompous, arrogant, and unconstitutional. But they did it. And they continue to do it. We now have a self-appointed business council horning in on civic affairs - and the mayor and councillors reacting as gutlessly as the premier, his party and the Liberals did to Mr.Irving. It's accepted that if you are rich enough, you have a right to govern. No. Nobody has any such right. In a democracy, we all have the same right - one vote. When any group claims a right, as a group, to be directly involved in government decision making, this is not democracy. In older days, it would have been called government by aristocracy. In Mussolini's Italy, it was called fascism. And the people of New Brunswick have accepted these arrogances and outrages like a herd of sheep. There is virtually no public debate, no protest. We have allowed our basic rights to be tossed aside, and our lives poisoned, by a small group of arrogant twits. Certainly, if there is a brain operating up there, I have yet to see any evidence. This is,by far, the biggest problem facing this province. It is far the biggest problem in the next election. There is no point discussing anything until those buzzards are taught that their right to influence government is the same as ours - one vote. If this is not done, and done very soon, this province has no future whatever- and not a thousand casinos and 'event centres" and tidal bores will change that. New Brunswickers have to show some courage and have to break away from mindless babbling about Liberals and Conservatives when these are simply cartoon figures. There are no Liberals and Conservatives. They are just puppets of big business. Finally, try to get people to understand that business methods have no place in government. Business is not about people. It's about profits. Going to business for advice on government is like going to a barber for treatment of a heart attack. Government is not about profits and charts and graphs. It's about people. It's about us. And, oh, I wish New Brunswickers would realize - it's about them. It's time New Brunswickers stopped acting like a herd of sheep baaing for the shepherd to get a wolf to protect them.

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