Many will be familiar with J.K. Kunstler, the deeply pessimistic “petro-skeptic” and doom-laden “futurist” who maintains that civilization as we know it is on the brink of entering a sustained period of economic, social, and environmental decrepitude triggered by the end of the cheap-oil era. This piece describing his troubling vision of what may be in store for us was featured on the CBC back at the end of June in a segment on The National called “Running on Empty.”
I’m not entirely in agreement with Kunstler about “Peak Oil” and have seriously mixed feelings about his somewhat morbid prognostications, but quite aside from that, anyone remotely familiar with “that ubiquitous commercial strip between the waffle restaurant and the muffler shop” as David Sedaris has so eloquently described it, his views concerning “the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl” (detailed almost two decades ago in The Geography of Nowhere) are hard to dispute and the “new urbanism” that he prophesizes is perversely refreshing and not hard to imagine — which shouldn’t be surprising given that its roots date back to past eras typified by “charm, sanity and grace” as opposed to the “grisly paranoma” where people feel “entitled to the 3,000 mile Caesar salad” as he once described our currently fucked up state of affairs.
Moving right along from our painfully tedious little election to more cheerful subjects such as the hypothetical death of the universe, consider if you will a little ancient Hindu cosmology as interpreted by Carl Sagan from his 1980 PBS television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.
Sagan often liked to refer to an apocryphal story about a Western traveler who asks an Oriental philosopher to describe the nature of the world. He tells him that the world is a great ball resting on the flat back of an enormous turtle. “Ah,” his questioner inquires, “but what does the world turtle stand on?” “On the back of a still larger turtle,” the philosopher tells him. “Yes, but what does he stand on?” And the philosopher says, “It’s no use to continue with your questions, it’s turtles all the way down.”
Like the proverbial road to Hell, lavishly paved with the best of intentions, the Liberal platform is full of much the same: $620 million for social housing; a $60 million fund to help Canadian Forces members cope with post-traumatic stress; $500 million in new foreign aid and a $400 million for a Canada Water Fund to monitor the quantity and quality of Canadian water and cleaning up waterways, including “hot spots” in the Great Lakes. Oh, and the Liberals are also promising to ban the bulk water exports, and… blah, blah, blah…
Earth to Liberals — nobody is listening and no one cares. Sorry to break that unfortunate bit of news to you, but seriously… look around. Your mileage may vary, but it seems fairly apparent that there just isn’t much interest in this election. From the outset, this was a referendum about nothing — called for no reason, with no terribly compelling issues on the table — sweater-vest guy v. geeky professor guy. Well, snore me a river.
So, what’s in the fabulous new Liberal platform? Altogether, there’s $55 billion in promises (many water-related, it seems) over the next four years — this presumably shouldn’t be confused however with the touted $70 billion promised to infrastructure over ten years that was announced last week. Or perhaps the $15.1 billion that’s now being promised was part of the $70 billion that’s… now included in the $55 billion. Huh? Yes, we’re all confused now. But it’s all costed! Hey, tell us a little bit more about that whole “Green Shift” thingee and how the whole thing will be “revenue neutral” would you… Or not.
By the way, would it have killed you to have released a video or something to go along with the roll-out of your platform? I mean, really… when your promising BILLIONS of dollars, a little bone in the form of something online supporting your public announcement might have made it seem a little more, oh, I don’t know… “real” — rather than, as it does, just appearing to be an empty load of desperate you-know-what that was made up last Wednesday.
Ouch. I presume these were launched by the NDP, or at least someone sympathetic to that party. Overnight, sixty of these videos — in French and English — appeared on YouTube showing the Liberals performing their disgraceful “no show” routine in the House of Commons during the last session of parliament.
Shamefully embarrassing stuff, I must say. I can’t imagine there are too many Liberals that can watch them without cringing more than a little when looking at the sparsely populated benches of the official opposition as the roll-call for different confidence votes is rattled off.
In retrospect, it’s quite clear now that this tactic, prudent though it may have seemed at the time, was a complete disaster. Imagine if you will, had the Liberals actually voted with conviction and turfed the government back in May, or April, or sooner than that…
We could have been spared the entire summer watching the Conservatives happily flit about the country raising funds and fattening their own war chest while at the same time doling out billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars to buy votes ahead of an election they had fully planned and organized for — never mind all that farcically silly nonsense about the PM mulling over whether to pull the plug because of a supposedly “dysfunctional” parliament.
Whoever is responsible for the videos (all 59 of them) just ahead of the Liberals’ platform being released has to be applauded for their wickedly clever sense of timing. It is a very poignant (if a tad redundant) and painful way of ramming home the point that Stéphane Dion et les libéraux ont donné une majorité de fait à Stephen Harper. How can they now draw on the already overdrawn account of “good faith” after having repeatedly betrayed us in the recent past and, as it turns out, stupidly (or naively) led the party into what’s rapidly appearing to be the chasm of its demise?