Political ideology does battle with everyday reality


Political philosophies like other types of theory work fairly well in abstract. The problem with them however is that no matter how logical they appear on paper, when applied to real life they fall short of perfection.

Hence the experiment after the Second World War that saw communism imposed on China and Russia at a time when the two nations were heavily dependent on rural agrarian culture for their economies.

The notion of communism as laid our by Karl Marx implied that communism was an evolutionary form of economic movement, so that as society became more modernized and each person was receiving enough, there would be a natural progression away from pure capitalism toward shared ownership.

But the peoples of China and Russia did not have ‘enough’ to begin with, so to take what little they owned and nationalize it was not going to have the desired results.

First you have to feel that you have enough before you can begin to share. Either that or you have to have the kind of extraordinary compassion that we know exists but is definitely not commonplace as an everyday quality of humankind in a selfish and greedy world.

These days Russia and China have, to a significant extent, abandoned any notion of the old communism. They have to go backwards to get there, because the line of progress is first industrialism, then capitalism, then socialism, and then communism. Slowly but surely they came to accept that reality was a stronger master than political theory.

Similarly, when the economic tsunami came to Canada’s shores as it threatened every other economy during the annus horriblis of 2009, the conservative philosophy of the Stephen Harper government had to stand down in response.

The budget that was brought forward to create jobs and to give welfare to big businesses ‘too big to fail’ was in stark contradiction to the ‘less government, less state intervention’ approach that typifies most political conservatives of the day. One wonders what kind of dissonance Harper and his Cabinet must have experienced when they realized that they would have to create a budget that was in direct opposition to their view of how government should function. Yet, they made it so.

We are turning a corner on the kind of rigid political view that has tended to polarize people as we see happening in United States politics today. If one good thing can come out of the ridiculous intransigence that Democrats and Republicans are displaying it’s that refusal to compromise in recognition of what reality requires leads to bigger and worse problems.

Here in Toronto, we have to contend with the same situation as our municipal government is attempting to manage its budget, but is being challenged to do so while also battling along philosophical lines. What is it that the city government is supposed to do? Is it merely there to tax and control the money? Is it there with a vision to build and ensure a community’s viability?

During the many debates leading up to today’s provincial election, people were heard to say that they are not interested in discussing political ideology; what they want are practical solutions and answers to how we are going to manage as a community, as a city, as a province as a country during threatening economic times.

We don’t want to hear old clichés about ‘tax and spend liberals’ or ‘law and order’ conservatives. We want to know that we are going to be okay regardless of what’s ahead.

Even so, everyone has a point of view about how to make things right based in significant part on his or her politics.

But to paraphrase Rodney King as he tried to calm the L.A. Riots of 1992, we have to find a way to get along, and we need to do so for our mutual survival. We cannot have an ideology running roughshod over the most vulnerable in society, for instance, but we cannot make big business the bad guy all the time. Where are we going to compromise for the good of all?

A note on the fall colours…

The funny thing about fall is that you know the temperature is getting colder but the beauty of nature as it moves into sleep mode is truly awesome; no one does dying and death like the trees in the fall. Bittersweet, we call it. Now, if we could just move through that and go right back to spring some of us would be just that much happier.

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