Thursday, April 21, 2011

Democracy in BC

Some thoughts on the BCNDP leader election held on Sunday April 17th. What a great democracy we live in! All of us, if we choose to, can have a say from the very front end of our governing process right to the back end - like the upcoming Federal election on May 2nd. Our political parties are microcosms of our larger democracy. And as much as we like to decry the idea of party or partisan politics, it truly is one of the building blocks of our democracy. The BC Liberal Party elected a new leader about a month earlier and last week, it was the BCNDP's turn. Setting aside the rhetoric, we have fresh new politicos and party politics here in BC.

Many of you know that I've been a social worker most of my career. As such, it's important to be aware of my own bias in any situation. Well, let me put it out there before I move on with this. I'd say that I'm likely a left-leaning social democrat. Good friends (really??) would refer to me as a pinko socialist freak. I believe we, as a community/society, have a responsibility to care for one another and share in the wealth of this land. And the best way to pool our collective wealth and take care of each other is through a governing body. And the best way to create this collective wealth is through the tempered, dominant system of capitalism. There. I said it.

So, about the BCNDP election; I think they picked the wrong leader – Adrian Dix is perceived as being too left-wing. We love our polarized politics here in BC but the media and the BC Liberals will exploit this perception with the familiar mythology of the past decade – that the NDP governments of the 90's were a disaster for the economy. Of course, this ignores the facts: economic growth was higher during the 90's than during the last decade of BC Liberal government; population growth was greater; BC had a balanced budget; we had the lowest child poverty rates (compare to the highest now).

It's important to note that it is only a perception that Dix is a hard left ideologue. Michael Smyth, in Monday's Province referred to Dix as a "dour Stalinist". All week, the mainstream media has been extolling the fears of socialist hordes at the door of British Columbia, all the while ignoring the real facts about those same "hordes" when they were in power. A Stalinist? Really Mike? Last I looked, Dix didn't have citizen execution on the table; or the state takeover of all private enterprise. Talk about fear-mongering! There's more to it than this. SFU Political Scientist, Doug McArthur considers Dix a fiscal conservative, suggesting that he is a pragmatist and understands the need for fiscal responsibility and growing the economy while working hard for social justice. No matter, it's going to be an uphill battle in some respects for the NDP.

I would've rather seen John Horgan win – he would have brought the party together and is seen as more moderate and more charismatic with LOTS of substance. I'm sure both he and Mike Farnworth will play key roles in opposition and then in government. These moderate influences will go a long way. In the meantime, the NDP must be the one to frame themselves and the issues dear to ALL British Columbians. If they continue to allow the BC Liberals and mainstream media to define them, they are doomed. It is far easier to tell people what and who you are than to tell them what and who you are not.

So there you have it, I'd rather not have the lefty in as leader. So I'm a pragmatic social democrat. Huh... such as it is, I think Adrian Dix is not who others are making him out to be. Smart, (extremely) hard working, pragmatic and...a fiscal conservative. Interesting – never a dull moment in BC politics!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just Pour Some Vodka on It: Or Something Like That…

WOW! I’m a man - and I just don’t get it. Which, of course, may be of no surprise to many of you reading this. But hang on a minute; It’s not that I don’t get women, it’s that you are so freakin powerful and I wonder if you are even aware of it! Before I continue, let me be clear: I don’t make up excuses for behaviour. That’s just not me. Yet, at the same time, it’s important that we become aware of how bad behaviour develops. And I’m talking about BAD behaviour, not bad (wink wink) behaviour. For example, when we are treated badly – disrespected, ignored, manipulated, etc – we sometimes find other ways of coping with those lousy feelings that come along with that.

One way to deal with bad behaviour is to pour vodka on it. Hey, I’ve done it. When my former girlfriend and I broke up not too long ago I went out and poured gin aaaalllllllll over those feelings of rejection. Yeah, I forgot about them that evening, but they got me again the next day! So, those ways of coping can come in various forms and are typically self destructive in a variety of ways – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

What the heck am I talking about? And didn’t I say that women are powerful? Ok, here we go. Whenever someone behaves badly toward you, you will resist that bad behaviour---we all do. Therefore, YOU. ARE. NOT. A. HELPLESS. VICTIM. You respond in ways that keep you safe. If your girl/boyfriend/spouse is treating you poorly or abusing your trust in some way, you always take action to resist that. Anyway, let me try and sum up this idea from the guy who initiated the idea - Alan Wade. He put this idea out there in an article way back in 1997: Small Acts of Living: Everyday Resistance to Violence and Other Forms of Oppression. Basically, when you think about how you would stop those acts against you, or refuse to be a part of it, or imagine a better way of being, you are then responding through resisting.

Now, can you think of how you respond, either outright or in the background (passively)? For example, when your partner withholds affection from you (emotionally harming you), how do you respond? Do you tell him/her to f**k off, or do you try to imagine a relationship where both of you are affectionate unconditionally? BOTH are equally valid ways of responding to and resisting violence and oppression. Do you see your power? When we become aware that everything we do (or appear not to do) is an act of resistance, then we become powerful. We become agents of change in our own lives. You are not a victim of the garbage that happens around you. You get to choose how your life rolls out and how you respond.

Think about your power. Think about how you respond and how resistance works in your life.

Next time, we will explore how someone who treats you badly – a spouse, parent, co-worker – is also using some kind of self-destructive coping mechanism. This is not to excuse the behaviour but to understand its origins. Stay tuned.