They are few things I find more intrinsically repulsive than an unapologetic idiot. A man like Socrates who admits that he knows nothing doesn’t get on my nerves in the slightest; in fact I would exalt him for his candour. It is, however, the new class of corporate sponsored scientists, bible thumping radicals and their legions of Fox News saturated supporters that manage to tempt me into beating my head against a wall in fury. It is the t-shirted Chicago man who walks outside on a cold day and declares that global warming is a myth that garners my ire. It is the Louisiana grade eight curriculum that informs students in some parts of America the KKK was a force for good that boils my brains. It is the Conservative government here at home that believes that by sending harmless marijuana users to prison, a practical university for the criminal class, they will “make our streets safer” that really sets my teeth on edge. Anyone that watched Al Gore’s harrowing documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, could see global warming is a mistake in the nomenclature. In truth, climate change will not only bring about higher, more destructive temperatures in some parts of the world which will melt the ice caps and send millions on the coasts to a watery grave, but the disruption of the earth’s weather patterns could possibly bring a second ice age to other parts of world such as Europe. I’m not even going to bother dignifying the Louisiana school curriculum with a response. They might as well call lynching gangs a democratic right guaranteed by the constitution, and I’m almost certain someone soon will. As for the policy of the Tories here in Canada, Harper has managed to muzzle enough scientists and bully his opponents with negative attack ads to make it impossible for the truth to come out. In 2007, the John Howard Society calculated that the one dollar spent towards tackling poverty eliminates as much crime as seventeen dollars to build more prisons, but apparently that report fell upon deaf ears in the guillotine sharpening Conservative caucus. What really disturbs me about the future, however, is not that there are pandering fools who will say whatever lunacy comes to their tongue, but that they have a considerable audience. The nerd was always bullied in school, but eventually, in the real world, he would inevitably succeed. Now it would seem that the bullies have the greater following and the consequences for this world are far from trivial.
There are few places in the world were the anti-rationalism movement is more powerful than in Alberta, particularly in the Bible Belt, where I reside. This has little to do with the Albertan people, and more to do with circumstance. After all, when our province decided to make itself completely reliable on the price of petroleum, it’s much easier to say that climate change is a “liberal conspiracy” than a potential apocalypse in which we contribute more per capita than anyone else in the world. There are also our leaders to blame. The formerly climate change denying Wild Rose Alliance and our, now deceased, premier emeritus, Ralph Klein who claimed that that the Ice Age was a product of dinosaur farts do come to mind. Then there is rampant misinformation that permeates the minds of our youngsters. If the only sort of knowledge a person received was from our education system, it would be impossible not to think that global warming was a myth spread by socialists to defeat the environmentally sound and benevolent benefactor of Alberta, the Progressive Conservative Party. More than forty years of uninterrupted leadership has allowed the government the ability to stack the upper levels of every institution in the province with cronies unable or unwilling to oppose their agenda. Thus, the message is always is always black and white. PC: Good; everyone else: Bad. Having a rational debate about Albertan politics has become a pointless and futile affair. Since rural areas voted Wild Rose Alliance, we’re all red necks in the eyes of the cities. Since the cities voted PC, or God forbid Liberal or NDP, urbanites are all socialists in the eyes of the rural folk. Everyone has their own partisan echo chamber and no one has the facts. Instead of commiserating over the collapse of democracy, the rest of the world appears to be emulating the Albertan example. School curriculums in the United States are equally being changed to fit whatever political message is best for the party in power; most disturbingly we have seen a rise in the tolerability of teaching creationism. Voters are taught to embrace the politicians that tell them that their homophobia is the greatest expression of freedom, that guns are the finest symbol of liberty and that if we listened to Al Gore we’d be “neck deep in owls with no jobs”. Liberals side with one candidate, conservatives with another, and a greased and polished campaign team tries to see how many of the opponent’s supporters can be intimidated into staying home with attack ads. The unintelligent learn hatred, the intelligent learn apathy and the country learns dictatorship.
I’ve had the privilege of reading Michael Ignatieff’s book, Fire and Ashes and I was struck by something the former Liberal leader said continuously throughout his memoir: “I was never attacked for what I said, but for who I was.” It has never ceased to amaze me that we will buy vehicles from Ford, a company whose founder was a member of the American Nazi Party, but we won’t listen to the ideas of a Harvard Professor of political science. This is the natural double standard brought up by the wave against rationality. The right can claim all they want that scientists are out to get the oil industry, but without science it would have been impossible to get the oil out of the ground or turned into gasoline for their precious hummers and pick-up trucks. Without “trivial” and “uninteresting” political debate, this country would never have been founded nor would parliamentary democracy have been brought forth on this continent. Without people questioning their beliefs we would still believe that the sun revolved around the Earth. When someone has a good idea, it makes no difference whether it’s Ghandi or Adolf Hitler that creates it; it’s still a good idea. A rose by any other name would still be as sweet, as Shakespeare would say. In the world of biased media and social networking, we can each live our entire lives without ever having to challenge our preconceived notions. It used to be in school that children would learn that the prejudiced lies hammered into them by their parents were false, but now being that religion, environment, evolution and political reasoning are officially taboo subjects, the falsehoods of the past generations will forever be immortalized. Politics has degraded into sensationalism. We could all see it through Harper’s 2011 campaign. Not once did the man attempt to united Canadians or devise a policy that would help the entirety of the country instead of whatever special interest group he wanted to destroy or exalt. Our prime minister chose instead to massacre his opponents with fear. He made the people be afraid of an economy without his blundering mismanagement. He made a more educated and qualified man looking for his position sound like an evil American opportunist. He made Liberals fear a country ruled by the kind hearted and community driven Jack Layton. Most importantly, he won. I read in the newspaper that a British man with several mental disorders had been sentenced to die in Pakistan for blasphemy, after purportedly impersonating the Prophet Mohammed. We might not stone our victims, but we still throw the rocks. During the 2012 election in the United States there were candidates that claimed that cutting down the rainforest decreased climate change and others that said that it was impossible for a raped woman to become pregnant, thus legitimizing anti-abortion laws. Our country isn’t quite there yet, but if we continue down the road of visceral politics and ignored science, there won’t be much of difference between the two sides of the 49th parallel. And since our government has managed to destroy the development of art, the public funding of political parties, the independence of science and the character of anyone who opposes their view of the world, one could practically sing the funeral dirge for rationality already. I hope that my generation will learn to resurrect it, but even a real phoenix can be smothered by the ashes of defeat. And there are so many ashes…
Photograph courtesy of the Huffington Post