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Cynicism and the cult of Trudeau

By: | November 13, 2015

I’m happy you’re happy, but…

Jon Parsons
Power and Dissent offers a critical take on culture, society and politics in Newfoundland and Labrador

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Justin Trudeau with St. John's South--Mount Pearl MP Seamus O'Reagan and Liberal supporters during an election campaign stop in Newfoundland earlier this fall. Photo by Graham Kennedy.

The other day I couldn’t take it anymore and made a saucy remark about all the people participating in the beatification of the new federal government.

“Look,” I said, “I’m wearing my optimism glasses and yet the world is exactly the same.”

One gets the impression that Trudeau is walking on water, but in fact it’s more the case that the bar has been set so low after the last decade and that a poorly trained chimpanzee would be just as popular (if not more so).

It’s something of a measure of the dysfunctional political culture in this country when people express their eternal devotion to the cult of Trudeau simply because the new government is doing what it said it would do, as though that’s something that should even deserve note, much less applause.

But then a friend said to me, “Don’t you think it’s a bit unfair to be snarky with some of the people who are finally paying attention to politics? Is it right to burst bubbles like that?”

I thought about it, and decided that disseminating pure cynicism is indeed perhaps unfair. Because when we’re talking about the direction and momentum of a ship as gargantuan as the Canadian state, it is true that small differences can be significant in the long run.

It is significant that the new government intends to hold an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women; it is significant that they intend to relocate 25,000 refugees by the end of the year; it is significant to have gender parity in cabinet; it is significant to reorganize and reassign departments to include a focus on climate change.

I am not debating that all this matters.

Photo courtesy Jon Parsons.

“Look! I’m wearing my optimism glasses and yet the world is exactly the same.” Submitted photo.

But what I am saying is that an ever-so-slight change of course is not significant in relation to the movement of this massive ship of state, because changing the window-dressing and presenting a benevolent face is really doing S-F-A for all the victims left in the wake. And just so you know, I’d be saying exactly the same thing if there was some twist of fate and the new government everyone was drooling over was led by the NDP.

Indigenous people will continue to be the subjects of violence and dispossession; Canadian militarism and the practices of Canadian corporations will continue to spread misery around the globe; women will continue to be treated like second-class citizens in this country; the tar sands will continue to produce oil and pipelines will continue to be built

It is not possible for any government to adequately address the oppression, exploitation, and systemic violence that it is by design intended to maintain. And if Trudeau and the Get Along Gang really wanted to commit some sociology we’d be seeing changes that are much more radical and much more real.

But my message today is really for the everyday supporters, the people that my generous friend pointed out to me are sincerely cheering for the new government. I don’t want to belittle your optimism, but just to say that when the day comes that cracks form please don’t go back into your shell to wait four more years for another political campaign.

Go join a grassroots group. Get involved in your community. Come and join us in the streets. It’s the only place real change has ever come from and the only place it ever will.

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