Wednesday, November 04, 2015


My posts have been non-existent for the last few months because I've suddenly got things to do.  My job involves some combination of sitting around thinking about what the future looks like and relating that to senior management in pithy and catchy ways, and driving the execution of that vision by persuading engineers to do things and sometimes just telling people what to do.  For the first half of this year I spent a lot of time thinking about the future.  For the last half its been execution.

But I wanted to talk, for a minute or two, about the future.

I lived in Canada until I was 22 and then I moved to northern California.  For the first few years I was as lonely and homesick as any melodramatic kid in his 20s.  I missed the Rockies, and snow, and people who were genuinely left-wing.  And then I forced myself to adapt and also automatically adapted in a lot of different ways.  It helped that I lived in San Francisco and worked in Silicon Valley: I was in a gloriously cosmopolitan city, dense with people and things to do, and I worked for companies that were inventing the future.

It also helped that I was never particularly fond of the provincial culture I grew up in.  I described it to a friend of mine, who'd grown up in Texas, as a bunch of libertarian ranchers and oilmen who considered themselves winners because the government had done everything for them but raise the cattle and find the oil.  The province of Alberta was once a hotbed of union activism; coal miners in southern Alberta belonged to the anarcho-syndicalist WFM as early as 1895, and the IWW was active throughout the province.  But the province consistently voted petty small-c conservative for decades.  Intelligent leaders would come and go but effectively the province was a vertically-integrated kleptocracy,  The country as a whole took a turn to the ideological conservative side as well, and Movement Conservatives pretty much took control of the country for a decade.  Canadians are usually small-l- or c- in their ideology; even the socialist NDP are what you might call small-s socialists.  But toward the end of the Harper administration it looked very much like the Bush administration had gone into exile in Canada: belligerent apocalyptic foreign policy, demonization of anyone different, morality-driven austerity policies instead of evidence-based economics, and everywhere in general a kind of mean-spirited Hoser culture that had always been the province (heh) of conservative Canadians, but which was in general not the sort of thing people agreed was the Canadian way.

(As an aside, Canadians in general are accepting and tolerant of the Hosers in their midst, not least because everyone has an aunt or an uncle who's misunderstanding of the legal system or the actual rights of immigrants or Sharia law or the impact of the NEP is so thorough and, after a couple of six-packs, so loud, that you can't help but get into the same arguments every time you see them.  That is if you can't tolerate their ignorance.)

Gin also helped with homesickness, but there's a diminishing marginal utility to gin.  (If only someone would have told me!)

The mean-spiritedness of a country I'd been proud to call my own caused me to switch allegiances over the years, especially after Obama was elected.  Ironically it was pretty much at that moment I moved back to Canada for a while, to my home province, because the economy everywhere except Alberta was not conducive to the kind of migrant labor I offer.  But there was something of an oil boom on, and Alberta was growing in leaps and bounds, so I expected it to be relatively easy to find a good job.

So I lived in Alberta, and rapidly lost my optimism.  As you may have noticed, conservatives are never more sure they're being persecuted than when they run everything; its only when the own it all and things are still getting fucked up that they realize that the universe really does conspire against the delusional and the dumb.  And in Canada in 2009 the conservatives ran it all - from one end to the other, from top to bottom, if you were in that 40% you were certain of your worth and everyone else could go fuck themselves.  It was a sucky place to be as left-wing as I am, for ideological reasons, but it also meant that all that delusional and ignorance, the very same kind of Dunning-Kruger bullshit we saw during the Bush years, was in charge in Canada.

So I ended up moving back to the Valley pretty much as soon as I could.

But now there's a new PM in Canada, from the Liberal Party.  It was the Liberal Party, and the new PM's father when he was PM, who were largely responsible for setting the tone in Canada when I was growing up.  The last PM, Harper, pretty much sold his followers on the idea that they were dismantling all of those old institutions.  What I could never understand, throughout all of that, is why: If you don't like all the things that Canada has historically stood for, then why are you even in Canada?  If you pursue cultural and ideological policies that are for all intents and purposes the same as those pursued by movement Conservatives in the US, then what difference is there between the US and Canada?

Is it just that you don't want to move too far away from your parents?  But otherwise you want things to be the same?

Trudeau just announced his new cabinet: 50-50 split between men and women, several gay and lesbian ministers, and the man who's the minister for Veteran Affairs uses a wheelchair.  I don't have a lot of faith in Justin Trudeau - he seemed to me pretty lightweight when I followed him in the Canadian press, and he sounds like a ditz.

But he may be able to revive the Canada of old, in the same way that Clinton, despite his flaws, was able to remind us all why we liked Americans after 12 years of Reagan and Bush.  


Nancy Metz said...

No faith huh. There was really no choice but to vote Harper out. What we had in offering after the sacrafice was someone we hope won't make a mess of the mess we are in already.

Nancy Metz said...

No faith huh. There was really no choice but to vote Harper out. What we had in offering after the sacrafice was someone we hope won't make a mess of the mess we are in already.

yowsa said...

I had more faith in Mulcair. But Harper definitely needed to go.