Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Abi Wilkinson argues that we can't expect to take anger and other emotions out of political conversations when government choices have created nothing but avoidable stress for so many:
Actions can certainly be morally unacceptable. In my opinion, emotions cannot. Really, it’s a manifestation of extreme privilege to insist that people engage with politics in a calm and emotionless way. The further you are from experiencing any negative effects of the policy you’re debating, the more cushioned and secure your social position, the easier it is to adhere to the Oxford Union norms of cool detachment and skilful argument.

MPs might only be human, but they also hold a power over the lives of 70 million fallible, vulnerable human beings. Telling people that they’re wrong to feel anger towards an individual who voted to restrict housing benefit and place them at risk of homelessness is patently absurd. Similarly, journalists hold an unusual level of social power that makes them a reasonable target of scrutiny.
Broadly speaking, there are two forms of political argument. Either you defend a specific policy as the rational, logical option in the circumstances that exist, or you question the rules of the game. People on the political right are prone to presenting things such as spending cuts as morally neutral decisions, determined by economic reality. Leftwing criticism commonly argues that logic presented as natural is really no such thing, but rather that it’s a question of priorities. Political priorities are, unavoidably, a moral issue.

None of which is to say that I think calling Theresa May a “monster” is a productive, useful form of political commentary. I simply think that anger is a natural, human response to circumstance. Condemning petty name-calling more vigorously than we condemn the suffering and disempowerment that often leads to such expressions of frustration seems topsy-turvy to me. Jo Cox wasn’t simply any politician, she threw herself into defending refugees, migrants and other marginalised groups. No MP deserves to be a victim of violence, but what the politicians actually do with their power does matter.
- Meanwhile, Maude Barlow comments on the increasing public skepticism of free trade dogma.

- Ryan Meili and Christine Gibson weigh in on how fair wages lead to far better social and health outcomes for children. And Josh Cohen discusses how the expectation to cling to a rung on the upper middle class ladder creates undesirable pressures on children.

- Dean Beeby reports on Policy Horizons Canada's recommendations on how to create a social safety net which will provide security for precarious workers.

- Jeremy Nuttall points out several of the Libs' most prominent promises which have thus far dropped off the radar since they won power. And Tom Spears notes that contrary to any promises of transparency, the RCMP is backsliding both by destroying documents which were supposed to be released, and ending their policy of making past disclosures publicly available.

- Finally, Chris Tollefson makes the case to start from scratch in developing an environmental assessment system which will have both the credibility and the mandate to meaningfully evaluate proposed developments.

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