Thursday, April 12, 2012

Drifting into oncoming authoritarianism

It gets a little tiring being the voice of doom. Put simply, I want to write fluffy, fun light-of-spirit stuff, like the story of that nutty mechanic I interviewed a two decades ago who fell through "the hole in the universe."
Or dog stories. Jon Katz writes dog stories, and I like them. And I respect Katz as a writer. The guy is brilliant.
And so, occassionally, I like to write dog stories (see below) and other whimsical stuff.
But it is hard ... no, damn near impossible to write happy go lucky stories when my government has stupidly blown billions on fighter jets, unnecessary jails, lavish G8 conferences and who knows what the hell else and then cut funding to food safety, NGOs, the CBC, science and social programs to fight the deficit it created.
It is impossible to sit idly by and watch as my wonderful, inclusive, generous country begins to drift into authoritarianism, much like a sleepy driver crosses the centerline into oncoming traffic.
Take the environmental movement, which is now in the government crosshairs.
The government is threatening reprisals unless certain charities, specifically environmental charities and others that challenge the government's right-wingnut agenda, can prove they are working in the national interest.
The national interest? Who's national interest? The oil lobby's national interest?
Who defines this "interest?" What is it? These questions, and many others are, at the moment, curiously ambiguous.
And that's intentional. That's what makes it all so sinister.
Challenge the current Government of Canada in any way, and it will destroy you.
Early in this government's mandate, we saw literacy and women's group funding curtailed, especially if they were deemed to run counter to the new government's direction (see ).
Scientists have been muzzled, as has the bureaucracy.
The census was hamstrung, robbing Canadian business and institutions of solid data.
The CBC was targeted, and is now seeing its funding chopped to ribbons.
And currently it is conservation groups (so-called American-funded radicals, according to the government line) who are acting against the "national interest" by challenging fast-tracked pipeline development.
This is not happenstance. It is part of a calculated effort on behalf of the bullyboy Harper Conservatives to kneecap dissent in this country. You are either for us, or agin' us.
So, who's next?
The aforementioned, and many other examples, are the societal equivalent of the rumble lines along our highways.
We ignore the growing roar at our peril.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Who is smarter, the dog or the master?

My Nemesis.
The shrieking was disturbing.
It was definitely Winston. He had raced into the woods after something or other, and now he was carrying on as if it was the end.
And I was worried.
This never happens. My two springers are many things, but wanderers they are not. They usually hang just six metres from me, at most. Dexter was sitting at my feet gnawing snow from his paws at that very moment.
But with Winston crying as if he was being gutted, he was now on full red alert and charging down the steep ravine to see what was up.
Foxes, I thought. That damn beautiful red fox has gotten Winston alone, and being a hard-muscled wild animal, is now feasting on my soft-bellied dog's entrails.
So off I ran to the ridgeline to see what I could see.
Dexter had found Winston. He was licking his brother's  face as he screeched 15 metres down the steep slope.
The pudgy spaniel's ass had broken through the crust of the snow and he couldn't pull his bulk back up onto the surface.
"Are you kidding me, Winston?" I said.
I was angry. I had been scared, worried he was getting mauled by a fox.
Instead, he was simply stuck.
"C'mon," I said. "Come boy. Let's go home. C'mon."
More wimpering and screeching.
Dexter raced up the hill, looked at me imploringly and then raced back down across the crust to his brother, as if to say, "This is serious."
"C'mon you fat bastard. Get up the hill."
He just looked at me with his big brown eyes and screeched some more.
"Are you kidding me? You are truly an idiot."
So I began the slog down to rescue him. Every step I broke through up to my upper thigh. It was slow going. And all the while, the little dog was emitting ear-piercing shrieks.
"Shut up, I'm coming."
Eventually, I was within a couple of metres of him.
"OK, Winnie, let's get you out."
At which point, he leapt out of the hole and ran up the hill to Dexter. Took him all of four seconds.
I was at the bottom of a steep ridge in snow up to my waist.
Looking up, Winston was at the ridgeline, his tongue lolling out waiting for me.
He seemed to be saying, "Hurry up."
"I'm going to kill you," I muttered, before beginning the slow, sweaty hike up the hill to trail and, eventually, home.