Monday, August 31st
Since the election call I have been exploring ways to think about the coming election and the problem of how to vote. I have not yet come to any conclusions.
In particular, I am interested in the problem of complexity, because I believe that over-simplification is a blight on our political discourse. And yet, when October 19th arrives, I will be faced, as will all other voters, with a simple decision: to put my X beside one of a relatively small number of names. In my case, that number will be four, because I am not interested in any of the fringe parties or possible independents. Not in this election.
Somehow, therefore, in the course of the next seven weeks, I must find a way to reduce the entire complexity of considerations down to that choice. Unfortunately, for me, it’s not good enough simply to reduce the decision to one of party or personality. I want to know, not only how to vote, but why that choice is the right one. In order to do that I have to find ways to think that do justice to all the complex realities.
In approaching this I have professional attachments that influence my mind in two directions: towards data, and in particular data organized so as to illuminate decisions, and towards metaphors.
At this stage I have only one thing to say about the data, and that is, that the common reportage of economic data is so grotesquely unbalanced and over-simplified as to make it systematically misleading. Of social and environmental data we hear almost nothing, except perhaps concerning climate, and even that is oversimplified. I hope to do something about this mess before the voting decision arrives, but I haven’t yet had time.
Right now I am on a metaphorical kick, as you will have seen from my previous post, if you read it. Here is the status report on that:
I am imagining a “Panorganon” ruled by three “Orgs”: the Oekon Org; the Nature Org; and the Humanite Org, in whose entangling embraces we are fated to live, and over whom we have some varying degree of control or influence. I call them Orgs to draw attention to their organic nature. They are alive, driven by their own internal processes and both internal and external inter-relationships.
We have been defining Our Task, for several generations, as a quest to tame the Nature Org and unleash the Oekon Org, thinking that we could thus best serve the Humanite Org. But the Oekon Org is now out of control and on the rampage, the Nature Org is getting angry and is doing a little rampaging of her own, and the Humanite Org is engaged in both external and internal struggles, quite possibly life-and-death. I am not yet sure where Tech figures in all this: possibly as an unruly servant that feeds off Nature and over whom Oekon and Humanites are fighting.
(Note on pronunciations: You can pronounce these names any way you like, but I think Oekon is ee-kon, with the accent on the first syllable, and Humanites has four syllables with the accent on the third.)
Perhaps I can take this one step further. Suppose each Org is ultimately driven by its own particular imperative: Oekon, to grow in size and power; Nature, to survive and diversify; Humanites, to do what? That is, of course, a hugely complicated philosophical question, worth a lifetime of intellectual and imaginative exploration, which perhaps we can simplify in the context of this year’s voting decision, at least enough to get by.
I have stated, I think clearly enough and in different ways, that I would like to see Humanites become more just, across the entire spectrum where the word “justice”might apply. I think the present Conservative point of view is to urge Humanites to become a fully committed servant of Oekon, employing Tech to recruit Nature fully in the pursuit of material wealth. I think the Liberals and the NDP are, in their differently nuanced ways, trying to recommend a more balanced approach, mitigating the voracity of Oekon on behalf of Humanites and Nature but without essentially reducing his primacy. The Greens, I believe fundamentally, would like to give ultimate power to a coalition of Humanites and Nature, making Oekon and Tech unabashedly their servants. And although they believe they know how to do that, they also know that Oekon is likely to resist, perhaps stenuously, and because so many of the voters are more afraid of what Oekon might do if offended, and not yet as afraid of what Nature and Humanites might do if offended, they waffle.
We shall see, when the official platforms come out, if these surmises are anything close to accurate.
Perhaps it is fair to view Humanites as inherently, even desperately, conflicted between the pursuit of Wealth and the pursuit of Justice, who could perhaps be impersonated as demi-orgs themselves in the evolving eco-system of the Panorganon. Who knows where this analytical approach may lead?
Descending rapidly from the metaphorical heights, I wonder whether it is fair to say that the Canadian electorate, in the bones of its majority, wants to be both “progressive” and “conservative”, using these terms in common contemporary ways. Or maybe that’s just another way of saying that they want to follow both Humanites and Oekon at the same time, and hope that Nature can be induced to live with that somewhat amicably. And since Humanites and Oekon want to go in different directions, and since Nature is proving to have a mind of her own and hitherto disregarded powers and vulnerabilities, this means they want Humanites and Oekon to work together, not at cross purposes, to the balanced satisfaction of both Wealth and Justice, and to prevent Nature from becoming really annoyed and smiting us all dead.
The trouble is: this may be not only the road not taken, at least recently, but the road that doesn’t exist any more. There would be the rub, for sure, and to be or not to be might indeed become the question.