Global Repulse: Paul Conway’s Political Manifesto

This statement, first composed in 2011 and periodically reworded, honours the Refus Global of the Montréal Automatitistes, published in 1948, which at least partly inspired the Quiet Revolution in Québec. It was written before I dove into the Stephen Leacock project, to discover Unsolved Riddles and the Leacock Tetrad of Knowledge + Imagination + Compassion + Humour. I considered altering the text accordingly, but decided to leave it much as it is, in order to show the state of my beliefs before that discovery. You can see, I think, why I was receptive.

Now (January 2021) we are in the midst of an epidemic which may or may not come under control this year. It has shaken us up badly. Whether the year becomes preoccupied with coping or recovery, the dangers of Single Vision (Wm Blake) will persist and even intensify. Despite no doubt strident admonitions we will resist learning from our experience. Fourfold Vision, which is simply a way of thinking, will carry us through into much more satisfying places.

As I re-read the Manifesto, written during the heyday of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his view of politics and society, I remember the anger of those times, but no longer feel it, at least concerning the Federal Government. If I still lived in Alberta I might feel it there. If the Ontario Government slides back into an ideological rut then I will feel it again.

Enough is enough! To hell with the present state of politics. We need a revolution, preferably another quiet one!

We, the people, must no longer allow ourselves to be manipulated by people whose concern for our interests extends no further than their own. We do not need manipulative politics. We do not need authoritarian politics. We do not need bullying politics. We do not need over-simplified politics. We do not need the politics of immediate gratification, especially the gratification of our governors. We need far-thinking, far-reaching, humane, imaginative politics: real democracy.

The political and economic evils around us, although perpetrated with unseemly glee by our leaders and custodians of power, depend on persistent validation by us, the voters and consumers. They reflect the way we think. We can bring on the revolution simply by changing the rewards that are in our gift.

We need, first of all, a politics of Community. To hell with the politics of division and alienation. No matter that we may differ in our points of view. We have, over the centuries, to our glory, created a complex, inter-related, multi-variate, superbly interesting human world. We need politics that respect our astonishing diversity, seek to strengthen it, to celebrate it, not politics striving for the triumph of one part over others. We share this world, this continent, this country, this province, these counties, this municipality, this neighbourhood. We are not obliged to like or agree with everyone in it, but we must learn to hear and respect them. What we share is far more important than any of our petty differences of interpretation.

We need a politics of Justice. To hell with the politics of “What’s in it for me?” To hell with the politics of “I’m all right, Jack.” To hell with the politics of trickle-down economics, which aren’t economic and don’t trickle. To hell with the politics of unequal opportunity. To hell with the politics of the gated community and the enclave. We are wealthy beyond any historical or sustainable dream of avarice. We can afford to be generous, we can afford to be just, we can afford to believe we are all in the same boat. As, of course, we are.

We need a politics of Balance. To hell with the politics of the single mind. Charles Simeon said years ago that the truth does not lie at one extreme or the other, nor half-way in between, but at both extremes.The art of politics, properly practised, is the art of mutual accommodation, difficult as that may be. The task is endless and evolving. Compromise (the half-way measure) need be only temporary. If we learn to embrace Balance as a political and economic ideal then we are on the road to political sanity.

We need a politics of Negotiation. To hell with the politics of zero-sum: what you win, I lose, so let’s fight. When we make the effort to understand each other, when we make the effort to reconcile our differing points of view, when we make the effort to come to agreement, then we all win. So what if we thus enter into a perpetual state of negotiation, in which nothing is ever finally resolved? That is a corollary of the human world we have created, to our great credit and benefit. We might as well get used to it, and create for ourselves politics that match.

We need a politics of Imagination. To hell with the politics of “same old, same old”. To hell with the politics of entrenched interests and institutions. To hell with the politics of fear of change. In the necessary, unending search for improvement we need freedom to experiment, to change even fundamentally, to change again if necessary, to throw out the bathwater without being accused of sacrificing the baby by those who are profiting from the present arrangements.

To achieve these kinds of politics we need another set of ideas:

We need a politics of Compassion. To hell with the politics of exclusion and resentment. If we cannot learn always to look at each other with a compassionate eye, which does not mean a sentimental eye, then God help you if you are one of the unlucky among us, God help you if you are one of the ill-endowed, God help you if you make a mistake, God help you if you get sick, God help you if you get old, because we in our corporate political selves will have turned our backs on you. Your life will depend on what your family and a few kind individuals around you can do, and chances are it won’t be nearly enough.

We need a politics of Imploitation (folding together), governing our relationships with each other and with Nature. To hell with exploitation. Exploitation is for thugs. When we use other people for our own ends without regard for their well-being, then we are thugs. When we use Nature for our own ends without regard for her well-being, then we are not only thugs, but we destroy the essential foundations of our own well-being. The unemployed, the working poor, the ravished forests, the fouled waters, the poisoned air, the devastated lands, the decimated species, the deprived populations of the future, cry out continuously against the injustice of our exploitations. We have lost the will to listen. Our politics must listen even if some of us will not.

When people go wrong, we need a politics of Understanding. To hell with the politics of blame, revenge and retribution. Some people, especially the young, sometimes screw up and make mistakes. Sometimes people lose or suffer damage to their minds. Sometimes people lack the will to do right. Sometimes terrible deeds result and of course, in this human world we have created, we must sometimes enforce consequences, so that people can learn from their mistakes, and so that we can isolate and disarm the truly dangerous. But let us keep those consequences within the bounds of justice and compassion, with reconciliation and re-inclusion as the ultimate goals. As for the victims, justice, compassion, and an active sense of community will guide us to do the right thing by them too, far more effectively than vengeance.

In short, we need a politics of Maturity, that faces facts and deals with them. To hell with the spinning politics of fear and the deliberate, self-interested inflation of perceptions of risk. To hell especially with the politics of ideological make-believe, that seek to bury our heads in the sand so that those to whom we award power can frolic out of our sight for the benefit of themselves and their friends.

To hell entirely with the politics of greed, and self-interest, and fear, and inhumane neglect, and narrow-mindedness, and deliberately cultivated ignorance. And if we dismiss these evils to where they belong, replacing them with politics truly fit for our human world in this twenty-first century, or fifty-eighth century, or fifteenth, or five-hundredth, or whatever count you embrace, then we will find that our present, ultimately destructive war against the natural world, with all its ruthless exploitation, has ended peacefully too.

To the barricades, my friends, in the cause of a humane society pursuing individual and social well-being through even and dynamic balance. That’s not a ringing slogan — extremists of all kinds have those — but it’s a good one: for our own sakes, for our children, our grandchildren, and beyond. Our ancestors, in their embrace of Progress, looked out for us. We must do no less in our turn.

Modified March 2019

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