I read a fair amount and many books are just words in the wind, entertaining and even informative, but lack the ability to make a person think and reassess themselves and society. These two books have stuck in my head, one is a tongue-in-cheek look at Canadian identity and neurosis’s; the other is an examination of the role of corporations in the governance of the United States. The latter is “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative to Revolt” by Chris Hedges, and it has shattered my mind.
I find myself wanting to dismiss Hedges writing as conspiracy theory that cannot be true. But here’s the thing, I can’t what Hedges writes has too much truth to it, it hurts too much, and is too rational to dismiss. Hedges is not the first to point out that corporations have an unreasonable amount of influence in the US, but he is the first to show me the depth of this infiltration. I suppose you can only go so long before you look past the shadow play on the wall to find the light. What Hedges writes terrifies me, and his words are compounded by the exposure of the extent of Facebook’s data breach.
But what does he actually say?
Put simply. That the US has merely the façade of democracy, that the extent of corporate infiltration within the state apparatus has created a corporatocracy. A country run by business interests, through shady money and fear, fear of terrorism, fear of poverty, fear of race. The red herring of gun control has allowed for other constitutional rights to be eroded and disarmed. Despite what capitalist’s say, the state is not there to serve business interests, it is there to serve the people. Hedges book offers us a glimpse at how this has gone terrible awry. And the repercussions on people and the environment are horrifying.
“Wages of Rebellion” is call to arms. While this book does expose the dirt of the US that is not the point. The book demands emotion from the reader, anger, sadness, despair, but it also demands action. You can’t feel what Hedges makes you feel with out wanting to hit the street and demand change. No. Not demand, because demand acknowledges authority and their power over the people. Hedges wants people to bring it all down, he doesn’t want to drain the swamp, he wants to fill it in with the rubble of the old system. And goddamn it he makes me want to pick up a brick.
But this is not my fight. I am a Canadian and have no rights in the state. I would be labeled as a foreign agitator and probably charged as a terrorist if I even protested there, as many in the Occupy movement were. No my fight is in British Columbia where we ship oil to the rest of world and hope a tanker does not run aground. In the next year we will reform our electoral system and provide an example to the rest of Canada. A story for another time though.
The second book “Why I Hate Canadians” by Will Ferguson is labelled as comedic writing but it also requires introspection. Ferguson wrote this book in 1996 in a time of turmoil the constitutional crisis nearly let Quebec separate and this book holds a lot of the raw emotion of this period. Ferguson questions the symbols, fears, and stereotypes of that Canadians hold so tight.
Ferguson attacks Canadian neurosis’s from a national inferiority complex towards the US to our obsession with “niceness.”
My partner likes to call me a nationalist and while I cringe at the word (take four years of political science classes and see if you don’t) I can’t disagree. But my nationalism isn’t understood through race but ideas. To be Canadian is to subscribe to the idea of Canada. The idea that you can become Canadian, that any race or creed can be Canadian, that violence is not the answer, and simply that we are Canadian.
What seems to really get Ferguson’s ire going is the idea of “niceness.” He says we are only nice, polite compared to the US. Which is hardly a comparison because most people are nice compared to our proud southern neighbours. To be nice is the most bland of adjectives, and is hardly historic. If you don’t believe me read a book on Canadian soldiers that went away during the Boer War, or either of the World Wars, British and French write about how rowdy, violent, rough, loud, and colonial the Canadians were. Ferguson attributes the development of niceness to when Quebec first voted in a separatist government, instead of sending in the army the government was all “I guess you can leave if you want.”
Honestly, it’s easier to read the book than describe it. At some point in the future I would like to get some of the statistics on First Nations and compare them to recent figures. I suspect I will be appalled at how the stats haven’t changed and how we keep just fucking up when it comes to the First Nations. Instead of giving them the means to succeed and no longer need to be given the means we let them languish on reserves, drinking mud and shooting themselves. If Canadians *cough Chinese cough* can build a railway across the shield and through the Rockies we can string some wire and pavement to remote communities.