It was Father’s Day yesterday and it dovetailed with a family member’s belated birthday celebration, so I went and celebrated this ‘double-barrelled’ event with my family with fine weather and Bar-B-Q ed steaks and taters with all the fixins. Delicious. Inevitably this family member and I got to talking politics and the woes of civilization and of course we were immediately at ideological loggerheads with each other as to what seemed to be the problem and how to fix it.
I tried finding some common ground by saying that ‘could we not agree that there are some serious structural problems and inequalities in western society and that we simply cannot agree as to how to approach them so as to rectify them.’ Well. Even at this most fundamental level, this most cherished member of my family and I did not see eye to eye. He was convinced and thoroughly persuaded by all of the neo-conservative media sources which he reads, watches and listens to that the fundamental problem is that Liberals messed everything up to begin with by purporting that there were any fundamentally structural problems in North American society to begin with that needed to be restructured, especially not via the instrument of the interventionist secular Liberal technocratic state, which basically took what was in his opinion a fundamentally sound civilization, and totally ‘messed it up’ by ‘destroying the family unit’ by virtue of making the American government, in this case, the ‘Daddy’ to generations of African Americans and essentially blaming the American government for having destroyed the African American family and made its members all dependent on government largesse.
What I find disturbing is to hear this family member say that in his opinion, and I am paraphrasing, ‘there are no rich people trying to keep poor people down.’ So in essence, the whole notion that the interventionist state should have intervened to do what it did after WWII was totally useless and counterproductive and founded upon utterly false and illusory premises which essentially must’ve been utterly fabricated and invented out of nothing by people who lied and cheated and deceived and perpetrated a massive instance of social engineering fraud and malfeasance upon western civilization to think that ‘there was nothing wrong with America and Canada’ after WWII, and that structurally all was ‘hunky dory’ from a socio-economic viewpoint and that there was a broad-based societal consensus that we should just ‘let it be’ and ‘let the private sector get back to the business of business and creating wealth’ and to let individuals and families just fend for themselves with as little or no help from the civil state as possible.

Nothing could be further than the truth. The Second World War unleashed an unprecedented level of cooperation between government, business and labour unions for the marshalling of human and material resources to win the war against Germany and Japan and this business/labour/government template was quickly replicated in peacetime in all aspects of society and there was a generalized consensus that it was OK for the government to be present in the lives of the average citizen and even salutatory to be so, in light of the great contribution that government had made in the prosecution of the war.
People essentially wanted more government investments in health care and education as well as social services and they even expected and demanded it after the horrific sacrifices inflicted upon them by the two World Wars, the Depression and the Crash of 1929. To say that government intervention had unintended consequences is putting it mildly. We helped some people but hindered others. Some parts of society improved whereas others declined. It was not an unequivocally positive outcome. That’s why many neo-conservatives still level criticism at the legacy of the Welfare State and say that we ‘got it all wrong’ and that we should ‘tear it all down and start all over.’ Again, way too simplistic and tempting in the sense that it is giving a lot of pro-business people an excuse to get rid of a lot of programs which have increased the cost of doing business over the years by increasing taxes on businesses through payroll taxes and corporate taxes, by gradually getting rid of all of these taxes and thereby absolving the business class of having to finance public services at the same level as before.
To say that ‘all was fine’ before government came and ‘messed it up’ truly misses the point. Many people including French-Canadians in Canada, African Americans in America and women, as well as indigenous peoples lived in dire poverty, and some still do, because of structurally construed, perpetrated and perpetuated policies going back hundreds of years which made it more difficult for them to register to vote in the case of African Americans, gain access to credit to expand their business in the case of French-Canadians, or even to have the right to negotiate a collective agreement with their employer in their own home province of Quebec, in their own French language with their employers, who were all mostly English-speaking.
Yes indeed there were and there still are many structural inequalities in our society and quite frankly they are getting worse, precisely because government regulations are being slacked off and loosened in many parts of the economy, such as meat inspection, resulting in more problems with contaminated meat, laying off of government workers who monitor the environment regarding the protection of water quality in our lakes and rivers, search and rescue workers being laid off on both our coasts, journalists being laid off from our public broadcaster, thereby disabling it from being able to actually report the news beyond the major urban centres, and the list goes on.
Rail security is now seriously compromised because of cutbacks in safety inspectors in the federal government and the Lac Megantic tragedy could have been prevented if more federal oversight had been in place. Airline security is now being seriously compromised because airline pilots have now had their working conditions cutback seriously by management. Their salaries have been slashed, their benefits cut, pensions cut or abolished, some regional airline pilots in the USA are currently living on food stamps. The regional airline craft which crashed in upstate New York near Buffalo a few years ago had pilots who were earning barely $20 000/year, one of whom was moonlighting at Starbucks to make ends meets, the other had slept in the terminal the night before the flight. Both were dead tired from their other jobs and were so tired that the cockpit recorder captured them on audio bemoaning just how exhausted they both were as they ignored the controls and the plane eventually stalled in mid-air and crashed, killing all aboard.

Does this make sense? Is it right that we should be moving backwards in our labour standards because we want to be more ’competitive’ and ‘efficient?’ Does planes falling out of the sky make us very ‘competitive?’ Does freight trains filled with thousands of litres of crude oil exploding in a little Canadian town, killing dozens of people, make us more ‘efficient?’ I remember the story from a documentary on TV about how labour standards were only improved in our factories after some horrific and tragic accidents such as at the Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire in New York City, whereby 146 worker jumped to their deaths from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors because the doors to the stairwells were locked to prevent the mostly young women workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to prevent pilferage.

Or the Winnipeg General Strike in Canada in 1919 when the RCMP charged into the crowd, pistols brandished and killed at least one person and injured others, which led to the election of Canada’s first Socialist Members of Parliament in the subsequent election. Back in the day, there was no EI (Employment Insurance) no Welfare (which many complain about people taking unfair advantage of now), no Worker’s Compensation, no Canada Pension Plan, no Quebec pension Plan and it was not uncommon for a person to toil for 16 hours per day in a factory 6 days per week and often not to be even paid in cash, but ‘credits’ to be exchanged for goods at the company store, which would leave the worker more often than not perpetually in debt to the company.

Well, these practices of debt peonage have returned, if they ever disappeared at all. Big banks are getting people in the developing world hooked on easy credit and doing it on purpose to allow them to rack up lots of credit card debt in the cases of people who are often illiterate or who are very poorly educated from a credit-worthiness viewpoint. The same goes for here in North America. Credit card debt is at an all-time high and credit card companies utilize predatory practices to get individuals and families to spend beyond their means and purposefully get them hooked on high interest rate cards.

So are there ‘structural inequalities’ in society? You bet ya! Does the government have a responsibility to address them and attenuate them? They sure do! However the Liberal state’s stated purpose is to facilitate ‘wealth creation.’ This puts it in a conflict of interest with its other role of ‘attenuating structural inequalities’ in society. For if the state must enact legislation (or not) which facilitates wealth creation, then necessarily, somebody’s ‘done somebody wrong’ like the country music songster sang so eloquently, because the process of wealth creation is by nature a rough and ready and often not so pretty process which often involves people stepping on other people’s toes in the mad rush to scrape that sauce out of that jar of mayonnaise, so to speak. Somebody usually ends up with egg on their face.

But hey, ‘there’s no structural problems in society.’ We should just leave well enough alone, right? Repeat after me, ‘there are NO malfeasant rich corporate plutocratic neo-fascist, neo-feudal trans-national, multi-national entities seeking to dominate anybody nor to keep any poor people from becoming prosperous.’ It’s all in your head! They’re just not trying hard enough or don’t want enough to work or to make an effort to be ‘entrepreneurial.’ A minimum wage job should be an entry job or an exit job, nobody should have to be obliged to actually ‘LIVE’ off those wages!!!

Well, guess what, the ‘wealth creators’ came in and destroyed all the good paying unionized jobs, so now all there is are minimum wage jobs, as well as government jobs which are still unionized which the ‘wealth creators’ are gunning hard to have out sourced and dumbed down to near minimum wage also!
I’m always aghast yet truly sobered at how truly miles apart not only members of my family have become on fundamental issues such as these but society writ large. I can only expect the tone of the debate to get even more ferocious and toxic as the conditions for working people get even worse and working people get once again blamed for being out of work from a structural point of view, which after all, is not at all structural, right? AAARRRGH!!!!

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