It’s My Party

Grit pettiness and power plays little more than summer spectacle

Rating: NNNNN

King Jean the obstinate. long of tooth. Short of temper. Hard of hearing even his own people. Feels he came from nowhere, whence he is resolved never to return. Will fight till he decides to drop, and then decide who will swagger in his place.Who will be anyone but Prince Paul the Pretender. Long in the job. Short of patience. Wants to get all the credit for making the economy a better place for his friends. The anointed of the powerful. The preference of the people, if only they were listened to. His daddy was denied, but he won’t be.

This surely is the stuff not just of politics but of life itself. The lives, at least, of angry old men (I’m old myself, so I’m allowed to write this way) who care about little except themselves.

We can be grateful these two aren’t running India and Pakistan, able to nuke each other, with the rest of us as collateral damage.

Of course, it’s commonly believed, particularly by progressive people who read, that politics is about policy and human betterment. Wrong — so naive, so wrong. Politics is about power. And purges. And, yes, pettiness.

You may not have power to change the world, but who cares as long as you can reward your friends and punish your enemies? From the days of ancient Greece through Shakespearean times, the playwrights and pundits have known this.

Oh to be in Canada now that it’s taking one of those rare turns on the glitzy stage of History. We’ve not known such hubris and folly and just plain silliness since the ravings of Dief the Chief, aka John the Mad. (And would that Dalton Camp, who was onstage for that, were still here to enjoy and embellish this one.)

You persist: Is that really all it is? Is it really mere spectacle? Does it matter not a whit to our grubby lives?

The notion that not having Paul Martin’s hand on the tiller will be a loss for us ordinary folk is surely a stretch. His great contribution to our lives was to bring the global disorder of neo-liberal finance fully to Canada. That’s an achievement meriting sainthood?

John Manley — or John McCallum or any other Liberal John — could and will do the same. Leave the mourning to Bay Street and save your tears for those many who felt the pain of having their belts yanked tight.

Let the facts speak. Did the ground move or the seas part or money markets meander when Martin went? For nine years, Mr. Martin laboured so mightily to keep the Canadian economy on an even keel that he came to be seen, and not only in his own mind, as indispensible. But it took less than a day for the Canadian dollar to go up rather than down and to show how dispensable and irrelevant Mr. Martin apparently is. The market truly has no mercy.

As for Mr. Chretien, he too fails the market test: he’s past his sell-before date and is living on stolen time.

No matter. There’s more to life than markets can measure. This is just Act I in a drama that the two lead actors will never willingly abandon. Call it, says Allan (Gregg) the pundit, Murder And Suicide. Theirs, not yours and mine. So sit back and enjoy it and be grateful it has no meaning.

Still, don’t be surprised if Mr. Martin, to alleviate his personal misery at sitting in the back benches with Hedi Fry, Maria Minna and Art Eggleton, suddenly emerges with promises to relieve our misery by, say, promising he’d have put money into social housing and will now if we give him the chance, hoping we won’t remember that he took it away in the first place. It won’t mean that policy matters, just that raising the issue momentarily suits his personal political purpose.

Regardless, the show will go on.

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