A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
– Winston Churchill
So over at his place, @cityslikr's on about the fact that politicians have an uneasy relationship with the truth, and the cynicism and disengagement that breeds.
The revelations of the past week – that Toronto is in fact run pretty efficiently, that City Hall is not awash in rivers of gravy, that the city does indeed have a revenue problem and not a spending problem – have put the lie to pretty well the entire platform that Mayor Stupid rode into office. Remember? That toxic waste dump of untruths, easy answers, idiot soundbites and resentment, all built on the moronic meme of the Pissed-off Taxpayer? As @cityslikr puts it,
Less than a year later, turns out much of that was — how to phrase it gently? – complete and utter shit.
And the worst part is, it doesn't seem to matter. These stupid fucks just carry right on pulling numbers and statements out of their asses, and then moving on to the next giant fucking lie.
One day Mayor Stupid's on AM radio claiming that salaries for city employees make up 80 per cent of the cost of running the city. It's nothing like that, of course, and that was clear to anyone who knows how to read before he even opened his fucking mouth. The next day Brother Stupider's wanking on about having more libraries in his hood than Tim Hortons outlets. Also a load of shite, never mind what it says about the boys and what they think about literacy.
I'm still having trouble making up my mind whether they even know they're lying or realize just how full of shit they are. And yet people take them seriously.
The extent to which candidates for public office stretch the truth depends in part on your perspective, and how morally culpable they are for it depends to a certain extent on the motivation for it. Perhaps this sounds like situational ethics, and that may be beyond the scope of a single blog post, but the tone of their pronouncements over the years suggests that Fordist bullshit is motivated more than anything else by an inchoate, ignorant hatred of government per se. I've written previously about the absence of any commitment to using public institutions to advance the public good, and the past few days have just provided further evidence. As far as these assholes are concerned, government just gets in the way of them doing whatever the fuck they want. Pesky regulations, labour legislation, environmental stewardship ... they're probably getting all hot and bothered over Grover Norquist's fantasies about drowning government in the bathtub (well, maybe there's a colouring-book version. Who knows?).
But that's not the most troubling thing raised by @cityslikr. It should be obvious by now how teabagging morons like Mayor Stupid and Brother Stupider view public institutions, and what kind of damage they're capable of doing. The most galling thing, and this is what makes his post worth the read, is how such things are used as excuses for disengagement, for empty moral posturing, and for sloughing off the duties of citizenship. It's so easy to just blow off the whole notion of civic engagement with a wave of the hand and a louche "oh, they all lie" pronouncement.
And thus is civic discourse diminished. This is how the whole notions of civil society, citizenship and healthy public debate are debased. This is how our expectations of government, and of ourselves, are steadily lowered. Because assholes like this just spout their bullshit and are allowed to get away with it. And lazy, apathetic dullards who can't be bothered to draw distinctions or think critically or embrace the responsibilities of adulthood are enabled, and responsible and democratic governance becomes that much harder to strive for, and the whole pattern becomes self-perpetuating.
I know, I know. There are those of us who've been struggling with how to reach out to our fellow citizens, and acknowledging that badgering them and insulting them may not be the best way. But there are limits. Citizenship needs to be valued, cultivated, and defended, or it ceases to count for much. It carries responsibilities, and active engagement is one of them. If you can't assume even that basic obligation, then you forfeit the right to any respect, and there's no point in pretending otherwise.
- Core Services Review: Rob Ford is a hazard to Toronto's public health / #TOpoli
- 'Respect for Taxpayers' is a load of crap
- Can we stop talking about taxpayers?
- Ford's ascendancy, explained
- Ford's right-wing governance: no vision, no soul, no future
- Meme for the week: Harper – too dangerous to govern