Monday, August 20, 2012

A Three Ring Circus, a Horse Race, and a Pussy Riot

It's a funny thing living in the second decade of the twenty-first century.  There's such a wide gap between our technological reach and our social institutions.

On the same day, I can view the latest images beamed back from the planet Mars and learn that the young women from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for their performance of a prayer in Russian Orthodox Church to rid Russia of its president, Vladimir Putin.

I guess some people just don't get or appreciate performance art.  Check out the video at

Here at home, I have the pleasure of watching the spectacle of Quebec's general election called during the summer before the much anticipated anti-corruption inquiry gets down to serious business.

This is politics as spectacle at its best.

As a prelude to the election, we were entertained by a student protest that had great visuals: stone throwing, breaking windows, police whacking unarmed protesters with night sticks, tear gas, and let's not forget those near-naked marches through the streets, followed by the widespread banging of pots and pans to protest the government's adoption of draconian law that makes it illegal for more than fifty people to assemble without notifying the authorities.

Once the writ was dropped, we have the three leaders of the main political parties making promises left and right to spend taxpayers money as if there were no tomorrow in the heaviest-taxed, most debt-ridden province or state in North America.

Like carnies, each leader tries to seduce us with promises of a job, lower taxes, a family   physician, braces or free school supplies for the kids, even parking spaces.

Then there are the leaders of the smaller parties that the media won't give the time of day clamoring for attention, but to no avail since the voting system relegates them to cameo appearances only.

Periodically, just in case our attention wanes, the latest poll appears to tell us how the parties are performing relative to each other

According to the pundits, the real race for the finnish line starts with the leaders debate.  I can hardly wait to watch the three consecutive televised one-on-one mud slinging contests and the be treated to the in-depth analysis of whether or not a knock-out blow was delivered.

At the end, we'll huddle around our 50 inch plasma televisions watching as the results of the 125 winner-take-all electoral contests are announced, all of us hoping that our preferred political narrative unfolds, uncertain because of the systemic distortions of the popular vote that the first-past-the-post voting system regularly brings about.

Personally, I'm a big fan of schadenfreude.  I'm hoping that I'll have the pleasure to see our former Premier eat humble pie as his government is defeated and he loses his own seat in Quebec's National Assembly.

Yes, that would be sweet, bittersweet, since Jean Charest will have left politics with not one but two fat pensions at taxpayers expense, while leaving us with a mountain of debt that will take generations to pay.

But hey that's politics in a settler state that still has a foreign monarch as its head of state nearly 150 years after confederation and uses an electoral system that dates back to the middle ages.

For God's sake Scotty, beam me off this backward planet!  I want to be surrounded by intelligent life.

And while you're at it Scotty, do something for the members of Pussy Riot.  They really deserve a better fate.

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