Saturday, February 5, 2011

Labels - a poor substitute for informed comment
The genesis of a preceding article, Drive-by punditry, was my effort to look beyond labels attached to particular leadership candidates. I hoped to better understand the principles and values of people who wish to govern. During a fairly thorough review of media accounts, I kept reading the same superficial characterizations with no elucidation.

Most commonly repeated was the claim that Adrian Dix is a leftist. I wondered what that meant. Certainly, it is foolishness to use a single place on the left-right continuum to describe a complex intellect. Yet, the tag hung on Dix is typical of inane media commentary. People that use it are not seeking to inform, they seek to malign. Unfortunately, too much is written with that aim alone.

I looked through Dix's published material and reports on issues he raised as a critic in the BC Legislature. My perception was that Dix was an effective analyst and debater and he seemed consistent and sincere in applying humanist principles to the ministries he addressed, including Children and Families and Health.

I suppose some might think it is left-wing to desire strengthened families and improved childcare, prevention of abuse and family violence and improvement and protection of what is already a good public health system. Yet, in my experience, all intelligent people want those results. They might vary slightly in how to achieve the aims but that doesn't have to be a fundamental difference. I've seen arguments about in-hospital cleaning services versus outside contractors but the real issue of effectiveness gets ignored. Driving with three tires on the road may be less expensive than with four but the issue that matters is whether or not the car can run without endangering occupants.

Maybe it is left wing to support the concept of trade unionism, by which workers seek mutual protection and benefit through greater collective power. But, that is what Philip Hochstein seeks to achieve when he gathers allies under the umbrella of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. Also, John Winter when he tries to compound the influence and financial muscle of the BC Chamber of Commerce members seeking a larger piece of the economic pie. And, Jock Finlayson at the Business Council of BC, Darcy Rezac of the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Law Society and the self-interested billionaires club funding the Fraser Institute and multiple clones. It is appropriate for common workers to establish communities of interest as do the province's captains of industry. Surely a desire for balance and fairness is not restricted to the left wing of politics. Then again, maybe Hochstein, Winter and Rezac are left-wingers.

Some of my friends perceive themselves to be conservatives. They worry about the rapid changes that BC has undergone in the last 50 years, how culture has changed and opportunities for ordinary people have disappeared. They worry about unsafe neighborhoods, taxation, inflation and lost pensions. People in the province look different, our communities feel and sound distinct from what they used to be. These friends also worry that the abyss has grown between haves and have-nots, regardless of language and ethnicity. Older citizens value the splendor of British Columbia and remember abundant oceans, unspoiled reserves of wilderness and neighborly towns never targeted by drug dealers and congested by ceaseless traffic. Are those cares only of right wingers?

The left/right spectrum is of little value, perhaps best thought of as circular in nature. The most radical of left and right are within reach of each other and equally distant from the center. One much-read pundit admits that Dix has been highly effective in his political roles but supposes Dix is too left-wing. But, the writer gives no example of what the latter statement means. Would we be better off with an incompetent the pundit rates as less left-wing? The same writer imagines that Dix, for the mistake of backdating a memo to himself in the nineties, can never be absolved, never be worthy of high office. Apparently errors of omission are different than errors of commission, or some such silliness.

I say to Vaughn Palmer that he is wrong when he tries to hold Dix to his own ultra-rigorous standard. Like most others, I made bad judgments in the past, took actions that I would never repeat today. Some of those actions were harmful to others, others offended good ethical principles. As humans, we should learn from experience, from self-evaluation and criticism, triumphs and failures. We then move on as better people. We can never change the past, just do right in the present and the future.

Dix erred. He admitted that fact and everything he has done for more than a decade since has reflected an honorable man. Gordon Campbell put lives at risk, driving drunk in Hawaii. I do not understand why any pundit would pardon Campbell for that more recent, more egregious crime while Dix cannot be absolved of a lesser wrong further in the past.

I sense double standard hypocrisy from a journalist who fails to disclose financial benefits gained from those commercial and political interests on whom he reports.
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  1. Of course, the likes of Palmer, Baldry etc have double standards. They are really mercenary and will praise those that pay them regardless of the real facts and truth - this is becoming more obvious of late.

    It is no small wonder that many people now prefer to use the internet to become informed. Greed has become paramount in the MSM and political favours (albeit in glowing propaganda comments) has actually done good service to the public as a whole - it has shown how biased and two faced the once reputable media have become.

    Too bad that this has happened, but then when you have a premier that actually promotes and encourages unethical and continued dishonesty, deception and deceit, anything goes. That is exactly what is now happening.

    Too bad we cannot go back to the days of independent MLA's - where all worked for the benifit of British Columbia - instead of the polarized party politics are are witnessing now.


  2. I agree entirely that, "The left/right spectrum is of little value", Norm.

    After all, "Nazism" is the contraction of National Socialism. So, how is socialism "right", as per the diagram?

    I have also known some anarchists who would be deeply insulted and outraged to called "center". Some of these considered themselves left-wing, other right-wing, still other neither.

    BTW, I no longer bother with anything that is spewed on Bill Good's silly program. Sometimes I listen for a few minutes just for laugh, or to feel incredulous.

  3. If one does listen, its worth doing so at the station's archive. Sixty minutes only costs about thirty if you skip the "news", traffic, weather and commercials. Although, sometimes it is so amazingly full of virtue and self-righteous Liberal piety that you have to repeat sections to believe what is said. Interesting that certain callers have a private on-air pathway.

  4. Not directly related, but interesting none the less. Article on Public Affairs Beureau - enlightening.

    Of course the PAB numbers will have increased as has the cost of providing such a service to the BC Liberal government - alway does.


  5. I know I may sound like a broken record here but I really wonder why the BC Lieberals have a PAB at all when the BC MSM does such an admirable job of pumping out the propaganda for them. Just another repository for hacks and insiders I guess.

  6. Thanks for the well-written analysis of reactionary labels.
    Good work.



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