Does shooting yourself in the foot feel that good?

Posted 05.19.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | On occasional trips through Eastern Ontario, I can't help noticing a few large signs put up by various "landowner associations." They carry short, loud messages like "Back off, government!"

The signs do have an effect. They set me to thinking that this super-individualistic attitude, founded on owning property, seems very close to the American "Stand your ground" attitude (which got the young lad shot by a vigilante in Florida earlier this year). Do the "landowner associations" want to be associated with such extremism? If not, they should look again at the messages they are putting out to us.

I suspect there's more here than merely fear-driven bravado. There's an air of arrogance and superiority, too. Are they telling us "We own this place, so we can do what we want here."? If they really believe occupancy equals such an extreme view of ownership, shouldn't they be turning their lands over to the Algonquins who have a land claim for much of our region, and whose historical occupancy certainly out-ranks their own?

Frankly, who else believes occupancy equals absolute independence or that land ownership puts citizens above the law? Don't we all live in and depend upon a very complex and law-governed society, even landowners?

Their situation reminds me of some areas here in Quebec that have continually voted for the Bloc quebecoise, a party guaranteed never to come to power or to a dominant position in any coalition. Why do these areas vote for a loser, over and over? Why are they voting to make sure they, too, become losers in the parliamentary system?

Their answer is they wish to send a message (like the landowners), rather than send an MP to represent them, a representative who may help bring investments and grants to their communities. Will business invest in such unstable communities? Will businesses be attracted to communities peopled by characters who seem no smarter than losers?

This is emotional politics, not reality politics. Send a message, feel good, make a statement. That's part of the political process, but it misses the give-and-take of representational politics. Reality-based goals are possible; there is no need in Canada to rush to the extreme fringes.

Look closer at these regions. Many, especially in Eastern Ontario, have rich farmland, located near major markets (Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto). They should be thriving -- and some of the larger towns are, Carleton Place for example -- but the rural areas where we see the signs (or see Bloc majorities in rural Quebec) are not thriving. Why?

Is it because the people here are caught up in emotional politics, not reality-politics? Are they buying the emotional stories of the Harper conservatives, the great myths of go-it-alone, so they vote for not-the-brightest-lights (like Renfrew-Pembroke's MP, who is famous for ridiculous statements and has no responsibilities by which she could benefit her constituents)?

Are they wise to vote or mouth off so emotionally and end up with such know-nothings or Bloc-istes representing them? Do we in Pontiac wish to embrace such emotions? Aren't we facing enough hurdles, without adding more irrelevant battles to our agenda? Sure, it's a drag to face silly rules enforced by uncaring bureaucracies. Sure, some laws made to benefit the whole province do not suit our particular region. We may not understand why environmental protection is needed, but why opt for a head-in-the-sand and refuse to engage in effective political process? Much of the world wants this option -- and we want to throw it away?

Copyright © 2012 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/05.12