Sunday, February 8, 2009

Self-Assumed Messiahs

When "self-assumed Messiahs" gets thrown at intelligent, sane sources like Bond Papers, you know that Danspeak is alive and well:

The real question here is whether the erasure of the distinction between career public servants and political staffers is part of a specific, deliberate plan of Dangovt or a simply a byproduct of its authoritarianism. It occurred to me over the holidays that Dangovt relies on three principal tools, which may help to provide an answer:

1) Branding, of the province and then specific agengies, which works to erase the past. This serves as a constant reminder that 2003 is Year One. Branding reaches from the very name of the province and its associated icon to popular speech patterns, e.g., ubiquitous tics such as "go forward" and "nothing could be further from the truth."

2) Creating and sustaining the personality cult, which entails both enhancing the leader and eliminating all rivals. This cult features endless repetition of the mantras of success and newness, and it relies on the icon of the Lone Hero, whose paternalistic responsibilities justify systemic bullying and vindictiveness. Thus the people are endlessly reminded that the leader is, as a wealthy businessman and lawyer, richer and smarter than anyone else. This is, of course, part of the branding process, but its scope and reach is such that it needs to be understood as a discete phenomenon.

3) Focusing obsessively on negotiating The Deal, which entails the quest for the Holy Grail of the Lower Churchill. This process feeds back to branding (e.g., Nalcor), as well as the personality cult, since everyone is told that it is his singular skills as a negotiator on which Dangovt depends. In Dangovt, governing isn't about governing, it's about deal-making.

These three processes produce a political culture marked by three principal features:

1) A constant sense of anticipation whereby we all wait for the Big One, the mother of all deals, which will take us to the promised land. (Notice, for instance, how little Dangovt even refers to diversification or the fishery, let alone do anything substantive in these areas). This anticipatory political culture skews public discourse away from quotidian issues, such as providing public services, and towards an obsession with the VOCM Event of the Day.

2) An insidious Manichaean world view (apologies to the actual Manichaeans) that sees everything in black/white and divides the world absolutely into friends/enemies. For the tricky question of "which is which" and "who is who," the subjects of Dangovt rely solely on Dangovt, which declares the new enemies of the people, and issues proclamations via VOCM rather than in the Legislature. This relies on a spurious logic (a world where actual ideology counts for nothing) that creates an ABC culture (which, conveniently enough, fosters a feedback loop to the branding and cult processes). By defining who/what is good/bad, Dangovt sets the political agenda and the terms of its media coverage. The results could be seen in CBC's coverage of the last election, which never failed to mention ABC, even when it was irrelevant to the riding in question.

3) A constant state of warfare. For Dangovt, it's not enough to create an anticipatory political culture that keeps the great unwashed at the edge of their Churchill Falls seats. It's not even enough to insist that the public and the media follow Dangovt down the rabbit hole of ABC logic. Because the need for total obedience is so powerful and the fear of dissent so pervasive, Dangovt needs new enemies: it needs not only constant enemies (both without and within), but new enemies, in order to feed the insatiable desire for gratification and domination. The constant state of warfare (whether it's against Harper, Manning, or Forward) creates a climate of fear that keeps the Doozers in line; however, it seems to be more of an end in itself rather than a means to an actual end. The very identity of Dangovt seems to be defined by bullying and conflict, which, as with everything else, feeds back to the branding process. I leave it to the professionals to determine whether this is a product of a personality disorder, but it is clearly a democracy disorder.

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