NEW YORK 

It’s been a few days since I’ve been able to file any commentary on this blog.

Times Square at supper time tonight (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

While I was taking the opportunity to hear the inspiring stories of young people who have successfully organized unions at places like Starbucks, the REI outdoor equipment co-op, and New York’s Housing Works, a couple of things seem to have happened back home – a new monarch and a new Conservative Party of Canada leader among them.

So, we’re in for big changes, then – or not, depending on how things turn out. 

September 11 is an interesting day to have some free time in New York City, freighted as the date is with symbolism about how every so often, things change, supposedly irrevocably.

We all know about the tragedy that happened 21 years ago, when, as the hour this was being written neared, the world appeared to be in total chaos.

A party atmosphere prevailed in the streets of New York on Saturday, Sept. 10 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Everything was going to change, we were told. Everything had changed already. 

From what was happening on the streets of lower Manhattan today, you wouldn’t know that anything much had changed at all. Lots of people moving around. Even a party atmosphere at times. Not much attention at all being paid at all to the recent history of two decades ago by the folks in the streets. 

Events yesterday in Ukraine engaged the interest of the editors of the New York Times today; the events of 21 years ago were relegated to the bottom of the page, and by tomorrow they’ll mostly have disappeared. 

Look a little deeper and you’ll see evidence that New York  – metropolitan population circa 18 million, a lot bigger than many countries – is a wounded city. More people sleeping in the streets than in the past; and you don’t have to venture too far from the centre to see more empty storefronts, just as in smaller cities all across this continent. 

But the latest wounds, as at home, have been inflicted by the chaotic government response to COVID-19, the sclerotic U.S. political response to the economy, arguably by the wars of choice launched in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the turn by the neoliberal right against democracy now that democracy can no longer be guaranteed to deliver votes to the right. 

Speaking of kings, this is Canute, King of England from 1016 to 1035 (Image: The British Library, Public Domain).

So we Canadians now have a new monarch, who may or may not be inclined to meddle in politics – apparently from a progressive perspective, we shall see – and may or may not bring change. 

For the time being, nothing much will change but the letterhead of a lot of Canadian law offices, where hundreds perhaps thousands of Q.C.s have instantly become K.C.s, and the appearance of new Canadian coins and bills. 

And we have a new Conservative leader, who may or may not usher in great change that threatens the good things we have built in our country, like our health care system, that is the envy of working people in the United States.

New Democrats in particular need to think about how to respond to this situation, and it’s not by letting the Liberals eat their lunch while radicalized Conservatives bust up the furniture. How about acting like social democrats, for a change? No one else will! 

Yesterday, I had the privilege of marching in the New York City Labour Day parade – don’t ask me why it happens a week after Labour Day – a huge street party, the first big face-to-face get-together by working people in this city after two and a half years of COVID catastrophe.

Folks handed me leaflets calling for New York State to establish a public, single-payer, health care system – one that would sound very familiar to any Canadian. Indeed, while I didn’t see the word Canada anywhere in the document – which said, “We can lead the way to universal health care!” – Canada inspired it just the same. 

If “conservatives” are energized, as they are in Canada and the United States right now, it’s the energy of desperation. They see the tide of history turning against them, and they’re prepared to act now to do whatever it takes to stop it – even if it means saying goodbye democracy.

But speaking of monarchs, as Canute, King of England from 1016 to 1035, famously (may or may not have) demonstrated to his nobles, say what they might you can’t just order the tide to change.

I’ll have more thoughts on these and other matters in the days ahead.

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24 Comments

  1. With the passing of Elizabeth Regina II, the newly-minted UK PM, Liz Truss, declared that the UK has entered a new “Carolinian Age”. (Caroline Era) While it’s well known that Truss has a tendency to make weird, though harmless statements, she may want to consider sacking for speech writer, because the last Carolinian Age was brought to an abrupt end with the trial and execution of King Charles I. Charles III maybe should have considered using his other names, like Phillip. Yes, King Phillip the First of England and what few domains are left.

    As the US teeters toward another civil war, and it looks like Europe may have to live under the thumb of Vlad Putin a while longer, Canada maybe deciding to go the other way and toward as renaissance of worker organization and unionization. After decades of dormancy, the union movement is strong in Canada and showing greater strength as it grows. While Skippy Pollivere tells everyone how great the 1950s were (Nothing went wrong so long as Diefenbaker was PM.) workers across Canada are striking back and demanding something resembling civilized working conditions. This stands in stark contrast to the US, where it looks like the impending impeachment of President Biden may come once the Trumpian GOP secures their super-majority in the Congress. No question wing nut Marjorie Taylor-Greene will become speaker of the House of Representatives and declare Biden a traitor for stealing the 2020 election from the greatest president the galaxy has ever known, Donald J. Trump. The resulting trial will be a torrent of lies, falsehoods and dramatic pronouncements of “J’ accuse! while the denounced will be pilloried before the angry mod. Canada becomes a safe haven for civilization, while the US descends into a wider bloodbath. I never would have thunk it.

    1. Just: I think Charles was wise to stick with King Charles, all things considered. For one thing, he’s been known as Charles for so long and our memories and attention spans are so addled by by digital technology, that it doesn’t have much meaning to most blokes and blokettes anyway. So what that Charles I lost his head along with his throne and Charles II restored the monarchy? Who knew? Most Englishmen, let alone Australians and Canadians, just wouldn’t understand that King Phillip, say, was the same fellow who used to be Prince Charles. Anyway, King Phillip sounds too Spanish. Charles – said to be an admirer of George III, the one king our cousins in the United State of Amnesia do remember, if vaguely – is rumoured, like the Stuarts, to be a secret Catholic, too, or all but one, anyway, which would surely still disqualify him for the job, the Human Rights Code notwithstanding. So Charles III might appeal to him on those grounds, too. As for Ms. Truss and her new Caroline Era, she might not be so far off at that. Presumably if the monarchy peters out after Charles, though it won’t require the head of state to make it official separate from the body politic. DJC

      1. Calling king Phillip “too Spanish” is pretty rich for people who spend an abundance of their holidays on the Iberian Peninsula. Go to any seaside location in Spain or Portugal and find the British horde sunning their sunburnt red bodies on every beach.

      1. I would argue that they are not “occupying”, since they are there at the invitation — in fact, demand — of their host countries, as NATO allies. I’m no fan of American hegemonism either, but let’s acknowledge facts.

  2. The big mistakes some of those that not familiar with constitutional monarchy make are that there is a debate or discussion about succession – there is not, it happens automatically, that popularity matters – it does not and lastly that it matters – not really.

    It is understandable as monarchy is somewhat counter intuitive to democratic rule and we haven’t had a monarch succeed in most of our lifetimes. To really get it probably requires a deep understanding of British history and all its confusing twists and turns. Let’s just say the monarch is really a figurehead for the state – a better mannered one and more pleasant one than the politicians we often either despise or come to despise.

    I’m fairly confident King Charles gets this although he has his own personality that is a bit different than the Queen he succeeds. He will not be as well loved, but fortunately for him, he doesn’t have to win a popularity contest and overall it will probably not be hard to be better liked than politicians. Its not a high bar.

    As for the new Conservative leader, I have a feeling he will either be a great success or a great failure with not much between. He is good at communicating simple messages and appeals to a lot of people who feel they haven’t benefited from the current structures of society. He certainly excites the Conservative base. However, he also does not seem to want to moderate his message to appeal to a much broader audience. He is correct that there are a lot of people frustrated with “gate keepers” – bureaucrats who seem to put up obstacles to everything and can’t effectively deliver things like affordable housing or even issue passports.

    So, if the current federal government wants to stay in power, they are going to have to up their game and make some progress in dealing with a number of real problems and not just say the right things with symbolic platitudes like they have in the past.

  3. I think that there are Canadians who are being given a lot of sweet talk by Pierre Poliveire, and they bought into the hype. It might just backfire on them. What he wants to do will cause more harm than good.

    1. Anonymous You and I certainly agree with what these reformers have done to Albertans. Isn’t it too bad so many of our fellow seniors are just too stupid to understand it? I met a brother and sister who divorced their parents because they refused to believe what they were telling them about what Klein was doing to us. I didn’t think it was possible but a lawyer total me it was. These two were concerned that their parents would become a huge financial burden to them if they needed to go into a nursing home and that’s exactly what I have seen. When family relatives needed to put their mother into a nursing home there was a waiting list of over 1,800 in the public facilities, thanks to the fact that Klein had refused to create more spaces to try to keep up demands. He constantly stated that he wanted to make the system so profitable that the private sector would take it over. In other words privatized it and that’s what he did. Our family was forced to take a bed in a private for profit one at a cost of $10,600. per month. It was $7,000. For basic costs and $3,600. For a full time care giver that she desperately needed. Since then I have heard about many other situations that have created a nightmare for the people involved. One man had paid out $464,000., and still was, for his two parents in a nursing home. They were paying $7,600. per month and the parents income was only $3,600. He was covering the other $4,000. per month. Another man had a mother in a nursing home for 14 years and it had cost him $360,000. over what she had paid. Another family told me their cost was $14,000. per month over five years . It’s no secret that these reformers are not interested in helping the average citizens , looking after themselves and their rich friends is all they care about. Canadians could never have picked a worse leader for the Conservative party than Pierre Poilievre, like his pal Kenney destroying everything our conservative heroes created for us and privatization is their goal.

    2. Skippy has spent decades publicly being the person he is. Anyone who chooses to believe him deserves what they’re going to get. The whole Trump spectacle has exhausted my patience and sympathy for irresponsible, willfully ignorant fools who proudly choose to ingest snake oil.

  4. FYI. The last public proclamation issued by the queen concerned Canada.

    On Tuesday she met with Lacklustre Liz -Liz Truss the incoming British Prime Minister. On Wednesday she issued a statement on the events at James Smith Cree reserve. “I would like to extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones in the attacks that occurred this past weekend in Saskatchewan,” she said. “My thoughts and prayers are with those recovering from injuries, and grieving such horrific losses. I mourn with all Canadians at this tragic time.”

    She died the next day.

  5. I wish I shared your optimism, DC. I see in today’s political environment parallels to the dying days of Weimar…. the high tide of “liberal elites” is running out to be replaced by a crushing and desperate flight to the security offered by the right. Thatcher would blush when she sees the full CPC agenda that will be rolled out in 2024 or 25. And Beveridge will sigh as his revolutionary social programs are fatally disfigured. God help us all.

  6. If the MLAs I got to know because Lougheed’s energy minister was a brother in-law of one of my uncles were alive today they would be saying ” Just another Reformer that will be defeated when the people finally realize what he stands for. You have to hand it to these slick talking Reformers they have no problem with Canadians who are just too dumb to see through their stupidity. They are heroes for praising criminals and running up a $36 million cost to taxpayers. They allow him to treat them like morons with the promise that if he becomes Prime Minister he will destroy the CBC and they don’t care that it will put around 7,500 people out of work , just too dumb to understand that if the CBC is too expensive you can imagine what he has planned for our Public Health Care system. He promises to bring American Republican Style Brand of stupidity to Canada , allowing the sale of handguns and assault rifles and these supporters don’t care that children were gunned down in their classrooms, and seniors in a grocery store. In 2000 I met an 86 year old former University Professor from Germany who taught me more about people and politics in an hour than I had learned in a life time. He taught me that weak minded, easily led, easily fooled people make up the majority of every population in the world and I think he was right. That’s how dictators be come so popular they are great con-artists. But then it doesn’t take much to fools this idiots, does it?

    1. Alan K. Spiller: Seniors are very easily duped, that’s for sure. You see them falling for scams, and it even costs them thousands of dollars. Someone tricks them into thinking that they need some type of service done, and they go for it. They go on the news, warning others. If they would have realized what they were getting into beforehand, it wouldn’t have gotten that way. With Pierre Poliveire, there are also younger people being fooled by him. The senior relatives of these younger people are probably having an influence on how they should vote. What Pierre Poliveire is going to do is going to end up costing people their jobs, jeopardize their pensions, depreciate the value of their homes, and put public healthcare in peril, by making it Americanized, private for profit. Too many people refuse to see this. In Alberta, we have something similar, with the UCP, and especially, but not limited to, Danielle Smith. There are Albertans who think she’s great. Who is going to benefit from this? We can see how the UCP is.
      https://calgary.citynews.ca/2022/07/26/truth-matters-alberta-politics/

  7. Almost immediately Pierre Le Square is anointed the next prime minister by the Postmedia gang. Be very afraid, Justin and Jagmeet. The right to work union buster and cryptocurrency lover will swipe votes from even your strongest supporters. Fear is in the air!

      1. I hesitate to point this out, but…
        …and old saw this just now.
        Hope that you’ve recovered from your flight. And I hope that I don’t sound like I’m picking faults – I have to proof my own manuscripts and I know how difficult it is.

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