It is fairly absurd to be writing this—that we have to write this. “Rob Ford Should Participate in Pride.” It shouldn’t be a question. We would prefer that Toronto hadn’t elected a mayor about whom such questions arise. But we did, and it is incumbent upon Ford to put them to rest, immediately.
If you’re not following Hamutal Dotan, start.
Democratic governance and that troublesome ‘deserve’ thing | #TOpoli #cdnpoli
In brief, his account suggests that Scarborough residents are feeling screwed. Again. They voted for Rob Ford because they thought, finally, that they’d get a mayor who would stop coddling the downtown elitists and start putting some of their tax dollars to work in their own neighbourhoods. We’ve all seen how well that’s worked out.
Nothing new there. But something one of the readers said has stuck with me. In the comment thread, Matthew Harper argues that Scarborough voters
I’m not singling Matthew out for criticism here, because God knows I’ve been pretty self-righteous about disengagement, laziness and shallow thinking. If Rob Ford merits our scorn and resistance for his ignorance, his vindictive immaturity, his simplistic thinking, and his uninformed, inchoate resentment, not to mention what he wants to do to our city, then so too do the people who voted for him. His campaign did a ruthlessly effective job of tapping into those toxic sentiments, but voters who bought into his bullshit and enabled him are just as blameworthy. So you think Rob Ford’s screwing up the city? Boo fucking hoo. Should have thought of that before voting for him.
That’s the argument, anyway. I don’t really enjoy making it, because it comes across as facile, smug, and condescending. Moreover, it’s not especially constructive, and it’s not going to help build bridges to the people we need to reach. It doesn’t do much good to call people names because they didn’t vote the way I think they should have.
Someone once said that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. I don’t know whether it was H.L. Mencken, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, or someone else, but the whole question of “deserve” keeps nagging at me. It’s easy to wonder, rhetorically, whether progressive citizens who take the obligations of involved engagement seriously really deserve to have a civic administration like the current one foisted upon us. We didn’t vote for these clowns. Why should we have to sit and watch as they attack the bonds of our community with chainsaws and blowtorches? Did we buy into their bullshit? Did we fool ourselves into thinking we could get something for nothing? Did we walk around telling each other that we could have respectable public services, well-maintained public infrastructure, and a functioning civil society without having to pay for it?
The quick answer to that is, no, we didn’t, but guess what? You voted, and you lost. If you can’t live with it, then maybe you have a beef with democracy.
The rejoinder to that, of course, is that the game was rigged decades earlier when the Harris government smooshed the old City of Toronto into a soggy megacity mess, amalgamating it with Etobicoke, North York, East York, York, and Scarborough. We’ve been living with the consequences of that ever since. You can put five dogs and one cat in a room, let them vote, and call it democracy, but you can also more or less predict how things will turn out.
And this brings us back to that nagging “deserve” thing. We didn’t ask for amalgamation. We didn’t ask for provincial and federal governments that ignore urban realities and urban needs. We didn’t ask for municipal politicians who like to torque downtown/suburban divides for short-term political gain. Why, then, do we deserve to suffer as our city is dismantled, damaged, and neglected by these morons? Why are we saddled with the consequences of other people’s shortsightedness, stupidity, or failure to show up?
And it’s at this point that I run out of the easy answers, because in truth I just don’t know a way out of this that doesn’t involve major logical and ethical dissonance. On the one hand, citizenship’s obligations require that we abide by the decisions our community makes, as long as they’re made openly and democratically. (You can certainly argue about whether they’re truly open or democratic when half the voters don’t even bother to turn out, or the choices left to them are basically set by the 1 per cent, or a guy can win a majority government with less than 40 percent of the vote, but I’m talking about first principles here.) We get to have our say, but if the decision isn’t one we like, we don’t get to just withdraw and blow off the decisions of the community. We’re all in this together. Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.
On the other hand, the obligations of citizenship also require thoughtful reflection, careful consideration, and genuine engagement. When you make stupid, thoughtless and short-sighted choices, you’re not just hurting yourself — you’re damaging your community and hurting your fellow citizens. They don’t deserve that.
I still haven’t worked this out. Anyone?
- In defence of the public sphere | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- Ignore the trolls, or engage? Mudwrestling with pigs and other dilemmas for 2012 | #cdnpoli
- @Cityslikr, @NickKouvalis, and the need for civility in public discourse | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- Voting dysfunctions and the Greens: a response to @meslin and Erich Jacoby-Hawkins | #onpoli
- @Cityslikr may have #TorontoLife’s number, but we’ve got bigger problems than an urban/suburban divide | #TOpoli #onpoli
- Citizenship, critical thought and Giorgio Mammoliti | #TOpoli #TOcouncil #PlanetFord
@Torontoist on the provincial election, and my response | #onpoli
Can’t really put it any better than this:
Why are we even bothering to make any sort of endorsement at all? The answer is simple: Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives have run an ugly, ugly campaign, one of the ugliest in modern memory.
In this election there’s really no voting for; there’s only voting against.
Luckily, the Tories provide us with whole reams of against to vote for, because this isn’t just about Tim Hudak: it’s about every last Tory running for office. The silence from the various MPPs and candidates on Tim Hudak’s bigoted, dishonest, and stupid campaign says all you need to know about them. They are either cowards or hold indefensible positions, and in either instance they are simply not worth your vote.
I wouldn’t honour this bunch by referring to them as Tories. When you say Tories, I think of people like Joe Clark, Bill Davis, Flora MacDonald, and even John Diefenbaker — people on the Progressive side of the Progressive Conservative tradition, people with a social conscience, people who despite their identification as “conservatives” carry a nice streak of red in them. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even debase the honourable tradition of conservatism by applying it to this lot.
Hudak’s so-called contribution to the conversation consists of little more than smudged photocopies from the Rove/Luntz playbook. Homophobia? Bigotry? Manufactured resentment? Insults to our intelligence? Misrepresentation? Cultivated stupidity? Thuggish behaviour? If you’re looking for evidence of teabaggery’s northward creep, you needn’t look much farther than this.
Other than that, what Torontoist said.
- Ontario PC Leader Hudak stands by ‘homophobic’ flyer - Toronto - CBC News
- On this week’s provincial election | #onpoli
- A dog whistle from Hudak | #onpoli #homophobia
If Team Ford’s Port Lands plans are truly dead, would someone mind driving a stake through them?
The plans, that is.
“This is a triumph for the public… This is a Toronto moment, a Jane Jacobs moment.”
Can’t argue with the sentiments, but I’m inclined to agree with a comment left on the Torontoist site by one dsmithhfx:
Don’t celebrate quite yet… I don’t trust this cabal of scumbag opportunists as far as I could throw them.
It’s a setback, to be sure. And much as we’d like to think of it as a turning point, the point where the wave of ignorance, resentment, stupidity, and short-term greed that the Ford approach taps into finally broke, let’s not start the happy dance just yet.
The Port Lands / Waterfront fiasco has captivated our attention for several weeks, to be sure, and we can’t underestimate its symbolic importance. But it’s also possible to think of it as this week’s Shiny ObjectTM — something thing that attracts our attention and keeps us all occupied while other things are going on.
A thoughtful essay by Dylan Reid in Spacing last week discussed the slow decline of a community through a process of dozens of little cuts. Cancel a minor program here, put less resources into something else there, cut back on the scope of something else over there. The examples Reid cites include things like litter pickup, tree planting, neighbourhood improvement programs, snow clearing, and making bylaw enforcement reactive rather than proactive.
As Reid writes:
Individually, the impact of each of these is small. And it’s quite possible some of them could be reasonable proposals for a city with a screwed-up budgetary process if they were thought through properly (e.g. all parks could have citizen committees that take care of flower planting and care, if the city provides the flowers and eases up on regulation). But done all in a rush, and all together, the overall impact will be a gradual degradation in the walking environment. It will get dirtier and trickier, and many programs that make it more attractive will be abandoned. People will still be able to walk, of course. They just won’t want to walk as much, unless they have to. And since walking is how people experience their city most directly, Toronto will feel a little bit more like a city in decline — which, given the amount of building going on and people moving in, it really shouldn’t.
By themselves, these measures may not amount to much. They don’t have the impact or the visibility of the Port Lands clusterfuck, because they don’t carry the same scale or price tag. That’s why they’re mostly off the radar. Cumulatively, however, their effect on our quality of life could be just as serious. The places we love and live in, whether they’re downtown or in the suburbs, would become dirtier, more threadbare, and less welcoming.
But this is what happens when the function of government is entrusted to people with no commitment to the public sphere. I’ve already written that the current administration seems colonized by people with no interest in using the power of government to advance the common good, and the events of the past few weeks have done nothing to suggest otherwise. When you start pulling at the threads that hold a community together, you never know when the whole thing’s going to unravel.
This is not to take anything away from the the people whose efforts forced a retreat on the waterfront, of course. And the folks involved in CodeBlueTO deserve a special shout-out. Let’s just remember, though, that this is a long war that has to be fought on many fronts. These guys aren’t done yet. There’s still a long slog ahead.