His last column for The Nation was a delicious takedown of all the dark players involved in the scheme by the biggest bankers in the world to fix rates. The bankers got their due, of course, but so did the regulators and, of course, the pliant media. “Now it turns out that the whole thing is a fix—a grimy hand all too visible,” Alex wrote. “Is it possible to reform the banking system? There are the usual nostrums—tighter regulations, savage penalties for misbehavior, a ban from financial markets for life. But I have to say I’m dubious. I think the system will collapse, but not through our agency.”
Casual readers might imagine a darkness in the closing line of what was Alex’s last Nation column published in his lifetime. But that is a misread. Alex shared Tom Paine’s faith in the necessity of information and insight, of speaking truth to power; this, he knew, to be the essential element for building the activism that would begin the world over again. He was a radical democrat who believed ultimately in the power of the people to overturn the corruptions of empire that politicians and the corporate media would otherwise keep in place.
On Rob Ford and generosity of spirit | #TOpoli #Jack
Bear with me for a second.
I’ve been indulging in some rather unseemly woohooing, both here and on the Tweeter, over the results of this week’s transit debate at city council. And yes, I’ve been just as guilty as the next progressive tweeter of doing an in-your-face happy dance. And even more: I’ve succumbed to temptation and taken my share of cheap shots at Rob Ford. God knows, he leaves himself open to them with everything he says and does, as a matter of policy and everything he stands for. If I were a better person, I’d resist the temptation more successfully.
I know, I know. Sanctimonious wankery. I’m guilty of it more often than I want to admit (like maybe all the time …).
And in fact, I’m probably never more insufferable (hence the request that you bear with me) than when I start on about generosity of spirit. It ain’t the way the world works, much as I would wish otherwise, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth striving for.
Once again: true generosity of spirit seeks no external validation. It is its own reward. It doesn’t look for applause, it doesn’t seek affirmation, and it is extended with no expectation of any quid pro quo. Moreover, it is extended to those who do not deserve it precisely because they do not deserve it. That is what makes it what it is.
I don’t claim to have a unique understanding of it. And I don’t pretend to have any special insights or window into people’s hearts. But to the extent that anyone can have such insight, I choose to believe that it flows from an essential decency.
Which leads me to this:
I’ve said some nasty things about Rob Ford. But in this situation, I think he’s speaking from the heart. Without a script, without handlers, without talking points. And he’s expressing genuine sadness, setting aside political disagreement, and remembering Jack as a decent and honourable man.
I’m posting this now because I think it’s worth noting: for all his missteps, for all his wrongheadedness, for all his faults, Rob Ford is capable of just the sort of generosity of spirit I’m describing. (I know there is good in you … the Emperor hasn’t destroyed it … )
Perhaps the challenge for progressives is in finding that, and in making it possible for him to express it.
I’d like to wind up on that note, but I can anticipate some of the reactions: accusations of naivete, simplistic thinking, even suckiness. And those accusations wouldn’t be entirely wrong. It’s easy to point out that those on the other side don’t have that. They’ll take advantage of it, so why give them ammunition? That’s why we’ll always be at a tactical disadvantage when we’re engaging with people willing to do Whatever It Takes to Win, and that’s why our victories are always going to be more nuanced.
I can’t honestly suggest that this is the right path for everyone. I just need to be able to like what I see when I look in the mirror when I’m shaving in the morning. If that puts me and the people I work with at a tactical disadvantage, then so be it.
- Time for a #TransitCity happy dance?
- #TeamFord and our city: Can no one talk sense to these guys?
- Democratic governance and that troublesome ‘deserve’ thing | #TOpoli #cdnpoli
- @Cityslikr, @NickKouvalis, and the need for civility in public discourse | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- The lesson: it’s about Jack’s legacy of generosity, not about these tiny little people
Monday evening at St. James Park in Toronto | #OccupyTO #OccupyWallStreet #OccupyBaySt
No analysis or or argument this time, just observation.
Too soon to say how long this will last or whether it’s got real staying power.
Not as if I’m there day and night, but with every visit I’m struck by the relaxed and nurturing atmosphere. People are working together, caring for one another, and there’s no sense of hierarchy or externally imposed authority — just community.
I recognize that others may have cited Jack’s words already — maybe even three or four times by now — but what the hey. I can’t think of anything better suited to what’s going on:
Love, hope, and optimism. Will this change the world? I don’t know. But maybe it’s a start.
- Video: Occupy Toronto, Day One | #OccupyTO #OWS
- Setting up for #OccupyTO | #OccupyBaySt #OccupyWallStreet #ows
- How mainstream media is failing Occupy Wall Street
- Via Daily Kos: But what do they want? | #OccupyWallStreet
- Chris Hedges schools Kevin O’Leary | #OccupyWallStreet
- Video: Toronto says goodbye to Jack Layton