Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Moral lessons from Election '11

Five months ago I became a father for the first time, which has led to the requisite musing about what kind of morality—if any—I can instill in my child. I was raised Catholic, was a pious child, and conducted myself as if an omnipresent, scolding deity was watching my every move. The rules were simple. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And so on.

But this recent federal election got me thinking a lot more about morality, in ways that other cultural events of the last 10 years have: 9/11, The Sopranos, George W. Bush, The Wire, the collapse of Wall Street, 24 and more. Now an agnostic, I’ve come to realize that morality ain’t what it used to be, and my son might have to adapt to the times.

I grew up admiring political leaders, even ones I didn't agree with. During this last election, I learned 12 key lessons from Dear Leader Stephen Harper (and some from Rob Ford) that I think will serve my son well in life. These are things my parents never taught me, but those were different times. My son will learn to be a Machiavellian with the best of them.

Here they are, son:

Don’t hesitate to ask for it all. Don’t bother sharing; it won’t make you happy and it won’t make anyone else happy, either. There’s only room for one boss, and that might as well be you. Act this way, and you will get what you want.

If a game is not going the way you want it to, take your toys (and maybe a few extra) and go home. As long as you’re the boss, people will always play with you, because they have no choice. So always make sure you’re the boss.

If someone accuses you of doing something dastardly, simply say that it’s not true. When they come back with facts, simply say: “Let me be clear. That is simply not true.” As long as you continue to insist that it is not true, no one will even remember why anybody might have thought it was true in the first place.

If you’re trying to convince somebody of something, say the exact same thing each time. Leave no room for ambiguity or nuance. Do not improvise. Stick to your script. Your critics will say you lack subtlety, but the only thing you lack is weakness. Simplicity is strength.

If someone like a judge or a teacher decides that you are breaking the rules—rules that have long applied to everyone else who’s ever done your job or been in your position—you then tell everyone that it’s merely a matter of opinion and that you’re merely being persecuted because the accusers are jealous. Remember, you are the boss. The other guys just want to be you.

If someone you hired to do a job and/or represent you then in some way turns out to be unreliable, make up vicious stories about them to explain why you fired them. If the person is indeed unreliable, whether or not they’re innocent of your accusations will be irrelevant. Just make sure to spread the rumour through other people. Even if investigators find no evidence of your accusations, simply shrug and let the insinuation continue to define the story.

If you want people to do something that benefits you, convince them that a sea of chaos will soon be lapping upon their shores unless they give you what you want. Don’t bother promising them puppy dogs and roses; promise them a world of pain should things not turn out your way.

Always be happy, even when you’re talking about the world of pain that will ensue if people don’t agree with your decisions. No one likes an angry person, so always smile and talk about what a positive person you are, even while suggesting that your enemy is Satan incarnate.

If you have a solution that you think will make people happy, even if the problem that would normally require such a solution doesn’t even exist, then pretend the problem exists and people will be ecstatic that you have the solution.

If you disagree with something, make up some statistics that prove you right. If someone else’s statistics prove you wrong, make sure no one else finds out about them.

Always take credit for other people’s work, especially people who did the work before you showed up.

Finally, should you ever venture beyond the borders of this great country we call Canada, never, ever return except for family vacations or to receive an award. Canadians will be proud of you and treat you like a novelty, but if you come back here for good you will forever be under a cloud of suspicion. People of all political stripes will wonder things like, “Why did he leave? Why did he come back? What does he think he knows that I don’t? Does this mean there’s something wrong with me because I never left? Is he trying to take advantage of me somehow? Is he taking away a Canadian job? Does he think we’re all chumps?” They may or may not say this to your face, but they will definitely be thinking it. Canada is a weird country. If you’re going to leave, leave early and don’t come back.

Except for those awards. And family dinners.



Updated postscript: And always be thankful you didn't grow up in a totalitarian Communist society, like your maternal grandparents.


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