27 July 2011

Activism as Decadence

Not content with simply ignoring and avoiding dissent, today Doug Ford went the extra mile and disparaged it outright. After implying his ignorance of one of Toronto’s best known literary figures, he resorted to an ad hominem rejection of the advocacy of Atwood and her fellow activists, demonstrating his low opinion of activism in general.

First, he suggested Atwood is not famous enough to warrant his consideration, declaring that “I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.” In other words, why should he care about what she says? She’s not so famous that he’d recognise her. Secondly, he dismissed her as a mere citizen – not a politician like him – suggesting that citizens should not be interfering with politics. Apparently politicians should be left alone to do as they please, as they know best. Thirdly, he dismissed her for being privileged enough to be politically engaged, as though only people that are too busy to be activists are demonstrably working-class enough to be entitled to activism (therefore precluding activism).

The bizarre contentiousness of these outbursts is just a regular part of the sideshow that is our municipal government these days, perhaps more a distraction than anything else, rather than actually all that significant. However, I still think it’s indicative both of how the Fords are endlessly parochial and regard collectively-minded activism as a contemptible sign of privilege. To them, it seems, an activist is little more than an excessively-pampered brat, simply for the fact that she/he is able to engage in activism.

This is also more broadly indicative of what the Fords perceive the role of government and citizens to be and the extreme individualism that they value: Government is mostly for allowing citizens to pursue their interests however they please, and, concomitantly, citizens should only advocate for their own personal interests, regardless of the effect on the greater good. People should work for themselves and keep to themselves. Anything else is either the insincere meddling of rich kids with nothing else to do but bother right-wing politicians for kicks, or a union conspiracy. After all, how could someone actually care enough about the greater good to use what time they have for activism?

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