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TOXIC THOUGHT SYNDROME

"What's the real problem, though? The truth is that everyone is hung up on this left/right thing. What we need is what John Ralston Saul (husband of the Canadian Governor General, and all around amazing human being) refers to as disinterest. Can we please stop approaching all of our problems from the left or the right, and instead approach them as problems? There are a million solutions to problems, we just have to find the right one. Sometimes the best solution is right wing solution, and sometimes it makes more sense to go with the left. For God's sake, even Mike Tyson knows to bite from both sides of the head."


10/23/2001

I was really close to writing another article about the whole Taliban thing, but frankly I'm sick of it. I will only mention one thing about it, and that is something interesting that I saw in the paper on Thursday last. It said something about how we finally had our first confirmed kill of an al Qaeda member. I was surprised given how late in the bombing this was, so I kept reading. Remember how they said that they were bombing nothing but military targets? Well, this article let it slip that the bomb had been dropped on a residential area killing five, including one member of al Qaeda.

Congratulations, gang. I'm so proud of you. And to think, it only meant dropping bombs on people's houses. Sickening.

That's it, though. I won't talk about that any more today. Instead, I want to explain a little something.

I'm tired of hearing people bitch about right and left. I'm sick of hearing fanatical right wingers talk about the god damn communists, and I'm equally tired of leftists talking in purely theoretical means about the beauties of a world where everyone got on well. Folks, it's a bigger world than that.

Not being satisfied with making uninformed decisions, I picked up a copy of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. I'm nowhere near through it, but it has had quite an impact on my thinking of late. One of the things that stuck with me most was from the introduction, where they make reference to the time that Smith published the book. It's easy to not really understand the importance of this. It says that six years after the publication of the book, the Steam Engine was patented.

Can you imagine that? Now try to figure out what the look on Adam Smith's face would be if you told him about a hierarchically-structured Human Resources department operating in a multinational. These were concepts totally outside his scope of reckoning. In Smith's world, there was an entrepreneur who ran a manufactory (man, I love saying that word) which employed some craftsmen.

What does any of that matter? It's just interesting to know that Adam Smith was totally out of touch with what would later be attributed to him. It's also nice to remember that the work he wrote was defining a pure and theoretical concept, and not an actual practice. The invisible hand failed to appear, and continues to evade us for the most part.

A year or so ago I came up with the idea to create the Alberta Anarchist Party. I had been searching for that perfect party and found that there really wasn't one that interested me. They all focussed on this stupid right/left thing. It's a hoax, too. Ever since Kennedy we've lived in a world of blurred lines.

The plan for the party was a dismal failure. I couldn't get my mom to sign the petition, and all it said was that you agree with the party having the right to exist. Now, to be fair my mother wasn't the only reason the party didn't flush out. In the long run, it came down to the same problem as I have whenever I move. Everyone wants to help, nobody shows up. I had to get something like 5000 signatures, and they wanted me to do it solo. Sorry, I work 80 hours a week.

It got me thinking, though. The truth is that the terminology is an impossible sell. People hear anarchist, they imagine fire-lit massacres in sand dunes as nomadic post-apocalyptic tribes of punks slaughter one another in the never ending night. Somehow, this image of the future leaves me cold.

What's the real problem, though? The truth is that everyone is hung up on this left/right thing. What we need is what John Ralston Saul (husband of the Canadian Governor General, and all around amazing human being) refers to as disinterest. Can we please stop approaching all of our problems from the left or the right, and instead approach them as problems? There are a million solutions to problems, we just have to find the right one. Sometimes the best solution is right wing solution, and sometimes it makes more sense to go with the left. For God's sake, even Mike Tyson knows to bite from both sides of the head.

Here's an example. About a year ago we blew up one of the hospitals here in sunny Calgary. It was a tremendous and sad event. A lot of people argued that it didn't have to be that way and blah blah blah. They told us that they'd put some other health care facility in, and the plans as I understand them are now for a series of condos with a private health care clinic. Yay.

The problem in my mind was that we had a hospital building which was requiring several million dollars worth of upgrades due to things like asbestos that needed to go. The people on the right decided it would have been cheaper to blow the thing up than it would be to fix the place up. This was probably true. The end price tag was in the area I believe of $20 million.

The left wing folk argued that it was a historic landmark, that it was necessary to have a hospital in the downtown core, and that it was a waste to destroy it. They were probably right too.

A year later we have just finished construction down the road a ways on a new homeless shelter. This is an amazing building, and it's quite controversial. People say that it's too nice to waste on the homeless, while others say that it's too expensive to waste on the rich. They have built quite a nice place with lots of room for setting up programs and the like. It cost something like $12 million to build this place.

To my thinking, we missed the boat here. We were willing to spend $12 million on a homeless shelter. Why not spend $25 million on fixing up a landmark and using the old building as a new homeless shelter? They're literally within walking distance of one another, and we would have satisfied everyone. Well, the right wing folks would have had a $25 million homeless shelter to complain about (God damn liberal spending bunch of communists they're everywhere like a cancer gotta whipe them out at the source that Mao guy hey did we get him yet) although they would never realize that they were $7 million up on the alternative, and the left wing would still not have a hospital in the downtown core (bloody rich always coming in here with their private health care and their snooty Lexus sports utility vehicles hope they all roll over on them).

It's not a perfect solution, but does it make more sense than the one they actually went with? I think so. They want to think in terms of us and them, and I can understand that. The problem is that problem solving isn't about us and them, it's about problems and resolutions. Clouding your mind with visions of the right or the left when you start thinking about the problem only presents a limited list of possible solutions. WHy not evaluate them all and see which makes the most sense?

And that's where we get back to the Wealth of Nations and capitalism. The invisible hand doesn't work because we refuse to allow it. Companies for generations could effectively make the decision not to employ blacks in anything more than menial job functions because there were no reprecussions. In Smith's society, the invisible hand would slap them around, and allow their competitors to cash in on their ignorance. That key factor has been too long missing. The invisible hand only works when we're talking about a level playing field, but when you disregard potential employees for skin color, or potential solutions for political leaning, you don't make the best choice and you should get penalized.

But then, what do I know? I'm just a dumb anarchist. Oi!







ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Martin is one of those people who can start a sentence with "The problem with democracy is that jerks like you get to vote" and end it with your wanting to be his friend. He hosts a website and has been published by Images Inscript, House of Pain, Scapegrace, and here at 3am.








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