Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yeah, What's Ten Years of Widespread Poverty Between Eco-Warriors?

Guess who's back and saying ridiculous things?

Well, OK.

To say that Kevin Potvin is "back" is like suggesting that Canadian Cynic's dementia-inducing case of neurosyphilis is "back" when it relapses. (Just a quick note here: Canadian Cynic probably doesn't have neurosyphilis. He just acts like he does. -Ed.) He's been there the whole while, maybe not quite saying things as stupid as he's accustomed to, he's been there all along. Not much unlike a case of neurosyphilis.

And so it would seem that Kevin Potvin is having a recurrence of general stupidity -- or could it be general stupidity having a recurrence of Kevin Potvin? Fuck, I get these things mixed up sometimes -- in the course of a recent opinion article in his vaunted Republic of East Vancouver in which he advocates the onset of a new Great Depression.

It starts out with Potvin taking issue with a recent article by Jacqueline Thorpe in the Financial Post:

"“But the best hope,” wrote Jacqueline Thorpe on the front page of The Financial Post section of The National Post, in a regular column entitled “The Big Picture,” “rests on at least a stabilization of oil prices.” The headline of this entry, appearing the past weekend, was “Teetering on the brink of global recession.”

It’s an astonishing statement, and so we see that in the space of just 18 months or less, the Canadian corporate sector’s communications organ, CanWest, or “corporavda” if you will, which owns
The National Post, has gone from paternalistic “sh-sh”s and “don’t worry”s all the way to thoroughly freaked out alarmism. Thorpe’s mental breakdown last weekend has become by no means an oddity. Her’s is but the theme at the corporate press lately.

“Hope for stabilized oil prices” is odd advice to the colonial-minded middle managers of Canada’s wholly foreign owned corporate sector who read
The National Post before the foreign head office calls for its daily chit-chat. To advise the nation’s decision makers that hope is their only choice now is to advise them to close their eyes, block their ears and stop whatever thinking they might have considered doing. The ride is going to get too frightening to behold."
Potvin almost has a point here. When staring down the business end of a recession very much induced by high energy prices, the best thing to do would be to prepare for it and make changes to try and avoid it, rather than simply "hope for a price break".

And while there are likely few things that can be done to deal with the exorbitantly high price of oil, it could be treated as an incentive to start investing more heavily in alternative energy sources.

Otherwise, there simply may be no escaping the economic apocalypse that Potvin is predicting (and, as we will see later, actually hoping for):

"The rapidly rising price of oil has certainly emerged as the key feature of the 21st Century. The Globe and Mail reported the same day on a poll showing the price of oil has now replaced all other concerns at the top of mind of Canadians in general. Rising oil prices promise to be the driver of history in our time. Any eyes not clouded by agendas, fear or subservience can quickly ascertain that oil prices will keep leaping up between short periods of steadying or occasionally dropping prices.

A debate about whether peak oil production has arrived or if it’s all just a ploy by Big Oil, is increasingly irrelevant. Whether by design or happenstance, oil prices will not stabilize or be stabilized at any level. If it’s by design of Big Oil or by the reality of production capacity leaves us equally unable to intervene in the trajectory.

So when the nation’s leading financial media is reduced to advising the sycophants of The Canadian Council of Chief Executive Officers to hope for stabilization of oil prices to avoid a serious global recession, it may as well throw in advice to buy lottery tickets for a retirement plan.
Now, with all this talk about the lunacy of simply hoping for a recession to somehow be averted instead of actually taking action to avoid it, one would think that Potvin would have some constructive ideas.

Instead, Potvin offers up a much more encouraging alternative: outright economic defeatism.

"It’s a fair question to ask why the advice columnists in the financial pages are not instead explaining why global recession is unavoidable (oil prices will keep rising is the simplest way of driving the message home), and how they might best operate their ships in the coming headwinds of the storm.

A big part of managing large national and internationally interconnected firms is pressuring and advising government ministries and influencing public opinion in line with that advice. Government policy-making especially in key economic ministries like industry and finance are now very much the purview of corporate boardrooms. The last three Canadian finance ministers both Liberal and Conservative made their first official appearances upon presuming office in the New York financial district, rather than before Canadian citizens.
Which would seem evidentiary of that old "Canada bowing to American imperialism" that Potvin favours.

Or, it could be interpreted as quite logical, considering that Wall Street very much remains the heart of the increasingly-globalizing economy.

"If the advice government ministers are receiving is to hope for stabilized oil prices instead of planning to manage global recessionary conditions, the aims of their policies will inevitably be thwarted, or worse, completely irrelevant.

The reason neither policy makers in government both on the bureaucratic and elected side, nor executives in corporate boardrooms, nor pundits in the financial press, can bring themselves to accept that certainly rising oil prices will certainly bring global recession is because they have spent decades telling each other within the closed confines of their social circles that recession is irredeemably bad and that it opens the door to an evil worse than war: depression.
And it's generally agreed, recession and depression are very bad things. People lose their livelihoods, their homes, even their families.

Very bad things indeed.

"These are assumptions at the core of all corporate and economic thought that have remained undisturbed by any queries at least since the famous depression of the 1930s. It would be heresy in the halls of ministries, boardrooms and editorial offices to even think about the received wisdom concerning the undeniability of the badness that is recession or depression."
And for good reason. Most people generally regard families losing their homes, individuals struggling to feed their families and bankrupt business people throwing themselves out of windows to be bad things.

Then again, this is Kevin Potvin we're talking about here. Most people generally considered 9/11 to be a bad thing, as well, but he did manage to find it in himself to disagree.

"But now is surely the time, before over-the-top fear produces rash counter-productive policies, to wonder whether recession or even depression are really so bad. After all, it wasn’t so long ago government forestry managers, harvesting companies and the public at large had no reason to doubt forest fires were unquestionably bad things, and look at how far that opinion has swung once the question was first posed.

While there has always been an argument available in favour of recession and depression, however dubious, an entirely different set of circumstances has arisen that makes the argument, whatever it is, far more powerful: the environment cannot absorb any more increases in human production of Co2, and in fact seems to require a drastic decline in human-produced Co2 to stabilize climate change. So dependent is all modern economic activity on energy, and so necessary is Co2 production in the expending of energy, that it is by now certain that the only chance we have of seeing the climate stabilized is through a significant decline in economic activity. That is, a long-term, perhaps even a constant economic depression, may be the only way a stabilized climate is restored.
So emerges some of the deepest, darkest, nuttiest thoughts bouncing around inside of Potvin's twisted little skull.

We're facing an environmental catastrophe, so don't bother trying to reduce emissions or impliment alternative energy sources. Shut everything down. And all those people who will suffer? Well, they won't be so bad off.

Potvin even has the revisionist history texts to prove it:

"Recession and its bad cousin Depression have very bad names. There has been 70 years or more of propaganda terrorizing the public about the prospect of a repeat of what is said to be the worst calamity to have ever befallen them—The Great Depression of the 1930s. But on examination, we find that most of the horrors of that time were due to corporate and state reaction to economic depression, not the conditions of depression in and of itself, and that the economic conditions by themselves, if one asks those who lived through it, coincided with a period of enriched community and individual experience producing what they report as general happiness.

People recall farming their back yards with neighbours, sharing food and lodging with passing strangers, and enjoying community dances, making simple music, and relaxing at home with games and books. That is not to say there wasn’t a lot of unemployment and poor conditions for those trapped in it. But using the same measuring techniques today that were used in the 1930s reveals unemployment then was not much higher that it has been at times in the last ten years. Certainly homelessness and desperation today is easily comparable to anything seen in 1932. Had there been ordinary unemployment insurance, welfare, subsidized housing and social programs in the 1930s to mitigate the worst conditions for those most badly affected, there is little doubt there would be today any of the horror the public associates with economic depression. Even in the absence of all these efforts, it still wasn’t nearly as bad as seven decades of corporavda has made it out to be.
Don't blame the economic conditions, Potvin seems to insist. Blame those evil corporations!

And even then, it wasn't so bad. Those 30 million people who were unemployed? Were just taking what we might refer to as a "vacation". (Potvin insists that roughly the same percentage of people are unemployed today as during the Depression, but fails to mention that these modern figures include Africa, whereas the Depression-era statistics did not.)

And amidst all of the joblessness, poverty and scarcity imposed by Depression, Potvin seems to actually think it was all quite quaint -- not much unlike the post-corporate peacenik utopian societies that Potvin and those who think like him tend to favour.

People farmed together in communes! People read books! Folk music was de rigeur!

People also stole watermelons from farmers (among other things) as property crime rates jumped.

So what if a few hundred thousand people lose their jobs, homes and life savings? To make an omlette, Potvin seems to imply, you have to break a few eggs -- or at least hope for a few to be broken.

Of course, it gets even more amusing than this. It would seem that Potvin can even find the upside in being occupied by a regime like Nazi Germany:

"We know, for example, that during the German occupation of France in the 1940s, when French industry was largely shut down, trees on the Champs Élysées that hadn’t blossomed before took full bloom in the cleaner air. It would be interesting to learn whether similar signs of rebirth were also evident when industry in North America was greatly reduced during The Great Depression."
Interesting, indeed.

It would also be interesting to know if a collaborationist government founded under alleged principles of pacifism would have exported any Jews to concentration camps, as Vichy France did under Marshall Phillipe Petain.

"Economic recession and depression in and of itself really only hurts the high rollers. But those high rollers own the corporate media and they have a huge interest in convincing Canadians depression is the worst thing imaginable, because that’s what it is for them."
Apparently, to Potvin, all the farmers who lost their farms to foreclosure during the Great Depression were "high rollers".

All those unemployed men who rode the rails across the United States and Canada in search of work? High rollers, one and all.

And only was the Great Depression "not so bad", according to an individual who never actually lived through it (yet contesting the historical record established by those who actually did), another one should not only be embraced, but actually encouraged:

"Especially given environmental reality, it may in fact be, for the rest of us anyway, the best thing imaginable. Our policy makers ought to be planning for it and finding ways to manage it and sustain it, rather than being advised to cross their fingers and hope it isn’t going to come, or believe, even, there is anything they can do to derail it. The public isn’t necessarily convinced it’s the worst thing that needs to be avoided at all costs."
First off, Potvin may want to prove that the public is A-OK with the idea of another Great Depression (good luck with that one, Kevin).

But it's just another example of the fact that Kevin Potvin just doesn't seem to live in the same world the rest of us do -- his insistence that everyone cheered a little when the World Trade Center was hit being another obvious example.

And it goes to show exactly how far people like Kevin Potvin are willing to go in order to prevent an environmental catastrophe, according to the whole of the science collected, may or may not actually be coming.

And finally, just another example of why this guy couldn't even make it amongst the ranks of the Green party.

Good fucking grief.

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