Le Roi reigne mail il ne gouverne pas.
Recently I wrote a letter to my local Member of Parliament expressing concern over some of the provisions of Bill C-31 (the perversely titled “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act) which is already beginning a much harsher and less hospitable place for refugees. The Canadian Council of Refugees has pointed out that the provisions made in this bill will be unfair to refugees from designated countries, will grant sole power over refugee status to the Minister of Immigration – rather than a committee whose task would be to assess particular cases. The provisions will also allow for refugee claimants to be jailed, without review, for a minimum of one year. (http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/withdraw-anti-refugee-bill-c-31-protecting-canada-s-immigration-system-act). This is remarkably inhumane, it is also contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and International Law.
I also wrote expressing concern over the undemocratic procedures and general decline of political culture heralded by the Omnibus Budget Bill. I knew, even at the time of writing, that is was a crazy foolish gesture. I appealed to themes of justice and robust political culture to someone who grovels in adulation of some weird libertarian logic. Or, perhaps, at the end of the day, just another criminal in politician’s clothing. At any rate, I did get a letter in return, which informed me that I had not addressed my criticism particularly enough, and also pointing out to me how great the Conservative government was with its Economic Action Plan and all the jobs they had added to the “Economy.” I had composed my letter, initially, in response to a piece of propaganda I had received in the mail proudly touting the Tories commitment to the “Economy” and “Jobs”. I had explained in the letter how politically and ethically reprehensible it was to use “The Economy” as a justification for undermining human freedom and dignity and debasing Canadian political culture. I suspect it did not compute.
It seems the only language our current Canadian government speaks is that of “The Economy”, and that in a particularly truncated way. My MP did use the word shamelessly to refer to the NDP, for their efforts in attempting to block the legislation referred to above, and therefore “harming the economy.” Just what is the economy, though. Looking at the cuts that have been made recently the economy does not contain anything as substantial as, for instance, scientific research, education, environmental management, or other social services. What it does include is advertising – specifically advertising to praise the Conservatives “Economic Action Plan. In other words the Economic Action Plan ads are the Economic Action Plan end of story. As a recent CBC headline reveals: Conservatives commit $16M to ‘action plan’ ads while cutting programs. Approved funds just part of multi-million ad blitz by federal government.
I was reminded again of Giorgio Agamben’s work in The Kingdom and The Glory. Agamben argues that glory is a constitutive feature of modern political power. Power in the West, which has always assumed the form of an economy, that is, a government of people and things is actually constituted by the process of glorification, that is of liturgical ceremony and proclamation. In the phenomenon of advertising, then, we should be aware of what is going on. The “Economic Action Plan” is, in fact, a liturgical proclamation of the divine power of “the economy.” Only last Sunday I heard someone say that “money was as essential as God.” They said this not despondently or triumphantly but as though it were a lived reality. This is the message we are constantly fed, but that does not make it true. Any true Christian (or Marxist for that matter) should quickly smell the stench of idolatry here. Yet the fact that it was said is far less disturbing than the reality that our behaviour is conditioned by this statement.