If you’re reading this, the world did not end December 21, as some doomsday crackpots and deluded hippies believe was predicted by the Mayan long-count calendar.
That doesn’t mean 2012, as a year, didn’t deserve to die. In many ways, this does feel like the end times. Politically, socially, economically, and above all, environmentally, we are hurtling toward self-destruction.
Since winning their coveted majority in 2011, the federal Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has trampled Canadian democracy in a festival of contempt for parliamentary traditions and transparency.
With the two omnibus bills passed in 2012, the Tories weakened or cut hundreds of laws and programs that protect our precious waterways, safeguard the rights of working people, support low-income earners and ensure the checks and balances that are vital to a healthy democracy.
While programs to nurture innovation and knowledge industries are slashed, the oil industry is given a free hand to poison our environment and hasten global warming. Now, Harper is allowing China’s totalitarian dictatorship to buy up the Alberta oil sands, and to import their own low-paid workforce to boot. In this, as in so many other areas, the Conservatives are on the wrong side of history.
For instance, just as the government announced it will further ease gun-ownership rules in Canada, a troubled young man in Newport, Connecticut, takes an automatic rifle on a shooting spree at an elementary school. This time, the Americans’ cherished right to bear military assault weapons claimed the lives of 20 six-year-olds and six adults. It’s the 31st school massacre in the U.S. since the Columbine shooting in April 1999.
I know many Cree are strong opponents of gun control. But I find it hard to understand why the American gun lobby can so easily buy off or intimidate Congress to such a degree that prevents a minimum of controls on access to this kind of needless firepower. Nonetheless, this is where our government wants to take us.
So that’s where we find ourselves at the end of 2012: with a society based on secrecy, protection for foreign economic interests over our own rights and economic health, and facing a mindless but determined operation to eliminate democratic safeguards.
Thankfully, democracy is a hard thing to kill. We have heroes willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the common good. Heroes such as Attiwapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who is waging an indefinite hunger strike until Prime Minister Harper will finally deign to hear her well-founded concerns for the health of her people.
Harper has time to meet Justin Bieber for a photo op, but for the leader of a desperately impoverished Canadian community? He can’t find a slot in his daytimer.
I cling to optimism, however. The overwhelming moral advantage that Chief Spence wields against the petulant nastiness of the Harper regime makes her a source of inspiration, and of hope.
Likewise, the historic student mobilization of the spring and summer in Quebec against an implacable foe and almost uniform media contempt and ridicule is cause for celebration. Former Premier Jean Charest tried to exploit the student resistance to tuition hikes in a desperate gamble to cling to power by posing as the defender of social order in the September election, despite the flagrant corruption of his Liberal government.
The students’ victory was more than a simple financial calculation in preventing tuition hikes. Current students would barely have been affected. Rather, they fought for an incredibly important principle of preserving access to higher education for future students, no matter the income of their parents.
For his troubles, the powers that be are trying to bludgeon student leader Daniel Nadeau-Dubois with a legal club; he’s been convicted of contempt of court for having publicly defended the right of students to be politically active, though he will almost certainly be acquitted on appeal. For his sacrifice on our children’s behalf, I also salute Nadeau-Dubois as a hero of 2012.
So, despite the ominous portents we face, I have reason to look forward to 2013 with renewed confidence. History is not over. Indeed, the Mayan long-count calendar did not end on December 21 with the completion of the 13th Baktun cycle. In fact, the Mayans calculated their time measurement millions of years into the future. And that means that all people of goodwill have work to do in the New Year.
I wish you peace, love and prosperity.