Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

what we think about the upcoming election

Let's explain right away what might seem like a grating affectation: when we're freaked out, we think to ourselves in the first person plural because it tends to make us feel less lonely. (We know, we know, we are deeply neurotic. We are hoping maybe some other people do similar, perhaps less ridiculous, things under stress and will be comforted, however coldly, by the knowledge that...well, that there is lower to sink, we guess.)

We were bullied fairly comprehensively as children, and never really got over it, because we have never seen any reliable reason to abandon the fundamental lesson about power we learned in those days: power is either malicious, wilfully negligent or, at its very best, intermittently and haphazardly compassionate. The people who wield power are interested in more power; they are not reliably concerned with our well-being.

Growing up as prey, we learned some other lessons too: run fast, make friends with other prey, be sarcastic under your breath. And we learned the exception to the above rule regarding power: if a predator has just made a big public statement about the importance of compassion, he can be relied upon to demonstrate compassion for as long as his audience is paying attention. Also (the Chretien rule) he may demonstrate compassion to piss off other predators, as long as there are no serious repercussions waiting in the wings.

We are worried about the upcoming election, because nobody seems to be making any big public statements about the importance of compassion, and nobody can safely piss anybody off with a demonstration of humanitarianism without losing power. We are no longer worried primarily about ourselves; we are worried about our fellow prey, cowering over caches of oil around the world.

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The other side to this: we first heard about the possibility of nuclear annihilation on the radio. We were about ten, going (possibly) to church with our mom, and someone on the CBC was interviewing someone whom we now think was probably Helen Caldicott. Whoever it was described in vivid detail what would happen to us at various distances from Ground Zero.

Ever since then, we have been waiting in some part of our brain for the other shoe to drop, breathlessly anticipating the World Bully's Final Tantrum. There is a part of us, then, in league with the fundamentalists who are praying to speed the Rapture; like a vole who trembles under the paw's soft pressure and wishes, horribly, for the jaws to snap shut.