For Corrie, Dana and Erin. For Isaac, Elliot and Ruby. For Sean and Kyle. For Consuelo.
TheIndispensableNation is a forum on the complex and seemingly intractable problems of climate crisis and nuclear conflict - problems profoundly shaped by America's actions around the world. They share with other public policy issues - such as poverty, health, food insecurity, inequality, and political instability (and often termed "wicked problems") - the following key characteristics: they are symptomatic of other interrelated issues; they have no definitive formulation or template for resolution; they arise from multiple explanations; and they are solely the result of human actions. The central nature of wicked problems is that they cannot be "fixed," only mitigated, and even then only through an interdisciplinary collaboration borne of time and perseverance.
But the problems of climate crisis and nuclear war are so much more than public policy issues - at their core is the survival of our species, and that of all those which gave rise to humanity. And since time is clearly not on our side, this elevates these problems to the status of "super wicked problems." The existential nature of this class of problem demands we rise in opposition to this debilitating status quo. TheIndispensableNation seeks to be part of that mobilization - to encourage each of us to be, as Chris Hedges suggests, rebels rather than slaves - and to exercise what is perhaps the last vestige of our humanity not yet controlled by the corporate state. But if, on the other hand, our small efforts amount to little more than a personal statement, we'll be content to revel in the sublime madness of it. In any case, we recognize there is much that is missing from the first iteration of the site, and yet still in each that follows, but we'll endeavour to do better with each revision.
Wait. What! Who? The launch of our site on January 20, 2018 marked the first bat-shit-crazy year of Orange Thing's administration ("marked" in much the same way a dog lifts its hind leg). Our work began with OT's inauguration, and this leant a surreal wait-this-can't-be-happening vibe to the project, particularly as so much of his lunacy touched upon the existential issues at the site's core. The madness swirling about His Orangeness will surely intensify, a certainty demonstrated by the release of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury. Based on his access to and discussions with OT's senior staff and advisors, Wolff formed an indelible impression "that they all - 100 percent - came to believe he [Trump] was incapable of functioning in his job." OT is a buffoon, a moron, a dope, an idiot (all according to his staff); he is illiterate, possesses a shockingly limited attention span, and zero capacity to process critical information. He is, thus, a clear and present danger to both the U.S. and to the world.
But it is not just the moron-in-chief - or even the ideologues in his administration gleefully running amok within the machinery of the U.S. government - against whom we must rail. OT is both the culmination and indictment of the last 30 years of right-wing U.S. politics, and of the moneyed interests that have driven its fascist agenda. As Chris Hedges has said, OT and today's Republican party "represent the last stage in the emergence of corporate totalitarianism." It is against these corporate elites, these masters of the universe, that we must rise up. It is they who control the machinery of our demise - they personify the kleptocratic state "defined by legalized bribery and unchecked exploitation."
Oh, Canada! We will remain relentlessly critical of the U.S power elites on matters of empire, war, and economic depredation, all of whom have coalesced around the country's exceptionalism in such a way as to heighten the twin perils of climate catastrophe and nuclear war. Our assessment of America will remain unchanged as long as America stays its present course. To be fair, though, the elites and their enablers in many nations have played their own roles in delivering us all to the brink. Consider, then, our home and native land, the TrueNorth! strong and free. Canada is a product of the same 500-year-long rampage of European destruction and conquest that birthed the United States. And, while we above the 49th have never incinerated a Japanese city or unilaterally violated the sovereignty of another nation, and have only occasionally obstructed the United Nation's work in support of an increasingly desperate world community, there is still much for which we must answer.
The most obvious of our current failings is in our environmental record, graded as "D" by the Conference Board of Canada, which ranked us "14th among 16 peer countries when it comes to environmental performance, with only the United States and Australia doing worse." As well, in its 2017 Environmental Performance Review, the OECD noted of Canada:
"it remains the second most carbon-intensive OECD country (after Estonia) and the fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Rising emissions from transport and oil production mean that overall, Canada’s emissions have declined by just 1.5% since 2000 compared with an average decrease of 4.7% across the OECD area."
And in reports issued in October, 2017, by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand noted that "in two important areas - reducing greenhouse gases and adapting to the impacts of climate change - the federal government has yet to do much of the hard work that is required to bring about this fundamental shift."
For example, instead of developing a detailed action plan to reach the 2020 target for reducing emissions, the government changed its focus to the 2030 target. In addition, the government did not pursue a number of greenhouse gas regulations, thereby losing opportunities to achieve real reductions in emissions. The recent Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change calls for policies aimed at reducing emissions in a number of sectors. It is crucial that the government turn its plan into actions.
In concluding her summary remarks, Ms Gelfand urged the government to move from "a seemingly endless planning mode into an action mode," in clear recognition that "Canada is already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate." On matters related to the looming climate catastrophe, then, Canada can claim no smug self-satisfaction in comparisons with the U.S. - even as Scott Pruitt publicly wages war on the environment through his anti-science, industry-friendly reboot of the EPA.
But it is in matters of racism that Canada is truly shamed. While we do score in the upper rank of nations in the Social Progress Index, and our reputation for multiculturalism and tolerance and inclusion resonates favourably around the world, Canada's treatment of its native population borders on genocide. Our race problem has been described as even worse than America's:
"By almost every measurable indicator, the Aboriginal population in Canada is treated worse and lives with more hardship than the African-American population."
Deep-seated racial tensions were recently highlighted by the acquittal of Gerald Stanley on charges of second-degree murder in the killing of Colten Boushie of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation.
As our 150-year celebration concludes, it is important to acknowledge that the tragedy of Canada's First Nations has deep historical roots. A measure of that truth can be gained from a visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. The most impressive space in this wonderful facility is the Indigenous Perspectives Gallery where the horrifying narrative of Canada's residential schools is recounted, and from which has emerged one of the many reconciliation initiatives to coincide with our 150-year centenary. And of all the many worthy and welcome efforts emerging across the country, perhaps the most typically Canadian acknowledgement of the plight of our indigenous people can be found in theSecret Path project by the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie.
Of course, the shame of our residential school system is a topic far removed from that of the looming extinction of life on earth - so, too, our apartheid-like reserve system, or the dismal failure to address the disappearance of thousands of native women. But it perhaps is a thread worth pulling, because it speaks to a growing indifference to life - to some life, to other life - which seems, increasingly, to mirror our timid response to the twin perils. Perhaps we have too readily come to accept some losses as inevitable; that some life - other life - may simply be disposable. Witness, for example, Canada's complicity in the Israeli-inflicted misery of Gaza's Palestinians as the moral equivalent of our treatment of our indigenous peoples.
Life Devalued Canada's failings, both at home and abroad, are not unique. They are in fact consistent with Western nations' broad complicity with and adherence to U.S. policies of global economic and military domination. America's rise as a superpower was always predicated on its easy tolerance for acceptable losses in other countries - a price it has no difficulty imposing today in Syria and Afghanistan and Yemen.
We in the West have become habituated to this notion, and we have granted the United States immunity from actions no other nation would ever contemplate. That tolerance must end. The ease with which we accept the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings each year is lately reprised in our quiet, collective, indifferent shrug to news of the 6th mass extinction - an enormous loss of biodiversity to the ravages of climate change that rings no alarms, even as it portends the next big event, the loss of millions of human lives. As we cynically calculate the accepted assessments of worth and value, we contribute to a view that the poor have simply chosen to be, and that some peoples have justly earned their desperate plight.
It is, then, a rather short rhetorical journey from losses that are inevitable to life that is disposable to countries that are shitholes - and not much further still to the self-serving calculations which will ultimately lead us to abandon entire regions and vulnerable peoples caught in the death grip of climate catastrophe or war, or both. And this brings us, full circle, to the very first words on the very first page of our site:
"When we say that the United States is the sole, indispensable country in the world, are we not saying that other countries are dispensable?"
Now is the time to confront the world's super wicked problems - to which America is central - because, as we surely must know, soon enough, they will confront us.