The band is warming up to play Auld Lang Syne for the Political Panel.
It’s the last time this year CBC legislative reporter Adam Hunter and Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk will get together to discuss Saskatchewan politics.
This time they are joined by Morning Edition guest host, Peter Mills.
On the agenda is that intriguing meeting between federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his Saskatchewan counterpart Dustin Duncan.
Panel members are also giving their highs and lows of provincial politics in 2019.
How to make African politics less costly – The Economist
AYISHA OSORI, a Nigerian lawyer and author, has vividly described running for political office in her country. She twists the arms of party elders, flatters their wives and hands over wads of banknotes—the cleaner the better. “Without money”, she concludes, “most aspirations would evaporate like steam.”
Politics costs money everywhere, but the link between cash and power is especially corrosive in Nigeria and across much of Africa. In rich democracies parties choose candidates and subsidise their campaigns. In many African ones aspiring politicians pay vast sums to run on a party ticket and then shell out even more to cover their own costs. They give voters handouts, which serve both as bribes and as hints of future generosity. Once in office, they keep spending: on constituents’ school fees, medical bills, funeral costs and construction projects (see article). Individual politicians, in effect, act as mini welfare states. Some 40% of ambulances in Uganda are owned by MPs. Their spending often dwarfs their official salaries.
This is bad for Africa. When a life in politics costs so much, the impecunious and honest will be excluded. Many MPs will either be rich to begin with, or feel the need to abuse power to recoup their expenses, or both. Even if they are not corrupt, MPs are a poor substitute for a genuine welfare state. Their largesse may go to those who ask loudest, or to a favoured ethnic group.
So long as states are weak, it makes sense for voters to ask their MPs for handouts, rather than for better laws or help to navigate the bureaucracy. It is also rational for MPs to neglect legislative work in favour of gifts and pork, if this is what voters say they want. But as Africa develops, this should change. As voters grow richer, they will be harder to buy. As governments grow more effective, MPs will have fewer gaps to fill. Alas, these shifts could take decades.
Africans need something better, sooner. Outsiders often suggest tougher campaign-finance laws, but these seldom work. They are often ignored. And laws copied from the West tend to miss the point, by regulating spending by parties before elections, rather than by sitting MPs.
Better would be to take a different approach. One aim would be to strengthen institutions that expose and punish corruption. Last year Malawians booted out the graft-ridden regime of Peter Mutharika thanks, in large part, to independent judges. Politicians who see graft punished are more likely to stay clean.
Another aim would be to encourage parties to run on policies, rather than ethnicity or patronage. African NGOs, trade unions and business groups should nudge them in this direction—or help set up alternatives. New parties, such as Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform in Uganda, are gaining popularity partly because they oppose the old rot. Philanthropists could give them money—and ask nothing in return.
The essential thing is to curb MPs’ informal role as sources of welfare. The long-term fix would be to make local governments work properly. A stopgap is to improve Constituency Development Funds. These are pots of public money to be spent largely at the discretion of MPs. More than a dozen African countries have them. They are not as grubby as they sound. Research from Kenya finds that voters judge MPs on how they use these funds, so they offer some accountability. With greater transparency, they would offer more.
Africa has grown more democratic in the past 30 years. Multi-party elections are common, albeit often flawed. Opposition parties are gaining ground. Most leaders leave office peacefully, rather than in coups. Politics is becoming more competitive. The next step is to make it less costly. ■
This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Fixing Africa’s pricey politics”
ICRC Humanitarian Law & Policy blog: The grand scheme: power and politics in the climate crisis – World – ReliefWeb
Even in the midst of a pandemic, during a seemingly endless cascade of events, climate change remains a defining issue. Its effects are even more severe for people affected by conflict and violence, who find themselves navigating the collision of war and environmental crises. How can the humanitarian community work with affected people to design policies and practices that have an impact?
In this post, Malvika Verma, a project development officer for ACTED Sri Lanka and India, argues that to strengthen climate action in conflict settings, a solid understanding of people’s vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities must be informed by the bigger picture – an analysis of pre-existing circuits of power and political relationships.
Read the full blog post here
How Giving Up Ableist Insults Can Help Heal Our Politics – Forbes
The long struggle to unlearn ableism may have an unexpected side benefit. It could help us make today’s politics and public discourse a little less toxic.
American politics were never as friendly as we like to think they once were. But they have felt particularly nasty for quite a few years now – that’s not just our imaginations. Most of us have a vaguely-defined but strong and understandable desire to “go back” to a kinder, less tense and corrosive dialog with our neighbors and fellow citizens – in person, on social media, and especially in politics.
How do we achieve civility when real issues divide us? Our conflicts are more than just rudeness and pointless rivalry, although we have more than enough of those, too. Real grievances need airing, and real injustices cry out for accountability. Does civility mean compromising on our own or other people’s humanity and worth? Should human rights be open to debate? Is bipartisan harmony really better, if we simply agree on who will remain oppressed and precisely how much? When the stakes of political argument are real and life-altering, harmony and bipartisanship for their own sakes seem a little less important.
Still, we aren’t wrong to crave a bit more mutual respect and a more chill atmosphere in politics. The trick is figuring out how to get there without simplistic difference-splitting or unilateral surrender. How do we make our politics more polite and respectful, while still standing firm for our beliefs and working on real solutions to our difficult problems?
One way we might start rebuilding respect without backing down on substance is to give up one specific and popular rhetorical style. We might stop calling our political opponents “stupid” and “crazy.” It seems like a small thing. But we might find that kicking the habit of insulting people based on intelligence and sanity is a remarkably low-cost way to lower the temperature of politics, and turn us away from petty name-calling so we can focus on the conflicts that really matter.
It’s not just about banning two words, “stupid” and “crazy.” It’s about weaning ourselves off the entire approach of criticizing opposing political views by calling those who hold them unintelligent or irrational. It’s taking care to stop calling people “idiots,” “morons,” and “dummies” – or calling them “nuts,” “certifiable,” and “insane.”
It’s what most of us seem to do when we are so frustrated by “the other side” that we can’t even describe exactly what’s wrong. We slap a label of “stupidity” or “insanity” on it, and rely on deeply ingrained, fundamentally ableist contempt and fear to do our arguing for us. We know it’s not the most noble form of debate. But it’s so common and, frankly, often so emotionally satisfying that giving up the practice won’t be easy. We will need good reasons to give up this easy and seductive brand of name-calling.
First of all, it really is ableist. “Stupid,” “crazy,” and their equivalents may or may not insult a particular disabled person in any given situation. But these terms always support the core ableist assumption that intellectual impairments and mental illnesses are inherently bad and invalidating. We use intelligence and rationality this way in political arguments because of the widespread belief, or maybe just a habit of thinking, that intellectually disabled and mentally ill people don’t have ideas worth listening to – that they are worthless and dismissible. If those ableist assumptions really weren’t there, the words wouldn’t have the same power and effect, and we wouldn’t be so in love with using them against our political foes.
But these insults and labels aren’t just offensive to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or those with mental illness. And they aren’t just harmful in the way they uphold ableist assumptions about people with those disabilities. Labels and insults based on intelligence and mental illness also add more pointless rancor and incivility to our politics and public discourse. These kinds of insults further foul our already hateful political discourse this without any compensating benefit to anyone, including those of us who use them.
They make political conflicts personal, distracting us from real issues and ideas of consequence.
They aren’t in the least persuasive or helpful to better understanding, because they short circuit real discussion of substantive issues.
Instead of helping us explore the outlines and contours of our disagreements, they signal superiority, contempt, and dismissal.
Using mental illness diagnoses for political and ideological purposes also has a dark history, including in Soviet Russia where political dissidents were often branded as “mentally ill” and detained, based partly on the idea that only an “insane” person could disagree with approved doctrines.
Meanwhile, calling actual cruel, bigoted, violent people – and both extreme anarchists and authoritarians too –“insane” or “stupid” lets them off lightly. It also distracts us from more serious and specific problems like racism and other forms of bigotry, and from political violence which brings literal harm and suffering, and threatens the core of democracy itself. It’s much easier to call racists and terrorists “idiots” and “lunatics” than to contend with the deeper things that actually drive their thinking and actions.
Over several decades, intelligence and mental illness insults, both explicit and implied, have also fueled two of the key narratives of our current political divide:
First there is the perceived conflict and unbridgeable cultural gulf between “elite” liberals who think conservatives are ignorant, unintelligent, or mentally ill, and “heartland” Americans who feel disparaged and looked down upon by “costal, liberal elites.” Like all stereotypes, these are often exaggerated. But judging by rhetoric alone, at least some of the Left’s contempt for the Right really does seem based on perceptions of intelligence and sanity.
It’s a theme heard loudly and explicitly in pretty much every speech at a Trump rally, and further illustrated by numerous stories on Fox News and other conservative media outlets. And it’s a narrative heavily reinforced from both Left and Right through whole sectors of popular culture, from music to comic books, and from movies and TV shows to comedy acts and beer commercials.
Then there is a kind of mirror version of this conflict, in which a certain strain of conservative or libertarian believes themselves to be the smart ones, grounded in a more logical, objective, and honest form of intelligence and rationality that overly emotional, hopelessly indoctrinated liberals lack. They don’t believe that they just happen to be smarter and more rational than liberals. A particular type of intelligence and rationality is at the heart of their own perceived political identity, as is the supposed “stupidity” and “irrationality” of their opponents.
This is most notable in the niche popularity of “rational” or “skeptical” communities on social media and especially YouTube, much of which in the last several years has moved to the Right politically and is driven by contempt for “social justice warriors” of the Left. Again, their core argument is that they are smart and rational, while left-wing “Social Justice Warriors” are “dumb” and “illogical.”
In both cases, intelligence and rationality are championed as the ultimate validations, while stupidity and insanity are the ultimate put-downs. Roughly speaking, “both sides” really do seem to do it, though it’s rarely an even match. The point is that there seems to be a broad consensus across the political spectrum that it’s both a fact and a strong argument to call your political opponents “stupid” or “nuts.”
This specific brand of rhetoric is just one of many factors fueling incivility. Giving it up won’t solve everything. But it is a factor, and moving away from it may be one of the easiest ways to foster a better political atmosphere, because it doesn’t involve any real concessions from anyone.
By at least trying to move to less ableist rhetoric, we may find that we are contributing to civility. If we stop insisting that we are smarter, mentally healthier, or fundamentally better people than our opponents, it won’t undo our substantive conflicts. But it could remove part of what makes our natural divisions wider: contempt for the other, and the feeling that the other holds us in contempt.
Unlike other changes and trade offs, this one should be relatively easy, or at least simple. We really can stop calling our political opponents “stupid” or “crazy,” or any words for judging intelligence and sanity. Instead, we can refocus on criticizing ideas, actions, and arguments, with evidence and compelling counter-arguments.
It won’t end ableism, and it won’t create total harmony in politics. But it could reduce the sum total tonnage of both ableism and political rancor in everyday life. It seems worth a try on both counts.
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