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The Illusionists

“round and round, round it goes – where it stops nobody knows”
Steve Miller Band

The Conservative Government of Canada has finally realized that online teen bullying is a significant problem leading to a wide range of illegal and dangerous behaviour including the transmission of child pornography, photographing rape, harassment, threatening behaviour and verbal violence. In the same spirit of the former Liberal Government’s action to fight illegal gun crime with a Gun Registry of legal firearms, the Conservatives have announced a promotional campaign called Stop the Hate to run on television and selected online sites.

How is that campaign similar to the Gun Registry you might ask considering there is no government bureaucracy involved? It’s quite simple really – they’re both illusions of solutions; the appearance of doing something to address an issue without actually having to put any real thought into it.

In a recent study, fully 50% of those under 30 don’t watch television or access conventional news outlets. The campaign being developed says literally nothing much more than ‘Gee whiz, don’t promote hatred because it’s bad.”

Thanks for that straight ahead, focused and dynamic leadership – but then what can you expect? Increasingly, governments in general and politicians in particular have become little more than professional illusionists, people who have no more understanding of what to do about the major issues of the day than you or I and I’m not convinced that many of them know even as much.

Government’s change, the economy changes but no matter how many changes we make nothing actually changes. The problems and the challenges persist and are never resolved because they are never really addressed.

Everything is an illusion; a bit of sleight of hand meant to provide the appearance of leadership without actually accomplishing it.

Last year, Canada’s Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty was expressing his concern about the debt to income levels of the average Canadian and with good reason. That ratio was 50% higher than that of the average American. He was also concerned about the housing bubble but now that there is an election just twenty odd months away, the push is on to balance the budget – or at least – give the illusion of a balanced budget so that the government can cut taxes heading into the election.

Now the good Minister is opining that debt to income ratios really aren’t so bad and not much of a concern even though they have actually worsened over the past year and the famous housing bubble apparently has – well – disappeared. How does he do that? It’s magic and even the warnings of at least two of the big banks and some economists does nothing to distract from the latest illusion.

For the past year, the government has been crowing about having created 1 million new jobs and when the unemployment rate fell below 7% in October, Conservative Cabinet Ministers were tripping all over their thumbs to tweet the news on Twitter. Nobody bothered to acknowledge the fine print in the Stats Can report which clearly stated that the decline in unemployment was mostly due to people – especially young people – taking themselves out of the job market. Instead, we were all meant to believe the illusion that employment was on the upswing even though articles in the same news casts and newspapers were announcing layoffs and plant closures as major corporations announced they were relocating back to the United States.

Unemployment is unemployment and simply because someone has given up and reduced the number of those looking for work doesn’t translate into improved employment. It is another illusion pulled out of the hat along with a couple of rabbits and a white dove or two.

That illusion unfortunately didn’t last long. The latest job numbers show unemployment has risen back up over 7% in just two months and if the government did generate 1 million new jobs, the latest report shows that it was some time ago. Fewer than 150,000 new jobs have been created in the past five years.

It doesn’t matter the party, they are all run and staffed by illusionists of varying degrees of skill and ability.

Money is squandered, time is wasted and all to achieve illusions designed to reassure us that everything is under control. From the Ontario Liberal’s Green Energy Act fiasco to Barack Obama’s complete and utter health care disaster; from the Euro Zone’s mishandling of the Greece bailout to the carnage in the Middle East; the illusionists do more damage trying to work their cheap magic tricks than would be accomplished if they put the show business razzmatazz behind and simply left the stage and got to work.

We face serious challenges in our society today and we are divided on how to best address them. We need real leadership that can unite us by laying out alternatives for our consideration rather than the illusions they throw before us at election time.

Tell us the truth. Use simple language and lead the way. It is what real leaders do.

But then, to be an accomplished illusionist you need an audience willing to suspend disbelief in order to embrace the appearance of magic rather than the reality of it. Too many of us are only too willing to be part of that audience, embracing the illusions performed by those we support while condemning pretty much the same illusions performed by those we oppose.

And in the end, perhaps that makes us the greatest illusionists of all because no matter how many other people an illusionist may fool, they will never be as great as those who fool themselves.


© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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