The night chooses to become the dawn…
These lyrics by singer-songwriter Harry Manx may end up on a lectern in front of some political science professor one day.
I like the way he sings these words and there is poetic depth in them telling us something important about the very nature of change.
Some folks change political parties like some of us change our socks. But then again, I have seen a few of my fellow citizens in the same political dress for a lifetime, apparently oblivious to an ever-changing world.
Once a Tory, they say, always one.
These mainstays of our political heritage are simply the bedrock of democracy.
Or are they?
Maybe our contemporary state of affairs could benefit from a few more political cross-dressers.
The saga of a liberal gone astray — David Emerson in drag — is not a fashion statement one should don willy-nilly. And while it is difficult not to make light of such an unexpected “betrayal” of voter sentiment, there may be more here than meets the eye.
The shuffling of political alignments might be just what we need in order to inspire a political philosophy ripe for meeting the challenges of the modern world.
There is little doubt that if we are ever going to formulate a “global ecology,” a major political reorganization will most certainly be required to pave the way.
And if equitable redistribution of the world’s wealth is on the horizon, politics will certainly need to look very different from what it does today.
My point here is that while Emerson’s local riding has every reason to get their panties in a bunch, they might find some consolation in the fact that in the bigger picture he may be of little importance as either an elected Liberal or a self-appointed Conservative.
He certainly has not impressed me as either a slick dresser or a deep thinker.
Some day, and that time is increasingly close at hand, we will need to nurture a revolutionary political philosophy in which environmentalists and technologists, preservationists and industrialists find and hold common ground.
David Emerson aside, I know of no Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat or Green who has yet to don the perfect outfit for today’s world.
Politicians, and those who vote them into office, are so used to shopping off the rack that neither would dare be seen wearing flashy socks with a pin-stripped suit.
No politician has dared put forward the “mix and match” notions that global ecology, preferential treatment for small business, a strong and tightly woven social safety net, national mass transit, a polluter-pays environmentalism, an arm’s length relationship with an outdated and spurious NAFTA, and a back to the farm mentality is “good” dress for contemporary Canada.
Being stylish today requires us to first understand that environmental decay is inexorable linked to social conflict — neither the left nor the right seems to fully understand this.
Therefore, both political extremes inadvertently move us deeper into earthly putrefaction and more hopelessly toward increasingly violent forms of social conflict.
Protecting the environment while averting class warfare will require us to dress up in outfits we pulled together from previously unimaginable closets.
Both liberals and conservative must find a way to get comfortable and confident in buttoning up a wool shirt and then tucking it into polyester pants.
Politicians will hopefully find the language and the legislation to move Canada forward into a sustainable future by first taking most of their existing wardrobe to Goodwill.
The first intellectual article they need to recycle is the ill-gotten and poorly constructed notion that change is somehow possible without real progress.
Or equally inane, that we can somehow truly progress without real change.
And we need real change.
In our struggle to gain control of our own irrational and mostly drab selves, torn between what we value, what we feel we need, and what we think we must have, the fact of the matter is that no one expects the world to be coherent anymore.
That said, why in a world gone so far astray would we ever expect our political leaders to be of a single cloth — neat, predictable and colour co-ordinated.
For example, how in the world can our old traditional uniforms, fashioned at one time of the best liberal or conservative fabric, be any longer in style in a world in which there is no longer a middle class?
Nowadays, it seems, we are increasingly wealthy or impoverished.
Those of acceptable wealth are reluctant to back peddle to the middle and relinquish what they have worked hard to acquire. And those of us at the bottom are no longer inspired to climb out of our social and economic darkness.
And, it seems to me, both the poor and the affluent are equally more and more cynical about tomorrow. Our trust in ourselves and in our political system is driven by and clouded by such cynicism.
As such, we have inadvertently allowed our politics to become little more than fashionable cults. And when a politician abandons the cult we feel betrayed.
We immediately demand an exorcism, some sort of retribution, a pay back of some yet to be determined value, or in the case of David Emerson, another election.
In cult politics voters are no longer mere citizens or members, but unwitting adherents wrapped up in an almost insatiable devotion to ideals. Most of which are either necessarily vague or highly unattainable.
Somewhere along the way, and soon, we must begin to travel that back street where the night chooses to become the dawn. And we must be willing to dress up for a new day.
Both the left and the right must eventually move beyond the cult of politics and be willing to stand in the light of a few realizable truths:
None of us anywhere in the world, much less those in Emerson’s riding, can go much further without first endorsing a system of complete ecological restoration; nor can we expect to regain any real sense of hope without first envisioning a scenario in which all people are of the same class — none higher, certainly none lower.
Emerson appeared ill suited for pressing either truth.
Given that fact, the good folks of Vancouver-Kingsway have every reason to now dress up and go out on the town.