Opinion

Who do politicians today look up to?

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A groundhog prepared a feast while most folk struggled to keep body and soul together.

“Hi-diddle-dee-dee, no one but me,” sang the groundhog.

As he was about to eat, frantic knocks came to the door – a hungry rabbit, then an owl.

“Dear friends,” the groundhog said with a smile. “Don’t come around at dinner time.”

To be continued.

Stories like The Selfish Groundhog  in Copp Clark’s 1962 reader, It’s Story Time, illustrated models of conduct – fair play, honesty, and sharing with others less fortunate than yourself. Movies in those days were banned if they didn’t send the right messages: G-men get the bad guy; cowboys in white hats triumph over bad guys. Hop-Along Cassidy, and the Lone Ranger behaved morally. Kids looked up to them. The stories in Aesop’s Fables ended with a lesson in behavior – a moral.

I can’t see morality in the Liberals behavior leading up to the referendum of the HST. The B.C. Government wasn’t fair, transparent, or honest in not disclosing talks with the feds about the tax before an election. Open debate is a pillar of democracy.

What about imposing the HST when 70 per cent of us (Angus poll) hated the pre-tax process, and many still don’t fully understand how the HST will change their lives. Is that representative government?

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon thinks it’s his duty to convince the voters the HST is good for them. He justifies spending thousands of our tax dollars to do it. That’s not right.

Chris Delaney, of the Anti-HST Campaign, also seems to disapprove. Recently, I asked him if morality is the real issue in the HST debate.

“You’ve hit the nail on the head, Jack,” he replied. “The government lied about not bringing in the tax, and now is lying about how it will work to create jobs, lower prices, etc.”

Expansion of these contentions fill a 16-page document, “The truth about the HST and why returning to the PST is better for BC” (http://fighthst.com/hst-or-pst-the-truth-about-the-hst/).

This report debunks the government’s claim the HST benefits everyone. It says life will be harder for those with fixed incomes, the poor, families, seniors. Countries that have gone to a consumer-driven tax system, the report adds, have neared bankruptcy by encouraging tax fraud by business, while fueling a run-a-way underground economy (“80 per cent  of Greek citizens no longer pay taxes”).

There’s an amusing reference to France – another country with an HST system – of cops checking the bills of restaurant patrons to see if they paid the tax man. The report’s worth reading.

So, why do so many politicians today seem out of step with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Batman, and Aesop? Who do they look up to?

Maybe, it’s the Italian diplomat, Niccolo Machiavelli. In 1410, he wrote The Prince, a popular how-to-do-it-manual for heads-of-state. The book says a leader is entitled to use immoral means to achieve his goals, or hang on to power. This includes deceit and lying, vices Machiavelli says are “virtues” if they succeed for the prince.

This makes sense, doesn’t it? Imagine the chaos, for example, if the people got to be finance minister for a day.

What princes should be concerned about is not lying, says Machiavelli, but “knowing how to lie. However much he lies, he should keep the appearance of being truthful.”

Similarly, princes “should not worry about having good qualities,” Machiavelli explains, “because it will be necessary at times to act against them.” Besides, he adds, the people themselves aren’t good, so why should a prince try to be?

Still, the average person expects his leaders to behave better than himself. That’s why immoral behavior is risky. Sometimes, it ends in hatred and contempt by the people.

Don’t worry about that, either, advises Machiavelli. It’s only the “nobles,” the privileged class, the prince needs to fear. If he keeps this group happy, “he should have no concerns with conspirators.”

But who really wants to be seen in a bad light?  No problem, says Machiavelli.

“Although a bad reputation should be avoided, it is sometimes necessary to have one ... Men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared.”

In fact, a prince “must sometimes choose evil,” if he wishes to retain control.

Some princes are doing that now – in Iran, Egypt, Syria – for example. Immorality in politics anywhere is a slippery slope.

I promised to continue The Selfish Groundhog story. The last visitor to his house came through an open window. It was a snake.

The groundhog told him also that he wasn’t invited to the table.

“That’s okay,” replied the snake, “I didn’t come for your dinner. I came to eat you.”

Starting June 22nd, B.C. voters decide if the HST is a table set with them in mind, and if not, what they’ll do about it.

In our opening tale, it took the bite of a snake to correct the groundhog’s immoral behavior. Enough yes-to-rescind votes, the Anti-HST paper reminds us, will change how government behaves in B.C. forever.

The snake found an open window. After June 13, when ballots are mailed out, voters will have theirs.

 

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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