Open mic: Fire alarms and bribed referees

'What was I really like in high school?'

Mike Shields.

Mike Shields.

I hesitate to critique a letter to the editor that begins, “Mike Shields is right”.

But the reason I contribute this column – and host community forums is in hope of fostering a higher level of public discourse.

And thus associating my name with what in the next sentences became a hyper partisan screed cannot go unchallenged.

Especially when the claim (a federal NDP government would be by far the most corrupt) misstates the actual point I was making (when the entire system is corrupt, why not take all you can get?).

Now I’m not suggesting an inability to comprehend nuance disqualifies readers from a right to express their opinion – but we all know that’s not the issue here.

When as a naive 25-year-old, I ran for MP in this, my hometown riding. The most discomforting discovery was the extent people who believed themselves well-meaning were unfathomably close-minded – and consequently eager to deploy ‘the end justifies the means’ behaviour. I was basically an independent with zero chance to win, but performed well enough in all-candidate debates to – humourously, from today’s perspective – be subjected to irrelevant rumours about, and completely contrary to, what I “was really like in high school.”

Rather than specifics, I’ll mix metaphors to suggest my generation was raised believing 2 a.m. fire alarms and bribed referees were tactics “evil, godless, commies” might resort to – but not “Team Canada.”

On principle then, if one’s candidate evidences relative mediocrity, the solution should be emergency tutorials (see Palin, Sarah) – or even better, a rethinking of future selection processes. Torpedoing every boat flying a different colored flag leaves only dingy’s to catch fish with over the next four years.

It’s plain lazy to maintain that every politician is terrible. The local city counsellor I know personally takes a cut in pay to undertake civic responsibilities, whilst our new mayor spent her own funds seeking that often thankless position.

But when it comes to party politics, the main criteria seems to be a resume of rabid loyalty to whichever Hogwarts house you were assigned (at least partly by birth).

Nonetheless, if our political spectrum were a football field, the ball doesn’t ever move much beyond either 30-yard line.

To wit, were even the most hard-core lefties elected, they wouldn’t be able to announce Proposal No. 1 before powers-that-be would start holding the economy hostage. (See former U.S. president Richard Nixon’s order to the CIA to “make Chile’s economy scream” after it elected a popular leftist government in 1970.)

Admittedly, there is the political theory ‘if you’re not cheating you’re not trying.’ And American voters are still deriding president Barack Obama as a socialist, despite all-time record high corporate profit levels and stock market indexes, proving at least some of the public prefer sound bites to logic.

But hyperbolizing how much more your opponent might steal than what you were  caught with is, at best, a recipe for more of the same.

Moreover, it’s exactly this process of demonizing the opposition that I presume is the basis on which too many MPs rationalize turning a blind eye to Senate (and other) abuses. I mean, when the road to power is decades of playing the devoted soldier, it’s understandable if getting your due is a more urgent priority than trying to do good.

Bear in mind that in saying this, I’m not a member of any party. But I would not only vote for but contribute to any candidate who I believe would speak the truth, especially if their voice shakes doing so.

But until you can make such a positive argument, to paraphrase Jon Stewart’s suggestion to U.S. television pundits: “Please stop, you’re hurting Canada”.



Mike Shields grew up locally and hosts SFU’s Philosopher’s Café Sessions at the Maple Ridge Act Theater, 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of every month.