Once upon a time a year ago, I wrote a “popular” blog post on my otherwise less-popular Tumblr. And by popular, of course, I mean my friends really liked it…because, you know, I’m really living the new media dream over here.
The positive reception from my friends was actually more than I could have asked for, especially in this case. The blog post was an open letter/slap in the face aimed directly at many of these very friends, not to mention myself. Context: At the time, a couple of Facebook-mediated political debates had gotten WAY too personal. Friendships were being literally put on hold over this. No exaggeration. The Big Picture was my attempt to cool tension with the cunning use of logic, blow-up dolls, and chimpanzee warfare. Our many nights spent eye-rolling and taking offense needed to STOP.
Those nights did stop, of course. Tones softened, people apologized, we switched to discussing Friday night exploits and well-formed opinions the latest Google doodle. You know, current affairs.
Why does this matter now? Certainly, no one in my circle has had a bi-partisan fiesta recently. The Big Picture, as I called it, continues to be realized in most circumstances. Still, I started thinking very intensely about this old blog post the other day. Not in its previous context, of course–I can’t even really remember that context properly. Rather, there was one line I wrote in there which got me thinking, a line which is actually quite disturbing in retrospect:
“And then you pull his hair and he kicks you in the balls and soon your front yard looks like the House of Commons. Cue shitshow.”
To answer your first question: Yes, this is what I consider “rhetoric.” I would like to thank the Ontario education system. I would also like to thank whoever taught me the term “shitshow.”
To answer you second question: The hair pulling/ball kicking thing is not the disturbing part. I don’t think there is much actual ball-kicking action happening in the House of Commons. I consider myself an authority in these matters, you see, on account of that one time in residence when I played a weird Question Period drinking game.
…actually, I’m an authority in these matters because in first year I logged enough hours of CPAC background noise to invent said drinking game, but that’s beside the point.
The point: Unless I am seriously missing something, I think it’s fair to say that Parliament is usually relatively free of any (literal) ball-kicking. Why, then, does my 2011 impression of the House of Commons involve directionless catfighting? It’s not a good sign that, looking to allude to a dead-end animal throwdown, I jumped to “Oh! A shitshow! You mean like that thing that happens when we put our political representatives together in a room?”
Something is very wrong with that picture.
First of all, I will absolutely defend this impression. It may be really messed up that I was so quick to go there, but it wasn’t baseless. And I’m certainly not the only person to make this comparison. In the thick of the Robocall scandal this spring, for example, an editorial in the Ottawa Sun proclaimed “If I said MPs sound like monkeys fighting over bananas I’d get letters from monkeys pointing out that at least they could see bananas.”
Harsh, but I’m just saying–I am neither the first nor last to have compared Parliament to a zoo. Credit where credit is due: In a proper debate, sometimes the claws need to come out. That said, though, a couple of recent news stories have been showing a side of the House of Commons which comes just a littttttle too close to that monkey-brawl analogy for my liking.
Cases in point: The NDP heckled Green Party leader Elizabeth May so badly during question period that she had to sit down–and after settling the crowd, the Deputy Speaker didn’t even think to ask her to finish her interrupted point [video]. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have been wasting everyone’s time talking about how devastating a “carbon tax” would be…arguments made a just a bit less relevant by the fact that a carbon tax is not even on the table (the opposition party never even proposed it…their platform opts for cap-and-trade. Not the same thing.).
These stories may not amount to ball-kicking/hair pulling, but it’s certainly not what we hired these people to do. And the shitshow, if I may reuse the term, is coming from both sides.
I can’t suggest a solution at this very moment, per se, but I might suggest that it’s really time for us taxpayers to put our business hats on and raise the bar for these politicians, also known as our employees.
Ah, yes. That’s right. These Members of Parliament are our employees. Specifically, they are our issues management employees. We have a large and diverse organization to keep afloat, this “Canada,” so we have brought in issues managers that represent the ideologies, principals, and interests of all stakeholders. Members of Parliament, we call them. And we pay them. We pay them to come together and make things work.
I’m not saying it’s an easy gig, but there are many jobs that aren’t easy. These politicians signed up to be Canada’s problem solvers. In fact, we hired them as Canada’s problem solvers. So, yes, when we put them in a room with other problem solvers, we should have the absolute expectation that they respectfully try to actually solve problems.
(Yes, this bothers me enough to use italics three times in a paragraph. Shit just got real.)
Right now, I’m looking at what’s happening at Headquarters (aka the House of Commons) and I just want to call in Human Resources. I want to flip the company culture. Most of all, I want everyone to know that they are on hardcore probation. Because while our politicians are technically always on probation, it would be cool if they brought that attitude to work with them.
Example A: in a meeting, even one centered around debate and controversy, it’s probably not a good idea to shout and heckle someone down to silence while your bosses are watching.
Example B: in a meeting, even one centered around debate and controversy, it’s probably not a good idea to sit around the table sharing hypocritical gossip about colleagues rather than discussing solutions.
Relentlessly barking at your co-workers to shut up? Not acceptable. Using blatant falsehoods to sabotage co-workers with whom you are supposed to solve critical problems? Not acceptable. Flaunting this behavior in front of your bosses?
Yeah, I’m sticking with my “zoo” analogy.
And guess what, folks? We’re the bosses. We’re watching. Would you pay an employee charged with problem solving/issues management to run around in circles trying to silence their co-workers? Or, worse, embark on a transparent campaign to get these co-workers fired?
We should be running a Canada which doesn’t accept the people on our payroll wasting time gossiping around the water cooler about how those orange guys across the hall rub them the wrong way. We certainly shouldn’t accept them bringing that attitude into an issues management meeting. And when our employees scream and shout at the green lady until she sits down?
She’s there for a reason. We hired her. And we hired them. This isn’t an issues manufacturing branch–this is issues management. Let’s run it that way.