Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Slippery Slopes

I've never held much with “slippery-slope” arguments. The kinds that say if we make one small change, it will lead to other changes of greater magnitude and like a snowball rolling down a hill (slippery slope??) will gain momentum and size and the world will go to hell in a handcart.

But there are slippery-slope cases in our history and in our current reality that are either getting—or ought to be—real attention and action.

Today Justice Murray Sinclair presents the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The report will show that what appeared to be a solution to the “Indian problem” for fully 100 years turned out to be a thinly-veiled conspiracy to commit what is now called “cultural genocide.” Residential schools alienated children from their parents, parenting practices with thousands of years of history behind them were disrupted, destroyed, it's effects echoing down the hills of time to the present—and likely beyond. That decision to use education to “take the Indian out of the man” represented a true slippery-slope turning point in our history.

Another item in the news today should probably be given some serious slippery-slope analysis. World unemployment is rising, the reliance on part time work, handouts and low-paying, meaningless work for survival is on the increase world wide. Globalization, free-trade agreements, have meant that jobs can go anywhere in the world, and generally to the poorest areas where desperation has meant that people either work for a pittance or content themselves with nothing at all. 

Failing to check the corporatization of industry and government was a “small change” that was a snowball at the top of a slippery slope. It's not a precursor for global peace, is it? Here in Canada, the attack by industry and governments on trade unions is symbolic of a process having the effect of enriching upper classes by shrinking the possibilities of those who do the work.

The worst unemployment rates are in the Middle East and in Northern Africa, according to Brian Stewart. These are also the regions where uprisings and insurgencies are decimating populations, creating massive refugee problems and rendering states ungovernable. Although we blame "evil people" like ISIS (ISIL?) and Al Qaeda for the problems, the turmoil may be nothing more nor less than a logical conclusion to decisions made earlier, decisions that failed to recognize potential slippery-slope effects.

As regards Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, another failure to reset the relationship between First Nations and the Canadian government will undoubtedly have quite predictable effects down the road. It's up to us settler-citizens to make sure that the recommendations of the Commission are seriously addressed.

The most pernicious aspect of slippery slopes is that once you start the slide down one, it's damned hard to stop yourself.

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