“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll.
In the poem from Through the Looking Glass, Carroll was writing advice for youthful innocents. He was also commenting on 19th century Britain, where political reform was resisted by wealthy landed aristocracy, who fought vigorously against sharing power with anyone beyond reluctantly enfranchised male middle class urban-dwelling householders.
Lewis’ walrus and carpenter represent the ruling classes and their helpers. They blithely make insincere promises, talk of grand possibilities without concern for practicality and distract all with trivialities and blather. They invite the oysters (the multitudes) to follow them for pleasant times. Of course, the young ones ignore warnings of the old, commit themselves, follow and perish. The masters feed on the masses without even a hint of contrition.
Lewis Carrol (born Charles Dodgson) could be publishing right here, right now. It takes little imagination for us to assign roles from the poem to participants in the Canadian socioeconomic system. Today’s walruses rely on carpenters from the mainstream media, the universities and institutions, teaching that the world should belong to the powerful, that a culture of spectator sports, incoherent celebrities and wasting drugs and drink can substitute for purpose. They tolerate, without contrition, continuation of the worst childhood poverty in Canada and the lowest minimum wage in the country, despite the highest cost of living. We can afford billions for the Olympic Winter Games but not for seismic protection of all schools. BC’s former agricultural bible-belt is now Canada’s murder capital. We reduce taxes on those that can best afford to pay and build highways to the mountains so city people can enjoy their $10 million winter ski cabins without paying tolls like those charged the working folks of the Fraser Valley. And, we do all that in a province where wealth is abundant but ever more focused in the hands of the few.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the research institute not funded by billionaires and multinationals, was founded by university professors and takes its modest budget from individuals and trade unions. Today, it published an important study as part of its Growing Gap Updates, The Rise of Canada’s Richest 1%, written by the CCPA’s astute senior economist Armine Yalnizyan.
“This generation of rich canadians is staking claim to a larger share of economic growth than any generation that has preceded it in recorded history. An examination of income trends over the past 90 years reveals that incomes are as concentrated in the hands of the richest 1% today as they were in the Roaring Twenties.
“And even then, the Canada’s elite didn’t experience as rapid a growth in their income share as has occurred in the past 20 years.”
The CCPA, by the way, did not proclaim Gordon Campbell as Canada’s finest fiscal manager. Unlike the Fraser Institute, they held no contests with rigged scorecards.