The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious Writing The Long-Tailed Macaque - Issue Two
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The Long-tailed Macaque

The Long-tailed Macaque Long-tailed macaques are found in primary, secondary, coastal, mangrove, swamp, and riverine forests in Southern Indochina, Burma, Indonesia, Philippines, and India's Nicobar Islands. These monkeys sport gray to reddish brown body hair, which is lighter on their undersides. The hair on the crown of the head grows into a pointed crest. Male long-tailed macaques have whiskers and mustaches; females have beards. While males grow to between 16 and 25 inches tall, females only reach an average height of 15 to 19 inches. Males weigh approximately 10 to 18 pounds and females 5 to 12 pounds. Long-tailed macaques live in groups of 10 to 48 individuals. Their average lifespan is 37.1 years. Sixty-four percent of the long-tailed macaque's diet consists of fruit. Seeds, buds, leaves, other plant parts, and animals such as insects, frogs, and crabs make up the rest.


On Deals with the Devil and the Belinda Factor

A rumination on the sorry state of Canadian politics



Now that the May 19 budget vote has been consigned to the dustbin of history, it is appropriate to ask three questions:

1. What was all the fuss about?

2. Women in Canadian politics: why would they even bother?

3. Are westerners really fit to govern?

1. What was all the fuss about?

Stephen Harper demonstrated once again his acute ability to shoot himself in the foot at the most opportune time. Seemingly determined to win the battle and lose the war, he set about to paralyze Parliament through a series of nonsensical, time-wasting procedural theatrics, all the while alienating moderate Canadians with his utter disregard for that most fundamental tenet of federal politics: Canadians are governed by pragmatism, not idealism.

As it turns out, Harper's self-destructive tendencies played out not just in the Commons, but in the backrooms of his own party. While he realized that the Martin government would be lucky to scrape by on a non-confidence vote, he seemed to fail to grasp that, by implication (and simple arithmetic), his loose coalition of disaffected westerners and Quebecois would also be lucky to succeed on a non-confidence vote. Thus armed, Harper apparently called Belinda Stronach on the carpet and unleashed a series of vicious verbal slashes against the woman, leaving her shaking and in tears. Harper, having perhaps reinvigorated his own masculinity by this fine display of party camaraderie, then lost Stronach from caucus and, with it, the last serious hopes he had of unseating the government.

In the end, Harper left out one factor in his analysis: Paul Martin is a dealmaker. Paul Martin may not be the world's greatest politician (we shall leave that "honour" to another of Ms. Stronach's friends), nor does he have any Trudeau-esque vision of the nation, but Martin knows how to get the deal done. Martin has spent far too much time in close proximity to Bay Street for it to be any other way. We shall learn, in the fullness of time, just what other steps the PM took to save his government.

It is perhaps fitting, however, that the one man who did "save the government" was an independent who, as far as we know, acted on the wishes of his constituents. Mr. Cadman is a decent and honourable man who entered politics for a good reason, albeit one borne of tragic personal circumstances. That he should be the one to save Martin's government does credit to both.

2. Women in Canadian politics: why would they even bother?

The reaction in certain quarters to Ms. Stronach's crossing the floor has been nothing short of disgusting, and serves to reinforce every bad stereotype of politics as the preserve of rich old white misogynists. Conservatives of every persuasion immediately lit into her with accusations of "whoring" and descriptions of her as "an attractive dipstick". Ms. Stronach has taken these attacks in stride, demonstrating the grace and class that led one to wonder what she was doing in Stephen Harper's party in the first place.

However, this bilious invective raises a more basic issue about women in Canadian politics. The attitudes reflected in the comments above are not isolated, or limited to the Lethbridge Mafia crowd. One is reminded of the comments of various (typically Conservative) legislators over the years, from John Crosbie's "Pass the Tequila" taunts to the "more than a slab of bacon" observation of some long-forgotten moronic backbencher.

One would seriously doubt why sensible women would bother, which is sad as it is often women who are at the forefront of progressive legislative efforts. The national daycare initiative was initially pushed by two women, men having, in our society, largely absolved themselves of child-care responsibilities.

One heartening aspect of the whole sordid affair, aside from its obvious effect on the budget vote itself, was the apparent "backlash against the backlash" that found expression from women and men on the editorials and letters pages of the nation's newspapers. More than in the past, women and men indicated that they would not let the churlish commentary of Neanderthals pass without objection. To their credit, even "small-c" conservatives said, "criticize Ms. Stronach's ideas and policies (and inexperience) if you will; leave her gender (and appearance) out of it."

3. Are westerners fit to govern?

Upon its founding in the late 1980s, the siren call of the Reform Party was "The West Wants In." Backed by the alleged intellectual horsepower of the "Calgary School" of political thought (which, incidentally, nourished the larval Stephen Harper), the Reform party's platform was based fundamentally on the notion that the Golden Triangle had shut out the West, and that it was time for the West to "get back its own."

Let us leave aside the obvious absurdity of this proposition, except with the passing observation that, with the exception of Alberta, every province and territory west of Ontario is a net drain on federal equalization payments. Once the oil runs out (and it will, contrary to Mr. Frum's rosy predictions), Alberta will join that list.

The Reform Party utilized this hinterland resentment and alienation as a Trojan Horse for a much more ambitious legislative agenda, including privatized health care, rollbacks in social services, infringements on women's reproductive freedom and, of course, the obligatory corporate tax cuts.

Having lived in Western Canada for my first 21 years, I can say that most westerners are, on balance, kind, decent and generous people, and reflective of the Canadian character as a whole. However, one must genuinely wonder whether western politicians are ready to grapple with the problems of governing a industrialized, multicultural nation of over 30 million citizens with two great founding cultures and a plethora of other cultures, beliefs and ideas adding to the mix. Canada is more heterogeneous than Alberta or Manitoba. The public enthusiasm for laws denying equal rights to homosexuals, which finds such vivid expression in Alberta (as in Mississippi) is noticeably absent in the nation as a whole. Governing the whole country requires thought; it is not a task fit for amateur ideologues.

Governing the country is also hard work, and involves balancing many, many competing interests and priorities. It is a different thing from governing a province like Manitoba, the population of which would comfortably fit into half of downtown Toronto. One is reminded of Trudeau's dismissal of several of his provincial counterparts as "Kiwanis Club Presidents".

The latest petulant howl came in the form of Mr. Harper's dismissal of the NDP budget amendments as the "Deal with the Devil." This farcical hyperbole, more than any other, showed Harper's true colours. The budget amendments, which the Liberals would not have devised unless forced to, pour money into education, universal public health care and other programs that will (for shame!) actually improve the lives of ordinary Canadians. Harper's thinly veiled disdain for his fellow citizens should give them pause. It also amply demonstrates why the Conservatives have failed to make any significant inroads in Ontario, the province where pragmatism has replaced oxygen as the main life-sustaining component of the atmosphere.

Some Conclusions

The events of the last six weeks have given Canadians more than the customary insights into the workings of political processes. Although the budget vote was, in the end, merely elaborate theatre, the run-up did allow Canadians to see Stephen Harper under the bright lights, and to assess for themselves whether he and his party has any qualities whatsoever that justify giving them an electoral mandate.

The reaction to the Belinda Factor has gone some distance towards raising awareness of the issue of women's involvement in politics, especially in the legislative sphere itself. One suspects that, the next time a major political masterstroke is carried out by a politician who also happens to be a woman, the reaction will not be quite so grimly chauvinistic.


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