Tuesday, December 22, 2009

does santa vote conservative??

my friend H posted this on facebook this morning, totally brilliant:

"First of all, let me make absolutely clear that this commentary in no way intends to use Santa Claus as a tool for political partisanship.

After all, poor Santa’s been through enough over the past hundred years. The Cold War was a particularly taxing time for him, as he got caught in the middle of the struggle for global domination between America and the Soviet Union. Contrary to popular belief, Santa Claus was never banned in the Soviet Union. Christmas trees were, but that was actually the doing of the Russian Orthodox Church, not the communists. The Church banned Christmas trees (most of which came from Germany) as a sort of economic sanction against Germany for going to war against Russia in World War I. Christmas trees were legalized in the mid-1930s when Stalin determined that the benefits to children outweighed the dangers of bourgeois culture. However, Santa’s fashion sense suffered somewhat when it was decreed that the Soviet Santa had to wear a blue coat in order to distinguish it from the American Santa’s red coat. In fact, the politically rehabilitated Santa (or Father Frost, as he was known in Russia) proved to be an ideal agent for political centralization: he was ordered to replace local ‘Santa-type’ characters in the other Soviet republics in order to ensure greater cultural unity. The positive side of this of course is that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, most former republics kept the Russian Santa as well as revived their own local Santa’s, so now they have two Santa’s giving gifts instead of one (bonus!). All except Croatia, whose government launched a campaign to eradicate all vestiges of the former Soviet Santa when it won independence.

Post-cold war politics haven’t left him unscathed either. Denmark – which for years has hosted the annual Santa Claus World Congress (which awards Santa Of The Year, among other events such as the annual Santa Hula Hoop Contest, Santa Bike Parade, and Santa Beach Paddle) is now being challenged for North Pole primacy by upstart former Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan, which, although Muslim, has decided to implement a Santa Claus tourism development strategy involving naming a mountain ‘Mount Santa Claus’ and holding a rival World Santa Claus Congress. Mount Santa Claus, incidentally, joins other renowned Kyrgyzstani mountains such as Mount Lenin, Mount Communism, Mount Free and Independent Korea, Mount of the Military Topographers, and Mount of the 19th Party Congress.

Even the Canadian Santa wasn’t immune to the upheavals of the 60’s and 70’s. The Toronto Santa Claus parade had, for several decades, packed up and shipped itself to Montreal to participate in the Montreal Santa Claus parade, in a show of solidarity between the two cities. In 1969 however separatist FLQ terrorists designated the Toronto Santa Claus a primary target of Anglophone imperialism and threatened to bomb him, so the whole tradition was cancelled as a security measure.

But anyway, that’s all ancient history. Santa Claus is still thriving, at least as much as he can in the new globalized, neoliberal world economy. Which leads me to wonder...is he actually thriving? How has Santa Claus fared under the past couple of years of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government?

Well, for one thing, he probably doesn’t get your mail anymore. Under Harper’s Conservatives, dozens of rural and northern post offices have been closed, cutting off service to over 55,000 rural Canadians.

But maybe Santa was able to apply for stimulus funding, to build capital infrastructure projects like high-speed satellite reception at his workshop? Well, not likely. You see, Santa advocates for children and world peace, and those are three cardinal sins when it comes to seeking Conservative funding. His application would have been rejected either on the basis of his use of advocacy (which, as the Status of Women Canada discovered, is unacceptable) or support of world peace (which, as the KAIROS foundation recently discovered, is anti-semitic). His support of children probably doesn’t situate him well with the Conservatives either: almost 10% of Canadian children live in poverty, not including the over 25% of aboriginal and First Nations children, and the 37% of food bank users in Canada who are children under the age of 18 (food bank use, meanwhile, has jumped by 18% over the past year, so the number is probably even higher now). So while Santa’s priority is to help children, the Conservatives are pursuing a strategy of making things worse for children, so it’s unlikely funds will be forthcoming. Either way, the federal Conservatives haven’t even bothered to develop a national strategy on child poverty, so Santa, like the provinces, is alone on this one.

It’s also not entirely clear how Santa is going to deliver all his gifts. Used to be that he jumped down the chimney. Of course, given that the Canadian government eliminated funding for new public housing units in the 1990s, causing homelessness to grow at staggering rates (740% in Calgary during the past decade), and that the Conservatives’ housing initiative in this year’s federal budget – while a first – is geared primarily toward renovations instead of new housing, a lot of people don’t have chimneys for Santa to hop through any more.

And how exactly does Santa get by during his seasonal shutdown period? While opposition proposals to reduce the number of hours required for EI eligibility would have undoubtedly helped Santa during the off-season, and the recent move to extend parental benefits to the self-employed is a good step, it’s unlikely to benefit Santa since he’s a bit old for children. And given that one in five seniors in Canada is living in poverty, things don’t bode so well for him on that count either.

While the ongoing shortage in skilled trades has probably hit Santa’s workshop pretty hard, one would think Santa could take advantage of opportunities to hire sponsored immigrant workers at his workshop to keep up with growing demand. Oops, only the Conservatives’ failure to follow through on their THREE-YEAR OLD promise to create a national framework for recognition and assessment of foreign credentials, coupled with the new watered-down version of a framework that won’t be fully active for FOUR MORE YEARS, probably hasn’t helped much on that front. Nor has the fact that the Conservatives somehow forgot to spend a third of the money they ‘allocated’ for immigrant language instruction programs in this year’s budget.

So all in all, life under Harper’s Conservatives hasn’t been too pleasant for poor old Santa. Nor for the reindeer either: the Conservatives’ consistent policy of refusing to sign international treaties for good things (like fighting climate change, or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People) meant they also refused to sign the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare. I don’t think it’s so much that the Conservatives hate reindeer as it is that they hate international treaties. Which raises another concern: does the Conservative government’s growing determination to assert military force in the Arctic mean Santa is going to get the boot? Or worse yet, get bombed by Canadian submarines? Of course, given the Canadian government’s penchant for purchasing cheap used and malfunctioning military equipment, it’s probably not something he’ll have to worry about for a while.

And in case this has gotten you worried about poor old Santa, I wouldn’t be too concerned, at least as long as the Conservatives are in office. Their failure to introduce any meaningful pension reform to help the significant percentage of Canadians who are unable to save for retirement, means that Santa won’t be able to afford retirement for the foreseeable future.

So rest assured he’ll probably pay you a visit this year. Meanwhile sit back and enjoy this brilliant animation of what happens when you privatize Santa (as the Conservatives no doubt will try):"

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