Saturday, February 19, 2011

Plutocracy in Canada

So there's an entry somewhere here, on this blog or maybe another one I keep, that I illustrated with a picture of the leaders of the three major parties in the UK right now. There was something I notices about the picture, one that I'll point out by presenting three different picturtes, one of each of them, stuck together using Picnik:

A few things to note:
  • They are all extremely white.
  • They are all exremely male.
  • Based on the evidence above, they are all extremely fond of posing in front of brightly-coloured backdrops.
  • They are all, by the standards of politics, extremely young.
And I mean extremely young. Born in 1966, David Cameron is the oldest of them.Nick Clegg is pretty much the same age, born 1967. Ed Miliband, born in 1969, isnt much of a junior either. British politics are being run right now by men who were toddlers at the dawn of the 1970s.

I want to point out right now that I'm not ageist, and that I think merit is much more important in politics than age. Yet a system can can produce three major leaders in their 40s is, if nothing else, a system open to the idea of young political leaders: one devoid of the reverse ageism that exists elsewhere. After all, it's not like the UK always has young leaders: all three are quite new at their jobs and their predecessors were born in 1941, 1941 and 1951, respectively (strange to see Gordon Brown as 'youngest in the bunch': I figured that man was born old). Those three were also very white and very male, though.

Now let's turn to Canada.

Picnik will only do four pictures side-by-side like this, so Elizabeth May gets the cut. Not just because her party has no parliamentary representation but also because it lets me make my point more shrewdly. Note, then, the following:
  • They're also all extremely white (and there's lots of light eye colours happening there, May included).
  • They're also 80% male (May excluded, self-evidently).
  • They seem to prefer dour colours for their backdrops.
  • What the hell is Gilles Duceppe wearing?
  • They're clearly a good deal older. I mean, God, look at all that white hair above. That's a lot of white hair. I haven't seen that much white hair since my grandmother's white cat jumped on my lap when I was dressed entirely in black.
It looks like this: Gilles Duceppe and Michael Ignatieff, the seniors among Canadian party leaders, were each born in 1947, and thus were 22 when Ed Miliband was born. Jack Layton, born 1950, is still older even than Gordon Brown. Elizabeth May was born in 1954, and Stephen Harper, the baby among party leaders, was born in 1959, more than half a century ago and seven years before David Cameron. Now since seven years is hardly a generational difference, you might ask what the point is. The point, though, is those pictures above: seven years looks like a millenium on the faces of these two Conservative leaders. Perhaps those white hairs are the results of five years heading up a government with a minority of seats; perhaps David Cameron's white hairs are soon to come.

Again, I don't point this out to be ageist. I don't want to say Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are better than Duceppe, Ignatieff, Layton, May and Harper merely because they're younger. But it's really easy to contrast the above two sets of photos, and in so doing to come to the conclusion that perhaps one reason we feel so uninspired here in Canada is that damn those are uninspiring faces.

Whatever the hell Duceppe's wearing notwithstanding.

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