Friday, July 8, 2011

So You Want to Return to the 1950s? OK. I'm Game.

In reading books and essays written by, and not just about, the neoconservatives, I've found many common elements, from the philosophers they quote to the people they hate.

One common desire most share, is to return to the 1950s, when women knew their place and everyone went to church.

And just as they tap into Alexis de Tocqueville to justify the government getting out of the business of helping the poor, they use his observations about religion, noted during his travels to the United States, as reason for a theocratic state.

De Tocqueville wrote that most Americans were not only Christian, but spoke the common language of the Bible. "The people's voice was the voice of God". Few mention, however, that he also commented that this would create a lot of hypocrites.


But why the 1950s as the target decade?

I suppose the 1920s, while roaring, was an age of high income disparity and heavy gambling on Wall Street, that created the "crash". The 1930s was a decade of poverty and the 40s, synonymous with war.

They can't jump to the 1960s, because of the civil rights movement, that they believe was the beginning of the end. The 1950s on the other hand, invokes memories of sock hops, soda fountains and mom in her apron baking cookies.

Who wouldn't want to live then?

Don Cherry, in his interview with Sun TV, says that he believes in what the right-wing station is doing, trying to recapture that decade (with all of its Cold War mentality), because the 1950s was when Canada was at its best.

OK, I'm game.

Because the wonderful life that these guys remember, was the result of the creation of the Welfare State.

William Beveridge, the engineer and author of the Welfare State, believed that if people were expected to rally behind their country during war, then their government should take care of them during peace time. Show them what they had fought for. A better life.

The people responded in Britain by choosing Clement Attlee over Winston Churchill in 1945.

Canadians were also ready for a society free from poverty and inequality, and demanded social reform. The government responded by introducing several social welfare policies, many borrowed from the CCF (now the NDP).

Liberal prime minister Louis St.Laurent, established the Canada Council to support the arts, and expanded social welfare programs, like the family allowance, old age pensions, government funding of university and post-secondary education and an early form of Medicare termed Hospital Insurance, laying the groundwork for Tommy Douglas' healthcare system in Saskatchewan and Pearson's nationwide universal healthcare in the late 1960s. (Wikipedia)

In the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower, expanded social security and reduced military spending, even warning against the "military- industrial complex.

Yet these things from the decade that Cherry so fondly remembers, are anathema to the neoconservative movement, he so loudly endorses.

It was not a decade when people were expected to take care of themselves, but one where the government stepped in to make sure that all people were taken care of.

It was also a period when trade unions were strong, fighting for better wages and benefits, that allowed families to thrive. In the U.S. the average worker income increased 61% between 1950 and 1959.

Those are the 1950s that the neocons aspire to recreate, and yet they are fighting against the very things that gave us that decade.

Paul Weyrich, another man behind the success of the movement and Stephen Harper, is a co-founder of the Religious Right. At a meeting of the controversial Heritage Foundation that he helped to create, he stated: "We're not here to get into politics. We're here to turn the clock back to 1954 in this country. And once we've done it, we're going to clear out of this stinking town."

If that means a return to strong labour unions, caring governments and the strengthening of the welfare state, I'm in.

I'll be the one marching down the street, carrying a sign: 'Women are people too'.

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