It would be nice to say I just don’t understand, can’t fathom why the Harper government behaves the way it does. I could run around waving my arms and being dramatic and demanding, why, why, why; do they not realize the real harm they’re doing to real people. I ran out of steam on that one a few years ago I think. (Plus there’s some pretty interesting research lately on why conservatives behave the way they do. See the end of the article.) Now I just get really sad for a few days. One piece of bad, humanity-destroying news per day I can handle, but two is pushing it. Yesterday was that kind of a day.
The first bit was not new news, but apparently I missed it the first time around. I caught it this time because epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani is in town and was being interviewed on the radio. Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site, won its second appeal to not get shut down back in January. It was, of course, the Harper government that was trying to shut it down, because, of course, drugs are bad therefore doing anything to help injection drug users not spread or catch bloodborne diseases, or OD and die, is also bad because junkies are bad and deserve to die, and preferably suffer on the way. There’s no word yet whether the Harper conservatives are going to appeal again.
The second was the news that Canada will not be funding abortions as part of its G8 maternal and child health. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said, “Canada’s initiative, that they support, is saving the lives of mothers and children under the age of five, and that does not mean supporting abortions.” Once upon a time I would have been blown away that anybody would either be so ignorant as not to know that abortion does save lives; so deliberately stupid as to not connect the dots between “pregnancy can kill you”, “in certain situations getting un-pregnant will save your life”, and “abortion saves lives”; or so cavalier about facts to be able to tell a blatant lie on camera with a straight face.
Once upon a time I would have been blown away. Now I realize it’s just Conservative SOP. Not just the Conservative Party of Canada, but conservatives in general. According to George Lakoff (who is brilliant and everybody should read him), the central, highest-priority concept in conservative morality is “Moral Strength”. It’s more important than caring, than empathy, than honesty, than the well-being of individuals. Evil is a force in the world, and almost anything is worth sacrificing in the fight against evil. And since, according to moral psychology researcher Jonathan Haidt, conservative notions of evil aren’t so much “things that hurt people” as “things that are impure”, and since conservative moral accounting really likes punishment, there’s nothing wrong with letting people suffer – or actively hurting them – if it’s in service of this so-called moral strength and moral purity. In fact, hurting people may be the Right Thing To Do.