Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The 40th Parliament as A Conservative Greek Drama

The events of Canada's 40th Parliament can be looked upon as a Greek drama. The classic Greek drama as laid out by Aristotle has three parts (As summarized in Wikipedia):
  1. Setup
  2. Confrontation
  3. Resolution

The first act is used to establish the main characters, their relationships and the normal world they live in. Earlier in the first act, a dynamic, on screen incident occurs that confronts the main character (the protagonist), whose attempts to deal with this incident leads to a second and more dramatic situation, known as the first turning point, which (a) signals the end of the first act, (b) ensures life will never be the same again for the protagonist and (c) raises a dramatic question that will be answered in the climax. The dramatic question should be framed in terms of the protagonist's call to action,

The second act, also referred to as "rising action", typically depicts the protagonist's attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find themselves in ever worsening situations. Part of the reason the protagonist seems unable to resolve their problems is because they do not yet have the skills to deal with the forces of antagonism that confront them. They must not only learn new skills but arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who they are and what they are capable of, in order to deal with their predicament. This cannot be achieved alone and they are usually aided and abetted by mentors and co-protagonists.

But is Stephen Harper really not a false protagonist in this drama? The fiscal update was the manifestation of Harper's harmartia or fatal flaw. He had to provoke The Opposition.

The first act led to the unexpectedly early ascension of Michael Ignatieff to Leader of the Opposition. During the second act, Harper was cast as a cipher (the third definition, silly) for the creation of a budget which goes against everything he believes in. The man whose actions are at the centre of the action is Ignatieff not Harper. It is on Ignatieff's decisions that events will pivot.

Finally, the third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax, also known as the second turning point, is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.

So we, the audience, sit in our seats. Waiting for the curtain to rise on the third act. How will Ignatieff resolve this drama? Will he support the budget? If he does what effect will this have on his leadership? Perhaps none.

This line of questioning presupposes that Harper has been entirely neutralized. Anyone who thought that he has had a Damascene like conversion and has been focused on writing a budget that will be the best one possible for Canadians hasn't been paying attention. (It is good to see Ken Dryden has been). Like all the good psychotic characters, Jason always returns. Alex Forrest always rises from the tub one more time. Killing monsters just isn't that easy. What lines will Harper read out in this final act?

I have already mentioned part of my expectations; that Harper will go down fighting and set the stage for a Götterdämmerung finale by including permanent tax cuts that will hamstring following governments and lead to the eventual destruction of Canada. But this did not seem like enough. Then the blanks, for me, were filled in by posts by James Curran and Montreal Simon.

This then is my third act prediction:

  • As an attempt to box Ignatieff in, the budget will contain:
  1. Half hearted stimulus tied to the odious P3 abominations as a way to guarantee the minimum possible work gets done,
  2. Unacceptably large tax cuts to provoke Ignatieff,
  3. Elimination of the political party subsidy to frame the debate should an election ensue.
  • Harper's fatal flaw will prevent him from changing EI to help the unemployed it is on this issue that Harper will fall.
I am probably wrong but that is my call.

Grab your seat and finish your popcorn, the curtain is about to rise.

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