Viewpoints: John Robson: On Power Outages and Politicians’ Complacent Mindset That Nothing Serious Can Go Wrong

by EditorK

(Screenshot from Ottawa Hydro twitter post)

John Robson

John Robson


Decades ago, I backpacked to exotic places where things were very different. For instance the electricity might work intermittently, and accountability not at all. But now that globalization has created a far more homogeneous world, culturally and technologically, um, they don’t work here either.

Last winter I complained on Twitter, so I deserved whatever I got, about public authorities charging me hundreds of dollars to deliver what they agreed was no electricity at all to my shut-down cottage. A barbarous noise promptly environed me, bawling that people as rich as me should be ripped off, a nastily envious take on the Canadian dream, including good government.

I make no apologies for managing to raise my kids by the lake. In a cottage under 1,000 square feet, if you care. But I will acknowledge a less obtuse argument that the off-season charges were to maintain the power grid.

Except on this year’s first long weekend the power went off and stayed off. So whatever they spent the money on, it wasn’t resilient infrastructure. Perhaps it was the communications system that texted fatuous promises of prompt service restoration, smugly rejected my texting back for updates as instructed, and when I phoned, a bot sneered that so many insolent people were pestering them about the collapse in service that they would not deign to take any calls.

To me, the tendency of state and parastatal agencies to combine long wait times with imperious warnings to kowtow over lousy service is a sign of the times. I grant that many large corporations have also installed voicemail systems designed to repel boarders, and that these demands to mind our manners are prompted partly by a rising tide of rudeness. But who has done more than politicians to demolish “outdated” taboos including self-restraint, except perhaps the public education system?

More immediately, if we’re so angry with the performance of government that we tend to lose our cool after 47 minutes on hold, indignantly hanging up on us as vulgarian ingrates might not be the ideal approach. Especially looking forward at the darkness to come.

I’m not one for apocalyptic visions, economic or theological. I’ve lived through too many endings of the world that weren’t even interesting, from mass famine and nuclear winter to the Great Reckoning and Y2K, to get terribly excited about the next plausible sign that the end is nigh. But real disasters are possible.

In this case, sure, I was able to leave the cottage and return to Ottawa where fortunately I was not among those whose power was still out. But a lot of traffic lights were along the way, including in our national capital. And it struck me that we might be headed into a new normal where vital government services aren’t just overpriced but unreliable or flatly unavailable (think timely health care), and anyone who objects meets with contumely or apathy, not sympathy.

We seem to be governed by people, sustained by voters, convinced nothing can really go wrong. For instance, warnings about massive economic and psychological harm from extended COVID lockdowns were brushed aside on the apparent theory that no matter how much they walloped the economy and society, wealth and compassion would pour forth unchecked.

It might seem odd to claim our betters thought nothing could go wrong when they were lashing out, as if masked 6-year-olds seeing one another’s faces would flood corpse wagons into the streets going, “Bring out your dead.” And there’s no question they panicked.

Indeed, they’re continually raving about existential menaces from which only they can save us. But it’s always exotic, invisible stuff like trace quantities of a biologically vital gas causing terrible weather to wipe out civilization, a bad flu annihilating mankind, or an epidemic of hate such as the world has never seen.

Remember: Canada’s prime minister asserted that a genocide is happening here now, on his watch, then flew to Tofino to vacation on the first national Truth and Reconciliation Day. Showing how seriously he takes it, or climate change. Likewise, his administration dithered endlessly on Huawei, then veiled a languid decision in opaque rhetoric, while the Tories seriously ponder a leadership contender who took $70k a month from that tentacle of Beijing.

Such people have no real understanding that bad guys might spy on us, disrupt our economy, or win a war, let alone how, or what precautions to take. It’s been so long since anything major went wrong that they only stir themselves in the face of inflation sufficiently to rain sneers on one politician who wants the Bank of Canada held accountable.

When a real problem happens, like the power going out, these complacent aristocrats won’t even take our calls. It used to be something you had to cross the globe to find. Now it comes to you.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”


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