[ONLINE] Fire and Ashes Author Michael Ignatieff – lavitamin.us
Low citizens as the most underrated skill in politics For what people want in a politician what they have a right to demand is to be listened to Often listening is all you can do Their problems may not admit of a political solution or at least not a solution you can devise People will accept that you cannot solve their problems if you give them all of your attention looking into their eyes never over their shoulder at the next person in line Countries are imagined communities and politicians are the ones who represent what we share and then figure out the compromises that enable us to live together in peace What you learn from your mistakes is that politics is a game with words but it isn t Scrabble No one who enters the political arena for the first time is ever prepared for its adversarial uality Every word you utter becomes an opportunity for your opponents to counterattack Inevitably you take it personally and that is your first mistake You have to learn what the lifers wise with years of experience have long since understood it s never personal it s strictly business Obviously a straight answer to a straight uestion is a good idea and when citizens put a uestion to you such candour becomes an obligation They elect you after all The rules are different with the press In the strange abuki play of a press conference or interview candour is a temptation best avoided Be candid if you can be strategic if you must All truth is good the African proverb goes but not all truth is good to say You try never to lie but you don t have to answer the uestion you re asked only the uestion you want to answer most people regard the spectacle of political combat with a mixture of disgust and alarm fading uickly into indifference Working with this permanent state of alienation is an important part of the politician s art Politicians have to negotiate trust against the backdrop of permanent dislike of their own profession When you represent the people you actually spend most of your time trying to overcome their suspicion that you have left them behind to join a brutal game that will do them no good You counter this feeling as best you can by attending the neighbourhood garden party the parent teacher association meeting the ribbon cutting ceremony the school prize giving all to show that you have not delivered yourself up to the alien political world The impossible schedules of politicians the almost total surrender of their private lives the way they boast of how many constituency events they attend every weekend all this activity springs from the need to show presence to prove your loyalty to the people who elected you not to the dire game played in the capital city Yet the gulf between representatives and the people cannot be fully overcome You and your voters do not share the same information the same space or the same concerns Political issues divide roughly into two those that matter only to politicians and to the tiny in group of press and partisans who follow the game and the much smaller number that matter to the people at large You can destroy yourself if you confuse the former for the latter When politicians cry foul in the middle of the game voters mostly ignore them on the sensible suspicion that they would say that wouldn t they Voters also thought and this reflects a widely shared conception of representative democracy that they had selected us to represent them and we should just get on with it and come back and see them at election time Liberals like me who believed in an empowering government failed to appreciate what it was like to beg for visas to ueue in a government office to be Georgia and the Tycoon kept waiting by a computerized government answering service or to hang around a mailbox every day for a late pension or employment insurance cheue Having had their fill of these experiences some of my constituents wanted toeep government as far away from their lives as they could Once the liberal state fails to treat citizens with respect citizens conclude that the less they have to do with it the better and the less they have to do with the state the lower they want their taxes to be The political beneficiaries of this downward spiral were our Conservative opponents They offered no solution slashing services in order to lower taxes is no answer if the services remain as necessary as ever but they had heard the mood music out there and we Liberals had not The longer you leave an attack unanswered the damage it does and if you refuse to dignify the attacks with a response you have already given up Dignity doesn t come into it If you don t defend yourself people conclude either that you are guilty as charged or that you are too weak to stand and fight After all if you won t stick up for yourself you won t stick up for them either This is how you lose standing with voters But standing is not a right It is a privilege earned from voters one at a time It is a non transferable form of authority Nothing about past rank expertise ualifications or previous success entitles you to it We can all think of people of good character who never achieved standing with a national electorate We can also call to mind political figures whose character was uestionable Bill Clinton being a possible example who never lost standing with the voters Nor is having standing the same thing as being liked We can all think of successful politicians like Richard Nixon for example who were never much liked but still managed to conserve reluctant standing from the electorate You might suppose that popularity would confer standing but there are plenty of celebrities pop stars basketball players and television show hosts who fail to translate their popularity into political success Some think that money will confer standing but multi millionaires recurrently run for office in the United States and lose the most recent example being Mitt Romney Nor do degrees confer standing Success in education is a badge of merit that people actually earn yet people with degrees often have trouble converting their achievements into standing The reason is simple education codes as entitlement and voters hate entitlement the way they hate privilege Educated people routinely complain about this but they are wrong Standing has to be earned and degrees earn you nothing This estimable principle leads however to a paradox You can be elected without education character likeability popularity degrees or a fat bank account but you cannot be elected without standing Given these rules it s a wonder that we elect as many capable politicians as we do irst time candidates like myself learn soon enough that party selection authoritative endorsement and our supposedly impressive CVs do not entitle us to standing with voters If you think standing is an entitlement you are bound to lose You have go to out and earn it face to face doorstep by doorstep phone call by phone callAs voters decide whether to give you standing they listen to the political parties as well as to neighbours and family members but increasingly they make up their minds alone in front of a computer or television screen Instead of empowering the voter this solitude disempowers it increases the influence of big buy advertising the negative attack ads that were used so effectively against me The solitary voter faces the negative ad onslaught alone and if there is no one out there prepared to contradict those ads their impact shapes how voters see you The rational reason why issues matter less than personality in politics why elections turn on which candidate successfully establishes standing is that voters are good at deciding who is worth hearing and who is worth trusting To decide whom to trust voters focus on the uestion of whether the candidate is like them or not The uestion a citizen asks when determining whether another citizen should represent them is whether that person is representative of them Voters want a candidate to recognize who they are and candidates do this by showing that they are one of them Voters ask further uestions like Is this person who he says he is They will cease to be referenda on the Churchills Trial kind of country we want Of the three elections that I fought none was a debate on the country s future All were vicious battles over standing It is striking that in five and a half years in politics none of my opponents ever bothered to attack what I was saying what my platform said A short book and a uick read I enjoyed reliving this period in Canadian politics through his eyes I witnessed these events as a citizen and as a voter but reading it it became all new again I had expected on the personal side of how one lives and rebuilds a life after defeat but it was all business however interesting This mannows politics and listening to him is at times uite fascinating I have marked off several passages like this one an intellectual may be interested in ideas and policies for their own sake but a politician s interest is exclusively in the uestion of whether an idea s time has come or I can t remember a speech I heard in five years that was actually meant to persuadeI got a clearer view of Canadian politics from this book delivered in a way that was uite enjoyable As I was reading I often thought he must be a great teacher It s difficult to review Michael Ignatieff s Fire and Ashes without first giving my views of the Liberal Party that he led He describes it as the centre which is political shorthand for opportunistic They position themselves in such a way that they ll bend whichever way the wind blows Do I blame them for that Hardly The fact that the Canadian people made them the most successful party in the history of western democracy as reward gor their cynicism speaks volumes about voters where the blame always properly lies Moreover the Harper Conservatives have stepped into the void left by the Grits with a jaw dropping lack of principle of their own I was expecting Fire and Ashes to be a political memoir or a screed of empty self justification Although there is some of both there it isn t At least not mainly Instead it is mostly an analysis both of himself and the The best modern book about politics I have ever read The Philosopher Prince Because Michael Ignatieff never became ingBut his reflection on political life is a refreshingly above the fray take on Canadian politics He does recount the important moments of the Harper government first election prorogation majority from an rival s perspective He also shows his academic side in thoughts on democracy how representatives relate to citizens and the realities of winning office and governing Sections on a candidate s standing and the intimate connection between place and person so a great argument for retaining a Westminster form of parliamentary representation are especially thoughtfulAnd in true Ignatieff form there s a great deal of name dropping as he establishes his Liberal credentials But he just says it so nicelyFollow me on Twitter DrATaubma. Edictable unforgiving and hyper adversarialRough as it is Ignatieff argues democratic politics is a crucible for compromise and many of the apparent vices of political life from inconsistency to the fake smile follow from the necessity of bridging differences in a pluralist society A compelling account of modern politics as it really is the book is also a celebration of the political life in all its wild exuberant varie.
After thirty years as an academic teaching and writing about philosophy and political theory and with no experience in practical politics Michael Ignatieff entered Canadian politics seeking to lead one of the country s two largest political parties This is a memoir of the five years that followed ending in one of the worst election results in the history of his party and the end of his political career I read it hoping to get some candid writing about the day to day practice of politics and also because it s an important period in Canadian politics that saw the rout of the liberal consensus that had governed Canada almost entirely since the Great Depression There are three themes I took from the book his belief in liberal democracy the exhiliaration he found in politics his concern with the long term conseuences of the current practice in North America of using the electronic media to generate fear and hate to gain and hold political powerAs a description of the practice it doesn t compare to Robert Caro s work on LBJ but what does I did learn a thing or two For those five years Ignatieff s life was largely focussed on the problem of how do I get the person in front of me to support me and vote for me and he seems to have distilled the issue down to the simple idea that voters vote for people they feel they can trust A simple idea but somebody once wrote that all important political ideas are truismsHe also points out that most of the better political theorists have been failures as politicians Machiavelli Cicero Edmund Burke and Max Weber His argument recapitulates Hannah Arendt s thinking on the uestion that politics is a performative art not a creative one Political action occurs in the moment and thought comes afterwardWho should read it Ignatieff answers the uestion in the final chapter He says he wrote it for young people interested in going into politics so that they can learn both from his exhiliaration and from his failures Michael Ignatieff is something of an enigma Here is a man who has been a historian a journalist a broadcaster a screenwriter a professor and a politician By any objective measure this should be considered a wildly successful career Yet Michael Ignatieff is regarded as a failure It is the last profession he chose politics that irreparably tarnished his reputation and that is the subject of this bookThis book has been described as a professor s search for lessons in political defeat This description misses the point unless it is only an introductory lesson The search is only cursory and its lack of depth is likely caused by the same problem that plagued Ignatieff s short political career The flaws of the man himself are reflected in the flaws of the bookIgnatieff is no doubt a smart man and it is evident that he is very well read He is a good writer though his style of communication will irritate many because of his use of highfalutin verbiage and metaphors Nonetheless one gets a good glimpse of the inside workings of the Liberal Party machinery through the eyes of a consummate insider s outsider The insights that the book provides are uniue if only because it is rare to hear about the secret back room dealings of political leaders It is interesting for instance how Ignatieff was the last holdout against the proposed coalition between the Liberals and the NDPs so he claims or how Ignatieff was lured back and pursued doggedly by Liberal insiders despite the obvious red flags or how Bob Rae blew up at his former friend for jumping the ueue so to speak Those insights which are not all that surprising for those who have followed Canadian politics closely however are the only real reasons to read the book The search for lessons is ultimately flawed because it asks only how and never whyThe reader is treated to history lessons of how things came to be and how it was that Ignatieff came to power and how it was that Harper was able to easily trounce Ignatieff and how the campaign fell apart despite having some legs at the beginning Unfortunately Ignatieff as sharp as he is never goes deeper to analyze why voters didn t connect with him or why the Conservatives were able to campaign effectively than the Liberals or why the party looked for him in the first place Those would be true insights that a man of Ignatieff s stature and mind could have provided but did not That was a missed opportunity Alas his failure to ask why was probably the reason he failed at politics He had breadth of nowledge but it never seemed he had the curiosity to become a real expert in his last chosen field politics Voters ultimately saw through this superficial gloss and rejected Ignatieff the politician Canadians are probably not afraid of electing a smart and accomplished person as Prime Minister Ignatieff however was not the right man Read this book and you will understand why Or not because in the words of Ignatieff there is nothing so ex as an ex politician Michael Ignatieff s Fire and Ashes is a sweet read It starts off a little slow and intially gets you thinking this sounds arrogant but then suddenly the narrative shifts and he addresses for the reader what this arrogance meant within the context of the political career he had The book is essentially an inside look at how the political game in Canada is played and how our swing toward US style degenerative politics was largely responsible for his failed campaign and the gutting of Canadian democratic processes generally The book is also an introspection of the Liberal party and a warning about the dangers of complacency and vested interests getting in the way of the organizational renewal reuired for survival never mind success I also appreciated Ignatieff s explicit outline of the responsibilities of government and the public sector generally a contextualization of which is rarely employed by bureaucrats working within the confines of the system namely that governments are to provide common goods that cannot otherwise be provided effectively through markets and that accordingly it is the role of public bureaucrats and institutions to protect citizens from the implications that do result from monopoly based market failures This historically understood premise and responsibility seems lost on present day public bureaucrats Structure wise I liked this book for its brevity and clarity It is an easy and relevant read for anyone interested in contemporary Canadian politics I love it in the sense that when Ignatieff left politics he made it clear that he was leaving for good which left him with nothing to lose and little incentive to be dishonest or disingenuous in the writing of this memoir The book begins with a brief foray into the storied political history of Ignatieff s family the crash course he went through as he pursued his own political journey and what lessons he drew from this whirlwind experience once it subsided Again of particular interest was Ignatieff s take on the degeneration of parliamentary politics and how Stephen Harper has successfully managed to capitalize on this decline since base understandings and the worst of our nature align nicely with traditional conservative policy positions I also appreciated his framing of political standing and how one acuires it how it cannot be taught and how essentially standing means everything for better or worse To me it was clear that Ignatieff had attempted to do the right thing during his political stint but in doing so naively failed to read how the game is played The short attention span and superficial nature of the public a meaningful recognition of changing demographics the danger of vested interests within the Liberal party and the effectiveness of creating and asserting a consistent narrative congruent with party interests were lost on Ignatieff and the Liberal party generally Ignatieff also discusses the power of compromise for the purpose of progress and how public policy progress reuires seeking to meaningfully understand the foundational rationale underpinning opposing policy positions In this respect he reluctantly albeit pessimistically concluded that Canadian political parties have become partisan less open minded and less open to persuasion than they were in the old days when the public service and public service advice was considered respectable Beyond the details of what was Ignatieff advances a series of public policy solutions to the pressing issues facing Canada today This is good and one would think reuired of any prospective leader of the free world but the sad irony in this is that of the ideas advanced very few have been adopted by the conservative party governing Canada On the surface this seems sensible given these policies were advanced by an opposition leader but from a public policy perspective these policies in particular are generally regarded as necessary by the leaders of most Western states regardless of purported ideological affiliations While this may be good for the few it pleases within Harper s base it is not good for Canadians generally particularly over the longer term And finally and in terms of my own research I found Ignatieff s take on the evolution of public bureaucracies comforting in terms of validation but disturbing in terms of the on going implications Ignatieff contends that public bureaucracies and the institutional mechanisms responsible for facilitating our democratic processes have gravitated away from their core responsibilities in terms of their role and function in relation to the state and the challenges faced by the state as the world around us evolves and away from the organizational structures that enabled them to be effective in the absence of market discipline But the bird s eye view in which Ignatieff describes this phenomenon suggests that those presently within the system are largely unaware of this role or the extent to which their actions either contribute or exacerbate the emerging implications Overall Stephen Harper deserves this book It is not an inflammatory account that harps on about Harper but it does describe the motivations and playbook of Harper in simple and acceptable terms and what effect this has had on the values and policy directions of Canada But this exposition made his conclusion of the need to encourage young people into the public service hard to accept After reading about the nasty course of events that happened to him only the insane would raise their hand to fill that void An aristocrat for sure but an honest voice no less 4 stars for Ignatieff A note of full disclosure I stood as an NDP candidate in the 2011 federal election the election that saw Michael Ignatieff s political career go down in flames precipitating this book being written and have studied many of his academic pieces while a graduate student at the University of WaterlooJust 30 pages in I commented on my Facebook feed that it s already abundantly clear that he now thinks of himself as a fool Someone asked me Does he think of himself In 2005 Michael Ignatieff left his life as a writer and professor at Harvard University to enter the combative world of politics back home in Canada By 2008 he was leader of the country's Liberal Party and poised should the governing Conservatives falter to become Canada's next Prime Minister It never happened Today after a bruising electoral defeat Ignatieff is back where he started writing and teaching what he learned.
S fooled or foolish This uestion is to me the defining uestion of Ignatieff s missive of his time in Canadian politics and I think the answer is both and neither all at the same timeIgnatieff s critics are uick to accuse him of being arrogant of being too academic too much like a teacher talking down to Canadians Indeed as if lecturing a classroom of students Ignatieff he takes those criticisms head on noting the differences between doing politics instead of talking about politics In what I see as the pivotal chapter where he realizes what political currency really is Ignatieff notes degrees do not confer standing Success in education is a badge of merit that people actually earn yet people with degrees often have trouble converting their achievements into standing The reason is simple education codes as entitlement and voters hate entitlement Standing has to be earned and degrees earn you nothing This estimable principle leads however to a paradox You can be elected without education character likability popularity degrees or a fat bank account but you cannot be elected without standing pp 127 Ignatieff s cerebral lecturing tone indicates a self reflective foolishness the realization that he was fooled into thinking that his academic achievements outside the country would grant him standing in the minds of CanadiansAs the book continues Ignatieff opines the fact that he was tarred and feathered in the minds of Canadians by the Conservatives long before he had the opportunity to define himself partly due to the decline of the Liberal Party over the years He minces no words about the falling out he had with Bob Rae when he returned to Canada and deftly blames the arrogance of the Liberal establishment over the years for the failure of his campaign to take off He is frank with his own failures noting that in retrospect his support for the Conservative budget in the spring of 2009 and subseuent indication of a non confidence motion in the fall of 2009 cost him dearly Interestingly the book takes a positive tone towards the end when Ignatieff returns to what he does best writing about the virtues of democracy about the pieces that make democracy work and in some cases not work and the Lakeside Redemption kinds of people that it takes to make it happen It s clear that Ignatieff is back in his element taking an experience that he had reflecting upon it and with the aid of important thinkers from past and present weaving a narrative about theinds of people that make our political life so rich Ignatieff ends his book by calling young people interested in making their country a better place to count the costs for he nows than most what the true costs of a political life really are and weigh those costs against the benefits of truly being willing to serve others even when serving your country means failing and failing hardAnd so I end where I began Ignatieff was fooled into thinking that he could waltz back to Canada after years away an accomplished academic and thinker ready to ascend the throne of Canadian politics And yet he was foolish enough to throw away everything he had already achieved in an effort to contribute positively to his country at a time when he felt his service was needed And it is precisely the combination of the two that leave me inspired getting involved in the political life of your country reuires that one be fooled into foolishness unless you re willing to risk it all for the sake of those you want to serve your service means nothing at allWhile I disagree with Michael Ignatieff on many things and while I much preferred Jack Layton s vision for our great country I can respect and learn from the lessons of the former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada This book is definitely open than other books in the sense that the author opens up about his struggles in the political arena and his place in the backroom politics of the nation He talks about Stephan Dion being a bad candidate who couldn t run a good campaign in 2008 He talks about the struggles of political life during his very first federal election During these passages Micheal Ignattief is honest and truthful about the politics that he had to face up to during the early days of his career However a big disappointment comes in his analysis of the 2011 election debacle he mentions his debate performances having been poor but he seems to struggle to put forward a final thought as to why he lost the election The chapter on the election is time spent on talking about the philosophy of politics instead of why he actually lost He mentions the Liberals lack of funds and the Conservative advertising machine as reasons for his defeat but in the end it s just a mishmash of excuses with no clear message on why the Liberals lost their worst defeat in history It s odd considering how the rest of the book is thoughtfull and he takes the time to deeply analyze his time in politics except for the federal election in 2011 A refreshingly candid look at elected politics The author was a professor at Harvard who had left Canada for 34 years and was recruited to move back to Canada to run for Parliament and eventually for Prime Minister He went through it all bad faith attacks growing ambition and unexpected defeats His writing is frank honest and often raw He is also a great writer Lot of good uotes ran out room A politician s job can be so thankless at times that if you don t acuire a sense of vocation you turn yourself by stages without realizing it into a hack These are the moments and they occur in every tough job when you re no longer sure you re up to it Your every mistake seems to confirm that you aren t Your self confidence is shot All you now for certain is that you once wanted this and that you have to find that primal desire within if you hope to survive So it had better be therePolitics tests your capacity for self Second Time Loving knowledge than any profession Inow What I learned is this the uestion about why you want to be a politician is a uestion about whom you want it for In my case whom did I want it for Any sense of entitlement that you might take from your past is absolutely fatal in politics The best thing about democracy is or should be that you have to earn everything one vote at a time I new enough not to feel entitled I new I had to earn it But the fact that I come from a family with a calling for public life played powerfully in my mind as I considered whether to accept the offer from the men who had come to dinner that October night By this point you have every reason to be tired of the self dramatization and self importance in this search for the motives that led me into politics All I would say is that self dramatization is the essence of politics You have to invent yourself for public consumption and if you don t take yourself seriously who else will While a painter s medium is paint a politician s medium is time he must adapt ceaselessly to its sudden unexpected and brutal changes An intellectual may be interested in ideas and policies for their own sake but a politician s interest is exclusively in the uestion of whether an idea s time has come When we call politics the art of the possible we mean the art of Dark Awakening knowing what is possible here and now The possible includes the potential Where an average politician sees only a closed room a visionary one sees the hidden door at the back that leads to a new opportunity What we call luck in politics is actually a gift for timing fornowing when to strike and when to bide your time and wait for a better opportunity When politicians blame their fate on bad luck they are actually blaming their timing Only fools believe they can control it In politics as combat any stick will do and in combat what matters is not proving your good faith but winning Many successful people contemplating entry into politics disdain the endless meet and greet the forced bonhomie of life under the public gaze as beneath their dignity but they are wrong The grind of politics the endless travel the meetings the impossible schedule the constant being on show are all in search of an authority that can be acuired in no other way You have to learn the country What a good politician comes to Hawks Way (Hawks Way know about a country can t be found in a briefing book What henows is the way the people shape place and place shapes the people Few forms of political expertise matter so much as local nowledge the details of the local political lore the names of the dignitaries and power brokers mayors high school coaches police chiefs major employers who must always be named from the platform Great politicians have to be masters of the local They have to at least remember every place they ever set foot in Wherever they are they have to give the impression of being at home When they ask someone in a crowd where they hail from they should be able to produce a story that neatly connects them to that voter with the jolt of human recognition As soon as democracy loses its connection to place as soon as the location of politics is no longer the union hall the living room the restaurant and the local bar and becomes only the television screen and the website we ll be in trouble We ll be entirely in the hands of image makers and spin doctors and the fantasies they purvey Politics will be a spectacle dictated from the metropolis not a reality lived in the small towns and remote communities that are as much part of the country as the big cities For all the talk about the Internet as the enabler of democracy the Internet could cause us to lose the aspect of politics that makes it truly democratic the physical contact between voters and politicians Now that I was in the fray I admired the masters of the art even and I thought back to a master class I had been given in politics in 2001 I was steering Bill Clinton through a room at the Davos meetings at the Waldorf Astoria in New York I was amazed at his ability to remember names and not just names but whole family stories as he sueezed this hand leaned in to iss that cheek locked his gaze on another s and ept moving baling them in like a combine harvester When I met President Obama later on I will never forget the grip on my elbow the uick mention of a book of mine a reference to a mutual friend Samantha Power and his casual grace together with the capacity to make you feel when you were speaking that you were the only person of interest to him in the room When we call a politician a natural we mean she has this mysterious ability to make a connection with others to make them feel at ease to make them feel special All naturals get better with practice but unless it comes naturally it doesn t look real What must be real is not so much the smoothness for which politicians are both envied and despised but real curiosity and interest in people s stories in the way they tell them and the meaning they are trying to convey Of all the ualities that go into sprezzatura I would rate listening being able to deeply listen to your fel. What did he take away from this crash course in political success and failure Did a life of thinking about politics prepare him for the real thing How did he handle it when his own history as a longtime expatriate became a major political issue Are cynics right to despair about democratic politics Are idealists right to hope Ignatieff blends reflection and analysis to portray today's democratic politics as ruthless unpr.
Michael Ignatieff À 9 Review
ONLINE Fire and Ashes Author Michael Ignatieff – lavitamin.us
Michael Grant Ignatieff is a Canadian author academic and former politician He was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Official Opposition from 2008 until 2011 Known for his work as a historian Ignatieff has held senior academic posts at the University of Cambridge the University of Oxford Harvard University and the University of Toronto