The Canadian Trucking Strike, Background Values, and Grounding Validity

One street off the main drag, Montreal, Quebec, 2014

As I type this post, one of the momentous events of the COVID years is underway. It is hard to know the exact number, but over 70,000 trucks from across Canada are either driving to Ottawa, or already there, in protest of the endless mandates destroying people’s lives by the various federal and provincial agencies regarding management of the COVID pandemic.

It is a protest, and there are quite a few videos of people cheering the truckers on as they drive Trans-Canada 1 and other routes into the capital city. But it is not just a protest. It is what we used to call in the old-growth wars, an “action”. And actions were not just meant to create media. Actions have actual consequences in the Real World. In the case of the truckers, it’s shutting off literal lifelines of food and necessary goods into people’s households across Canada. That’s an action.

Most people live in peaceful oblivion of the complexity and synchronization of supply chains that make life in our modern societies possible. And even though “supply chain” is the new buzzword, most institutionalized workers (academics and government) have absolutely no clue about how anything ends up on their doorstep.

Interestingly enough, I have extensive experience with the sufferings of people who have to worry about supply chains, as well as trucks. I’ve had at least a ten year old relationship with PACCAR, through my graduates, who have sponsored numerous successful projects in the Industrial Design Clinic. One of the services I offer when people sponsor my students’ work is a form of corporate psychotherapy. When I call, I get a rundown on whatever the crisis du jour is. Trust that I know the background details of every crisis Boeing has had in the last 20 years. Mum’s the word, though.

The trucking protest (as someone who has planned protests) is particularly interesting, in that it’s not just a protest. It’s a civil action, and it’s made possible by something that was far less common even 30 years ago. Large semi trucks almost all have sleepers, which are self-contained units that sit behind the cab, and are often directly connected to the cockpit of the truck. They’re a little tight, but you can live in them — which means you can go to the bathroom. This is critical. So when the truckers say they intend to stay as long as it takes to get restrictions repealed and back to normal, it’s not an idle threat.

On top of that, there is simply no way for government to clear trucks out of a space, like they might automobiles or protestors. And even if they could, they’d have to recruit wrecker drivers, who very likely don’t share the same affinity the government might wish for. I can’t imagine that they’d find too many willing hands.

What does it mean for the pajama class, as well as the appalling leadership of Canada, to operate in such an air of oblivion to this reality? An example is in order. Over Christmas, I visited my sons in Reno, NV for two weeks. During that time, a record-setting blizzard settled in on Donner Pass, the primary path over the Sierras on I-80. Reno is an island city on the other side, and basically all food for Reno comes in by truck from northern California. In four days, virtually all the perishables (vegetables and meat) were gone. You were only going to make it by eating Oreo cookies (there was still a fair amount of processed food garbage.) But it wouldn’t take more than a couple of days for that to be gone as well.

That means, quite literally, that people will run out of food — not just in Ottawa, but across Canada. It is the apex of Elite Risk Minimization to ignore the truckers’ righteous demands.

The fact that the people of Canada (or the US) might only dimly understand the role of trucking in our modern economy really doesn’t matter. A large-scale truckers’ strike like this serves as a profound moment of grounding validity, where people living in their own, incorrect version of reality are about to find out that regardless of their belief that the world needs to be organized around the notion of COVID prevention (a canard I’ve written about before, in various forms) are now facing collapse. Isolated systems, like our own governments, can delude themselves that they really understand societal risks, while refusing to realize that their actions are driven by their own inability to face their own cowardice about their own deaths, all they want. But as the bubble floats away from the absolute truth — in this case, that we have a complex system of supplying goods and services necessary for survival, and there are people vital to that system that you’ve elected to punish — once you get too far, you will see grounding failure and arcing between the bubble and reality.

This is where Canada is today.

I’ve been particularly moved by some of the videos I’ve seen on Twitter (and it’s tough to move me — trust me.) Truckers very peaceably laying down the law on the loss of jobs through enforced government mandates, about the risks of their profession, and how they worked through the beginnings of COVID when we really didn’t know if COVID was deadly across all age cohorts. At the same time, some of them brought up the dismissal of unvaccinated health care workers, who faced the same challenges, and now are facing dismissal as well. It is beyond ungrateful. It is a societal crime. And especially in the light of what vaccines can, and cannot do. We are now down to the only real benefit of vaccines is reducing severity of infection, with little effect on spread in populations.

I’ve also been fascinated throughout the pandemic by the mismatch of government response to the stated cultural values of a given country. Countries whose v-Meme sets align with the citizenry have seen little overt conflict over measures. This includes those more evolved Communitarian v-Meme countries, like Sweden and Denmark, as well as in darker venues like narcissistic Authoritarian v-Meme China, where people really are OK with welding their neighbors into their apartments.

The more interesting cases have been surprises. I couldn’t believe that Canada would continue their measures as long as they had. I’ve spent serious time in Canada, and it really is true that Canadians are more friendly and helpful than their southern neighbors. So I guess it should come as no surprise that the truckers would show up and do what they’re doing, and be supported. Canadian’s baseline Communitarianism has programmed a code of egalitarian treatment and action into their DeepOS Meme-NA.

Another pathologically fascinating aspect of this strike is how it’s showing, once again, how broken our own media systems in the U.S. are. I’m writing this on Sunday, Jan. 30 in the morning. Trudeau has been evacuated out of Ottawa (probably on a helicopter) to a “safe space” in the US. This is what fallen dictators do when they lose their country. He’s issued no public response as of 10:30 AM PST. But the only place I can really learn anything is on Twitter. This profound flex of blue-collar public power isn’t covered on MSNBC or CNN (and no, I’m not going to exhaustively scan all the liberal outlets — you can do that if you’re bored.) But even Fox News has weak coverage. Make no mistake — this is a Western civilization-changing moment. And as this piece summarizes, regardless of the outlet, the popular press is locked into courting authority — be it Left or Right. About ten years ago, I started seeing the disparagement of the concept of “populism” — which used to be promoted as a prosocial value in the media. That is obviously no longer true.

It’s also memetically fascinating that Trudeau has whispered nary a world (at least I can’t find anything) about this crisis in his own country. Trudeau is the son of the Canadian icon Pierre Trudeau, and is an extreme example of dynastic authority- and popularity-driven politics as one can find. As we are busy learning the the U.S., dynastic politics do not serve modern societies well at all, especially large complex ones, Trudeau is behaving in the current circumstance like any deposed king. He obviously does not have the strength of character to admit that he was wrong, nor wade into the crowd of truckers outside the Canadian Parliament and make peace. Instead, we are likely to see a long, drawn-out crisis on the scale of food depletion (the truckers have said they’re ready to stay for over two weeks, and trust me, that’s more than enough time to empty stores.) The fact that a leader would put the entire well-being of his country at risk over COVID policy is emblematic of his lack of integrity, as well as the compactness of the bubble of his public health policy advisors. As I write this, I am literally gasping.

Mark my words — this is a civilization-changing moment. It’s not time to pop popcorn, or any such icks. It is time to watch. And you better believe that all the other petty tyrants that lead the Free World are watching as well. As goes Trudeau and Canada, go their own necks. That’s grounding validity for you. It pushes those collective government brains down into maximum neuroplasticity that we find in Survival v-Meme situations. My guess is that there will be strong provincial pressure from the individual ministers to walk this one back. But it is simply impossible to know what exactly is happening real-time because of the corruption of the news media.

But needless to say, my prayers and hopes are with the truckers.

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