On Being – Chapter V – Humanity (Part III)

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Government, Social Structure, and the Evolution of the Human Spirit

Governments, societies, and communities proceed through the life-stages of birth, maturity, and old age, just as individuals do. That healthy equilibrium between egoic and non-egoic modes of consciousness which exists in childhood, becomes lost to most of us, as ego further emphasizes itself in our life experience. By the time we have matured and are on the inevitable downslope, life has given us ample opportunity to learn that too much self-interest plus too little interest in others equals misery and isolation.

The neoconservative mindset is the political institutionalization of a selfish old age. We cannot afford to indulge ourselves any longer, nor can we afford to allow those who are self-indulgent materialists to determine our social values and the future of our country, ourselves, and our children. The Conservatives at one time were of a progressive nature – but that was a different party, comprised of different people, and ending with John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark. The neoconservatives are anything but progressive. They may more accurately brand themselves as the Regressive Conservative Party of Canada. Fortunately, many backbenchers in the current government are in rebellion against their own executive. Hopefully, they will one day reconcile the party with its operative, if not foundational, vision: a socially progressive party; proceeding from the centre, with a slight lean to the right.

It appears the Conservative governments of the new century –Canada’s most recent rendition being the Harper Conservatives -are restructuring their respective societies and guiding the evolution of global society according to a business model – one in which the financial bottom line is the prime determinant of our national, social, moral, and human values.

Who we will give aid to, and whom will we not? Who we will let into the country, and whom will we not? What we will do for the environment? The business social model esteems the parameters of production as the highest ‘virtue.’ How happy the employees are in their roles, is only relevant to the point where it favourably impacts the parameters of production without unfavourably impacting the bottom line. Business will base its hiring practices on the cost of the skills it needs –now. Those who govern according to this model will recruit skills from overseas, and leave nothing to do for their own citizen, leaving them no future, and nothing to live on.

In such a nation, and in such a world, the business model values the appearance of right-action more than the reality -advertising and branding are far cheaper than producing a quality product. It is as if these politicians actually believe that saying, “Things are this way,” or “Things are that way,” makes it so.

Saying so does not make it so.

How is it that Canadians are letting their governments get away with such nonsense? Not only the Conservatives are doing this; they are simply less subtle about it than, for example, the Ontario Liberals. As for the federal Conservatives, they are simply opportunistic beneficiaries of increasing division between Canadians, political cynicism among Canadians, and the age of hyper-connectivity and 24 hour news channels. There is so much more information available, and so little time for most of us to properly verify what we are being told, that politicians can get away with saying whatever they want, and no matter how much ‘hot air’ they create, there will always be people ready to believe it because it is what they want to hear, and they innocently want to trust their political public servants.

There are many people who entertain no qualms whatsoever as to the extent they are prepared to “colour” the data they provide in order to further their personal agenda –political or otherwise. With so much misinformation readily available to Canadians, any challenges to a government’s bogus claims is easily swallowed up by a sea of counterclaims. The neoconservatives have successfully reduced matters of fact to matters of propaganda: with so little interest in their custodial responsibility for information relevant to the Canadian nation (witness the destruction of the long form census) and which is presented to Canadians and to the world, they are basically telling Canadians what they want them to believe, while at the same time making it harder for Canadians to independently verify the facts. Canadians are progressively being forced to make belief-based choices rather than facts-based choices. The neoconservatives understand that, under these conditions, most people will choose to believe what they want to believe; and if they are given a thousand dollars or so, they will want to believe the Conservatives. The neoconservative approach is patently egoic: the promotion of blind-faith over reason, or in today’s parlance, ideology over evidence-based policy, is no different than the ego’s compulsion to frame reality in completely subjective terms.

To state the outcome of the neoconservative approach to governing requires few words: the dissolution of Canadian society and the end of Sir John A. MacDonald’s national vision.

United we will stand. Divided we will fail.

We appear to be failing. The lines of dissent are drawn along many dimensions: culture v. culture, region v. region, economic class v. economic class. We dishonour the lives and efforts of Sir John A. and of all the others who shared in the formation of Canada’s unique national character. Throughout our history we have taken on the dirtiest jobs with no consideration other than to be about the business of doing right by others. We exemplified, in an international context, the very motif of this book: service to others despite the apparent cost to ourselves.

Not only is the spirit of Canada under attack, so is the Canadian Earth Mother (aka the environment), who sustains us. We compromise generations of future Canadians, coast to coast, north to south. Our current values-paradigm, promoting economic growth, market economies, and materialist-based ethics, is leading us down the primrose path. It is not hard to understand that if we continue to grow, we will soon have more people living at one time than the Earth can possibly sustain; we will be placing more stress on the environment than the Earth Mother can tolerate; more toxins than the Earth Mother can assimilate.

What is plain to right-minded people seems to have been missed by the folks on the political right. Canadians gave the neoconservatives a majority in the 2011 federal election. If a general state of happiness is the superordinate goal of society – and who can seriously argue that it should not be – then engaging in the unbridled pursuit of material acquisition is exactly the wrong thing to be doing; that is, if you want to achieve any lasting state of viability for yourself, your children, and your children’s children.

Business exists to support the aspirations of society, not the other way round. If business should form the overarching goal of society, society will look and function like a business. Most of society’s members will experience a general state of happiness akin to that which you feel working an arduous 40 hour week at a low wage; and you will be ‘let-go’ in the form of insufficient benefits, when you are no longer useful. A relative few and decreasing number of citizens will experience material comfort in the present, or be able to save enough for the future to live off of, as we enter into an age of slow economic growth. So long as the return on investment is greater than the growth in the economy, more money and political power will end up in the hands of fewer and fewer people.[i] The neoconservative mindset will do nothing to ensure the wealth inequality does not grow to socially deleterious levels.

Viable societies are structured with the goal of promoting happiness among all of its citizenry. This will include, but is far from limited to, material security. Businesses, on the other hand, are structured with the goal of promoting happiness among investors; and there is only one way to accomplish that: by realizing the greatest profit. Businesses will not survive for long if they are not making a profit, nor will anyone want to invest in them. Businesses are obliged to sacrifice long term viability in order to make profit in the short term – a strategy which, ironically, most often serves to ensure a business’s ultimate demise. Businesses are reactionary, not visionary, by nature. Plainly then, societies must be structured upon a different model than businesses are.

 

[i] Read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.