Societies are formed in order to:
- Establish an organizational framework in which human beings may coexist in a spirit of true collaboration.
- Create an environment where each member enjoys equal opportunity in the pursuit of happiness (joy), to live in liberty, safety, and health.
- Encourage true individuality.
- Protect each member’s right to free will.
- Protect honest people from those who would take advantage of their trusting natures.
- Provide a truly accountable/responsible government and an engaged electorate, since one cannot exist without the other.
- Economic polarization is a thing of the past – we cannot have people living in abject poverty while others live in unabashed luxury.
[Will you add to this list? Please do so. Send me a comment with your suggestion]
Human societies are organisms bound to evolve and mature as human individuals do, from birth, through growth and maturity, into old age; but neo-conservatism (aka movement conservatism) represents a dubious attempt to reverse social progress, to divide communities (and nations), and to facilitate the creation of a two-tiered status quo that favours society’s wealthy members.
The Conservatives are locked in a binary worldview. Their conceptual framework obliges them to put on binders to keep from noticing, and having to acknowledge, the mountains of facts existing in contradiction to their view.
They must also keep us voters from noticing the mountains. They accomplish this by whiting-out as many of them as they can (the long form census and muzzling scientists on climate change for example), and redrawing the actual ‘lay of the land’ with a topography of their own. They repeat the details of their concocted Canadian cartography in commercials ad naseum; the idea being to repeat the same things, over and over again, so that, come election day, we will vote without having put a lot of thought into it. They know if we voters do put a lot of thought into it, 90% of us would see the Cons for what they truly are and never permit that sort to govern our blessed country.
The neocons cultivate their vision of the future by romanticizing the past. They want to take us back to a place we have already been: a place of us and them, entitlement and desserts, haves and have-nots. If the neocons are successful in achieving a second majority mandate, we are bound to repeat the mistakes and experience the misery of only a few generations ago. Poverty and its handmaiden, misery, will manifest on a profounder, more pervasive scale than ever before.
The Conservatives have placed Canada in a reactionary framework that will only deepen social misery at home and abroad. Instead of addressing the root causes of crime, for instance, the Conservatives will build bigger prisons. Instead of creating a society that is all-inclusive, the Conservatives will further marginalize people who are homeless and burdened with emotional or psychological pathologies. The Conservatives (to whom I will hereafter refer as the “Cons,” in order to remove any semantic superfluousness), would leave Canadians to fend for themselves at the time when they are most vulnerable and unable to do it on their own. Under the Cons’ pilotage, we are leaving Canadians, from young teens to retirees, on the street when they really need our support, and to belong.
In tolerating multiple-tiered health and educational systems, we further entrench socio-economic inequality. Multi-tiering not only runs contrary to the liberal notion of equal opportunity, it also makes bad business sense. The most spectacularly enduring myth in the Canadian pantheon is that our Cons know business the way Bo knows baseball. The Cons are given to seeing their country as a business, and to view the government’s role as a series of management decisions to continue economic growth, and to attract investors – the environment, the future, unemployed workers with no means to support their families, and children growing up in poverty, be darned. The Cons appear to have no plan other than to further enrich the big players among their support base (which means a progressively smaller portion of our national income and wealth remains to be shared among the remaining 90%).
The rules of the game change when you move from a boardroom to the Canadian Parliament, but the Cons will never get that. Bo was smart enough to leave football’s rules behind when he played baseball. The Cons should have been paying attention to Bo rather than honing their social and geopolitical skills by playing Risk [ or Supremacy] during caucus meetings. Some say it was Stephen Harper, John Baird, and Tony Clement who placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the caucus Risk roll-off competitions. (FYI: The movements on a Risk board are accomplished with a roll of the dice, but only our former finance minister, the Right Hon. Pat Flaherty, would have though this to be an important consideration when governing a country and ‘managing’ its economy).
Most businesses react to periods of poor markets by cutting training programs, since the expense of training is not tied directly to production. Businesses generally layoff their under-utilized employees, rather than take advantage of the lull in activity to develop their employees and their general productive capacity in preparation for future market opportunities. They may successfully protect their margins and satisfy their investors in the short term, but the overarching and long term objective to preserve and enhance their business’ profit-earning potential is traded away in the process. The Cons would trade our Canada’s future opportunities, and our very survival as a nation, for some ethereal and short-lived perks that are generally limited to enhance the wealth and power of the investor class. It is not that investors are bad people; but because investors are not the only people in Canada, over-focusing on them is socially pathological. It is not only irresponsible for governments to neglect the needs of all of society’s members, it is criminal. It is just as criminal for society’s members to not contribute to the needs of the Canadian nation, according to their abilities.
If we maintain the Conservatives in government after 2015, we will see the extraordinarily un-Canadian events of the last few years become the ordinary. Instead of preserving our Canadianism as a peacefully demonstrating society, we will experience more G20-like herdings of the masses. Instead of building world peace through diplomacy and active-listening, we will participate in more aggressive campaigns like the one in Syria. With regards to an Israeli-Palestinian solution, suffice it to say that there is no option of any permanence that does not guarantee a place, and a sovereign future, for both Jew and Palestinian, under the protection of the international community.[i] The Conservatives’ have shown themselves unable to contribute anything of value on this front. As for me, I see our Canadian military assisting in providing a buffer as peacekeepers between Israel and a new Palestinian nation, and/or the two nations and any regional groups attempting to undermine that new middle eastern order of peace between Arab and Jew, and among Sunni and Shia.
In a country where no child should suffer, or starve, or lack the opportunities the children of wealthier parents have, we will see a continuance of the global and domestic trend toward economic polarization under neoconservative governments. This will encourage more war, more crime, more misery, more children growing up and struggling as adults, with no notion that they were intended, by God, for something better. They could have something better, but for the ego of others.
The sad thing is, no one is better off by exploiting others, and by creating tiered societies. There is enough interdependency naturally operating in societies to recommend the promotion of greater socio-economic equality as the means to achieve a better quality of life for everyone, regardless of status.
Tiering is a construct perpetuated by our egos. Not even the Conservatives/Republicans and their wealthy supporters will benefit, in the long term, by the economic and social inequality they have been systematically abetting ever since trying to torpedo Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Economic inequality is no more tolerable than gender or racial inequality. It is an odd inconsistency that we do not prosecute and protect economic rights with the same enthusiasm we do gender and race. We cannot be silent on poverty.
Society must encourage true individuality
A society must encourage honest self-expression, rather than superimpose uniformity on things that are by nature dissimilar. We learn to behave true to the expectations of others, but are perhaps not always courageous enough to live true to ourselves. If our actions do not reflect our true attitudes and aspirations – who we really are – then we are betraying a most fundamental principle of Life. And if we are not behaving true to what and who we really are, how can we possibly be living a quality existence, much less be all that we have it within us to be? And if the existence of individuals is inferior in quality, how can a society formed of them be any better? Conversely, a society formed of self-actuated individuals at peace with themselves and with one another, can only be one of enduring quality and limitless potential.
For individuals to effectively collaborate in a society – to form relationships with one another, they must trust one another. And before they can trust one another, they must be honest with one another. They can only be honest with one another in a milieu of tolerance. They will not be honest with one another if they are feeling inferior because something in their behaviour, their look, their way of speaking, or their personal beliefs, evokes a negative judgment from someone else. Those exposed to intolerance, especially children, do not realize that it is precisely intolerance of individualism that is weakening the social fabric – not their being different. They grow up under a burden of guilt and low self esteem laid upon them by others. It is the intolerant who should feel ashamed of themselves for having made others feel this way.
Individualism, cultivated in a milieu of collaboration, virtue, and compassion, is one of Nature’s most critical and effective defense mechanisms. Variation helps guarantee the long term viability of plant and animal populations – human societies included. We must be careful not to suppress individualism because the reaction is often one of disengagement, at the least, and missed opportunity. When Canada and the world are in trouble and desperate for new ideas, a unique someone might just have the answer – we would not want them to keep silent because they fear being ridiculed. For Nature’s variability defense to work, all voices must be active, and all ears attentive. The resources and talents which disengaged individuals might otherwise have provided to our communities and Canadian society generally, is wasted by intolerance. We are, because of our own actions and attitudes, missing golden opportunities for ourselves, and for future generations.
As the saying goes, ‘nine-tenths of success is showing up.’ This is because nine-tenths of success is being present and fully engaged with one’s task. One cannot be present (and nine-tenths of the way to success!) when one is socially and economically marginalized, alone and worried for their families about tomorrow. One cannot be present politically, if our elected and non-elected public servants use their public office to enact legislation which is self-serving or which promotes private interests over the public interest. The sell-off of Hydro One, austerity programs, and free trade agreements are examples of the private interest being given priority over the public interest. One cannot be present if the government reduces its interactions in the House and with the citizens to misdirection and salesmanship. One cannot be present while governments are permitted to spend public money on partisan media advertising– money which could have gone to help the poor, or to fund an infrastructure project that would improve efficiencies (public transit, for i.e.), and create a milieu for job growth. Governments are terribly remiss to waste money bamboozling the public (while ruining our sports –viewing pleasure watching the resurgent Blue Jays) rather than engaging us in meaningful ways. It is not democracy if the electorate is simply provided a limited set of options to vote on; the electorate must acquire and active voice in determining what those choices are.
Putting Canada and Canadian society back on Gordie’s rails will entail a wholesale shift away from the right, politically. The tenets upon which the Liberal Party of Canada was founded, if actively and selflessly pursued, will make possible the collaboration necessary for Canadian society to flourish and for all Canadians to prosper.
We Canadians will have to collaborate with one another, and with the global neighbourhood, in an all-inclusive, tolerant, compassionate way, in order to properly honour the vision, courage, and selflessness of the Great Wars/ Great Depression generations of Canadians. If the world is watching, and is sensible, it will parallel the Canadian model, each nation and culture in its own special way.
Prior to the neoconservatives ‘Dark Age’ (2006 – 2015), Canadians tended to elect nationally and globally progressive leaders – the likes of Pearson and Trudeau. The vision and humanitarian values of these truly visionary prime ministers earned Canada and Canadians respect around the world. It was common among us ‘70s teeny-boppers to sew a Canadian flag on our denim jackets before travelling overseas, even before you got a passport. We knew Canada and Canadians were respected around the world. Our national reputation was because of the visionary leadership of our great prime ministers and because of the utterly selfless contribution and conduct of Canadians during the great wars, and in our peace keeping efforts.
It is very Canadian to act out of conscience and principle rather than expedience and self-interest. People everywhere appreciated, respected, and admired us for this – so what happened? Why are we now, as a nation, living in fear of terrorist attacks? Why has our military moved from peacekeeping to aggressive bombing campaigns? Bombing does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, try as one may. The beleaguered residents of these zones have little choice: if we are bombing the jihadis, and the jihadis are occupying their communities, to whom else can these residents turn to, to protect their families? What would you do?
If the Stephen Harper Cons are comfortable cultivating such a callous, reactionary, exploitive, and business-like version of the Canadian nation and its place in the world, what do you suppose their attitude is toward intra-national relations? Consider his concern for our veterans (who gave life and limb), the slaughter of aboriginal women, or the fact that Stephen Harper presided over a federation for ten years without engaging the leaders of our federation’s constituent provinces in a single First Ministers Meeting – that is tantamount to a mill manager running a mill and making business decisions without ever consulting the various department heads. This PM is engineering a Canada that no one, not even Stephen Harper the man, would want, if only he and his ‘team’ had enough foresight to see where their American tea-party ‘vision’ is inexorably leading. So long as we persist in being guided by south-of-the-border style conservatism, rather than homegrown Canadian principles, the hole being dug for Canada will get deeper and deeper. Instead of our Canada leading the world to the top of the hill, the Stephen Harper Cons will have it following the world to the bottom.
What is the solution? How will we get ourselves on track as individuals and as Canadian society, and in so-doing, light the path for the world to follow? Recall what Pearson did with the Suez, and the reputation Pierre Trudeau – one of Canada’s greatest statesmen – built for Canada and Canadians on the world stage.
John Lennon once met with Pierre Trudeau at Sussex Drive, then emerged an hour or so later as giddy as a schoolboy, saying if all of the world’s leaders were like PET, it would be a beautiful world for everyone. Imagine…
…do you suppose a meeting with Stephen Harper or John Baird would have affected the great Philosopher-Beatle in quite the same way?
The heart of Canadian democracy is not in Ottawa, but in each and every Canadian citizen, past, present, and future. Canadians must begin by reconciling their thoughts, words, aspirations, and doings with traditional Canadian principles. Of these, the most fundamental is to have the courage and selflessness to act according to principle. All bets are off if we do not proceed on that basis.
Whereas I began this article with a list of principles for society, I would like to end by listing some principles for the individuals who make up society. I believe these will help to put individuals and the society they form in good stead.
- Bow to principle, not pressure.
- Be truthful and honest.
- Governments and people will often try to rationalize a bad choice, just to save face. But everyone makes mistakes. The pressure to be perfect causes us to miss opportunities to learn something new and to make positive changes. If we are more concerned with preserving image than acquiring knowledge and capability, we forfeit the opportunities life affords us to get better. And that is getting us nowhere.
- Never do anything that would bring you shame if discovered. You still know what you have done, and so will God. How does it help, then, if others don’t know?
- Never deny your true intentions. If your personal agenda affects another person, they have the right to know, and you have the obligation to tell them.
- Approach your relationships with an attitude of what you might do for others, rather than what others might do for you. Look to what the person next to you is needing, and provide it them if you can. Give a smile, and a “Hi, how are you?” to someone you don’t know.
- Consider the impact of your thoughts, choices, and actions, upon others. If you cannot keep a promise, or if you have inadvertently wronged people, apologize and then make it up to them somehow.
- Respect others. Remember that we are all of us much more the same than we are different. Children, for example, see the world, and live their lives, as children do, not according to whether they are black or white, Moslem or Christian, male or female, born in Canada or the Middle East, in this millennia or the last…
- Let’s get with the program. Just because something isn’t right for me doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else. And if that something that isn’t right for me is something that doesn’t hurt me if someone else is doing it (smoking marijuana for example), why should I care? Harken to Paul McCartney and “Let It Be.
- Article by Thomas Walkom. Appearing in the 8 August 2015 edition of the Toronto Star: Truthiness marks Stephen Harper’s Netflix tax fib. Google the article’s title for the URL.
- Article by Marc-André Blanchette. Appearing 9 August 2015 on the Quebec version of the Huffington Post: Gérer l’économie ou laisser l’économie nous gérer? Again, google the article’s title for the link.
- Need I say it? Anything by Paul Krugman, Thomas Piketty, Thom Hartmann.
[i] Please read James Carroll’s Jerusalem, Jerusalem. ISBN-10: 0547747624