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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 20 July 2012

Rob Ford is A Starfish - But Aren't We All?

Rob Ford is angry.  He seems to be angry a lot, actually.  That's a big part of why he got elected, because Toronto voters were angry, too.  They wanted decisive action of some kind and Rob Ford was the only one providing a black-and-white solution.  Problem is, as we've learned, there wasn't much substance behind that solution.  Rob Ford is a one-off kind of guy; hit one problem, doesn't matter the consequence, then hit the next.  It's all very reactionary.

In this, Rob Ford is like the little boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean; he might not be able to save every starfish on the beach, but he can pat himself on the back for saving that one.  Problem is, that very same starfish will get washed back onto the shore and die along with all the others that were ignored.  You can only solve the problem if you look at it from a structural perspective; what causes all these starfish to wash up on the shore in the first place?

We can get mad at Rob Ford, or Dalton McGuinty, or Stephen Harper, but they're really just starfish, too.  Voting them in on narrow mandates and then voting them out for working on those mandates might be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn't solve anything; in fact, it allows the problems to worsen.  These aren't one-off challenges; there are no quick fixes.  You can't fix a broken system with little tweaks.

What's needed is systematic, structural change.  Every single facet of our governance structure needs revisited.  You can't solve gun crime, for instance, without addressing education, poverty, healthcare, employment access, taxation, etc.  They're all interconnected.  People get really stuck in their own, narrow views, though; some will say gun crime is an immigrant problem, or a poor parenting problem, or a poverty problem.  They demand limited resources get spent on their niche area of focus and not in fields they see as frivolous.  How can you manage sweeping changes in a representative democracy where people put their own ideologies first?

The answer is, you can't.  There are only two ways out; one is through dictatorship, where one person calls all the shots regardless of the views of the people.  That's where we're headed right now, as politics at all levels has increasingly sought to consolidate power in one person and their inner circle.  To facilitate this process, information is becoming more tightly controlled; a lack of information for comprehension results in more emotional reaction.  We've seen why this is a problematic trend; people get very angry very fast when they feel they have zero say in their fate, don't trust the people at the top and don't much know what's going on big-picture.  They will eventually decide to take back control of their fate by force, enforcing their own interests through any means necessary - which is what's happening with the pisolitzation of Toronto.

Answer number two is the most challenging but ultimately, only sustainable one; we stop being intransigent, start looking out for collective (not selfish) interests and embrace this little concept of moving forward together.  That means not focusing on validation for your own views, but constantly challenging them to see where there's room for improvement.  It means not looking to invalidate the views of others, either, but deconstructing down to points of commonality.    Believe me, they're always there.  From that shared ground, compromise can be achieved.  How do we put the views of others before ourselves, though?  How do we trust the other?  We do it by taking a long, uncomfortable look inwards and re-evaluating the confabulated notions of identity which we wrap ourselves up in, like a banner or a blanket.

We've come so far in our social journey - chiefdoms, empires, republics, parliamentary democracies, etc.  It's always about empowering the people to collaborate strategically on building a better world of us all.  We can only do that when we do it strategically, consciously.

History points us in that direction.  It'll happen; the only question is how long it will take us to learn the basic lesson of "live together, die alone" before we get there.

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