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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.

Monday 12 May 2014

Stephen Harper's Canada: We Stand Indifferent to Thee

In a way, Stephen Harper is right - multiculturalism is a failure.  We in Canada talk a good game about acceptance and tolerance (or at least, we used to) but the reality of bigotry has never gone away.  If anything, it appears to be getting worse.

This isn't due to certain cultures not being meant to co-exist.  It's also got nothing to do with "society" being a socialist ruse to grab power.

The reason we have problems is that we have emphasized tolerance - I don't care what you do, so long as it doesn't effect me - over understanding and empathy.

I recently had a chat with a political organizer from Toronto's South Asian community.  A young, Canadian-born woman, she was expressing frustration with some of the homophobic beliefs being expressed by members of the local Sikh community.

"Do they really want to be leaning against one minority community that bugs them," she said, "when we're still a minority that many of you white folk don't want to deal with?  I keep telling them that when you're near the bottom of the pile, it makes zero sense to pick on the one group below you."

But this is exactly the sort of mentality being encouraged in our politics.  

Issues are being carved out and sold/pitched to individual groups.  We don't debate any more - we micro-target and message.

Information is being taken away from the people and emotional triggers are being hit for populist gains.  

The goal is to stir up feelings of anger, or fear, or even hope - encouraging individuals to place all their eggs in one leadership basket.  Only they, the message goes, can stop a forest fire.

At the same time, we're being told that our comfortable lifestyles are being threatened - by troubles lapping at shores, by greedy corporations or by special interest groups.  Only (insert leader's name here) can stop the fire from spreading.

Meanwhile, we're being told what we don't care about - we don't care about the working of Parliament, we don't care about silly science that disagrees with partisan messages and we certainly shouldn't care about our neighbours.  

Canadians have been comfortable and because we've been comfortable, we've become disengaged.  We practice ignorance and mistake it for tolerance.  We talk of multiculturalism, but it has become a series of disconnected silos that are rubbing up against each other uncomfortably.

Worst of all, our leaders are ignoring where these trends are leading us - even as we see where disaffection and self-interest has brought nations like Greece.

Canada has ceased to be a nation that represents something, and instead have become an embarrassing hodge-podge of competing tribes with definitively provincial attitudes.

Until we wrap our heads around what Canada used to represent and, at our best, what we can all represent - stronger, engaged individuals for a stronger, more dynamic whole - we will continue to fall.

We're a long way yet from reaching bottom.  God willing, we'll smarten up long before we get there.

And by God, I mean us - after all, God helps those who help each other, no?

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