We live in a cynical age. Hope has become a buzzword, seldom used and even less frequently believed. Politicians don’t stand for – they stand against. Patients are seen as clients and our democracy is falling victim to a consumerist mentality. The Capitalist system teeters on the edge of the abyss; global leaders sense the balance is shifting and are looking into the void uneasily, uncertain of what lies below.
Yet, there is cause for optimism – there always is. Despite the prevalence of despair, notwithstanding all the negative events and inhumane justifications that fuel them, we see all around us people willing to speak out at professional and personal risk against that which they know to be wrong. In war, there are always martyrs; that level of commitment is a bit harder to come by when the wrongs aren’t as severe. It is perhaps surprising, then, that the most powerful voices condemning the failings in our deteriorating, profit-motive society come not from the bottom, but from the very top.
There are two prominent examples that come to mind – Kai Nagata, formerly of CTV News and Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs. One could also point to Tracey Kent, Carrie Liddy and Richard Lorello and their calling for a probe into the man they helped get elected, Julian Fantino, in Vaughn. I’d even include my new favourite professor, Michael Ignatieff – it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to come back to the stage and eat humble pie after you’d already been dismissed as the awkward guest at a party. I think there’s a good chance I might be adding Tony Clement to the list. I get the feeling that as the Member from Parry Sound-Muskoka faces the unenviable task of managing down Canadian public sector costs, he is increasingly thinking about the consequences to the people of the public service, as well.
Of course, having said this, I still think we’re in for a period of frightening social upheaval. I just see the seeds of what comes next being planted today. Yes, conflict is rising, but so is the call for something more. As the things we fear (death, loss, etc.) stand out so prominently on our darkening horizon, we forget that history isn't linear - it's cyclical. When you reach bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.