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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.

Sunday 29 December 2013

Laying Foundation for 2014


Now's the time of year where political pundits spill their tea leaves into their coffee cups and see what's in store.  They tend to start with some low-hanging fruit - almost-certain eventualities they can comment on now so as to claim wins later.  From there, they look at the key personalities - leaders, their inner circles, big names on the stage that can sway headlines.  

Pundits will look at the map in terms of electoral districts - the West vs the East, Quebec, the 905, so on and so forth.  By breaking the population up into sub-groups, the theory goes, it's easier to predict what ripples starting where will shape the shore tomorrow.

In this way, they operate in much the same way as Political Parties do; they look for and nurture coalitions, star candidates and the keenest, known-commodity operatives.  From this perspective, it's a clear picture of Power, Party and People, lined up in just that way - if you can own or dangle the promise of power through a Party the better your chances of driving action, dollars and votes - and controlling behaviour - of the people.

But there are other forces at play that the seers at the top tend not to foretell.  As technology and social media connect people from coast to coast and around the world, we have a dynamic that reaches beyond political barriers.  People see the idealized  version of how others are living; they're also seeing that the sufferings they face are shared by many.

Governments of many stripes across the world are caught in an increasingly dissonant drive for #OpenGov, while at the same time the NSA is making headlines for questionable breaches of privacy and Canadian citizens are being turned away at the US border for private health-related matters.  People are paying attention, and they're not impressed.  This is particularly true as, no matter what or when, they are relentlessly bombarded with political messaging that makes to effort to provide answers, vision or even a bit of human connectivity.

People like symbols, protagonists and simple narratives.  It's why we like to tell ourselves individuals shape history for better or worse.  This largely isn't true; leaders are most often products of the mood of the people rather than the Machiavellian manipulators they claim to be.

The truth is, pundits and the people they ponder live in a world apart.  They look at the world through a lens of self-interest that blinds them to many of the deepest realities of the times.  Everyday folk aren't interested in electing one Party or another; they are worried about their future.  

It's not about politics for them - not leaders, not Parties, not occupiers of capitalized residences.  It's about the world they face when they walk out their door and the world their children will inherit.  Far too many parents these days carry the quiet anguish of the subtle realization the world they leave behind won't be as kind to their kids as it was to them, and that's troubling.

These people don't feel there's leadership at the top, so instead are looking laterally.  Social media is increasingly becoming a tool of communication rather than messaging.  Despite the cynicism, service providers including those in uniform are looking to work with each other and the people they interact with; they're recognizing that cooperation is the only sustainable way forward.  

If the people at the top refuse to play along, well, the game gets played without them.  

For this reason I don't think the greatest adventures of 2014 will be tied to Political Parties - in fact, I imagine Parties are going to have to adapt to them.  It'll be the people themselves, online and in person in both proactive and reactive fashion that will be the ones to watch.

Just something to keep in mind - after all, a healthy society is one with the capacity to adapt. This sometimes involves shedding old skins to allow for growth.


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