Less debate, more action
By Jim Poling
Published May 25, 2017
We live in an increasingly peevish society.
Smartphones, tablets and social media have made it much easier for us to share thoughts, and create immediate debate, on anything that irks us. Unfortunately, the sharing and arguing often take place without forethought or facts that provide balance and control.
Teapot tempests swirl through our small, increasingly selfish worlds as the hurricanes of the wider world rage around us. Much energy is exhausted on matters of lesser consequence while people suffer and die in conditions that need not exist.
A recent example is the controversy over cultural appropriation. It started as a silliness on Twitter among the big city intelligentsia, who apparently suffered caffeine overdose. That’s what happens when you spend too much time sitting around and intellectualizing in coffee shops.
Cultural appropriation, as I understand it, is when you take something from another culture and use it for your own purposes. For instance, when a non-aboriginal sports team uses aboriginal names and symbols for its club.
Now it is being applied to writing. Apparently it is wrong now to write about a culture to which you do not belong. I didn’t get into the details of the controversy because the early writing about it was wretchedly unfocused.
At any rate, the controversy is but one example reflecting the peevishness of our times. We live in silos, forming opinions within constricting walls, often unwilling to listen, analyse and assess other opinions. God forbid that we might have to change an opinion!
We see this particularly in politics where ideas and actions now are based on what is good for the politician and his or her party, not what’s good for the people. Anywhere you look – Canada, the U.S., Europe – it is difficult to get anything done because politicians are unwilling to step over party lines and consider anything else.
This leads me to my recurring dream in which all politicians are forced to stop whatever they are doing to focus only on critical matters. And that means taking action instead of debating.
Here is a short list of things they could tackle:
There are roughly 100 First Nations communities without safe drinking water. The numbers fluctuate and have for decades. There is talk, and some action, but the problem never gets fully solved.
Some people blame the First Nations people themselves. Well, all First Nations people had potable water before the Europeans arrived. Why can’t they have it now?
Canada’s opioid problem is a crisis. Opioid overdose deaths are out of control in B.C. and Alberta and two opioid overdose deaths a day are being reported in Ontario.
There have been many informed calls for the federal government to declare a public health emergency. Health Minister Jane Philpott says there is a national crisis but it is a complex problem and will take time to solve.
Some folks don’t have time and will be dead before aggressive action is taken. Canada has the world’s second-highest consumption of prescription opioids and lots of the illegal stuff pouring in from China.
Then there is the developing crisis that politicians are terrified of tackling: the chasm between the rich and the poor.
Oxfam has reported that the wealth of two Canadian billionaires, David Thomson and Galen Weston Sr., equals that of the combined wealth of 11 million other Canadians.
The top earning CEOs make 193 times as much as the average worker.
The actual dollar figures are disturbing but not as disturbing as the fact that all the economic growth lauded by the politicians is helping mainly the rich. The rest of us are seeing few benefits. And these days the richest people have the biggest influence on the politicians and other decision makers.
No wonder our society is becoming so cranky. Perhaps crankiness will help us turn to action that will get us focused and involved in the serious matters facing our society.
One action that definitely would help: A move away from the political party system. Create governments of people who see and understand our serious problems and are willing to work at solving them without political restraints.