Tuesday, May 3, 2011

So frustrated with my fellow Canadians that I could spit

The results of this election can only be symptoms of a larger social problem that I'd tricked myself into thinking was maybe smaller than it is.

Now we must exercise democracy a different way and I wonder if anyone is up to it. The current government has used our fear and low morale to create the very conditions that keep people afraid and mean. This vision for Canada will weaken our social fabric and hurt the families it claims to protect. Our middle class is already decimated - and why not, all dissent comes from a comfortable, educated middle class who looks around and says, wait a minute, that's not right. The cult of self-interest won a major victory over the communion of humanity.

There's a part of all of us that is self-interested. That part knows that she's selfish, but because she's selfish, she doesn't care. There's something primal in us that wants the world to be a contest, wants to engage in hard, fast play and see who comes out on top. We want the game to exist. We want it to be rigged so that, if we're smart enough, we can figure out the rules and win. We don't mind cheating because this game is life and death. We don't mind accepting the luck that comes to us as our deserved reward for existing. It's very fulfilling.

And there is something primal in us that understands, at a deep level, that while any of us suffer, the rest of us are culpable. We don't want to face that part. We don't want to accept that we could decide to value the human dignity of every life through all our systems of government, because if we could then we must. So it must be a complex problem. It must be unsolvable.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

We know exactly, precisely how to solve the problems of poverty. Not that it can be done overnight, but we know. And we choose to starve the systems that would do it, and design them to opposite effect because the short-term cost is prohibitive, yes, but more because we want to avoid being cheated. Almost everything that is wrong with our systems is a direct result of our primal fear that someone might get ahead at our expense.

So does every human life have dignity, or do I need to look out for me and my own first? What balance can I live with and still sleep at night? Do I keep myself ignorant to tip the balance for my own comfort? How much? Can I even have enough perspective to know that? What is the cost, in the long run, of paying money to enable poverty instead of spending a little more and beginning to eradicate it? How long will I have to pay for the social and health effects of deep poverty? Forever? How much of this is really about not wanting other people to be able to live with dignity unless they work for it, damn it! And do I even understand one thing about the "people" I think of this way? Where does my understanding come from? Is it up to date? Oh, I can go on.

I demand that people start asking themselves questions like this. It's a responsibility of citizenship. It's a responsibility of being human. I demand that we slow down our "growth" until we know what we're growing for, and give people time to think and breathe again.

But I must not demand. I must convince, cajole, plant seeds, influence, demonstrate. Slow, passive means. People are in distress, in fear, in anger. They are deciding from a very limited scope, deliberately, because they are not responsible for what they don't know or don't believe to be true. Depth of knowledge would require acknowledgements people can't live with and sleep at night. So I must not confront them with these truths. I need to find ways to get them across with love, not frustration.

Good thing I have a blog.