Thursday, February 23, 2006


Many of us are grateful for the hard work of men and women in our grandmothers' and grandfathers' generation. They struggled against incredible adversity (very wealthy and very committed adversaries) to force legislative changes in our governments. These changes resulted in the creation of government institutions designed to create opportunities for every child - regardless of gender, race, or class. Despite the many frustrations and obstacles many of us continue to face, we all enjoy an entirely different world than the one they grew up in, not only technologically, but socially. Our few remaining elders often try to remind us how different things were, how hard life was for them and how many people struggled to get by. And many of us have a hard time understanding.

So what did they accomplish?
  • They worked together to become powerful political forces (which is, needless to say, a difficult task for working people).
  • They overcame the prejudice and bigotry of committed and wealthy opponents.
  • They did this without much money. They did it even though many of their bosses and editors and politicians fought them every step of the way.
  • They overcame their differences and found out what they shared - and on this common ground they worked together for the greater good.
They did it for us, and they made huge changes to the society we inherited.

Changes like:
  • workplace safety regulations, and compensation for workplace accidents.
  • equal (legally, at least) rights for women, for racial minorities.
  • social assistance for individuals and families who fall on hard times.
  • freedom of religion, and freedom from religion in public life.
  • public healthcare being made available for everyone.
and so on.

And they were proud of what they had done.
And their children had better lives than they.
And their children's children were born into better circumstances still...

but somehow, along the way, we seem to have forgotten what they accomplished - just how different a society they created for us. We were so lucky, we coudn't even REALIZE how lucky we were, because the great horrors were mostly past us.

And so we became unwittingly, unconsciously complacent. We didn't mean to, we just had a hard time conceptualizing just how lucky we were.

Well, the forces of backwardness have regrouped, and there are now, in our society, an organized and dedicated bunch of people who'd like to roll progress back a century or two, to the good old days when the women stayed home, marriage was for making babies, the coloured people were around for doing the dirtywork, and righteous white men got to make all the laws to suit their own purposes... They wouldn't all say this, of course, especially not in their public statements. But this is the general gist of what they'd like to see, more or less.

It even seems they've managed to hoodwink a frustrated and outraged Canadian public into voting out a party they've come to see as "corrupt". Accidentally, it seems, this has resulted in them voting IN a party steeped, or marinated perhaps, in the above "traditional values". A party populated by frustrated and hurting people who's lack of ability to empathize with others has left them seethin with rage over what they perceive as "assaults" on the values of their families

Assaults on the righteous truths they learned in their churches.
Assaults on the proper place of Christian men as the moral authorities of nations.
And they are determined to fight the good fight, as they see it.

Rick Mercer's blog has some poignant comments made by conservative politicians, words strangely not highlighted by the corporate press in the lead up to the election. These words reveal deeply rooted Fundamentalist beliefs that will make these politicians bring their private beliefs into the public process.

Here's a link to a documentary film takes a look too.

Perhaps it is time for to stop for a minute, take stock of what's been happening in the countries of the west, and see just what direction we've been steered in...

Its definitely not the vision of our grandparents, who worked so hard for the gains they won. And I don't think its really the vision of many of us either.

In fact, it would appear that, despite incredibly pervalent conservative propaganda in the corporate media for the last 20 years, the majority of Canadians still hold basically progressive views.

Whatever things make this possible, you can bet that the forces of backwardness, of fear and hoarding, have them in their sights.

They have been trying to destroy healthcare (they're strategy is to underfund it, so that it will become so unsatisfactory that we'll AGREE to scrapping it, or at least permit the beginning of the end: Privatized healthcare.

They have been trying to destroy public broadcasting.

They have been trying to destroy public education.

and they're making headway in each of these strategic initiatives.

So what's the good news?

Well, the good news is that they are few and we are many. Few are the fearful men and women who want to alienate themselves from the rest of their countrymen, live in gated communities, and never need face the great unwashed (one of the old names for the general public). It is possible that we might be able to help them see that their interests actually lie in the wellbeing of the public. Perhaps some of them won't understand. Luckily, we don't need them all to.

Far more numerous, by millions and millions, are the ordinary people who want their children, and the friends of their children, and the families of the friends of their children to live good, happy lives - to have decent and useful educations, to have access to the care they need, the support they need in times of distress.

And there are many freedoms we enjoy that will make it easier for us to restore and further the gains made by our predecessors. We have communications technologies available that make sharing information cheap and easy. We have access to information that can allow the analytical among us to figure out how things work, and design strategies the rest of us can follow to promote our values. We have new techniques of compassionate communication that may allow us to avoid the uglier confrontations that often faced progressives in the past - instead helping us connect with the real people that are unintentionally creating pain and suffering in our society, and tragically undermining their own core values at the same time.

Perhaps it's time for us to learn from past mistakes, and prevent future ones by stopping the fundamentalists (before they do too much damage) and listen to our wise folk for their guidance as we work to build the kind of society we can all be proud of.

We can:

Support progressive organizations
Learn "Compassionate Communication"
Learn how to present our ideas and values in ways that harmonize with the values of other people (framing).