An ongoing conversation between “Gabe” a seasoned islander and a political junkie, and “Youth” a young, hesitant newcomer to the weird, whacky and often disturbing world of Canadian politics. Gabe attempts to explain the current situation with the federal government and other political disorders.
Youth: So what did you think of Stephen Harper’s comments while he was attending La Francophonie in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
Gabe: You mean when he said that next time it should be held in a country with democratic values and a better record on human rights?
Gabe: Well, I have to admit, it’s likely one of the more thoughtful comments to ever come out of his mouth. Maybe being exposed to other cultures besides Alberta is having an impact on him.
Youth: I’m in shock! You said something positive about Harper.
Gabe: Well nobody’s all bad sonny.
Youth: Now I’m speechless.
Gabe: Of course, if he really wants the next summit to be in a country that espouses true democracy, that eliminates Canada – unless the grand Pooh-Bah puts representational voting on the table so that every Canadian’s vote actually counts. You know like other radical countries like, oh I don’t know, Ireland, and Switzerland, and…
Youth: Okay, okay, I got it. You just couldn’t let the positive moment fly could you?
Gabe: Junior, I get the feeling that you think I don’t like Harper. I have never met the man. What I don’t like are his policies and his political leanings and the way that he seems to be guided by the great pseudo-religion of politics, free trade, and other neo-conservative ideologies. There is far more to life than money, and oil, and unlimited growth, and instilling the fear of economic collapse into every Canadian.
Youth: Well, isn’t the economy the foundation of a healthy society?
Gabe: Rather than giving you a short and sweet “nope” I’d like to refer you to the situation in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. As westerners (hemisphere not west of Ontario) we arrogantly believe that few other countries, especially those that are not economic powerhouses, have much to teach us. We figure with our high quality of lifestyle, we have more to teach them.
Well, about 40 years ago, the King of Bhutan recommended that his country’s measurement of success should be based on a consideration of “gross national happiness” as well as “gross national product.”
Youth: How the heck can you measure national happiness?
Gabe: By checking in with citizens through a census and various polls. The focus for considering the happiness index is to question people’s sense of being well-governed, their relationship with the environment, satisfaction with the pace of economic development and their sense of cultural and national belonging.
The King recognised that there are limits to the levels of satisfaction that economic growth by itself provides. He recognised that the economy was only one indicator of social fulfillment.
Youth: But it still feels like some new-age feel good kind of approach.
Gabe: You know youngster, people are complex beings. We are more than consumers or simple ideologues. A healthy society needs to examine and acknowledge the quality of life, how much leisure time you have, what’s happening in your community, and how integrated you feel with your culture. We are not one-dimensional economic cogs in a corporate machine that focuses primarily on profit.
Our current economic strategy is based primarily on “growth” and I have to remind you that growth without limits is generally called cancer. Now that’s not an indication of a healthy society, is it? There’s way more to consider when trying to determine the success of any society.
Youth: Well that may be true, but the economy is the very foundation of a society.
Gabe: The economy is one aspect of the foundation, and governments are getting really good at marketing the economy as the primary or fundamental foundation of society. That dear boy, is, as they say, a crock. We live in a society where people are having to work two jobs; where the average Canadian family is in debt beyond their means to actually pay if the Bank of Canada rate rises even a bit. We live in a society where exhaustion is a chronic condition and we farm our kids out to daycare centres so we can work to pay for farming our kids out to daycare centres. (A politically incorrect statement to be sure, but hey, when have I ever been politically correct, eh?)
Youth: So you’re suggesting that we should look at way more than just the economic picture.
Gabe: Your ability to grasp the deep meaning in my musings astonishes me sometimes.
Youth: Sarcasm will get you nowhere. Sarcasm is the tool of the small mind.
Steve admits to a skewed fascination with the politics of the Borg and a strong inclination to explore the detours travelled to avoid the risk of consciousness. Steve can be contacted at email@example.com
Opinions expressed in this column will usually be those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Shingle.
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