Enough is enough.
As a Canadian citizen, I’m used to the federal political process that goes on in Ottawa. I’m accustomed to political gamesmanship between parties and leaders. And of course, I’m accustomed to how little gets done at the federal level to make Canada, objectively, a better place for its citizens.
And I know I’m not the only one who is tired of politics as usual in Ottawa. Pick up any newspaper, this one included, and it’s easy to see the discontent and apathy many feel towards our federal system of politics. And rightly so — why should average people care about politics when politicians are so out of touch with the average person?
However, having been a consistent contributor to this paper over the past few years, I’m also well aware of how much pointless drivel is written on the subject of Canadian politics. Yes, I know Harper’s an idiot. Yes, I know Ignatieff’s a pompous loser. And yes, I know the only reason Layton is still the leader of the NDP is because of his moustache. The general observation that federal politics in this country accomplishes little shouldn’t be news to Canadians — I know very few people, regardless of their political affiliation, who are inspired by our national leaders.
That’s why, for the past three years, I’ve strived as best I could to avoid writing on the topic of Canadian federal politics. After all, what can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? When us commentators are given so little positive material to work with, we naturally focus on the faults. And it’s easy to expose and condemn the follies, because they’re often very obvious.
But once in a while, an event so mindboggling occurs that I can’t resist the temptation to get up on my soapbox and bitch. Let me explain.
For all of my life, I have been a student of current affairs. It is often said that history is past politics, and politics is present history; for seven years at the U of M, I studied society from both sides of that equation. As such, you get used to observing cheap political stunts performed by our leaders, all of which are designed to score points with constituents. But every once in a while, something rare happens — something unscripted and spontaneous.
As you all know, last week Stephen Harper played the piano and sang a Beatles song. To the delight of commentators everywhere, an otherwise slow news week suddenly turned into a comment bonanza. Commentators just had to have their say. Was this move smart politics? How will it affect the election? Is Harper actually a human being and not a robot?
Harper’s little song led to so much tabloid journalism devoid of any intellectual analysis that even I felt it necessary to crawl back to these pages and voice my concern. This event worries me because it demonstrates the complacency our country seems to have with its place in the world. To me, the Harper sing-along signifies all that is worrisome about our culture — our country’s success and prosperity has made us all soft. Our politicians and the media who hold them accountable have become complacent, worried only about today and not for tomorrow. Instead of practicing hard news on issues that are of concern to us (and especially us young people who will inherit what’s left of the earth from our parents), our politicians mess around and our media laps it up.
It will be our generation’s burden to deal with challenges ignored by the current Canadian political leadership. Oil and water are running out, and climate change is occurring before our eyes. The world’s population is going to hit 10 billion people within the next few decades, while the populations of Western capitalist democracies are stagnating. Most foreboding of all is the continuing decline of America and the rise of non-democratic nation-states like Russia and China. It seems to me only a matter of time before the greatest victory of the 20th century — that democracy and capitalism are symbiotic — will be challenged by these rising nation-states.
These are the stories that matter, these are the issues that will define our future and these are the issues that will determine whether our children have an earth left to live on. Yet rather than discuss these issues, our politicians today defer the consequences to us, and our media sits by idle while it happens. I wonder how fondly we will look back to this time in our history and wonder what a bit of preparation for the rearrangement of the global balance of power could have done to maintain our way of life.
Like I said, enough is enough. What will it take before we demand our politicians look to the future — and not the present or the past — to lead our country out of danger? I suggest Harper and those of his generation get with the times and learn some new songs soon, because the ’60s are long over, and it’s time our foolish parents started acting like it when it comes to improving our country.
Michael Silicz is an alumnus of the University of Manitoba.