Lately I’ve been eyeing up my back yard to see if a 1960’s style fallout shelter might fit in it, because for the first time in decades I can envision some sort of post-apocalyptic world emerging from the current political chaos. I may be exaggerating a bit here, but I am genuinely concerned about the direction democracies, this country included, are heading. People seem to be expressing important desires for their country’s future that are founded on complete nonsense.
There is a torrent of political misinformation polluting the “news” space at the moment. Aside from the “bots” flushing crap through the Twitterverse sewer and other online spaces, there is Fox News in the U.S. that has consistently skewed news and commentary to support the unsupportable behaviours of those in the current administration.
In general, one of the consistent messages being put out there is that it isn’t these tainted so-called news sources that are wrong, they—with the great help of the U.S. president—consistently push the idea that the legitimate media is the “fake news” As usual, repeat something often enough and people eventually begin to take it seriously. And his words spread far beyond his own country.
We in Canada seemed to have been above the fray when it came to political leaders championing populist sentiments that were ill conceived and, well, bigoted, and we hadn’t experienced the subversive “news” sources to any great extent. That was, however, until the last election came around. There were more than a few extraordinarily false or, misleading claims being made throughout the campaigns, even by some parties.
That was disturbing, and the first time I’ve noticed anything that extreme in one of our elections. But, remarkably, the overall nonsense hasn’t stopped.
Now, we have the fledgling phenomenon of the “Wexit” movement. There really are no words for this level of stupidity. Did no one in Alberta pay attention to those decades where we went through not one but two Quebec referendums? Does no one remember the economic harm that was wrought on that province because of that? Montreal saw the flight of corporate head offices at full speed for politically safer places like Toronto. The average home owner in Montreal saw the value of their homes decline as fast as their economic opportunities because of it.
Similar difficulties are beginning to unfold in the UK, as it starts to feel the real effects of a pending Brexit.
The trouble is, these kneejerk, grassroots sentiments felt by those who haven’t taken the time to think have given politicians in many countries, including ours, an easy button. Just get onboard and ride the wave to power, all it requires is parking your integrity for a few years. You can always write a book after you have the government pension from a few years in office and claim you tried to do what you didn’t. We’ve repeatedly seen that happen down south as former administration officials speak out now instead of when they should have when they were in positions of authority and could make a difference.
The Manitoba premier was quick to stomp on the Wexit idea, and I give him credit for that. The trouble is, neither the Alberta premier nor his Saskatchewan counterpart have done their jobs adequately in that regard. Kenny’s faint damning of the notion and proposing a referendum to ask Albertans if they support the current federal transfer payment program—which was enacted a few years ago by the federal government he was actually a cabinet minister in—is really tacit support of it.
Of course the reason these politicians—and I won’t call them leaders—take these positions and offer the stupid ideas they do is because we voters fall for them.
I think it’s time we started expecting more from our political figures, and ourselves. We should expect politicians not pursue stupid programs or ride the coattails of destructive sentiments just to gain office. And from ourselves we should think about what’s really good for the country and listen to those non-political experts who actually understand policy and economics. In short, we need to pay attention to the world around us, and not allow ourselves to form simplistic opinions that motivate inadequate political figures.
Sometimes as individuals we don’t always get what we want when elections are over, and sometimes when we take our country for granted and park our common sense we get what we deserve. Apparently, that is the case again this time.