Strangely, throughout my life, I have been asked one question more often than any other, and not just from people that I have had some sort of a relationship with, but even from those whom would almost be considered strangers. What would you wish for if you could have anything in the world?
Obviously, I do not believe that these people are necessarily concerned about my wants or wishes, or that they are overly generous or actually have the power to grant me what I would wish for, nor that they have a seemingly obsessive need to know what people would want if they could have anything in the world. Of course I have never fully tested that theory by asking for something that they might possibly be able to provide, say something that they were carrying in their purse or pockets for the last ten years or so, just waiting to give it to someone who wanted it. In hindsight I should probably run an experiment, the next time I am asked the question. I have always wanted a blue sweater, if they were wearing a blue sweater and see if they were willing to part with it.
No, I believe that these people are only asking the question as a means to form some quick judgement of the type of person that they are asking the question to. If you respond that you want a million dollars or a Porsche 911, they will sum you up as an A type personality, who is only out for themselves. Probably a great answer if you were applying for a commissioned sales position, but a poor answer if you were trying to pick a chick up at a Dead concert. If my memory hasn’t failed me, I was first asked this question when I was seventeen and for the past forty-five years I have given the same answer.
I want a kinder, gentler world.
Surprisingly, my answer to the question has received the same response, from the same age groups, of my inquisitors, as I have aged. When younger and even today, early twenty year olds or younger, more often respond with yeah or nod their heads in agreement. While the majority of those in their late twenties through to the mid forties, usually write me and my answer off, as a waste of time. The fifty year olds, somewhat more respectfully replied that I still had a lot to learn about life, at least when I was younger or considering my current age, that I do understand what life is like for them, today. However most of my inquisitors who were either approaching their sixties or well beyond, more often than not, said yeah or nodded their heads.
Not, that this is an agism post and do not take offense if I have painted your age group with too broad a sinister brush. Fortunately, I have met many people of all ages who were much more kinder and gentler than I and wanted the same for the rest of us. It just might be that when we reach a certain age, when we are no longer trying to make our fortune or realize the futility in constantly trying, or we are no longer raising a family, or compromising ourselves daily to keep a job that we can no longer stand, we start to look back at the naivety of our youth, and realize that the world is really not a kind and gentle place for the majority of it’s inhabitants.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not lead a life of a monk, devoting all my wakened hours to benefiting mankind, no, like most of us, I give when I can and feel bad when I can’t. However as I struggled with the getting by, I believed that in the end, things would get better for those of us who were in need. After all, I lived in Canada.
A country that took pride in caring for the weakest amongst us, providing health care for all it’s inhabitants, protection and resources for abused women and children, or assistance for the unemployed or even for those who had given up or were trapped by their addictions. A compassionate country of law and order, with a justice system that concentrated more on rehabilitation than incarceration. A country that rejected bigotry, racism and homophobia. A country that concentrated more on maintaining peace than making war.
A country that was a haven of refuge, with immigration laws that were based more on the social well being of those who were migrating, than our own economic need to approve their acceptance. I took pride that Canada, my country with such a small population, that played such a large role on the world stage. A country that was respected for it’s leadership in attempting to advance humanity throughout the world, be it international humanitarian assistance or environmental protection.
Unfortunately my country is not like that anymore. Of course, we never really, reached the idealistic pinnacle of my self envisioned nirvana, but I always believed, that was the goal or the vision that we as Canadians had for our country and its place in the world. Today, I read and am being told that we are becoming more conservative as a country and when I talk to my colleagues and peers, or even my children, more people seem willing to accept portions of our current government’s arguments: our immigration laws need to changed or that the strategic defunding of women’s rights groups is somehow justified because they have served their purposes or gone to far, or that the proposed changes to our justice system are necessary. They do not necessarily know the full extent of the proposed changes or sadly, maybe some do and they just don’t care. Most, just hear the talking points being delivered by our corporate media and who can argue against safer streets or not having immigrants, only coming here, to take up space in our hospital’s emergency rooms, if those are the only facts that are being presented and the only choices being given.
Controlled messaging targeted at the basic fears and frustrations of the average Canadian, who is just trying to get by, while step by step creating a new vision for Canada. We are becoming more Americanized in our self description. Canada is now described by our government as an economic world leader, a major oil producer and a point of destination for those who would come to take advantage of our free and open society. Oh and we won more Gold medals that any country ever has. We’re number one, where it counts, now. Sorry I digress in olympian proportions.
By providing more direct-funding to favored or select women’s causes, the government slashes the indirect-funding to the majority of the established independent women’s groups. We are then caught in an argument of semantics verses any factual representation of whether women and children in peril will be better served. We are given examples of a distasteful pardon being awarded to a child molester, as an excuse to harden the rules for all pardons and all paroles going forward and the average Canadian does not have the time nor opportunity to understand the ramifications of the changes or even the differences between paroles and pardons. At a time when serious crime rates continue to decrease, our government is proposing mandatory sentencing and planning to build more prisons. The list of unwarranted changes to our social fabric, trumped up by exaggerated examples, goes on and on as this government tries to change our country to their vision of the new Canada.
Similar to the eight years of neoconservatism under Bush, the reformers within the new conservative alliance have infiltrated all departments within our government and are destroying the basic societal principles that were established over decades, by previous generations of Canadians and implemented by successive Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments. Meanwhile our current opposition parties, who represent the majority of Canadians in parliament, are caught in a battle to protect the basic role of parliament itself. It is little wonder that most people when poled want the status quo. They do not realize all the changes that are taking place, as it is nearly impossible to believe that in four short years this much damage has been done to our country.
Harper’s MBA may have been in economics, but his government has not practiced much fiscal conservatism since taking office. Instead, they eliminated the surplus that they had inherited by reducing their revenues, via GST tax cuts and similar to the neoconservative theories of Bush and his gang, they implemented US style deregulation of services and safeguards, including mortgages. Although they had to quickly reverse themselves when the bottom started to fall out the US sub-prime market (a reversal that moved $75 billion in Canadian sub-prime higher risk mortgages from the bank’s books to our country’s balance sheet).
Ironically, the financial meltdown created by the neoconservative deregulation under Bush and the resulting world wide recession has become nothing more than a marketing opportunity to our current Canadian government. Taking full credit for the fiscal and regulatory prowess of previous Canadian governments, Harper has promoted his own stewardship in preventing Canada from being as hard hit as the rest of the developed countries. The so called recovery with the so called massive expenditures that have been made, to build hockey rinks and such across the country, have become more of an advertising vehicle for the governing party, along with everything else they can put their brand on. No, in the end, both the recession and massive deficit that has been created by our so-called economist prime minister will be used to promote his party and at some time in near future will also be used to justify the further elimination of our social safety net. No, this is not an economically focused conservatism. The reformers in power are extreme social conservatives focussed on changing Canada into a harsher society based on an evangelic christian ideology.
Evangelical christians and their ministries may not be portrayed in our media as being identical on both sides of the border, however they are interconnected. Harper’s church is part of the Canadian division of the Christian and Ministry Alliance. The Alliance was one of the first evangelical ministries that, according to its history, started back in 1887 and they have done quite well over the past 100 or so years. This is the ministry of preachers, like Charles Templeton, with his US television broadcasts or his earlier radio campaigns, where the listener was told to lay their hands on the radio and feel the power of God, just after they wrote the cheque of course. Templeton left the Alliance and his faith behind when he returned to Canada. Another former member was David Berg who left the Alliance in the sixties to form the infamous Children of God cult. The cult has evolved into the TFI today. The TFI or The Family International are considered hardcore, end of timers, but when you review the stated beliefs and core values of both groups, there are more similarities than differences.
Similar to all born again evangelicals the Alliance believes that the bible (both old and new testaments) was dictated by the words of god, and that you can only be successful if you learn, believe, follow and live by those words and you can only be saved if you are born again, by accepting Jesus as your true lord, god and saviour. Regardless of whether you are a devout catholic, rabbi, imam or the pope himself, you can only be saved when you are reborn and similar to all evangelicals, the Alliance’s mission or great commission as they sat, is to convert you and everyone else.
Of course they believe they are doing us all a favor here, because also similar to the TFI, the Alliance believes that Jesus will return to start his 1,000 year reign here on earth. We are not talking about Jesus quietly showing up at the local barbeque one weekend. No, members of the Alliance believe that the whole world will witness his return and actually see him floating down from the sky with his army of angels following behind. Being described as a more conservative form of evangelicalism, (assuming that means not 100% crazy) the Alliance does not go on about or describe in detail the rapture on their web sites. Instead they tend to downplay the end of times theme with it’s total destruction as prophesied by the TFI and other groups, whom I guess would be described as the more radical or possibly liberal evangelicals.
Yes, the Alliance has done well in the US and Canada over the last 120 years. They now have over 2,000 churches and 500,000 members in the US and over 400 churches and 120,000 members in Canada. A membership that includes Stephen Harper, Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and other key members of our government’s caucus. There was a time when I would warn people, if they saw an evangelical approaching them on the street, that they should turn and run. A born again, evangelical christian is more persistent, radical and driven in purpose than a smack addict looking for their next fix. Now our country is being run by a cabal of them.
Ideology, whether personally developed through experience, stolen from others or revealed to us from a higher source, plays a role in the daily lives of us all. Although kept under check by Harper since his second day on parliament hill, (on his first he somewhat jokingly said he would not abolish abortion until his second term), his religious ideology is the greatest threat to our country and also his greatest weakness politically. Unfortunately it is also the hardest to expose and attack. Instead our opposition parties are forced in parliament to try and expose small cracks in the reformers wall of ideological secrecy, while being attacked by the reformer’s formidable marketing machine, in a lazy corporate media, that believes politics hasn’t changed in this country. In fact Harper and his cabal are praised by our media as being astute and crafty politicians, while the opposition is described as unorganized, weak or ineffective.
Frank Graves of EKOS continues to be attacked by the reformers for suggesting on a political talk show, that the Liberals should start a culture war. The reality is that there has been one going on for the past four years and it is about time that the opposition parties started participating. I am no political strategist, but the best way to expose Harper’s and his government’s religious ideology to a preoccupied public, might be to present the whole litany of policy changes they have made based on their ideology and then attack the new vision of Canada, that his religious ideology is creating. Such a battle plan would require coordination of attacks between the parties in opposition and also a proposed alternative vision(s) for our country. Going back to the status quo is no longer an option.
Unfortunately, I have little faith that our opposition parties would put aside their personal ambitions, for any form of coordination and they will continue to search independently for the one wedge issue that they believe will unite enough Canadians to their cause. A wedge issue that is large enough to warrant a call to the electorate. No, the exposure of Harper’s evangelical ideologies and his plan for a new Christian Canada will have to be exposed by other sources.
Hopefully the release of The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald might be the starting point, if it is followed up by media interviews and discussion on political talk shows. Of course it would still require an alternative vision to be presented at some time prior to the call for election and that is what I have not seen yet from our opposition. Running the next election without an alternative vision for Canada, will net the same results as we have now, or as we all fear a reformer majority. But what would you expect if the electorate is only presented with one argument, the new Canada versus the old Canada.
No, the country has changed and during the next election Canadians will have to be asked the question, what kind of Canada do you want and I do not believe that it would be the vision that Harper is creating, if his true motives are exposed. The question right now, to our opposition parties is what is that alternative.
For me, I will remain in the minority and answer the question as I always have, I want a kinder, gentler world....
And vote for the party that can best provide me those results.