Canada’s social capital could be ripped away

Voters in Northumberland County and across Canada may not realize what a watershed election is about to take place on May 2. And, it is rare when a choice is so clear and the sides so distinct. The results will not just set the path for the next four years or so, but for decades to come.

The corporate state is on the verge of realizing its dream. The outcome would be a political system driven solely by ideology and deeply divisive. It could end in political paralysis similar to the United States right now. If these forces are successful, the needs of the poor, working class, and even the middle class will no longer have a voice or a defender. A new, dangerous politics will pervade in Canada.

This trajectory took more than 30 years to reach this point. It began when the first wave of neo-conservatives took power. In Canada, it was Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Elsewhere it was U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Slowly, the agenda changed under these leaders. The gains made by social movements like feminism, unionism and causes like racial equality, took a back seat to deficit reduction, global free trade and corporate supremacy. Inch by inch the reforms of the previous 60 years are being stripped away.

Today, corporate tax cuts are sacred cows to be left untouched. Global warming is a fallacy and environmentalists are dismissed. Unions are targets to be crushed. Women’s issues are barely on anyone’s radar. Racism runs rampant below a polite façade.

Journalist Chris Hedges makes a compelling case in his book Death of the Liberal Class. It outlines how many progressive causes are being steamrolled and the lack of champions for these causes. Institutions like universities, unions, independent media, churches and so forth are co-opted by the corporate agenda or silenced, Hedges says.

Academics are afraid to speak out for fear of persecution or even dismissal. Funding for universities relies more and more on sponsorship and donations rather than public funding. Even grant programs from governments often come with requirements for private/public partnerships, taking away from the independence and academic freedom necessary for open, critical discussion or research. In fact, academics are criticized as privileged and living in a cloistered world, far from the real world. Yet, over hundreds of years, society has depended on universities for new ideas, innovation and creative solutions.

But, this is only one example. There are so many. And, even our own ability to speak freely is taken away from us. Speak out against the war in Afghanistan and you are unpatriotic and are accused of failing to support the men and women who serve. Talk about the constitutional right to allow parties to form a government by coalition and you commit treason. Some say the very idea is undemocratic. Defend the gun registry and it is making criminals out of farmers and hunters. The attacks are bitter and full of vitrol.

Progressivism cannot be crushed. To be Canadian is more about peacekeeping than war-mongering, To be Canadian is about tolerance, not racism. To be Canadian is about respect for others, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, age or income. To be Canadian is to love and protect the land, the sky and the water.

Canada was built by people who knew how to come together to build a barn or thrash the crops or put out a fire or sew a quilt. At one time in our history a co-op was a practical solution, not a socialist atrocity. Somehow this spirit is lost.

Following this election issues like healthcare, Canada Pension Plan, gun registry and a host of others may be clawed back to a point of no return. The important social capital generations of Canadians worked so hard to put in place will be ripped away.

So, when it comes time to mark the ballot, will Canadians merely shrug their shoulders like they have done for the past 30 years and watch passively as our society is dismantled; or, will people stand up and defend Canadian ideals?



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