The Canadian federal election is due to be called any day now and, at first, I thought it would be just like any other election. But the signs are starting to mount that this may a critical turning point in the path of Canada, and the world.
One issue that has become more and more urgent is climate change. The projections continue to get more and more dire and the point of no return continues to shrink. Yet while the plastic straw campaign became mainstream this year, I fear it’s been used as a way to feel some satisfaction in doing something, without realizing how much more needs to be done–and quickly. Replacing plastic straws with a combination of paper and metal straws may be better sure, but the damage done to the climate is still not zero, and that’s one issue, one product, amid thousands of others. To really get at the root of climate change, we will need systemic level change, perhaps even a change of worldview.
The economic disparity between rich and poor continues to grow. Young adults are struggling to grow out of poverty, and those who should be at retirement are having to work longer to keep a roof over their heads–yet in doing so, the jobs that could be held by younger adults aren’t available, and those younger adults can’t support their nuclear families as well as their parents as a result. This leads to a feedback loop that increases both economic disparity and the conflict within families and divides between generations. Add to that, growing signs of a recession and there becomes much to worry about economically.
In response to these crises and others, the polarization of left and right wing politics continues to widen. Compromise is viewed as weakness, and those who try to bridge the divide are called traitors by both sides. The further the divide grows, the more irreconcilable their viewpoints become. Hate crimes rise, conflict grows, everybody chooses a side, draws a line–and nobody wins.
I wish I could say the Canadian federal election is a glimmer of hope in all of this, but the choices are far from inspiring. The Conservative Party has a leader who is further to the right than many are comfortable with and lacks charisma. The Liberal party has been in power for the past few years, and while they have made several good moves, their actual time in government has been far less reformative and radical than the electorate had hoped. The New Democratic Party and the Green Party both wish to reform things in radical ways–but there’s considerable division within both parties on how exactly to change things up, and neither party are likely to reach enough of the rural population to form a government. No matter which way the election goes, it seems that the next four years will be “business as usual” at a time when we need to get out of business altogether and start a new practice rooted in love, hope, and justice.
In the face of all this, we may feel powerless, we may feel like giving up, or burning it all down. Yet there is a way forward. We can practice small acts of everyday kindness. We can talk to our neighbours, our friends, our family and we can listen. Listen to the voices of the oppressed, the hurting, the pained, the broken. If we do, if we listen in good faith, then we may find that those voices point us to a new path before it’s too late.