Comment – It’s Complicated

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There is a growing feeling of Us Against Them these days that can only begin to be alleviated with thoughtful conversation

There is a growing feeling of Us Against Them these days that can only begin to be alleviated with thoughtful conversation

There are some troubling signs in the world these days.

People are turning inward, focussed on their own well-being, shrugging off perceived burdens that are holding them back. Brexit is threatening to unravel the entire European Union, Trump is proposing walls, and closer to home there is evidence that political views are becoming more polarizing as urban and rural interests diverge. A wise woman once said that most big decisions are motivated by love or fear. It seems that fear is winning these days.

What is motivating this growth of nationalism and protectionist sentiment? Perhaps it is an issue of trust. British voters, Trump supporters and some labour representatives are seeking to take back control over their future. There is a sense that the rudder is in the hands of others, who don’t share their interests. The evidence they point to is legislation. For the disenchanted, legislation locks them in to behaviour they feel blocks their path to success. All free trade treaties force their member states to open their borders because they made a deal with other countries to do so. It feels like the antithesis of “free”, and so we become suspicious.

The National Post’s Andrew Coyne argues that “the problem for Europe generally is that its separate peoples feel little sense of belonging to the European Union”, making them unwilling to submit to its dictates. Perhaps the same could be said in America, where the backlash is against the rich political power brokers who are viewed as running the show. This backlash is not necessarily a rejection of free trade or immigration, but the way these policies are imposed from above, leaving citizens with a feeling that their leaders are not accountable to those they are elected to serve. Isn’t that really why Harper was so emphatically removed from office last fall? It wasn’t so much his policies that were repugnant as the perception that it was his way or the highway. It felt like he didn’t listen to anyone.

So it seems is the case with the provincial Green Energy Act. Where is the local input and where are the local solutions?

So the reaction stems from fear. If these treaties, this legislation and these policies are truly good for our nation and our communities, then sell us, don’t dictate to us. And in selling to us, our leaders will actually have to listen to us to alleviate our fears. That will be the beginning of a conversation that might eventually approach a motive of love as we find a community of common interest. We can always hope, but better still, we can take begin the conversation amongst ourselves in our own community, and work together towards a future where we all feel respected. Happy Canada Day. KG

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