Good Sunday Morning,
Stuart McLean has died. Like so many iconic Canadians, the legacy he leaves behind is larger than life. It's larger than Stuart himself because it spoke to so many at the deepest level. As Jess Milton shared in this As-It-Happens interview, "He never let facts get in the way of the truth... His stories connected us, to our country, to each other and to ourselves. He swam in our oceans, he rode our railways, he skated on our ice, and he told us our story over and over and over again until we could really hear it, until it felt really true." We will miss him.
Stuart McLean told us our story. Our story. Not the factual one that we all live day to day but the one we aspire to when we take the time to reach out to a neighbor, help a friend or touch a perfect stranger with our kindness. Stuart gave us permission to believe in a world of love, forgiveness and acceptance. It's a world that so many of us long for, especially in these troubling times when others use their pulpit to legitimize hate and bigotry.
Stuart, by his own account, didn't expect to amount to much. He was a misfit in school, never quite comfortable in his own skin. But when he discovered that life had handed him a platform, he brought out the best in us. He did so by traveling the country and listening to our stories. And then, fictionalizing them through his Dave and Morley characters, told them back to us. His stories connected us, all those that became avid fans over the decades. It stitched us together, not in any national or geographic sense, for many of his loyal listeners live south of the border, but through a common mythology.
For millennia it's mythology that has guided humanity. As Milton recounted, Stuart never let the facts obscure the truth. And the truth is that we thrive when we cooperate and support each other. When our social structures offer a sense of security that allows innovators to innovate and recognizes all our contributions to society, not just what we get paid to do at work, as having value.
Telling our story, a story that is rooted in fairness and compassion, honesty and integrity, is what being Canadian is all about. We can tell the story in song, in ritual, and through the actions of our daily lives. But we can also tell it through our political institutions and the policies we implement to govern ourselves.
It has occurred to me that the current narrative around electoral reform is very much influenced by two conflicting stories. One sees the world through the popular lens of team sports. I win because you loose. I succeed because you fail. I get rich because you get poor. Through this lens our current electoral system is just fine. It always, in every seat, generates a winner. And the winners get to rule over the losers. In this story, First-Past-The-Post is in fact the better voting system because you can score a touchdown by simply making it to the 30 yard line. Problem is First-Past-The-Post gives extremists a bigger platform than they could ever hope for under Proportional Representation (PR).
The other story sees the world through the lens of fairness, cooperation, consensus and a commitment to supporting each other. These are values we all cherish within our own small groupings; be they family, close friends or even teams on the football field. Some say that these values are grounded in what it means to be human and that we could never have achieved the sheer numbers as a species without these values.
In this story we don't see politics as a game of winners and losers but as the foundation of our democracy. We see it as the mechanism to have our voices, all our voices, heard in the halls of power. That is the basis of the constitutional challenge that is now under way. "Justice McLachlin ruled that our right to vote means that we have to be effectively represented: 'Each citizen is entitled to be represented in government. Representation comprehends the idea of having a voice in the deliberations of government'. That’s each of us, not just some of us." Please support this challenge led by Fair Voting BC.
But that story is being trampled by plutocratic forces that strive to divide us. George W. Bush famously said after 9/11: "You're either with us or you're against us." An outdated paradigm that cost millions of lives and now threatens global security once again.
The doublespeak and alternative facts were on full display in this impromptu press conference. In what is probably the most frightening news conference ever given by a US president, Donald Trump speaks directly to the American people because "the media is too corrupt and reports fake news." He accuses all other politicians in Washington of being preoccupied with their own self interest. He goes on to promise that "our country will never have had a military like the military we're about to build." He talks about "people who are not the Republican people that our representatives represent." It was a rambling, incoherent appearance some commentators compared to speeches made by unhinged Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi. But it's not a little dictatorship half way around the world. It's the United States of America with "powerful nuclear weapons". He concluded with these words: "We haven't even started the big work that starts early next week."
Why is global security so important? Because only when people feel secure do they have the capacity to engage in higher level considerations of future generations. And that kind of engagement is crucial to building a sustainable world. A united, secure people offer little opportunity for demagoguery. But a divided, frightened people are easy pray. That's why every tyrant's first order of business is to amplify fear and to establish a "them" upon whom we can heave the blame for all our woes. As Elizabeth told the Women's March rally it's a phenomena that doesn't want to go away.
And like so much in our culture the effects are spilling over the border as this week's uproar in the House over an anti-Islamophobia motion demonstrates. For all the skepticism in the press, the leading contender in the conservative leadership race appears to be a gentler more polished version of Donald Trump. "I'm not a politician, I don't owe anybody anything. I spent my whole life as an international investor. I know what Trump does, he knows what I do, I think we'll be very good together getting deals done, because that's what matters." The forces that made Trump, now threaten Trudeau more than Trump himself. And because Trudeau has all but turned his back on Real-Change to embrace a calculated political strategy, there is a vacuum in the Canadian story.
The precept of building a sustainable future is that we are all part of one global tribe that reaches beyond boundaries, beyond oceans and even beyond the DNA of our own species. Solutions are measured not by their ability to strengthen our personal self-interests at the expense of others but by their ability to integrate with, and support, the total fabric of existence. Mark Neufeld has made a career in teaching and inspiring his students to become part of that story. And you can help him share his passion.
We can tell that story through policy proposals like Free Trade without Investor State Dispute Settlements, placing the emphasis on serving the people instead of the corporations. We can tell that story by replacing our fighter jet program with a renewed commitment to peacekeeping, placing greater emphasis on saving lives than sending our tax dollars out of the country to support the Military Industrial Complex. We can tell that story by championing sustainable energy production, distributed throughout the country so it can benefit everyone by circulating the wealth through local economies and not just suck it into the bloated bank accounts of multinational oil giants. From Pharmacare, to a Guaranteed Livable Income our policies tell the stories of a Canada that works together, cares for each other, and builds bridges across the fault lines that divide us.
As Elizabeth has demonstrated again and again it's a story that needs to be told. We need to tell it to each other but we also need to tell it to ourselves. For in the telling we give ourselves permission to imagine a better future and to inspire others to do the same. It's how we amplify the story of a sustainable world. We can do it in conversations with ourselves, on social media, at the workplace, over dinner with friends or at the door while canvassing.
Last Tuesday the Executive Committee of the Saanich-Gulf Islands Green Party Electoral District Association held a one day workshop on Salt Spring to 'Greenstorm' about that future. The retreat began a process of identifying how best to apply our limited resources in support of the vision that Elizabeth champions as our leader. The volunteers of the Green Media Group and Events Team also continue to explore ways of telling that story.
It's the story of the principles that guide us, the values that unite us, and the love that motivates us. And, as Stuart McLean exemplified, it is up to us tell it over and over and over again until we can really hear it, until it feels really true. The world needs a voice that offers hope, now more than ever. A voice that insists that the essence of humanity is good. The Green Party strives to be that voice.
Have a wonderful Sunday,