By Mike Shields
Related to the federal election, my-as-geeky-as-it-sounds book club is half way through “Enlightenment 2.0,” by University of Toronto philosophy professor Joseph Heath.
The title premise is the 18th Century French Revolution, a Version 1 effort toward political reform – and it is currently time for another attempt to re-boot the system.
Though Heath has yet to call for Madame la Guillotine’s return, he does argue that modern social and media environments prioritize “gut feel truthiness” over more mentally challenging processes of reasoning.
Thus, current election campaigns are fought via appeal to voter’s hearts rather than minds.
Hence, today’s political discourse is insanely partisan rather than even moderately informative.
A debate took place when exactly?
However, I was surprised to find myself isolated from the predominantly professorial club members upon suggesting the last 20 years in politics has been more blip than trend. Because, whether due to optimism or naivete, I want to believe humanity is progressing. And, self-indulgent though it may be, to continue writing articles and hosting public forums, I need to feel there is some point to it.
Unfortunately, all of the reading group and local cognoscenti I’ve consulted, and frankly most of my career experiences, disagree.
To illustrate, one of my first jobs after undergrad was as a new-car salesman. That lasted less than a month and a half because – and without disparaging that industry’s professionals – my process of providing information proved not to be what most prospective purchasers sought. Instead, and as the dealership’s older hands advised, it was far more lucrative to simply support shopper suppositions about the ‘right vehicle for them.’
Offering up new (much less differing) details only complicated customer efforts to make a decision. Or, put another way, gas mileage doesn’t matter when buying now makes you feel more attractive, more accepted and more successful today.
And so it is with this election.
Who cares how ridiculous it is for the Liberal Party to promise “real change” when Justin Trudeau is so photogenic?
Or whether the NDP’s promises are even possible in a Trans-Pacific Partnership world when Tom Mulcair is the only “middle class” leader?
Or even why a Conservative Party, uninterested in curtailing theft of tax dollars by Senators they appointed, when Stephen Harper promises to cut taxes?
Not that I’m much better insofar as (pending a now overdue counter from my global warming critics) incorporating Elizabeth May and the Green Party in the above list seems more hassle than productive.
That said, though, my hostility about turning our economic and social future over to the ‘most popular senior’ does highlight a key vote motivator for myself.
The plain truth is that the power brokers behind today’s parties are pretty much uninterested about our little corner of the world. Fates will have been determined long before we’ve finished voting and the eastern consensus is we Lotus-landers are too busy hiking and sailing to stay involved or mad for long.
Which in turn makes the Green Party’s pledge to end “whipped votes” a clarion call above normal campaign din. I mean not even the most ardent supporters believe every campaign promise will be delivered: Mulroney promised to “end patronage”; Chretien to “eliminate the GST”; Harper to “balance the budget.”
And every one of them was elected to a second term despite not even really attempting to deliver.
Fine, things happen, circumstances change, new decisions are required. But this makes it all the more reason to (as I have done since running myself in 1993) cast my vote for the best local candidate, regardless of affiliation.
And I’ll keep doing so until either my business provides sufficient fish to teach new tricks to already trained seals, or I come to terms with a different understanding of human nature than I choose to maintain at present.