Coming to Our Senses
Hatred such a foul taste,
too much hot spice,
a burning sensation
that overpowers the senses.
We should never get used do it.
We must spit it out
before it destroys our ability to taste .
Anger a powerful smell,
something beyond rotten,
something poisonous surrounds us.
While there is still time
we must hold our breath
and seek out the source of the foul odor
and cover it with a blanket of love.
I can feel the touch of despair.
It flows in like chlorine gas,
a yellow cowardly mist of helplessness.
It is time to seek out the source
and eliminate it
before another innocent bystander
can no longer breathe.
Reason, do you still exist?
Wisdom, where are you hiding?
Courage, why have you disappeared?
Compassion, why will you not lead?
Do we really care enough
to dare to lead
with wisdom and compassion?
Several years ago when social media was just coming into effect, those of us in education had major concerns about students being able to distinguish between valid and misleading information on the internet. Since that time, we have seen a wide range of responses to that concern. On the positive side we saw that ordinary people in autocratic countries were able to mobilize against injustice such as in the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Arab spring. However, we have recently seen what misinformation has done with the January 6th insurrection in the United States and the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa. Today I want to take a closer look at the underlying issues involved in two events.
When we look at the Arab Spring and the Freedom Convoy, the underlying cause is mistrust of government, and in both cases, there were justified in their concerns. In the case of the Arab Spring, the justification was obvious. The economies were in a mess because of poor leadersip and corruption. Millions of young people were unemployed. These corrupt and often vicious governments no longer represented the people, and in fact, were outwardly abusing and oppressing them. But what about here in Canada? Over the years our governments have lost contact with the desires of the people. Left and right politics have polarized becoming adversarial, and at times, the rhetoric has become downright disrespectful. The house of commons during Question-and-Answer periods does not sound like adults seeking adult solutions to real problems facing Canadians but more like children on the school playground arguing over scoring points. Those of us who understand what is at sake have written off political solutions and have turned to other ways to bring about change. However, that has created a vacuum of intelligent decision making leaving government institutions vulnerable to extreme political parties, special interest groups, and the influence of corporations.
As a result things are a mess. Frustrated special interest groups have become more radical and more demanding. This leaves individuals within these groups vulnerable to predatory influences. One of the universal biases inherent to the human mind when confronted with confusing information is to rely on a powerful source of information which unfortunately seems to be people of power and wealth who just want more power and wealth and are happy to use these special interest groups to achieve their goals. To energize ‘the base’ they pour fuel on the fire often leading to violence as mob mentality takes over and they look for villains to hang. Too many of our citizens have developed hatred for our political leaders like Steven Harper and Justin Trudeau. Even though they have made some unwise decisions and done some irritating actions, they deserve our compassion not our hatred. They have an extremy difficult job to do and are bound to make mistakes from time to time.
Confusion often leads to hatred. The Freedom Convoy was a potentially dangerous situation. Fortunately, they were not being led by a powerful person directing them to hang Justin Trudeau or they might have overpowered the totally unprepared policeforce and a much more serious tragedy could have developed. Hatred is never a good thing. When hatred leads to the powerful emotion of anger it can be all consuming. It overrides the frontal cortex and legitimate reasoning becomes nearly impossible. Group anger often leads to irrational group action and group violence until the emotion of anger is spent and consequences have to be faced. This group hatred is perfectly demonstrated by the return of the convoy to Ottawa this summer. They no longer even have a superficial cause, like freedom from wearing masks, but have returned anyway to demonstrate their hatred for Justin Trudeau and his government. Thankfully, this time the city of Ottawa was prepared and took the necessary steps to protect our country’s leaders and the citizens of Ottawa.
So what is the solution? Protestors, in spite of their irrational methods, are basically right. The government and the way we choose our leaders has to change. We must elect adults not children, people who are genuinely concerned and not power seekers, people who have the knowledge and ability to make the changes we need and not just pretty faces and skillful performers. Members of parliament, legislators, city councilors, and government board members have to be the adults in the room. Disrespect and vile commentary have to be regulated. If they have a point to make, certainly it can be done rationally and not just use it as a photo-op to excite ‘the base’. And the media has to have a good look at itself – no more sensationalism, no more looking for an angle to increase their audience, but stick to the truth and make sound and rational editorial comments. In education we must teach those coming up the ladder on how to process information with patience and compassion. For those who seem to be stuck on the bottom rungs, we provide basic decison making stretgies. We are all in this together. No more blame and shame. Above all, as adults in the room, we must not forsake our responsibility to lead.