THE BLOG

A New Manifesto For a Dangerous World

07/31/2014 12:05 EDT | Updated 09/30/2014 05:59 EDT

It's been hanging over us in impending fashion for years. It creeps in around the edges of consciousness, leaving its effects even when it temporarily disappears. It's what our parents and grandparents dealt with for decades and it affected how they viewed life, politics, and their own response to challenge.

I'm talking about that sense, real or at times imagined, of a world that is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. The stories of turmoil and danger are significant enough to test the capacities of the 24/7 news cycle to provide adequate coverage.

We don't even have to close our eyes to name the places and events that curtail our sense of optimism -- missing or shot down airliners, conflicts in the Ukraine, Nigeria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the resurgent and bellicose threats of an unrestrained Russia, ethnic cleansing in Iraq and Syria, and the ever-threatening reality of climate change and its devastating effects. Perhaps our collective sense of hopelessness is best viewed through the lens of the current round of conflict between Gaza and Israel. There is no clear winner, only a feeling of morbid loss -- no overriding desire for solutions, no way ahead.

Then there are our domestic challenges -- entrenched poverty, growing inequality, the splitting of our collective dreams into battles for regions, challenges of immigration, unemployment and under-employment, and the creeping realization that for all the wealth being generated in the world, average families are increasingly unable to access it to build a future.

The chief target for our angst has been reserved for the political order, with much merit. It's become so stupid that a "do-nothing" American Congress can only talk about impeaching President Obama because, really, it seems they are incapable of tackling anything else.

The Canadian experience is now one of retreating from the larger responsibilities of building a better world unless it comes to paving the way for Canadian businesses. Internationally, we seem like a country fixated on its wallet rather than its soul. Partisanship has cut the heart out our domestic political experience and we throw up our hands in disgust at the seeming incapacity of the political order to deal with our chief challenges.

So, we can be somewhat forgiven for feeling a sense of foreboding concerning what's occurring all around us -- but not completely. Some of it has been the result of citizens who failed to find significant enough ways to come together to counter the current negative trend. All too often we live in isolation, lacking the empathy required to change the condition of those who have fallen through the cracks of civilized society.

In pressing for lower and lower taxes, we have left the cupboard bare when it comes to the big issues like healthcare, education, equality and financial opportunity. We have permitted an international financial system to talk us into stripping the one institution capable of exercising our collective will -- government.

Our parents and grandparents faced remarkable challenges not so different from our own -- everything from poverty to endless global conflicts. But they broke out of such conditions by demanding better from politicians, their institutions, and from themselves. They were dedicated to community building, political action, citizen engagement and financial sacrifice through enhanced taxes that permitted them to take on their largest demons.

Canada was built on such a paradigm and it made us a model to the world because of an emerging sense of national equity and international compassion and competence. Today, we seem more intrigued by finance than fairness, dissension than democracy, sectarianism than service, and opinions than openness. We know that there is more money available in our present world than any time previous, but it's not being directed towards our greatest responsibilities.

In all of this we get the idea that the world -- local and global -- is moving inexorably beyond our control to better it. It is time for a new manifesto, a new pact between citizens and their political representatives. To our politicians we ask for new dreams to build upon. Help us achieve them and we will play our own part in sacrificing and building those possibilities together. We have remained apart for too long and as a result our world is coming apart. For too long we have pursued materialism over meaning, but it's now time to engage together for the purpose of putting progressive humanity back into the global experience. The opposite is just too difficult to imagine, even in a time when we sense its nearness.