We are used to listening to the different political parties debate the issues. That has always been the way it is done. However, something is changing. For the longest time now, we have had to depend on only a handful of men and women to provide us all with the latest news. The news, it seems, is not all that the powerful news organizations wish to disseminate. They also wish to tell us what to think. No longer can we turn on the news and simply look over the facts from an unbiased reporter. In fact, most reporters are told how to report a story, and are given keywords to use. I find it very disturbing to watch a few different news channels in a week and to hear the same keywords being used on every station.
As well, an internet search of a story will garner sometimes hundreds of hits linking to websites that deal with the story you are seeking out. If you click on only the big media sites, you will be welcomed by a cleansed, scripted story. This is not just my opinion, but it is a widespread one. You may wonder why this matters to our country’s future or our political landscape.
Our government functions exceptionally well when there are two or more opposing sets of ideas. The thought of seeing our leaders argue in the House of Commons does not disturb me. In fact, that is what is supposed to take place. Different people with different visions for our country run for office throughout our land. They arrive in Ottawa with their dreams and ideas, and their dreams can only come to fruition if they are able to convince and inspire their colleagues that they are good and just. Before they get to Ottawa, these men and women must first convince another set of peers that their ideas are good. You and I must agree with them, elect them, and send them off to our halls of power.
There are several factors that will determine who we vote for, and what kind of country we wish to see evolve.
There is education. A highly educated society can make well thought out choices, but only if their education is not simply indoctrination, but one that compels the individual to be able to think freely and to follow an argument through to its logical conclusion using historical guideposts and reasoning. This has been a disappearing art for a long time.
Another factor is the source of information that we are exposed to. To me, the internet is the most important tool of democracy since the invention of the Gutenberg press. Never before have ordinary Canadians been able to access such a diverse pool of thought and ideas so easily. This is also the first time in my life that Canadians can finally access opinions of fellow Canadians that haven’t been washed by the media or filtered out to give the appearance of the masses leaning in one direction or another. I say that not out of fear of some mass conspiracy theory, but because I have seen my own words turned around to represent something that I did not state. The internet is pure opinion, and it is revolutionizing our world.
We have been told for years now that ‘these are Canadian values’ and ‘those are not’, referring to different legislation and ideas that have been debated. For the most part, we have believed the pundits and the politicians. Now, however, with the advent of blogs and individual websites, we are finding that those of us who strongly disagree with the current definition of ‘Canadian values’ and what they are, are not alone, nor are we extremists, as some have attempted to make us feel.
The tone of debate in Canadian politics has, unfortunately, changed. Not only are our ideas debated, which is proper, but now the character of those who differ from our beliefs are demonized. The media uses terms like extremist, hard right, racist, homophobic, uncaring, and a host of others to immediately discount any opposition to the liberal agenda. By using these labels to silence opposing thought, we are thereby stifling debate on issues that are of dire importance to our nation.
Let’s look at immigration, for example. Immigration is not just a sign of compassion. It is a means to expand one’s population base as well as one’s economy. Over the course of our nation’s history, immigration policy has varied more immensely than many would ever dream. For example, there were times when certain nationalities were simply not permitted to immigrate to our nation. There were times when people of the same ancestry as those who we were at war with were interned. There were times when certain peoples were targeted with huge head taxes to make their immigration less likely or financially obstructive. Were these laws and decisions wrong and immoral? Perhaps to us today they are, but at the time they were acceptable. That is why they were enacted, and why they were proposed and debated in the first place.
Take Canada today. It is a multicultural mosaic. Canada is not even definable any longer. It is everyone and everything. There is no belief structure or a myriad of them, which is just as useless. Because of the decisions that have been made in the past, we have gotten to a point where, for some reason, talking about immigration and curtailing it or even changing it, somehow makes that politician a racist or a bigot. If one would read some of the online journals by everyday Canadians, one would see a starkly different picture. Canadians do not want to lock the door, but they want some safeguards put in place, and they want the quality of person that we see coming into this country to be a stronger consideration than it presently is. Can you imagine what would be made of a current election candidate if he or she suggested that?
Our elected officials can no longer deal with issues that need to be addressed such as the ongoing gun problem which is being exacerbated by a certain segment of the population, many of whom are arriving from one particular country. No one is suggesting that every one from any country is bad, but when there are signs of an obvious problem, we should address it. There is also a religious war underway, one that pits Islamic militants against everyone else. To thoroughly screen the immigrants and visitors arriving to our shores who could be involved in this battle is said to be intolerant and racist. I say it is just foolishness to ignore the obvious. I find that the only people who cry out against safeguards are the ones who have something to hide or who have a political motive.
Free debate is being stifled, and it is being accomplished by the simplest of means. Labels. Quickly throw a label at a politician and he is branded, blacklisted, and ostracized. His credibility is stripped away and his credentials no longer considered. Many politicians will not even openly admit to things they know are right, nor will they stand for what they believe is the truth, as they fear the label that some in the media will pin on them.
This must change, because a nation can only remain secure if its politicians and policy makers can openly debate issues of security and have all options considered, without fear of being tarred and feathered.