Sometimes I shake my head at what appears to be important for many people to grouse about. Let’s look at some of the items that have gone viral over the past few weeks.
We could start with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hair. So many degrading remarks because he got a summer cut. Who really gives a damn about that? Certainly not me. And what about all the petty nastiness because he and his family are taking a two-week vacation in Costa Rica? Good for them. It’s a great place to visit and really no one’s business about when they go and where they stay. You can’t take a real vacation with the paparazzi and their zoom lenses hanging around. And do I really care if the Prime Minister wants to spend the rest of his summer campaigning across the country? If that’s his thing, go for it.
On the other side of the coin, look at all the negative publicity about Ontario Premier Doug Ford spending much of the summer at his cottage in Muskoka. He is still in the province. He is still working, and unlike the feds, he is actually convening the legislature for a summer session. What is the difference between the Premier working out of his home in Etobicoke or his cottage in Muskoka? That should only matter to those that think that Toronto is the centre of the universe. Where do people think the Prime Minister spends the summer when he is not travelling? That’s right, at the cottage. I assume he works there too.
To me, none of this is important and it is worrisome to me that so many people express their frustration and anger in this manner when there are so many other critical issues to be aware of and to be concerned about.
So, what do I think is important?
Well, how about this? Last week, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, (the head honcho), commented this way. “Humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
Uh…..yeah. That did catch my attention, although not so much that of the mainstream media where it was mostly buried on some back page, and it certainly didn’t go particularly viral.
There are some that have said that this situation has been the same for decades. I am not so sure about that. I cannot help but wonder if we are now approaching the perfect storm. Certainly, we have had nuclear capabilities for many years, but in my view, never since the Second World War have we had the mixture of toxicity and imperialism that we see today.
Just look at the war in Ukraine, largely ignored by the free world, the saber-rattling over Taiwan, with China only waiting to see how much Russia can get away with before making a move. And don’t discount the United States, that behemoth to our south, where some of their politicians already have a lustful eye on Canada’s vast reserves of natural resources.
On top of that, we now have a more insidious international war of misinformation and scaremongering. If this continues, indeed if it becomes acceptable to promote hate and anger, I fear for our future.
I shudder to think that less than three years from now we could have Xi Jinping in China, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Donald Trump in the United States, all in the cat-bird seat of their respective empires. In my view, at least two of these individuals are certifiably bonkers. The other is cunningly and deceitfully astute.
At least metaphorically, all it takes to start a nuclear war is one person, one finger, and one red button. How comfortable does that make you feel with those guys in power at a time of acute universal toxicity?
It is that toxicity that worries me the most; the anger, the frustration, the sense of helplessness, and hopelessness that make people vulnerable to those who are more interested in taking advantage of this frustration to gain or increase their power than they are interested in actually fixing it.
We see that here in Canada with an increase in populism, the convoys, the growing disrespect for our laws and traditional institutions, and an increase in civil disobedience. Just this week there was an attempt to ram the gates on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
And what has happened to respectful discourse? Canadians have been known for that for decades. Not so much now though. There is a sense of polarization and extremism these days that seems to encourage harsh language and bitter comments and ‘my way or the highway’ opinions.
I have been writing Listen Up for more than seven years. It is intended to encourage debate and comments. I have an opinion, but I do not pretend to be always right. I believe that stirring the pot from time to time leads to a thrust of reasonable and helpful discussion. I value that and am thankful for how this has worked out over the years. However, during the past year, I have seen an increasing number of nasty, angry comments, many not dealing with any substance, from people who are just plain angry. One that particularly stood out for me was, “Please watch this video if you dare……or stick to tipping that wine bottle and keep your ignorant mouth shut.”
Of course, I don’t let comments like that bother me. If I did, I could not keep writing. (For the record though, I don’t drink a lot of wine. Rum is my beverage of choice!) However, my concern is that mean-spirited rhetoric is increasing, not just here but also in the general scheme of things. I find that disturbing.
It is equally disturbing that in many retail and service locations it has been necessary to post signs reminding customers to be patient and courteous with staff. How times have changed!
It is when people are most frustrated and most angry that bad things can happen. There can be no diplomacy, no middle ground, and no solutions to overwhelming problems within a culture of anger and hate. In this day and age, there can only be losers with terrible consequences.
Both at home and abroad, we need to cut back on the rhetoric and misinformation and focus on the real problems that we face.
If we continue to focus on shallow things like someone’s haircut, vacation, or where they work when there are so many more pressing and urgent issues. If we continue to proliferate a culture of extremism and nastiness, then perhaps it’s time we ask ourselves: What on earth has happened to us?
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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