Canadian society is becoming much meaner.
Our rights are being eroded.
Political polarization is at an all time high.
These are sentiments that seem to be gaining a lot of traction, Lately.
I beg to differ.
We have never lived in more inclusive, tolerant or cordial times.
I am hardly an optimist. I tend toward the glass being half empty.
I also tend toward cynicism, my default position being distrust.
But when you look at the facts, it just doesn’t wash.
Just three years before I was born, First Nations people did not even have the right to vote.
We may still have a long way to go to full reconciliation, but at least the conversation is being had.
In my own lifetime, we have gone from homosexuality being illegal to same-sex marriage being legal.
We even have a local church that recently became an “affirming ministry,” one that has officially declared itself to be “fully inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
That same church (United) has a congregation in Toronto, which is led by an openly atheist minister.
MORE BARKING AT THE BIG DOG:
As for polarization, partisanship has always existed in politics, and, particularly since we are currently embroiled in an election campaign it tends to be front and centre. But on the whole, polling shows Canadians have never been less loyal to specific parties. The data would appear to indicate, what we really want is for our political leaders to collaborate to address real issues that affect our day-to-day lives, which is largely what happens in between election cycles.
Imperfectly, I admit, but governing is not easy.
If it seems like Canadian society is becoming meaner, I think it can be attributed to two things.
The first is basic human nature. We have lousy, or maybe a more appropriate word is selective, memories.
How many times have you heard a drinker, while nursing a Sunday morning hangover, say ‘never again’ only to, a week later, recall the festivities that caused said crapulence with nostalgia and do it all over again.
In short, we quickly forget how bad things used to be.
The second thing, of course, is the ubiquitous influence of technology. It has never been easier to widely and publicly disseminate extremist views, misinformation, disinformation and hateful sentiments, but they are hardly new, just perhaps more visible.
Videos of racist, anti-religious and homophobic incidents spread like wildfire, but are the number of incidents actually increasing? I can’t find any reliable data, and would never presume to speak for others, but I can speak for myself and say, over the years, I have noticed acceptance of my atheism has grown. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact people reporting having no religion are now the second largest group in Canada next to Christians.
There is danger here, I suppose, that the amplification of extremist views could shift popular opinion in Canada—as it seems to be doing south of the border and across the Atlantic—but we’re not there yet and it would take a pretty drastic downturn in our economic fortunes to change that, I believe.
Everywhere I’ve lived in Canada, I’ve found the overwhelming majority of us are pretty accepting of diversity. And that is backed up by data.
Can we do better? Of course we can, but we should not lose sight of how far we’ve come.
Hey, maybe I am a glass-half-full guy after all.