How to change Pontiac’s stale, old menu?

0
52

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

When you dig down, political issues aren’t really about “right” and “wrong”, although that’s how they’re framed. We’ve just finished a long federal campaign with our parties pitching their programs as “right”, “moral”, and “just”. Proposals to stimulate our economy, assist First Nations, improve infrastructure and the internet, green our environment, all cast as the “right” choice.
Really, ethics? Weren’t we talking about what sort of communities we want to live in, what sort of big community Canada offers? Elections aren’t cosmological events; budgets aren’t philosophical papers. They’re ordinary, and important.
The future of our community – across the nation or here in the Pontiac – depends not on the wonks but on the decisions we ourselves make. It’s appropriate that we define our own communities, for if we don’t want to live under certain conditions, legislation based on those conditions will not be a success.
I’m arguing that we don’t actually want to help others because that’s the abstractly “right” thing to do, but rather because we don’t want to live in a community which has widespread poverty, with people living in terrible conditions all around us. We don’t love trees and wildlife as much as we don’t want to live
in an ecological dump, surrounded by cut-over forest, eroded farm land and urban sprawl.
We don’t want abusive communities, nor to live surrounded by poverty, which creates a seedbed for criminality and anti-social behaviour like drug addiction, vandalism and family violence.
We are very clear in our desire to have clean water and fresh air; we’d like to be surrounded by educated youths with ambitions and dreams. We want to live among healthy citizens, where disease is under control and pain and suffering are limited. We also understand the need for more than bare-bones economics in setting our priorities.
Yet, often as not, we ourselves refuse to define our community – and we refuse on the most ridiculous of grounds: we fear offending a neighbour by speaking out about abusive or destructive practises.
We take our democracy for granted, but a democracy requires a well-educated citizenry, voters who know the subjects. That includes us all, year-around, protecting the values – community, health, environment – which we abstractly desire. Democracy demands citizens be proactive, not passive. It demands people who will do some research, talk to others, put on their thinking caps – before all the complaining!
Pontiac’s green and clean future will never arrive if we allow “loggers” to clear-cut forest sites, and destroy watercourses and spawning grounds. Our drinking water will be brown. But our tradition is to back down. We don’t want to offend a neighbour or a neighbour’s son who happens to be doing that clear-cutting. We hesitate to criticize someone’s business plans over questions of zoning. Oh, building on farm land? Will anyone even see the mess in the bush up Mountain Road or on the Chute? We’re nice.
And that is how democracy does not work. That is how it fails, and can fall into paternalistic and manipulative government – exactly what we complain about.
We want our green environment, safe food, good schools, and internet
service, but we won’t get them unless we take ownership of these issues. If we don’t speak up and out. If we don’t someone else will, and, guaranteed, we won’t like what’s on the menu. We’d be served the deadening menu our Pontiac has faced for the past thirty years.