A better world is possible only if we can imagine it

The horrible earthquake in Haiti should remind us that for all we detest Stephen Harper and what he is doing to the country we, all of us, are incredibly lucky to live where we do – in a “first world” country. It should give us pause to think that we are wealthy because billions of other people are poor. And there are no poorer or more star-crossed than the people of Haiti.  It should also remind us that Haiti might well be further down the road to social justice if it were not for Canada’s shameful complicity in the forced exile of its popular leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Last spring I wrote a couple of columns that were meant to drag me (and you) out of the left’s nearly pathological preoccupation with the negative – of being experts, as I like to say, at telling people that things are actually worse than they think they are. Supposedly, we want to engage people in such a way that they become more involved in the politics of the country and the community – not less. But our constant attention to the bad stuff the bad guys are doing, does not inspire people to act – at least not for long.

It’s good that people are really angry about Harper’s assault on democracy – putting the lie to the conventional wisdom of the elite that people don’t care whether the House is sitting or not. They do care – they care about democracy and they detest arrogance. Every time Harper forgets that he gets whacked up the side of the head.

But I have noticed that there is very little in the commentary about the shutting down of Parliament that looks at what we might do that is positive in response to this totalitarian attack on democracy.  Shouldn’t we be imagining some reforms of the system that would prevent such a thing from happening again – or at least throw some constitutional road blocks in the way? Shouldn’t we be using this as leverage to push for proportional representation which would relegate Stephen Harper and his awful government to the dustbin?

This was the point I was trying to make in the spring. Here we have the worst crisis in capitalism in three generations and the progressive community – activists, thinkers, politicians, academic, women, young people – have virtually nothing to say about what we should replace it with.

It is too easy to slip back into defensive mode – a response to Harper’s strategy of “permanent war” against all his enemies, Parliamentary and otherwise. The argument is obvious: where am I going to find the time to think about the kind of world I want? The one I have – and it’s not too bad – is threatened?

Yet that was true twenty years ago when the FTA and NAFTA were signed and we were saying it then, too. The problem is we have been fighting all that time and things are worse.

There is no better time than now to take the time to imagine the kind of world we want – and the kind of economy we need to replace the madness and ruin of corporate globalization and its neo-liberal rationalizations.

Perhaps we should be forming study groups (that really ages me but these intellectually challenging forums in the ‘60s and ‘70s were a critical part of what it meant to be an activist).  We need to be talking to each other, all of us of like mind, about what we actually want. We could all start by each of us suggesting one thing we hope the world would feature in twenty-five years that it doesn’t now.

To get things started, I would suggest you read A Roadmap to a New Economics: Beyond Sociaism and Capitalism a great article in Tikkun Magazine (run by Michael Lerner, the author of The Politics of Meaning and other books, who I quoted extensively in one of my columns). The author, Riane Eisler,  is well known for her books The Chalice and the Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics.

She starts of the article with the following suggestion as to how we might approach the task of redefining economics for a just and sustainable world:

“When thinking of a new economics, let’s not think of stocks, bonds, derivatives, or other financial instruments. Let’s think of children. Let’s ask what kind of economic policies and practices are good for children. Let’s ask what’s needed so all children are healthy, get a good education, and are prepared to live good lives. More fundamentally, let’s ask what kind of economic system helps, or prevents, children from realizing their great potentials for consciousness, empathy, caring, and creativity — the capacities that make us fully human.”

I could give you more tid bits from this essay but I want you to read it. It’s a great start to imagining the world we want. The sooner we do, the sooner it can happen.

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