We Need an Antidote to Complacency and Resentment

When life becomes a zero sum game, when competition is seen as the sole basis for organizing society, when targeting social benefits that should be universal shows folk that some gain and some don’t but everybody pays, when austerity tells us that there’s less in the pot so what one gets the other loses, when work is increasingly precarious with few benefits and fewer prospects, when household debt is so high that many families couldn’t survive a crisis, when the future looks bleaker for our kids, when we no longer believe the state is able or willing to help, when we are told that we have no choice, that globalization and technology are immutable forces, why are we surprised that elections can turn on anger, resentment and despair?

Of course many of us especially in my generation have done pretty well – or better – and are in good shape to withstand what comes and to help our kids. Is it any wonder that we are seen as the problem when we keep telling people that things are just fine, that the job numbers look good, that inequality and poverty are not much of a problem or there’s not much we can or should do about them anyways? That we live in a meritocracy, so we deserve what we have accumulated, with little or no acknowledgement of the role of luck and better times, more active government, and the sacrifices of others? Is it any wonder that we are seen as the problem when we say that our policies are working, in need of tinkering perhaps, but that what we have been doing is pretty much what we ought to do? New universal programs – childcare, pharma, dental, free education? Unaffordable, impractical. Improved income support? The same. Moral hazard. Labour laws that strengthen collective bargaining and protect workers in a changing labour market? Too costly to the bottom line. New forms of collective ownership? Impossible or, worse, socialist. Electoral reform? Unnecessary. Dangerous. Real action to address climate change and species loss? Too risky to “the economy”. Timid steps and half measures to address the existential threats of climate change and nature loss surely feed the already widespread distrust that collective progress is even possible.

So those in need often just don’t vote, don’t participate. Despair. And many of us, those who have done pretty well, vote for more of the same. Complacency. But a growing minority are ready to vote for the strongman, yes usually a man, who promises to bring the “elites” to heel, to shake government to the bone and to speak for them and their tribe in this zero sum world. Resentment.

The temptation of progressives has been to yield to the fear and anger, to promise tough crime policies, a harder line on immigration, lower taxes, fiscal restraint, but that just gives legitimacy to the resentment. It’s time instead for a bold alternative that understands the anger and resentment but offers a progressive, collective path forward, that puts people and the planet first, pursuing social and environmental justice together, that is committed to political and economic democracy, taking on directly the concentration of wealth and power, that rediscovers the common good as the only real antidote to tribalism and loneliness.

Previously posted on FB.

Comments
4 Responses to “We Need an Antidote to Complacency and Resentment”
  1. Bruce Manion says:

    I agree wholeheartedly Alex. The question for me is: « How do you get things going in the right direction? »

    • himelfarb says:

      I know, I know. There’s a lot of positive energy out there, especially among the young. Now what we have to do is bring all that energy together, join in up, Unions, environmentalists, Idle No More, anti poverty groups, anti pipeline protestors, electoral reform activists, #MeToo…I suppose big change needs a mix of poets, engineers and warriors. Each of us has to do our bit. Maybe we are waiting for the poet?

  2. Nadia Mazaheri says:

    As a retired 65 year old, I have to add to your list of issues the problem of members of my own generation who refuse to step aside and allow fresh, young blood to step into decision making roles.

    Every place I look (universities, civil service, many major corporations, etc. etc.), I see baby boomers holding on to power simply because there is no longer a “mandatory” retirement age. As a society, in my opinion, we will pay dearly for this situation. We cannot, in my opinion, effectively engage the young if we continue to have the boomers (with their outdated ideas) clogging up the boardrooms of power and policy.

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