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Mark McCaw ~ twitter's @bigpicguy

Author of "Insights Inside a Mind" ~ blogging the big picture

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Polarization of North America

     People don't usually want to talk about controversial subjects. That's fine, if you wish to hide from reality feel free to do so, just don't expect me to be shy when it comes to talking about things that are ugly realities in life. I really don't care if you agree with me or not, I'm interested in opening a dialogue or debate, or just getting you thinking.

     I've always had an interest in geopolitics, in societal makeup, in the interaction and reaction of populations and a tremendous amount of other geeky stuff. I'm not going to be one of those goofs who pretends to be an expert on anything other than my own opinion. I do my research, I think about things and apply them to what I've learned in life, I test my ideas and I'm willing to alter them if someone proves me wrong.

     No longer do I have the ability to muster any faith in government or the media to look out for anything other than their own narrow interests. Societies are proving neither can keep up. Social media and bloggers are fueling revolution and evolution worldwide. Communications technology has outstripped their ability to keep up in the real world where thoughts and ideas no one would have ever known of are routinely shared globally. Like minded people in Canada are finding each other the same way like minded people involved in African and Arab uprisings. As we become more connected the world gets smaller. The pace of change within our former trusted institutions has been overrun creating intense friction among competing ideas. As more people become unprepared to be ruled by a minority of elites, or to be dictated to by the controllers of wealth, governments will increasingly struggle to deal with keeping peace, not in some far off country, but in their own land.

     Apparently no one warned Governments and corporations of the dangers of globalization. They didn't imagine the possibility of opposition to their agenda being shared globally as well. Fail.

     If you, like I, still find the stomach to watch/read mainstream media and/or anything that broadcasts political things from any perspective, you may have noticed how they've been making light of Brigette LePape when she mentions the uprisings of the Arab Spring. If they really thought about it, they wouldn't scoff when someone says that. After all, how many people would think a wave of change would sweep the middle east in such a forceful and sustained manner, even at the cost of untold numbers of lives? A sea of change is upon us and for the most part, Governments are reacting the only way they know how, by trying to stop the will of the majority through violent means and superior armament. Human spirit is not so easily crushed, especially now, when we have all learned there are people across the globe who share our aspirations.

     That may be a lot of preamble on my part, but these are the most recent things that have pushed me to think a lot more deeply about the state of affairs in North America, and how our situation can both be compared to that in other countries across the globe, and how it differs. Lately I've been thinking much more about the serious ramifications of the situation we face on this continent. I guess this is where I get to talking about the kinds of things others don't want to. Hidden things are generally not good, protections on freedom of thought and expression have generally been the foil of the worst in society. When it becomes taboo to talk about things, those things will generally morph into the ugliest problems in society. History has proven this over and over and over. Racism, homophobia, sexism, sectarian violence, you name it and the ills of society we have tried to address were all at one time or another (or even today) subjects that are taboo to talk about. In this day and age we still suffer a culture of shame, blunted mostly because of open communication. I hope we can come to our senses before we reach the ultimate consequence of where I think we could be headed, and faster than I had previously considered when the fleeting thoughts initially came under my focus.

     North America is becoming increasingly polarized. While it is most pronounced in the United States, the pace of change in society no longer requires decades. If the previous election taught you absolutely nothing else, you must at least note that a sea of change can be executed before your very eyes. In 30 days the Bloc virtually disappeared from a map it dominated for 20 years, replaced by a roundly unknown group of candidates for Canada's traditional third party, the NDP. If you tell me you predicted that before the writ was dropped I will personally climb to the highest peak in Canada to declare you Canada's biggest bullshitter (or at least I am willing to die trying). I see the speed with which my country is becoming polarized as, perhaps, slower than that in America, but more mature than that of Mexico where their polarization issues are a bit out of step with those of Canada and the United States.

     In the last 20 years I've watched an increasing hardening of positions in our fairly like-minded societies on this continent. Increasingly, the wide groupings referred to as the "left" and the "right" are entrenching and becoming more and more antagonistic. Every time one or the other gets some kind of leg up it turns into the new bloodsport. No longer do we seem interested in finding common ground, only in blindly advancing the agenda we embrace. The deeper one side digs in, the deeper the other side digs in and I feel as though I am somehow watching a silent movie that explains the psychology that led to two sides digging hundreds of miles of trenches directly across from one another and bombing the shit out of everything like World War One. Both sides, not willing to give an inch of ground, fighting for their idea of what was right even if it meant destroying everything in their path. Willing to fight to the death over 3 feet of ground. Willing to fight to the death over the same three feet of ground, back and forth, over and over, for years. They both believed they were fighting for what was right. As we do today.

     We've been broken down into 2 groups, or so it would seem. No different than warring factions throughout history. As a self-described "centrist" I am recoiling in horror as I watch events unfold at an unprecedented pace. As I previously stated, it no longer takes decades for events to unfold. I've never been one of those melodramatic fools who seem to see every little issue as a reason to run off screaming like chicken little, but I have to admit I am wondering if we all ought not be even more concerned than we previously thought we should.

     I'm not talking about uniting the right, or the left. I'm crying out to unite the sensible before we have no choice but to take sides in this insane polarization of our society. It's not too late to call off the all-or-nothing attitudes that are rapidly entrenching themselves in public opinion in Canada and the United States. I blame a lot of it on lack of any kind of vision, but to say that's the cure all would be completely naive. All I know is if we do not find a way to force these two sides to find some common ground there is going to be a very predictable, yet highly unpredictable consequence. The two sides will turn on one another violently. I always believed civil wars happened in unsophisticated countries. Lately I've been forced to entertain the possibility it could happen here. Not Canada specifically, more of a pan-continental thing. When I first began to ponder this, even I thought it was crazy. I thought of every reason possible why it wouldn't happen, but they just do not align with the reality I see around me.

     I see people who try to talk sense being vilified by both sides. I've felt this myself when I have expressed my own views. As both sides entrench it becomes more difficult to remain in sensible territory. The most partisan vitriol has become the norm. No longer do people pay more than lip service to anything that looks like compromise. For both sides it has become a "my way or the highway" scenario. You're in all the way or you are the enemy. The intensely vocal minority on both sides, the truly unreasonable wackos, command almost all of the attention, which serves to perpetuate the idea you have to join the "good" side, depending on what you perceive as being good. Middle ground is becoming increasingly muffled and if we allow it to be snuffed out I shudder to think of what might happen when two groups of radicals who will disagree to the death duke it out, forcing even the moderates among us to choose sides or die, or perhaps worse, choose sides and die.

     Don't think it could happen here? Think I'm some kind of nut? Great, go back to the website of your favorite celebrity or sports hero or maybe check out a reality show. I'm sure every time societies reached a danger point people scoff at those who suggested there could be a bad outcome.

     I think we have a dangerous divide in North America, and I think it is deteriorating faster than many people realize. It's more convenient to ignore such an ugly possibility than it is to think about it, but if no one talks about it because it is uncomfortable, it will get far worse before it can ever get any better. I, for one, do not want to wait until it's too late to talk about it.

     We are so busy arguing over what divides us, we've forgotten what binds us together. We are not so different as to render us immune to violent division. It's hard work to compromise. Will we really allow history to repeat itself right in our backyard?

     I don't know. I do know I don't like what I see. Sometimes the bigger picture is so ugly I long for tunnel vision.

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