Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 2, 2001
Canada, recapture your idealism
As world trade and the economy continue their steady upward climb, increasing strains are being placed on the planet's ecosystem. Environmental degradation is so varied in its forms and the interrelationships between those different forms of decay may well combine to produce ecological disaster much sooner than anyone can predict.
The message for Canada on its 134th birthday is clear: Recapture your idealism; build a society that cares more for the long-term common good than for short-term economic gain; be an environmental leader for the rest of the world.
Much that is good can be said about Canada: Our spirit of freedom and tolerance, our openness to immigrants and refugees, our efforts to maintain a social safety net, our relative prosperity, our abhorrence of armed conflict and the high value we place on education. These virtues should allow us to continue to build a great nation.
But these virtues are undercut by our moral softness. We too often turn tolerance into relativism. We would rather not take a stand on moral issues - ranging from abortion to environmental protection - for fear of stepping on someone else's toes.
We have also tended to make the life of comfort and ease our god. The fastest growing industry in Canada, now worth about $9 billion a year, is gambling. This is worrisome, not because all gambling is immoral (it isn't), but because a widespread belief that the so-called good life can be found with a lucky winning ticket.
These are not the traits of a nation of leaders. Rather, they show an allegiance to the motto, "Ask not what I can do for society, but rather what society can do for me."
A country which implicitly takes this as its motto is a country on the way down. A country where too many people put their own wants before the needs of others is a nation in decay. It may maintain its prosperity for some time, but it will eventually collapse economically. A society where work is seen as a necessary evil rather than the rightful way to earn one's living and a way to serve others will turn away from work as soon as it finds an opportunity.
Such a society will also care little about how its prosperity affects future generations. We see this lack of responsibility in much of the world today. This planet is threatened not only by global warming, but also by falling water tables, shrinking cropland per person, collapsing fisheries, shrinking forests, and the accelerating extinction of plant and animal species.
We need political leaders who are primarily moral leaders and not power-brokers beholden to special economic interests. They should inspire us with thoughts of what can be, rather than be held back by self-interested thinking. We also need a population that will support its politicians who make tough and controversial decisions. We need corporate leaders who can look to higher values than the bottom line. And we further need a media that pays less attention to political intrigues than to the long-term needs of humanity.
Canadians need to be a people who consistently embody the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. These are natural virtues, virtues that can exist without religious faith. But the reality is that few people see the point of making the sacrifices necessary for a virtuous life unless they first have a religious faith.
So, while our Church has the responsibility to address the great issues of the day, its greatest contribution to the nation is to evangelize. If this so-called new evangelization is successful, it can help to make Canada a great nation. The Church can have a role in form lay people to take on the many tasks that are essential to making this world just and livable for future generations.
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