Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 6, 2008
Thanksgiving must lead to focus on future
It is fitting that Canada's federal election will fall on the day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not a religious feast, but it is rooted in an attitude that ought to be a cornerstone of any Christian nation. If faith does not lead one to gratitude, then it likely does not lead anywhere at all.
But even from a secular point of view, Canadians ought to be grateful for what we have. We are one of the richest nations in the history of the planet. Our basic physical needs – food, clothing, shelter – are for the most part well taken care of. Indeed, we have an excess of material goods. We ought to seek ways to live more simply rather than piling up more possessions.
This is not to deny the existence of gross inequities. But it does say that Canada has the means to bountifully meet the needs of all. Few nations in history could claim that.
If we truly had an attitude of gratitude, our main political concern would be with sustainability. Our thanks for what we have would be reflected in our desire to ensure that all people – both living today and to come in the future – also have the means for a good life.
In recent decades, "sustainability" has been a buzzword. It often refers primarily to society's ability to use its natural resources to leave a habitable environment for untold generations to come.
It is that, for sure. If the process of production defiles the environment and depletes resources today, then our children and grandchildren will have nothing to build upon.
But there are other dimensions – financial, social and moral – to sustainability.
In the last dozen or so years, Canada's government has eliminated its deficit and begun to cut its debt. It has realized that a society with an ever-growing debt has a diminished future.
The current U.S. economic crisis shows that financial sustainability is a wider issue than government debt. Deregulation in the financial sector has led to serious undermining of the whole American economy.
Those who already have much have used the lack of regulation to get even more for themselves, severely stressing the financial system in the process.
As important as it is, financial sustainability must be balanced against social sustainability. Children raised in poverty or abusive situations have less promising futures than those raised in two-parent families with at least one breadwinner who brings a living wage to a home in a decent neighbourhood free of crime. For those who do not have that benefit – whether due to poor health, addictions, family breakdown, inadequate education or other circumstances – there needs to be a social safety net.
To the extent that such a social safety net has gaps, the future of individuals and of the nation is jeopardized.
But it goes still further. In a sustainable society, the rule of law, both moral and juridical, must prevail. When the culture of traditional morality is eroded by relativism, society is headed on a downward spiral.
It is imperative to preserve that culture by establishing and enforcing laws that protect the vulnerable.
But if there is no moral fibre in the people, no amount of law-making or extra police units will instill it. The society is moving toward anarchy, a situation in which all will suffer.
Sustainability is an idea of great consequence. It should challenge us to take the long-term view, to build a good society that will remain good for our children and grandchildren. It should challenge our self-centredness. It should lead us to ask not what the government can do for us, but what we can do through the political system to make a better world for generations to come.
- Glen Argan
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