Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 14, 2009
Firestorm of forces rampage against a shared community
The declining level of social cohesion in Canada - the degree to which the population lives out of a base of shared values and understandings -- has been evident for decades. The failure to approve the Meech Lake Accord in the late 1980s and the subsequent defeat of the Charlottetown Accord in a national referendum revealed the extent to which Canada has become a nation that is unable to write a political constitution, let alone define even the vaguest of national goals and values.
The splintering of the media has only furthered the decline in social cohesion. Instead of a daily newspaper and two TV channels to set the background for local and national discussions, Canadian daily newspapers are now in sharp decline, and there are 200 TV channels and an unimaginably vast universe on the Internet.
Something can be said in favour of all this diversity. Too often in the past the small number of media excluded many voices and views outside the mushy middle of society.
The downside is that today's wide diversity has seriously eroded the possibility of a national conversation in which all, or at least most, are willing to participate. With that possibility in decline, it is little wonder that politicians feel that the only way to capture our attention for even a few fleeting seconds is through histrionics.
Is it any wonder that fewer than half of eligible Albertans vote in provincial elections? Too many feel that what politicians are talking about is not part of their lives. Unfortunately, they are too often right.
But the roots of this social fragmentation are wider than the growth of media diversity. There is the decline of neighbourhoods as communities of social formation. The reliance on the automobile and the growth of large regional shopping centres as well as the steady decline in the number of neighbourhood schools further shreds the bonds of social cohesion and increases the anonymity of the person.
Even with all that, however, we might still have a stronger sense of national purpose if the other sources of decline were not accompanied by a decline in the practice of religion. Christianity is no longer the lingua franca of our national discussions.
This fact is less the result of the arrival of people of other faiths than it is due to the sharp decline in the attachment of people from once-active Christian families to their faith. Even among those who do practise, the faith is often only a secondary source of life's values.
With all these forces at play, it is unlikely that social cohesion will increase in the foreseeable future. While this affords people a greater sense of autonomy, values will be less and less shared among us and the amount of anonymity will continue to increase.
The common good is giving way to the hegemony of individual preferences.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.