Stupidity on the rise

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Do the humble and picturesque Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scoria and Newfoundland and Labrador finally have something bold to teach the world – like, how to get along?

It seems clear that a good portion of western society is entering something opposite to the Age of Aquarius. In a provocative piece for The Atlantic magazine this month, entitled “How American Politics Went Insane,” writer Jonathan Rauch observes, “(Donald) Trump. . .didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump. What we are seeing is not a temporary spasm of chaos but a chaos syndrome.”

He continues: “Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers – political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees – that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal – both in campaigns and in the government itself.”

Then, of course, there’s the recent Brexit vote to leave the European Union. If nothing is done over the next two years (and, really, at this point what are the credible options?), Britain will go it alone in a continent that is becoming increasingly retrograde, isolationist and angry. Already, great swaths of so-called “leavers” are regretting their decision in last week’s general referendum.

Former editor of The Sun newspaper, Kelvin MacKenzie, was one of England’s most prominent voices urging the exit. Prior to the vote, he penned a column headlined “10 reasons why we must vote Brexit,” citing the near and happy certainty that Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne would, at last, retire.

Here’s what Mr. MacKenzie has to say for himself today: “When I put my cross against Leave, I felt a surge as if for the first time in my life my vote did count. I had power. Four days later I don’t feel quite the same. I have buyer’s remorse. A sense of be careful what you wish for. To be truthful I’m fearful of what lies ahead. Am I alone?”

To many of us in Atlantic Canada, these developments – firmly rooted in an almost hysterical fear of immigrants, ginned up by political demagogues –have been downright mystifying. After all, Great Britain – that mother of democracy – has been, for generations, a beacon of tolerance and good sense. With notable exceptions, so has the United States.

Lest we go down that same road, we, in this part of the world must be ever watchful of the inflammatory rhetoric that passes for informed opinion and reasonable commentary – the irresponsible and often hateful words that occasionally drip from the lips of the “I’m just saying” contingent. Fortunately, most of the time, we are.

We still recognize that immigration is one of the keys that unlock this region’s social and economic potential. We still understand that we are far stronger by working together than by freelancing our fortunes independently.

Mostly, though, we still respect and honour the shared and common public institutions that protect us from the heavy hands of the bloviating windbags who would, in their own, arched self-interest, raise alarms over trivialities or, in fact, nothing at all.

Does this make us better than everyone else, or just luckier? Who knows? But for now, as Canada Day approaches, it seems that we do finally have something bold to teach the world.

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