By Michael Lashley
There are times when we do not know whether to laugh or to cry. We want to find a new set of wishes, a different setting that will remove all the causes of unhappiness, quarreling and rivalry for money, political power and influence.
Whoopi Goldberg filled our hearts with her group’s rendition of the song Oh Happy Day. John Lennon took us on his trip to Utopia with the immortal ballad entitled simply Imagine. David Rudder engulfed us in his version of societal bliss in High Mas and Calypso Music.
And Spain’s pride and joy, Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, provided the inspiration for millions of us to enjoy the ups and downs in the life of Don Quijote, causing some musical talents to create the flight of fantasy in which Sarah Connor charms us to high heaven when she sings The Impossible Dream (The Quest).
All of those escapades are attempts to get away from the unpleasant, frustrating and unjust realities of life.
Why can’t we fabricate our own wish list here in Canada? Can we ever agree on what to put on our list of the things we want, and, especially, the things we do not want? Without any regard for the contradictory nature of the results, my friends scanned the media and came up with this hodge-podge of overlapping issues, subjectively grouped under two headings: bread and butter issues that affect our financial situation and the use of our country’s monies; and political issues.
The Bread and Butter
Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had a reasonable amount of bread and butter to eat and an opportunity to work for the money to buy that bread and butter with a reasonable level of wages? For that to happen, we would have to have a society in which the wellbeing of the people is more important than the wellbeing of the economy, of the “free” market and of the deficit-reduction targets.
What if telecommunications companies stop steamrolling consumers and defrauding us with a variety of fees, charges and dishonest advertisements? What if post-secondary education becomes a level playing field with a business model that balances a fair cost-for-service ratio (the students’ rights) with fair wages for all who work in the universities and colleges?
Should our transport rates become so economical that the larger numbers of commuters using public transit provide greater revenue for the public transit system, plus a 50% reduction in traffic congestion? Do we want our universal health strategy to include dental and eye care in OHIP and do we want to have pharmacare coverage that makes medicines more readily available for all?
Is it at all possible that we can have a finance sector that serves our needs just as efficiently as it rakes in billions in annual profits? Should we have a banking community that recognizes the absurdity of imposing fees and charges on us for keeping our money in their hands and for granting access to it, while using our money to earn interest daily, over and above their revenue from loans and investments? Should we aim to have a financial sector in which credit unions and co-operatives account for one third of the market?
What if we never need to feel offended and ashamed by the hateful views and the politics of hatred and cultural division that are on offer from political office-holders in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, in Ottawa’s federal institutions and in opportunistic political visits to Quebec?
Do our political parties have the anatomical fortitude to bless us with the abolition of the Senate and the reallocation of its funding to the needs of our children and our youth, our seniors and our military veterans?
Can we dream of waking up to a society in which poverty reduction becomes a higher priority than the war on terrorism here and abroad?
Do we dare aspire to a society in which our truly Canadian values, as embedded in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are so entrenched in our political culture that immigration policy ceases to be a political football that is selectively kicked around? Is it desirable that, instead of being treated as intruders and as persons seeking to abuse our generosity, immigrants and refugees can be convinced they are indeed welcome to our respect and consideration?
Will we ever see the day when all our major political parties sign on to the establishment of a permanent, non-partisan commission to manage our country’s responsibilities towards the rights and needs of aboriginal peoples?
Wouldn’t we be happier if all Conservatives are as reasonable, considerate and tolerant as Bill Davis and John Tory? Wouldn’t we have a clearer picture of what Liberals stand for if their policies and politics are so different from those of the Conservatives that more voters will be sure of what, not who, they are voting for? Can we dare to wish that the NDP stops splitting itself into three conflicting political camps?
Are we condemned to dream the impossible dream, or do we dare to turn our dreams into constructive and concrete plans?