Radical Paths Lead to Trouble: We’ll Tackle Our Many Problems Better When Cool Heads Prevail | Opinion

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BY IAN PATTISON

“Come on people now, smile at your brother, everyone come together, try to love each other now.”

– The Youngbloods, “Get Together,” the band’s 1967 hit song calling for peace and brotherhood.

“The guy who has done the most to cause division and stir up anger across this country is Justin Trudeau, with his fingers pointing in people’s faces, baring his fangs and insulting people even though he’s never met them. .”

— Pierre Poilievre, then a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, during a March interview with Maclean’s.

THE DIFFERENCE in approach couldn’t be more pronounced. One is a reflection of the summer of love; the other is an example of the political and social divide that signals a winter of discontent as Canada and a global struggle with seemingly insurmountable odds have brought out the worst in a number of people.

Recently, we could count the number of truly awful rulers on the one hand. Idi Amin, Pol Pot. Augusto Pinochet, Robert Mugabe and Mao Tse Tung stood out. Since then, much of the world has learned the lesson that peace works, war and oppression hurt. A sense of global interaction aimed to improve lives. International affiliations flourished.

Everything works in cycles and the one we find ourselves in sees a multitude of problems quickly accumulating. Inflation eats away at people’s savings. Inequality is rampant as business leaders drive up prices and cut employment to the bare minimum, paying as little as possible. (Lately, that’s come back to bite them as the hunt for reluctant employees intensifies.)

Energy and supply chains are broken as Russia’s war on Ukraine and resulting sanctions disrupt the availability of almost everything.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has upended every aspect of life for two years and the resulting chaos is proving difficult to overcome.

On top of all that, climate change is wreaking havoc on a planet that has ignored warnings for so long that the sacrifices required now are nearly impossible to comprehend, let alone accept.

The world is in a state of fear and confusion. But rather than “come together” to deal with the issue as best they can, political leaders and challengers are going after each other, largely sidestepping the pressing issues of the process.

Division is the name of the game these days, and political opportunists are only too eager to seize people’s fears and encourage them to believe the most outlandish theories, to go after governments perceived as ‘woke’ (sometimes overly woke) and forcing rigid, right-wing policies instead.

In 2022, there are 57 dictatorships in the world. Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-Un are the most visible extremists but many others are joining the ranks.

Giorgia Meloni is the first far-right leader to lead Italy since the last great war. A right-wing bloc won a majority in the Swedish parliament this year. France’s far-right candidate Marine Le Pen narrowly lost her race to President Emmanuel Macron. Germany’s AfD party has 94 seats in the Bundestag where it opposes migrants, climate protection, LGBTQ rights, socialism and the European Union.

The European Parliament recently declared that Hungary was no longer a “full-fledged democracy” under Viktor Orban, the darling of American conservatives. Polish President Andrzei Duda won re-election in 2020 with a focus on anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Duda is another Trump favorite.

Donald Trump is primarily where this modern allowance for extremism began, of course. The former, and possibly next, US president successfully demonized anyone and everything that stood in the way of his bizarre theories and selfish bid for supreme power.

Incredibly, even after his many wrongdoings were exposed, more than 41% of Americans still have a favorable opinion of him, including seven out of 10 Republicans. Five percent favor using force to bring him back to the House White.

ALTHOUGH not as bad, the right turn has taken hold in Canada. There are only two centre-left provincial governments in Canada: British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Everything else, except for centrist Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, is considered centre-right.

Quebec’s sovereignty movement may be dormant, but immigration control and a ban on religious symbols could be sources of conflict between Ottawa and the province as Premier Francois Legault begins his second term.

Alberta has long leaned further to the right than most provinces and Danielle Smith’s selection this week as leader of the ruling United Conservative Party goes even further.

“Ottawa is creating chaos,” she said during a recent leadership debate, defending her so-called sovereignty bill proposal to opt out of any federal legislation she doesn’t like.

Lawyers say such a bill is not only illegal but also a dangerous rejection of respect for the rule of law. Others note that this will create particularly premature trade uncertainty. But establishment pushback is generally treated with contempt by politicians who blame incumbent governments for developments often beyond their control.

Pierre Poilievre, the new Conservative leader in Ottawa, likes to blame the Liberal government in general, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in particular, for just about everything that is wrong with Canada.

Poilievre has come dangerously close to extremist elements.

The so-called “trucker convoy” that arrived in Ottawa last winter to disrupt life and ultimately overthrow the government was in fact a group of misunderstood people seeking Trudeau’s ear, said Poilievre. As if the encounter they hadn’t had would have sent them home happily.

Some of the most radical of this group, who were photographed with Poilievre, are now either in prison, charged or under investigation for serious crimes. His response: I can’t help who comes to my gatherings and I can’t know everyone who is there. And yet there they were, flocking to his message of us against them.

This week, Global News reported that Poilievre’s official YouTube videos included a hidden tag appealing to online misogynistic movements Canada’s intelligence agencies consider a danger. His response: I had no idea and I fixed the problem. And yet there he was, nurturing the purveyors of male supremacy who see a society corrupted by feminism.

The thing is, Poilievre has what it takes to be a great leader. He is smart, savvy, knowledgeable and knows how to galvanize people. He doesn’t need to promote extremist ideas and appeal to vile constituencies to garner support.

The Liberals need a kick in the pants and most likely a new leader if they are to survive the next election. Poilievre can win with a much more reasonable approach than he uses.

We are a world in a world of trouble. Denigrating “others” is pointless. Using public fear of the future to gain political power is the height of irresponsibility.

Can’t we all get along? Is it too simplistic, too naive? Maybe that’s just what we need right now.

Ian Pattison is retired after 50 years of award-winning journalism at the Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on the news.

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