By PATRICK HUNTER
Do you ever get the feeling that something big is about to happen? You don’t know when; you don’t know what form it will take, and you have absolutely no idea what effect it will have – on you, and those around you. I have that feeling.
The source of this unease is somewhat connected to the state of governments – in this and in many other countries. Part of it, I think, comes from a sense of a vacuum in leadership; a vacuum of new substantive ideas that will somehow revolutionize how we approach governing, how we elect governments and, most importantly, how those we elect govern – what do they bring to the table?
Here is a sense of what I am thinking. More than just the fact that he was to be the first Black president of the United States, Barack Obama simulated an almost messianic wave of hope and optimism leading up to his election and the first couple of years of his first term. His appeal crossed boundaries. What he had to say struck a note with people all over the world to the point that non-Americans were wishing they had a vote.
What he had to say (and how he said it) struck a chord – a new approach to governing – a new approach to how the United States dealt with other countries, a new approach to how the United States viewed and dealt with its own people. Turning that ship around has proven to be much harder than he had imagined, and the dream floundered. Politics and tradition in the United States woke up. The opposition proved to be deeper and stronger than believed.
What was really good about this movement was that it signalled that the people of the world needed a change, and so did the majority of voters in the U.S. But there was a gross underestimation of how that change would come about and, specifically, how strong the opposition felt about what they would potentially lose if those changes were successful.
In Canada, we have a government which has finally won what they longed for, a majority government. The unfortunate thing about it is that they did not win because of a revolutionary vision of Canada’s future – one that emotionally moved the mass of voters. Indeed, if you ask me, they won the government by default. A weakened political opposition facilitated a less than enthusiastic electorate to give Stephen Harper and company their majority. And what have they done with it?
The fact is, the electorate appears to have lost interest in the political system and government in Canada. The Prime Minister announced a few weeks ago that he would ask the Governor General to prorogue parliament. There was hardly a reaction from the general populace. Perhaps it was the fact that people were more intent on enjoying the last few days of summer, but one could imagine one giant shrug. When parliament resumes, there will be a speech from the throne in which the government will lay out the broad strokes of what it hopes to accomplish and the direction in which it will take Canada until the next election.
The British Prime Minister recently came out in full support of the plan for a military strike against Syria because of the chemical attack that Syria allegedly perpetrated against its own people. Thinking that he had the support of parliament behind him to participate, he recalled members so he could formalize that support. Well, the support was not there.
This is the sense that seems to permeate the current political environment – the aimless and unimpressive meanderings of our leaders.
Obama has essentially become a lame duck. He has taken a defensive position with the aim being legacy protection. In essence, Congress has not gone along with his dreams. In all likelihood, his advisors have also pulled him back. His relationship with the African-American community appears to have become even more estranged than the latter part of his first term.
For a moment, it seemed as if the masters of the computer-internet revolution were destined to be the new gods of control. Financially, they have become all powerful and they have the wherewithal to influence mass opinion through those portals. They may yet attain that degree of influence as they control the portals but it is not yet clear if there is a plan, beyond increasing their financial well-being, to project an ideology or political influence into that sphere. Indeed, if anyone of them has, it is possibly Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who has dedicated much of his earnings towards research that could potentially improve health around the world, and certainly in Africa.
So, this is the scenario we are facing: an emotional and physical detachment from the political processes because we are not inspired by the current leadership. That inspire