Many of us instinctively nodded our heads when John Lennon’s song “Revolution” from The Beatles’ White Album (1968) first hit our ears with its slow-grooving guitars and sardonic lyricism:
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world...
The song was one of Lennon’s first forays into the political realm, and it came amidst that era’s many socio-political upheavals, an era in which many students, workers, and intellectuals found themselves in the streets giving voice to the many grievances of the masses: inequality amongst the so-called races, inequality between the sexes, resistance to and condemnation of the waging of wars abroad, and a rejection of “Establishment” economics that seemed to ensure imperial power for us fat cats in the West at the expense of smaller, more vulnerable nations, in both hemispheres.
Well, the Establishment won in the end, didn’t it?
Many of us find ourselves fighting many of the same battles that were begun by idealists decades ago. Only the voices don’t sound as unified anymore, and the voices aren’t as prolific. There are reasons for this.
Chief among them: The nominal “Left” is no longer a strong oppositional force because its many strands have separated into atomized camps. Where once one could see alliances developing between workers in the Labour Movement and the feminist movement, for example, it is now much more common to see the two camps sniping at similar targets-of-oppression on their own. Where at one time hands reached out from the American Indian Movement to join forces with other civil rights organizations, it is more common nowadays to see individual interests attempting to go it alone against the institutions that have refused to enfranchise them.
And as time has passed, and as the economy has grown incrementally, sometimes by leaps and bounds, still more interest groups have come into being. Movements that represent, among others: the LGBTQ2 community, prison reformers, environmental activists, climate-change resisters, resurgent Indigenous political activists, anti-racist activists, and more besides.
It’s a bewildering array of opposition that we can readily read about in the papers or while staring at our smartfreakingphones or by letting the shite wash over us in the ennui-inducing blue glare of our lavishly-large home-theatre screens.
And yet, all too commonly, none of it is enough, it would seem, to kickstart your average citizen to participate in the many dialogues needed to actually begin changing the way things are to the way things could (conceivably) be. Hell, asking some citizens to actually vote is often met with a blank stare or an agitated bourgeois harumph that one would be challenged with such insolence.
So, Mr. Know-It-All, you may be asking me: what’s the answer then, smartass?
The answer is this: you must change. YOU must take seriously your role in making the world a better place. And your role is certainly more elaborate than casting a ballot once every several years for the monkey of your choosing. Your role is to get informed on the issues of the day. Your role is to start talking with others about their lives and their hopes and their dreams. And your role is to join forces strategically with like-minded souls. Above all, your role is to begin listening not only to the powers-that-be who have all the access in the modern world to media outlets, but to the many more voices out there who do not have equal access to the mediamachine that the privileged do.
My dream for my readers and for Canada as a country is that we do not become overly cynical or complacent about politics and the processes that remain in place to exercise our democratic rights and freedoms.
But this is a difficult dream when we look around and see how the very communications platforms that have facilitated community-building have now been co-opted by the powers-that-be to streamline public opinion towards their own ends.
We have all witnessed how in our own country, a government has (in less than a decade!) completely diminished or warped so many of our cherished values and institutions, often without debate in parliament, or specific consent from the electorate.
We have all witnessed how our government, through the growing might of the Prime Minister’s Office, has effectively shut down the ability for its own MPs to address the questions of the Loyal Opposition or hard-working journalists who attempt to get clarification on enacted bills or future policy directives.
The last complaint is even more poignant in light of the recent revelation that the current government has hired a public relations firm to craft “news” stories that the government vets before they are released, free of charge mind you, to anyone who cares to use them.
It would seem that we live in an age when our leaders have come to recognize like the rest of us that we live increasingly atomized lives. Our communities are more often virtual and online, and not visible in the public square. And with so many screens screaming for our attention, we fall into the disillusioned miasma of a populace unable to navigate effectively, people increasingly frightened by the alarmist messages flouted before us continuously, citizens neglecting their democratic franchise because they have given in to despair and hope in the end that, as Lennon laconically drones in “Revolution,”
Don't you know it's gonna be alright
The cagey Canadian politicians that would have us de-centred and deflected from focusing too closely on their wielding of the mechanisms that keep the whole edifice pushing forward love the fact that we aren’t on the same page (wherever that blessed page might be); that it is too daunting a task for most, and that if we can achieve marginally-comfortable positions in our life’s journey, we won’t start looking at the foundational structures and actions that keep an unsustainable political-economy persisting.
But we’re better than that, aren’t we? We have long traditions of volunteerism, and sending relief to corners of the world that so desperately need our help.
Perhaps it’s time, that we re-invigorate our cherished rights and freedoms, and demand from our elected that they carry forward our programme for positive evolutionary change here at home.
Once we change ourselves from within, it will be remarkable how quickly our changed behaviours will become revolutionary in the end. And when that blessed day arrives, we will truly become a beacon for the rest of the world to emulate. But it’s going to have to start with YOU.
— Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com