The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

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Citizenship – “Information vs. Knowledge”

Posted on July 29, 2011

New figures have just been released revealing that two-thirds of Canadian households have internet access and eight out of ten have home computers – all this higher than the OECD average.  With that distinct cutting-edge advantage, one would think Canada would enjoy a deeply engaged citizenry. Sadly we don’t. Something is missing at a time when the Internet should be bringing us together for the challenges and opportunities that confront us. There is a key distinction between an information-based age and a knowledge-based age. It spells the difference between the success and failure of citizenship at so many levels. We are learning that all this access to data has largely insulated us from one another, whereas many dedicated citizens have used it to acquire…

Citizenship – “Click Here For Democracy”

Posted on July 28, 2011

It is remarkable how the push for a new kind of democracy within Canada depends so much on the availability and use of the Internet. When first introduced into the political realm it was welcomed as the new “Holy Grail” for democracy – a use of technology that could revolutionize citizens and permit them new avenues for participation. Comedian Jon Stewart, as savvy on politics as any, has spoken of his disappointment in the inability of new communications technology to empower citizens, at one point stating recently: “The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.” Why has the use of digital communication not created a more empowered citizenry? It is still the repository of so much hope within the younger generation…

Citizenship – “Bull Run”

Posted on July 27, 2011

My wife Jane and I would have been in Spain last week, taking part in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. We’d wanted to do it for 10 years and thought this was to be the year. But with the change in lifestyle that comes with losing an election, that dream is over. For some reason this all occurred to me yesterday as I perused a number of reports speaking about the growing inequality in Canada. A vision ran through my mind of our aboriginal population, the poor among us, community members lost in the maze of mental health challenges, the unemployed, single moms and dads, and a physical environment that are struggling madly to stay in front of a frantic consumerism that…

Citizenship – Captives of Ourselves

Posted on July 26, 2011

Aleksandr Soizhenitsyn, Nobel Prize-winning author, moved to Vermont to escape the horrific memories he shared in books like his Gulag Archipelago. To everyone’s surprise, a number of years later he returned to Russia to live out his remaining days. Asked why he would abandon the beauty and freedom of Vermont, he answered he had learned that the heavy emphasis western citizens placed upon materialism and the pursuit of things was ultimately stealing their soul. He eventually concluded, “the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits” – tough words, largely ignored. Throughout the BBC series The Century of the Self the usual suspects were trouped out as having precipitated the movement from social progress to…

Citizenship – “From Self to Selfish”

Posted on July 25, 2011

By the 1990s the revolution to the “self” was almost completed, perhaps best symbolized by Edward Bernays’s television appearance on the David Lettermen show celebrating his 100th birthday and his role as the master of modern advertising. It was readily accepted that the acquisition of goods was the best route to modern emancipation. Reading the desires of consumers had become a major industry. For Britain, the U.S. and Canada, years of growing public debt and deficits threatened to cut into the economic advantages gleaned from this new materialistic age. Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney, though winning significant majority governments, had left their respective cupboards bare, despite important accomplishments in other areas. Canada’s reputation as a nation in financial peril caused growing concern in the corporate…