Journalists can be forgiven for growing jaded over time. Covering politics can prove to be a deep struggle of getting facts from those seeking to shelter them. More often than not journalists know they are being played. “The media are less a window on reality, than a stage on which officials perform self-scripted, self-serving functions,” wrote Thomas Sowell, and there’s a strong element of truth in it.
Given what’s going on in places like America, Venezuela, Russia, Britain, Spain and China, Canadian news at times can seem outright boring. Yet it says something about this country – our politics, our citizenry, our economy, our institutions.
Closing out 2017, we as Canadians understand that our pliability is a blessing. There are numerous challenges existing at a dysfunctional level in our society and, left unaddressed, could fester into open wounds that appear with regularity across the globe. For all our divisions, our bickering, our politics, our language, our origins, our discontent – our weather – we have remained together despite all those forces pulling troubled nations to the extremes.
Just a cursory Google search reminds us that we continue to place high in numerous rankings of “best country” in the world – a position we have maintained for a remarkable amount of time. Others have ducked in and out of such lists, but Canada is always in the running. Anyone who travels extensively knows this to be true. We are often respected globally for those things we are not: war-like, relentlessly angry, overtly partisan, severely nationalistic, hotbeds of hatred. And, yes, we confess to tolerating a subtle racism, an abiding inequality of gender, historic injustices towards indigenous people, and far too much poverty, but none of these challenges have risen to the level where our country will be torn apart by their presence. There is great work to be done in these fields, but the reality is that we know it and are working slowly to correct our historic unfairness.
Our number one strength? Opinions are divided at home, but to the rest of the world the answer is almost universal – somehow we are unified by our diversity. Our lack of crisis culture is a marvel when seen through a global lens. The reality that our great differences can abide among us over decades without pulling us into regional, cultural or racial enclaves seems almost impossible for conflicted societies around the world to envision.
It remains hard to concede to this somewhat rosy picture for those among us struggling to achieve the hope that Canada offers yet still fails to achieve. It is easy for our country to preen itself when considering global rankings, but great nations compare themselves not to other countries, but to their own ideals. Canadians reflect these ideals in their response to polls, registering solid concurrence when it comes to ending child poverty, resolving historic disputes with our indigenous people, and ultimately the desire for effective climate change action.
But we aren’t there yet, and, in some cases, not even close. Still, we live in a land where such things remain possible when a people and their political representatives place their resources behind the values they supposedly profess and not just their aspirations. Our ability to come together, though fraught with historic hurdles, remains Canada’s greatest asset and a genial commodity to a troubled world. The essence of a good people, journalist Richard Bernstein would write, “is to represent something beyond themselves, to light up the world, to glow with the torch of civilization itself.” This we are already undertaking, in ways that remain remarkably enduring and impressive. Our task before us in 2018 is to press for even greater social justice, equality, and a thankful people worthy of their land – to become even better versions of ourselves for the sake of our heritage and our influence in a disjointed world.