Permission To Speak Freely

By | September 2, 2016

Originally published as a column in NewsKamloops on September 2, 2016. 

It never ceases to amaze me how cautiously positive and uplifting a bunch we have to become or strive to be. Staying away from discussing politics or appearing too negative in how we discuss life in both its mundane and extraordinary details, we have learned to keep our fears, worries, doubts and occasional depressive thoughts caused by life unfolding to ourselves. We do not want to be ‘that person’.

Truth is, ‘that person’ may be the one that sees things, wants them addressed and hopefully rectified while refusing to see the silver lining as more than what it is instead of a positively embellished version that others insist on.

There was never a time when seeing things in too rosy a light was a good thing. Keeping our eyes open to what our chosen leaders are doing is a necessary and responsible thing to do if one cares about the present and future. It’s not about being combative and offensive, but engaged, willing to know what it takes for a community to run on respect, honesty, ethics and by all means putting the rights of all combined before the benefit of a few.

On more than one occasion I had people smiling an awkward smile and saying ‘let’s not get into politics, it would not be good.’ In this day and age when the corporate ghosts inhabit many of the corners of our society and influence how things are run in various sectors, media included, getting into politics and pushing towards knowing the facts and engaging in debates if needed fulfills a civic duty.

Case in point: the new climate action plan put together by the provincial government.

With no carbon tax that would see the big polluters pay, the plan itself should have gone straight back to the drawing board given that it ultimately ignored the recommendations of the climate advisory team. The big LNG dreams that the current government still believes in and wants to make a reality despite many scholars and environmentalists opposing it for logical, survival-for-all reasons, might have us taxpayers fork over significant amounts of money in order to make it happen in a more ‘sustainable’ way. Correction: will have us taxpayers ‘help’ the industry giants have it smooth and not sustain financial losses. This should be all over the news and discussed by many. It is our future after all.

In other words, the environment gets kicked and bruised, communities altered and people’s lives severely affected while a corporation and its shareholders will make a killing albeit it could be a classic boom-and-bust (fracking is not without its own perils and limitations). The documentaries Fractured Land and To The Ends of The Earth offer good understanding of the matter.) And yet, there is but a voice of two calling it how it is. How many of us are paying attention?

By now we should all be talking about the indignity of such prospects, and media outlets throughout the province should have the big topics such as site C, fracking, climate change and the much needed transition to renewable energies as part of an ongoing dialogue with the public. Unadulterated information is key to democracy. And media people should be the guardians of that information and the purveyors of facts that may not be pleasant to talk about but should not to leave aside either.

Whether polite or not, discussing real life rather than sticking to positive only topics will have to become the norm. Our lives are as real as they come and so should be our approach to keeping informed about the decisions that can alter our lives or those of generations to come.

An interesting parallel comes to mind regarding parenting and life in general. When someone asked my sons what they like about homeschooling one of the answers was that we rely upon ‘real books’ and ‘real topics’. It’s true, we keep it real. As far as I am concerned learning is never about walking the line but thinking whether there should be one in the first place.

Being politically correct may keep our conversations sanitized and our social status positive and farthest from being ‘that person’ but it will never mend anything in our society or keep us safe from corporate wantonness which often puts people, the environment and the very fabric of a society at  risk.

Having more independent media might just be the catalyst that keeps the dialogue alive by providing us with nothing but reality and plenty of opportunities to discuss and learn about the ways our society functions, the rights and wrongs, ethics and all. If we insist in truth and honesty at a personal level (I am hoping most of us do) media should keep to the same values and principles. It would be a winning case for all.

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