It can often feel like we live in a very divisive world; one where there are only two answers to every question. From a young age we are bombarded with information presenting our surroundings in finite, binary terms. Our parents teach us right and wrong, fairy tales tell us stories of good triumphing over evil, and competition instills in us an ‘us versus them’ mentality from a young age. Regardless of whether these ideals are expressed to us explicitly, we can easily understand simply by existing in the world that we are categorized by everyone we meet. This can be as simple as the toys children are ‘allowed’ to play with or as overarching as the false dichotomy that there can only be real freedom in the form of deregulated free market economics where only the strong survive, or complete control in the form of totalitarian Communism, where personal freedoms are nonexistent. Of course, there are biological impulses that lead human beings to judge those they meet. We evolved in small, tribal communities and had to be constantly aware of our surroundings in order to survive. This is why it is easy to get caught up in thinking that if someone doesn’t agree with our viewpoint they are inherently against us. This is why entire societies can be taught to hate that which they do not understand; that which is different.
Of course, in reality, we are complex beings capable of love, and understanding, and compromise. We are capable of growth, and change, and progress. We are capable of working together to create a more balanced society where people are placed ahead of profit, and compromise is viewed as more fundamental to our success than control. Nothing in this world in pre-ordained. We created the cultural touchstones that we now fight over. We uphold the laws, and collective beliefs that prop up one group to the detriment of another. We buy into the system that places monetary wealth and political control over health or the collective interests of a society capable of more than the production of goods and services. If we are cogs in a machine, we built the machine.
Placing people into easily discernible groups and teaching them to fit in or be ostracized is a mechanism of control. Many of us buy into this system without thinking about it. Many of us judge those who act against the norm without understanding why we react that way. We rely on the concepts of traditional values, or say ‘that’s just the way we have always done it.’Think of the many things that would not exist if we were content to do things the way they’ve always been done. Modern medicine is wholly dependant on asking ‘is there a better way?’ Scientific research is founded in the concept of constantly questioning whether a theory is correct. This systematic quest for truth vaults our society forward and produces new technology that fundamentally changes how we exist. An informed population asks questions, and the more we question the nature of our reality, the more tenuous the grips of the rigid societal norms that control us become. Change isn’t always comfortable. Homogeneity is good for business. Think about the media you consume, and the products you buy. It’s CNN or Fox News. It’s McDonalds or Burger King. It’s Colgate or Crest. We like structure, and we become comfortable in the notion that our way, or the way of our family, or our government, or our individual culture is the one true way.
There is no denying that right-wing populism has been on the rise globally. The governments of the United States and Great Britain are currently pushing an agenda of nationalism and protectionism. Some view this as a return to traditional values. Loose associations with Christianity and family values help push the narrative that these systems are good for people. Inherently, they decide which people deserve to be prosperous, and that view is presented as homogeneously as possible in order to convince voters that they are the true heirs to the cultural throne. Canada is built on immigration and cooperation.
Our paternal grandparents met on the boat emigrating from Germany, less than a decade after one of the most devasting conflicts the world has ever seen. They arrived in Canada, on the wrong side of history, but managed to make a life for themselves in a small town in British Columbia. Eventually, our Opa bought the local newspaper in Merritt, BC, and he and our Oma both wrote for the town’s main news source as non-native English speakers. While they no doubt faced prejudice, they were accepted into society and encouraged to reach for personal prosperity. They never lost their thick German accents, and their European heritage was obvious in the food they ate, the way they decorated their home, and dressed their children. On our mother’s side, our family has been in Canada for generations. Despite this, our paternal grandfather grew up in a community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia where one of the main languages was Gaelic.People who lived in Canada for generations worked together in a small community speaking a dialect that even those in Scotland, where it originated, were no longer speaking. When our grandfather went to other parts of Canada he was often asked where he was from due to the way he spoke. Despite the fact that his family had lived in Canada for generations, his cultural identity more closely resembled folks in the ‘old world’ than it did those in Toronto. This is purely anecdotal, but it speaks to the Canada that people are referring to when they say they want to return to traditional Canadian beliefs. Traditionally, Canada is multi-cultural and diverse. If the only difference with today’s immigrants is the colour of their skin, then the issue is not one of immigration; but of race.
When Jagmeet Singh was campaigning across Canada recently he was asked by a man he came across why he did not ‘cut off’ his turban to appear more Canadian. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which were deemed to be perpetrated by Muslims, a Sikh-American gas station attendant named Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered in Costa Mesa, Arizona as a hate crime in supposed retaliation for the attack. This was one of many incidences of race-fueled violence that occurred in the wake of the attack. These two events are not nearly the same in terms of severity, but they illustrate a common underlying issue; ignorance and misunderstanding is at the root of hatred. One does not ‘cut off’ a turban. Muslims and Sikhs are completely different religions, and neither group is any less justified in their beliefs than a Christian, Jewish person, Hindu, or Buddhist.
We live in a broken system where our differences are highlighted by politicians in order to win votes. Dog-whistling is a tactic utilized by many populist leaders in order to capitalize on ignorance and xenophobia by sub-consciously linking these types of beliefs to issues like unemployment and immigration. Ironically, the same class of people that encourages you to vote to curb immigration, and stop outsiders from taking your jobs, often utilizes tax loopholes to limit the amount of money they put back into the economy, or moves manufacturing offshore to increase their bottom line.
There is so much to unpack about global politics that it would take a far more educated person to properly present to you the reasons behind why things are the way they are. Trickle down economics and the myth of wealth being a signifier for inherent goodness or morality is not something we can debunk in a single blog post. We are not tied to any particular political party. We are a clothing company. We don’t want to tell you what to do, or who to vote for. What we can tell you is that for the first time ever, young people make up the largest voting bloc in the federal election. More millennials are eligible to vote in Canada than baby boomers. We have the most at stake in this election. We will bear the brunt of the environmental and socio-economic blunders of our past leaders. We are responsible for creating the world that future generations will exist within. If you are weary about bringing children into the world, think about how you can change that. We have the power to create real, lasting change. The world isn’t black and white. It isn’t us versus them. It is all of us together against hatred and ignorance. It is all of us together against inequality and poverty. We have an opportunity to create legitimate change and it starts with being aware of the obstacles we face, and the steps we can take to make a difference. You have a say. You can speak with your vote.