Has social progress ‘gone to the wind’?


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/12/2021 (546 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When I was in university, I had a professor who gave excellent lectures that provided some of the best social criticism I’ve ever heard. All semester he promised to reveal what he saw as the defining characteristic of our generation.

“You’re all a bunch of closet liberals,” he finally told us with a smirk on the last day of class. Then he chuckled and set us loose into the world, bewildered if a little underwhelmed. We knew he meant a great deal more than that we were all secretly supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada, but what exactly did he mean?

The old man retired that year, and I never got to ask him. But every so often I find myself turning those words over in my mind.

 What my professor saw was a sharp decline in student activism as compared to his own time, a trend he accredited to the rise of liberalism in our culture.

We live in an age when co-ordinated social action benefit us all but, far from being able to agree on what to do, we can’t even agree on whether we should do much of anything at all.

Whether it is the soaring price of housing, increasing economic inequality, high inflation, climate change, or the pandemic, we often seem to take a laissez-faire attitude towards solutions — let markets regulate themselves; let individuals make changes and go green; don’t let pandemic restrictions disrupt economic activity unless absolutely necessary.

These issues require us to make changes and act fast, but parliament just resumed after an election and looks almost identical to the one that sat before it.

A recent Angus Reid Institute survey of “self-identified young Canadian leaders” found almost half of respondents believe the answers to these problems lie in a complete restructuring of Canadian society.

These “self-identified young leaders” also apparently believed that what’s “good for society holds more importance than people’s individual rights and freedoms.”

Outwardly, they sound very progressive but on the whole they seem to have checked out. Younger people tend to vote less, which is nothing new; what is new is that they continue to vote less even as they age, according to Elections Canada.

Maybe we don’t feel like we can affect change, believe all politicians are about the same, and that those who aren’t are unrealistic or self-serving hypocrites.

And so we seem to think of politics as nothing more than public administration — even if we say otherwise when people are listening.

Or maybe we’re just resigned to not expecting more out of society.

Either way, we live in an environment where — to borrow one of the good professor’s phrases — the notion of social progress seems like it’s “gone to the wind.”

Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.

Andrew Braga

Andrew Braga
South Osborne community correspondent

Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.

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