Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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‘Tis the Winter of our Discontent

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, February 4 / 19

Zack Gross

This column is being written after several days of temperatures in the high (or is it low?) minus 30s and with a Colorado Low snow event on the way.  Our weather mirrors the mood in our society – the excess of bad news, seemingly insoluble issues, and anger at both how things have been up to the present and, strangely, also at changes happening in our society.

As a newly “retired” senior, I’ve had the opportunity to sit and watch the Brexit Wars in the British Parliament on BBC World News TV.  While in the past I’ve sat in the Public Gallery at the Manitoba Legislature and been disappointed at the heckling and lack of civil debate, I have to say that British Members of Parliament are louder than their colonial counterparts in Canada, and the Speaker of the British House of Commons has a voice (close to what farmers here would call “hog-calling”) that haunts me when I close my eyes.

This is an important and contentious issue and, as some observers have put it, it should be approached in a non-partisan way rather than from a party politics point of view.  It shouldn’t just be about who will win the next election as it’s more important than that kind of short-term thinking.

On the European continent, governments are also trying to cope with discontent from the Left and from the Right.  Yellow vests, neo-Nazis and many others vie for attention.  Critics, journalists, and maybe anyone who voices an opinion or dares to be “different”, are in danger, here, there any everywhere.

In many countries around the world, civility is abandoning us to be replaced by dictatorship and intolerance.  Elections take place in Africa and Latin America but the candidates with the most votes seem to lose every time.  Some leaders in Africa are calling on their people to snitch on anyone they suspect might be gay.  People in the Middle East and the US are building walls rather than dealing with inequalities.  Decisions are being made by governments, business and consumers that might add to our luxurious lifestyle, but will ultimately destroy our planet.

Under the heading “All of the Above
,” we received an interesting flyer in our Manitoba Hydro bill the other day.  Titled something like “Why your current bill is so high”, it outlined the reasons behind increased hydro costs.  You had the heat turned up too high in your home.  You used extra power during Christmas.  You left the lights on in rooms you weren’t using.  Your children were playing video games all day long. 

Yes, there is some truth to all of that, but there was no mention of hiked hydro rates.  Would Mr. Trump call that “fake news” or at least a “fakey newsletter”? How do we separate the fault shared by all sides, and make sure that reasonable and moderate use of hydro is rewarded with reasonable and moderate fees?  I assure the reader that I have not outed my grandchildren for playing video games in my house over the holidays.

Ignorance is a powerful force in bringing about either no change or negative change.  Interestingly, when we talk about what poor people need, here and overseas, we often talk about education.  However, it is our own ignorance as well as the ignorance of others that have dragged us into our winter of discontent.

I recall a “person in the street” set of interviews on CBC TV News in the US just before Mr. Trump was elected.  A person with a Make America Great Again baseball cap on said how she supported Trump, but couldn’t identify any policies that he espoused.
Now, back to Hydro.  I was sitting with folks at a meeting in rural Manitoba a few days ago and the “Trudeau carbon tax” came up as a topic of discussion as this organization has had to increase their budget for Hydro.  There ensued a diatribe against the federal government (I’m not a Liberal) but when questions were asked, there was little knowledge present on this issue, that is heat was generated (pun intended) but not light.

Again, in a group setting, with another set of folks in an organization, funding available to support the hiring of people of indigenous background was discussed.  And again, heat was thrown out by those ignorant or intolerant on the issue, and no one bothered to shine a light.

Bad weather and upcoming elections do make people grouchy.  Lack of sunlight and lack of the light of knowledge are powerful negative forces.  The days are getting longer now, and increased sunlight may also open our minds.

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of
The Marquis Project and former Coordinator for Fair Trade Manitoba.

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