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The Power of Public Opinion


David Suzuki informs us that almost "all species that have existed  are estimated to have gone extinct within an average of a few million years." We are an infant species, "a mere 150,000 years old" who have adapted and survived deserts, tundra, rainforests, wetlands and high mountain ranges. Furthermore, "we’ve accelerated the rate of cultural evolution far beyond the speed of biological or genetic change."

Can we survive a million years? Will we be around in a few million or the next hundred years?

George Monbiot warns that "Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address."  By the late 1980's, it became clear that our world "was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine" as it also became clear that climate change was man made.  This political doctrine makes conversations about planetary health obsolete. It claims only profit and greed counts in ways that would be morally wrong even to elementary school children.

The news is not so much the news but an inventory of violence, and you would think that Socrates, Jung or Arendt had never existed. An alien visitor would think that there is no such thing as intelligence, reflection or wisdom. They might suspect that mothers never loved their children and had tossed them out of their cribs to the machines of war before they could speak.

What so many crises suggest, is that we are ruled by a nameless monster whose tentacles have spread throughout earth's surface and our neural substrate.

Some call this monster plutocracy, or capitalism,  or hegemony, or institutionalized religion. I would name it media.

Media according to the dictionary is "the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely."  It is filled with intelligent design and people who are well meaning. But it is powered one way - from a wealthy elite down to the living rooms of the common people. It behaves as though we are all involved in what spins out, and represents our best interests, but it cleverly omits most, if not all, of the diversity among its citizens.

There still exists outlets that inform, such as CBC radio, Knowledge, TVO and PBS. There are online outlets that give contextualized reports such as StraightGoods, TruthDig, Rabble, and others. But all of these are funded by the people who care about civil society. Their budgets are minute in comparison with the mainstream media who have learned how to create entertainment instead of truth, for profit rather than humanity.

Gandhi believed in a truth force just as many activists do, who have dedicated their lives to creating change. That these activities don't get broadcast frequently is really a testimony to their authenticity.  After all you don't see million dollar advertising campaigns for needs, only to create new "needs".

So signs of public opinion can be found, but in smaller print, in smaller presses and in community halls. Sometimes they reach places of influence.

Joe Oliver, at the Canada Energy Summit hosted by the Economic Club of Canada, said  “If we don’t get people on side, we don’t get the social licence — politics often follows opinion — and so we could well get a positive regulatory conclusion from the joint panel that is looking at the Northern Gateway, but if the population is not on side, there is a big problem”.

Susan McCaslin, an award winning poet, organized a protest by hanging poems on trees in McLellan Forest east of Fort Langley, to protect the land from being sold to developers. She got over 200 poems and coverage in a national newspaper.

There are many other stories like this. Many activists working for the greater good who use their powers of logic, foresight, compassion and communication.  They stand on the side of a future for our grand-children that includes rich and poor, not just an elite.

Whether we survive for the next hundred or million years depends on this kind of commitment.

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