Politics as usual won’t save us

Several times a day I abandon my studio and take to the hills behind the house. Bonnie goes with me and she always makes a beeline for the steep…

Several times a day I abandon my studio and take to the hills behind the house. Bonnie goes with me and she always makes a beeline for the steep cliff that rises above Bear Creek.

She digs frantically at several gopher holes at the top of the ridge and then she is usually ready to move along.

Today, however, she took a slightly different approach. After her normal top down assault, she ran down to the bottom of the cliff and starred up at the vertical wall.

I could hear the wheels turn. She was searching for a different perspective.

This got me thinking.

Perhaps its time to get a new perspective on all the politicking we are bombarded with lately.

When I read through the political ads of late, I find one common theme: the success of the economy is tied directly to the health of the environment.

It doesn’t matter which party’s ad you read, economy and environment go hand in hand.

Just the other day, I was listening to Nancy Thomson’s CBC interview with Arthur Mitchell. Both she and I were having a hard time deciding what the fundamental difference was between his approach to “economy and environment” and that of Dennis Fentie’s.

Todd Hardy’s strongest commitment is, according to the NDP platform, “a strong economy, healthy environment.”

What then is all the fuss?

These boys are all pulling the same sled.

So here is my new perspective, my look from the bottom of the cliff.

Politics, it seems to me, creates enemies among ordinary citizens. It causes divisions where none existed before.

This is a tragedy of epic proportion.

Our democratic version of political gamesmanship has begun to turn on itself; most certainly it turns community members on one another.

Over time, in the long run, and on the larger scale of things it has also been proven to pit culture against nature.

This culture-against-nature, high-stakes battle is where we must now turn all of our attention.

If there was ever a time when we need a politics that unites, we need it now.

We can no longer sit by and watch the rapid and perhaps irreversible melting of sea ice, the lengthening inventory of vanishing species, the rise of monocultures, increased drought and disease, and the demise of clean air and water.

As democratic peoples we believe the ultimate and satisfactory solutions to our environmental problems will be political ones.

But politics has become so divisive that we have allowed ourselves to be fooled into believing that global warming is caused by the far right and that the eventual solutions will only be put forth by the far left.

This, of course, is absurd.

It is an insult to our individuality. It offends our collective mentality.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote in his Politica,  “every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always acts in order to obtain that which they think good.

“And,” he continues, “if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.”

As a way of achieving the greater good, Aristotle did not differentiate between politics and ethics.

For Aristotle, the state was a refinement of the family, an offshoot of the village. But it was in some ways much more than that.

The state was a “moral organization to advance the development of humans.”

As I watch Bonnie stare up at the towering cliff, I find myself wondering how, over the course of the last 2,000 years, have we allowed politics to become so far removed from ethics?

How did we allow our political process to divide us evenly into camps and force us to become combatants rather than community members?

It would be naïve of me to believe there is one simple answer to such a complex question.

But I do believe we would be negligent in our reasoning if we did not consider the fact that we have allowed our politicians to become somehow larger than life.

We have forgotten to remind ourselves, and therefore failed to continually remind them, that they are “only” servants to our families, to our communities, and to our nation states.

And in their service to us, we must insist they always search for and find the common ground that unites us.

Yukoners, as families and as community members, have put out the call: We insist on a strong economy and a healthy environment.

Cleary this call has come from both the left and the right.

Make no doubt about it, our individual and collective happiness depends on a peaceful reconciliation between our cultural wants and our natural needs.

The war between culture and nature must end. Our happiness — indeed our survival — depends on it.

Aristotle, by insisting on the unity of politics and ethics, was building the case that “the character of democracy creates democracy, and always the better the character, the better the government.”

If there ever was a time for our leaders to demonstrate character, to become ethical, to create unity, to build better government, now is the time.