Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pensions for your Thoughts

Somewhere between Arab Spring and feminist tween blogging sensations, Canada became almost unrecognizable. It is much easier to pass off any critiques of social media and the internet as the older generations’ melodramatic inability to understand than anything of any value. In fact, it’s just as easy as implying a huge shift to more conservative government has anything to do with a party or a person. Both are cop outs. As someone who owns too many iThings and who has blogged since the dawn of my sixteen year old self owning laptop, I spend my time explaining the virtues of being constantly connected to people who still think dial up is a “thing.” I feel like a globalization crusader as I shatter fear mongering news’ myths that your browser is a drug that makes girls send stupid sexual pictures by mentioning tweeting the Revolution! We were all Troy Davis! You don’t have to buy that whole CD! Kony was good until it wasn’t! & man, anyone can write a dissertation referencing Descartes because there’s Wikipedia pages on both. But then I see Tumblr heroes reblogging a Times article critiquing the new female ideals while referencing eight great works of literature (at least one Plath or it doesn’t count) who can barely tell me the name of the riding they live in and I start to think something happened wrong.

For all of our trending topics to quash homophobia overseas & rubber bracelets buying generic drugs for countries that I have to look up to make sure I’m pronouncing their names correctly (I swear I knew it! I just wanted to make sure... I swear!) I can’t help but feel like none of us have any clue what what what is happening beneath our feet. Sure, we hear about big things like ABORTION and MONEYS? and someone’s rights are being violated somewhere. But then it doesn’t make sense that certain people at the airport are on strike and others aren’t. What do Members of Parliament actually do besides stand and vote but what’s the point if there’s a majority government? The economy hasn’t rebounded yet, which is probably bad, but in the mean time we’ll all buy our reusable bags at small businesses and hopefully everything will be okay eventually kind of maybe for sure.

Almost nothing at home is getting better. In fact, it is getting much worse. No one is debating that I will not have all of the programs, opportunities, and wealth that my parents had. I support those who strike while being fully aware that unionised jobs will likely not be available for me. My fate is decided by voters four times my age who will likely die before I have kids that I won’t be able to access affordable, quality childcare for because it’s easier for  us to get wrapped up in small moral debates than big questions about what the heck is happening right now. And somehow we think society has become more democratic.

I was able to watch leadership conventions and budgets on a television that cost one tenth of what my grandparents paid for theirs in 1990 but is at least four times bigger and infinitely higher quality. During said events, I knew all of the hash tags to get my voice heard, to contribute to a bigger conversation, to feel like I was part of a community. Uncensored, I shrieked happily and snarked angrily at any given minute in an attempt to amplify my ideas that I was just so so certain would change the world. As a planet, we shared our messages for progress. Democracy? Then why does the future feel so abysmal? And why doesn’t anyone vote? Forty people liked my status about justice and nothing happened.

Our progress is products. We are sold the idea of democracy in the same way that we are sold the same gadgets as celebrities. We are having a conversation that many politicians are ‘engaging in’, but not really listening to. Is this a glitch caused by a generational gap or a facade of free speech? My social media remains intact for the moment, but I still can't help but feel like my country just traded my rights for a phone that won't be cool next year to espouse opinions that won't bring our generation to action. I gained the ability to tell everyone why I think my pension should be protected, but no one can protect my pension.

Everything’s just so fast, and not in the charming cigarettes on motocycles with boys in leather of the 50s. National press and the internet acted as a road block to politicians telling different lies on different coasts, but now it seems half of the vast expanse of the country believes them instead. News stories expand and collapse in a day; there are too many details to ever know all of them. Keeping up is difficult when somewhere in Africa is always hungry. Somehow, faraway lands with crippling multidimensional problems almost seem easier. A lot of us have enough to eat, so we know it can be done. But what of our dying manufacturing sector and the inequality of provincially funded education? Too much for now. Too big and close that it’s so small.

I do see a refocusing on community, even as the definition of the word changes. I benefit from regularly having the principles I hold in my heart challenged by uncaring strangers. Whether I’ll vote will never be a question for me, but how will we vote in the future? And will it even matter if we are content to complain about what is happening around us?        

Self expression has become both the most important right but also the biggest luxury. Although our conversations need to be heard, yelling them into a dead line is certainly not effective. I am still the person who started this post; indeed, look at the medium I choose. Still agreeing with Ms. Mead, I will never cease to believe that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, but I think we need to take a little more time to try to decide what change means.