I wrote a novel twenty years ago in which the continent of North America was overrun by a giant flood, fragmenting it into smaller pockets of land. Upon these new “islands” lived people who had self-selected according to political ideology; they were either laissez-faire capitalists or holier-than-thou socialists. Today, I wonder whether I have walked into my own novel.
Well, we don’t actually have a flood today, but we have a pandemic that has neutered the world we once knew and took for granted. And with the recent US election results, and even from the one in Canada the year before that saw a minority government emerge, we know that there are almost equal numbers of capitalists and socialists among us. And we know that they remain on ideological islands that are now called echo-chambers. Each group is right, and the other is wrong; each group has its own morality and illusion of reality. The capitalists will die for their rights and freedoms – literally; pandemic be damned, they are not wearing masks, and they want the right to bear arms because they distrust governments, but they embrace their dethroned leaders who were once the heads of government. The socialists will die for good citizenship, and will put their trust in big government, because they like to be looked after, especially in these difficult times, and they like non-divisive, even boring leadership. Social media has helped to cement these hard divisions. Warning: don’t ever try to advance a political argument on Facebook or Twitter where there are “friends” from the opposite political persuasion; you will be insulted, blocked, and unfriended. You will end up starting a mini-war on those forums that will only die down when attention spans start to deteriorate – which, thank heavens, is pretty damn quick these days!
The forces of good and evil walk among us. But who is good and who is evil? Ask a capitalist and he’ll point to the socialist as the evil one. Ask a socialist and he’ll point in the opposite direction. And with the deluge of fake news that both camps generate and regurgitate ad nauseum, one wonders who is the good guy and who is the bad? Or, are “good” and “bad” obsolete terms today? Is the better definition, “my opinion” and “your opinion”? What is “truth”? Is it relative or absolute?
This is the time, therefore, to go back to those first principles that we were raised on, principles that gave direction to our lives and brought us thus far. Heck, I made it to age 65 through much turbulent times, through various countries, and I am not destitute, so I must have done something right. I had anchors that kept me afloat during crises. I remember prophetic statements from my wise teachers like, “Respect others as you would want to be respected,” “You can’t take your riches with you when you die,” “Be a net producer rather than a net consumer,” “A lie oft repeated becomes a truth, so don’t lie!“ “You will know how great you were in life by the number of people who show up at your funeral,” and most importantly, “If you have nothing meaningful to add to the conversation, shut up!” These were my anchors.
As we age, we become anachronisms to the ones who come after us, and very soon, our voices fade in the cacophony of a media-crazed universe, and ultimately cease to be heard, our stories forgotten. And a generation later, those who come after us will be in the same position, voicing prophetic echoes from the past, universal truisms learned only through the bitter pill of experience. And they too will not be heard. And the world will carry on, self-correcting from time to time whenever there are cataclysmic events like floods and pandemics during which people are forced to pause and listen to their hearts. But when the good times roll again, good and evil will lock horns in contest once more, and the cycle will begin anew.
As we pause during this time of pandemic and election turmoil, ask yourself : “Do I know the difference between good and evil anymore?” I wonder how many will get the correct answer…And what is correct?