Spirit Quest


Spirit Quest

'Listen for the Voice of Hope among the many other voices'

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

Once upon a time there was no internet. There was no surfing the web, no instant communication by e-mail, no Facebook, Twitter and no Skype. Can you believe it?

We relied for our information on the radio and television and before that the newspaper. Some of us still do but in the knowledge that this is an expensive media, affordable only to large corporations. Broadcast studios and networks, printing presses and paper, to say nothing of editors, writers and reporters and all the infrastructure of publishing, are expensive indeed. Much of the cost is underwritten by advertising or as in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (radio), by government.

Long ago newspapers were abundant. Each village and town had a paper or two, if only to announce the next auction sale. I started my writing career as a reporter for a small town newspaper, covering anything and everything for 7 cents a column inch. At least covering baseball and hockey games got me in for free. Luckily I was still going to school and living with my parents. My most popularly read column was “Personals” where I reported “all the gossip fit to print.”

Generally newspapers backed either of two national political parties especially at election time. In Toronto the Star was for the Grits and the Globe and Mail as well as the Telegram backed the Tories. Those who paid for advertising made sure that there was no radical propaganda associated with their copy.

Editors were a breed of their own, crusty or funny and independent as hell. But all that came to an end when newspapers were bought up and passed into corporate hands. The likes of Conrad Black acquired vast empires of print and dictated editorial policy. A smattering of left wing columnists were tolerated to give the publication an egalitarian touch.

These moguls of communication also acquired radio and television stations, except for the CBC. The public broadcaster was established to reach out across the land and dedicated to an independent view.

In 1990 came the Internet. The broadband became available even to remote locations and brought it into the ambit of the world. In 1990 when I lived in Owen Sound the Internet had not yet reached that area. The computer was still a word processor, a sophisticated typewriter with no connection to a world wide web. But soon that too would change.

As the newly minted MPs arrive on Parliament Hill, one of the many goodies in their basket was a Blackberry that would keep them in touch with their leader, their constituents and the world.

I admit that I spend much time in front of my Mac. I read the New York Times and The Boston Globe. As well, I peruse the British Independent, the Frankfurter Algemeine and Haaretz from far off Israel. Al Jazeera brings me a somewhat different slant on international events, more reliable I would say.

As well and very importantly there is a new media that has sprung up and able to claim a readership without great expense. Thus I read True North Perspective (truenorthperspective.ca) for which I write a column called Spirit Quest, Straight Goods  (straightgoods.com),  Common Dreams (commondreams.org) as well as individual blogs such as Murray Dobbin’s Blog (murraydobbin.ca), and Ted Schmidt’s Theology in the Vineyard (theologyinthevineyard. wordpress.com). And don’t forget Rabble  (rabble.ca). I could go on and on. They give voice to opinions never heard in the mainstreet media.

The Internet was pivotal in rousing rebels to Freedom Square in Cairo and toppling the Mubarik regime. It has rallied many throughout northern Africa and the Middle East. It will continue its influence regardless of efforts to rein it in by cable costs or political interference.

Everyone with a computer and an internet connection has the capacity to become an editor and a columnist at once. The only limitations on being heard are that there is such a plethora of voices. Who will find and read:”Skoutajan’s Page” among all the other pages?

I am curious to what extent the NDP victory in Quebec was propagated by the social media with the help of Facebook and Twitter.

Stephen Harper has achieved his much longed for majority. In parliament as well as Senate he now rules supreme even though his popular vote in the recent election was far less than half the electorate, (40%). The vox populi, the many voices on the internet, can no longer be disregarded. Even Harper in his new found glory has to listen.

The internet has been a new tool in the hands of the rebels to organize and propagate. And while rebels are still few in the True North and Free opinion, at variance with the mainstream can now be clearly heard. Can we call them a 6th Column, a new and noisy kid on the nation's ether block, no longer beholden to the powers that be but informed by Wikileaks and such?

A door has been opened. The cork has been popped and the genii is out of the bottle. There are spirits abroad that won’t be restrained. So listen for the Voice of Hope among the many other voices.  

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