Spirit Quest


We need to turn away from abusive language

and practice the Spirit of Peace, Order and Good Government

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

Am I naive? Probably, especially in matters of politics and most certainly when I suggest that a country, such as Canada, can be governed without rancour.

It seems that we have become accustomed to seeing attacks and abusive language directed across the aisle of the House of Commons. Question Period has been degraded to the point that I hesitate to take foreign visitors to see it. Attack has become a national sport.

There are rules that the Speaker is there to enforce. Members are forbidden to call each other liars; nevertheless they are legally protected to make statements that outside the castle walls would be open to legal recourse.

Michael Ignatieff, the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, has stated that malicious verbal attacks will be one of the legacies of the Harper government. Dion, the former Liberal leader, was in fact destroyed by such tactics.

Rather than answering questions posed by the opposition the relevant minister of the crown resorts to imputing ulterior motives to the questioner or pointing out their previous failures. This modus opperandi has been intensified over the past five years. I doubt that minority governments are the reason for the decline in civility.

Perhaps I am naive, unrealistic, the “dreamy eyed idealist” as I signed my recent Spirit Quest, but I have a conviction that in a democratic assembly matters can be discussed and resolved amicably. Perhaps, I hate to think of it, Question Period would be more boring.

I am also naive enough to think that hockey, Canada’s national sport, can be played without intent to maim, that the boards are markers to confine the playing surface rather than a weapon, that a stick is meant to propel the puck rather than impale a player. Perhaps, oh certainly, it would be too mild for Don Cherry’s taste.

Over the past 65 years since I attempted to be a sports writer, I have observed an increase in violence, and now Ontario has given the green light to the multi martial arts encounters (are the cages meant to protect the audience or confine the fighters?) It seems that there is an appetite for blood today that surpasses that of the masses in the Roman coliseums where combatants went at each other with sword and knife and the lovers of the “sport” roared with glee when Caesar gave his thumbs down sign to end a life. They packed the arenas and cheered the lions as they mangled Christians, criminals and political dissidents. Are we close to coming full circle? Getting back to politics, the art of decision-making is not such a stretch from the coliseum or so it seems at times. But I believe it could, it should, be otherwise.

There was a time not so long ago when members of parliament would collide verbally on the floor yet later that evening enjoy a beer and camaraderie at a nearby pub on the Sparks Street Mall. No longer so, Lawrence Martin writes in “Harperland.” The Prime Minister has put a ban on all such extra political intercourse.

Have we abandoned civil discourse, is it inappropriate or ineffectual for governmental affairs? Is Democracy something we just talk about and loudly laud but turn into a facade masking malicious intent? Does democracy end at the ballot box?

Is there such a thing as compromise? Is it true that a camel is a horse made by a committee? Camels have been ideal for deserts where horses are not so great. Can grown men and women discuss and decide what is best for a nation with civility?

And while I am at it, can we clean up military language, generals calling the enemy scumbags, forgetting that they too are human. Some one is bound to remark. “Boy, is he off his stick, next thing he will insist that we love the enemy, Jeeez. Where have we heard that before?”

Am I really naive, a dreamy eyed idealist who still believes that even the opposition has a soul and that love is not impractical in public affairs, something, for weaklings only?

If attack and obfuscation is the order of the day then I seriously question whether there is hope for our civilization. Have we really abandoned democracy for the dictatorship of the majority or minority acting like one? Are we really that close to fascist rule?

I still believe in a Spirit of cooperation, that good, if not perfection, can be achieved through compromise. The French have a proverb: Le parfait est l’ennemi du bien.” (The perfect is the enemy of the good). I believe that there is a Spirit alive in the affairs of men and women, of people with different opinions and outlooks.

I pray that Peace, Order and Good Government that Canadians believe in is an achievable goal. There is a spirit that enables us to reach it.