Many years ago, as a young teacher, I was gladdened and inspired when introduced to the concept of sharing best practices. These shared ideas and procedures had been honed over time and were highly effective. I was excited by this open, collaborative model which put egos and ownership aside to focus on the best interests of the students. We had a common purpose to educate school children and we sidestepped the pitfalls of our lower natures to unify. We drew from our substantial pool of creativity, talent and experience. Everybody won.
There are many examples of ‘altruistic’ practices and organizations which strive to keep the focus on their common purpose and a common good. Twelve Step programs abide by 12 traditions which were developed to fortify their primary purpose of recovery from addiction. These groups see leadership as a service, they avoid affiliations with outside enterprises and decline outside contributions which could leave them beholden and distracted from their important objective of recovery.
Democratic politics, in general, seems to have lost its original purpose of serving for the common good. Dictionary.com expresses the distasteful behaviour that we have come to associate with the word politics: “Use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control...”. There is rising and unnecessary divisiveness and toxicity in government and campaigning. I acknowledge there are good people with good intentions participating in politics, but it also seems to draw and even encourages a certain self-serving, power-hungry personality. The theatrics and showcasing, the mud-slinging and slandering really take us away from striving for the common good.
So much time and so many resources are wasted as partisan politics plays out its drama – doing and undoing policies, funding and retracting funding. Where is the vision? I’m not speaking of a four-year-term vision, but of a grand vision that would see generations into the future and base decisions on the well-being of those generations whose faces we won’t see in our lifetime.
Many of us are familiar with the “seven generations" concept. It emerged more than 500 years ago when aboriginal nations found themselves embroiled in conflict, violence and suffering. A Peacemaker travelled from nation to nation to discuss ideas on how best to bring peace and consensus among the tribes. Over time, all five warring nations joined and became The Great Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, the oldest living participatory democracy on the planet. They achieved a unified vision. They recognized their choices would impact multiple generations. They also recognized they stood on the shoulders of their ancestors. Rick Hill Sr. of the Haudenosaunee Standing Committee describes being connected to “a community that transcends time.” This kind of awareness brings a humility and decency, a sense of connection that encourages collaboration and integrity over showboating.
We are better off coming together in peace to share what we each bring to the table. We can focus on our commonality and listen respectfully with an intention to hear and learn rather than case-build and throw stones. Our future depends on it. Maybe a minority federal government could provide this opportunity for collaboration and integration, because as an old Haudenosaunee saying goes: A bundle of arrows cannot be broken as easily as one.
Jill Cunningham grew up in St. Albert, has a Bachelor of Education from University of Alberta and is passionate about nature, the environment, and building community.