FERNANDO: Rediscovering Our Canadian Community

As Political Division, Drug Deaths, and Despair Increase, We Must Reconnect With Our Local Communities

By Spencer Fernando, exclusive to the National Citizens Coalition


Beyond the headlines, beyond the day-to-day news, there is something seriously going wrong in our country, and in much of the Western world.

Amid what is supposed to be an era of unprecedented advancement, we are witnessing a rise in drug overdose deaths, suicides, despair, and increasingly brutal political divisions.

Support for extremist organizations on both the far-right and far-left is increasing, tribalism is tearing at our already-weakening unity, and many people feel increasingly atomized and distant from others.

Some have said that ‘loneliness is the poverty of our age,’ and that appears to be all too relevant to the problems we see around us.

We keep getting told how ‘strong’ the economy is, or how new technology and our ‘interconnected world’ is fixing all our problems, yet all the evidence appears to be quite contrary to those claims.

Opioid overdose deaths continue to increase, the suicide rate among young people is rising, and politics has become a desperate contest of who we hate the most, rather than on what we can do to improve our own communities.

Everything has become so globalized that our financial security may depend more on a decision made halfway around the world by an authoritarian bureaucrat than it does on our own family, our own friends, or our own neighbours.

There is a growing sense of powerlessness, as influence drains away from those near us, and is concentrated in those far away.

Young people are growing up in a world where their outward sense of worth is commoditized into a measurement based on their ‘likes,’ where everything is rated, and where one wrong step equals social purgatory and horrendous ridicule.

Workers increasingly search in vain for a job where something real can be produced for their own community, instead being pushed into ‘global firms’ that – while claiming to care for ‘everyone’ – in fact care for nobody.

Many people don’t even know their own neighbours, and more and more people are living alone.

We are told that there aren’t enough people being born in Canada to keep our population growing, yet those in power pile on the taxes and raise the cost of living, making it harder and harder for people to afford larger families in the first place.

It’s often tougher for us to trade with our own fellow citizens than it is to trade with a country like China.

We’ve come to accept that it somehow makes ‘perfect sense’ to wipe out quality jobs here at home, slash wages for Canadian workers, and then import cheap stuff from other countries so our own increasingly indebted citizens can borrow more money to buy that cheap stuff.

And all of this adds up to one thing: The destruction of our connection with our local community.

Whether it was attending church, working at a place where you made things your own family and friends used, knowing your neighbours, kids having unstructured, unsupervised time to play, and a sense that you actually knew the people who made the decision that influenced your life, there was something to be said for local communities being the key area of our focus and attention in our daily lives.

Studies have even shown that the human brain can handle – at most – 250 social relationships and still maintain a ‘cohesive group,’ yet were are repeatedly told by those in power that we must ‘think globally,’ and take on all of the world’s problems ourselves.

Is it any wonder that so many young people are struggling, when they not only have to go through the challenges of growing up, but are also bombarded with the ruthless pressure of maintaining their online image, while being told that the world is coming to an end?

We have increasingly done away with the ‘old-fashioned’ sense of community and local importance, supposedly to make things ‘better.’ But if the ‘new ways’ are working, why are people more depressed than ever before?

And political division makes perfect sense when you consider how powerful the central government has become. It is an immense machine that gives tremendous authority and dominance to whomever wields it, and thus the contest for control of that machine becomes ever more brutal and hateful.

Imagine if – instead of giving so much of our tax dollars to the federal and provincial government – the key government in our lives (if there had to be one), was our local government?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for our municipal government to have the most influence? Our municipal governments, flawed as they may be, are run by people who actually live in the areas they are governing. Their actions are directly felt, and they can be held accountable far more easily.

It’s no coincidence that approval ratings for governments tend to rise the closer that level of government is to those being governed. People tend to feel more trust in those who are close to them, and those they can potentially influence.

The power of the centralized government also robs people of a sense of responsibility. When our local community was what mattered most, people felt that the struggles and suffering of a neighbour were their struggles as well. Now, many people just think ‘the government will take care of it,’ yet a bureaucrat, no matter how much money they control, can never care the same way a community member can.

We have all been part of a large-scale experiment, in which we try to knock down the traditional bonds of community that once prevailed, replacing those bonds with a globalized, ‘interconnected’ world where everyone’s problems are our problems, and where we all belong to the ‘international community.’

But it turned out that the ‘international community’ was an empty phrase, useful for concentrating wealth and power, but devoid of any sense of purpose or meaning for most of us.

So, with mounting evidence that the ‘global’ experiment has failed, it’s time for us to look back towards our own local communities, reconnecting with those close to us.

And, with an election approaching, it’s also time for us to start a real conversation about the need to decentralize power, deconstruct the overbearing government machine, and return power to where it truly belongs – in the hands of real people, living in the communities they seek to serve.

Spencer Fernando is one of the most popular and prolific political writers and independent journalists in Canada. He is an Election Fellow for the National Citizens Coalition. For more from Spencer, visit his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Click to join the mailing list so you can receive his exclusive weekly column for NCC supporters right to your inbox.


And click to learn more about #TrudeauMustGo -- the wildly popular daily trending campaign reaching voters on your behalf!