If it's Normality We Want, We're in Trouble

  • National Newswatch

Sociologist Erving Goffmann used the word “framing” when he talked about how each of us, regardless of where we live, sees the world through a mental picture frame constructed for us by someone else and with our compliance.Our lack of clarity on this issue has resulted in our repeating the same economic blunders repeatedly each time our economy endures a crisis.  We talk about “normal” and the need to get back to it as though normal is natural.  We watch the news each day, hopefully waiting to hear that jobs are coming back, our savings are secure, and that we can live lives of materialistic pursuit again.  But we come away learning that normal is not the destination we should be heading for at all.  COVID-19 provided us the opportunity to reconsider how we approach wealth.  It looks like we might have blown the opportunity.The pre-COVID economy was hardly a natural thing, but a construct designed to generate wealth but not mobility, good health, wide-open education or the ability to use money to build a future instead of ruining the present.  The economy was constructed to flow money upwards, not outwards or even downwards.  It was always elitist in nature and built on a dream that a growing number of us could have everything instead of sustainable lifestyles that could provide basic needs to every person on the planet.Take Korzybyski's observation that the map is not the territory.  The outlines of Canada are clear in all our minds, learned from our childhoods, but that image doesn't tell us much.  It's a geographical depiction of where we are situated in the world, but it doesn't explain us.  It looks like a huge country, but that's only in mass.  Our present population – almost 40 million – is only 0.49% of the global population – less than one-half of one percent!But when we look deeper at that population, we note that over half are female.  Yet our economy has largely favoured the male sector of Canada.  So much research and statistical analysis has been done on this in recent years that it's conclusive … and damning.  That was the pre-COVID economy; why would we wish to return to it?  It was inequitable and unjust.Again, looking at the map of Canada doesn't reveal to us the absolute economic disadvantage our indigenous populations face daily.  On this, too, the research is fully conclusive and damning as well.  Just go to any Statistics Canada finding on this and read what you already sense to be true.Restoring that old Canadian economy is actually the last thing we should be shooting for.  Instead, we should see this period as an occasion to reboot, to reset, to recalibrate and reform our collective economic life into something that more resembles our ideals.If we took on that realignment, our view would be through many lenses and not just one macro lens.  A gender lens would assist us in repairing the imbalances endemic in our nation since Confederation.  A practical business lens would reveal to us that our preoccupation with big corporations has ripped the opportunities and possibilities away from our smaller and medium-sized Canadian enterprises.A proper use of such lenses would show us that average Canadians are falling behind when it comes to quality of life.  Many can hardly afford rent or groceries anymore.   The challenges of climate change more regularly knock on our door.  But here's the thing: we already know this and have for decades.  While it remains an easy thing to blame Canadians and their political leaders for not creating the change required in such areas, the reality is that it remains an infuriatingly frustrating thing to alter a system that has been designed to divide from the outset.Let's not go back there.  Economic lenses are vital just as much to our physical health as our economic health, and in a time of economic uncertainty, these should be harmonized into a new economy that better reflects who we are instead of merely where we live.  We can blame and blame until this country is ruined, or we can build until it is reborn into the ideals we hold in our hearts and imaginations.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.