Determined to do better | The star
Once upon a time there was a Star editor who left the newsroom every night with the same words: “Good night, everyone. We will try to do better tomorrow.
As philosophies go, this is a good one. The awareness of our inevitable imperfections and the implicit optimism that progress is possible are inherent in it.
As another year winds down, the line seems fitting.
2022 was hardly a display of humanity at its best. Large and small, in Canada and around the world, the news was often deeply discouraging.
COVID-19 continued to wreak havoc even as we began to act as if the pandemic was over and dusted off.
There was the menacing convoy in Ottawa and elsewhere. There was the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing atrocities there, and the threat of nuclear attack.
The consequences of climate change and the cost of not coping with it adequately weigh heavily. The year saw episodes of devastating weather across the country and around the world. Hurricane Fiona wreaked havoc across Atlantic Canada.
There was galloping inflation and rising violence.
Even our usual distractions were troubling, with the scandal at Hockey Canada and the revulsion in many quarters at the World Cup serving to flatter the Qatari autocrats.
The attitudes and behaviors of 2022 have left some puzzled about what, if anything, is now – or should be – considered sacred.
Author Karen Armstrong has provided an answer, in her new book « Sacred Nature: Restoring Our Ancient Bond With the Natural World. »
Policy changes alone will not be enough to address the most pressing challenge facing our species, she wrote. “Recycling and political protests are not enough.
« Unless there is a spiritual revolution that challenges the destructiveness of our technological genius, we will not save our planet. »
One of the small steps she suggested was to remove warnings from newscasts that viewers might find the coming report disturbing.
There are many things in the world about which we should be disturbed, wrote Armstrong.
« Despite our extraordinary technological achievements, we seem unable to alleviate the poverty, suffering and injustice that afflict large swaths of humanity, » she wrote. « Too often we push these unpleasant truths to the back of our minds. »
In Canada, some things we once held sacred have been challenged over the past year.
American activist Bayard Rustin, a gay and black man who organized the march on Washington in 1963, a time when it was particularly difficult to be gay or black, once expressed what constituted a sacred code of values:
“1) Non-violent tactics. 2) Constitutional means. 3) Democratic procedures.
But in 2022 in Canada, citizens feared that intimidation by convoy protesters would escalate and threaten the first of these values.
In Ontario, we have seen Premier Doug Ford (using the notwithstanding clause to undermine union rights) seek to overturn the second.
In Toronto, we saw Mayor John Tory (happily assuming enhanced mayoral powers that would allow him to override a majority on city council) colluding with the premier to play fast and free with the third.
Hopefully some cynical politicians stung a sleeping bear.
With any luck, the abysmal turnout in October’s municipal elections will mark a trough of apathy and contempt from which citizens will rebound.
And with luck, the midterm elections in the United States suggest a decline in Trumpism, which could take the breath away from politicians such as Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith in their cynical derision of the country and its institutions.
Overall, there is – as primary school teachers across generations have been accustomed to saying on report cards – considerable room for improvement in our collective attitudes and actions in 2023.
In truth, the Atkinson principles by which the Toronto Star has long operated have never seemed more relevant and important.
These principles promise to support a strong, united and independent Canada; for social justice; for individual and civil liberties; for community and civic engagement; for workers’ rights and the necessary role of government.
The calendar turns into a new year. But the past need not be a prologue.
As this old publisher knew, we will have another chance tomorrow, to re-convene our energies, our creativity and our better nature, to better build the communities, the country and the world to which we aspire.