In most institutions that affect our daily lives, there are rules that guide us. These rules ensure accountability, decency, and integrity. The problem is that the people who often get ahead in life are those who circumnavigate those rules. It is time for those of us who try to live by the rules, by the ideas of common human decency and kindness, to drop the pretence, get into the muck and drag those who want to harm our common standard of respect under the spotlight.
Surprisingly, politics is the easy problem to fix. It only requires those of us with the right to vote to use it, frequently and intelligently. We usually vote based on emotion, asking questions such as, “Who will cut my taxes?”, “Who will keep me safe?” or even as primal as, “Who do I hate less?”. Instead we need to vote upon “Who has the qualifications, who has a reasonable plan and what is that candidate’s record”? Instead of putting power into the hands of someone we like, we need to put into the hands of someone who is decent and knowledgeable, even if we don’t like them all that much.
Our justice system is based upon the idea that everyone, no matter who they are or what they did or did not do, gets the opportunity to tell their side of things. It is messy, complicated, and at least one person always leaves unhappy, but it is the fairest and most practical way of judging our fellow members of society. The problem is individuals who have felt denied by the justice system and see that it has its limitations have soothed their disappointments by social media vigilante justice, instead of using the court system, where there are rules around evidence and testimony and where everything said and shown is cross-examined. Those who go outside of the justice system, make it nearly impossible for those whom they accuse to have an unbiased hearing, while potentially undermining the police work being done in such a case and other victim who have already come forward or may yet come forward. In many trials, whether it is a class action lawsuit, a mob prosecution, or in rape and murder trials, the prosecution has to do rigorous preparation as even a shadow of reasonable doubt can end a case. When someone goes outside of the justice system for their own satisfaction, any trial held will immediately be filled with reasonable doubt. This new wave of social media vigilantism undermines both defence and prosecution, tainting the principle of justice.
Students, parents, and the rest of our society are dependent upon the principle that everyone has the opportunity to become educated, and therefore become highly employable. Education is the silver bullet for nearly all of the problems in our world that stem from a form of inequality. But that bullet is malformed when those who should receive the most benefit by education are instead crushed by the systems restrictions and its unprincipled managers, making the system more about profit margins for the institution than future opportunities. With rampant price gouging of students through high tuition, unaffordable living costs, low housing affordability, and a lack of job availability, those managing the system fail to respect and support those with whose futures they are entrusted.
The major corporations of the world have shirked their responsibilities as community leaders. Average people make the success of these corporations possible by putting in a hard day’s works. It is more than fair for people to then expect to be compensated fairly by their employer. Instead, businesses have continually worked to undercut wages, move jobs away from the communities that relied upon those wages, and have done so while gambling with the global financial market and the health of the environment. People used to be able to place at least some faith in their employer, but now it is hard to trust them to even write a fair paycheque.
Finally, the media. I don’t think the media puts out fake news, to be quite frank, I generally agree with what I read in the news, and therein lies the problem. Newscasters were given the airwaves for free upon the condition they provide a public service, bringing information to the masses. Now, unless people actively seek out differing opinions in media and the world, they find themselves within their own political echo chamber, where everyone and everything agrees with their view of the world. Media outlets, whether on social media, T.V., radio or in a newspaper have shirked their responsibility to make people uncomfortable so that we can make our fellow citizens see a variety of opinions and life stories. By demanding a variety within our information input, we become more informed and more active citizens.
People have a responsibility to one another. In everyday life, most of us are able to live up to those responsibilities. It is time that those entrusted with the most important of those responsibilities live up to their end of the bargain.
Jonah Van Driesum is a 3rd year Politics student