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Issue-Creep

I have issue fatigue.

Issue fatigue is not the same as having issues; I’m fairly confident that most of us have issues but it isn’t those personal issues of which I am tired. I grow weary of the constant carping about social issues by politicians, activists, the chronically under-informed, intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals alike.

Give it a rest – if only for a bit.

Every issue now is a crisis and each presented as the most important issue facing the world today by those who promote that particular issue. It doesn’t matter how the issues evolve, nothing changes. The rhetoric remains the same, it’s merely the justification to keep the issue alive that changes and that rhetoric is always borderline hysteria. “The issue is so critical that the world could end at 10:00 on Sunday if it isn’t addressed immediately – 10:30 in Newfoundland.”

Climate change is a perfect example.

It began as a sudden concern about a pending ice age. Scientists – the same scientists that environmentalists sell to us as the ultimate authority – were predicting a severe cooling of the earth’s temperatures. Based on their models, temperatures would dramatically drop, glaciers would emerge start moving south. Arable farm land was going to be lost causing food shortages and the water level of the oceans was going to rise causing major flooding along coastal areas.

When that didn’t work out quite as well as planned, the same scientists came up with new models that predicted global warming. Based on these models, scientists were now predicting significant increases in global temperatures which would melt glaciers causing the level of the oceans to rise. Arable farm land would dry out causing food shortages and there would be flooding along coastal areas due to the melting glaciers.

No matter which you believed, it didn’t seem to pay to live along a coastal area.

Not to worry though – that turned out to be strike two for the sky is falling crusade.

They finally decided to call it climate change because the truth was they really didn’t know what was going to happen and, quite frankly, still don’t.

Scientists, including many who originally jumped on the climate change bandwagon have backed away from the earlier dire predictions. NASA’s scientists and even the United Nations have also reported that global warming doesn’t seem to be following the models and, in fact, there seems to be some issues with the models themselves. The data used was incomplete and often based on and once you start estimating, you are doing nothing more than guessing.

All of this has taken place in a period of forty-five years. The original issue was proven to be wrong but rather than clapping our hands and moving on to the next issue, we clung to it like a fat kid to a Snickers bar and simply changed the nature of the issue so that we could keep it alive.

As the rhetoric evolved, so did the hysteria around it until the predictions became so absurd that people simply stopped listening.

And that’s the reason I have issue fatigue.

We don’t discuss issues anymore we maul them and each other. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, at some point it will go beyond those of serious intent and knowledge and start attracting the tragically uninformed, the spiritually empty looking for something in which to believe and, of course, the usual opportunists who make the issue a career opportunity.

Once that happens, it won’t matter if the issue is technically resolved because for all those folks, it never is. They’ve invested too much of themselves into the issue to let it go.

Despite my youthful appearance and charming personality, the fact is that I’ve been around more than a few years and when I wasn’t actually around – I was almost always nearby. We’re still talking about, or more accurately, arguing about most of the same issues we were discussing and debating when I first started to work.

Abortion, euthanasia, bilingualism, Quebec nationalism, climate change (in all its iterations), oil company conspiracies, the Canadian Senate, organ donations, healthcare, education and Aboriginal issues were hot-button topics when I was in my twenties and, guess what? They still are!

Canada has spent more than $100 billion over four decades on bilingualism and the net result has been a paltry increase of 2% of the population that is functionally bilingual and that has done nothing to tone down the rhetoric on either side let alone help to balance the national budget.

When I was in my twenties, you were either pro-abortion or against it. Today, the argument continues but now you’re either pro-choice or pro-life. Isn’t it amazing how much we’ve accomplished on this issue in just forty odd years?

Smoking was an issue that went from protecting the rights of non-smokers to becoming a crusade and like all crusades, it evolved to include the usual self-righteous attacks on the wicked. It was no longer enough that smoking was no longer permitted in the workplace or public facilities, even ventilated smoking rooms were unacceptable. Once smokers were moved outside, you would have thought that would have ended it – victory was at hand but no, outside smokers are moved around from area to area like pieces on game board. I’m certain that the fact that non-smokers groups get government funding and pay salaries has nothing to do with the constantly redefining of the issue.

Non-smokers won the debate. Smokers moved outside and the workplace and public facilities are smoke free. Celebrate the victory. Dance in the streets, sing and frolic and for the love of God, let’s move on to a new issue.

Some people just never learn how to accept winning very gracefully. . .if at all.

There are still people who walk among us debating flouride in water, an issue that was settled in the 1950s and others who still argue incessantly over which is better plastic or paper bags. Christ in Heaven. Make a choice, bag your stuff and get out of the store. Let’s get the bloody line moving.

I don’t fully understand how we expect to resolve First Nations’ issues either when even First Nations can’t agree among themselves as to just exactly what those issues might be. The Assembly of First Nations is constantly under attack from some aboriginal group or another, Idle No More is anything but universal within First Nations and various bands across the nation seem to have significantly different expectations from government specifically and Canada generally. The issues are constantly moving targets that keep changing which is very frustrating for a nation where most people actually have a fair degree of good will to finding resolution to many of them – if we could get them defined.

Issues have become more of an excuse to complain, finger-point, self-victimize, get government funding, protest, whine and achieve celebrity than a serious attempt to find resolution. It doesn’t matter what the government – any government – does, it is never right or sufficient for those at the heart of the issue. It’s never enough funding; it’s never enough policy, regulation or sacrifice imposed on the rest of us.

I believe we never resolve anything because every issue becomes a moving target. If A demands B, once they get it, the issue evolves to C. I call it issue-creep. Issues never get resolved, they just change colour – morphing into something else as all those who joined the crusade refuse to accept victory when it’s achieved and move on.

I’m weary of the adolescent debate that too many bring to whatever issue it might be. I’m tired of the hypocrisy that attaches to so many of these issues. David Suzuki, Elizabeth May and Al Gore all have significantly greater carbon footprints that those they criticize and I find it annoying to  have non-smokers condemn smokers while they sit in their idling SUVs spewing carbo monoxide into the atmosphere at the drive-thru window at Tim Horton’s.

I’m tired of the pointless protests that never accomplish much beyond damage to public and private property and I’m frustrated by the lack of good will between fellow citizens to “get ‘er done” and move on.

We used to be a people of imagination and determination. We used to get things done and we took some pride in that. We built the Great Canadian Railway across the world’s second largest land mass. We built the trans-Canada highway; the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Canada space arm and made major breakthroughs in science, technology and medicine. Now instead of coming together to accomplish things, we argue endlessly about decades old issues we never seem willing to find sufficient agreement to resolve and that seems to me to not only be counter-productive but exhausting.

For all of the arguments about climate change that I’ve read in the past year, I haven’t seen or read one new piece of information – not one. It’s all the same stuff regurgitated over and over and over again in a vain attempt to keep the issue alive.

It isn’t working out to well. In a recent UN survey, climate change ranked at the bottom of concerns for people worldwide and barely made it to sixth out of the top ten issues of concern to Canadians. Average global temperatures haven’t changed in seventeen years and remain lower about 3% lower than they were in the 1600s. All the hysteria, all the rhetoric and issue-creep merely guarantees two things. The issue, whatever it actually turns out to be, will never be resolved and eventually more people will tune it out. Both inhibit our ability to actually find solutions to the original issue and I’m tired of that pointless lack of thought.

Quite frankly, I find that there is just too much ego invested in issues these days and the argument is less about finding solutions to whatever the issue might be than it is about proving who is smarter or who is right. That’s how you end up with someone like NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair politicizing the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic by trying to blame the train derailment on government funding cuts before anyone actually knew what caused the accident.

I’m tired of all of that nonsense too.

I spent last Saturday morning with my grandson and like the rest of us, he has issues. Ben will be four in September and Maggie, my daughter, my granddaughter, Ben and I decided to do some garage sales. Ben had only two issues on Saturday. The first was finding garage sales that had ‘kid stuff’ and the second was finding a bit of ‘kid stuff’ that he actually wanted to buy with the dollar he had in his change purse.

We hit a few garage sales without success. Some had kid stuff but nothing he wanted. Others didn’t have kid stuff at all. When Ben finally found something he liked – a pirate ship with small toy figures – he pulled out his loonie, bought it and for him, the entire issue of garage sales was successfully resolved and it was time to go home so he could play with his new pirate ship. Whether or not anyone else had found something they wanted to buy was of no concern because Ben doesn’t condone issue-creep.

You have no idea how much I wish we could bring at least a part of Ben’s attitude to some of the issues we refuse to let go. Just once it would be nice to pick up the morning paper and see a headline announcing that issue A had been resolved and we were all moving on to a new issue.

Just once – that’s all I ask. Just that one time so that we could catch our collective breath and regroup for the next round of hysteria over never-resolved endless issues.

1004052_10151716229614835_177880695_nUpdate: In my post, Beyond the Age of Reason, I made reference to the stupidity of people who had tweeted their belief that the United States was 2013 years old on Independence Day. I had a couple of people take exception to that, claiming that it was only a joke and that I had no sense of humour. I continue to maintain that it was not a joke and that there really are people who are that stupid walking among us and this latest tweet only served to confirm it.

We’re in a lot of trouble when graduates of our educational systems not only can’t wait for the man to die before extending their sympathies on  his death but can’t tell the difference between him and Morgan Freeman either but then, maybe you have to have a sense of humour to really get that.

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  • oldwhiteguy

    I despise the word issue. I also hate the word appropriate.

    • MaggiesBear

      I have a long list of words I despise including: ‘plays out’, “outcomes”, “engage”, “stakeholders”, “consensus” and “asparagus”. That last one has less to do with political correctness. I just can’t stand asparagus. It is to vegetables what political correctness is to language.

      • oldwhiteguy

        heh heh.

  • Randy

    Thanks for the great rant. This is one of the main reasons why people are
    becoming indifferent to the world around us. Real issues are never resolved,
    imaginary issues can’t be solved, yet we continue to read and hear about them.
    Most people just say “enough, it doesn’t concern me so do whatever”.
    This is what the people who continue to keep the issues alive want to hear.
    That is how theses people continue to exist, because people just get to the point
    of not wanting to hear or caring about the issue anymore.
    That is the point at which democracy declines, which is where we are now.

    • MaggiesBear

      I agree with you. We’ve also reached a stage where we are no longer allowed to discuss issues in order to resolve them. We can’t discuss the issue of when life begins because too many are afraid of what the answer might turn out to be. We can’t discuss racism because some have decided that discussing the issue surrounding racism is racist. We’re not going to resolve too much if we are prevented from some brutally frank, honest and open discussions about things.

  • mizfolia

    Ah, you’ve got it right. I thought about what you said how people used to talk about stuff, maybe over a beer or 6, or coffee. And that’s good.And usually the subject would come up again in a few days. But in the meantime people would have a chance to maybe think about it a bit. People don’t really think things over enough anymore. Way too many, are “wired” and ready to comment almost any hour of the day. Not doing enough thinking!

    • MaggiesBear

      I absolutely agree with you. Thinking is a lost art these days.

  • sebanders

    What can I say. I can’t disagree with any of it. You hit it right on the head. Or is it “out of the ball park?” Doesn’t matter. However, without wanting to make an issue of it, I would like to offer one minor correction.

    When I was involved with the “Language Issue” in the legal challenge against the city of Ottawa some years ago, the figures we had on the cost of bilingualism across the country, including what it had cost the private sector and everyone else, not just the government, for the bilingualization (new word – my invention) of the country, from a study done by Jack Jewab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies was, (at that time) over 700 Billion dollars, which was more than the national debt. But if it is an issue, it is not one that will be resolved anytime soon. My guess is that by now it is probably over a Trillion dollars and growing.

    But, compared to the Duffy boondoggle of $90,000.00, it is nothing at all. A mere piddle in a pond. But not an issue.

    • MaggiesBear

      My figure, which comes from government reports, is only for the direct cost to the federal government.

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