What kind of world do you want to live in?

Originally written June 4th 2019

It’s a strange time, isn’t it? 

We have access to as much information as we can possibly need at our finger tips. We live in a growing-ly interconnected world, and yet, the disconnectedness of people seems to be something to long for.  We are on the verge of making our planet unlivable, but we have the tools for a sustainable revolution.

There’s the added anomaly of how closely everyone is following politics – specifically American. But as more people start following the trendiness of Keeping Up With The Trumps, more and more people are drawing a line in the sand between Red and Blue. It’s a line that started before the Trump Disaster and will go on after. 

It’s present in the UK and the fiasco of a British Exit from the European Union. It’s becoming more prominent in Canada as Conservative politicians take from the playbook of their Republican and British Conservative counterparts and play to emotion in their campaigns. This emotional tactic begs for the voter to search for the nostalgia of a time when there were less regulations, more parties (not the political kind), and your neighbourhood felt “normal” still. 

Essentially, it feels like our “right-wing” is applying to a certain demographic’s collective memory (and sometimes the memories that they have passed to their children) of “a better time” when the Liberals/Democrats/EU/Labour wasn’t in power and it was “Okay to be American/Canadian/British” etc.

I’ve talked to people about personally not fully paying attention to this growing divide. It’s only in this past year that I’ve really started to see how the anger that so many people feel – about so many different things – is more and more being defined by whether or not you’re “right” or “left” and having those terms being defined by what your local (municipal/provincial/state/national/federal etc.) politician is doing, and not so much the outcome of the politic itself. It’s strange. It’s dangerous. I think, a lot of the time, it misses some of the deepest questions we should be asking ourselves; questions like “What kind of world do you want to live in?”

As we unwittingly radicalize ourselves into two parties, I wonder if the outcome is given serious thought.

I think, in the spirit of simplification, I can break down that question into an A/B type answer. Do you want to live in a supportive, community-driven world, or do you want to live in a world where the most power lies with individuals and people are free to choose as long as they can play the system properly? 
Woo, isn’t that the whole bit though? 
The question of how we govern ourselves isn’t new, and it’s not one I’m going to answer right now. Especially not like that. What if it was even simpler? 
Do you want people around you to die? Yes or no?

Both outcomes are rooted in self-preservation and concern for you and yours’s future, but play out very differently, and one will kill millions in time.

I’m going to try and frame this using part of Thomas Hobbes philosophy. While Hobbes was famous for saying (partly as a believer in autocracy) that ultimately people should submit to an ultimate ruler, subsequent human experience and other philosophic study, has moved beyond that. Instead, I’m talking specifically about his pessimistic view of human nature. This next passage is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“He assumes that people are sufficiently similar in their mental and physical attributes that no one is invulnerable nor can expect to be able to dominate the others. Hobbes assumes that people generally “shun death”, and that the desire to preserve their own lives is very strong in most people. While people have local affections, their benevolence is limited, and they have a tendency to partiality. Concerned that others should agree with their own high opinions of themselves, people are sensitive to slights. […]
Hobbes ascribes to each person in the state of nature a liberty right to preserve herself, which he terms “the Right of Nature”. This is the right to do whatever one sincerely judges needful for one’s preservation; yet because it is at least possible that virtually anything might be judged necessary for one’s preservation, this theoretically limited right of nature becomes in practice an unlimited right to potentially anything, or, as Hobbes puts it, a right “to all things”. Hobbes further assumes as a principle of practical rationality, that people should adopt what they see to be the necessary means to their most important ends.”[i] 

Hobbes believed that all actions taken by every person was done defensively (the aforementioned “Right of Nature”. Each person is basically playing a game to win. To stay alive for as long as possible. The same year I learned about Hobbes, I was in a world history course learning about Hammurabi’s code – the oldest preserved set of written laws in human history. I had one of those fun moments in school and connected these two disparate topics. How could humans be self-serving and defensive, and yet agree to a set of laws – laws that introduce the theory of and eye-for-an-eye to the written record[ii]?

Laws are at their base form a set of mutually agreed upon rules. In the case someone breaks a law, and since the society will have agreed – even if only because they live there – that these rules will be followed by everyone, you, the individual, are allowed the confidence and peace of mind that – if you are wronged – those around you will hold the individual who wronged you to account. It uploads the personal defensive nature (to shun death) to a collection of people rather than leaving it to the individual. 

Now days, societies have evolved to the point now where there are different levels of laws. Bureaucracy is frustrating at times, but – as this podcast[iii] mentions – sometimes bureaucracy is the things that saves lives and holds societies together. There is a defensive nature built into the very network that we all agree to live in. Agree or don’t with Hobbes theories as a whole, but his theory of self-defence of the individual as the basic human condition is not totally off base. We may not think about our own tedious mortality all the time, but it’s because we don’t all have to.

I say we don’t all have to, because we don’t live in a perfectly balanced world. This theory of legal protection only applies to the middle class[iv]. It forgets the poor and doesn’t pertain to the rich. There is a segment of the population in our world who has transcended the need to conform to our world. There’s no shortage of stories about the mega-rich in our society. Those who grift, cheat, or inherit their way into wealth off the backs of others are well known for doing terrible things. They are the people who have the wealth to run for office, they are the people who buy the big companies, incur monopolies, underpay employees, run sex cults, cheat people out of savings, and so much more. To name a few Jefferey Epstein[v]Harvey Weinstein[vi],Paul Manafort[vii],Jeff Bezos[viii]Donald Trump[ix]Disney (company)[x],Erik Prince[xi]Charles Koch[xii], etc. They get elected or pay politicians to rewrite public policy in ways that account for their lifestyle. They reduce taxes on companies, cheat, lie, evade, invade, and profit along with a small[xiii] collection[xiv] of people.

They are defended (Michelle Bezos[xv]) for their decisions – or at least glorified for donating what is, proportionately, not what they could. We make movies, write books, television shows, that make it seem like their life, their wealth, is attainable for anyone. It’s the American Dream complex. You can work hard and rise up the class ladder. Sweat your way out of poverty. It’s a false story perpetuated by those with wealth, and supported by those who want to believe[xvi]. We highlight the 1 in a billion who do achieve this and ignore the other 999,999,999 people who missed out. As these individuals make life more comfortable for themselves – a natural instinct – the repercussions are that everyone else loses. This complex, this debate is part of why we demonize taxes (“they’re taking my money” “If I kept all my money, I would be able to afford that bigger house, new car, [insert other visual representation of class status]”), in part because we have this notion that we (you, me, but not them) are on a path to wealth and luxury. 

Our other option is to lean in to our communities. Understand that that tax you pay is exponentially less than you would have been asked to pay to deal with your Uncle’s cancer last year. It’s worth the free highschool you attended. It’s the price of funding the library, and the local transit. If you’re asked to pay more of it, it means you’re in the middle class. Again, the group to whom taxation is demonized. What would happen if you suddenly had nothing? You lose your job and end up out of work and ill. In some places, like America, this means you’re on the street and in debt because your welfare check doesn’t pay for your healthcare costs[xvii]. In Canada, you might be able to pick yourself up. You would be thankful for those middle-class people who pay taxes that support your health-care. Not paying taxes is illegal, and this is why (America[xviii],Canada[xix]). In the days of individual wealth (feudalism even), people with wealth built walls to defend themselves. They knew that if someone wanted to steal their land, it would mean war. Supporting each other through taxation helps defend our individual wealth in the long run much better than that old-time wall would have. I’ve digressed again.

We have choices about a supportive society that provides choice and opportunity for people to live in comfort – even if its not overwhelming wealth – and to pick themselves up when they get knocked down, or we could choose to live in a society full of choice and opportunity, but only if you’re born lucky enough to have a good start and never be knocked down lest someone else take your place on the ladder. 

So we look to our law makers to help us out, and we’re left with a choice. 

The way I look at it is simple – whose policy will kill more people? 

We do have the privilege here in Canada to be able to improve our society from this lens. Some of us no longer need to worry about our own self-preservation, and we have the chance to start looking at how we can help others achieve that same confidence. The privatization of healthcare will obviously kill more people[xx] because there will be less people who can afford to stay healthy[xxi]. Abortion bans will cause more back-alley abortions[xxii] and dangerous pregnancies that will kill more people[xxiii]. Divesting from public education will create situations where more people[xxiv] are likely to drop out and be less educated than their potential allows[xxv] – while not directly killing people, this will inevitably lead to more people working under the poverty line and unable to support themselves, families, or anything else and could lead to more death. A greater number of impoverished people, who will probably be angry at the established system – originally designed to support them – leads to violence, drug addiction, and other things that lead to death. Fighting climate change protection initiatives will lead to more people dying[xxvi]. Banning refugees will result in more people stuck in camps, and will result in more deaths[xxvii]. Investing in military spending will result in death. Investing in fossil fuels, cigarettes, and alcohol will result in death (through climate change, cancer, drunk driving etc.).  

As another aside, I’ve heard the argument made that refugees haven’t paid taxes in whatever country they flee to. However, when we start thinking about supporting other people, we cannot fall into the delusion that the lines we’ve drawn on paper are also barriers for our own safety. Like I said at the beginning, we live in a time where globalization is our reality. Borders only mean what we want them to and there are proven benefits to immigration in this brave new world no matter how that happens.

Now, the question people miss as we start dividing our nations into Red vs Blue like a game of Halo, is do you want to live in a society with policies that kill more people or less people? This shouldn’t be an issue of party, but of which political operatives will be most beneficial to this society that we cannot escape. If we’re locked into this society we’re in (and we are), we may as well improve it.

Honestly, the state of our world freaks me out. If anyone questions the importance of the democracy around us, or says bullshit like “well it doesn’t affect me” or “that’s against my beliefs” remind them that if they are on the side of the political isle that wants to vote to change the world so that people might die, that’s a slippery slope to dialing back the many things that are protecting even them (food safety, medical care, rights to a lawyer, anti-theft laws, traffic laws, on and on). If we start taking away protections for any group of people we can do it for anyone else. In our society, where eye-for-an-eye policies aren’t necessarily preventative – but you can trust that everyone around you appreciates the same rules – why would you want to elect someone who will remove your protection? 

Vote for the people who will make them better. There are discrepancies, and problems. There are things to be fixed, and yeah, there are even things to be removed, but in this coming election year, I’m begging everyone to vote (you know you’re following politics, because we all are), and when doing so to make sure you figure out what policies (or lack thereof) are likely to kill people, and which are there to help. 

So, I’ll ask it again, and I don’t necessarily expect an answer, but what kind of society do you want to live in?

P.S. anything that removes measures taken to reduce climate change WILL KILL PEOPLE. This is the most pressing issue of the 21st century. If we do nothing, you will know people who die.

Media in addition to the cited links:
Luhby, Tamy. “The American Dream Is out of Reach.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 4 June 2014, 4:01am, https://money.cnn.com/2014/06/04/news/economy/american-dream/index.html .
Evans, Robert. “It Could Happen Here.” It Could Happen Here, Stuff Media, www.itcouldhappenherepod.com/

[i] Lloyd, Sharon A., and Susanne Sreedhar. “Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 30 Apr. 2018, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/ .

[ii] Editors, History.com. “Code of Hammurabi.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/hammurabi .

[iii] Evans, Robert. “The American Refugee Crisis.” It Could Happen Here, Stuff Media, 22 May 2019, www.itcouldhappenherepod.com/podcasts/the-american-refugee-crisis.htm .

[iv] Kochhar, Rakesh. “The American Middle Class Is Stable in Size, but Losing Ground Financially to Upper-Income Families.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 6 Sept. 2018, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/06/the-american-middle-class-is-stable-in-size-but-losing-ground-financially-to-upper-income-families/ .

[v] Evans, Robert. “Part One: Jeffrey Epstein: Pimp to the Powerful.” Behind the Bastards, Stuff Media, 19 Mar. 2019, www.behindthebastards.com/podcasts/part-one-jeffrey-epstein-pimp-to-the-powerful.htm .

[vi] Evans, Robert. “Part One: It Takes A Village of Bastards to Make a Weinstein.” Behind the Bastards, Stuff Media, 29 May 2018, www.behindthebastards.com/podcasts/part-one-it-takes-a-village-of-bastards-to-make-a-weinstein.htm .

[vii] Evans, Robert. “No Matter How Much You Hate Paul Manafort, You Should Hate Him More (And Here’s Why).” Behind the Bastards, Stuff Media, 31 July 2018, www.behindthebastards.com/podcasts/no-matter-how-much-you-hate-paul-manafort-you-should-hate-him-more-and-heres-why.htm .

[viii] Sainato, Michael. “Revealed: Amazon Employees Are Left to Suffer after Workplace Injuries.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Apr. 2019, www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/02/revealed-amazon-employees-suffer-after-workplace-injuries .

[ix] Evans, Robert. “Part One: The Complete, Insane Story of Drumpf University.” Behind the Bastards, Stuff Media, 5 Mar. 2019, www.behindthebastards.com/podcasts/part-one-the-complete-insane-story-of-trump-university.htm .

[x] VanDerWerff, Emily Todd. “Here’s What Disney Owns after the Massive Disney/Fox Merger.” Vox, Vox Media, 20 Mar. 2019, www.vox.com/culture/2019/3/20/18273477/disney-fox-merger-deal-details-marvel-x-men .

[xi] Evans, Robert. “Part One: Erik Prince: The Rich Kid Who Bought An Army.” Behind the Bastards, Stuff Media, 25 Sept. 2018, www.behindthebastards.com/podcasts/part-one-erik-prince-the-rich-kid-who-bought-an-army.htm .

[xii] Evans, Robert. “Part One: Charles Koch: The Luke Skywalker of Rich People.” Behind the Bastards, Stuff Media, 14 Aug. 2018, www.behindthebastards.com/podcasts/charles-koch-the-luke-skywalker-of-rich-people.htm .

[xiii] Kasparian, Ana. “Ana Dunks on Millennial Basher.” Youtube.com, The Young Turks, 20 May 2019, youtu.be/rCnGUfvXt1E?t=370 .

[xiv] “Growing Partisan Divide Over Fairness of the Nation’s Tax System.” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 8 Apr. 2019, www.people-press.org/2019/04/04/growing-partisan-divide-over-fairness-of-the-nations-tax-system/ .

[xv] Spangler, Todd. “MacKenzie Bezos Signs ‘Giving Pledge’ to Donate Half Her $37 Billion Amazon Fortune to Charity.” Variety, Penske Media Corporation, 28 May 2019, https://variety.com/2019/digital/news/mackenzie-bezos-pledge-donate-wealth-charity-1203226624/ .

[xvi] Llopis, Glenn. “Why Most People Will Never Achieve The American Dream.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 Sept. 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2012/09/03/why-most-people-will-never-achieve-the-american-dream/#7cc21ad75dd4 .

[xvii] “Predatory Lending: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver [New York, New York], HBO, 10 Aug. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDylgzybWAw .

[xviii] Hartman, Dennis. “Is It Illegal to Not File Taxes?” Zacks.com, 7 Feb. 2017, https://finance.zacks.com/illegal-not-file-taxes-1669.html .

[xix] Canada Revenue Agency. “Debunking Tax Myths.” Canada.ca, 23 Jan. 2012, www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/news/newsroom/debunking-tax-myths.html .

[xx] Miller, Jake. “Preventable Deaths from Lack of High-Quality Medical Care Cost Trillions.” ScienceDaily, Harvard Medical School, 4 June 2018, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604160447.htm .

[xxi] Glenza, Jessica. “Sky-High Prices of Everything Make US Healthcare the World’s Most Expensive.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/13/us-healthcare-costs-causes-drug-prices-salaries .

[xxii] Oberman, Michelle. “What Happens When Abortion Is Banned?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 May 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/05/31/opinion/sunday/abortion-banned-latin-america.html .

[xxiii] Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. Abortion Restrictions Put Women’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing at RiskAbortion Restrictions Put Women’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Risk, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, 2016, https://bixbycenter.ucsf.edu/sites/bixbycenter.ucsf.edu/files/Abortion%20restrictions%20risk%20women%27s%20health.pdf .

[xxiv] “How Poverty Affects Education & Our Children.” GrapeSEEDhttps://grapeseedus.com/how-poverty-affects-education-children/ .

[xxv] Hickman, Bryan. “Lack of Education Is Root Cause of Poverty.” Rochester Business Journal, 27 Mar. 2015, https://rbj.net/2015/03/13/lack-of-education-is-root-cause-of-poverty/ .

[xxvi] IPCC. “Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C Approved by Governments.” IPCC Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 15C Approved by Governments Comments, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 8 Oct. 2018, www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/ .

[xxvii] Seville, Lisa Riordan, et al. “22 Immigrants Died in ICE Detention Centers during the Past 2 Years.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 6 Jan. 2019, 7:10am, www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/22-immigrants-died-ice-detention-centers-during-past-2-years-n954781 .

Written by
Jack Fisher

Jack Fisher is an independent journalist. He holds a BAH from the University of Guelph, and a post-graduate certificate from Sheridan College in journalism.
@Jack_Fisher_4 on Twitter and Instagram

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Written by Jack Fisher