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Is this our best bad choice?

In this edition of Mercy Traveller, Philip Maher finds the good in seemingly bad situations

There are a lot of life lessons we can glean from politics this month.

Guelph is now the only Green city in Ontario. Although many of my friends voted for the Green Party, most of them could not tell you much about it. They simply disliked the Green candidates less than the others on offer. This is not unlike the way we decide on a mobile phone plan: which phone company makes me less angry?

That is how we voted across the province. While some voters like the Conservative Party, I’ve heard very few people who personally like the new premier. Mostly, they voted against Kathleen Wynn. Hatred is a strong motivator.

So we now have a Conservative leader who most of us seem to dislike less than the Liberal leader. Frequently in life it goes that way. People drive to jobs they hate to buy things they like. We make all kinds of accommodations in order to negotiate through our lives and avoid being voted off the island.

You would have to be living under a pile of rocks to have not heard the comparison of our election to the last American election. Like Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Wynn was accused of corruption (real or imagined). Ford and Trump are promoted as successful businessmen (real or imagined). It does seem like the Trump-Clinton paradigm repeated itself in Ontario.

Just as in the U.S., many could not understand how Mr. Ford did so well. Perhaps this underscores how out of touch most political parties are with the average voter. Many voters felt they had to make a tough decision. Life is filled with those. For some, this was the best bad choice they could make.

I cannot help but view politics through my international travel experience. Students often ask me how it is that citizens do not just overthrow their various despots. Of course, the Arab spring gave us a taste. But that party is over and it has left tragedy in its wake in places like Yemen and Syria. It’s hard to exchange one leader for another. It’s even harder to find good leaders to replace the old ones. Radical changes in our lives often come at a price—that’s another life lesson.

If all the craziness going on in politics these days sometimes bothers you like it does me, it might be wise to ask how we can help make things better. Since global leaders are not calling for my opinion on how to fix the world, I opt for my fall-back position. I try to seek the way of peace. I am not the kind of guy to naively sit under a tree making daisy chains and hugging furry bunnies. However, civility, listening to others and responding respectfully to those we disagree with, works pretty well. Leaders who do not conduct themselves this way, rarely gain my respect.

Despite the fact that recent elections seem to be more about voting people out than voting good leaders in, positive things can happen regardless of who is in charge.

The meeting between Kim Jong-Un (axis of evil) and Donald Trump (axis of orange hair) is a positive step. Some argue that even a blind squirrel can find a nut occasionally, but I’m less cynical. Dialogue is always good. People can surprise you—another life lesson.

Lost in the G7 meeting antics over Canadian spilled milk (axis of milk solids) was an agreement by Canada, Britain, Germany, the European Union and Japan to spend $3.8 billion educating girls over the next three years. That is spectacular. It will result in reduced poverty and a better life for both girls and boys. Good stuff can still happen. Congratulations to the leaders and the international charities who pushed for these kinds of changes.

Another life lesson is that politics can do good. It’s a valuable lesson, just as we were getting ready to set our hair on fire in frustration. I’m blowing out my match.


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About the Author: Philip Maher

Philip Maher is a consultant and photojournalist. He has managed international communication projects for more than 20 years, taking him to more than 80 countries. His twitter is @mercytraveller.
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