Politicians must stop focusing on winning elections and the short-term cynicism that comes with it

“And if we want to live together and not die together, we have to learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which are absolutely vital for the continuation of human life on this planet.”

—Bertrand Russel, 1959

A few months before his 87th birthday, the famous British philosopher, pacifist and mathematician and Nobel laureate had a two-part message for future generations in an interview with the BBC. “Ask yourself only, what are the facts, and what is the truth that the facts confirm?” and “Love is wise, hate is foolish.”

Ayn Rand, the writer/philosopher and darling of the American right had this to say to Mike Wallace on ABC that same year, about human life: “That his (man’s) highest moral purpose is the realization of his own happiness” and “…every man should live as an end in himself. She called this philosophy, “objectivism”.

What view of life on earth is the prevailing reality today?

If we use Bertrand Russell’s tool and look at the facts, however selective they may be, we see a world in turmoil. The inaction on climate change that enables our insatiable consumerism and individualistic lifestyle choices has manifested itself in natural calamities, in the past few months alone, such as massive flooding in Pakistan, the historic Fiona hurricanes on our east coast and Ian in the southeast. United States. Totalitarian and right-wing politicians, governments and movements are growing in prominence and popularity around the world, emphasizing self-interest, greed and intolerance towards others. It is a set of facts.

Another set of facts is the number of people who yearn for constructive action on current issues that are clearly needed to take care of each other and make this world a better place. Just look at the frontline workers here in Canada and elsewhere during the pandemic and during these weather disasters who risk their lives, with little or no pay, to help and save strangers.

What does it mean to be human in 2022 and what life do we want for our children? Can we look beyond the pursuit of our own interests and make the changes we need in ourselves and collectively to avoid and mitigate the erosion of the quality of life on earth, or better, do we have the will to do it?

Here in Toronto, we have municipal elections underway in an environment of shootings, stabbings, hate crimes, economic hardship, unaffordable housing and transportation disruptions. Many of us who live and work in this city know that there are different and creative choices to be made for a more cohesive and happier city life rather than the usual calls for ‘growth’ and ‘prosperity’. . It would not be a bold prediction to say that voter turnout will be low.

Let’s try to look at the facts. A recent Toronto Star article on traffic congestion had this title: Stuck in Toronto traffic? It’s as bad as you think – and it’s likely to get worse. The Star article went on to say, “Not only is Toronto’s congestion inconvenient, it also comes at a huge cost: to the economy, public health and the planet.”

There are creative solutions to all of these challenges of city living if we look at the facts and think more broadly about the kind of city we want. It requires focusing on the election, listening to the candidates, and making choices that will directly impact our lives. There are alternatives to where we are and where we are going.

I am on Bertrand Russell’s side and have taken his message to future generations to heart. We all should. We need leaders with cohesive sets of humanistic values, vision, courage, and creative plans. More of the same no longer works.

Our politicians must stop focusing solely on winning elections and the short-sighted cynicism that comes with it. This is how democracy withers and dies. We should vote for those who recognize the facts and what we must do for the continuation of human life on this planet.

Jerry Levitan is a Toronto lawyer, filmmaker, actor, writer and musician.

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