A strong sense of self is not only beneficial to one’s health and wellness, but can be beneficial to society. An unburdened individual is inherently more likely to take risks. As is evident throughout history, those most willing to take risks have given us some of civilization’s greatest innovations -- Henry Ford, Leonardo Da Vinci or the Wright brothers, to name a few. If not for people like Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr., we could still be stuck upholding a civil society that is anything but civil.
Sadly, in the 21st century improvement is needed to embolden and respect the individual. It would not be far off to suggest that we have regressed in terms of accepting true diversity.
Although some would argue the rise of globalization and social media have helped make us more aware of those around us, it seems as though both have made us less introspective. Social media makes it very easy for people to siloe into an echo chamber of like-minded individuals who feed off one another. It is not hard to believe the worldview you subscribe to is superior when surrounded by people who agree with you. In turn, it is also increasingly intimidating to diverge from the group.
Political partisanship is especially toxic. Instead of emboldening and respecting individuality, people who choose not to fall in line are deemed outcasts. Anything short of complete acceptance of the party platform and leader of the day is seen as disloyal. There is no room for freethinking in the party structure. (See Maxime Bernier and his fallout with the Conservative Party of Canada.)
Hyper partisans fail to realize that stamping out diversity of thought makes them worse off. Focusing on control, rather than substance, creates lacklustre policy and complacency. When is the last time any major party in Canada actually did something to truly benefit a broad range of Canadians? Targeted tax credits and easier access to government programs are meant to buy votes and keep people indebted to them, not to help individuals. Political parties will attempt to justify boutique tax credits and insist you to support them even though you never fit into their niche categories.
It is understandably difficult to make everyone happy, but there are things that can be done with maximum benefit to the most people. Broad based tax relief and simplifying the tax code would benefit every Canadian who pays taxes. When is the last time any major party truly wanted that? Imagine a world where individuals could keep more of their own money and make decisions for themselves about how to spend it. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Better let the government of the day mishandle it instead.
The rise of identity politics, arguably one of the biggest threats to individual liberty, has amplified hyper-polarization. We are surrounded by egocentric naysayers on all ends of the political spectrum ready to pounce on anything the other side says or does. In reality, is one side really better than the other? How do today's liberals justify being the ideology of compassion while demonstrating a distrust of human rationality through incessant efforts to regulate, censor and shame the individual? How do conservatives tout themselves as advocates for individual liberty when they continue to be hung up on issues like policing marriage and who goes into what bathroom?
Knowing where you stand and not being ashamed of what you believe in is liberating. Unfortunately, in the current political climate it is increasingly difficult to speak the truth and go against the grain. Should we really have to grin and bear garbage social policy in hopes of slightly better economic planning? It’s time we stopped being afraid to rock the boat.
Take a risk, and demand better.