Corruption threatens our democracy and our health

A likely reason that young people are no longer engaging in politics (voting) or participating in societal initiatives (getting their children vaccinated) is that they don’t know whom they can trust. Will a vote for Candidate A be a vote for someone corrupt? Is my child’s Guardasil vaccination in her best interest, or is there some kind of profit motive behind it? Certainly, there is reason to doubt the interests of “Big Pharma”. Meanwhile, the prevailing ideology of government these days is to not get involved. Laissez-faire! Let the market work out all of these things. Powerful lobbyists are seeing to that.

One of the defining phenomena of my lifetime has been the exposure of corruption among the powerful.

Corporations have been outed for their machiavellian manipulation of politics, for their sleazy marketing techniques, and for their abject disregard for any kind of law, including health and safety regulations and anti-trust laws. The leaders of big banks have paid themselves obscene salaries and bonuses while their employees struggle month to month.

Politicians have been outed over and over for corruption. One of my earliest memories of politics is when I was a little kid and Nixon’s men bugged the Democratic convention at Watergate.

With all this corruption, and all of the cross purposes in government, it is hard to know whom to believe. Again and again, conspiracy theories and cynical doubts turn out to be well-founded. Our own shiny Canadian democracy is besmirched with omnibus bills, robo-call scandals, sponsorship scandals, conflict-of-interest scandals, overspending scandals. These extend from the grassroots to the prime ministers themselves. Wasn’t the Airbus scandal attributed to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney? And the Shawnigate scandal — Wasn’t Prime Minister Chretien deeply involved in that? And now Prime Minister Harper is mired in the PMO Senate Bailout scandal.

Even the defining moment of our generation – the Trade Tower bombing in the U.S., is surrounded by controversy and doubt.

And then there are the attack ads, especially from the right wing parties like the BC Liberals and the Conservative Party of Canada, dragging everyone into the mud.

I can certainly see why a young person growing up amidst this depravity would be disinclined to vote. And I can see how a bit of misinformation could ignite doubt about the validity and safety of mass health initiatives like inoculations.

The core principles of our democracy, written in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is under attack as governments keep passing laws that violate the Charter. These threaten the finances, privacy and mobility of ordinary Canadians.

A recent measles outbreak in BC lurks in the shadows and threatens to become a deadly epidemic as schools re-open after spring break next week. The spread of measles is absolutely preventable, but the level of distrust that has been cultivated has militated against responsible citizenship.

The more the corruption goes on, the more we become a threat to ourselves.

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