Thoughts on the Referendum

by Michael McGinnis

The referendum debate on the constitutional agreement has generated a lot of statements on both sides of the question. My purpose is not to persuade readers to vote in a particular way, but to encourage them to consider some points.

The state of consciousness of society has changed greatly in the last generation. The Constitution of the United States starts with "We, the people...", but the growth in awareness of various groups in society from women to handicapped people, and from Natives to immigrants and the resulting fragmentation of the national consciousness has made the American approach of two centuries ago inappropriate for us.

In the past hundred years technology has enabled countries such as Canada to offer a very comfortable standard of living to most of its people, but accompanying that has been a decline in spirituality and an increase in materialism. People look less within themselves now for answers to problems, and more to gadgets or governments for a 'quick fix'. The decline of organized religion has been balanced by a growth of governments as people have increasingly looked for governments to provide a greater variety of services and to ensure a level of material security that has been unknown in any society in history. Governments have had more responsibility thrust upon them by people who believed that the seat of all good should be governments and that governments must be able to find the means from our successful technological civilization to meet any needs that we can express. And so the concept of 'rights' has developed enormously over the last 20 years as people try to load more of the duties onto government that used to belong to individuals.

Government is made of people and all people have a state of consciousness. Over the last 20 years we have all become more aware of the rights of various groups, and governments have acknowledged this trend by recognizing various rights. In many respects, such as educating society, this has been a positive move. Any change of consciousness that has people take charge of their own futures through responsible action is laudable. However, governments, especially the federal government, have in the last decade been overwhelmed by demand for services as inalienable rights, and this has contributed to our massive national debt. The changing balance between rights and responsibilities is one reason why there has been such pressure to change the constitution.

In judging the constitutional package, my first suggestion is to employ a sense of balance. Weigh any weaknesses with the positive changes that may allow the country to work better. This package is a compromise, and if it is defeated in the referendum, the next package will also be a compromise. Given that the same interest groups are involved, will the balance point next time be much different than it was this time?

The other consideration is the spirit in which a decision is made. If a decision is made in a spirit of suspicion and selfishness, this feeling spreads to other people and eventually results in actions of intolerance which perpetuate suspicion and selfishness. By making a decision in a spirit of tolerance and generosity, a wave of positive energy moves out and is uplifting to other people, even if they are not consciously aware of the source of these positive feelings. Whatever decision you make, if it is truly one made in a feeling of peace and harmony for other people, will eventually bring a positive result for the country.

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