Despite its rather lengthy history, yesterday was the first time my wife and I attended Toronto's Word On the Street, a celebration of books, literacy, and the dispelling of ignorance. As a retired English teacher and keen observer of the political machinations that envelop our society, it was very heartening to see so many thousands of people, many families with their children in tow, recognizing the crucial role that reading plays in a balanced and productive life.
This morning's Star reports the following:
Amidst the myriad of folks of all ages swarming Queen’s Park Circle for the Word on the Street Festival are parents like Stephen and Tara Palmer.
For them, it’s vital that twins, Tristan and Jacqueline, 4, develop a lifelong love of reading as early as possible.
“I think to be successful later in life in the field they choose to be in, (our kids) are going to need those skills. They’re going to need those skills to be basically happy people in society, to be well-rounded and to be able to think for themselves. The only thing you really own in this life is your mind,” said Stephen Palmer, 39, of Scarborough.
A profound observation: The only thing you really own in this life is your mind. When you think about it, that observation cuts through all of the propaganda we receive on a daily basis about the keys to fulfillment lying in the next purchase, be it the newest IPhone, the newest car, or the biggest house. Indeed, if we really can think for ourselves, we will inevitably conclude that constant growth and expansion through consumerism really is unsustainable.
And that was certainly the message of two of the 'rock stars' of ScotiaBank's Giller Prize speakers' series yesterday at the festival. On a tour together, Canadian icon and renowned scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki, and Jeff Rubin, the economist who has now written two books projecting our future as our energy costs rise, both agree that 'smaller' is an inevitable part of what awaits us.
Listening to these two men, and the intelligent questions that ensued after their presentations, made me realize even more acutely how blinkered and Manichean the Harper regime's outlook is. While regarding people like Suuzki as the enemy of the economy, the regime ignores the fact, as he pointed out, that a healthy biosphere is essential to a healthy economy, and that the two are really part of the same equation. For his part Rubin allowed that he would not expand the development of the tarsands until Canada had extracted much more of its value by refining the bitumen in Canada instead of exporting it away to be done in the U.S., thereby denying the creation of good jobs here.
Both men said much more, but I came away from the festival, having listened to other speakers as well, with the renewed conviction that an informed and literate electorate is the only real weapon against those who would further enslave us through our collective ignorance.