This week’s editorial is a two-parter.

Self control: All gone

We don’t exert much self control these days. We shop when we want and order goods from all over the world. We add our comments and photos to social media with little thought. When we have something to say, we darn well say it. We can dial up the music, movies, television series, podcasts or radio programs we like; we used to have to wait until a certain day and time to watch or listen to something that interested us.

Dress code? Forget it. Flexible work hours? Got it. Want to contact someone right now? Do it. No need to wait for anything.
It is no wonder that we are fighting back at COVID restrictions and rules. Health and safety, and medical workers at the edge of exhaustion have little meaning. We want what we want, especially in this already stressful life made even worse by a pandemic. What a ridiculous idea any government has when it thinks of recommendations. The very notion of being told to ‘avoid’ non-essential travel (as in: avoid delicious food) was doomed to fail.

How dare anyone tell us anything? We are not easily persuaded. Why–even advertising campaigns telling us to vote because it is our right to do so–is not successful. Yes: no one can tell us what to do.

A recent report says that nearly half (46%) of Canadians report that they are $200 away or less from not being able to meet all of their financial obligations, unchanged from last quarter. About half of us are worried about debt and would not fare well financially if our relationship status changed. Fifty-nine per cent of Canadians say that low interest rates tempted them to make purchases they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Until we get a grip, let’s forget about asking governments to cut back on spending or to reorganize our education system or our health care system.

That would be too much like taking control of a situation and we have already established that self control is pretty much a thing of the past.

Self control: Why it’s all gone

The road to what some might call our hedonistic existence has been easy. Our consumer-focused world naturally drove us in the direction of choice, variety and self-direction. But what we missed along the way was the inadvertent losses that would accompany the everything-at-your-fingertips world.

Despite a world that bears little resemblance to the way we lived even 30 years ago, we aren’t happy. Certain responsibilities have been thrown our way and when confronted with building codes, registering for online accounts, waiting on hold for endless minutes and trying to sort out service issues using automated systems, we lose patience in a heartbeat.

Most agree: life did not seem to be so rife with frustrations three or four decades ago. So many systems are beyond our control and that may be why we often indulge ourselves as a way of making up for the many times we feel we are cornered – with no way out.
Consider further that money is the way out for many people and so, those who don’t have it have no respite from the many ways life has us hemmed in.

The less responsibility we are able to take to choose our destiny, the more we will blame others for everything that goes wrong. It is all the more frustrating because most of us would not know where to start to change things–from the municipal level, to the provincial or federal level.

Self-control is connected to choice and freedom. We have to disentangle these and take responsibility for how things are and how the future will unfold.