There is probably nothing more deceptive than tokenism when it comes to dealing with long-standing social problems or issues. Tokenism refers to making token gestures of support for causes without having to invest anything to deal with the problem itself. Sadly, we are living in an age of tokenism instead of action.
Such was the case this past Saturday with so-called Earth Hour. It does nothing to address issue of energy over-consumption in the world and the wasteful use of energy resources. Who knows where such a thing got started? One could Google it, but, frankly, such an exercise would be a waste of time and energy.
Earth Hour raises some modicum of awareness admittedly, but does not seem to have led to any substantial change in individual over-consumption patterns in society in the years it has been operating so it is ultimately a meaningless campaign and gesture.
Other token gestures which are equally meaningless? Changing your Facebook profile to be in solidarity with whatever happens to be in the mode of the moment, or in engaging in the “can we get a million likes for whatever cause I support” meme.
Tokenism is not only found at the everyday level in society, it is also, sadly, found at the governmental level as well. First Nations issues are a classic example of this. Successive governments in Canada have all swept into power claiming they will reboot Canada’s relations with its First Nations peoples. We have seen apologies tearfully delivered in Parliament. We have seen First Nations chiefs standing behind ministers as they announce programs like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. Governments have long acknowledged the social and financial hardships First Nations face, and yet life does not improve for First Nations, incarceration rates do not go down and the government does not have the resources to make any substantial investment in crumbling infrastructure on reserves. So what to do? Make token gestures without making any changes to the status quo. That will keep those people quiet for another five years or so, and make them feel like their concerns are being heard.
Society is replete with such tokenism because there is no will or dedicated resources to make meaningful changes. It is all a waste of time backed up by ultimately meaningless, but far cheaper, words.
Society needs to get this message loud and clear on every level: Time to put up or shut up.