By Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
I’ve just entered my 75th year. This has had the subtle effect of narrowing the number of issues that leap out and grab my attention – in the media and in the discussions flitting to-and-fro in the cyber world. I love laughing and nonsense as much as anybody, but in the realm of focused caring, there isn’t enough time left to waste it on things that don’t grab my heart. If blessed with several more decades of reading and thinking, I believe these will remain the matters that engage me. They’re what I think people call their passions.
I have to add that exceeding all other, my primary passion – fundamental and inexorable – is my family which now includes a wonderful small person named Theo. That will henceforth go without saying.
I’ll also add that at this stage of life, having time to notice, I’m stunned by the amount of beauty that I encounter in an ordinary day. The people in the Mall, or on the street. The sky! And bare tree branches stark against the sky. Children’s faces and how they move; vegetables set out in long rows in a supermarket. So much to see. These images mitigate the sadness implicit in the passions that remain stirred and unresolved.
So What, in the World, Seems to Matter Most?
In no particular order:
- The resistance to First Nations in achieving their rights and maintaining their lands
- Paucity of proper palliative care (including top-notch pain control) for all in the difficult stages of terminal illness
- The impact of stress and trauma on the growth of healthy open-minded self-loving children
- Pre-fascism tendencies in our country – how to spot, reveal and halt the growth of
- Lack of awareness of the uses of Mediation: it works.
- Lack of decent housing for all
Why Have These Matters Not Been Dealt With Effectively?
These issues should not be with us still. We’ve known for a long time what is wrong. There has to be investment in taking the steps we know need to be taken. Yet, we elect governments that remain reluctant to spend money on making these situations better. It’s not that there’s no money. It’s the skewed views we’ve developed as a culture about the allocation of the resources. The poor, the sick, the dying, are way down on the list of what we’ve decided should be done with our collective surplus.
So What The Heck Can We Do?
Look again at tax money. It’s what we share of our bounty, however modest, to accumulate in sufficient measure to cover the collective essentials (infrastructure, healthcare, research, etc.) AND to invest in human betterment. The economy will thrive ultimately without a populace suffering for want of collective caring. And people will not develop sufficient caring with governments that we keep letting off the hook in terms of social well-being.
I’m suggesting that we resist the drift to despising government and tax spending.
Mistrust of the “government” or the “state” to spend tax money wisely has spread like a virus – as if private enterprise takes care of everything in a progressive well-maintained way. Walking around Brooklyn, N.Y., one sees some magnificent testimony to private money well spent. But there are also blocks of boarded up buildings that are falling down, shabby amusement areas, ugly infill that will grow ever uglier: example after example of private money deciding to cut its losses for better profit. Mistakes are inevitable, by whomever does the investing and spending of money.
One View of Public and Private Money
The government is accountable to the people – private money isn’t. Denigrating of whatever is undertaken by government is a faulty direction – an infection caught from the turn to the right in many countries. Without good trustworthy people in government, who will look out for the public good?
We’re disappointed in our Parliament? Isn’t that at least something we the people have some say in? Of course there are individuals in government corrupted by power, money, privilege, ambition, whatever. But the purpose of government is not private gain – it is public good. The purpose of business is private gain.
We Are Intended To Have A Say
That’s why I’m naming these Passions – I believe I have some capacity to contribute to the debates encouraged by the trustworthy people in government.
I think many of us listen, learn, comment on, discuss, write letters, cheer on those who are standing on the front lines. More could do that. We could even go out and join an Idle No More walk when it hits town (even if Harper has not shown the courtesy of greeting them at their Parliament Hill destination). We’re not helpless. Thinking we are is not healthy.
Simplistic? Sure. Government won’t solve everything. Can’t just throw money at problems. Absolutely true. But withholding money is just as foolish. Good thinking, good theory, has to be wedded to the experience of those on the ground. Many wise and knowledgeable minds have to meet with the people who live the problems, from the inside. Humans pay for the bad decisions and intentions of the past. Much skilled mediation is required to deal with the conflicts inherent in whatever is happening right now. Good decisions can still be made – there are many ways to arrive at better decisions. Much social science has informed us of ways to do that.
A Wrong Turning
I think a fundamental principle has been messed with. We seem to not recognize that the public is all of us.
The primacy of greed, called good business, has somehow become more acceptable than finding humane reasonable solution to problems. We’ve lost our confidence about that. But is the trend inevitable? The drift to allowing ‘good business’ to become the measure of proper action has gone far enough.
I think greed has to be named and shamed and recognized as contrary to the public good.
So What Are We To Do?
Recognize the wrong thinking when we spot it in ourselves and our compatriots.
Otherwise, if one has any passions at all, there’s no formula for how to pursue them fruitfully. We use what energy, talents, skills, inclination, opportunities we’ve still got. Neither Pollyanna nor Cassandra (prophesying doom), we do our best. This probably sounds just like a 74-year-old lady. But I’m hanging in – like most of us.