Sunday, January 1, 2012

Who's in Charge of this Train, Anyway?

A friend just "recommended" this editorial by Michael Ignatieff on Facebook. My initial thought was to recommend it myself, with my thoughts. Then I decided to post it here, instead. I've noticed lately that I've lost a few FB friends, and although at first this hurt me, I had to wonder if it was due to my political/ideological postings. If that's the case: too bad. I am who I am, and I believe what I believe. Often very strongly.

What I don't understand is why people who disagree with me about these issues are so offended by the idea of society working together for everyone's betterment. Are they afraid for their own standard of living? Do they honestly believe that every poor person is poor because of laziness and/or drug and alcohol abuse? That every New Year's baby born today has EXACTLY the same opportunities for "success" as his/her peers?

I love the analogy in the article: that living in the Great Depression was like riding a train. If you had a job, "it was like being in the heated parlour car in the front of the train, while the unemployed were in the unheated freight cars in the back." I've noticed that those who are so adamantly against government programs to help the poor are usually those who are not only employed, but have been in the same job for a long time; who haven't had to deal with months and months of resumes and applications, and internet job searches; those who don't know that trying to live on $1800 per month (approximately the maximum amount of EI in our area) is nearly impossible for a family who may depend on that income as their sole source of support. For those who have been riding in those unheated freight cars, it is a ride of fear, shame, and despair, made all the more hard by living amongst those who are eating caviar in the parlour car.

I guess I just will never understand how it is that people can be so unwilling to give up a little bit of their wealth to make sure that other people have a reasonable standard of living. There is no way out of this mess while some are zealously guarding the proverbial Versailles and the peasants are crying for bread.

I once had someone ask me "Who are you to decide what's a reasonable income for anyone else?" That's not an easy question for me to answer. I suppose I have no right to say that no one NEEDS over a million dollars a year, but to me, that's just plain logic. To say, "I work 20 hours a day for that money, so I should get to keep it" discounts those who are working 2 or 3 jobs at minimum wage and barely surviving. Are you working harder than the person who's cleaning your office at 2am? The person who's out collecting your trash in -20 degree or 35 degree weather? Are you working harder than the person building the roads for you to drive to your company? The teacher who's educating your children? Who are YOU to say that what you do is worth more than what anyone else contributes to society?

I've been told that this whole "December 21, 2012" thing is more about a societal shift than about the end of the world. I really hope that's true, because until we all realize that we're all in this world together, I don't see us finding those middle cars on the train.