Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A response to a reader request

In other news I swam this morning. The pool was nearly empty. No idea why, unless people were still bloated from their turkey overdose.

Swam about a half hour, working hard on form. All sorts of the things that we all know we should do. Head, elbows, hands, hips, ect ect ect. I'd swim a bit thinking about it and working on being correct, then I'd take a break for a minute when I was getting sloppy to go through it in my mind again. Also worked on flip turns, trying to make them more of a flip! rather than a slow tumble. Another 15 minutes of core after.

One of my readers asked "And, Happy Thanksgiving. What do you Kanooks celebrate, anyway? What's your story? "

That's a good question. No doubt there are as many different answers as there are Canadians. Oddly enough, most people I know spend at least part of the day being thankful for what they have, and spending time with their loved ones. If there is a country in the world that has won the lottery, it's Canada, and most of us know it. The vast majority of us live in such a way that almost everybody that has ever lived would love to trade places with us. Why? Let me start:

  • We live in an open, peaceful society. Crime is rare, and violent crime rarer still. With very, very few exceptions, our police regard civilian society as something to protect, and not to prey off of.
  • Our government is reasonably honest, and reasonably non-corrupt. We've got 3 major parties, 4 in Quebec. There are some minor parties, such as the Greens that are still finding traction. What they all have in common is a respect for the ballot box, and at least some sensitivity to enraged taxpayers. While they put on an appearance of conflict, and there really is some gutter partisan politics, by and large they work together to make government work. And yes, government has a role in society.
  • In all but a tiny percentage of homes, you flick a switch and you get electric light. Turn a tap and you'll get a constant supply of clean, cool water that's safe to drink, bathe, and cook with. Unless you want it hot, in which case you open a different tap. We flush away our waste products and they flow to a place where they are treated, preventing a major source of disease from bothering us. Our garbage is taken away regularly and dealt with in a sanitary manner. Our homes are the temperature we set the thermostat for regardless of the outside temperature. Unless we forget to close a window rain doesn't come in and there are few drafts. Homes are a secure place to keep and display our stuff, the endless amazing quantities of STUFF we accumulate. We press a few buttons and we get whatever kind of music we like to listen to, at whatever volume we want, for as long as we want, with an audio fidelity that's probably better than our ears can perceive. We have devices that display text and images from around the world, and have an astonishing choice of what to look at. We can read any book that's ever been written within a moment of conceiving the desire. We pick up a device and can talk to anyone in the world with a similar device, and with some of them we can also transmit a video image at the same time, and do so while we're walking down the street. (Unfortunately some of us choose to do so while driving, with potentially tragic results.) We have devices to store food and delay it's decay, and other devices to heat food up for serving. We have comfortable beds to sleep on. Most of us have so many clothes it would be a chore to decide what to wear, except for the half of the people who would say they have nothing to wear. 
  • We are inoculated at birth and during childhood against diseases that have crippled and killed people throughout our history. It astonishes me that some people think that vaccinations are a BAD THING. I say that preventing your child from being vaccinated is child abuse, and should be prima facie evidence you are an unfit parent and should have your children removed from your "care". 
  • Our medical system is one of the best in the world. No Canadian risks bankruptcy because someone in their family gets sick. We may have to wait for treatment in line with other people, as doctors ration the available care, and that sometimes takes longer than it should. But the problem is that there is essentially infinite demand, and limited dollars to meet that demand. I'm glad the medical insurance company sharks aren't eating from our trough and taking some of those limited dollars for their private profit.
  • If a building catches fire, a team of professionally trained people will promptly arrive to rescue people and put out the fire. In addition they provide numerous services to prevent the fire in the first place. 
  • Canadians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. And it keeps on getting longer. When I was a small child I was told I could hope to live to my late 60's. Someone dying at that age now is regarded as being cruelly cut off. My doctor tells me I have every reason to believe I'll live to my mid 80's, and my financial advisor tells me I'd better plan on it.
  • We go to the supermarket and buy food from all over the world. Most of the time, we don't care what season it is. That is, if you don't mind supporting a global petroleum economy. Still, our food is essentially disease free, incredibly cheap and varied, and available in quantities that are making most of us fat.
  • We can travel almost anywhere on a whim. There's not many places a Canadian passport isn't accepted, and most of us can afford to travel at least a bit. Most of us have our own private automobile, and can drive it almost anywhere on an amazing network of roads. Safely. Being able to buy fuel when and where we need it. Using a credit card. The infrastructure required is mind boggling when you think about it.
  • We have the freedom to do what we like, when and where we like, within very loose and broad limits. Most of us can choose what profession or trade we'll practice and if it turns out we don't like it we can change. Anybody that wants advanced education can get it, to whatever level satisfies them.
  • Most of us have the means to take up whatever hobby we want, and through our tools like the internet, be able to find other people interested in the same things. 
  • The odds of our children predeceasing us are trivial. 
  • And probably more that doesn't come to mind just at the moment.
All this. Most of the people that have ever lived would say we live like gods. Until about a hundred years ago or so, NOBODY lived like this. Nobody at all, not even the wealthiest. Nobody could even have conceived of it. Am I grateful? You bet your sweet ass I am. And so are most of the people I know.

What amazes me, just flat out amazes me and totally breaks my mind, is that there are people who live in such a society that say they: 
  • are bored. BORED??!! If you're bored, it's your own damn fault. You were either born mentally deficient and I suppose that's not your fault, or you've turned your brain off, and that IS your fault. In my books, someone who says they are bored is warning you in big letters of fire that they are stupid and will try to leech your life out of you by making you entertain them. Fuck them and whatever they rode in on. 
  • can't get by or don't have enough. Figure out what's essential, then get on with it. Much of our society is optional glitz, dressing to hide the essentials. Anybody that can't separate the essentials from the glitz, and get a supply of the essentials is too stupid to be allowed to live unsupervised. Maybe you don't get all the optional glitz. Poor baby. Hustle for it or do without. 
  • never got a break. Tell that to the kid starving to death, while dying of small pox. Tell that to the pioneers that came here with next to nothing and not only scratched a living out of the soil, they made the country and the world a better place. Tell that to the Chinese labourers that built a railroad and were treated like vermin. (One of the stains on our history, I admit.)
  • can't afford an education. There are these places called libraries. A year's access here is $15 or so, and they offer special rates for those that can't afford it. If you want an education, there are scholarships out the ying yang. Hustle for them. Take on the debt if you must; if you aren't willing to invest in yourself, why should we do anything else for you? Why are you paying for cable television?
  • want to listen to some fundamentalist whacko cult leader and go back to living in the middle ages, or worse. Here, let me put you on a plane to Zimbabwe, or Somalia, or Afghanistan. In fact, I think that's a good use of our tax dollars. I'd consider it a good investment, a few hundred dollars of airfare will save us who knows how much in welfare, and other government assistance programs. The trick is to recognize them early, before they infect others.
What I'm afraid of is that this pinnacle of civilization is going to come crashing down. Our infrastructure is delicate, and it wouldn't take much to damage or cripple it. A few deranged individuals can do enormous damage. No, not terrorists, at least not in the sense that most consider terrorists. I'm more worried about some idiot genius teenager that unleashes some computer virus. I'm more worried that the anti-scientist religious kooks, or the people that believe there is no role for government in society, will win; that might end things quicker than the computer virus. And we'll never get it back.

Yes, our society has flaws. There are problems, there are things we can be doing better. But overall, we're doing pretty darn good, and we can take a day out to pat ourselves on the back, to appreciate what we've got. Then it's back to the grindstone trying to make things better for those that don't have it as good.


1 comment:

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