Editor’s Let­ter

The Walrus - - EDITOR’S LETTER - Jes­sica John­son

While I was grow­ing up in Canada, na­tional unity was a point of pride. I re­mem­ber my high-school ge­og­ra­phy teacher in Rich­mond Hill, On­tario, ex­plain­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween Amer­ica’s fa­mous cul­tural melt­ing pot and Canada’s “tossed salad”: we are a coun­try built on im­mi­gra­tion, yes, but also a peo­ple who cel­e­brate dif­fer­ences and come to­gether on com­mon ground. In the time since, I have seen how well in­ten­tioned but self-lim­it­ing it can be to make broad gen­er­al­iza­tions about the coun­try. Take rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. One of the hard­est lessons for many Cana­di­ans to ac­cept has been that some In­dige­nous peo­ple don’t feel they are part of the coun­try at all. Racial in­tol­er­ance is now in the news on a weekly ba­sis, spark­ing con­ver­sa­tions about the fair­ness of our jus­tice sys­tem. On­line, the po­lar­iza­tion of dis­course — about ev­ery­thing from politics to Jor­dan Peter­son’s 12 Rules for Life — seems to point to an aban­don­ment of con­ver­sa­tion be­tween friends, col­leagues, and even strangers. The abil­ity to lis­ten to each other — not as a feel­good ex­er­cise but as an act of cit­i­zen­ship — is at risk. I men­tion these chal­lenges not to pro­mote a sense of hope­less­ness but more as a plea for us to stop pre­tend­ing we’re all the same or that we should ex­pect to reach con­sen­sus on im­por­tant is­sues. At The Wal­rus, we have made it our goal to fos­ter per­spec­tives that add up to a fuller and deeper un­der­stand­ing of our world with a view to em­brac­ing its com­plex­ity. In this is­sue, Seila Rizvic vis­its a Mon­treal group that tries to pre­vent po­ten­tial rad­i­cals from com­mit­ting crimes. In “The New Old Age,” San­dra Martin con­sid­ers the chal­lenges fac­ing her gen­er­a­tion and calls for higher ex­pec­ta­tions for qual­ity of life postre­tire­ment. Her om­nibus es­say — which deals with per­sonal fi­nance, medicine, and health care — builds to a pow­er­ful ar­gu­ment that the needs of older peo­ple should be ad­dressed col­lec­tively. Su­per­fi­cially — and some­what de­light­fully, if you go by our of­fice chat­ter—ja­son Mcbride’s fea­ture is about a 650-pound pig. The story of Es­ther the Won­der Pig is about many things, but to me, it is at­es­ta­ment to the power of so­cial me­dia as a force for good. Es­ther is an In­sta­gram star who in­spires those who ob­serve her to re­think their re­la­tion­ship with an­i­mals; she pro­vides a way for ur­ban­ites to feel con­nected to the nat­u­ral world and for many of us (es­pe­cially her two “dads,” who take care of her) to feel re­spon­si­ble for her well-be­ing. In 2017, opioids killed about 4,000 Cana­di­ans, one of them as he was writ­ing the cover story of this mag­a­zine. To his friends, Chris Wil­lie was “a beam of light” — an ed­u­ca­tor and an ex­pe­ri­enced moun­tain climber who was also very frank about his per­sonal strug­gle with opi­oid ad­dic­tion. Wil­lie’s mem­oir, writ­ten be­fore his un­timely death last De­cem­ber, forces us to ex­am­ine a na­tional is­sue not through sta­tis­tics but through the value of an in­di­vid­ual life. Wil­lie de­fied stereo­types about this epi­demic: he was a sci­en­tific re­searcher, in top phys­i­cal con­di­tion, and a highly self-re­flec­tive writer. In the words of his class­mates from the Banff Cen­tre’s Moun­tain and Wilder­ness Writ­ing pro­gram, Wil­lie was “vi­brant, trust­ing, mer­cu­rial...e xpan­sive, brim­ming, dy­namic, cu­ri­ous.” He was a word geek who stayed up late to dis­cuss the ex­act mean­ing of dilemma. The frag­mented style of his piece “My Life and Death on Opioids” — a jux­ta­po­si­tion of ex­pe­ri­ence and anal­y­sis — re­flects some­thing about life. In the month of his death, Wil­lie wrote to a friend, who kindly shared this mes­sage: “For most of us the best way we can in­flu­ence the world is on the ef­fects we have on other in­di­vid­u­als. If those ef­fects cat­alyze pro­found per­sonal in­sight, then I deem that a suc­cess — for me. That I’ve af­fected you makes me happy, gives me pride and my life a sense of con­se­quence. It means that in one mo­ment, I mat­tered in the world.” We are hon­oured to pub­lish his words and hope they help to con­tinue a con­ver­sa­tion be­yond the pages of this mag­a­zine.  —

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