Other peo­ple have lives

Let’s talk about some­one else for a change

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 36 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­[email protected]­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

It was a 108-char­ac­ter state­ment on the hu­man con­di­tion.

(I know, it wasn’t meant that way, but it is ex­actly how it struck me at the time, and I haven’t been able to shake it since.)

“There are re­ports that a pedes­trian has been struck near Col­lege of the North At­lantic on PPD. Ex­pect de­lays.”

By the way, Prince Philip Drive, the PPD in that tweet, is a 70-kilo­me­tre-an-hour road through St. John’s.

A po­ten­tially life-chang­ing event for an un­lucky in­di­vid­ual — be­ing hit by a car trav­el­ling at that speed is not usu­ally some­thing you walk quickly away from — is re­de­fined by the ab­so­lutely mi­nor in­con­ve­nience it will be for oth­ers. Ev­ery­one else will still get to work, have their day, eat their lunch, drive home.

And what’s most im­por­tant is the uni­ver­sal “me.”

Me-ism is the cen­tral tenet of our way of life; ev­ery­thing is de­fined, ac­cepted or re­jected based upon how it will af­fect each of us per­son­ally.

It’s be­come one of the pri­mary driv­ers in elec­tions, too: every pro­vin­cial po­lit­i­cal pol­icy is guar­an­teed to have el­e­ments de­signed to specif­i­cally and per­son­ally ben­e­fit in­di­vid­ual vot­ers, rather than sim­ply to prom­ise to ad­min­is­ter gov­ern­ment for the long-term good of a prov­ince.

In New Brunswick’s re­cent elec­tion, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives were promis­ing no new taxes, the Lib­er­als, a power rate freeze for four years, the NDP, pharmacare. (It’s got­ten so bla­tantly ob­vi­ous that bon­drat­ing agen­cies saw the elec­tion it­self as a threat to New Brunswick’s fis­cal sta­bil­ity and cred­it­wor­thi­ness.) You can’t reach mod­ern Cana­di­ans vot­ers, it seems, un­less you’re giv­ing them some­thing that they can rec­og­nize as a prize. “What pay­off do I get for my vote?”

I think it also has a lot to do with the op­po­si­tion to immigratio­n. Not in­clud­ing the out­right racists, who sim­ply dis­count peo­ple by their religion or the colour of their skin, I think many op­posed to immigratio­n are con­cerned, first and fore­most, with them­selves, and what they want to get, and keep, for them­selves.

Some­how, we’ve lost a lot of what cre­ated a sense of com­mu­nity. We fo­cus on what’s in­side our four walls: are we getting the kind of in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity we need to see the lat­est cat videos? Will our power bills go up? Will you cut my taxes, even if that means pil­ing decades of debt re­pay­ment on the next few gen­er­a­tions? You see the pull in on­line news num­bers; the sto­ries that at­tract traf­fic are the open­ings of new me­ga­s­tores and the ones out­lin­ing what elec­tric­ity hikes will mean.

The need for ef­fec­tive drug treat­ments for the in­di­gent? Crick­ets.

I wish it was dif­fer­ent.

I’d love to be able to vote for a po­lit­i­cal party that was fo­cus­ing on the long-term sta­bil­ity and vi­a­bil­ity of the place I live, rather than for par­ties whose can­di­dates are pri­mar­ily con­cerned with four years and then re-elec­tion at all costs. But I know I’m in the mi­nor­ity.

I put it down to the fact that we’ve just be­come so darned com­fort­able. Cheap credit has meant an over­whelm­ing amount of crea­ture com­forts — many of us can no longer even con­ceive of wear­ing some­one else’s ill-fit­ting or worn-out shoes.

I’m not say­ing we should all suf­fer as a nec­es­sary part of the hu­man con­di­tion, but we should at least be able to sum­mon up enough imag­i­na­tion to think about it a bit.

Thanks­giv­ing was last week, a chance to think about the things you’re grate­ful for. A hol­i­day, more than any­thing else, to count your own per­sonal bless­ings.

Why not think about other peo­ple to­day?

Be­cause other peo­ple have lives too. Some­times, their prob­lems are more im­por­tant, more se­ri­ous than your own.

Em­brace de­lays. You weren’t the one hit by a car.

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