Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It Wasn't About the Fireworks

As I was writing my most recent blog post, I was under no false illusion that my partner and I were in the right to be trespassing on private property.  I didn't even totally disagree with people's comments on the post, even though some of them seemed unnecessarily harsh to this delicate Canadian.  And yet, I was angry.  I was angry when I wrote the blog post, and angry when I reflected back on it.  Almost inexplicably so.

And then it finally occurred to me.  What I was feeling really had nothing to do with the woman who yelled at us.  Sure, it wasn't the nicest or most neighbourly of things for her to do, but she may have had her reasons for doing it.  Maybe her property gets destroyed by drunken yahoos every Canada Day and she's sick and tired of it.  What do I know?  The real reason that I was so upset about the whole incident was that, to me, it was reflective of a much greater greed that seems to be pervasive in our society.

I believe pretty strongly that personal wealth is partly the result of an individual's hard work, but it is also almost always the result of a tremendous amount of privilege.  In my own case, I had to work my ass off for years to become a physician, but I was helped a lot in the process by living in a safe country, by having access to a good public education system, by being born into a stable and supportive family, and by having the physical and intellectual ability to survive medical training*.  In other words, I was lucky.  And I believe that anyone who is as lucky as I have been should do what they can to share some of their good luck with others.

But unfortunately, a lot of wealthy people don't feel that way.  They feel that they're entitled to hoard their wealth, even when they have far more of it than they could use in many lifetimes over.  Republicans think it's okay to cut health care coverage for the poor as long as it lowers their own premiums.  The Walton family sits on many billions of dollars and gives almost nothing away.  And on and on.

It angers and saddens me to no end.  Because this "every man for himself" mentality doesn't make for good community or for a good world.  And it isn't the way that I want things to be.  So sometimes I get frustrated by it all and get mad at people for not wanting me to sit in their field.

(This is not as articulate a post as I would like it to be, but in the interest of getting something out there and getting past this event, I'm going to hit publish.  Please feel free to gently and kindly share your thoughts in the comments.  This is probably an idea that I'll revisit in the future, hopefully in a more completely thought out way.)

*To give but a few examples.  I could add in many more, such as the fact that I grew up middle class, that I'm not a visible minority, that women are more widely accepted in medicine than they were a generation or two ago, etc.  You get the idea.  Privilege

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Greedy Rich People

For the Canada Day long weekend, M and I left the city to camp in front of a lake for three nights.  It was an amazing escape, complete with star-filled skies, late evenings in front of the campfire, and tasty but not-so-healthy camping food.  I felt more relaxed than I have in months, and I constantly found myself saying that I didn't want to go home (and particularly not back to work).

We had planned to completely avoid the Canada Day celebrations, as we both had some reservations about celebrating 150 years of colonization and abuse of indigenous peoples, but while stopping for gas we heard about "the best small town fireworks show in the province" from the sales clerk, and we decided to go.  So on Saturday night, we left our refuge in the woods for the relative civilization of a town of 1,000 people.

When we arrived in town, there was a small area by the waterfront that had been designated the fireworks viewing area.  It seemed that all 1,000 townspeople had come out for the celebration, as there wasn't an inch of available space on which to sit or stand.  So we walked down the street until we found a lovely grassy area on which many people had set up blankets to watch the show.

Unfortunately, the area had been blocked off with orange plastic fencing; however, there was a steady stream of people walking under the fencing, so we followed suit.  We found a great spot on the grass with a clear view of the water, and we settled in to watch the show. 

And then, an angry woman came over and started yelling at us.

"This is private property!  What are you doing here?"

We were a bit surprised, as there were easily hundreds of other people lying on the ground, so we explained to her that we were looking for a place to watch the fireworks and had simply followed other people into the area.

"Well!  It's private property!  You can't stay here!  You have to leave!"

Now...I understand that no one wants their property trespassed on, and I do recognize that we were trespassing.  However...it was an enormous field that easily could have accommodated many more people than were sitting on it.  The woman who was yelling at us was part of a group having a large bonfire, and they were taking up only a very small portion of the grass closest to the fireworks, so the people watching the show were not impinging on their space in any way.  And the people who had come for the show were sitting quite peacefully, not appearing to be disruptive or damaging to anything.

And yet, this woman didn't want any of us there.  Because it was part of her property, and heaven forbid someone else enjoy something to which they aren't entitled.

Which I completely don't understand.  If I have something that I'm not using, such as a giant piece of land that is too large for myself and my small group of friends, I would happily let someone else use it.  This woman and her group could easily have let us all sit and watch the show, at no harm to them.  If they'd been concerned about crowd control, perhaps they could have negotiated with the town to block off a portion of the property for the public, so that the space could have been enjoyed by everyone while still "protecting" the group who owns it.

But no.  It was her property, and she didn't want anyone else to enjoy it.

Fitting metaphor for the celebration of 150 years of colonization.

Am I wrong about this?  I was and still am horrified by the way that this woman treated us (and many other people who had come to watch the fireworks).  The pure selfishness of it offends me so much.