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


  1. I hear what you're saying, and this resonates with me too. Do you also see this attitude regularly in Canada? The "what's mine is mine" attitude greatly bothers me here in the US, for exactly what you mention. While people who have done well typically have worked hard, they've also been the recipient of other people's hard work. It just feels so Ayn Rand to reduce every interaction to a transaction -- to say "sure, teachers taught me, but they got paid, so I don't owe anyone anything," for example. I've even had people tell me they're against widely popular things, like public libraries, because it costs their tax money. I don't understand the attitude either.

    1. I get the impression that the attitude is less common and less severe in Canada, although that may only be my perspective. I think that one of the fundamental differences between Canadians and Americans (as an aggregate) is that Canadians believe strongly in social supports such as universal healthcare and welfare. While there is still a lot of greed, I think there is a shared Canadian value of considering what is best for society and of taking care of people who are less fortunate.

      I love public libraries. Partly from my own selfish perspective, as I order books from the library all the time, but also because they help many people access books and other resources that they would otherwise have no access to.

  2. I totally agree with you. My family worked very hard as political refugees in Canada but they were still incredibly lucky to have the privilege in the first place. My dad's uncle sponsored them and while they pretty much had to fend for themselves, they still got the opportunity and have instilled a major sense of gratitude in me and sisters. We never forget and try and give back as much as possible, where we can. I also hate that sense of entitlement that some people have. NO ONE gets to where they are in life completely unaided - even if its small things like being able to drive to somewhere to better their life on paved roads. Anyway, I totally get your perspective and totally agree with it.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I'm glad that your parents were able to make it to Canada and to be successful through a combination of privilege and hard work.