Canadians need a little perspective - Keith Roulston editorial
When I heard the story last week from a national polling company that Canadians are angry, I at first dismissed it as a way the company had to get attention. Then I listened to a week of news stories and I thought I might be wrong.
My attention was first taken by news that Pollara Strategic Insights has launched a new monthly “rage index” to gauge public opinion on Canadians’ views. It found that when Canadians think about stories in the news, from inflation dating all the way back to the truckers’ protests in Ottawa last winter, 60 per cent feel angry while only five per cent feel happy. I suspected this story was really about getting publicity for the company, especially when I read that they counted the anger of people on both sides of the trucker protests - both those frustrated at the disruptions caused by the truckers and the anger of the protesters themselves.
But perhaps the survey changed my perspective because I began to pick up bits and pieces that showed people’s frustrations. Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason wrote about people in the service industry who are leaving their jobs because they are tired of being abused by their customers, given the relatively low rate of compensation they get. He told of being on a plane and the woman in the seat beside him having a fit because her TV wasn’t working properly. She demanded instant service but the flight attendant was still serving meals. When she finished meal service, she returned and spent several long minutes helping the irate woman, with little thanks.
Then the Ontario Nurses Association reported that part of the reason that there is a shortage of nurses these days is that people are quitting the business because they have felt an increasing sense of danger, with more and more suffering violence at the hands of angry, demanding patients.
And then, of course, there was the well-publicized shouting incident when an irate, hulking man and his wife swore at Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland in an Alberta hotel lobby. That brought accompanying stories from a growing number of female politicians about close calls and threats they had endured.
So, maybe the survey wasn’t just an attempt by a normally-obscure polling company to get some attention.
People are frustrated about the rapidly rising cost of food, much of it caused by pandemic shortages. The cost of gas has also soared due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, although it’s come down recently. People are furious about line-ups to get passports so they can travel again, and long lines at airports – in both cases because workers were laid off because of the pandemic and now there are manpower shortages.
But I can’t help wondering what refugees from the war in Ukraine think as they watch the frustrations of Canadians when they
left their husbands behind to fight the Russian invaders while they sought safety for their children in Canada and worried if their homes survived.
It’s amazing how constricted people’s modern horizons have become given the many, many sources of information about other eras and how lucky we are to live when we do, even when inconvenienced by COVID-19.
Take those irate air travellers, for instance. Recently I read author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon. In it, the very rich take an air flight from the eastern U.S. to Hollywood in the late 1930s; airports are tiny and passenger aircraft are even tinier as only the ultra-rich could afford to fly. Today, millions of Canadians fly off to vacations, or business trips to other parts of Canada, and get furious if they have to wait in line-ups because of worker shortages caused by the pandemic.
People, we need a little perspective!
Our lives are better than human beings have ever experienced. Recently Jill and I have been watching Alias Grace, the mini-series developed from Margaret Atwood’s novel about a servant woman in prison in 1843 for the murder of her employer. Seeing the lifestyle of servants nearly 200 years ago is enlightening.
And you don’t need to go back that far. I’m 75 years old and the world has changed in my lifetime. Like all those impatient travellers, I’m supported by the old age pension and Canada Pension Plan, though I don’t have the employer-supported pensions many of them enjoy. My forefathers worked until they died because they couldn’t afford to retire.
Our medical system, though we see its flaws, is outstanding. I’ve had three medical emergencies in the past three years which would probably have ended my life in an earlier era. One was to replace a heart valve damaged by a childhood disease - rheumatic fever - unheard of today.
Yes, we can hope for a still-better world, but let’s appreciate how good we have it!