Getting experience - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Personal experiences and interactions are the core of how we become the people we are. When we meet someone face to face, when we go somewhere and feel its ground under our feet, when we have to make a choice devoid of options, it changes you.
What I mean is that too often in this day and age we’re sheltered from the harsh realities others face every day. Whether it’s due to economic situation or other factors, there are a number of experiences to which many of us simply cannot relate.
That’s why it’s scary to have decision-makers with their fingers on the button of so many life-changing moves, the effects of which they’ll never feel, in-office or not.
You hear stories all the time about people’s lives being changed by an interaction. The homophobic parent turned advocate when their child is gay; the racist who learns the error of his ways when he meets and befriends those from cultures other than his own; the woman who realizes the importance of a shelter only when she’s had to stay at one.
These personal experiences are the foundation on which we build our lives and they sow seeds of empathy and compassion.
Right now, in rural Ontario, the discussion has shifted to libraries. These buildings are essential to the lives of many, especially in communities away from the 401 corridor. Yes, they are full of books, many of which are read numerous times throughout the year. But libraries are so much more now. They are hubs of information and technology for those who can’t afford internet; places to train and learn.
While I’d be surprised to hear that Premier Doug Ford does much reading, what I’m getting at here is that Ford, the son of a rich entrepreneur, fell into a cushy job in the family business after dropping out of college. He doesn’t know what it’s like to need a library.
Ontario cabinet ministers make over $165,000 a year – and most MPPs and MPs didn’t brush gutter sludge off of themselves and decide to run for office. They were doing just fine before they took office and these people will never need the services being cut.
Speaking with a friend last week, we were discussing the persistent rumours surrounding Ford and the privatization of health care. I told him that one of the reasons I’m truly proud to be Canadian is that we’re a country that doesn’t leave its people behind. I realize there are some who would disagree – First Nations communities, the poor, our veterans – but with universal health care and robust social services, our country is one that seeks to take care of those who cannot care for themselves.
To me, it’s unthinkable to have to pay for care if you hurt yourself. You hear these stories in the U.S., low-income earners who have to make the choice between a doctor’s appointment and paying the bills – the bills always win. Ford would never have to make that choice, nor would any of his MPPs, but feeding the poor to the wolves is a staple of the “Government of the People”.
U.S. President Donald Trump has followed a similar trajectory. The son of a rich land developer, Trump never had to worry about his next meal (not even during all of those bankruptcies) or apply for a job.
So, when social services are cut, it’s easy for the rich to look down at the poor and tell them to do better, but they’ve never truly walked a mile in their shoes. Don’t ever believe a career politician who says he/she knows what it’s like to go without. With few exceptions, they were born advantaged and they will remain so with little regard for those out of their tax bracket.