In the early years of the winding and pebbled road of my working life, a sign was hung in the staff room by one of my bosses, a grocer named “Friendly Fred.” I’ve never forgotten its wise but simple message: “Gratitude is the attitude.” It was 1976; I was 17 and happy to earn $2.15 an hour stocking shelves
As we roll through to the end of this troubled and irksome year, it can be easy to forget that we have much for which to be grateful. Good food. Peace in the streets. Warm homes, including for many of the homeless, some of whom, according to news reports and personal conversations, prefer living outside to the confinements and rules of hostels or other provided accommodation.
We can be grateful for friends and family. Most people in Africa and Asia can only dream of such security, such luxuries, and I haven’t even mentioned freedom of religion and speech. A good many of the world’s 7.8 billion human inhabitants would gratefully leave their current homes for Canada, given all we have to offer.
So why, the question must be asked, are many Canadians unhappy with their life here? We have people living in crowded houses; others lack clean drinking water, despite billions of dollars over many decades of government spending to provide it. Some complain about racism and gender “inequalities” which, due to faulty analysis, are often more illusory than real. A common concern is the claim of feeling “uncomfortable” with historic Canadian figures, people who did the best they could at the time.
Attitude is part of the problem. If houses are needed, why not take a positive approach and work with friends to build some? If clean water is needed, why not act on your own and use cisterns to collect rain and melt water? If work is lacking and you’re surrounded by jack pines, why not smile and make pine furniture?
“God helps those who help themselves,” many of us were told. How many hear that today? Too few, I expect. And some, rather than believing in Canada, are determined to do it harm.
Most early Canadians were happy just to be here, in cold and rough conditions. Consider the Mennonites and Jews who were persecuted in Czarist Russia, their homes burned, their villages destroyed, their religions outlawed. Consider the Ukrainians, who suffered a living hell (those who survived) in the Holodomor of the 1930s in the Soviet Union when millions were deliberately starved to death by Joseph Stalin in his efforts to force central planning on farmers. Others gratefully escaped Chairman Mao’s massacres or Idi Amin’s slaughters.
These people and others lived the attitude of gratitude because they experienced horrors elsewhere and found peace and opportunity in Canada. They lived by their faith. It’s our loss that many of these people have passed on.
Our media compound the problem. Working in ideal conditions (this isn’t China or Turkey), they abandon balance and fairness in their reporting, betraying not only their country but the principles of their own craft. In their quest to be agents of social change, they are willing dupes in a conspiracy to propagate the gripes of the ungrateful. I can’t bear most so-called news reports anymore, or watch our national newscasts.
Until about 25 years ago many complaints never got past the editor’s desk, as people were advised to deal with matters themselves. I was one such editor. Sorry, but your beef against the grocer who refuses to refund your frozen peas simply isn’t news, even if you think it’s racism. Sorry, but if you have an issue with your member of Parliament, take it up with him or her. That’s what they’re paid for, and that’s your right and duty as a citizen.
But it’s more than that. As Rupa Subramanya writes in the National Post, a brand of politics fuelled by identity-driven special interests has taken hold in Canada.
In other words, people are rewarded for their gripes and are manipulating a system eager to win their support. She cites various examples, including Canada’s appeasement of the anti-Israel lobby by breaking its long-standing commitment to stand with Israel at the United Nations. On another front we are alienating India, a democracy we need onside in the growing confrontation with China, by interfering in its domestic affairs to win over a local Sikh voting faction. Isn’t multiculturalism fun?
Subramanya offers this penetrating insight: “The impact of playing off one group against another with an eye to maximizing electoral advantage only leads to a fragmentation of society into increasingly self-ghettoizing communities, each pushing their own agenda and forgetting where Canada’s national economic, geopolitical and strategic interests lie.”
As Joe Clark once said, this country is too good to lose. Somehow we must hammer together a new national identity and purpose (we once had one, “Canada the good”) and learn to reduce the fractious infighting and griping. John A. Macdonald and Mackenzie King overcame huge and divisive obstacles to unite this country and keep it intact during perilous times. The Canadian citizenry in those eras weren’t necessarily more mature, but they sure were busier making a living, since the nanny state didn’t exist.
That’s another part of the problem: many citizens, thanks to “social programs,” are bone idle, and griping helps to pass the time. Energy that could be used to better their own lives and build Canada is spent venting. What’s worse, it’s socially acceptable, even a badge of honour.
Attitudes that hurt individuals alone are their business. When they degrade a polity as a whole—our fine country—they’re everyone’s business. Merry Christmas to all.