Slice of Life

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by Linda Bates – Vancouver Courier Newspaper

This glass is half-full – thank you very, very much!

They phone us every day, here at the paper. People angry about taxes phone us. People angry about immigrants, angry about racism, angry about sexism, angry about feminism.

Angry with newspapers, angry with social workers, angry with their spouses. Ready to kill teachers, administrators, and most of all, politicians. People who believe they aren’t getting their fair share, they’ve been ripped off, they’ve been ignored.

“Maybe everyone isn’t like that,” says my colleague.. “Maybe it’s just that the ones who are upset are the ones who phone.” “Yeah,” I say, “Like psychiatrists who start to think everybody is crazy. We think everyone is ticked off.” Maybe we’re not really a nation of malcontents.

But that’s the optimistic view. an Environics poll conducted last fall found that Canadians may indeed be the angriest people among industrialized nations. the poll found that 39 percent of Canadians think their central government hurts the public interest. That figure is higher than the ones from the United States, France, and Germany. Ironically, also last year, the United Nations named Canada the best country in the world in which to live. I have to admit I don’t really get it – the rage, I mean, and the growing dissatisfaction and distrust. It started back with the referendum and hasn’t stopped. Everybody is afraid someone else will get something they’re not getting. Generosity of spirit becomes harder to find. Now that the election is almost upon us, cynicism seems epidemic.

But why is this negativity so pervasive? shouldn’t we fell blessed to be living in Canada?

I see pictures in the paper, and on the TV, news of mothers holding their dying children in Bosnia, Somalia, or India – and then my big lug of a teenager bursts through the door, healthy, well-fed, and happy, heading for the fridge. In New York, the homeless settle down for the night on vents above the subway, hoping for heat; or they bed down on cots in huge converted armories. Through some miracle of chance, my family and I have a secure, warm, dry, cosy house. As fall settles in, we can hear the rain on the roof, but we know inside we are safe. We have blankets. We have warm coats. In southeast Asia, refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia live out their lives in crowded, makeshift camps, waiting for the opportunity to begin a new life, in a new land. But few are chosen. They dream of coming to Canada. For us, this dream is a reality taken for granted – or it’s seen as a nightmare. Outside Manila, in the Philippines, whole communities live on the edge of a garbage dump, scavenging for food and clothing and saleable items. here in Vancouver we wheel our carts around the mega-stores, filling them up with all the food and clothing we can carry.

Certainly, there are people in Canada for whom life is difficult. But even the poor here with access to education, financial assistance, and health care would be considered well off in so much of the world. I guess the old question is the glass half-full or half-empty? This weekend, when you sit down to your turkey dinner, why not see the glass as half-full? Stop arguing politics, stop feeling ripped off. Just be amazed at your luck that in a world of hunger, you’ve got dinner on your table. In a world of war, your country is at peace. In a world of repression, you have a chance to vote in a free election.

Happy Thanksgiving.