Follow by Email

Search This Blog

Saturday, May 16, 2009

blessed are the feet of them that bring good news

a.k.a. don't shoot the messenger

i did some evangelizing today. what began as a seemingly innocent discussion of the local economy with my daughter's significant other today transmogrified into a session on my soapbox.

we live in a small (50 - 55 thousand souls) northern city that has seen a lot of boom and bust cycles. it's in an area that's rich in oil and gas, surrounded by forest that's among the best in the world for pulp and paper production, as well as lumber, first settled by farmers who discovered it's a pocket of rich agricultural land a zone or 2 warmer than other places this far north. during the depression that followed the 2nd world war, this area was not as hard hit by drought, economic downturn and food shortages as were other parts of North America. partly because the climate is moderated by our location between mountains and prairie, with lots of lakes and rivers, partly because the economy has always been so diversified, and partly because the inhabitants were self sufficient pioneer stock who knew how to keep things solvent with very little in the line of cash.

i'm not convinced there are many here today who could manage as well. it seems to be all about money now. so when the gentleman in question, who is head of a fairly large communications company here, asked me if i thought the local/regional economy was in trouble, he probably expected me to agree with his view that things are going down the toilet, and that would be that. he didn't expect a dissertation on how the wealth of the community was being sucked out by the big oil and lumber companies, and the big box stores. he didn't expect to be told that a community's wealth isn't measured in dollars and cents. he didn't expect (or enjoy) being told that the premise that exponential financial growth is the only marker of a business's success, was dangerously flawed. they live in a big house that they bought new about 5 years ago, in a trendy new neighborhood. they drive new vehicles, and trade up frequently. take lots of holidays to the tropics. he didn't like being asked "why? how much do you need?" when he said he wanted to make more money, have a bigger house.

none of this was particularly heated, it was all very civilized and polite. he's a kind man, who is very good to my daughter, granddaughter, and the rest of the family. he's a good neighbor. he recycles, pays all his bills promptly, and is considered by his employees to be an excellent boss. he's putty in the hands of a child, has pets who are treated like they're his own beloved children. he cooks! he cleans! a really sweet guy. just very materialistic, with no social conscience beyond his own doorstep.

i think there's a crack in the polished veneer, though. he's applied for a senior position in the fire department. says he thinks he might want to do something more 'worthwhile and satisfying'.

but i'm not putting the soap box away.


Seraphine said...

well, as long as he recycles.
and i've always been a believer that if you work hard, you deserve the rewards that come from work.
and if you want a big house or a trip to the tropics, that's your choice.
i'm also believe one shouldn't become stupid with money. nor obsessed over it.
i believe one shouldn't become a burden upon others.
and people should use less.
and everyone should recycle.

susan said...

There are a few good things about the bust side of boom times and among them are seeing how quickly people learn how to cope with a novel (for them) situation. Your soap box routine didn't sound like such a rant to me under the current circumstances.

A couple of weeks ago we rewatched 'Never Cry Wolf' the wonderful film based on Farley Mowatt's excellent book. The main character was a smart young man bred for an entirely different lifestyle from the one he was dropped into one late March afternoon on an icy lake on the Canadian tundra. He definitely had some presuppositions about how he'd cope that were quickly stripped away.

Maybe you could have a copy available to watch next time they drop by for a visit. Your daughter's companion sounds as if he'd understand.

gfid said...

sera - yes, work deserves rewards. ...but another facet of the conversation in discussion went something like this....
"He: my first priority is to take care of my family.
I : absolutely. that's honorable and responsible - but do you want to do it at the expense of other peoples' families? Wealth and comfort aren't 'evil'. it's the wealth that's got at the expense of exploited people and communities , with no thought to long term sustainability that's the problem. "

and distribution of wealth seldom has much to do with how hard we work, sadly, hard work doesn't always guarantee that even basic needs will be met. sometimes the people who become a 'burden' have tried very hard not to be.

su - i've read Farley Mowatt's book, 'Never Cry Wolf', (and most of his other books) but haven't actually seen the movie made from it. i was living in Dawson City at the time they were filming the scene where he wanders, naked through the caribou herd. the fellow who played Mowatt (forgotten his name.... he was also in American Graffiti) used to hang out @ the Gold Room, where i worked that summer, when they were trying to find the caribou herd or the weather was too bad to shoot. we had a long, rainy spell that summer, and it took them forever to locate the caribou. National Geographic was there that summer too, wanting to do a story on the caribou, and having the same problem.... you'd think a herd of thousands of animals the size of a deer would be hard to miss, and they had a fleet of planes and helicopters looking for them, but it took weeks to find them. then they lucked out and located them traveling right on the Dempster Highway! so there the were, filming madly during a small window of decent-ish weather, with ....Charlie, i think his name was.... dashing around in his alltogether, when a tribe of migratory Winnebagos joined them and began to make a photo shoot of their own. on his next visit to the Gold Room (a tourist info thing about the gold rush) Charlie told us about it, more than a little embarassed. (pardon the pun)

maybe i'll suggest it for next Tuesday's family movie night.

susan said...

That's a pretty cool story. I checked the dvd and his name's Charles Martin Smith who I think should have received an Academy Award for his performance - never mind the film itself being subtle, yet perfect. Two cultures bumping up against each other, the problem of the young tribe members caught between two worlds, the beautiful wolves and the absolutely magnificent landscape. Yes, I really think you should see it and I'm one who never looks forward to seeing my favorite books rendered on film.

Seraphine said...

i agree with you totally. hugs!

Seraphine said...

he's a kind man, a good neighbor. he recycles, pays all his bills promptly. he's putty in the hands of a child. he cooks! he cleans! he's a really sweet guy.i'm struck, after a mass murder, by how neighbors describe the killer in television interviews: he was quiet, he was kind, he was a good neighbor, he paid his bills.

(just an random, inappropriate observation)

gfid said...

su - charlie was a nice boy. he was great in american graffiti too

sera - now there are chills running down my spine..... you did that on purpose, didn't you.....?!