Sunday, June 2, 2013

So much wrong, so little good? - the Peter O'Connor commentary

Our failings mount daily, while our achievements seem smothered by the constant torrent of bad news, conjecture and rumour. And we have arrived at a state where we even mock our achievements.

Sometimes I think that the advent of the “e-Age” has turned us into single-line cynics who embrace the convenience of attacking everything in our facebook threads. This status seems to have removed to need to think things through, and to try to develop informed opinions.

The first thing we hear or read we take as fact! The blogs are bombarded with “look at that!”, “you see t’ing!”, but nobody asks whether it is the truth, or where this information came from. And of course the two sides lie to us about each other constantly, and we oblige them both by taking their basket, and writing blog threads where we rant against them, and against each other.

Why are we wasting our energy in this non-productive mauvais-langue? 

While I agree that our politicians are shameful and shameless, our constant attacking, in the protected fields of face book, every statement made or initiative taken, is not going to change them or anything. And I use the word “protected” regarding facebook, because our venting there seems to preclude any need or sense of responsibility to get up, get out, and actually work to change these things which we pretend are offending us.

But it is not just in our politics that we embrace our failings. Our bureaucracy, our methods and activities—like traffic management, waste disposal, Customs and Immigration procedures, every encounter with every government office, brings a ranting post about how third world we are. And every piece of apparently efficient activity noted in the First World, brings our expressions of horror about how backward we are in comparison.

And even when something is announced or initiated which is clearly beneficial the immediate reactions are laced with skepticism and angry cynicism. “Who will get the contract?”; “Let’s wait and see them screw this up as well”, and the like. We are calling down failure upon our institutions and upon ourselves. 

While our governments have given us every reason to doubt them and their intentions, it cannot be good for us, or right for us to be so constantly and instantly condemnatory of every single thing. And these angry reactions give us nothing to build upon, lead us nowhere out of the abyss of corruption, incompetence and indifference where we are currently mired.

It seems we love the bad news! The burning Beetham dump, schoolchildren murdering each other, medical waste dumped somewhere, the traffic —we revel in all of this! Better yet when it comes from “Foreign”, and you know, if it comes from foreign, it bound to be true! Except if “foreign” praises us, then we want to know what happen to them, like they have been fooled as well. 

We delight that some agency puts us on a blacklist, or publishes travel advisories against us. “You see! They right! We deserve this!” We wallow in the condemnation of others, and all of this wallowing is holding us back.

Listen, you can take your children to Disneyland or to the Boston Marathon, and have them blown to smithereens by mad Americans. Or they can be gunned down in school, movies and malls. Everywhere in the world threats exist, horrors happen; but we have conditioned ourselves to believe that it is only here that we are corrupt, violent and worthless.

At what point might we begin to understand what we are doing to ourselves? And indeed who among us — whether individual or organisation — will attempt to lead us out of this misery in which we have wrapped ourselves? When will we recognise our value, and take pride in what we have, what we have done, that is truly “ours”. 

Physical and tangible values, like our islands’ natural and built wonders; and values that are abstract like our arts and cultures? Values indeed for which many of us actually harbour a sense of shame, an embarrassment that they are not “like away”. We are more inclined to boast to returning relatives that we now “have” Pricesmart, and Haagen Daz and Wendy’s, than to boast about Asa Wright, Veni Mange or Coco-belle.

And yet, in my tenure at the Asa Wright Nature Centre I meet and relate with hundreds, possibly thousands, of visitors from North America and Europe, who see so much beauty in our land, our buildings, our customs and our cultures.

Our mission, as I see it, is to develop some pride in the good that we are, and in the good that we do. Then, these values will begin to prevail, and we may yet save ourselves from where we are going.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai