When I was eleven or twelve years old, some time in 1957, my family went to a Canadian citizenship ceremony. My mother and father had to answer some questions about Canada to qualify, and presumably responded correctly because from that day forward we were all Canadian citizens. I still have my original citizenship certificate somewhere. My brother, who was eight years old at the time, was already officially a citizen because he was born in Canada, shortly after we arrived from Germany in 1949.
This is 2007, so I guess that means I have been a citizen of Canada for fifty years. Wow.
I like Canada. It has been a good place to grow up, get an education, start numerous businesses, make and lose money, raise a family, and to do all of the things that I wanted to badly enough to make whatever sacrifices were necessary. Life is a lengthy series of exchanges: If we want something, we invest time and energy and/or the money that derives from our actions, into the achievement of that goal. Tit for tat. An exchange of values.
Rarely can anything be achieved without some sort of sacrifice. To attain any level of success, it is usually necessary to prioritize what you want, and to then delay gratification of other desires by postponing or even eliminating some things from your life. That trade off has always seemed perfectly reasonable to me. It is not, however, reasonable to everyone. That's OK. We're all different. What works for me might not work for you, or vice versa. No problem. As long as Joe Futzwutz and Mary Jane Dingbat live their lives without any direct cost to me, thy can do whatever they wish. They can consume everything in sight, buy the biggest cars, the biggest boats, the biggest houses, take the most trips, and party every weekend. When they hit their retirement years though, don't expect me to take care of them. I have spent my working life preparing for the worst. I have delayed gratification, often to the chagrin of my wives, and have tried to make sure that I would never be a burden to society or to my family.
My parents taught me that. My dad laboured at the most back-breaking jobs and my mother washed floors on her hands and knees to support themselves and their family. They only consumed what they could afford, rarely travelled anywhere, packed lunches, eschewed vices like smoking or drinking, and when they retired they had enough money to take care of themselves. They even paid for their funerals and grave sites and had some money left over for their kids. We didn't need it by then. We were taught well.
One of my favourite blogs is written by Jen, at One Plus Two. She works with the homeless. She writes these gripping posts about people she works with and the injustices she sees around her. Often, I read a post of hers and don't even leave a comment because I feel it will just be something trite and meaningless and I don't want to cheapen her passion. Jen has passion by the truckload.
I like passion. In order for any one of us to achieve anything, we have to be passionate. We have to care. We have to want to make a difference. Often, though, the means to the end we desire is what we have trouble agreeing on. That's why the blog cruising we all do is important. We learn about situations we might otherwise not be familiar with. We learn about ideas people have to solve various problems. We learn that not everyone thinks as we do.
Here is my problem: I believe that many of the problems that face people are of their own making and that it is not up to the rest of us to make the problems go away, at least not at the point of a gun. By that, I mean of course proposed political solutions with which I don't agree, via taxation, to problems that may not merit intervention. The gun is always there, believe me. Try not paying your taxes. Sooner or later someone with a gun is going to come to your door.
I have no problem with voluntarily helping anyone. I just like to choose who I am going to help. There are people I would help in a heartbeat. There are others who are guaranteed never to get a penny from me, if I can help it. I want to choose.
Jen appears to deal with many people who can't help where they are. Perhaps they might have a history of mental or physical illness that precludes any possibility of holding down a job. So, let's help them. Where do I sign up? There are others though, those who are the architects of their own misfortune, that I definitely don't want to help. Throwing tax funds at them is a monumental waste of money and only encourages them never to do anything about their plight. They neglected their schooling, got into drug or alcohol abuse, got pregnant without any way to care for their child, and now, as a direct result of their own stupidity, they can't get by. I would help their children, because they are innocent of any wrongdoing and deserve a chance to break out of the life engineered by their parent(s,) but I won't contribute directly to help someone who has behaved like an idiot.
Saturday mornings, after I drop my son off at German School, I often stop at a coffee shop in a rougher area of my city to get some coffee to take to my office. Almost always, there are young parents with young children there. Coffees and doughnuts and hot chocolate for the family will easily cost $10.00 or more. That's $520.00 per year. Cigarettes for both adults will cost at least $15.00 per day, at Canadian prices. That's $5,475.00 per year. By the look of the adults, there was considerable Friday night partying. How much did that cost? Conservatively, probably $50.00. That's another $2,600 per year. Why do I care how these people spend their money? Because the kids are in rags. They need new shoes and perhaps new winter coats. Their teeth need work. And goodness knows how they live at home. Do they eat properly? The grown-ups should make whatever sacrifices are necessary to take care of themselves and their kids: quit smoking, quit boozing, buy the kids some clothes and send them to the dentist. They are their kids. Not mine. Take care of them.
If we have kids, it is our job to raise them responsibly, to give them everything they need (not everything they want) and, to help them achieve a social and economic status better than ours was, and above all, to teach them values. My parents were peasant farmers in Europe, originally. They wanted to succeed, and did, with great sacrifice and hard work. I had to work very hard too, and make many sacrifices, to get to where I am today. My son will have it easier, but I am trying to teach him that regardless of what his station in life will be, he will have to take responsibility for himself and his family and never be a burden to anyone. He is not now, nor should he ever be, anyone else's problem.
Our governments are throwing more money at the problems of the poor and homeless than ever before. I don't see anything getting better, do you? Today's 'poor' have things that I never had and have opportunities that didn't exist years ago, but the will to change, to make a better life for themselves and for their kids, simply isn't there.
When I was growing up, my family sat for years at a table that some other family had discarded. Our living room was furnished with an old couch and chairs that another family had given us. At age seventeen or so, I found an old TV by the road and fixed it up so I could watch the odd television show when I didn't have something better to do, which was almost never. My parents never bought a TV. My brother and I finally bought them a TV so they could watch the occasional nature program. It was seldom turned on. We didn't need television or fancy games or lots of money because we had each other. We cared about each other. We actually talked to each other. My parents not only taught by example, they told us what was right and what was wrong.
This is not a post about me, or about how I feel that I have all the answers. I just get so frustrated knowing that there are real people out there with real problems, and they are not getting the help they need. Why not? Because so many tax dollars are being sucked out of the system to support people who just don't give a shit, and who will be happy to be wards of the state until they die, and then pass that not-so-enviable distinction on to the next generation.
The economic party will be over soon, folks, and there will be far fewer tax dollars to go around then. How are these people going to live?
I don't know.