Wednesday, September 16, 2009

bad things happen . . .

There was a short piece on the radio this morning about white collar crime. They interviewed a woman who had been defrauded, and (particularly after just learning that the latest ponzi scheme perpetrator was someone from my hometown) I really felt bad for her. She obviously felt betrayed and wounded by a person who she’d trusted. But then she said something that made me pause – she said “I always told my kids that if you are a good person, good things will happen to you, and if you’re a bad person, bad things will happen to you, but that’s not the case here.”

And I thought . . . wait a minute, why would you ever tell your children that? Because that was never the deal. Whatever justice may mean on a human or more divine scale, history has not given us any indication that good things happen to good people, and vice versa. Jesus got crucified, Martin Luther King Jr. got shot, and Nelson Mandela spent an awfully long time in prison. Kanye West is a superstar with legions of fans.

It seems to me that having a worldview based on good and bad being doled out on a quid pro quo basis is dangerous. Because what happens when something bad happens to you? There are two possibilities: either a) something bad has happened to you because you are actually a bad person; or b) your worldview was wrong, and even though you are a good person, this will not protect you from bad things happening. Either way, why bother continuing to do good?

So, I don’t know what you should tell your children (maybe I should add moral philosophy to my fun fall reading list, along with feminist theology and development theory ... ), but it seems that if you build your moral framework around the idea that good things happen to good people, you’re going to be ill-equipped to deal with the tragedies and betrayals that are part of life.

Monday, September 14, 2009

election malaise

I try to care about politics – we’re talking about the leadership of my country, after all. I watch the leaders’ debate before every election, and try to be informed of every party’s platform and vote based on what they are promoting, rather than on a knee-jerk reaction based on general party ideology.

But, as the Globe and Mail and the CBC start to talk election, my gut reaction is “I’m so bored!” I am so tired of elections and, just like the one at this time last year, I can’t see that this one is necessary. The polls suggest we are still in a conservative-minority holding pattern, and neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals are talking about any big ideas that would change business as usual.

When this election gets called, I will see what they each have to say, and I will go and vote, because I believe that it’s part of my responsibility as a citizen in a democratic country. But I’m not happy about it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

look up

The annual Gatineau hot air balloon festival took place over the Labour Day weekend. What this means is that, if you happened to be biking to foreign affairs at about 7:15 each morning, there were dozens of silent splashes of colour drifting by or bobbing in and out of view between the buildings, depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Hot air balloons are magical – they sneak up on you from behind the trees and make you look up. I’ve been wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase every day, working long hours (I was biking to the office at 7:15 am every day during the Labour Day weekend . . .) and I haven’t had much time to reflect on anything beyond my work. My morning ride along the river, against a backdrop of splashes of colour behind the half-finished apartment buildings, has kept me looking up. And looking up makes me breathe a bit deeper, and keeps me grounded in a world that is bigger than the four corners of the daily grind.