PC leader Hudak takes aim at the poor

By Pat Watson Wednesday January 23 2013 in Opinion
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By PAT WATSON

 

One of the iconic postures of Buddha is that of reclining. That posture specifically indicates the state of readiness for nirvana, or paradise. In a world where people make themselves important by announcing how busy they are, it can be appalling that some people prefer being, rather than doing. Yet, there is Buddha signaling that just being can be a happy place.

 

During a recent television interview, American singer and actress Barbra Streisand noted – and I’m paraphrasing here – that what the mass of us do in life is to escape into busyness. Sitting still, or just being, is so disliked that we no longer have a commonly designated day of rest.

 

The drive for busyness means that some banks are now open on Sundays. Not every religion deems Sunday as the divinely designated day of rest, so fine, banks are open on Sundays. And if your Sabbath is on a Saturday, you can feel justified.

 

But there is a larger ethos at play, which is to foster more and more busyness.

 

People who prefer to spend time being, rather than doing over much, are given a particular denigrating label in today’s world enchanted with industriousness: They are called “lazy”. In today’s world “lazy” is a slur. A day can be lazy and that in our current culture is allowable, but a lazy person not so.

 

After emancipation in the United States, at the point when Black people would then have to be paid a wage for their labour, there emerged the image of the lazy, happy-go-lucky Negro. Among all those millions of Africans who paid the ultimate price after being captured and shipped wholesale to America precisely because of their capacity to do hard labour, many were now recast as being lazy, so that that their efforts could be considered worthless, which would then justify paying them little and sometimes nothing.

 

Time and again the image of the lazy person is evoked to make “hardworking” people feel better about themselves. The subtext is that lazy people, those who don’t want to work, are morally deviant.

 

A politician seeking your vote can rally the support of the hardworking and struggling by summoning up reference to those morally reprehensible types. That makes the rest of us feel better about what needs to be done to make society better.

 

“Yes,” comes the refrain, “let’s punish those people living off the benefits of our labour. Why should they live the lazy life benefiting from our labour, our taxes?”

 

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak went that route last week, when he held a news conference outside a Ministry of Education building and declared that able-bodied persons receiving welfare for three years or more should be sanctioned in some way. His idea is to cut back in stages the $606 monthly support they receive.

 

The question then becomes, if a person is unemployed for up to three years, is it because they are more committed to living a life of laziness or is there something else happening in that person’s life?

 

And if that person is in fact committed to a life of being rather than doing, what is it to the rest of us how that person chooses to live?

 

Someone whose opinion I value observed recently that it seems as if conservative politicians hate the poor.

 

We are not all made the same. If we were, as much as we would like to all be in agreement, life would be stalled and stale. It would be intolerable.

 

But the other side of the coin regarding Hudak’s pronouncement is the question of employment opportunities. A person with a master’s degree may have a hard time finding the kind of job where those years of study and training could best be used. What is Hudak’s answer for that problem? He has a master’s degree in economics and if he were not employed in politics and couldn’t find a job that uses his training and education investment what would he be doing?

 

A note on a fracture prediction…

 

It’s fun to create the usual “dusty crystal ball” January predictions for the year to come, always with tongue in cheek. So it was amazing that after satirically predicting that coltan, a rare earth mineral, would be discovered in the Caribbean, news came out of Jamaica that rare earth minerals are being investigated in the bauxite tailings in Jamaica. This holds the promise of a rebirth of the mining industry in Jamaica, which has fallen off severely in recent years.

 

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