Saturday, October 10, 2015

Plane flights, Canadians, Envy and Ingratitude

There are some 8 billion people on the planet today.  7 billion are doing pretty well.  Apparently only a few hundred million are faced with daily uncertainty about food and life. The majority of us should be very thankful.  Never before have so many people lived in such security and well being for so long.  Only a hundred or two years ago there were relatively few people and most lived rather short lives in far worse conditions.
I loved learning that people thought at the time of Columbus, 1492, that Europe was overpopulated.  The scientific revolution,  advances in agriculture, scale and even politics have lead to quite miraculous possibilities. The potential  today for people as a whole and the planet in particular were unimaginable a generation or two ago.
Ownership of a bicycle alone can be critical to success in the Third World.  Such a simple piece of technology transforms the impoverished to relative wealth by extending their household ‘import/export’ radius.  In 1987 I  learned of the revolution in transport and what it meant to civilization when I watched the Checkoslovakian Pavillion panoramic movie exhibit at the World Exhibition in Vancouver Canada.  Recently this has been reviewed.   Ownership of a car alone moves a person from the lower classes to the middle classes.  The intermediary ‘stage’ between bicycle and car ownership was the ability to ‘rent’ a seat on a bus or car.  Indeed those who had even travelled by motorized vehicles were superior in wealth and education to others.  Some 7 billion had had access to bicycle and half that to cars and car ownership.  A billion or more had flown while only millions or less had relative ownership of plane transport.
Amazing! I’m like so many in the first world.  Ungrateful.  Here I am flying yet again, for the countless time, irritated that tele transportation hasn’t arrived to reduce my frustration with the minimal lineups and security checks.
My parents were wealthy by world standards. They owned a car and a truck.  We travelled back and forth across Canada as a family by train. My father who had been in the Royal Canadian Air Force made sure his sons had their first flight in the back seat of a Cub before they were even teens.  I remember complaining in the back seat of that Piper Cub that my brother sitting next to me had a ‘better’ seat.   Envy is a close second to Ingratitude among the rich and civilized.  I’ve met many who I went to school with and they actually complain that they were ‘poor’.  Some were definitely richer.  But the whole neighbourhood I grew up in was rich in peace and stability and education. Parents had autos and kids had bicycles.
By my twenties I was taking jet trips across Canada to visit family. In my early 20’s I’d even fly from Canada across the Atlantic.  I bought a  bicycle there and bicycled Europe and  bused  in Morocco, Northern Africa.  
Buckminister Fuller, the American genius,  invented of the Geodesic Dome.  I had seen this in 1967 at America's World Fair exhibit in Montreal.  The Russian Sputnik was there.  I grew up watching Star Trek on television. I witnessed the NASA space flights, the moon landing and the Soviet Space Station missions.  Now I take my iPhone GPS app essentially for granted..
I was a fly - in doctor in Northern Canada using De Havilland Beaver Bush Planes and Cessnas as my weekly taxi service.  Often I’d fly in a DC3 the great workhorse plane of WWII as well.  Naturally I just did these things. Didn’t everyone? I’m still a little surprised when I meet someone who hasn’t flown in a plane, especially if I’m in Canada.
We take so much for granted.  I so commonly live in pursuit of my next dream.  I’m fixated on the future with memories more often of failures and resentments than the honest recollection of the amazing successes I’ve known,  the extraordinary life so many Canadians have available to them..
I loved that Bill Gates, the American billionaire philanthropist, stated that his greatest fortune was being born in the Pacific Northwest.
Naturally I was equally blessed to be born in Canada to the parents I had with the incredibly brilliant older brother.  I grew up in a suburb by the university.  It was normal for my classmates to mostly want to go to university.  We were middle class by Canadian standards but by world standards privileged upper class in deed. I’m often amused that Canadian ’standards of poverty’ would be considered luxury in some of the countries and regions I’ve visited and worked.  My ‘homeless’ patients complain about the ’shelters’ they live in and the amazing meals that charity provides. When I’ve volunteered at church kitchens I’ve been glad to later eat the meals I was dishing out. Better than I often eat.  The ’shelters’ are lacking by Canadian standards but I’ve been where 20 people shared a room smaller than the bachelor I had for myself in medical school.  
Canadians as a class are the worst complainers.  It’s the consumer society for sure.  Television.  Greed. Envy.  The search for something outside to fullfil the inner lacking. The loss of community. The spiritual bankruptcy.  There’s never enough.
I’m driving a glorious Mazda Miata M5 sportscar. I love this car. It’s utterly perfect for me and the fulfillment of a lifetime of longing.  It’s the MG I couldn’t afford as a young medical student bought by the old man in his 60’s.  The television and internet ever shows me  more expensive sports cars. There’s a Corvette, a Porche, and a Aston Martin in the parking lot where I work.  There are Honda Civics there too but who looks at those.   By education, I’m in the top 1% of the world. The woman owning one of the faster more expensive cars I know is academically stupid by comparison.  She was ’smart’ in marriage.  I don’t compare myself to her by any more than her car . I am more likely to compare myself educationally with the fellow who is higher on the rung than me.  Indeed I feel stupid compared to my younger colleague, a behavioural neurologist. I don’t even know what car he drives.  I doubt he cares. Yet I know the other man who owns the richest fastest car in the parking lot is much older than me. He envies me my youth.
We all fly. We all talk about our trips across the country or overseas. Lots of friends fly to Vegas or Mexico without thinking it’s anything to write home about. They skip the air fliight and focus their sharing on the beach, museums or exotic restaurants.   I share in passing which countries I’ve been too. We compare the long lists we’ve ‘collected’ . Country comparing is a bit like  we compared the ’sports cards’ we collected as boys.
We haven’t a clue really about the Impoverished lives of others who grew up in crowded hungry homes not even fortunate enough to share a bicycle.
I just believe it’s hard for people who have flown to another country for vacation to realize that by world standards that makes them at very least upper middle class, especially if they’ve also ever owned a car.  Most all of the Canadians I know are ‘upper class’ by world standards. They don’t know it.  They’re too busy complaining.
Perhaps it’s this election year with it’s constant hyperbole and hypocrisy.  I can’t help but hear the song, “You don’t have to dress like a refugee!” going round in my head whenever I listen to the professional ‘victims’ .  CBC news is always there to help them hawk their wares. . They’re like the Canadian “beggars" who stand beside the street with dogs and Starbucks coffees ($5) and signs ‘begging’ for food.  I work in the the Downtown East Side of Vancouver.  The amount of food available for the poor at times appears like it would feed a small country.  The food waste in the cities of Canada could feed a nation.   Daily we disparage our lot and complain of our declining wages and increases costs.  It’s true. Inflation is a bitch. I once wrote a lament for the billionaire who had to come home and tell his wife they were millionaires because he’d lost their fortune in the recent deflation.
I don’t drive a Corvette.  My friend drives a BMW. She doesn’t eat out in restaurants. Everyone in Canada makes choices.  We have a potpourri of choices.  Even the immigrants who complain of not finding work in Vancouver or Toronto refuse to consider working in the north where Canadians such as myself did long  and cold harsh service.  When we moved south we  found there was no affordable housing.  Foreign speculators had stolen our heritage.   But owning a house is a ‘luxury’ for most in the world especially  those wanting a house in ‘prime’ locations.  I  simply can’t afford it and still have choice. My friends have become indentured servants (slaves) to their mortgages, praying their ‘investments’ hold.
When Canadians complain ad infinitum about their government, wanting to get rich quick and have Hollywood success,  I remember that most people’s success I know is tied to family. It’s especially a product of discipline and hard  long work.  Half my medical school class were the children of doctors.  So many of my friends, second and third generation immigrant, are a product of the sacrifice of the parents and  their deep sustaining family values. We only bought my first car at 25 years of age. I couldn’t afford it alone.  I didn’t buy my first ’new’ car till I was a doctor in my 30’s.
I spent altogether 24 years in education all the while having jobs to maintain my educational pursuit.  My first job at 12 was shovelling snow. My payment was 50 cents. I was doing well when I made a dollar an hour which was better than delivering papers which my friends did at the same age. Baby sitting was 50 cents an hour and poor pay for the difficulties containing the little beasts till their parents return.  Cutting lawns for an hour at 50 cents to a dollar was good child wage when minimum wage was $5/hour.
So I’m flying again across Canada. This will be bout the 10th time I’m accompanied by my Cockapoo Gilbert.  He’s a a  "Jet Cockapoo." Not a "jet setter". Even our dogs are rich by any standards.  Regardless of who has lead this country of Canada we’ve been a rich nation.  We’ll continue to be wealthy for  a good time to come thanks to our natural resources and the competence and diversity of Canadians.
I just wish I had more gratitude and less envy.  Ingratitude and envy are so intrinsically Canadian.  We take so much for granted.  People talk about Canadians as polite.  But mostly we’re envious and ungrateful.  We love to disparage Americans too.
I want to celebrate my country, celebrate this life and all the wonders and blessings I’ve known thanks in most part simply because I had the good fortune to be born in Canada.  It takes another plane flight to remind me that those who have been blessed to be able to have flown are the annointed, the blessed, the privileged, the success stories.
I know it’s not the space shuttle.  I don’t even own the plane.  But I’m a Canadian.  Poor me.

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