Jonathan Brun

Wealth and Poverty

The problems that face the average Canadian, American, French or any western citizen are rarely life threatening or of great proportions. Long ago are the days when people were genuinely worried about their security, food, or their shelter being taken from them. There remains tremendous poverty in the western world, children who go to school hungry and face aggression and violence in their neighborhoods, homes and schools. While we cannot forget the less fortunate, we must cherish what we have built. By and large, we have developed as a society to such a point, that the thought of being drafted for war, waiting in bread lines or being sent to prison is a thought only entertained at the movies.

Society is approaching a point where nearly everyone was born in a post-WWII world. And while there have been wars since, non have demanded the sacrifices that were needed to defeat fascism. My generation’s main concerns are the cars they will own, jeans they will wear and the size of their homes. Complaints are so disproportionate with the situation it is difficult to comprehend. The past fifty years have been the best in human history. Never has such a period of decadence and stability been accessible to such a large percentage of the population.

We need to remind ourselves of this truth everyday. When we forget the lack of historical precedence, we lower ourselves to the level of materialism, superficiality and irrelevance. I do not propose that we give up our nice, safe cars, cottage homes or all-inclusive trips to Tijuana; only, that we understand that in our daily lives we are rarely in a situation that is either serious or worth fighting over. Of course we still get cancer, perish in accidents, lose family, go bankrupt and face serious issues; but on a general level, our society has a stability and level of wealth never before seen in the history on mankind.

We must cherish the family we have, the friends we know and avoid confrontation over who gets the front seat, the best table at the club, or the new toy. We, as a society, need to stop complaining about the small problems we may have and start solving the big ones. I will never propose complacency and I will be the first to tell you that our current consumption level and lifestyle is not sustainable.

It is therefore our responsibility to future generations to solve our real problems; degradation of the environment, human rights, and most importantly, education. We have the technology and the manpower to accomplish great things if only we did not spend the time we do dwelling on consumption, the noise of your next-door neighbor, the friend who said something stupid. Education on matters such as environment, homelessness, domestic violence, and other social issues should have a place along our children’s English, Math and History classes. It is not enough to teach the past, we must inform them of the necessary steps to conquer our future.

Developing countries such as China and India will never see the level of wealth that we enjoy in Canada. The simple mathematics of resources dictates that we cannot all have cottages, two cars, and unlimited drinking water. However, with proper technology and better social education, these western privileges will be accessible to many people. What I hope to confer from this brief piece is that we must take everything with a grain of salt. When you get upset of a friend’s intonation or language, a bad driver, or a impolite bank teller; take a breath and think not of a child starving in Africa, but rather of the security and wealth that our western society has. In our world, our problems are not of the most dangerous nature and in many cases, it is all just a game.

Published on February 26, 2006