Recently James Moore the Canadian Industry Minister’s comments sparked a wee bit of controversy around the age-old question about care and concern for others. Do we have a duty or maybe even an obligation to help and dare I say it, love our neighbors? I may take some flak for this from the extreme right-wingers, but I believe we do. Sounds like the B.C. MP may as well, now that he’s made an apology. Hey we all say things we regret, we all back ourselves into a corner and we’ve all been where he is at one time or another. So the apology was important, if not necessary. It sounds like Moore’s response once he had taken a closer look at the controversy was genuine. Let’s hope so. At least for his neighbors sake. Makes me wonder though about moral fiber, Utilitarianism, foundational issues and conservative presupposition.

“You running a business or a charity ward?” Remember that? Bet you do. It’s A Wonderful Life. Mr. Potter. “A warped frustrated old man,” said George Bailey. Enough said.

Is it the government’s job — my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so,” Moore said. Technically the scrooge like minister is right. It’s not the government’s or our responsibility I suppose. But when it comes to being at risk who said that two plus two equals four. I don’t think his approach would ever be considered helpful. No matter how fiscally astute. I believe in entrepreneurship and providing for yourself, but where’s the generosity? Where’s the giving spirit? There but for the Grace of greed go I. Or something like that. What about the deep-seated desire to give back to those in desperate need? I find it interesting that the conservative party comes out of evangelical roots – Stockwell Day, Preston Manning and the PM himself all claim to be Christians of various sorts. The Good Samaritan is a parable based on a first principle of those who claim to follow Jesus. Isn’t it ironic, sings Alanis.

An 8th century, Indian, Buddhist scholar Shantideva said that, “All the suffering in the world comes from seeking pleasure for oneself.  All the happiness in the world comes from seeking pleasure for others.” A grandiose claim indeed, but one that we should reflect on now that James Moore has possibly echoed a feeling that is shared by more Canadians and those around the Globe than we would like to admit.  Giving is way down this Christmas significantly. Do we really believe that we should be and in many cases are morally compelled to help others? I don’t think we have to reach all that far from any worldview to say yes. If it is on our power to do good to others then what’s the downside? Peter Singer wrote about this in his brilliant essay, Famine Affluence and Morality.

I pulled into a parking lot recently amid a lot of rain and quite a bit of commotion. A group of men were walking behind another guy who was clearly trying to get away from this Oakville posse. A fight ensued. Punches were thrown. A fair bit of language exchanged.  All this happened right in front of a bulk barn. I overheard a woman; as she leaned out of her car window for a better look, call the police. I watched as I walked. And thought this kind of thing never happened near where I lived (note the tone and hyperbole) and headed into one of the nearby shops. Lots more to tell, but the short story is that some moron was angry about a parking spot a young woman “stole” from him and he then punched her in the face. Very nice indeed. Do humans do that kind of thing to each other? (Note more tone and hyperbole) Remarkable how some folks behave? Is Christmas really that stressful? Tis the season. I want to know what’s really behind that kind of behavior? A little anger to be sure, but what about moral fiber, presupposition and so on? It makes a difference the Worldview you come from. Is it riddled with self-indulgence self-absorption, and self-worth? Or is it self for others? When you see someone turn on their indicator light do you speed up or slow down and let them in? What does it mean to be wisely selfish, as the Dalai Lama has suggested. Sage advice. He says that to be truly happy one must put the needs of others before their own. We all have the time for this kind of an approach, but it appears that many of us lack the right attitude.

This Christmas, Conservative cabinet ministers are having a hard time staying out of trouble.  Justice Minister Peter MacKay criticized judges for dodging new rules requiring them to impose financial penalties on folks convicted of crimes recently. The Crown feels like they have a right to waive fees and fines if an offender is so poor that they are not able to pay the imposed penalties. Mackay’s solution is for these folks to sell off some of their property.

Justice minister eh? Tricky. Isn’t it ironic? Thanks Alanis.

In a similar story the Globe and Mail recently reported on the rules struck down by the 9-0 verdict of Canada’s most influential court.  It’s a law that puts vulnerable people – mostly women – at risk. A stance that seems to prefer others over Others. Apparently some others are more valuable than other others. I know a little confusing, but it’s a law that seems to privilege men over women in many cases. Intentional or not we’re talking here about choices or lack thereof. Listen I’m not arguing in favor of prostitution. What I’m talking about is protection for those who are vulnerable and at risk. That’s it. Seems like this Christmas some of us are a little more self-absorbed than usual.

Have your opinions. Do your thing, but our collective attitude sometimes astounds me. Isn’t it time to put others first, at least, some of the time?

Do we really need any more reasons to think about ourselves?

Oh yeah and keep it all out of my backyard.

DP – 12-2013