It came as a kind of plaintive cry from one of the most upright members of the Canadian Senate. I've known Jim Munson for a number of years, and always when he spoke in Ottawa people from all sides would listen because, well, he carried a sense of gravitas. He raised his voice again yesterday, knowing in advance it would be drowned out in all the hoopla. He said, simply on Twitter, "I recognize there are a lot of Senate issues, but today I spoke again about the need for a national autism awareness strategy. The federal government must act."
For the entire time I have known Jim Munson he has spoken to this issue as a faithful witness to the struggles of autism. But he's right: what does it matter in a world of bluster, bravado and betrayal? Munson might as well be yelling against the heavens. Yet, for millions of Canadian families acquainted with the challenges of autism the spectacle that is now Ottawa is a deeply tragic unfolding that shows little interest in the truly human, other than for political advantage.
Those families remind us of an undying truth, one that we all understand very well: It is in life's inefficiencies that we discover true meaning. Things like love, adventure, forgiveness, friendship, children, writing or painting, even public service, have never been an exact science or a rigid ideology, but about life and living, mistakes and oversights, character and overcoming. I can't tell you how much money I have spent on my seven children that was never fully actualized. All those clothes, CDs, sports programs, and music lessons -- some of these had benefits, others didn't. And most of the toys purchased for them are long gone.
But how I love them, and how my inefficiencies revealed my deeper need of them. All that money spent in Africa, in attempts to get kids an education, find women a microenterprise, or free people from a life of chattel slavery! In an unlawful African nation in the grips of a civil war, how could efficiencies possibly be fully applied? But we are still there, and following a couple of decades where many things didn't work out, the main things have succeeded and we have lived long enough to witness their fruition. Our very inefficiencies were no match for our Canadian commitment to a better world.
The married couple caring for their aged parents when, in the prime of their lives, they could be travelling, purchasing the things they always wanted, making more money, or getting their dream home. Instead, they hop in the car every day to get medication, buy appropriate food, or even attempt to steal away for a quick movie together in the midst of their lives of remarkable sacrifice and family dedication. It's hardly efficient, but it's the stuff of which humanity is made and it remains deeply inspiring.
We are sandwiched between a corporate world where efficiencies will be pursued until the very last job is taken off the table, and a political system that values our votes more than our quality of life. C. S. Lewis talked about just such a world in hisScrewtape Letters:
"I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern."
For all the Duffys, Harpers, Harbs, Wallins, and Brazeaus, there are the quiet, reasoned and compassionate voices of the Segals, Dallaires and Cowans, and, yes, the Munsons, fighting for the humanity of Canadians instead of the loyalty of their base. They have tackled the political order in both houses and in every party to bring the poor in from the margins, to restore this country's image in the world, to discover and more compassionate healthcare, and to treat aboriginals as our equals, not just in word but deed.
Politics is ruining itself on the altar of efficiency. Of squeezing out every vote through the manipulation of the message. Of dividing Canadians in order to seize power. Of planting people in the Senate to further a party agenda instead of the Canadian dream. Just as with corporatism, the values and compassion of our inefficiencies are being lost in the science of partisanship, and we shouldn't be surprised when both domains are as out of jobs as they are of humanity.
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