The Politics of "Not Fair!", Hudak Style

I was having a moment of pessimism over my books being read but not sold, over my bad finances and bad health, over whether my writing was really good enough, when I turned on the TV news and saw PC Leader Tim Hudak having a xenophobic moment over Premier Dalton McGuinty's promise to provide a $10,000 tax credit to employers who hire immigrants. Hudak voiced the fleeting emotions of resentment and bitterness in my heart and strengthened them -- even though I agree with McGuinty, that something has to be done to help new Canadians (aka "foreign workers" in Hudak speak) to get over that deficit of no Canadian experience.

Basically (Premier) Dalton McGuinty wants to pay companies $10,000 to hire foreign workers when we have half a million people in Ontario today who are looking for jobs,” said Hudak, the grandchild of immigrants. “Unemployed Ontarians know where they stand with Dalton McGuinty. He’s going to pay companies $10,000 to hire anybody but you.” (Jonathan Jenkins and Antonella Artuso, The Toronto Sun, 6 September 2011)

Anger and resentment and bitterness and envy are addictive emotions. They create a bond with other have-nots, others who've built up a lifetime memory of trespasses being done against them, whether trivial or traumatic. They energize a person, give them stories to tell that bring them attention, as even negative attention is better than no attention. They feed upon the soul and perpetuate themselves so that you don't have to do anything to become angry. Anger is always there; blame a faithful companion to envy and bitterness. They become comfortable allies of you against the "other" whoever the "other" is. In Hudak's world it seems to be anyone not Canadian born, not Canadian educated.

The wonderful thing about these emotions is that you don't have to have common cause with another person who harbours them to feel a kinship with them. And because you don't, it's easy for their cause to become your cause. Your bond with them is you versus the "other." You become so used to feeling these feelings that when a leader smiles in sheer joy, when a leader bounces with enthusiasm over what they and you can do together to better everyone including the "other," when a leader talks about collective achievements, it's a shock because it feels so good. It's like coming out of a dark tunnel and blinking in unfamiliar light.

People celebrated Jack Layton because every time he appeared on TV during the last Federal election, he was practically jumping up and down with joy. What a difference to see a politician truly enjoy politics, enjoy the idea of serving Canadians. It made us smile; it made us happy; and it melted resentment and envy in some of us (anger is a hard emotion to let go of). Once melted, who in their right mind would want them back? Hudak apparently.

"Incredibly, (Premier) Dalton McGuinty's priority was to spend taxpayer dollars to the tune of $40,000 a year on scholarships available only to students from another country. Ontario families need not apply," Hudak said Monday. (Antonella Artuso, The Ottawa Sun, 22 August 2011, the day of Layton's death)

And now those of us in Ontario face another election, another round of politicians feeding our anger with those political kind of smiles, with no Layton to act as counterpoint. The "no fair" cries bleed out from Hudak and, like a sneaking wave of water, seep into us, and we mimic, "yeah, that's not fair, I'm out of work too, I need a job too, how come they get help and I don't." Or previously when he whined about education help for foreign students, "yeah, that's not fair, I'm trying to get a university education too, I need to pay my tuition bills too, how come they get help and I don't." Both of these ideas drowning the fact that Canadians get lots of help to find jobs (or get a post-secondary education) -- if we only ask for it from friends, family, neighbours, community programs, and not just the government. Canadians have established networks to draw upon, which new immigrants don't have. And it's a good thing to learn from others and to pass on our knowledge and beliefs to others in foreign lands.

Maybe it's difficult to ask for help, to acknowledge we can learn from a furreigner; maybe we don't see the help we are receiving -- and those feelings of inadequacy rise into a wave of resentment when we see others seeking help and using it well to make their lives better, unlike us, especially when they are being tossed around more and finding it harder to stand on solid ground than we are.

Xenophobia is obnoxious. Do we really want to follow Hudak down that road? Do those of us who lauded Layton's example and repeated his words of hope, optimism, love ad nauseum while everyone else was too, want to then turn our backs on them and espouse Hudak's theme of envy, pessimism, hate? I don't, and I especially don't want a leader feeding on my low mood of the moment and strengthening it into a permanent state of being.