Monday, January 02, 2006
Canada Being Killed by Kindliness
But then the kindliness set in.
How harsh and condescending it was, we were told, to treat these poor incoming people with brutal demands that they earn a living.
We must help and assist them, make them feel at home, make them feel wanted.
We were kindly in other ways. We were much kindlier to school children, for instance.
In the bad old days, we actually strapped kids if they misbehaved.
We made them write really crucial exams; and we actually made them repeat the year if they failed them.
We were particularly unkind to convicted criminals. Prisons were unpleasant places.
Sensible people were somewhat frightened by the police. To most children, the huge constable, with his ramrod back, riding his bicycle and looking coldly on everything around him, was an object for terror.
Our language was unkind in other ways. People who wouldn't work were called "bums." People who drank too much were called "drunks." People who promised and didn't deliver were called "scumbags." People who shaded the truth were called "liars," and people who took things that didn't belong to them were called "thieves."
In sum, we had a pessimistic view of human nature, based upon our inborn prejudice that's the way the world is.
"Exactly," said the reformers. "And the only way to change the world is to change the way we treat people. If you're nice to people, then people will be nice to you."
Well, we knew this was often true. But it was also often untrue, and we also knew that, to depend on an unfailing reciprocal "niceness" was dangerous, because those who are prepared to exploit our "kindliness" could very soon render the whole community uninhabitable.
Anyway, the reformers prevailed, and that explains what's going on in Toronto.