Letter: Just Society

Tuesday, August 9 2016

Dear Editor:

I’ve been reading the letters and listening to the thoughts of people regarding the Potlach density proposal. I can’t pretend to really understand the complexities of zoning either provincial or Islands Trust - and I don’t have the financial wherewithal to hire a lawyer to explain the intricacies to me.

Kit Szantos’ letter contained a phrase that jumped out at me and energized me to pen this missive.

Kit noted that: It is true that many of us feel uncomfortable about the apparent power of great wealth to do things the rest of us can never do. However, focusing on this seems likely to avoid the more important issue.

Actually, I think this is the more important issue. Buried in this statement is the theme that it’s okay for people of great wealth to do things that are not available to the rest of us – the apparently other 99 per cent. 

I’m watching this theme being played out in the current American election. The debate occurring in the Republican Party and its wealthy mascot Donald Trump is, for me, a perfect example of this arrogant use of wealth to attempt to gain what is usually labelled by Americans as the most powerful position in the world. This drive for wealth and power rarely seems to result in a good outcome for the majority of people.

This use of money to “do things the rest of us can never do” while people all over the world are dying from hunger, living in refugee camps, living on the streets, unable to access quality education or healthcare, carries with it a sense of social vulgarity. 

Pope Francis, a man whose voice I hear as thoughtful and aware, recently said that it was “violence and the social injustice and idolatry of money that were among the prime causes of terrorism.” 

He further said “terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made a god and it, instead of the person, is put at the centre of the world economy.” Gandhi famously proclaimed that poverty is the worst form of violence.

Pierre Trudeau eminently spoke of his idea of a just society. He said, “For me this beautiful, rich and energetic country of ours can become a model of the just society.” 

Canada is based on the ideal of a “just society.” This concept of a just society seems to preclude the concept that money puts some people above others and allows them to “do things the rest of us can never do.”

Why is it, I wonder, when people who have more wealth than they can possibly use, are allowed to “do things the rest of us can never do.” 

To me, this attitude does not seem to be helpful to the ongoing creation of a “just society.”

~ Stephen O’Neill