Economy, Mine Explosion, Westray

Not My Department

I read an article yesterday that discussed the ongoing demise of West Philadelphia. A place once prosperous. Now turned into an Urban kill-zone due in large part to 60 years of Government Spending. If the road to hell was paved with good intentions then West Philly is a Superhighway. When Johnson launched the Great Society in 1964 it was intended to be a hand up for the poor so that they could join the rest of the middle class, to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. And yet here we are 60 plus years later and things have from what I can see have only gotten worse.

I have read much over the years about the ongoing rot and decay that is our modern world. Wondered aloud and to myself what is the cause. There seems to be general malaise, an indifference, that has swept the land. We have lost our way. People everywhere are more focused on where and how this society oppresses, on identity politics and the intersections of oppression heaped on this underclass and others. Instead of focusing on and celebrating merit and individual responsibility we have instead split everyone according to race, gender and the books they read. No longer self-reliant and independent West Philly is what is wrong with liberal world we live in boiled to it’s essence. I am of the opinion that the vast majority refuse to admit things are rotten to the core.  It seems to be the only way to fix it is to tear it down. But we know this won’t happen. Instead it will be a death due to indifference. West Philly will end up hollowed out much like Detroit. Houses left to fall back to ground. The streets taken over once again by trees and wildlife. The bears and raccoon’s the only ones left working for a living.

Liberals everywhere want to throw blame to this, blame to that. They wait with baited breath for next pronouncement from City hall to fix what ails. Yet when someone stands up and says that the people that live there need to somehow take control of their own lives the insults come fast and furious. I’m tired of being called a racist for saying that Black people in West Philly need to stand up. Get a job, Get Married. Buy a house and have a family like adults are supposed to do. The stats prove that these people won’t do this. Black lives will matter when black people decide they matter.

How can I as a white man talk about things to which I know nothing? That is the hue and cry of Social Justice Warriors.  A term I despise. To me it seems pretentious and condescending. And as a traditional, white, middle aged male I am forced to sidelines by these people. Told to endure endless trolls telling me how my oppressing intersects with them. It is difficult to be this person, a member of the patriarchy, when for so much of my life I have been coming to terms with the hand fate dealt me.

I wrestled over the years with inequality of outcome in my life compared to others given same opportunities. I need to add that there were those who did as I did yet luck shone on them and not me. Fate can be cruel but the hard lesson I needed to learn is that if you think you are a victim then you will end being one as well. It wasn’t until after my Grandmother died in the spring of 2000 that I realized that I needed to seize agency rather than seek blame. I was able to transform my life by changing how I saw myself.

I look at my life now. It is in all respects what I wished for as a young man. I have a home, loving wife, family and sons that I am very proud. But it was not always this way. In high school I was like many. I believed in my entitlement. Thought hard work was optional and ended up going to University entrenched in this delusion. It should not have been that way. My Parents and Grandparents worked hard to get to where they were in life. But I was young and like many youth today today felt society had an obligation to provide.

So I waited.

Waited for a politician to come and save the day. My wish ended up being granted. I grew up in Plymouth on outskirts of Stellarton. A town long known for coal mining. Through the 1980`s I had heard rumblings and rumours of a mine. It would end up being built just down the road from where I grew up. Of course as with most projects in Nova Scotia politicians and their cronies had their fingerprints all over it. But they promised 20 years of work with good pay. People like me were excited. We would not have to go down the road after all.

Eventually I did get call. I ended up working in coal lab as a technician doing tests. Not a bad job. I was working less than a month when mine exploded. I was doing the coal dust tests in days preceding May 9th. I have over the years tossed back in forth about who is to blame for this tragedy happening. I have at times blamed myself. Others will console me by saying you did your job. There was nothing you could do.

Then yesterday morning while drinking my coffee I read a blog I follow by Parker Donham. He is pundit who has been doing commentary on Nova Scotia politics for as long as I can remember. He was providing the latest in the on going saga of the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax. The neglect and filth that is the main hospital for our province.

I could not help but think back to the Westray Mine. It too neglected. Not cleaned up. I wonder sometimes if we will ever learn from our mistakes.

We have compartmentalized our vocations so that we can shrug our shoulders when things inevitability go wrong. Then I clicked on link to a video from his post.

Not My Department

By Tom Lehrer
Gather  round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun
A  man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience
Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown
“Ha, Nazi schmazi,” says Wernher von Braun

Don’t say that he’s hypocritical
Say rather  that he’s apolitical
“Once the rockets  are up, who cares where they come down
That’s not my department,” says Wernher von Braun

Some have harsh words for this man of renown
But some  think our attitude should be one of gratitude
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun

You too may be a big hero
Once you’ve learned to count backwards to zero
“In German oder English  I know how to count down
Und I’m learning Chinese,” says Wernher von Braun

I hate to use the term but there are days in my life when everything intersects. When an article from Blogger in Pennsylvania and one from The Island of Cape Breton  speak to me.  The video summed up for me beautifully the tragedy that was and still is for the families that is Westray. Lack of Individual responsibility doomed  a mine. It appears it will also doom a hospital and a city as well.



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