What are the limits?


What are the limits?

FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, November 27, 2003


You will remember Robert F. Kennedy say during his campaign in 1968 before he was killed that "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not" We all have at various time consider that all things are possible. This was especially true in the 1960s when the attitudes of not just young people, but the general public, had a much more open attitude toward expanding, innovating and attempting what was seemingly beyond. It was this attitude that seemed to have emerged for perhaps as much as a hundred years during what is now referred to as the renaissance when writers, artists and scientists pursued the "why not attitude" and this resulted in amazing developments.




Ever since the election of Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher there has been this remarkable imposition on all things that there has to be limits. Some call this conservatism, but I think that term is applied incorrectly since the man who was best known for "conservatism" was Benjamin Disraeli and he invoked a spirit of saving those things that were good in society and changing those things which must be changed. This would suggest the closed minded thinking that has been not only the guiding light of so many recent politicians, but academics as well, is much more limiting, a kind of perception that change is our enemy and that in science, art and literature we need to consider change as an enemy and progress as some sort of imposed confrontation to what is.




A year ago Roy Romanow really worked hard listening to people and determining what Canadians thought about publicly funded Medical Care and he summed up his findings in a report. At the time political leaders nodded their collective heads and followed up their nods with inaction. I suspect that he and all of us who shared the opinions in that report and poles tell us that this would included most Canadians, are feeling more than a little disappointed, that this well thought out direction and set of recommendations, has been nothing more than window dressing for the status quo.




Yesterday, Regina's board that directs Regina Public Library (they call themselves the RPL) announced that it was closing three of its branches in the less affluent parts of Regina and will shut down the Library's art gallery. This is at a time when Regina is one of the country's worst communities when it comes to crime. The city has experienced and continues to experience, continued growth and one would wonder what in heavens name would produce the reduction of services to those who most need the resources that a public library provides. Just to be clear on this, public libraries like Connaught and Glen Elm are essentially, after school study centres where children and students of all ages, find the things they need with excellent supervision to help out and supervise the environment, as they work on improving themselves. With almost one in every four people in the province living in Regina this is not a local matter, we all share in the cost of supporting welfare, health care and pay for the related costs of car theft, crime of all kinds and the reduced expectations of a major part of the population of this province.



do it

What we have to ask ourselves about these two issues, for indeed they are integrally related, is what should the limits be for a society. Should we decide that since we all pay for medical care, that some drugs are to expensive and those needing such costly medication should be quietly allowed to die? Should seniors who are no longer productive participants in society be euthanized by simply limiting the amount of health care provided to them? We have all decided some time ago that this is not what our kind of society is about and we do not want to live in such a society, yet those political leaders, who have been able to win elected power have prayed upon the idea that we can do everything for everyone without having the collective income to support these needs.




Regina just completed a civil election, the Board of chairman of Regina's Public Library system yesterday indicated that the decision to fire twenty-eight skilled employees and close three libraries were made more than a year ago and they have been aware of their narrowing budget options for a long time but avoided letting the public know about the problem until the elections were over. Clearly, Regina voters would have addressed this issue with their campaigning local politicians had they known about the problem, but a decision was made to keep this information from them until yesterday.




The issue of limitations is all apart of the way we look at things. Does this society consider aboriginal people as expendable? Yesterday, a report was released that stated that Saskatchewan people did not support the First Nation Treaties and overwhelming believe that they should be ignored and everyone should be "equal." Interesting concept "equality", but what it really means is limited. Had there been no treaties, the invaders of North America would have had to eliminate all the aboriginal people to secure their land for settlement, but instead, they negotiated a deal, (Treaties) which in perpetuity, granted rights and privileges to the aboriginal people, in return for the handing over of their land. Now a little more than a hundred years later, the population is unaware of these deals and their governments repeatedly ignore almost all of the provisions of those agreements.


Many of the people who use Regina's public library system and need the support of universal health care are aboriginal people with both education and health care being basic issues in all of the treaties signed in good faith with the invaders. Is it now to be understood that our society by omission, or deliberately, is retracting from its responsibilities? Some advocates of the stand-pat status quo view of the world, claim that health care and many public services are, in their words, "unsustainable."

what do
you want?

This issue, for us all is to determine, what is it, that we as a society, want? The ways and means to achieve any goal are reliant not upon what it costs, but how badly we want something. The problem for us all is predetermining limits and often the imposition of economic arguments that are unrelated to reality but are instead some economic theory.




But I am obsessed with the sky above us, its infinite varying patterns of water vapour, mixing temperatures and swirling currents of air are something we all should pay more attention. One hundred years ago, Wilbur and Orville Wright did not accept the limitation that a self powered vehicle could rise into the sky carrying a passenger. They were a product of the industrial era in North America, a time when active experimentation went into defying the "limits". An old friend of mine told me of his experience in high school when his science teacher proved conclusively that space travel from the planet to the moon was a simple scientific impossibility, yet we know that it was achieved only because the American president in the limitless sixties said " we chose to go to the moon." Under his direction, a way was found to achieve that goal, because the stakes were that high. The USSR was winning the Cold War, it was superior in strategic weapons and had pre-empted the United States with a satellite and orbital manned flight. By setting the goal of reaching the moon, the American aerospace industry responded with the development of guidance and rocket systems that rapidly surpassed the capabilities of the USSR. The race to the moon was far more that developing digital watches and Velcro, it was about martially a society to set a goal and not let "limits" get in the way.




Technically and economically we can sustain universal unlimited health care, Regina can afford public libraries and Canada's First Nation people can attain true "equality" if we make these our priorities. The catch phrase "thinking outside the box" is a good one and its about time we began to see that you don't have to win the lottery to get what you want. Happiness and sustained positive life is rarely about money, but is much more a product of deciding what we really want.

Timothy W. Shire

  Regina public library to close three branches, November 26, 2003, CBC News, Regina
  Shewchuk, Blair, "Remodelling, not demolishing' The Romanow report on Medicare, November 28, 2002, CBC News
  Romanow, Roy, Shape the Future of Health Care, November 28, 2002, Health Canada
  The Romanow Report, November 27, 2003, Toronto Globe and Mail, a set of articles dealing with the report and reaction to it a year after its release.
  Poll shows more learning needed on treaties, November 27, 2003, CBC News, Regina
  Kennedy, John F., Speech, September 12, 1962
  Silber, Kenneth, Why Not? June 27, 2003, Tech Central Station


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