Everything Pedde

   S J Pedde Canada   S.J. Pedde


Dear Zachary:

When my family left Germany in 1949 for a hopefully better, safer and more balanced existence in Canada, we were welcomed here and allowed to build a new life.  There were no hand-outs, no government support, no welfare programs.  It was strictly sink-or-swim.  In all the years until my parents died I never heard a word of complaint.  Never.  Like other immigrants of that time, they worked hard, sacrificed, scrimped, saved, then ultimately prospered.  That’s the way things worked. Immigrants were grateful and appreciative for the welcome they received.  There was no whining.

I am a Canadian Citizen and am proud to be so.  Your Oma and Opa applied for citizenship in 1957, when I was twelve years old and I was included as part of the package.  I’ve never regretted being Canadian.  Mostly, I like Canada.  Certainly, the socio-economic and political climate in Canada gives us all a level of safety and potential that is unparalleled anywhere in the world, with the possible exception of the United States of America.

But, things are changing.  Things are already radically different from the way they were a few short decades ago.  I am a man who normally celebrates differences and change in general, but not in this case.

What I am getting at, son, is that we are increasingly becoming a nation of whiners. And we’re not alone.  The better the quality of life in the more prosperous countries, the more people have materially, the more potential for success there is, the more whining there is.  As Gilda Radner (a comedienne who actually did have real things to complain about) often said: “It’s always something.”  And that is the way that things seem to be.  If we don’t have anything real to complain about, we’ll invent something.

Let’s take a closer look at what we have.  We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  Anyone can accomplish anything they wish.  While no-one can be guaranteed a position in an NHL team, they are still free to play hockey and to compete for the best placements based on their skills.  They are also free to fail in their quest and to become bankers or garbage collectors instead.

With lots of hard work and dedication, anyone can strive towards any ultimate career goal and have a reasonable chance to achieve that goal.  Or, they can fail in their efforts.  Perhaps they will not have worked or studied hard enough.  Perhaps they are simply not up to the task.  Whatever the situation, implicit in the right to succeed is the right to fail.  The world is filled with people who failed at one vocation and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in another.  There are no guarantees in life.  If you fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, implement plan “B.” 

There is this notion, in too many of us, that we have a ‘right’ to certain things.  Free health care, free day care, free prescriptions, free education, free just-about-everything.  But these things are not and cannot be free.  Someone, somewhere, pays for them. 

Pay attention, son.  There is something that I want you to remember for the rest of your life.  It is the acronym TANSTAAFL.

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Robert A. Heinlein, the great science fiction writer, coined the expression in his book “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”  One of the characters in the book pointed out that the “free” bar snacks he and a friend were enjoying were not really free.  They were paid for by higher prices for drinks.

Life is like that.  Everything positive has a value.  Everything negative has a cost. Everything you get for “free” or at subsidized cost from the government is paid for by taxes.  And those taxes come from, you guessed it, everyone who works hard, saves, invests, takes risks, makes sacrifices. 

The same logic applies to intangibles as well.  Good manners, considerate behaviour, honesty, diligence, all have a value.  Boorishness, inconsiderateness, dishonesty, sloth, all have a cost.  Do an honest day’s work and you will be rewarded with better jobs.  Goof off and you will be fired. 

So, if anyone can accomplish virtually anything, why all the whining?  I have known people, over the years that I have been in business, who spent so much time and energy complaining about how unfair things are, and how difficult things are, that they had no time for anything else.  Had they spent the same time and energy actually doing something useful, something constructive, they would have been much better off.  And the rest of us would have benefited too.

The problem, as I see it, is that there is a need in many people to pull everything and everyone down to the lowest common denominator.  Don’t like the dichotomy of rich and poor?  Instead of working hard to become successful financially, let’s simply take as much as possible away from the rich.  Don’t like the fact that some people are smarter than others?  Do away with tests and comparative marking systems.  Upset because some of us have better jobs than others?  Blame it on racial discrimination or sexism.

The world is not a perfect place.  North America is not a perfect continent.  Canada is not a perfect country.  I’m not a perfect dad.  You, Zachary, are not always a perfect son.

We all need to strive to make things as perfect as possible.  That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?  But why does it mean that we have to change everyone and everything else?  Wouldn’t it make much more sense to start with ourselves?  Our behaviours, our perceptions, our ethics, are something that we can actually do something about.  We don’t need to pass more laws, create more bureaucracies, build more jails. Do we want the world to be a better place?  Let's behave responsibly.  Let's be a good example to our children. Let's work hard, be honest, stop complaining.  Now, imagine a world where everyone else has followed the same path.  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world to live in?

I think so.  OK.  I’ll start.  Your mom tells me that I’m too impatient.  I guess that’s a good place to start.  We won’t discuss any of my myriad other faults here, where anyone can read about them, but I’ll try to do better in every way I can.

Now, if only we could start a trend. 

One, two, three, go!