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THOSE People….

Posted by Dirck on 23 March, 2011

Well, that was nearly a full day before a complaint developed.  When sunny skies threaten and joy afflicts your heart, the federal government may be relied upon to upset all.  For those who are interested in anything but Canadian politics, today is not the day to look in here.

Yesterday there was a budget put forth by the governing party.  In an effort to cling to power, they have put a few items into the budget which if the various opposition parties defeat it, they can point to and say, “See, those villains hate RURAL DOCTORS and VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS!  We wanted to give them (a very little) money/tax break!  Vote for us!”  Now, I’m not a fan of the current governing party, but I’ll grant that this is the sort of thing that any minority government in a parliamentary democracy will try to prolong its mandate, and I can’t directly fault them for the effort.  However, in the item where they set up to be able to cry, “They hate OLD PEOPLE!” I am prepared to shout at them.

The thing they’ve offered is framed as a means of assisting the extremely impoverished eldery in danger of starving, losing their house, or both.  This is a fine goal, of course.  The means?  Adding $50 a month to the pension of specifically qualified old folks.  For your mathematical comfort– that’s $600 a year (apparently for couples it works out to $840, as we can’t be too lavish).

Now, part of what I’m upset about is the way in which it takes on the appearance of the federal government seeing a quivering oldster staggering along the street, fishing a fistful of change out of its collective pocket, and shouting as it flings a stinging hail of change into the wrinkled face, “That should hold you until you get a real job!”  However, that’s not what I’m really mad about, because as I said previously it’s nothing that just about any other party in power might pull.

What has quite gotten up my nose is a statement to the press given by the finance minister, which I can’t find in written form, but which I heard on the way in to work this morning, and which I paraphrase thus but in which I highlight the part I recall verbatim: “These are people who lived through the Great Depression– $600 is a lot of money to those people.”

Um… no.  I have been in a financial position quite recently where an extra $50 at month’s end would be very handy, so I won’t deny the utility of any kind of support to the poverty-striken, but to characterize $600 in a year as “a lot of money” is beyond disingenuous.  $600 in a year was a lot of money during the Great Depression, but in the modern context it’s less than a single month’s rent, or possibly as many as eight bags of groceries.  If the finance minister feels it’s a great big bunch of money, I should like to see him attempt to live upon it for even a week.

What set me off, apart from a functional sense of human justice and an ability to count, is the use of the phrase “those people.”  It is so frequently a means of applying otherness to our fellow humans.  “Those people will live ten to a two bedroom apartment.”  “Those people don’t understand how to get along in our society.”  “Those people have cooking which stinks.”  It’s very close to “I don’t mean to sound X, but…” where X can be replaced by racist, sexist, or any other kind of chauvinist you want to apply the beliefs of but wish to deny believing.  “No offense” is another good one.

The fact that a minister of the current government has used “those people” in that tone and so casually makes me more anxious than ever for an election.  The kind of thought process that leads to the use of the phrase is not one that should have control of hands anywhere near the levers of power.

There was also something earlier this week, ahead of the budget, in which any defeat of the current crowd in power was being described as a conspiratorial “tyranny of the majority.”  I’m in Winston Churchill’s camp on the actual value of democracy, but since that is what we’re living under in Canada, and since it’s a system the current government’s head has time and again spoken of his great regard for, it’s funny that the notion of majority rule should be so threatening to them.

Well, enough political nonsense for this month.  I’ll try to keep myself under control if an election breaks out.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer School (I was moved by yesterday’s entry to let it out to play)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé

2 Responses to “THOSE People….”

  1. sadieruin said

    I find that “Those people” is often the group term, “You people” when applied in direct conversation. If you really want to make someone squirm after saying something that starts with either of those, ask them which people. Another joy is the ubiquitous “they” or “them”. I’m crossing my fingers there are more voters with brains and common sense this election season.

    • I’m vaguely delerious through prescience– it looks like this is about to become a campaign issue! I’m lifting a paragraph from CBC.ca and adding some emphasis:

      “I don’t want to be the prime minister of ‘you people,’ ” he said, seizing upon Harper’s words in a speech Sunday, in which the Conservative leader praised a Toronto-area audience by saying: “You people have come to this country from the world over because you believe in this country.”

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