Putting an “i” in team

I have noticed a disturbing trend in public discourse of late. Used to be that joining a group was a good thing. These days, it seems to be met with such disdain, you’d think the mere act of publicly participating in a cause that matters to you is an act of subversion, revolt or even destruction.

A few cases in point. I was struck this time last year when GM almost single handedly sunk the US economy (and much of southern Ontario’s too for that matter) that the blame was put squarely on the unions’ shoulders. Excuse me? The work of those union members garnered the fat cat execs and lucky shareholders a fair bit of coin in the good old days. But somehow, the workers made too much money. I don’t know how many times I heard that argument. It was surprising to hear people, who, had they lived in Southern Ontario as friends of mine did, would likely have been 25 year card-carrying auto workers themselves, building homes, educating children,  and supporting groups in their community.

Where do we get off saying “they” make too much money for what “they” do. And therein lies the irony. It’s easy to criticize them – they – those guys, that group. We are humans and humans at their very best interact, cooperate, agree, move forward and make things happen.  And yet, when we do this as a labeled group, we seem to expose ourselves to target practice from the disgruntled individual or, ironically, the biggest groups of all, private corporations and public institutions. I don’t get it.

Another case in point. In recent years, two groups have formed in Salmon Arm in support of sustainable community development and environmentally sensitive eco-systems. Salmon Arm is a charming town on the shores of a beautiful lake, after all. It was bound to happen. Both groups, by defacto, reasonably oppose the huge big box mart shopping hub proposed by Smart Centres for the edge of town. But to note the criticism of these groups on blogs, forums, letters to the editor and coffee shop conversations, you’d think it was a secret society full of skullduggery, secret ambition and clever conceit. Do they have secret agendas? Are they being honest? Aren’t they fooling the poor silent majority? So much so that Smart Centres (ironically neither smart not central so far in this debate), posted a brochure designed for one of these community group on their own website and had the nerve to change the graphics under the guise of “updating” the public on misleading information published by a “special” interest group. Give me a break. Smart Centres is going to protect the poor confused citizens of Salmon Arm? I beg to differ. How insulting.

And a final case, closer to my heart. I worked on a community effort (I dare not use the G for Group of C for Committee words, lest I be labelled a subversive) to help save North Canoe Elementary School in my community. We, as a collective of individuals, decided on a neighbourly approach. We did door to door surveys, we collected names on a petition, we started a facebook page and we built a website. We put up signs and we had meetings, lots and lots of meetings. We stayed in contact with the School Board. We were told our efforts were honourable and our fight was worthwhile but it might be beyond anyone’s control. The BC Government mandates School Districts to balance their budget. They were legally bound to make the expenses match the revenues. Trouble is, with declining enrollment, the revenues are shrinking. Add to that an increase in Medical Services Plan premiums, the first of a three year legislated increase to teachers salaries, and the impending HST, the numbers just wouldn’t work. Now, after all was said and done, North Canoe school was spared. But quite possibly at the expense of a smaller, more remote community school in Malakwa. Bitter sweet at best. Then came news that the BC Government wasn’t much interested in hearing what “groups” had to say anyway. Just ask any representative of teachers or other unions working in the school system. They’re really only interested in what the voters have to say as individuals. What, each of us, individually? How likely is that? Groups are an important part of representational democracy, are they not? In response, parents heading up the local DPAC (District Parents Advisory Committee) have spearheaded an effort to give all parents of students in our district a postcard that they, in turn, can send to their MLA (via school PACs)  requesting that school districts be properly funded to meet the financial obligations imposed on them by the provincial government. Can you spell vicious circle? So when your kids head back to school come March 22, check their backpacks for the postcard. You can put and “i” in team by signing your name and sending it back to school with the kids. When we act as a team, good things happen.

Say what you have to say. Join what you want to join. Do it with honesty. Do it with intention. Just so long as you do it. How else can we become a winning team?

I, for one, will appreciate it. Afterall, critic has two “i”s where team has none. Time to even that score, n’est ce pas?


One Response

  1. […] } Once again, Louise Wallace has a worthwhile read on her blog. Her post Putting an “i” in team looks at public participation in matters that matter. Follow that link! And therein lies the irony. […]

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