Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. A British Columbian by birth, she grew up north of Prince George. She makes her home on the west coast. Laila deeply values the unique perspective gained from her rural upbringing. She has broken many compelling news items that have been distributed,re-printed and covered by papers all over the province. Laila asks the provocative questions that the people of British Columbia want answers to.
In this piece Laila joins many luminaries in positing the difference between being a taxpayer and resident versus an engaged citizen — not just a citizen of a community but of an interconnected global home. Although the GHSA exists first and foremost to share information resources, as Laila observes, an individual’s right to be proactive (no matter how small or large the issue) is a necessity in the times we live in and we want to share her words on this.
“Because it’s no longer enough to be a decent person. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news. True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself.”
― Joss Whedon
I worry. A lot sometimes.
I worry about the price of produce at the veggie market every week. It’s getting more and more expensive and I worry that the drought in California will drive that price up even more.
Then I worry that California will figure out how little B.C. values it’s water supply, show up here like it’s a modern gold rush and tap into some trade agreement that leaves British Columbian’s paying through the nose for a resource we own…while entitled Hollywood types are lavishing in their pools,drinking BC water as California shrivels under crippling drought.
I worry about the safety of my community right now, while young men with too much testosterone and not enough wisdom are putting the public at risk every time they shoot at each other. In busy family neighbourhoods, while people are out and about.
I worry about the lack of resources in our schools and I worry about how many good kids who need help are falling through the cracks, sure to cost society more in the long run than if we took care of the issues now. I wonder if the young men shooting at each other now, were once those kids themselves.
I worry about how a brand new ship could suffer a ‘malfunction’ that many mariners suspect was human error, releasing toxic bunker fuel into one of our most beautiful harbours.
I worry that our governments continue to make short-sighted decisions and policies that have implications so serious that people’s lives and livelihoods are lost. Veterans left behind, front line workers suffering from PTSD abandoned. Mt.Polley, sawmill explosions – the list is long and sadly, often preventable.
But most of all, I worry that so many good,decent people have become so de-sensitized to the never-ending onslaught of news that even this latest outrageous response to the Vancouver fuel spill will soon be forgotten with a few sunny days and the next scandal sure to come.
I’m here to tell you,that’s just not going to cut it anymore. It’s not enough to just be a good person and tsk-tsk at the morning news. That makes you part of the problem.
No, really, it does. You might not want to hear this but I’m so tired of hearing people say politics bores them, or politics has nothing to do with them. Look around you! Look at what is going on in your city, your town or your own neighbourhood.
Pissed off over potholes? Who’s in charge of that? Whats your local mayor and council doing if it’s an ongoing issue?
Guess what? That’s politics. That is how politics impact you. It doesn’t have to be an oil spill or tailings pond collapse, it can be something as minor as never-ending potholes.
Tired of overcrowded schools? How did that happen? Well, mayor and council have to approve all those developments and if they do without thought to the local schools, your kids are the ones who feel it.
The provincial government policy that prevents a new school from being built until the current ones are busting kids at the seams? That’s political.
Sitting in a waiting room in the understaffed hospital in ER for hours on end only to end up on a stretcher in the hallway because there isn’t a room for you? That’s political.
The people who run your city, your province and this country are elected by you.
They direct the policy making, they decide where and how the money is spent and they can either do a very good job at it, or not. And I think they like it when people don’t pay attention because it makes their job even easier.
You might not be into politics, but make no bones about it, politics is very interested in you.
Right now you’re probably saying to yourself: “But I’m busy, I am working two jobs, kids, my parents…” I get that. There are only so many hours in a day and the last thing you want to do is spend it in a room listening to campaign strategy.
That’s not at all what I am asking you to do.
It can be as simple as joining your local community association and just receiving their emails so you can find out whats going on right in your own small area, that directly impacts your life. That’s where it starts for many people. That’s activism. It engages you in how political decisions affect your life.It can directly impact how politicians make future decisions.
Over the last year, I had the pleasure of seeing a new community association form and grow in one area of Surrey and seeing some people who have never paid attention to politics suddenly discover how much impact they had… it makes me smile thinking of it now.
What matters to you? What impacts your life directly? Write a letter to the editor next time you see a story that touches you in some manner. Write a letter to your provincial MLA, or ask to meet them. Let your member of parliament know what you think of their government’s policy. Ask them what they actually do, or have done for your community.
That’s not only your right as a citizen, I’m telling you it is your duty as one too.
Ask questions, hard ones and demand answers. In writing. If you get none, write a letter to the editor about that as well. Start a conversation with your neighbour, your co-worker, the person next to you at the bus stop.
The closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was a decision made to save money. It was heavily protested by Vancouver residents and mariners alike. The government still defends that decision.
It doesn’t get more political than that.
If you are as angry about that closure and this fuel spill response, you are interested in politics. It’s that simple. But instead of being angry and reactive, get engaged and be proactive.
If you are upset over the demolition of heritage homes in your city, you are interested in politics. It could be trees, it might be development, it could simply be the need for a new sidewalk. It’s all politics and for most of us, that’s how we started.
We simply woke up one day and said: “That’s it. I’m doing something about this.” And never looked back once we discovered there were thousands of regular people out there just like us looking for the same direction.
And let me tell you – It’s so much nicer walking in awareness, than sitting in the dark.
“It takes guts and integrity of motive to fight the good fight. It takes a passionate interest in life itself. It’s easy to stand on the sidelines, shaking your head and commenting on how tragic things are.
But if you really care, you are going to be in the ring, trying to make the world a better place. And only from that position will your words and your thoughts and your insights have weight.
When you live an engaged life, your sense of self gains depth and power and authority, and your philosophy is no longer abstract. You become a person who can really make a difference, because you are actively participating, you are digging deep, and you are pushing up against the edge of your own potential.
…And in order to fight the good fight, we have to engage, we have to get into the ring, not just stand outside it and be philosophers.”
To read feedback on this post visit Laila’s blog at http://lailayuile.com/
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution.