LETTER: What we owe each other

From reader George Chandler

I once had a job that took me to Ottawa regularly for meetings. Being a very bilingual city, there are many taxi drivers from Lebanon, who arrived here either as refugees or immigrants to escape the country’s long and brutal civil war.

My work dealt with conflict and refugee concerns, so I valued talking with them about their experiences. One driver told me that he and his family had just received Canadian citizenship — the absolute best day in his entire life. In his view, Canadians have no idea how lucky we are. He knows that when his wife and children leave their house each morning for work and school they will return safely in the evening, without any real risk to their life and safety. He said we don’t realize the enormous safety, security and affluence we have built and maintain.

This bubble is a wonderful thing that allow us to thrive and succeed as healthy individuals and communities. Unfortunately, during the twin global emergencies we are currently facing, the somewhat darker sides of it have shown themselves — our addiction to convenience and the weakening of a sense of what we owe each other.

A recent report showed Canada’s per-capita record in cutting carbon emissions trailing well behind other wealthy countries. Too many of us think that because we are responsible for less than two per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, we are only an insignificant part of the problem. Yet our lifestyle makes us one of the highest per-capita emitters in the world.

False information, denial and some pretty wild conspiracy theories around COVID-19 have combined as weapons of misdirection that impede our journey towards collective health and safety. Unfortunately, too often we see freedom only as an individual right, an entitlement, rather than something we work together to build and sustain.

In a world where we can be anything, let’s strive to be good neighbours, who look out for each other. Our security bubble can be a shelter we all live under together. I think that Lebanese-Canadian taxi driver in Ottawa would understand this.

George Chandler