Blogs by Patrick J McCormick
How Society is Changing
12/20/2004 11:42:37 AM
Whatever happened to the phrase 'When in Rome do as the Romans do'.
Whatever happened to the phrase, “When in Rome Do as the Romans Do.”
When I lived in Ireland where I was born or in England where I went for ten years after I finished high school I was not very keen on either coffee or hamburgers. Perhaps that was partly because they were not common fare where I lived, but I think it was mostly the fact that at that time the few who did provide such fare had not yet acquired the talent for them. When I emigrated to Canada I arrived in Toronto late one evening and I was determined I was going to live as they did in North America and if that meant eating hamburgers and drinking coffee, that is just what I was going to do.
The following morning I had a late start because I was not used to the heat and humidity of an extra warm late August in Toronto and was having difficulty sleeping. The fact that I was so excited at being in not only a new city but a new world that I had to go out and walk up and down Yonge Street, Toronto’s main street and the longest one in the world, for a few hours, had nothing to do with it. I would have liked to take a bus to the Canadian Immigration Office but, not being sure how they worked without a conductor as well as a driver and not wishing to appear stupid, I walked. On the way I passed a restaurant and I decided to go in and have a North American meal. For my late breakfast I had a burger and coffee and had to admit it tasted a bit better than I thought it would.
It took a little while to get established. When I came to Toronto I had the clothes I wore and what was in my suitcase, most of which were new, and I had a little money. At that time there was a limit on the amount you could take with you when leaving the United Kingdom. I did not have a job nor a place to stay, and by the time that was all sorted out most of the money was gone. I had to make do with furnished rooms for a while and a second hand television, and I had to wait for a while before I was able to buy a used car. This did not seem out of line to me however. Everyone else was working for everything they got so why shouldn’t I. I was not the only immigrant to come to North America.
There were many people coming from all parts of Europe, China and Japan, and they had a problem I didn’t have, they could not speak the language and had to accept lower paying and less attractive jobs. They were not grumbling or asking for handouts so why should I. Many of them struggled and started their own business and were then able to provide work for others from their old country. This is the way it had always been in this great New World, and that is what made it so strong. As long as a person was prepared to put his shoulder to the wheel, this new world was prepared to provide that person with a lot of opportunities, a good living for their families and freedom to follow their beliefs and raise their family in those beliefs. It was mainly a Christian continent, but those who weren’t were free to follow their own beliefs and were never forced to join in any Christian activity. The Lord’s Prayer was said at the start of the day in many schools and had a prominent place in most of the Christian communities, but other religions were free to follow their own ways. Many people from Europe built their own churches (most of which were Christian) but in addition to religion they used them to keep their communities together and pass on their language and heritage to their children. When their children went to school they were taught in English, which is what their parents wanted, but their parents also paid for and sent them to school on Saturday morning to learn the language of their old country. When I first met Sonia, her two boys were quite young and on a few occasions I drove with her to a school on a Saturday morning to drop off her boys for German language classes. I always thought it was rather ironic that the name of the school they attended was called Winston Churchill Collegiate, and suggested on a few occasions she not divulge that information to her father. German was not the only language taught at that school every Saturday morning, and many other ethnic groups were there as well.
Society in North America was very tolerant to the various communities and religions that came to its shores. North America was indeed the land of the free. Unfortunately despite the freedoms that were allowed, some were not satisfied and the loud cry went up for minority rights. Majority rule seems to only apply to politics now and sometimes even that it is doubtful. There is nothing wrong with minority rights, they have to be protected, but unfortunately many seem to now believe those minority rights should be protected by denying the rights of the majority. The Lords Prayer is no longer said in many schools because it might offend some who are not Christian, and even though they were not forced to be there at that time their rights were denied because they were segregated and left out of some activities. The tolerance of North American society would never want any child to feel left out and the ‘No Child Left Behind’ law in the United States is a wonderful example of that sentiment. One has to ask does that have to be done at the expense of the rights of other children.
Earlier ethnic groups came to this continent following the old principle of ‘When in Rome Do as the Romans Do’ and found ways of protecting their rights without depriving others of theirs. Many current immigrant groups however feel they should not have to adapt to ways of their new country, but that their new country should adapt to theirs. In Toronto some ethnic groups agitated for the right to have their children taught in the language of their old country during normal school hours and paid for by taxpayers in general. Unfortunately at the same time we had the formation of groups who set themselves up to fight for rights of others. The sentiments they professed to support were often quite laudable, but often the motive was more self-centered to the preservation of their group than for the rights of those they professed to support, and in such circumstances logic and justice are unwanted encumbrances. Although individual groups are small, there has arisen a preponderance of them and their tactics have been very effective. Their voices are loud, they are effective at gaining the support of the media, who are always looking for any type of story to keep up circulation, and they attack unmercifully anyone who opposes them or tries to bring in the voice of reason. These tactics are not new of course, they have been used very effectively in Nazi Germany and many communist countries to keep a minority in power.
It is not surprising therefore that we have seen a rise in the number of attacks we have seen against many of the rights as a majority we thought we had. At Christmas time we always had the ‘Happy Holidays’ and the ‘Merry Christmas’ cards and Jews and Christians would always send the appropriate card to each other. Now other groups have started to agitate to abolish the Christmas card completely and only have Happy Holidays. They seem quite prepared to accept the benefits of the increased commercialism of the Christmas season but want to deny Christians the right to celebrate the Christian aspect of it. There is also agitation against other Christian symbols such as the cross. I don’t know how far this is likely to go, but I believe somewhere along the line we have to make a stand to prevent it disappearing altogether, and now would appear to be as good a time as any to start taking that stand. One has to wonder for example how far a Christian group would get if they were to agitate against the symbols of other religious groups in the country where the majority followed that religion. These same religious groups take advantage of the religious tolerance granted in North America, but are not prepared to grant it in their own country.
It is not only in religion however that we seem to have moved away from the phrase ‘When in Rome Do as the Romans Do’. The work ethic and putting your shoulder to the wheel seem to be disappearing as well. The vast majority of people want to work and feel a loss of dignity if they are not. Nowhere is this more evident than with the physically disadvantaged, and it is laudable to that group how they have striven to overcome their disadvantage and also the way society has responded to their efforts. I am not saying this is perfect, there is a lot more that could be done and nowhere is it needed more than in the attitude of some employers, but it is better than it was. There are the poor and those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. They need our help and there has to be safeguards to protect not only their financial needs but also their dignity. There are those however who take advantage of these safeguards and in fact dilute the benefit those in need really get. There are also those in the administration of these benefits who try to force people into becoming dependent on the system they administer.
I recall a situation in my working career when I hired a lady to work in our Accounts Payable department. I paid her the top wage I was authorized to pay for that position, but she had three children and her husband had left and wasn’t paying any support. She was having a difficult time making ends meet and one day she asked for some time off to seek help from the welfare department. They informed her they could not help her as long as she was working, but if she were to quit her job they could then help her. That lady sat in my office that afternoon crying bitterly. She felt she was losing her dignity and felt her job helped her to hold on to that in spite of the troubles she was going through. All she needed was something extra each week (this was back in the early seventies), which welfare refused to give her, but they were prepared to give her that plus the salary she was earning if she didn't work. It seems to me that society was picking up the tab for her normal paycheck for one of the welfare administrators to take away a lady’s dignity. I am not saying anyone on welfare is without dignity. Many people are forced to rely on it and we should make every effort to protect their dignity, but I believe most of them if they had a choice would prefer to be working. I also believe however there are some who should be working who prefer not to and are taking advantage of the tolerance of North American society and are prepared to raise their voices very loud if they feel their income threatened. Perhaps society is changing however, but when I was raising children on my own I worked to provide for them and my self and there were many others I knew in the same position doing the same thing. I found it very difficult to have sympathy for the lady I saw on television a few years back complaining about the fact her welfare was going to be reduced. She was living with her mother and two school-aged children and felt she had a right to stay home to look after her children and her mother who was not working either. When I first came to North America a woman in a similar position would have gone to work and got her mother to look after the children when they came home from school. I think I can also be excused from having sympathy for a man who suddenly finds himself alone with children and feel he has a right to stay home to look after them and get the government to pay him for exercising that right.
In the past I feel most people on welfare did not advertise it, and help they got from anyone was always appreciated. I have always given freely to the poor, and have on more than one occasion in the past looked after whole families at Christmas time making sure they all had something under the tree or where ever they put them, and that there was food on their table. I knew who they were but none of them ever knew who I was. As I have said I gave freely but I object to anyone thinking they have the right to put their hand in my pocket and take it. For these reasons I often wonder about some of these anti-poverty groups. Are they really representing the poor. If they are then I applaud their sentiment, but must say I deplore their methods and tactics.
I have used the term North America here since many of the things applied to both Canada and the United States of America. Many of the things were only Canadian. A number of years ago a famous Canadian called Gordon Sinclair gave a broadcaster singing the praises of our friends to the south. Far be it from me to try to improve on that broadcast and I believe the recording of that broadcast was widely distributed and played in the United States at the time. In the many years since then things have not changed. No matter how many times the world turns to them for help, they do not think of all the kicks they have received from the rest of the world, they always step up to the plate. I hope they never change.
Post a Comment new!
More Blogs by Patrick J McCormick
A Life of Its Own - Friday, November 03, 2006
Ultimate Terror, Ultimate Sacrifice - Friday, November 03, 2006
The question of Irak - Thursday, November 02, 2006
Who will vote and who will they vote for - Thursday, November 02, 2006
The Lone Lady-of-the-Night in the Cold - Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Intimate Moments with a Special Person - Tuesday, March 22, 2005
A Division Between Friends - Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The touching of my heart - Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Snowing again and the kid next door is hiding - Tuesday, March 01, 2005
UP to my $#%* in snow again - Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Hockey: The Non-Season - Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Why do so many people feel the need to be on a bandwagon? - Monday, February 14, 2005
A Belated New Years Resolution for the Silent Majority - Tuesday, February 08, 2005
The passing of Pudge our much loved pug - Saturday, February 05, 2005
Is it a miracle - Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Out of the mouths of babes - Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Snowing again - Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Man's Best Friend. - Tuesday, January 25, 2005
How to Clear the Snow from Your Driveway - Monday, January 24, 2005
Depressing Weather - Monday, January 24, 2005
How Society is Changing - Monday, December 20, 2004
A Strange Christmas. What a Change this Year will be. - Saturday, December 18, 2004
Misused Phrases - Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Christmas Remembered - Monday, December 06, 2004
A Family Devastated - Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Jim, Where Are You? - Wednesday, August 11, 2004