By Beryl Wajsman
At this time of year too many of us tend to think all’s right with the world. We believe the advertising, the gimmicks and the statistics. We go with the crowd. The reality is there is much wrong. There is much pain. And the fleeting moments in these weeks when we decide to become more generous and giving, not only with money but with our time, rarely carry over into the rest of the year.
Thankfully there are many individuals who sacrifice time, talent and treasure to try and make things right. This issue is dedicated to them. Not just because they walk the talk. Not just because they go against the crowd. Not just because they believe it is important to stand and not to fit in. But by so doing, they empower us all to believe—rightly—that we all have the talent and courage to make a difference. To gentle the condition.
The people you will read about see suffering and try to heal it; see injustice and try to cure it and see want and try and meet it. They do not abdicate responsibility for dealing with the tough stuff. They don’t just shrug it off that it’s the government’s job or the next guy’s business.
While too many of us have lost hope, seen faith dwindle or are just trying to survive, there are those who are tackling some of our saddest and severest problems on the level of community. With bold, new resolve, activism is bursting out in record numbers. We wanted to show you some of what is happening in our own city.
We’ve devoted this issue to some of the most extraordinary people, dealing with frontline issues. They get out there and change things they don’t like. Few of these everyday heroes come from privilege. Their power comes from determination and will. The kind we all can exercise successfully. Responsible empowerment.
The people and groups you’ll be reading about represent part of the revolution in self-reliance; not only a signal of the strength of non-elected power, they are also the vanguard of what I believe is a newly emerging political plurality in Canadian public life. A plurality of conscience. A new alignment of concerned citizens who realize that our communities’ problems can be solved by us. Without the legions of bureaucrats and theorists that always seem to have pious excuses for inaction. This issue will show you the people that get things done, and how to get things done. And hopefully encourage you to join those who dare to care.
The real divisions in our society are not just between races or generations or language groups, nor even between the privileged who have power and those who have neither power nor property. The real division is between those still mired in self-doubt and those who are infused with self-belief.
This activism mirrors a broad national frustration, not merely a yoke holding factions together into temporary political alliances. It is pragmatic, knowing full well that politics is only half the story since so many promises have yet to be fulfilled and so much power rests beyond the reach of the electoral process. It is participatory, believing change is generated from below.
The work you will read about in this issue underscores that what is needed is engagement with an activist populist vision, not merely the continued parroting of an anti-plutocrat vocabulary. It is not about semantics. It is about the need to challenge interests, not merely balance them. It is about the capacity to see the world through the eyes of its victims. We must learn to understand intuitively that the less educated are not less intelligent and that the less affluent are not any less human.
What the people in these pages represent are a faith. A faith in people and in their ability to be generous and noble and brave. A compassionate faith, tempered only by the experience of reason and judgment, that pledges to secure the justice and opportunity that all human beings deserve.
They teach us that the work is its own reward. That though the day is long, the causes endure, the hopes still live and the dreams shall never die. This issue has been an ambitious undertaking. We hope it inspires you to get at it and “just do it.”
Believe in yourselves.