Thursday, January 25, 2007

THE MORAL RIGHT TO SET LIMITS

It is an article of faith among the politically correct that we have no moral right to say “No” to anybody who follows us. To do so would evidence the infamous “draw-bridge” mentality. “Now that you’re here, you want to pull up the ladder!, they taunt. Damn rights I do. And I have a right to do so. Because you see, there is only so much room here and well, I’m sorry, but I was here first. I may occupy a seat you covet at the table of an exclusive restaurant, but the restaurant is full to capacity as determined by safety rules and I am under no obligation to surrender it to you nor is the manager obligated to make room for you. I have no moral obligation and you have no “right”. Similarly, you may want to squeeze on board an elevator already jammed beyond its carrying capacity, but I am not morally obliged to move over for you just because well, you’re from Edmonton, a Canadian citizen, a fellow human being and I wasn’t the first on board either. Its got nothing to do with the fact that I was born here and you weren’t, or I’m white and you’re not—its got everything to do with the fact that I got here early and you got here too late. I would suggest you find another restaurant or another elevator and come a little earlier.

Every Canadian should know that getting there early is a normal and acceptable rule of life for acquiring anything you want very badly. Want that item on sale? Better get there before stock runs out. Want a ticket to the Stones concert? Better camp out on the street two days ahead of time. Want that pretty lady to be yours? Better be first in line before other guys dance with her first. I knew by the early nineties that prime real estate on Quadra would be priced out of my reach by an American-Albertan influx. So I burdened myself with three crippling mortgages, worked a lot of over-time and secured my Quadra home 8 years before I could move here. If I had dithered until 2004 I would have been too late. But I would have accepted it. I would not expect Quadra to clear-cut precious forest to provide low-cost housing for me, because you see, no one has a divine “right” to live on Quadra. Like the teenaged hitch-hiker I picked up who just blew in from Fort St. John and complained that she had trouble finding cheap rental accommodation on Quadra with her minimum wage salary. She could have stayed home and pursued an education. To say that the poor have a “right” to affordable housing on Quadra is equivalent to saying that a poor hungry man has a “right” to a seat at a table of that exclusive restaurant. He surely has a right to a decent meal, but not at any place of his choosing.

Quadra Island residents, even relative newcomers, have a right to a “drawbridge” mentality. They have a right to say: “This is a population level which provides an acceptable range of services and amenities without compromising the quality of life we cherish, as defined by our ability to leave doors unlocked, know and trust our neighbours, our community spirit, our unblemished trails etc…and we want to keep the island at that level.” Quadra Islanders have a right to set limits, if they choose to. As have the residents of Qualicum Beach and Lasqueti Island. Now if local communities have the right to cap their population levels, then so do countries.

The primary moral responsibility of every community, of every nation, of every household, is to its own members. On Christmas Day my parents made it a practice to invite some down-and-out stranger to the dinner-table. But it was only one stranger—my mom did not bring in all of Skid Road because our house was as small as our budget and her first moral responsibility was to feed her own family. Author Garrett Hardin estimated that if the United States decided to rescue two billion of the world’s poor by placing them in American households, each American family would have to board 32 permanent guests the first year and add another each following year due to births. Now two billion sounds over-the-top, until you start hearing the kinds of numbers being tossed around for people who will be displaced by the rising seas from global warming. Add these numbers to the 50 million refugees who exist right now. The point is that to accept even the tiniest fraction of this humanity within our borders would inflict major damage to our environment, as well as other strains, but do NOTHING of any significance to alter the catastrophe.

Yes, Canada signed a UN agreement on refugees. But the agreement was signed by the government of Canada and not by the people of Canada. Opinion polls over the past thirty years have emphatically revealed that the majority of Canadians have never supported government immigration policies. It’s as if my father had come home from work one day and found his home full of boarders that my mother had unilaterally recruited while he was away. Decisions like that should be joint decisions. Immigration and refugee policy in Canada, Australia and the United States—and Scandanavia too—has never enjoyed a public mandate and we are under no moral obligation to respect it. We have been eating into Natural Capital, carrying capacity has long been exceeded, so we have a moral right and more than that, a moral responsibility to set limits.

To ignore this is to risk sinking our lifeboat by a misplaced compassion toward the infinite millions struggling in the rising waters, a compassion more efficiently directed toward our own passengers. It is not a matter of callousness vs. empathy, or cold indifference vs. moral responsibility, but a matter of where the empathy and the moral responsibility shall be placed. The politically-correct do not have the Moral High Ground in any discussion about population, immigration or refugee limits.

They simply choose to give the unlimited reservoir of outsiders greater consideration than the welfare of those of us who currently live here and the integrity of the natural environment that sustains us. They only know how to say “Yes”, when more than ever, we need to say “No! And to set limits to Economic Growth—driven by growing population and growing consumption.

1 comment:

JJ said...

Ah Ha...the other side of the coin

Only your wealth gives you any right but it is not really a right...it is only an advantage over someone with less wealth.

Here's hoping Quadra stays the way it is now.