(Image Credit: Personal photography by a friend)
My recent unscientific (and unplanned) survey suggests that many Canadians are so deeply invested in ‘their side’ as to prevent them from empathizing with other Canadians who may be suffering. Political tribalism prevails over the dire need of the hour.
Recently, a friend living in Oakville, ON shared a couple of photos that he had taken while on a grocery shopping trip, showing certain items that had been marked as “Most Needed Food Bank Product”. I tweeted these photos, with the comment that this was a sorry state for a rich country to be in. I had just meant this tweet as sharing information, but as the replies started rolling in, I began to see a pattern that I thought needed to be analyzed and understood. As of this writing, my tweet has 127 replies and 52 quote-tweets. While these aren’t big numbers, in my individual capacity, I am unlikely to have on my hand a better situation to try and formulate a theory about something. Before I proceed, allow me to emphasize that this is merely a theory; in order to turn it into a belief, I would need more robust data.
BONES OF CONTENTION
Out of the 179 reactions (127 replies + 52 quote-tweets), only a handful saw the issue the same way I did – however, this could be due to the fact that people follow and interact with each other based on shared views. This is bound to bring ‘confirmation bias’ into play. But the divergence of most of the reactions from my point of view suggests my tweet didn’t remain confined to an echo-chamber. Here is a partial list of what many people said:
- The food giants have found another way to boost their profits by exploiting people’s kindness.
- Why don’t the grocery stores (or Galen Weston) donate to / fill up the food banks? (This was said by many people, some even suggesting that the big grocery chains / their executives / Galen Weston don’t donate anything.)
- It is a failure of the government (high taxes, foreign aid etc.).
- It is better to donate cash to a food bank, because they have more bargaining power so they can get more bang for your buck (This was also said by many people. I find this a bit impractical; the person who decides to spare a couple of dollars from their tight budget wouldn’t donate that amount to a food bank because it is too small).
- Many people misuse food banks by availing of food from there when they aren’t in need.
- They voted for this government so they deserve it. (Darshan: This ignores the fact that some may have voted differently.)
- The Westons are doing this for publicity via other people’s money.
- This is just a way to increase sales by appealing to people’s charitable impulses.
- They probably raised the prices of these items, too.
- Many people donate expired food. (Darshan: That wouldn’t apply to freshly bought food.)
- Trudeau’s Canada.
- Loblaw’s made record profits; someone even suggested that their REVENUE was their profit.
- It’s a Hegelian dialectic with a twist – they created a problem and now wish to be seen as a solution that your money pays for.
- This is all the fault of Ford / other premiers who are Conservative and therefore controlled by CPC HQ.
- The fact that foodbanks exist at all is a sign of government failure. (Darshan: Regardless of the fact that foodbanks or their equivalent have existed throughout the history of civilization?).
- More gouging by grocery chains.
- Guilt-tripping customers.
- Grocery stores should be forced to donate a percentage of food every month.
- Keep bringing 1 million immigrants every year.
- (Sticker of Justin Trudeau saying, ‘I did that!’)
- (Sticker of Justin Trudeau saying, ‘I did that!’ and Jagmeet Singh saying ‘And I helped’).
- (Image of aircraft dropping dark skinned people on to a crowd of white people)
SYMPHONY AND CACOPHONY
While my objective for posting these images was different (expressing sadness at the state of affairs), I can understand if not everyone would comment along the same lines. It is with reason that social media – and Twitter in particular – gets called ‘the town square’. Once a topic is broached, people are free to express their views on matters associated with that topic. To that extent, I consider some of the comments to be par for the course. But some of them are nothing more than expressions of tribal affiliation – and that brings me to my main point:
As the adage in economics goes, resources are finite and have alternative uses. Time is a resource. The current state of our economy – and especially the dire conditions that many Canadians are in – should make it desirable (or more desirable) that we use our time with a focus on alleviating that situation. But some of us are not. Political tribalism has set in so deep in sections of our society that striving for a common solution gets de-prioritized. Unless we overcome this weakness – again, collectively – things can only get worse for us instead of getting better.
Independent voices are more important than ever in today’s Canada. I am happy to add my voice to the public discussions on current issues & policy, and grateful for all the encouraging response from my listeners & readers. I do not believe in a Paywall model, so will not make access to my content subject to a payment.
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