By Jay Menard
I’ve lived in London more than I haven’t. This, I feel, is a good thing. Obviously, having lived here for over half my life, I’ve seen a lot and have experienced the best and worst this city has to offer. And having lived elsewhere (Montreal) for almost half my life, I’ve had the advantage of stepping out of this bubble and seeing things from a new perspective.
I moved to this city in my youth and spend my teen years here. I left this city in my early 20s, like many others my age, leaving behind a London that we felt offered nothing to people of my age. I returned a few years later, older, hopefully wiser, and more appreciative of what the Forest City had to offer.
And now, in my late 30s, a married homeowner with kids, I can look at the current state of the city with a modicum of wisdom and experience — young enough to still make a difference; old enough to approach life with idealism effectively tempered by perspective.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to like what I see.
For many years, I’ve described London as a medium-sized city with big-city aspirations that’s been held back by small-town thinking. Now I see that small-town thinking that’s not causing this societal inertia, but rather a much more mean-spirited, politically motivated collective self-interest that’s the greatest cancer eating away our potential from within.
I try, in most cases, to be a reasonable guy. If I’ve learned anything from a career based around journalism and business writing is that perspective is key, hyperbole and tunnel vision are evil, and the greatest success comes from balance.
Unfortunately, we live in hyperbolic times. Unfortunately, we live in times where responses come immediately in 140 characters or less. Unfortunately, we live in times where we spend more time talking at each other than actually listening.
And that’s why I want to put my promise in print (OK, Web, but you get my point). This isn’t a manifesto, nor do I expect anyone to join me. But hopefully something I say here can help temper the rancor that is our modern debate.
- to listen, understanding that I don’t know everything and that other people bring valuable perspectives and experience;
- to grow, understanding that these other perspectives and experiences offer me a wonderful opportunity to expand my knowledge, understanding, and perspective;
- to be respectful, understanding that others may choose to not be that way;
- to not be a hypocrite, understanding that I can’t ask others to listen to my point of view if I refuse to listen to theirs;
- to not be closed-minded, understanding that limiting the range of opinions, philosophies, and beliefs to which I expose myself only limits myself and reflects poorly on the type of person I want to be;
- to respect the actions of others, understanding that engagement comes in many forms — on-line and off, and in many different ways;
- to remain engaged, understanding that I have a responsibility to be an active member of my community;
- to be appreciative of all efforts, understanding that there’s no right or wrong way to be engaged in your community, and that even the smallest actions have value;
- to not just be a critic, but to offer solutions, understanding that this is what I was taught early on in my editorial years, and that this advice is what puts the constructive in criticism; and
- to not be judgmental, understanding that while this is how I see my role, others can choose to live their lives, behave in the manner that suits them, and act in ways that I may not agree with, but that it’s their choice.
Sadly, there is a lot of negative in this city — much of which is created by some of our city’s self-professed moral authorities. There are those who revel in insults, name-calling, and belittling — yet offer little of value in terms of solutions.
There are those who claim to have the city’s best interests in mind, but who are merely acting in their own self-interests, positioning for political gain, and assuming tenuous superiority based upon a foundation of hypocrisy.
And there are those for whom nothing this city, its people, or its leaders do will ever be enough. They revel in misery and approach each new black eye with absolute glee.
But I believe there are more of us in this city that want to see it succeed. We need not be positive at all times, we can address issues with humour or sarcasm, but we do so respectfully.
I believe there are more of us who care more about the value of an idea as opposed to denigrating it based upon from where or from which political party it comes. I believe that there are more of us who want to be responsible citizens of a flourishing city of London.
And I believe that we are a not-so-silent majority. And that’s why I believe this city can succeed.