I was chatting recently with a friend, who has teens the same age as my own and will be heading off to university next fall. We were both fuming about the recent attack by our provincial government on funding for post-secondary education, and the tuition hikes and staff cuts that have resulted.
“I was talking with my mom about this, and she reminded me that we will be fine. Between them and our own efforts, we can make sure our kids get their degrees,” she told me.
It wasn’t until a few days later I started really hearing what she said.
We’ll be fine.
Famous last words of the entitled and very true.
We are solidly in the professional class. We have degrees of our own and the ability to plan ahead for our children’s education, save when we can, and make whatever budget adjustments in the moment that are necessary. Our kids will be fine.
Not that it won’t be an inconvenience, or mean readjusting expectations for our own lives and retirements even perhaps, but my teen and her teens will go to university and graduate with a minimum of debt. In today’s world, the only bigger advantage would be having parents who can foot the bill entirely.
But the more I thought about “we’ll be fine” the more it angered me.
Why is my kid going to be fine, but some of her classmates not so much?
And from there, I went on to assess current events in Canada and in the United States and realized the “we'[ll be fine” mantra is the root of more issues than not and has been for a long while.
I won’t blame the Boomers. Entirely. They were taught this bit of selfish. They didn’t invent it. But they, and their parents in the Greatest and Silent (what an aptly named bunch) Generations certainly perfected it and embedded it deeply within our societies and our politics.
We’ll be fine is what stops the privileged from taking the extra step or stepping into another’s shoes in the first place. It allows people to pretend their known outcome requires so much of their time and resources that nothing is left to spare for others who aren’t going to be fine no matter what they do.
It’s why people vote their conscious or agitate for revolution. When you’ll be fine, the unintended consequences and collateral damage to others really doesn’t matter.
Best example today of “we’ll be fine” is the Democratic primary in the United States. Where two groups with different visions of what fine looks like largely ignored a substantial base, their issues, and a vastly different idea of what fine means in real time.
In Canada, this same mantra has morphed into people who are fine trying to convince people who are slowly getting to fine to give that fine opportunity up because it’s not fine enough.
A cousin on Facebook today lamented the discord not feeling fine creates on their feed, but instead rolls by in a steady wave of discontent. Why can’t we all just appreciate the bits of fine flotsam and jetsam in our lives? And while the point about appreciating what’s right in front on you is well taken, I can’t help but wonder if the maybe the veneer of fine is wearing as thing for others as it is for me?
On a personal level, I have no complaints. Not really. Irritations maybe. Normal worries. But serious discontent? No. Those days are so far in my rear view they seem like a life someone else lived.
But I am not okay pretending “we’ll be fine” – because it’s true – is a good enough reason to not rage at the machine, which makes sure this isn’t the case for everyone.
Why should I turn a blind eye to racial injustice preventing people from voting and being represented by folks who could improve lives and communities? Why not point out the stubborn resiliency of misogyny? Or how inequity in education access is a waste of human potential that could benefit all of society and not just individuals in pursuit of material gain?
Why should I keep silent when my elected officials are greedy and corrupt? Or not remind people Google is their damned friend when they are sharing garbage websites written by weaselly trolls and fattening their own purses in the process?
I am supposed to sit silently by? Like the people who watched Jim Crow terrorize black communities? Like the people who did nothing when their drunk friend was led away to a bedroom at a frat party, knowing what was going to happen? Like the coworkers who say nothing when the usual suspects make racist or misogynistic jokes?
There’s that poem, right? They came for X but I was Z – and just fine – so I did fuck all.
Easter on the horizon reminds me of the horrible Passion. I can’t even remember anymore how many times we had to read that during Holy Week. Father was Jesus. The congregation played the crowd. The crowd who shouted for him to be crucified.
I never said it. It incensed me. I didn’t even pretend to mouth the words.
Once my dad chastised me for it, and I told him, “I would never have said that.”
He didn’t correct me. He never brought it up again.
I feel like that now. That I am part of a crowd giving tacit consent to something that I don’t consent to whenever I stay quiet.
My privilege is part of the problem. I understand this. But I don’t know what to do about it other than refuse to stay silent.
I told my teen I need another outlet than annoying my cousins and high school friends on Facebook.
“Maybe I should write angry fan-fiction about a Prime Minister who is a secret superhero ridding the world of injustice?”
She grinned wickedly, “Do it.”
If only I could draw. It could be a graphic novel. I can only draw stick people however. This might be a problem.
I still have Twitter, where everyone speaks up, so like Hamlet in England, our madness is not much noticed.
I know one thing. It’s nothing is fine right now and people will not be able to hide from that much longer.