Almost every day lately, we see images of people all over the world protesting their economic distress.
Yellow vests, which once were a piece of safety clothing, have taken on a new identity — the identity of protest.
Locally, I see a picture of a group of protesters raising concerns about the plight of the oil industry. These folks are upset that their livelihoods are being eroded and that there seems to be no movement to change that. So it is very understandable.
In watching the national and world news, one particular sign stood out to me. It read: We Demand a Pipeline; We Demand Jobs.
This brought to mind an incident at the kitchen a few years ago. A gentleman came into the kitchen asking for about four people to unload a truck.
The job would have lasted about six hours for the four that would be selected. He was offering $15 an hour, and to my surprise, there were no takers.
I was sure several would jump at the chance. The man left without any help, so as he was leaving, I directed him to a temporary help agency downtown, where I knew a lot of our clients could pick up a few hours here and there.
Later, I approached two of the fellows and asked why they refused the opportunity. The reply was quick: “We demand 20 bucks an hour, no less.”
At first, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but then the one fellow explained.
“Whatever I earn has to be declared, and they take the same amount directly from my welfare. Besides, welfare really doesn’t pay that much less than what he was offering.
“Also, they are very quick to cut us off all together, so why jeopardize that?”
So, now as I ponder this, I still can’t understand an attitude that would reject work because of their demanded expectation. Then slowly, I began to understand that only in a welfare state would that happen. In countries where there is no backup like EI or welfare, there are no such things as demands. It shows in stark reality what happens in the rest of the world, especially Third World areas.
When you consider that in this country, even those on social assistance are still included in the top 15 per cent of the wealthiest people in the world, the word “demand” becomes almost a swear word.
Remember those? We don’t seem to use that expression, swear, anymore, but it is still there.
For the people or companies that have the finances that can produce jobs, I wonder what they think of the word “demand”?
Now we are not only dealing with the investors, but also the governments, that due to the environment, really want to shut down the very industry that produces the work.
If they were really interested in the welfare of their people, and not just their own agendas, they would find a way. At least that’s the way it feels to me.
As I write this, I have come to the realization that in the world, and even here in Alberta, change is in the air.
People all over the world are tired of being manipulated for the sake of profits and political ineptitude. We see that in the massive migrations into Europe and the Americas.
It seems that many countries are reducing their populations by starving their people, whose only option is to risk acceptance elsewhere rather than dying in their own country.
Throw a nationalistic populist leader into the mix, and you turn economies into weapons that leave entire populations without accustomed lifestyles.
All of a sudden, you begin to understand the “We Demand” movement. And it is not just out there somewhere in the world, it is right here in Red Deer.
Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.