“Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced. You never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Say what you like about those we elect to power, but the one thing I would consider an unfair label to slap on politicians is “stupid”.
If you take the time to go through the personal biography of every president, prime minister, premier, governor, etc., elected to power by a repeatedly hopeful and later disillusioned voting populace, you’ll discover one common theme: they’re not dumb.
Some are university graduates in political science, socio-economics, law, or finance. Others are those gifted with business acumen or rogue scholars. Still, all of them have a pretty good chance of being sharper than the average knife in the drawer, or in more realistic terms the typical armchair quarterback who THINKS he or she understands how the government should run the country.
Yet despite being fairly intelligent, it’s clear our leaders do not have all the answers. They may use vibrant feel-good speeches to inspire hope in those looking for such, but facts are like the 43.0913 kilogram dog who still thinks he is a puppy yet the ominous snapping noise your body is making as he lies across you says otherwise.
To intone the character V from “V For Vendetta”, “…the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?”.
Yes there is. We have poverty, homelessness, lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable post-secondary education, job instability, a fluctuating consumer confidence level, high taxes that seem to go nowhere except perhaps in the back pockets of some unseen lobbyist, the list goes on.
In response to questions raised by the concerns I’ve listed, these politicians I’ve mentioned will respond, “Yes, we feel your pain. We’re listening. We hear you. “
Some of them even claim they’ve talked to the more vulnerable members of society to get their take, or participated in activities like serving dinner at a homeless shelter or helping out at a food bank.
That’s noble, if the sincerity is there and the compassion is real and not practiced like a choreographic dance. I find it honorable to selflessly give one’s free time to help others less fortunate.
Having said that, it’s not enough, and right there is the reason why politicians, as smart and as well-meaning as they might be, haven’t put in policies to make the lives of the more vulnerable members of society any better.
Knowledge is not experience. There’s a difference.
I can have a conversation with a nuclear reactor technician for example about reactors. He or she could tell me everything about what a reactor is, how uranium rods heat water into a steam to drive turbines that produce hydroelectric power, but that does not make me a nuclear reactor technician.
I could explain to you what I did during my 20 year IT career in the most minute of details: programming, system administration, Sarbanes-Oxley enforcement, intersystem interfacing, what application layers are, how to create logical access paths in a database. After hearing all of this, would that make you as good an I.T, processional as I was?
Let’s take it to the most basic level. I can tell you I was cold and trying to keep warm on a subway car waiting at a station, or how frightened I was when someone threatened to kill me while at the House of Friendship. Would you truly understand how harsh a men’s shelter or living outdoors can be? No, you’d have to experience it.
Reading a book, or being told a story is not having experience. You’re better educated, more informed, but that’s about it.
Politicians have never spent one night on the streets or slept on buses. They’ve never spent time in a shelter. They’ve never had to decide which to pay for first — food or rent, glasses or teeth —- with the scant amount of money in their possession. Politicians come from a position of comfort granted by their privilege that their wealth gives them.
In short, they have not experienced life low-income earners go through as their daily norm.
It is for that reason why they repeatedly fail in solving that socioeconomic problem. Not because they do not know, but because they do not understand.
Thanks for reading.
UPDATE 11/9/2020: For those of you who still think serving coffee to the homeless or having a short chat with them gives you expertise on the subject of homelessness, take a gander at this video. Contrary to popular belief (lazy! get a job!), homelessness happens when life happens. All it took for this woman to become homeless was a mental breakdown.