The first time I was old enough to watch a movie with my parents and not my sisters, we watched Erin Brockovtich. I fell in love with Julia Roberts’ character for being smart and raising kids by herself and not being ‘just’ a secretary, for going above and beyond and for not standing down on something she knew was wrong. (I haven’t seen it since then, so the details are fuzzy, but I hope that is a generally precise synopsis).
HOWEVER, I was not impressed with the amount of swearing. (My recollection is that she used the ‘f-word’ at least once per sentence.) At all. And said so. (Consider this your disclaimer that the ‘f-word’ will appear in this post.)
My parents, in their wisdom, said sometimes (and only sometimes) swearing gets a point across that plain language can’t. I didn’t believe them, and protested accordingly, probably more than once.
And then I ‘grew up’. Or got older. Or jaded. Or changed from my 13-year-old self, so sure of the good in the world and eager to believe in people’s good intentions. Or a combination of the three…and more. I still believe in a world where we don’t have to swear to be taken seriously. Where we don’t need to swear to get attention, because everyone agrees that making sure people aren’t needlessly suffering at the hands of corporations is a common goal rather than an exceptional one. I’m not so old and jaded that I’m not an optimist.
The point is, this summer when I read James Maskalyk’s book Six Months in Sudan on the recommendation of a friend from camp, I really, really appreciated the following quote, from his thoughts on returning to Canada:
“We return from the field, from an Ebola outbreak or violent clashes in Sudan, with no mistake about how the world is. It is a hard place – a beautiful place, but so too an urgent one…The people I left behind in Sudan don’t need us to help them towards a health system that can offer immunizations. They need vaccine. Fucking yesterday. Once that urgency takes hold, it never completely lets go.”
Not that the people of Sudan don’t at some point need a health care system that can deliver immunizations. They do. But working towards a system over the next decade doesn’t help people now. At all. We need to do both. Urgent needs have to be met today, because they are urgent. Not after a few decades of stability and education for health professionals and the buildling of infrastructure and working out the supply chain. Today.
That urgency holds true everywhere – Nunavut and Canada included. People need vaccine, healthy and affordable foods, health professionals in their community, meaningful work, better housing, cleaner water. Fucking yesterday.
These are things we can do. So..let’s do them and stop apologizing for what we didn’t do yesterday and pointing out what we can’t do today and planning for how easy it will be in a few decades. Today, April 16, 2010. Today.
**Also – I’m not really old and jaded. And I don’t really believe in swearing. But, as my parents have (tried) to teach me, the world isn’t always so black and white.