Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Opportunity Continued....

Well, I think it's about time to tackle our debate about Opportunity again. I love that you guys had such passionate and reasoned opinions about the subject. With so much information available to us via web, digital television etc...it's more important than ever to have open discussion and debate about uncomfortable topics. We tend to sweep divisive topics under the rug, ignoring them completely, and thus allowing them to remain unchanged. Or we become so inflamed and angry, taking things personally, that any hope of reasoned discourse is lost, along with any hope for real change.

So here goes...

May: I agree with you on some points. Your network of friends and family definitely influences what you choose to do, hence the Indian cabbies, Chinese laundromats, you mentioned. You also said that the theory behind equal opportunity rights, "is that you must be equal in every other aspect related to qualification..." And I agree to some extent. I'm not saying that we should just hand jobs over to people because they are immigrants. I am saying that immigrants are not given equal access to opportunities, even when the qualifications are similar, and that's a sense of entitlement that is owned by our majority. I mean, how many cab drivers speak perfect English? How many are highly educated? A lot of them. Do they have equal access to all the opportunities that someone who was born here does? I don't think so.

Furtheron: I suppose that I have an extremely idealistic view of things. You're right - history does go around and around and around. But aren't we supposed to learn from history? Aren't we supposed to have the wisdom to make courageous choices and change things? Is it a good enough excuse to say that eventually my descendents will be enslaved by the "next world power," and thus I should get mine while I can? At some point, we have to stop these cycles of abuse, power and victim consciousness. And I say that we are evolved enough at this point, that we should start today!

Em: I'm not saying that we should just hand jobs over to people because they are immigrants. They should definitely be qualified for the jobs they are applying for. I'm saying that immigrants have it a lot tougher, even when they are equally qualified. I don't know too many immigrants that go around expecting handouts. Most are extremely hard working, and grateful to have any job at all. They appreciate how good we have it here in Canada. I'm sure I'll be lynched for saying this, but most of the panhandlers on the street in Toronto, are caucasian. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw a homeless person that was a minority. Why is that? I don't think that you can realistically take away the race card. It's a factor in almost every socioeconomic situation out there. I would love the day that we didn't even have to say things like "race card," cuz then it would mean that we'd really dealt with the issue once and for all.

Of course, you all know from my Political Compass, that I'm basically a Communist, as is Furtheron...hardy har har...Have you guys done it? Em and May, I am curious about what your results would be. I'm betting that you are both further to the right.

Overall, I guess my point is that we need to take care of each other. We're human. And ultimately, I don't like to see people suffering. I don't like it when I see a single mother working 2 jobs. I don't like it when I'm in a restaurant and all the busboys are brown, and all the waiters are white. I don't like it when my cab driver is a professor and can't catch a break because of his accent or the colour of his skin.

Ultimately, we aren't all equal. That's a fact. Some of us are smarter. Some of us are harder working. Some of us have better connections. Some of us don't. I just believe that if you have more, you should give to those who have less. No matter what the reason is. That's just compassion.


EM said...

The original intent of my comment was that I can't quite get to the "equally qualified" notion re: immigrants (esp in relation to the busboy example). I know that for many jobs, communication skills especially language related, are crucial. I agree with you that immigrants have it a lot tougher - but I don't feel it's b/c of their immigrant status - I feel it's because they have to 1) learn the language, 2) learn the skills, and 3) find a job. Perhaps it's b/c I haven't met the professor driving a cab that I find it hard to relate to your argument. As an example, at our company, our janitorial staff is comprise mainly of East Indian immigrants. They don't speak English very well, but then again - they don't need to. Their job is to clean. I can't see the inequity in someone (an immigrant) without the language skills for a higher level job filling in the requirement for janitorial staff. And I have a feeling that the owner of the janitorial company is likely an East Indian immigrant with a higher skill set and some entreprenurial panache...but again, this might be my rose colored glasses talking.

Regardless, I totally applaud your sense of compassion. The fact that you noticed something like this in the first place and that you've generated the thinking and discussion about it - that's something. I have to admit that on the Political Compass I ended up somewhere close to Gandhi (southwest quad). But in retrospect, just b/c my political views fall that way, doesn't mean my actions follow suit. So thank you for heightening my sense of awareness and reminding me to try harder to live up to the person I'd like to be!!! :)

David said...

Ooooh...I so cannot wait to read everyone's responses to your opening debate...

Furtheron said...

Shellz - you're right to challenge and it is interesting when the challenge comes at you to stop and question what you do (or don't do) as a default.

So what is the action I can take on this? Hmm - difficult. I'll be honest I was in a restaurant this last weekend (to be frank we don't eat out a huge amount) and looked about I didn't see any caste system obvious. However this was in a restaurant in Kent not one of the major metropolis of the world! But if I had seen it what should I do - take my custom elsewhere? Answer is obviously yes and there are companies I avoid giving my custom as I don't like the morals and ethics they show. Also there are other companies I do give my custom to as well because they have strong ethical policies. Some of those can clash with me and I have shrug my shoulders on that. I work in an industry that often itself can be under fire but from my view on the inside I see a lot of people working very hard to do some good to the world and try to ensure what we do is done right. Hurts when we get shot at in the press. So what am I saying here.

Yep make a stand but be sure about that stand as well sometimes what appears on the surface or especially in the media isn't the truth.

By the way if you think I'm a communist you should meet some of those around me who took the test - the man who introduced me to it was more left wing than Starlin. I think my Mum and Dad would have been disappointed also I wasn't more to the left - I think they felt that our generation wasn't as dedicated to "the cause" as they were.

Mel said...

I can vouch for the fact that a large percentage of the taxi drivers in Toronto are in fact highly qualified professionals from abroad, and a good portion of them speak English well enough for them to be practicing their profession here in Canada. About 20% of the professions here in Canada are regulated, meaning there is a license required (doctors, engineers etc). Obtaining certification to work in their trained field can be a complicated process involving testing for language, education and skills, as well as sometimes requiring some supervised work time. Coming to Canada prepared for this is crucial. It may take a long time to get this stuff done, so either there has to be enough money set aside to support oneself for the time it takes, or a job (like driving a cab) has to be taken in the meantime. Once all the certification (of stuff that they have been doing for years back home, which HAS to suck) is done, THEN they have to find a job, which is not an easy task since there are so many others (recent grads (ageism is rampant in the workforce), native Canadians) out there looking as well. I have spoken to a few cabbies who are really discouraged and ready to pack it in and go back to whence they came because they have yet to be able to find work. And just think of the loss this could mean to their profession. Some of these people might be brilliant and have so much to offer.

I worked at Hot House about 6 years ago. At that time there were all brown bus-boys, and one black waiter, but other than that, the situation you observed there was the same then as it is now. I was there recently and one of the bus-boys from way back, a great guy, was running food. I asked him what was up- is he waiting tables now? He said he gets to run food and the odd time he gets to wait a few tables. I haven't seen him with a section though, any time I've been there. But this guy has worked there for close to 10 years. He speaks English very well (with an accent, but so what?). He's earned, long ago, the right to make the same money that the servers are making. He can do their job with his eyes closed. I think it's interesting to note that I walked into that place with NO experience. I was pretty, young, blond and they hired me pretty much on the spot. Within weeks I was making at least $100/shift, sometimes $300. Why do I deserve that more than someone else who speaks English but has darker skin and an accent? I don't think anything should be HANDED to anyone, but I think we should all be on a level playing field. And wow, Shelley, you're right, the homeless in Toronto are ALL caucasion. I have never noticed that before. Makes one think.

EM said...

That is really interesting (and sad) about the cabbies. I guess with less exposure to cabbing it in Vancouver, I've just never come across it.

The example Mel gave about the restaurant made me think of the Cactus Clubs, Milestones, Earls and Sammy Js that are popular here on the West Coast. They hire waitstaff based on a cookie cutter image - young pretty females with long legs, great bodies and cute smiles. Is it fair when there might be some excellent servers applying for the same job without the right "look" (ex. the immigrant, the chubby girl, the average male)? Does it become a job "requirement" - Having this right image? My point is that discrimination isn't limited to immigrants then - esp. in the service industry. As a result, I would have to pick and choose my battles, otherwise I could possibly find myself without a restaurant to eat in, a club to dance at, a bar to drink at, etc etc!!? Is there even such a thing as a level playing field? What a depressing thought.