Philosophy

How We Demonstrate Our Values

By Ben Bull
Published September 13, 2006

Now that the anniversary of September 11th is behind us I am left to reflect on how much we have learned from this tragedy.

A letter writer in today's Toronto Star made the enlightened observation, "We are identified by our values, our tolerance and respect for all people."

He also expressed his belief that it was these values which were attacked on September 11th. I couldn't agree more. The irony that the letter writer fails to grasp is that it is these same 'values' which fuelled the anger that led to the attacks in the first place.

North America has supported dictatorships and supplied arms to warring nations for decades. We have consistently turned a blind eye to the suffering of people 'over there' while at the same time ensuring our own quality of life and comfort has improved.

North American values are demonstrated in the actions of our governments - not in the minds of starry-eyed citizens.

Our values are demonstrated when we ignore our diminishing contribution to foreign aid.

Our values are demonstrated when we contemplate our empty commitment to the Kyoto Accord.

Our values are demonstrated when we fail to take action to prevent human rights atrocities to Canadian Journalists in Iran, Falon Gong followers in China, or inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

It's true that the atrocity of September 11th was close to our hearts, and it's true that our way of life was attacked. But what we need to learn from all this is that there is real human suffering on this earth, both at home - and also far beyond our borders.

We need to realize that it is our North American values which have failed to prevent, or have even caused, much of it.

I sincerely hope that one day soon we in North America can begin to demonstrate the kind of values that befit our status as 'civilized' citizens of the world.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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