Pardon the confusion

As the years pass and time seems to speed up, confusion reigns.
Items in the news and a few experiences in the past week led to that thought.
Growing up rural and within that context, small-town Ontario, hard work and consistent effort were the foundation of a satisfying life. With a good job and realistic goals, it was quite possible to marry, purchase a home, have at least one car and raise a family. It did take teamwork and a commitment from all parties, but it was achievable.
The General Motors plant closure announcement brought those old-dearly held notions about how the world is supposed to work to the surface. Numerous current and former employees of GM recounted similar ideals, having spent their working lives in service to a corporation. Many thanked GM for the lives they lived thanks to a good-paying employer, and others wished it didn’t have to end.
That closure, held at bay as long as it was, is the latest result of globalization and the drive to source cheaper labour elsewhere in the world. Noting that incessant push for cheaper labour and cheaper prices, it’s hard not to recall the famous Zellers “where the lowest price is the law” slogan. Ironically, Zellers didn’t last either.
This area is not immune and has had its share of closures over the years that rocked their host communities – GSW, Woods, Westinghouse and Guardian Fibreglass are examples. Knowing how difficult those changes were at the time, it is obvious Oshawa will need time to heal after a century-old employer finally leaves town.
Speaking with colleagues and associates on the matter, the loss of 2,500 jobs was met with acceptance, rather than expected incredulity. That seemed odd, but we do live in a bizarre age where empathy for others has become a bit of a casualty.
Unless directly affected, bad news is almost met with a casual gaze these days.
It was noteworthy, as countless families had their livelihood derailed, stock in GM actually increased in value. As one friend put it, such tactical decisions lead to bigger dividends. I suppose that is some consolation, however it is doubtful that the thousands of employees affected by plant closures across North America will have much of a share in that windfall. The rich will get richer.
And there it is – the sense of confusion that seems to have gripped our thinking recently and made it difficult to offer solutions or at least ideas to counteract the current revolution of disruption underway.
Without good paying jobs and busy hands, it’s hard to fathom how the current standard of living can be sustained. As the disparity between classes grows will the economically impoverished see a time where they can’t afford goods because even the lowest price is too much? Are we perilously close to that tipping point now, considering the near-zero jobless rate and currently low borrowing costs?
These are big picture questions and from our vantage point it’s hard to see any government, business or politician understanding the perils that lie ahead.
Unfortunately, in this race to embrace disruption, casualties will mount. On that point, no confusion exists.