That’s progress

Usually visitors to Disney World are unable to get the tune “It’s a small world” out of their head. Holidaying there with the kids last week presented us with a different song that kept playing over and over.
The ride was Carousel of Progress and it was almost an accident that we went on it again this year. A downpour forced us to seek cover until the rain subsided. As with most Disney attractions, it was well done and offered a concise account of 20th century technology. Since the original concept behind the Carousel was based on highlighting General Electric at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, it focused on conveniences in the home since the early 1900s. As each of six vignettes finished, a song about progress played.
For the balance of that day and now three days later, we catch ourselves humming the song There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow a little, and thinking about the notion of progress.
There is no doubt that conveniences continue to make living a little easier. The good old days, sentimentally held closely by people, particularly as they age, are well past us. Cars are better, electrical appliances are more convenient, and much has been done to make life simpler.
For example, when hydro first made its way across North America, many homes were under powered and jerry-rigged to the point of being unsafe. Now, we have nice electrical panels and a rigid set of rules to govern home and business wiring. Few might remember the old fuse box and its annoying blowing of fuses in the middle of a heavy load.
Where we deviate a bit from the general exaltation of things being better and all about progress, is in the fields of social wellness and public affairs. Once home, numerous examples of curiosities presented themselves, where it would seem solutions are not forthcoming, to give any indication that progress is at hand.
In the field of health care, there have been many innovations to deal with cancer and various maladies that generally ended in early death. For those things we can all be grateful; however, with what we see as a subtle manipulation of funding in recent decades, we have patients suffering and waiting months to see specialists. Patients needing respite care or a hospice to ease chronic woes in their final weeks of life are not being well served. In fact, one article in this week’s Advertiser, deals with county council being approached for a grant to fund such a facility. We find that a great idea and hope it moves ahead, but we have grave concerns that the municipal level of government is even being confronted with the problem.
Since the downloading of ambulance services for municipalities to operate and help pay for with property tax money, there have been similar hiccups where it can hardly be said progress has been made. There was an investment in education made for ambulance attendees and there has been some tinkering with service levels, but it can be easily argued that more needs to happen in terms of response times. To the average person, it should be as simple as ordering up more help and paying a bit more. But, as another article in this week’s Advertiser notes, the City of Guelph politicians hold the trump card when it comes to changing the system. Being unable to shape one’s own destiny hardly qualifies as progress, and as bemoaned earlier, why should health issues be funded in part through property taxes?
Of increasing concern to us is the ever more obvious sense that the working poor continue to fall further behind with little recognition that the issue will affect most of us more acutely than we might think. An abysmal pension system for the working poor combined with staggering increases to the cost of living is a head shaker as more of us move on to retirement years. Disability pension programs desperately needed for those ending a work career early seem to focus more on who can be denied rather than who can be helped. While the strict rules are a result of blatant abuses of the system, it hardly seems reasonable to people stuck with making choices between housing, eating, paying a utility bill and generally surviving.
A further issue we will likely harp on until we are no longer drawing breath is the absence of any programming that will effectively deal with the high cost of housing for the working poor. The federal Conservative budget announced earlier in the week essentially held no News on that front. All we heard was talk about being fiscal conservatives whenever such issues were raised by opposition parties after the budget was tabled. Being a fiscal conservative might very well play with a segment of the population, but rest assured, it provides little comfort to those scratching to get by.
There is no question most of us look forward to enjoying tomorrow and it is great and beautiful, but until that tomorrow includes thoughtful governance and solutions to some essentially simple problems, real progress will remain elusive to an increasing portion of the population.