“I disagree. We’re fortunate in Canada you don’t need a revolution to bring about change, but you do need hard work and commitment. During my sixteen years in public office, I found many citizens who came to me with issues were impatient. They wanted results, and they wanted them immediately if not sooner, and that’s not how democracy works. Sure, you have as much say as the next citizen, but no more, and that citizen may not agree with you. It takes time and energy to bring people on board, to build support for your cause, but most people want none of that. It’s easier to blame the system or the politicians than to roll up your sleeves and work to change things.”
“Did you ever sell out, vote against your principles?” Chris said.
“I don’t think I did, others may not agree. Like I said politics is about compromise. To get what you want you sometimes have to give something away, and that will always upset some people off. “
“Did you enjoy it?”
“I loved it, still do, but from the sidelines. It’s all-encompassing. You’re always on the job. It’s tough on your family, which I regret, tough on your health, and that’s where I’m going today, to see a specialist in Vancouver, my daughter’s meeting me at the bus depot.
“But you still did it?”
“You can lead, or you can follow, be master of your fate or let fate master you. Me, I never much liked people telling me what to do.”
Chris was stunned, Fred thought like he did, yet he’d worked within the system to get what he wanted. He said that was the way to change it. Chris doubted that, but could he work within the system to have a fulfilling life? Opting out didn’t seem to be working, besides at the same time he was condemning society wasn’t he taking advantage of it? He hadn’t paid for his education up to high school, sure it was brainwashing, but he’d still learned reading, writing and arithmetic. He got patched up courtesy of the Medicare. He’d taken advantage of the infrastructure all across this country including roads, communications, toilets and uncontaminated drinking water.
Two types of people annoyed Chris; the constant complainer who did nothing to change or improve his or her situation; and the cynic critical of everything but not offering alternatives. Fred made him realize he’d become both those people.
“Sorry, Chris. I’ve talked your ear off and tired myself out.” His seatmate closed his eyes.
Was it fear, Chris wondered, that made him reject outright the life he was expected to follow? Damn right it was. He’d grown to hate Sunday afternoons leading up to another week of work he loathed with people he despised. He looked around him and saw people who bought a dream that was, at least in his experience, impossible to fulfill. The thing was you could get used to anything if you had to, if you did it day in and day out, if you never experienced alternatives, didn’t even know they existed.
Being on the road was like a splash of frigid water on a sleepy face. It wasn’t pleasant, but it woke you up. He’d learned a lot in a negative way, basically that outside a tiny circle of friends and family nobody gave a shit about you. You were faceless, nameless, best avoided and certainly someone to be wary of. The experience had been both empowering and dehumanizing.
The freeway ran straight down the middle of the Fraser Valley into Vancouver. It was a sunny morning. Out the window, he could see the landmarks of Seymour and Grouse Mountains.
Chris felt ambivalent about coming home. He needed to get a job, but he couldn’t go back to the clothing factory. The place destroyed people. He refused to believe the lifers he worked beside had started out that way - small lives, no ambition, meaningless achievements, people who looked forward to sitcoms on television and then discussed them at the lunch table.
Still, he needed to find work right away. He couldn’t bear living at home, and neither could his mother afford him living there. Maybe he could get back on as a dishwasher, they always needed help.
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