Gibsons was in the clutches of an Arctic deep freeze this past week that convinces even the hardiest local climate deniers that yes: It does snow in Vancouver and yes, winter tires are a good idea and no, Vancouver and the lower mainland are not prepared for accumulative snow falls and have inadequate or no snow removing equipment. Despite the brazing weather I’ve made my way faithfully to my Thursday meet-up with my friend Camp at our pub which was empty except for our stalwart waitress. ‘I don’t get paid if I don’t show up,’ she said with a shrug. Camp eventually walked in looking like ‘The man that came in from the cold’. Before I could even ask about the store he said wryly: ‘Been closed all week due to climate emergency,’ while extracting himself from his soaked overcoat. ‘What’s on your mind besides the weather this week,’ he asked.
‘I’ve had a discussion with a good friend the other day about how so many gullible people can be convinced to believe in the weirdest theories, and he claimed that even good people can be led down the wrong path to believe in crazy ideas like a flat earth or anti-vaccine for their kids or even climate change or holocaust deniers.’
‘There are all kinds of freaks out there,’ Camp said, dismissing the issue.
‘Yeah, I know, but my friend insisted that even good people can believe in bad ideas. What do you think?’
‘What do you mean? That good people can be bad parents and lousy teachers or that good people can deny their kids a vaccine against disease, thereby putting other people’s kids at risk. Tell me what makes people good or bad? There has to be a division, a moral and ethical divide. Good people doing bad things are by definition bad people.’
‘I tend to agree. Even Hitler was good to his dog and Charlie Manson loved his mom. The fact is that some people just go bad and the scale tips them into the dark side,’ I said, taking a sip from my cold beer.
‘Well, if it was up to me, I’d have an inoculation against voting for Trump, against violence and against stupidity,’ Camp said.
‘This already exists,’ I said, ‘it’s called education. The problem is that it is not available in equal fashion and standards to everybody. Also, it’s prone to revisionist and propaganda infused interpretations; even science is not immune.’
‘It only works properly if you take religion and politics out of education,’ Camp said, ‘that’s where it fails in places where religion partners with the state or where the state’s propaganda is the religion.’
‘How about a compassion vaccine or one that fixes egotism, self-righteousness and curbs the appetite for power.’
‘Now you’re playing god. You can’t fix and regulate human emotions and desires and who are you to say that compassion for a dog is better or worse than feelings for children or a grandparent and how could we have music and art without unregulated and spontaneous feelings? Also, without egos and incentives there is no real ambition. Humans are like the weather, predictable in the short term but a mystery in the long run.’
‘Like my friend said: It’s hard to be human.’
‘We’re a smorgasbord of feelings and emotions. Joy, sorrow, empathy, sadness, ecstasy, agony, desire and love, to name a few. We’re in trouble when any one of them spin out of control which can result in depression, suffering and even violence. It’s part of what makes us unique in the animal kingdom along with language, fire and guns.’
‘And money,’ I said.
‘Yep, no other animals use money, separating members of the same species into rich and poor, and everything in between, but mostly poor.’
We emptied our drinks and just like magic Vicky arrived with our refills.
‘What do you think Vicky, what makes people good or bad?’
‘How should I know?’ she said, ‘all I know from experience is that lazy people are often not the best partners in work, love or life.’
‘I guess that makes me guilty,’ I said, ‘I prefer to laze about these days and I am so happy that I don’t have to go to work anymore.’
‘Speak for yourself,’ Camp said.
‘You’re not lazy,’ Vicky said, ‘you’re just of a – how should I put it – of a certain age where you’re entitled to take it easy.’
‘You mean old?’ I said.
‘She means mature, accomplished and wise,’ Camp said.
‘Estamos vivos!’ I toasted. ‘We are alive!’