Sunday, September 12, 2010

Longtime resident...or parachuted in...?

Over at The Hamiltonian, there seems to be the hint of a start of a discussion about Martinus Geleynse, the Ward 2 candidate. Specifically a suggestion that being a long-time resident should be a prerequisite to properly serve the people of the ward you're running in.

Admittedly, my opinion is informed on my own Life experiences, and was aptly highlighted by something Matt Jelly said at the Emergency Council meeting last month. Not the last one, the one before, the one putting West Harbour at the front of the queue, before things really went south and-


Matt said that he'd been born in Hamilton, lived in Hamilton all his life...

..and had no intention of ever leaving.

And I thought 'Wow. That's really, really too bad. Because if that's the case, then you will never be able to offer your community the best you that you're capable of presenting to it.'

Because no matter how open you are to ideas, no matter how pro-active you are in delving into what's available to you via the Information Superhighway, by social oracles and psychics, tea-leaf readers and animal scat cannot possibly replicate the invaluable impact that living somewhere else has on you. On the way you see yourself, the way you see the world...and most importantly, the way you see where you're from.

When I lived in England (for a period that amounted to almost a decade, all told), I learned about where my ancestors had lived. I learned about Europe. I learned about this other part of the world I'd been aware of...but not really 'aware' of.

But more than this, I learned about Canada. I learned about its place in the world, I learned about how people saw it, I learned about its strengths, its weaknesses...I learned about its relationship to the US, I learned about America itself...I learned about how information flows -or doesn't- in and out of North America...and around the world.

So when I returned to Canada for good, it wasn't only with 'fresh eyes'. It was with a renewed sense of self, a fortified appreciation for so many identifiable things-Canadian...and more importantly, for so many unidentified things-Canadian.

Bottom-line: I am a much more evolved Canadian than I was before leaving the country. And therefore, what I'm capable of mining from within myself is an entirely different lode than from 'before'.

I suppose because of this, I reject the horribly-simplistic (not to mention naïve and facile) notion that you need someone born and bred in the area to look after a Ward's needs.

What you need is someone with the capabilities involved with being able to discern what the Ward's needs are. In the present. Now. Taking into account how things got to where they are now, having put in their time really understanding the intricacies of place and people and circumstance...but not so mired in history as to be handicapped by too much of an attachment to it.

What's funny about this minor spin on xenophobia (granted, I'm pushing the analogy, but I can live with my excesses), is that on the one hand, people will call for 'term limits', championing the need to get 'fresh blood' into the system...yet this is precisely what someone from 'somewhere else' provides. (Please, someone explain the logic involved -or absent- here.)

Additionally, those who diminish the importance and value of living somewhere else almost inevitably have never lived anywhere other than where they are, where they've always been. Which means that they aren't just 'biased', they're labouring under what I refer to as an 'unqualified opinion'.

(Ironically, one of my long-standing beliefs is that we should be incorporating a 'Peace Corps'-type system within which our young people could 'serve' either in a non-military, civic way, or a mix of the two. One that would see them working a year away from home, ideally overseas, to gain much-needed perspective about the world in general...but also about themselves...and where they're from. Imagine the injection of vitality that our workforce would potentially offer up, were we to adopt such a program. Imagine how much broadened their horizons could be...imagine how much more involved they could be in their communities, how their 'relationship of engagement' in local governance could help introduce ripple-effects.)

So I reject small-minded -and barely carefully-considered- viewpoints regarding home-grown vs 'outsider' that weight things in such a parochial way. Instead of getting tied up in what amounts to so much dross, how about we actually make a point of examining a candidate's qualifications? You know, what they bring to the position, taking a good look at their skill-set? Especially seeing as we have no actual structured requirements for serving.

Or does that ask too much of our supposedly 'moribund' electorate?


  1. Great points. I've travelled to Mexico for a long-term stint a few years back- what I meant that I'd never leave is that I'll live here for the rest of my life, Hamilton as my home base. I have no issues with living in other places and the great experiences that come from seeing different ways of life. Personally, I know that Hamilton is where I'll stay for good as a home- no apologies for that. But you do raise some great points. Sometimes we get so passionate for where we live that we grow myopic and don't understand it from different vantages. I hope these great points generate a discussion. Thanks for bringing this up. - Matt

  2. Matt;

    Thanks for commenting/replying.

    For as long as I've 'known you', I've been an admirer. You have consistently been someone who has, at the risk of injecting the hackneyed, 'talked the talk, then walked the walk...all the while inviting people to join with you in the effort'.

    In fact, with everything that I'm currently investigating, proposing, ruminating on regarding an increased 'relationship of engagement' in the local governance arena, I can look to you as being someone who I'd bet 'gets it', understands the societal shift I'm envisioning...and more specifically, can appreciate what this newfound paradigm of Councillors and essentially their day-to-day functions would look like.

    So I'm glad you didn't take my comments as an attack, or in a negative way. Your desire to remain in Hamilton should not be seen as anything other than a genuine expression of who you are...and what that is, is something the residents of your ward are fortunate to be have for their consideration. I know that at the very least, you're bringing something genuine and authentic to the campaign, and I encourage them to explore just what it is you represent, and you to bring the best of what you have to offer. Hats off to you for remaining consistent and committed.


I'm always interested in feedback, differing opinions, even contrarian long as they're delivered with decorum...with panache and flair always helping.