The Pendulum

Source of photo: AZ Quotes

The nice thing about living six decades is that you start to notice patterns. You start to see that some things come around again and again. You start to see that history often does repeat itself.

My grandparents were a product of the rather racy 1920s. My parents, born at the end of the Great Depression, were the product of the very staid and conservative 1940s and 1950s. I was born during the dawning of the Age of Aquarius: the 1960s. By the time I was coming of age in the 1970s, the world was a very different place from the Leave-it-to-Beaver upbringing my parents had been raised in.

As a white woman, I consider myself fortunate to have lived many decades in a place where my language – if not my skin colour – instantly made me ‘the other’. I could melt into any crowd as long as I kept my mouth shut, but centuries of British and English Canadian oppression made me stand out like a very sore thumb if I opened my mouth and my English-Canadian accent betrayed my roots.

For over three decades I was acutely aware that everything I did; everything I said; every move I made was representative of every other anglophone, everywhere. I understood that I was an ambassador, of sorts. Distrust of ‘rich’ privileged anglophones had been deeply ingrained (with good reason) in the Québec culture for centuries. I was determined to break that mould, one person at a time. Even in Montreal, where, to the great annoyance of every French Québecer, it is still possible to live your entire life in English, I addressed everyone in French first. For me, it was a purposeful act of respect. I worked in the field of education with many French-speaking intellectuals who openly expressed their scorn and their distrust of ‘les blokes’ as we were frequently called (an epithet that was much better than ‘les maudites anglais’ – the damned English – which I also heard a lot). After a time, most of my colleagues affectionately (and yes, rather condescendingly) called me their ‘bloke préférée’. It was a bit irritating, but I nonetheless chalked it up as a ‘win’.

It was, hands-down, the best way for a privileged white woman to learn the barest meaning of what it must be like to live with racism every day of your life, simply because of the clothes you wear, the religion you practice, the language you speak or the colour of your skin.

Things have changed so much since the 70s. I remember seeing my Dad’s friends affectionately pat my mother’s bottom. I remember my father ‘letting’ my mother work. I remember hearing people I knew and loved, casually say the most awful things – or tell the most inappropriate ‘jokes’ – about people of colour; people of different religions or people with a different sexual orientation. I remember when fat-shaming was not only acceptable, but applauded.

And even as a very young girl, I didn’t like it.

As a result, I am particularly fascinated with the fairly recent concepts of ‘cancel culture’ and ‘woke’ culture. Yes, the pendulum has indeed swung far in the opposite direction. Yes, changes are afoot. Yes, people are paying attention to things that everyone let slide in the past. And yes, sometimes it can get a little uncomfortable.

But… isn’t that a good thing?

I have been disliked – and then eventually grudgingly accepted – simply for the language I was born into. And I know it doesn’t feel very nice. As a result, seeing things from others’ perspective is very, very important to me (even if I very often get things wrong). I consciously strive to be politically correct. And like everyone else, I often find myself lagging behind, running to catch up with concepts that can be so fluid and so ever-changing.

But I keep trying to understand.

Over the course of decades, I had a lot of very gentle, respectful and meaningful discussions with a great number of disenfranchised Québecers (Quebecois/e, to be precise). I loved their culture; their music, their art; their fierce independence; their pride and of course, their language. I loved the greater freedoms enjoyed by women in Québec. I minded – terribly – how far back I slipped on the equality scale when we moved back to an English province; for example: the assumption that by default, everything would be in my husband’s name, if we had not insisted that it be otherwise. I even rather miss the fierce political debates that are welcomed and even relished by most Québecers.

For the life of me, I don’t see why bringing a new point of view into the light must become a divisive issue. And I will never understand why it can be so hard for some of us to put ourselves into another a person’s shoes.

No one would want to be disliked for something they have absolutely no control over.

I know I didn’t.

Patti Moore Wilson/©




Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

12 thoughts on “The Pendulum”

  1. This is a great reflection and testimonial. If we buy too much into what mainstream media shows us, it’s easy to see the world divided and feed the hate rather than the search for understanding and acceptance of diversity and differences. It should be a human trend, to respect the other as we would like to be respected – with kindness. Thank you for sharing 🙏

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Patti, I’ve come to realize that the answer to humanity’s dilemma lies in our ongoing socialized evolution since our primitive ancestors first began living together in towns and cities. Nowadays, as way back then, it serves those in power worldwide to keep us divided for domination and control of the masses of humanity. When might is right, caring for each other becomes a threat.

    Liked by 2 people

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