OPINION: Of Hellfire missiles and dog poop

Ninety-four per cent of British Columbians find not picking up dog waste somewhat upsetting, according to a new poll asking about incredibly minor grievances, from a global perspective. - Insights West
Ninety-four per cent of British Columbians find not picking up dog waste somewhat upsetting, according to a new poll asking about incredibly minor grievances, from a global perspective.
— image credit: Insights West

I misread the headline attached to a news story through a Facebook link on my phone.

“School year delayed due to strikes” is what I thought it said, although the photo of what appeared to be rubble seemed incongruous.

Another story on the labour strife in British Columbia, I thought. And I did also wonder why there was a plural on the word “strike.”

Then I looked closer at my small screen and noticed the first word in the headline that I had missed.

“Gaza school year delayed due to strikes.”

Oh, right. Suddenly a little perspective washed over me.

It’s one thing to have your children’s school year delayed because the teachers’ union wants more money for wages and to reduce classroom sizes while the government says the cupboard is bare. It’s quite another thing altogether to have the school year delayed, as it is in the Gaza Strip, due to Hellfire missiles raining down from above.

If you simultaneously pay attention to local and international news, and if you step back with a little perspective, the subjects can be jarringly different.

In Syria, journalists are being beheaded and ethnic minorities are being slaughtered by Islamic fundamentalists so extreme they make Al Qaeda look reasonable. Ebola is rocking West Africa. The Ukraine is a mess.

Watching the international news these days can be stressful and depressing.

And yet we have our own stresses right here at home.

A full 46 per cent of British Columbians are “very upset” when they see people smoking on a patio or near open windows, and 78 per cent are “somewhat upset” by this.

Cigarette butts on the ground? Fifty-four per cent of us find this very upsetting and 86 per cent are “somewhat upset.”

Worst of all is dog waste: 68 per cent of British Columbians are very upset when they see doggy doo-doo not picked up, and 94 per cent are somewhat upset.

The statistics come from an Insights West poll released this week. The survey of Albertans and British Columbians looked at 14 behaviours that “disappoint” us westerners.

Dog crap seemed to top the list of the 14 things that disappoint those surveyed in the two provinces. Downloading copyrighted material for free was the least upsetting, with just nine per cent of BC’ers being very irked by this.

(I wish Insights had asked about off-leash dogs—my personal pet peeve.)

Tell a child, however, in Gaza whose apartment block has been destroyed by Israeli missiles that 90 per cent of folks in B.C. are somewhat upset when people park in handicapped spots without a decal and sympathy will be hard to find.

Try telling a Liberian quarantined with ebola that two thirds of us are very upset by seeing someone talking on a cellphone while driving.

This is not to say that we don’t have serious, real problems here in Canada: missing Aboriginal women, environmental degradation, child poverty, to name a few real issues of concern.

But recent immigrants from countries battling terrorism, disease and poverty must either gasp or laugh when they read some news stories in Canada.

Or, maybe, they realize as many of us do that we are extremely lucky to have such petty problems.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be angered over the current dispute keeping our schools closed, or be annoyed when we see dog crap on the sidewalk and cigarette butts on a playground.

But if you ever find your nose out of joint over what, in the big scheme of things, is a minor issue, it helps to get a little perspective, if only for the sake of your mental health.

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