Friday, September 02, 2005

Departing Guest

I'm disinclined to post anything about technology or legal education today, given the real and necessary preoccupation of the U.S. with Katrina, New Orleans, and the terrible aftermath throughout the delta region about which we probably haven't heard the half, alas. I feel that another "ordinary" post would be too much like the lecturer who continues in a louder voice after someone has yelled "fire" in the lecture hall.

Connie Crosby posted yesterday in Slaw, asking what, if anything, we in the Canadian legal community could do to help our colleagues in trouble. I've sent out a couple of feelers to see if any of our civil lawyers could offer sensible assistance. But I suspect we are condemned to watch and worry from a distance. Technical resources we have; but then so does the U.S., in even greater supply. Perhaps something will emerge in time that will allow us to participate in the necessary work of reconstruction.

By way of personal commentary, let me only refer to something in today's Globe and Mail, a tiny filler item on page 14:

Britons were more content overall during the dark days of the Great Depression of the 1930s than they are in these affluent days, according to a study into illness and the causes of social exclusion published yesterday by the University of Cardiff in Wales.

"The things that relate to happiness across countries and cultures, but are particularly relevant to the UK, are family relationships, social networks, support networks and a sense of belonging," according to the study, headed by Mansel Aylward a professor in the university's psychology department.

This is not news -- or shouldn't be. I realize that "happiness" isn't necessarily the ultimate goal, though its pursuit does come right after life and liberty in the American mythology. But what we know about it suggests strongly that, in the words of the distinguished English economist, Richard Layard:
....when all is said, a happy life is about a lot more than money can buy and, besides adequate income, happiness research points to six main factors affecting happiness: mental health, satisfying and secure work, a secure and loving private life, a secure community, freedom, and moral values.
[Lionel Robbins Memorial Lectures, 2002/2003, PDF]
Connectedness, not money. Enough money, yes. Indeed, we also now know that too wide a gap between rich and poor produces serious problems for the health of a society and its individual citizens. So not just a level playing field but a fairly level distribution of wealth, caring, shared social spaces... these matter more than... well, than we in the West seem to give them credit for. We will reach out towards the "baby in the well," spending wildly disproportionate sums to rescue one compared to the meagre resources we devote to "rescuing" the rest. So we can expect -- should celebrate -- the outpouring of concern and aid that has already begun in connection with Katrina. But when the flood waters have receded and the dove flies but does not return, will we continue to care and share and support and nurture and include?

Finally, a word of thanks for being allowed to post as a guest blogger. It's been a real honour, even if I spell it with a 'u.'

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