Are we citizens or Tax Payers? Words matter
I read the following by Norlaine Thomas and I thought I would share her rant:
So, I had a bit of a rant on Twitter today. Well, more than one, actually. Because the world is pissing me off a lot lately. But this one, I beg your indulgence. I think it is really important to all Canadians and to the future of this country.
Canadians, language matters. Conservatives know this. They have been deliberately changing our terms of reference for years. We have seen them reframe lobbyists as "partners", and regular folks with local concerns as "special interest groups" (negative connotation).
In this pandemic, it is even more critically important for us to consider the well-being of others. We need to recognize the community we belong to. I would like to suggest a push-back against one of the most insidious changes to popular speech championed by conservatives.
For many years now, conservatives have referred to Canadians as "tax-payers". This has been done deliberately and consistently. And that choice of words has consequences in the way we think about one another.
We need to think of Canadians as "citizens" not "tax-payers". It makes a difference. When conservatives speak to "tax-payers" they are immediately excluding all those who are disabled, elderly, unemployed or working poor, from the body politic.
Those people are citizens too. Monetizing people is wrong. It leads to statements like Kenney made about people "with modest levels of human capital" deserving a lower minimum wage. And it leads to people accepting that our value is determined by our financial contribution.
Our value as human beings is not determined by how much we can contribute to the wealth of corporate entities. We are citizens, first and foremost, regardless of our ability to work, or our ability to pay taxes.
We can see now, in the shocking report from the Canadian Armed Forces, that seniors in Long-Term Care facilities have been treated barely better than animals in an industrial farm. Warehoused at the lowest possible cost, to continue bringing in a profit from storage fees.
The conservatives push to reopen the economy regardless of whether it is safe or not, saying it's mostly old people who are dying, so that's alright, suggests they view our senior citizens the way an industrial farm owner views a cow that can't give milk anymore.
In short, of diminished or spent ability to contribute to profitability. Effectively, a liability on the balance sheet. And this is also reflected in the way conservatives have treated veterans. If they can no longer be useful to the country, they are expendable.
We need to remind ourselves that we are, first of all, members of a society and citizens of a country. We are not "inputs" to an economy. Our value does not depend on our ability to create wealth for corporations. Whatever conservatives may urge to the contrary.
It is inconvenient to the conservative narrative to recognize the humanity of those who are destitute, addicted, infirm, elderly, disabled, or even the wrong colour or gender or sexual orientation. The conservative narrative seeks both to justify disenfranchising those considered "surplus", with no monetary offering to make, and also to divide us and make us accept selfishness and greed through the devaluation of others.
It is time we take back our humanity. It is time we recognize ourselves and all our fellow citizens as having a crucial role in creating and growing our society. We all have non-monetary contributions to make.
Even the most vulnerable among us, the least able to be self-sufficient and contributing, offers the rest of us lessons in compassion, empathy, responsibility, patience, and caring, an opportunity to appreciate and find joy in things far more valuable than money.
I encourage everyone to stop using the term "tax-payer". We are Canadians, we are citizens, we are community members, we are people. We are not units of production or lines in a ledger. We are not "human capital stock". We are not here to make someone else rich.
We are here to live our lives. To love and dream and explore and find meaning. To help one another. To enrich our society with art and music and science and important ideas. To protect the earth for the future. To invest in a better quality of life for all.
The word "tax-payer" does not begin to define us. Let's stop using it. Words matter!