We have good reasons to celebrate our inclusive sense of community here on the Sunshine Coast.
But, we must not flatter ourselves. We isolate and exclude, as well. And that betrays vanity and a lack of social vision.
In the Sunshine Coast community, as elsewhere, we isolate people who are no longer productive or “useful” to us, or who we prefer to avoid.
We stow away our elders in impersonal “homes” and ignore them because they are no longer productive for us. We willingly forget the very souls who created our own lives.
We isolate older people because they are troublesome – burdensome – and in our way.
Those living with mental illnesses who are also in their elder years are doubly affected.
A great friend, and Roberts Creek luminary, said it best to me recently.
“I was a good man around here for a long time.
“I worked hard and me and my wife and my kids gave all we had to this place. I mean, I was a good family man, and a good husband, and a good father. I worked hard on our land and for my place.
“But I became sick. I got depressed. I got old. And then people started to kind of move away. What is that Alice’s Restaurant line? “They all moved away from me on the bench?”
“Yeah. I was old and strange and depressed and they all moved away from me. And I had nowhere to go. I was so alone.”
Old and in the way.
The opposite of isolation is inclusion, and that is what defines community. Inclusion.
It is mere self-flattery for comfortable and unchallenged folks who may be reading this to say “Oh, I sympathize. I feel so sorry.”
That’s just talk. Action walks.
In our community, there are hundreds of our elders who are lonely, bored, and ignored.
Who among us does not have the time to give to a solitary senior, isolated and living a life of endless tedium, a bit of light and companionship? A sense of relevance?
Who among us has the pluck and courage to have lunch with an elder and find a new friend? And invite that new friend for a walk on the beach, or a coffee, or a game of chess?
If I must be absolutely literal about this, then I must say that each among us must devote an hour of our day to prevent the isolation that so many among us suffer. The elderly; the mentally ill; the socially estranged.
Yes, suffer. Because isolation is a social disease, and its cure is not medical; it can only come about only by a collective understanding – a social compact that binds us to a sense of goodwill and acceptance.
Politically, this is an area that is actionable.
Here, your publisher issues a challenge to local governments to produce and mandate a social vision.
Affordable housing, mental health and addiction, women’s issues, and above all elder care and social isolation. These are among those subjects largely ignored by our local, elected politicians. Or, at best, unaddressed due to a chronic lack of imagination.
Social issues ought to be upper-most in our minds as the very fortunate members of the Sunshine Coast Community.
I hope and pray that actions follow.
So that the isolation can be banished.