Monday, June 13, 2011

UBC hospice kerfuffle

Compassion Takes A Holiday - As it turns out there are plans to build a hospice on the University of British Columbia grounds in Vancouver. A hospice is a medical facility providing, as much as possible, a home-like end-of-life environment for people who are dying and their families. A hospice provides round the clock medical care to people who are in extremely tough situations and are generally regarded as good things. By people who are reasonable anyway.

Then there are the residents of a high-rise apartment building, which is also on the UBC grounds. Many of the residents there have an issue with the hospice being built next door – I admit that while my first thought was, “What a bunch of horrible, uncaring, self-centered cretins,” it is possible that these people might have a good reason for being against the hospice. So, are they concerned about the huge diesel generators that will be running day and night to provide for the hospices energy needs? Nope, that’s not it. Are they worried that the dying people will be partying all night with loud music, squealing tires and drunks reeling all over the streets? Nope, that’s not it either. Are they worried about millions of tourists coming to gawk and point at the hospice, blocking the roads and stuff? Once again, that is not it. Are they worried about people dying at the hospice and the stench of death overwhelming and destroying the neighbourhood? Sadly, that is almost it.

It appears that some of the people who live in that high-rise don’t want the hospice built there because having a building nearby where people are dying will bring negative energy to the area. I’m a little unclear on the whole superstition thing but it would appear that most of the folks complaining are recent immigrants to Canada from mainland China and Korea and there is some sort of belief system called Feng Shui (not the Feng Shui that tells interiour decorators where to put an ottoman in a room, but a different kind) that makes them believe that the hospice being there may bring bad luck, sickness, the breakup of marriages, effect the healthy growing up of children and even cause death. As one of the high-rise residents, Jane Ni, says, “This is no superstition, this is 5000 years of culture and religion.”

Nice use of irony there, Jane. Not “superstition”? That is exactly what it is. Ghosts and boogie-men and unicorns and garden gnomes do not exist and have never existed, not even 5000 years ago. Actually I liked the 5000 years old comment because it made me wonder, what other 5000 year old beliefs is Jane clinging to? Wasn’t it at one time a cultural tradition in China to bind the feet of little girls so they couldn’t walk? Wasn’t the Chinese emperor considered related to the gods? What is going on with those things?

Something that has been brought up is how the Board at UBC should be more culturally sympathetic. Resident Lucy Lin says, “I like Canada, I enjoy living here. It’s a multicultural society and every culture gets respected, so we just hope our culture get respect.” Sure, of course that “respect” is a two way street isn’t it. It is Canadian culture to have compassion for those who are going through a really rough time, and end of life illness is pretty friggin’ rough. Another resident, Jie Wu, summed up her feelings thus, “If you were in my shoes and every day you look our your window an see a hospice, how would you feel?” Well I don’t think the world revolves around me so I would be feeling for what the residents of the hospice and their families are going through.

Cultural sensitivity and respect are fine but they only go so far. If someone wants to maintain a tie to a culture that they themselves chose to leave then more power to them, just don’t expect other people to dance to your tune. My family left the motherland in about 1872 and I would be willing to bet that in the past four generations or so not a one of us has ever thought that where we live should conform to the cultural rules of where my family left. That is just a messed up way of thinking and I just can’t support it, sorry (ok, I’m not sorry, how Canadian is that?)

There have also been some claims of intolerance by some of the high-rise residents and that is laughable. The only people I see being intolerant here are living in that high-rise. They have the same right to protest that any of us have, just don’t expect any special treatment because of some sort of cultural mumbo-jumbo. Oh, was that insensitive? Walk it off.

Anyway… Humouroceros

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