It has been a sombre week for Canadians such as myself holding onto hope that Jack Layton, leader of the NDP and Opposition in the House of Commons of Canada could lead us towards a kinder, more caring and just society. On Monday morning, Canada learned of Jack Layton’s passing from cancer. We had known he was ill, but this was too soon. In the moment I read the news, I felt as if that hope he had drummed up had been shattered. Add to that the thought of the pain and loss experienced by his family, his caucus and ordinary Canadians and I found myself grieving for a man I had never met.
And then came the letter. In the days before his death, Jack wrote a letter which included his last thoughts for fellow Canadians - his “friends”, as he referred to us. The letter spoke beautifully of his hope and the goals he worked so hard to achieve. His words quickly spread, becoming an iconic wave of inspiration for all of us that share his vision.
I am one of those Canadians.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton
I believe that we can change the world; if only we started looking at problems a little differently. Ultimately, what we want changed are the behaviours of others. The world’s problems such war, homelessness, the environment, addiction (to name a few) are all problems of behaviour. I am hopeful for a world where we will one day stop blaming people for their flaws and look at how their social and physical environment has contributed to behaviours associated with those flaws. Rather, we will analyze the context and learning history behind any of these issues and gain a better understanding of what needs to be changed I also believe in a society that is optimistic in its focus on what people can do; motivating and reinforcing the behaviours that contribute to the good of themselves and others versus trying to punish the actions we don’t want. And finally, I believe that love - the ultimate reinforcer - can influence us far greater than any amount of money, car or fancy handbag, as long as we have enough of it.
Call me a behaviourist. Call me a socialist. Either way, at the heart of these philosophical positions is the thought that I/we can change the world. Jack Layton loved his country, he was optimistic that people and society could be helped and he had hope for the future of all Canadians. He may be gone, but his ideas and his vision live on through Canadians like me.
RIP Jack. We’ll take it from here.