Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Calling Miss Lonelyhearts

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, October 25 / 21

Zack Gross

Don’t tell my wife, but I read Miss Lonelyhearts in the local paper.  It’s not that I have marital problems, or drug issues or am lost in a worthless life, but rather I find the letters instructive of what concerns people face today.  I don’t always agree with the advice given and, for sure, my life isn’t nearly as “exciting” as some of those writing in. 

Thinking of this, I began to wonder what it would be like if people wrote in about so called bigger or broader issues than their sex lives or their career flops.  Here is my take on that.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts  I’m writing to you today because a huge issue has arisen in my life, one that requires your sound advice.  I have become aware that our world, as we know it, is about to come crashing down due to climate change.  Here I was driving my gas-guzzling pickup truck and keeping my house lights on all night.  Then, I noticed that we had a terrible drought this summer while there were huge floods, storms, fires, volcanoes and earthquakes all over the world. 

Apparently, Miss Lonelyhearts, there is a connection between my lifestyle and these world events  and I understand that my careless actions are partly to blame for what is happening, and that it’s going to get worse.  At the same time, I enjoy my way of living as it is and really would find it inconvenient to change.  What do you suggest?

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
  Today, I was sitting with my friends at a picnic table in the park, and told what I thought was an incredibly funny joke.  One person laughed, some rolled their eyes and slowly shook their heads, but the young lady I have been thinking about asking on a date, looked disgusted and angry.  She moved as far away from me as you could without falling off the bench.  I said What, isn’t that really funny?  And she said, but that’s disrespectful, racist really!

Miss Lonelyhearts, what kind of world will we have if we can’t tell jokes?  I’ve got great ones about blondes, people of different cultures, dads, seniors, you name it…People count on me to be the funny guy!  What should I do?

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
  Life has been tough during the pandemic.  Up until it started, I enjoyed several nights a week at the pub with my friends, I ate out often rather than having to cook myself, I loved to socialize, go to games and dances.  Did I mention, Miss L-H, that I hate the thought of needles?  I also don’t want to deal with tensions and controversies, about health rules, governments, religious and political beliefs and so on.  I just want a normal life.  How do I deal with this situation?

Actually, I have to admit that Miss Lonelyhearts does get frequent letters about how the pandemic is affecting people’s lives, especially how people deal with our change in lifestyle due to health concerns and restrictions, but also how people deal with human relations when strong disagreements arise in families, congregations, political parties and among groups of friends and colleagues.

I’ve seen a progression in the attitude toward climate change, from where so many people denied the science to where we now recognize that change at the individual, corporate and international level is necessary.  The challenge is to make that change really happen, and a recent report related to the important climate meeting coming up in Glasgow, Scotland tells us that a lot of foot-dragging is taking place among the world’s political and corporate leadership.

I’ve seen less progress when it comes to our need for change in our racist attitudes.  At least, it is more out in the open now, and the right things are being said.  But again, real concrete action is needed to confront poverty, discrimination, lack of education and other challenges facing indigenous and people of colour, women and minimum wage workers.  And this must be done not “to” those people, but with them as full partners.

Miss Lonelyhearts might say, if she listened to me, that there are no easy answers but there is a need to find solutions that work for the vast majority of people.  Probably these days, issues around the pandemic are the rawest ones we have to confront.  However, as well, without a safe environment and peace among people, we are still in trouble.

She might also suggest that local newspapers should not just have a column where people write in about personal problems, but also columns where people ask advice about those “bigger” issues.  What can I do to slow and reverse climate change?  How can I best contribute to a just society?  How can we best keep people healthy?

We won’t all agree with the suggestions given and we won’t all be concerned about the same issues, but we’ll get the discussion started, and work toward some real solutions.

Zack Gross is Board Chair of
The Marquis Project, a Manitoba-based international development organization.

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