Gail Regan is vice-chair of Cara Operations, retired.  She chairs Energy Probe Research Foundation and is a member of the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise.  She has a PhD in Educational Theory and an M.B.A. in Finance.  Her background in sociology and personal experience of business has given her an intellectual interest in the problem of evil.  






Unfairness, History And Magic

Chapter Three




In the mid 1990s, my husband took up the volunteer presidency of our summer community association.  The problem was that the tennis courts were in disrepair and becoming dangerous.  How to pay for them?


At that time, the policy was not to distinguish between families and historical camps. (“Families” were two parents, children and occasionally visiting grandparents.  “Camps” were two grandparents, multiple visiting children and grandchildren.)  Fees had to go up to pay for safety, but how?


My partner would agonize over this.  The charm of the area is its attraction to long-rooted extended families and dynastic family living.  But individual small families could not necessarily afford to share the expense equally with large camps.  Perhaps the rate increase would force some families to drop out, making things worse for everyone.


I saw no reason for my husband’s dilemma.  Somewhat new to the area myself and coming from a family, the camps seemed to be tennis cults.  Boatloads of athletic, expert tennis players would swarm over the courts, crowding out my inexpert young ones.  Sock it to the camps — make them pay as if they were several families!


After much negotiation and on the condition that tennis fees be spent on courts, the community agreed to this solution.  As I look back on the incident, I am amazed by how thoroughly vested interest and envy consumed my thinking.  Yes, I could intellectualize the value of the camps, but only abstractly.  I was much more interested in MY children getting THEIR “fair” share, even if camp children got to play less.


The timing of the issue is also amazing.  The tennis courts were privately donated in the mid-1970’s.  For the twenty years that they were in reasonable repair, everyone was happy to treat camps and families equally.  Only when the facility demanded attention did we get stingy about who could use it.  Only then did we get divisive about the value of the old-time, dynastic, expert families versus the recently arrived, nuclear, new-to-tennis ones.


The global finance crisis has pointed out with painful clarity how resources that we thought were plentiful are in fact constrained.  Divisiveness, bitterness and the politics of envy are now rampant in the countries affected by the crisis.  Perhaps we will come to a consensual decision about how to bear the cost.  Or perhaps we will buy time, borrow money and wait for tomorrow’s dynamics to sweep away today’s problems.


I am of two minds about the advantages of each kind of solution.  Part of me says “Face the music and pay up.”  As I look at my summer community association, I notice that the courts are busy and in good repair.  Good!  But some of the camp children are now isolated. Bad!  Sometimes a magic donor, a creative solution that includes everyone, emerges.  After all, we enjoyed heavenly tennis for twenty years.



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