I was reading the December issue of Toronto Life magazine, which featured a list of the "50 Most Influential" people. Number 22 was David Thomson, chairman of news provider Thomson Reuters. Thomson came through in the crunch when that company lost revenues last year, dropping from about $8.2 billion (yes, with a B) to a mere $7.9 billion.
From the story:
But the company's various budget-controlling measures, including cutting some 3,000 jobs in late 2013, have increased operating profits by approximately $94 million...
And that's when I thought of the Terminator movies. Y'see, I don't always take in movies the way most people do. There's a scene in Terminator 2 where Robert Patrick's shape-shifting character kills a security guard. We see the murdered guard with Patrick's spear-shaped hand through his head. Then the movie moves into the next scene and into the various car chases and robot fights and explosions.
And while everyone else waited breathlessly for the final showdown, I - admittedly a soft-hearted goof at times, and yes I know it's only a movie - thought about that security guard. Who was he? What happened when the police went to his family's house? How did they cope with the news? How many people came to the funeral? Did his wife have to sell their home, did his children do without?
Everyone else saw a split-second of a dead man impaled on a spear, and then their attention moved to the next exciting moment of the movie. My mind went to that separate story, of how something seemingly insignificant to the story being told will turn someone else's world upside down.
So people read Toronto Life, and read about how the company bounced back even higher after cutting 3,000 jobs. They went on to the next person on the list. Then they turned a couple more pages to a perfume ad, and then to one for a restaurant. And then they tossed the magazine away.
But I stayed stuck on those 3,000 jobs. Which are not three thousand jobs, but three thousand people. People with lives, with families. With bills to pay, with mouths to feed. People with others depending on them. People who pay taxes that fund our communities, who buy goods that keep the economy going. And when revenues drop from $8.2 billion to $7.9 billion, numbers that most of us can't possibly comprehend, then they are impaled on a spear, and the movie rushes to the next scene.
If you write such stuff, think about what you're writing. And if you read such stuff, don't just nod and turn the page. Think of three thousand people whose lives were turned upside down, because we don't stop to ask how much is enough. And that's just the beginning. When you lose your job, when your children can't find work, when it's all falling in on you, ask yourself: is someone else writing bloodless lines about this, and is someone else just turning the page?