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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Make the world a better place

BY Xavier Kataquapit Apr 13, 2022

What if you found out that your life was at an end and tomorrow you would die? What would that mean to you? How would that change your perception of your life? What would be important to you, now that you knew your time was up?

My guess is that most of us would think about our loved ones, families, friends and those who made life better for us. Maybe you would recall people who you had failed or disappointed in some way? Perhaps you would remember the beautiful, artful or majestic images you saw or created? Could it be that you would feel intensely the pain of losing life, of breathing air, tasting food, quenching your thirst or saying goodbye to your most treasured and best loved person. 

One thing I am quite sure of is that you won’t be thinking of how much money you have, the material possessions you collected or petty daily worries. It is a good guess that you won’t be focusing on anything trivial. You would probably think of the good you did in your life, the people you helped on your journey, the wonderful times you celebrated with others – the music, dance and beauty you experienced together.

At the end, perhaps you’d wish you had done more to make the world a better place. There are so many negative things happening on our planet today. We see wars, inequality, racism, hate, right-wing fascism, the oppression of people, the never-ending expansion of the corporate world and slavery of people for the benefit of the wealthy. Fifty billionaires now control most of the world’s wealth and more or less run the planet. 

What if you could have done more to make the world a better place? At the end of the line would you realize that you could have done more, in your local sphere of influence, in your town, your city, your province and your country? You could have provided more time and energy to making sure that good things happened. You could have helped good, honest and positive people to get voted into government at all levels. You could have helped to ensure that programs were put forward to have decent public health for everyone, a free public education for anyone wanting it, the guarantee of a social safety net to make sure everyone is taken care of and has a roof over their heads, clean water to drink and enough food to eat. 

You might realize that you could have played a more important role in making the world a better place. In fact, you had the energy, the intelligence, the motivation and the capacity to help do that, but you might have been so wrapped up in a million other things while building your life that those opportunities were missed. What a shame it would be to find out at the very end of your life that you could have done more to change this world for all its peoples in a better way. Imagine if you had realized that if you had done your best to identify the things you wanted to see happen for the good of everyone and then you worked with others to make that happen. 

As an Indigenous person from the James Bay coast, I was always aware of death in many ways. As a young boy and teen, I attended funerals every year of people I knew or was closely related to from the time I was born. My parents and Elders always reminded me of the limited length and quick passage of a lifetime. I have always sensed that life was precious and could be short. In my own simple way, my motivation to write is driven by that reality. 

We are not helpless, we have a voice, and we can make choices to make sure that hateful, right-wing governments and ideologies are not allowed to grow. We can pressure all our leaders to make sure that the time has come for finding solutions to any conflict that does not end in war and violence. We can make the world a more equitable and fairer place. Every one of us has this ability. It would be great to understand this while we are alive and well rather than at the last minute when our time has run out. Every one of us has the power to make the world a better place. 

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.