Leon Retief. Jack Layton (1950 – 2011)

Jack Layton (1950 – 2011)

Ek dink nie dat Versindaba al ooit ʼn huldeblyk aan ʼn politikus, lewend of ontslape, gesien het nie maar ek voel my verplig om iets oor hierdie besondere persoon te skryf, selfs al het ek skerp verskille met sy sosiale en ekonomiese beleid gehad.

Sy jeug was bevoorreg. Hy het grootgeword in ʼn omgewing van seiljagklubs, die beste opvoeding wat geld kan koop en ekonomiese welvaart. Nogtans het hy gou ʼn baie dringende sosiale gewete ontwikkel wat bepalend was vir die trajek wat die res van sy lewe gevolg het.

Layton het ʼn PhD in politieke wetenskap by York Universiteit behaal en daarna ʼn professoraat by Ryerson Universiteit beklee voordat hy die politieke terrein betree het as stadsraadslid in Toronto, waar hy verskeie projekte vir sosiale opheffing aangevoor het, onder andere skuilings en ander hulp vir hawelose mense. Later het hy federale politiek betree en in 2003 is hy verkies tot leier van die New Democratic Party (NDP) van Kanada, ʼn pos wat hy beklee het tot sy dood Maandag 22 Augustus.

Onder sy leiding het die NDP gegroei van ʼn mindere opposisieparty tot die amptelike opposisie toe die NDP in die verkiesing wat ʼn paar maande gelede plaasgevind het die destydse amptelike opposisie, die Liberale Party onder leiding van die wimp en intellektuele liggewig Michael Ignatieff, oortuigend verslaan het, tot so ʼn mate dat die voortbestaan van die Liberale Party tans deur sommige kommentators bevraagteken word.

Die sukses van die NDP in hierdie onlangse verkiesing is byna uitsluitlik aan Layton se charisma te wyte. Mense het nie vir die NDP se beleid gestem nie maar vir Jack Layton. Baie van die NDP se kandidate het nooit verwag dat hulle die paal sou haal nie – trouens, een kandidaat, ʼn jong dame van 19 jaar, het nooit eers die moeite gedoen om stemme te werf of eers ʼn politieke vergadering te hou nie – dwarsdeur die hele verkiesingstydperk was sy met vakansie in Mexiko! Nogtans het sy die sittende kandidaat van die Bloc Quebecois maklik verslaan.

Die verkiesing was nie vir Layton ʼn maklike tydperk nie. Kort voor die aanvang het hy ʼn heupfraktuur opgedoen wat ʼn totale heupvervanging genoodsaak het en hy het die hele kampanje ʼn kierie moes gebruik, ʼn hulpmiddel wat mettertyd byna ikoniese status bereik het. Kort na die heupvervanging en ook voor die begin van die verkiesing is hy gediagnoseer met prostaatkarsinoom waarvoor hy ook behandeling moes ontvang. Nogtans het hy die kampanje met energie en entoesiasme aangepak, al was dit soms duidelik dat sy onlangse heupvervanging dit steeds moeilik gemaak het om te loop. Hy het telkens sy politieke toesprake afgesluit met die volgende deklamasie: “…and I won’t! Stop! Until! The work! Is done!”

Die sukses wat die NDP behaal het was ooglopend vir hom ʼn stap nader aan sy droom: die premierskap van Kanada. Saam met sy eggenote Olivia Chow (ook ʼn parlementslid vir die NDP) het hy in die woning van die amptelike leier van die opposisie ingetrek – ʼn woning wat pas deur Michael Ignatieff ontruim is. Ongelukkig vir hom (en ek haat dit om te sê, maar waarskynlik gelukkig vir Kanada) sou sy droom nooit realiseer nie.

Op 25 Julie, slegs ʼn paar weke na die verkiesing, het Layton aangekondig dat ʼn tweede maligniteit by hom onstaan het. Die aard van hierdie kanker is nie bekend gemaak nie en is ook nie van belang nie, wat ons onthou is hoe onthutsend Lesli en ek sy voorkoms gevind het – ʼn gelerige vel styf gespan oor sy skedel en oë wat koolswart in sy gesig gloei, soos mens sien by pasiënte met terminale kanker. Hy gee die leierskap van die NDP af vir vier weke het hy tydens die perskonferensie gesê, dan kom hy weer terug. Lesli en ek het na mekaar gekyk en opgemerk, hierdie ou kom nie weer terug nie.

Hy het inderdaad ook nie teruggekeer nie en is Maandag 22 Augustus oorlede.

Wat het van Jack Layton so ʼn gewilde politikus gemaak, en waarom het sowel Lesli as ek van hom gehou al het ons nie sy platform ondersteun nie? Ten eerste het hy ʼn baie simmetriese gesig, iets wat meeste mense onbewustelik aantreklik vind. Ek is seker dat dit aan hom heelwat stemme besorg het. Hy was ook ʼn besondere media-savvy politikus wat presies geweet het hoe om enige publisiteit ten beste te benut, maar nooit op so ʼn wyse dat mens gevoel het dat sy enigste doel blote kleinlike politiekery was nie.

Jack Layton

Jack Layton

Ten tweede, Layton se sterkste eienskap was sy onmiskenbare en eerlike entoesiasme vir sy standpunte, iets wat hy met oorgawe en onkreukbare eerlikheid oorgedra het. Met Layton, WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get. Geen verskuilde agendas of agteraf gekonkel nie. So ietwat anders as Stephen Harper, Kanadese premier en ʼn ietwat kil persoonlikheid, ʼn micromanager by uitstek – alhoewel ek tog vir Harper sou stem (as ek kon) eerder as vir Layton, want as ek nou iemand mag aanhaal wat beslis Layton se teenpool is, naamlik Margaret Thatcher: The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of someone else’s money.

Waarom sou ek nie vir Layton stem nie? Layton was ʼn voorstander van die versorgende staat, die kokon wat elke lid van die samelewing tot elke prys teen elke denkbare katastrofe moet beskerm, van ʼn logaritmies groeiende burokrasie wat op die gewone belastingbetaler teer en elke poging tot privaat inisiatief in die wiele ry. En maak geen fout nie, Kanada is selfs onder ʼn sogenaamde konserwatiewe regering steeds ʼn uitstekende voorbeeld hiervan. Layton sou dit net nog verder voer.

Hoe dit ook al sy, terwyl ek politici beskou as die skuim van die aarde is Jack Layton ʼn uitsondering – ʼn passievolle, oortuigde en bowenal eerlike politikus. Maak nie saak watter politiek-ekonomiese sisteem mens aanhang nie, elke land het mense soos Jack Layton nodig – broodnodig.

Iets wat sowel Lesli as ek getref het is dit: na Layton se dood het honderde, dalk selfs duisende mense, selfs nie eers ondersteuners van die NDP nie, blomme voor sy huis in Toronto gelaat. Hawelose mense van daardie stad, diegene vir wie hy soveel gedoen het as stadsraadslid, het uit eie beweging daardie blomme gaan oppas om te verseker dat dit nie gesteel word nie (wat dalk iets sê oor misdaad in Toronto, maar toemaar) – dit was al eerbetoon wat hulle kon doen. En wie sou ʼn groter eer as dit wou hê? Ek is seker Jack Layton smaail in sy kis.

Saterdag het Jack Layton ʼn staatsbegrafnis gekry, iets wat nie sommer gebeur met ʼn politikus wat oorlede is terwyl hy nog in die kussings was nie.

RIP mnr. Layton, ek sou nooit vir jou gestem het nie, maar Lesli en ek respekteer jou vir wie en wat jy was. Mense soos jy is dun gesaai.

Hier is die laaste brief wat Layton twee dae voor sy dood geskryf het. Dalk is dit uit ʼn politieke oogpunt so bietjie soetsappig, maar die verskil tussen Jack Layton en enige ander politikus wat ʼn soortgelyke brief sou kon skryf is dit: Layton was ernstig. Hy het werklik geglo in die sentimente wat in die laaste paragraaf uitgedruk word.

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope.

Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world.

There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you.

My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

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.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

 

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Een Kommentaar op “Leon Retief. Jack Layton (1950 – 2011)”

  1. Wat ‘n goeie boodskap!
    “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.”
    Uitstekend gedoen Leon. Ek sien uit na nog sulke bydraes uit jou pen.