Jack Knox: Why are Victorians so intolerant?

Jack Knox mugshot genericThe batteries in his 97-year-old grandmother’s hearing aids were failing, so Tristin Hopper had to raise his voice to be heard in the noisy Sunday morning Victoria restaurant.

That was too much for the aging baby boomer at the next table. “You’re RUINING everyone’s breakfast,” said the man, dramatically gesturing toward a table full of diners who couldn’t care less.

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Ruining. That’s what he said. Hopper and his gran had been talking about church. Just imagine if they had been discussing pipelines, or bike lanes, or cherry blossoms, or one of the other subjects that really send Vancouver Islanders off their nuts.

Now, were this in the 31-year-old Hopper’s youth, he would have just shrugged. Old people yell at young people.

It’s what the Oak Bay High grad learned while growing up here. Chew gum with your mouth open or wear the wrong shirt and you’ll get a super-helpful hectoring from someone who thinks you should know what you’re doing wrong. “As a child of Victoria, I thought that this was just normal.”

But then he moved away, went to school back east, and ended up working elsewhere in Canada, where he learned that no, this is not acceptable behaviour. “You would get laughed at. Someone would make fun of you.”

So Hopper, now an Edmonton-based reporter for the National Post (which to some Islanders is enough of a crime to warrant an application of non-petroleum-based tar and free-range, organic chicken feathers) posted on Twitter: “I’ve been 48 hours in Victoria and a man just lectured me for talking too loudly to my hard-of-hearing 97-year-old grandma IN A CROWDED RESTAURANT. People never believe me when I tell them the West Coast is uptight.”

Uptight? Us? This is the City of Gardens, laid-back Lotus Land, the only place in Canada where legalization made it harder to buy weed.

Even the panhandlers park on yoga mats. Our bunnies get palliative care, or at least an airlift to a sanctuary in Texas (I’m not making this up).

Ours is the hacky-sack city that replaced the grim-lipped parking police with kinder, gentler, blue-jacketed “ambassadors” (which means what? They dot the “i’s” on your tickets with little hearts?).

Yes, but it’s also a rule-heavy government-and-military town (civic motto: “Solving the world through regulation since 1862”) that loves to tell people how to live.

Victoria toyed with turning off its Christmas lights because apparently you don’t know you’re wrong-headed for liking them. (No truth to the rumour that city hall plans to replace the Sir John A. statue with one of the judgmental Church Lady from Saturday Night Live.)

Saanich says residents are supposed to register hens, just like handguns. Esquimalt banned Bongy the head shop mascot.

Want to see the SWAT team in action? Try parking your boat in your driveway in Oak Bay.

Is there any city in Canada where you are more likely to be yelled at by a stranger? (Try standing up at a concert and dancing — I dare you.)

Is there another region whose residents keep the bylaw officers on speed dial, or hand out unsolicited parenting advice?

Our busybodies are both young and old, and span the ideological spectrum. Too many used-to-be powerful people with too much time on their hands.

Too many indignant, self-righteous people imbued with the self-certainty of those who have not yet learned the value of doubt.

Too many people whose opinions are shaped in echo chambers, free of the complicating influence of dissenting opinion and unconsidered perspective. (That’s not just a West Coast thing.)

Too many people who, without a sense of entitlement, would have no sense at all.

One of those who responded to Hopper’s tweet spoke of West Coasters as being both “surrounded by beauty and so angry.” That’s not a new observation — in 2015, a Statistics Canada study of life satisfaction found the Victoria region to be one of the unhappiest in the country, 27th out of 33 metropolitan areas, with Vancouver at the bottom of the list.

Of course, that might not be your experience, and you might say those who think us uptight are out to lunch.

But if they are out to lunch, please don’t yell at them.

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