Pardon my fun

It is nothing short of amazing how much negativity the internet pumps into the world per nanosecond. It’s as if every would-be internet publisher or personality quickly learns that good news does not sell papers.

On just one cruise through the news this month, I see a really pitiable story about Madonna, drunk on-stage and begging for somebody to “take care of” her. She did not mean financially. Another story on the same page alludes to a maybe-desperate, maybe not situation for perennial pop-icon-recluse Richard Simmons.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

We have seen a lot of this stuff. Madonna’s meltdown is a mirror image of the last days of 1960s blues ripper Janis Joplin. She died following the lead of other such cultural leaders as W.C. Fields, Jim Morrison, Gram Parsons, Jayne Mansfield, Billie Holliday, John Barrymore …. You get the drift. Yet, these are all people that had aimed for and achieved the heights. They had all that wealth and fame could offer, and it fell short.

It is easy to sit back and moralize about the shallowness of the world of cool. However, it is fair to note that others have followed the same route, enjoyed all that idolization has to offer and seem to be content. I have wondered for 50 years (yikes!) why Mick Jagger and Keith Richards don’t flame out. But they don’t.

There may be three types of people on earth: those that pursue money, those that pursue meaning, and those that don’t seem to pursue anything. I watch those that pursue meaning.

I have been fortunate to have visited dozens-to-hundreds of secondary-wood factories in Canada, in the States, and in various spots around the world, and it seems to me the owners and managers are among the group of people that pursue meaning.

Yes, money is how we keep score, and money is great for paying bills and going places. However, there is, to me, a clear separation between people that get paid for being good at what they do, and people that will do whatever is required to get paid. So many industry professionals have left one profession or another for something that has meaning, that I am certain they are the majority.

The people in Canada that have shouldered the responsibility of owning and operating a factory, in my view, are about the least appreciated group of citizens in the country. We hear daily in the news of the travails of Generation X, the concerns of the Millennials, the persecution of people by race, religion and sex (gender refers to pronouns in grammar). It is clear, we are told, that every offended demographic must be paid off.

And where does everybody look to satisfy the insatiable demands of those open hands? If you ask, they will tell you it’s “the government.” However, with the small exception of park fees, conference tickets and publications that compete against the private-sector publishers, the government does not produce money. Yes, it prints money, but, one day, the value of the currency has to account for itself against a balance sheet.

The government gets money by taking it. And, rightly or wrongly, the highest-level corporations have access to hundreds of tax loopholes, exemptions, deductions and safe havens, and the lowest-level economic participants don’t have the resources to pay taxes in the first place.

Any way you slice it, the money to support the corporations and the entitlements comes, in the end, from people that produce things — goods and services.

People that own and manage wood-products factories do their fair share of bitching about the weight on their shoulders, but the point is that they bear it. They pay the taxes, the costs of compliance with a literally unfathomable sea of regulations, and they bear the media blistering they get about wood not being green enough, labour not being paid enough, dust not being clean enough and the poor not being rich enough.

I have learned that the vast majority of wood-industry professionals in Canada are doing what they are doing because it gives their lives meaning, and I want to say thanks for letting me be a part of all this. It has been great. It has been fun and educational, and it has paid the bills.

Most importantly, I hope the role of Wood Industry has been to provide meaning. Maybe a money- or red-tape-saving tip or two, but meaning beyond just cash. And I hope to be doing the same for the next 20 years.

So here comes spring and the eternal cycle of shows, economic reports, hurdles and challenges, without which, the whole enterprise would have no meaning. So, thanks. It’s a great day, and we are having fun.


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