Listen Up! This grumpy old man still has a lot he wants to accomplish



Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Well, I certainly got my fingers slapped for the Listen Up column I wrote last week. The comments came fast and furiously, posted either on Doppler or Facebook. They were better than two to one against the position I was taking. Now that’s okay. What I write is a commentary. I expect people to comment and I expect them to both agree and disagree. I often try to be controversial, just to stir things up and to see what folks are really thinking. Sometimes too, as I did last week, I speak from the heart and damn the consequences. To me, that is what an opinion piece is all about and that is what I will continue to write.

What has surprised me in recent weeks, most especially this past week, is the tenor of many of the comments in response to what I have written. Some commenters sounded like they had not read past the headline, some were downright nasty and some were not fit to print. It has caused me to wonder however, about what has happened to civil discourse in our society, where reasonable people can disagree, even on the most serious issues of the day without tearing each other’s hair out or demeaning their character and often, that of their ancestors!

Here is a case in point, one of my favourite comments that was posted by a young woman in relation to my article last week.

“Hugh Mackenzie should just shut up. You are all rich entitled men. We are done with you assholes. You are all dying or retiring. If you could go faster, that would be better.”

Now, isn’t that nice! As it applies to me, at least one of her accusations is completely untrue. The others are all debatable but in no circumstance am I inclined to shuffle off this mortal coil simply to make people who think like her, feel better. Hurry up and die is simply not in my lexicon.

In fact, I think there is an important place for older men, entitled, grumpy or otherwise, in our society. Surely it is a form of racism or at least ageism to wish that an entire group of human beings just shut up and disappear as quickly as possible. Wishful thinking by some perhaps but it is not going to happen, at least for me.

I still have places to go and things to do. I want to see real reform to District Government in Muskoka. It is too fat and too unaccountable and it spends way too much of your money. There are also too many elected municipal politicians in Muskoka, twice as many as the entire City of Toronto and some of them are double dipping. My strong sense is that their time is up and real change is coming. I intend to be around for that.

I also intend to keep fighting for a fully equipped acute care hospital in Huntsville. When I was considering running for Muskoka District Chair, I had a couple of folks, not from Huntsville, say they could not vote for me because of my position on the Hospital. Funny that, because I fully support the current recommendation of Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC) which is to maintain two acute care hospitals in Muskoka. However, I believe strongly that one of the hospitals cannot be subordinate to the other in terms of its relevance or the services it offers. If that happens it will only be a matter of time before one of the two hospitals would become redundant as an acute care facility and we all know which one that would be.

My concern is not with the politicians. I believe that both Mayors, Scott Aitchison and Graydon Smith are playing with their cards straight up. I am not nearly as confident however about some members of the MAHC Board and Administration. I believe some of them are bound and determined to build a new hospital in Bracebridge and to direct the majority of available capital funds in that direction. I have no problem with a new hospital in Bracebridge as long as sufficient funds are made available to renovate the Huntsville hospital to the same standards as the Bracebridge site. I intend to stick around long enough to fight for that.

In a discussion I had recently, someone was commenting that for generations, politics was all about the art of compromise and that is how things got done. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Both in politics and in the wider functions of society, we are polarized to the point of dysfunction. Everyone wants everything their own way. There is no middle ground. Consequently, traditional norms break down and chaos is not far away. Compassion for the plight of others is quickly going out the door and offensive and hurtful language is becoming the order of the day.

We can do better than that. We all have an important role to play in building a better society. Even grumpy old men!

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  1. Hugh:
    Thank you. This needed saying. We don’t have to agree, but, civilized discussions should be the norm, not mud slinging and character asassination.
    Just because the abuser in chief has been in the White House for the last two years, it does not legitimize that sort of behaviour…in the States, or anywhere else.
    Oh, and if it wasn’t for a few grumpy old men, where would we be today? Winston Churcill comes to mind….

    • I find it very puzzling as to what prompts you to label President Trump as an abuser and wonder if your statement is based on the journalism and reporting that we are bombarded with that is anything but factual, rather based on biased personal opinion, often dispensed by those with extreme radical leftist beliefs, or political figures who control the media sources and thus attempt to influence the political thoughts of citizens. It would be an extremely positive move to research the multiple accomplishments of this president that is clearly working for his country and focus instead on the prime minister of our country, Justin Trudeau who continues to escalate his anti Canadian agenda to bring our country to its knees, the most recent action being his signing of the UN’s Global Compact for Migration which will in effect ultimately remove our country’s sovereignty and self governance.

  2. Archdeacon Dr. Harry Huskins on


    Thank you for speaking up for ‘civil discourse.’ Like all the central values necessary for our functioning democracy, it comes under challenge now and then and needs to be vigorously defended.

    What is forgotten is that ‘civil discourse’ is not just some abstract value. Its value comes from the experience of those who went before us who knew only too well what happened when it broke down and was undermined by the ambitious bullies of their age. The decay of civil discourse in their time led ever more down hill until it reached its logical alternative – civil war. In England’s case the Civil War of the 1640’s.

    There is a reason that the opposing benches in our Parliaments and Legislatures are set exactly two sword lengths and one foot apart.

    Blessed Advent my friend.

  3. Thanks, Hugh, for putting into text, what I have been thinking for quite a while! Your articles is so apt and accurate in so many ways.

  4. I find it very annoying to read so much on the internet and hear constant other media criticisms that are disrespectful and foul mouthed toward politicians such as Trump and Clement, to mention a couple. Freedom of speech is our greatest privilege which is now abused and battered out of control. Differences of opinion always exist, but response to another that you don’t agree with should be expressed in a dignified appropriate manner. Defamatory comments often border on infringement of individual rights as well. I hope that all ‘old’ people, such as me, continue to write and even shout out their opinions on any and every subject that they have an opinion about. Keep in mind that many ‘old’ people have considerable experience and intellect that far exceeds some of the younger dissenters. If someone tells me I’m too old to do something or that I should retire or start down sizing, then I become a very grumpy old woman. And no, I won’t shut up.

    • Karen Wehrstein on

      Trump’s best option for inducing people to be civil to him would be to be civil himself. As a leader by example, he is more responsible than any other single person for today’s appalling abuse and battering of freedom of speech.

  5. Old , White and Opinionated and Loving It ! Rich and Entitled….Not so much……..When the “Critics ” go low , you go High !

  6. I would have loved to see you engage with the content of the majority of the comments on your previous column. I found many to be balanced, if impassioned. It’s interesting that the comment you quoted has had such an impact on you. I have been on the internet as an opinionated woman and activist for 2 decades and I have had so many rape and death threats that I couldn’t count them (in fact, I got so many in ONE DAY once that I couldn’t have counted). This is the nature of being a woman on the internet. So forgive me if this response feels a little thin-skinned. I look forward to seeing you take on the content of the other comments on that piece.

      • “your constituency”? I don’t know the writer or what they “do”. I take us all to be in the same constituency. A single rape or death threat to one ought to be felt by us all. I can’t imagine what it would be like to receive such horror.

        Hugh Mackenzie writes: “We all have an important role to play in building a better society” Hear, hear.

        PS. It seems Tony has made it through the “news cycle” and will carry on, as is. Getting away with it (see Kavanaugh) is the goal too often these days.

    • Trisha Pendrith on

      Thank you Kathleen for this thoughtful, intelligent comment. I too would have enjoyed reading a response from Hugh on the many comments that countered his Listen Up! views on the situation surrounding Tony Clement and whether or not he should resign as MP. I love a good debate on significant issues! I agree with Hugh and many others that debaters/participants are much more effective if their comments are respectful, but also well informed.

      • Hugh Mackenzie on

        Trisha and Kathleen: Although sometimes I have to bite my tongue, as a rule, I try hard not to respond to comments about the articles I write. I feel that I put my opinion forward in what I write and others have the opportunity to respond to that in the comment section, without rebuttal from me. The quote I used this week, was an exception, to make my point on civility.

  7. The bitter tirade that is quoted in the Doppler commentary while being offensive, clearly demonstrates a complete lack of understanding on the wisdom of experience, a seasoned view on topics of importance and the fact that so many of our aged citizens have spent much of their lives contributing to the betterment of our current human experience. This is specifically true of Hugh MacKenzie who has served the communities of Huntsville and greater Muskoka with great commitment & effective leadership. The ongoing work that many of us see Hugh providing suggests a definable ignorance by the person placing the quote – an immature tantrum by a person who is unable to sort out fact and her emotionalism. Shame on her and thank you Hugh for your ongoing service.

  8. Karen Wehrstein on

    You have every right to grump, Hugh, and be old (we’ll all get there if we’re lucky). But you don’t have the right not to run a correction when you make a factual error. I repeat my Nov 12 comment re Tony Clement:
    Just one point of correction, Hugh, as you wrote “To be clear, I do not respect his actions *in recent months*… We do not know what pressure he has been under or what demons he has *recently* faced, or what, if anything, has affected his mental health”.
    The reports from women go back *years*, not months. They are not recent.

    E.g.: Three women are interviewed, saying Clement was acting inappropriately two years, two years and 3-4 years ago respectively.
    Also – – since 2014, so at least four years.
    One more – – since 2014, so at least four years.

  9. Kathy Henderson on

    I was taken back by the rude comment Hugh talks about and I agree with Hugh that there is no need for those kind of comments. No one takes a person who makes that kind of comment seriously and sometimes I think it reflects on a person intelligence or lack there of. I am glad Hugh brought this up. I don’t take this as whining at all but sharing how there is less respect and the ability to act like an adult these days. That aside Hugh, how would you like Tony being a teacher and teaching your 5 year old, 12 year old, 16 year old? I would not like that at all. Just my opinion. Good day.

  10. Losing one’s dignity is the perhaps the saddest part of getting old. My daughter just called after visiting her 102 year-old grandmother in the nursing home. Her comment was that everyone in there should have a sign on them saying I was once a very successful real-estate agent (which her grandmother was), or a lawyer, or a nurse, or a taxi driver, or carpenter or a teacher or a welder; all being very worthy contributors to society that deserve respect and dignity. Unfortunately, social media and the Internet too often enable people to make quick and stupid comments that offsets the potential for good offered by those media.

  11. Neither gender nor age should be the mark by which the relevance and validity of someone’s thoughts and potential are ranked in significance. It is alarming that the largely radical “Me Too” movement has resulted in a generalized discrimination against men in our society, a devaluation, and a presumed guilty, judgmental approach. The case against Brett Kavanaugh is a case in point. He was immediately judged as guilty in the court of public opinion and despite evidence of false accusations, he and his family live with the aftermath of this.

    I commend you, Hugh, for your commentary on Tony Clement. You chose to talk about what he had contributed to the people of Muskoka as our MP, his commitment to us, in fact for all of Canada. Your fairness in accessing the many aspects of the sadness of the current situation which he is facing should be noted by those who are so very quick to judge and condemn, by those who are ready to believe all that is found in media sources particularly if it is sensational and negative. How many of those expressing criticism and condemnation ever took the time to voice appreciation and support to Tony Clement when that was warranted? This man who held himself accountable and expressed great remorse for the effect of his actions on others in his life is struggling through the consequences of very poor decisions and their long-term effect. Is any other punishment necessary?

  12. Hugh’s comments generally serve to start conversations and make people think. One may not agree and that is just fine but the goal, if one does not agree, should be to demonstrate somehow that your “different” opinion is valid. This can be done best with hard facts to back up a position but sometimes simply stating a better explanation of social norms (that are constantly changing anyway) from a slightly different view point helps people decide too.
    Too often today there seems to be little middle ground in any discussion. There is always a “grey area” in any situation and the art of civil discussion needs to be practiced. Such discussion is the way to change another person’s viewpoint. Calling them names and threatening them and their heritage does nothing constructive.
    Decision makers, be they politicians, business leaders or just ordinary citizens, come from many varied backgrounds and most decisions are not made in a vacuum. There are usually many restraints on what courses of action can be used. Time and discussion are needed to reach a consensus and that is exactly what our democratic system is supposed to accomplish, granted currently in 4 year cycles.
    It is important to use this system to improve our situation by listening to commentary and the resultant comments and then forming one’s own opinion. The news media has the responsibility to keep us all informed of the facts and columnists like Hugh help to initiate discussion.

    Unsupported and vicious attacks such as those used too often by Trump, for example, do great damage to this process. A tweet might be relatively instant but it is short on details, making it easily misunderstood and it is not a good way to try to run a country of over 350 million people or handle international diplomacy.

    “Getting away on a technicality” calls everything a person does after that into question and they have to rebuild their credibility and trust. If, for example, Tony made a grand pronouncement about some part of the Free Trade agreement tomorrow, would you believe him? Maybe a year ago yes but now, maybe not so?

    Did the US get the right supreme court judge or not in Kavanaugh? Time will tell, but he has started under a cloud of suspicion due to accusations and the way they were handled.

    My point, at the end here is that every change needs to be discussed and this discussion takes time. Our ability to send data almost instantly has increased but our ability to interpret this data into our lives and determine even if this data is “true” or “Fake News” has not kept pace. We should make sure we take time to have these discussions, reflect on them, and understand the ramifications before we make decisions that will affect us for a long time into the future. Hugh’s column is part of that process, talk to and about his ideas but don’t just beat him with a stick because you disagree.

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