By Judy Haiven
Editor’s note: This was first published in the Nova Scotia Advocate.
Let’s look at two lives; let’s look at Wray Hart, aged 62, and Dennis Patterson, 23, the man who allegedly killed him.
Patterson allegedly struck Hart in the early hours of Saturday morning near the Sobey’s store on Queen Street in south end Halifax. Patterson was charged with drunk driving causing death.
We read that Hart went out to look for some returnable bottles so he could buy some cigarettes for a friend. Patterson was likely wrapping up a night of drinking and partying when he got into his car and drove. Hart was on the sidewalk when he was struck.
Hart collected bottles and cans to earn what must have been a meagre living. I saw him every couple of days, wheeling a shopping cart loaded with blue bags stuffed with recyclables. We used to smile at one another and sometimes I’d hand him a bag of empty bottles. On sunny summer mornings, I used to see Hart sitting on the low stone wall at the old library, quietly asking for change from passersby.
What do we know of the man driving the car, Dennis Patterson of Quispamsis, N.B? We read he is an MBA student at Saint Mary’s University, where I taught in the same business school for 17 years. I often taught MBA students. Most were full of privilege, intent on making lots of money, and short on life experience.
The 2011 census shows that Quispamsis has a population of 17,656. The median family income is $101,907. That’s 34 per cent higher than $76,000, which is the median family income for all Canadians.
There are 170 ‘Blacks’, and 585 ‘North American Aboriginals’ according to the census.
Immigrants make up only 5.6 per cent of the town’s population, compared with 20.6 per cent in Canada as a whole. More than half of Quispamsis’ 995 immigrants are from the US and the UK, that means they are probably white. There are also 50 Chinese and 190 from South Korean immigrants but not one from India or any country in Africa.
More than 3,650 people in Quispamsis have at least a bachelor’s or undergraduate degree or diploma; another 1,035 have completed apprenticeships and are employed in their trades. Nearly 5,000 have taken courses in business, management, architecture or engineering.
In Quispamsis, 5,705 of the 6,175 homes are owned, only 465 are rented. Half of the homes have eight rooms or more in them.
We know that Wray Hart had recently moved to an apartment with his own fridge and a radio. Those who knew him said Hart was the “kindest man you’d ever meet,” others said he was “the hardest working man in Halifax”. Lorraine Glendenning, who was a friend said, “he told me he had arranged his bed so he could look out the window at the stars when he was listening to the radio at night.”
What do we make of Dennis Patterson’s background? The census statistics tell the story of Quispamsis – a white, professional, and solidly middle class suburb of Saint John.
A possible parallel to Patterson’s accident takes place in the 1985 bestselling novel Bonfire of the Vanities. Author Tom Wolfe called the book’s hero, Sherman McCoy, a “master of the universe” because he was a Wall Street financier or trader, rich and powerful.
McCoy was out on the town with his mistress Maria, who was driving his car when she struck a black teenager. McCoy was charged with the hit and run accident which left the teen in a coma. Maria lied to police and said McCoy was driving. McCoy’s life spun out of control — he lost his job, his home and his family. In the end, someone quotes the Bible, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?”
Let’s hope it’s not too late for Dennis Patterson. He’s got to think about his own privilege and the fact that he, like others in his MBA cohort, are supposed to make “ethical and socially sustainable decisions” and understand “the role that ethical and socially-sustainable factors play” while studying for his MBA.
Maybe now he needs to question his own privilege and consider why he ever believed it was OK to drive while under the influence.
Judy Haiven is a retired professor of Industrial Relations at St. Mary’s University