My brother Steve emailed this morning and mentioned, about someone he’s working with, that “he jokes even with people that don’t like him.” He meant it as a compliment.
It got me thinking about living on Prince Edward Island — it’s my 14th anniversary of living here today — and how in many ways it’s like the 135,000 of us who live here are crammed into a small room with each other, and as such have to find ways of getting along.
This week I’ve been out and about in public more often than usual, and in my travels I’ve run into two friends who’ve run federally for the Conservatives, a friend who’s running for the Liberals in the next provincial election, several friends who are die-hard capitalists and a couple who are die-hard socialists. In my immediate circle of friends I have people on all points of the religious compass, from full-on drunk-the-Kool Aid believers to complete skeptics. I have friends who are adamantly pro-choice, and friends who are, well, not. I have friends who live on $12,000 a year, and friends who live on $120,000 a year.
And I’m pretty sure that I’m a pretty typical resident of Prince Edward Island in this way.
Of course many people elsewhere have a diverse and multi-opined community.
It’s just that here in PEI, where family ties are so strong, where overlapping family connections are so prevalent, where it seems sometime that everybody went to school with everybody else (or at least their brother did), and where, relatively speaking, there are so few of us, the fabric of everyday life is woven more tightly.
In other words, it’s best not to piss someone off because it’s likely that eventually they’ll be your boss. Or your brother in law. Or their sister the police officer will be arresting you.
And yet, for the most part, things work out: Islanders have a way of relating to each other that allows people of wildly divergent political, religious or philosophical views to, well, joke with each other.
This isn’t to say that Islanders get along all the time. And it’s certainly not to suggest that people don’t “talk.”
But when you see two people who, in any other place, would likely never meet, and who if forced to put all of their ideological cards on the table would likely be mortal enemies, gathered around the kitchen at a house party getting on like gangbusters, it’s hard not to marvel at the delicate balance that lets PEI society work as the well-oiled machine that it is.