Where We Was, Where We Is, Where We’re Going


“Money – get back. I’m all right Jack. Keep your hands off my stack”

Inequality and economic distress – these are the biggest crisis’s our societies struggle with today.

It’s helpful to understand how we got here. We were conned, by some of the best conmen of all time. It took a concerted effort, and a lot of wrangling and wheeler dealing, but in a surprisingly quick and definitely hostile takeover, our 12,000 year old Agrarian Society was overthrown by a small group of people working hand in glove – the wealthy, the church, and the governments – who ushered in the Industrial Revolution somewhere around 1760.

economic history

Prior to that time, we’d peaceably lived alongside our crops and livestock, content to track our days with the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons. We gave no thought to wages, earnings, salaries. Life was not always easy, but for most people, it was simple and understandable, from birth to death.

With the introduction of industrialization, all of that changed. Along came machines, and factories, and overseers, and owners who needed to make certain that the wheels of the machines were kept moving and well oiled. In order to do so, changes had to be made to the lifestyles of workers – the ‘cogs’ necessary to keep the machines – and the economic engine – working smoothly.

industrial-revolutionPeople had to learn a whole new way of life. They had to wake up and be somewhere for a set time, take their meals when a work break was called, and learn to use the bathroom only when their boss thought it appropriate. Decisions on what days should be honoured, for personal or religious reasons, left their hands, and became the prerogative of the owners. All of these changes ensured that there would be work for doctors, psychologists and life coaches for years to come.

Instead of taking care of their own homes and families, workers were made to believe that the only way they’d be happy would be if they earned a wage that increased with their loyalty to the firm. With no health and safety or child labour laws in effect, many families threw their lives, and that of their children’s’, into the machine.

What people could ‘earn’ in a week mattered more than before, because they were no longer tending to their farms and live stock .. now they needed to ‘make a living’ in order to pay for those things which they’d primarily provided for themselves before.

puritan work ethicAnd the churches played their part as well, by making the concept of work ‘holy in god’s eyes.’ The vaunted work ethic, that became synonymous with virtue, never applied equally to the families of the wealthy, who instead lived lives of ease and indolence, catered to by those who now needed to provide a livelihood for themselves, or their families.

The churches were richly rewarded by governments for their place in manipulating workers’ minds, generally by being made exempt from costly taxation.

(This distinction is why the ‘separation of church and state’ is such an important principle of a true democracy, since governments, often indistinguishable from business, know full well that having religion on your side can ease through a lot of concepts that the masses might not swallow if it just came from a government or a business.)

The Agrarian Society was overtaken by capitalism, when the existing powers – those with capital, religion, and later, governments built around capitalism – made it seem that capitalism was the natural culmination of a human inclination to buy and sell. In fact, capitalism simply replaced the agrarian age with it’s own requirements.

The ‘job creators‘ were deified, while the actual workers were continually judged as to worthiness. And the worthless were ruthlessly cast aside. A new caste system emerged, defined primarily by wealth, and what wealth could buy, be it more education for their own children, more factories, or more funds with which to persuade governments to make laws protecting the continued acquisition of wealth by those who least needed that protection.

look-job-creators-job-creators-3159518Workers were told that it was only by working hard that they would be proven virtuous, and achieve their just rewards. They were told that they needed to be independent, and ask for no handouts or help from those already successful, but instead that they must forge a righteous path to their own pinnacle of success. They needed to be daring and adventurous, and carve a path to the top, letting no person or soppy sentiment impede their progress.

In time, businesses began to be the unspoken, but overriding, partners of government. Laws and rules, better for businesses than for the masses who elected government, were made palatable by a constant drip of ‘patriotic’ economic theories that always landed firmly on the side of the owner class, rather than the worker class.

“Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today.
But if you ask for a rise, it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away”

It’s the economy, stupid,” was the rallying cry that allowed businesses to run roughshod over those who toiled in the businesses of the owner class. Inequality grew and grew, and as the world careened from the Great Depression to the Great Recession of 2008, the wealthy moved to the head of the table, while those who did the actual work, were told they had to settle for the crumbs that fell from the tables of the rich and powerful.

explaintrickledowneconomicssmallEconomic theories that favoured the already wealthy, like the ‘trickle down effect,’ or the tax scam bill recently forced upon the United States, were put into practice by governments who knew very well that the wealth would not only stay where it was, but increase the holdings of the wealthy, at the expense of the middle class.

 

The US Supreme Court’s decision to define corporations as people just sealed the deal that had been in play for generations – the corporations were now able to seat the government they had always wanted; one run by business and for business, rather than by  democracy or the rule of law.

Now, it could be argued that civilization grew exponentially and in a positive fashion, because of this Revolution. It is what we’ve been told was the way it had to be, for the planet to move ahead.

But in every advancement, there is the seed of it’s own destruction. Before factories were built, or mines dug, no one died in either one. Before trains were invented, there were no train wrecks. Before there were cars, no one had ever been run over by an automobile. And before there was capitalism, there was an agrarian society that worked very well on many levels. Not always, and not for all .. but I think the same could be said for capitalism.

As long as the backs and hands and eyes of workers were necessary, capitalism chugged along rather nicely. As the years passed, the workers and owners struggled for their places and for a more equitable pay structure, but workers remained the backbone of the economy. The middle class defined the country.

But then, along came a new technology, one based on information. The need for unskilled workers began to fall, as the need for a new skill set rose. Many of those who found themselves displaced by new technologies simply refused to translate their abilities to what society now demanded, and they, and their jobs fell by the wayside.

Hand holding smartphone with media icons and symbolMoving forward into the twenty-first century, those who nostalgically remembered a Golden Age where every one who wanted a job, could find a job, were increasingly threatened by a world where their backs and hands and eyes meant little to the owner class. Even worse, the service industry, once an important part of greasing the wheels of the economy, was increasingly threatened with automation.

Employment_by_Industry_in_the_US-2013 (1)

And in fact, newer, cheaper technology was intimidating many other professions, including the 1.7 million truck driving jobs that looked primed to be replaced by self driving vehicles. Not to mention the array of jobs that could be better and more cheaply handled by computers, like highly paid research jobs in legal and medical professions.

While the Agrarian Society had spanned 12,000 years, the Industrial Revolution lasted only about 150 years, before being replaced by the Information Age, which began roughly around 1945, and which we’re now exiting as we enter a new Post-Industrial Age.

So what does this mean to us, we who have to live in this Brave New World? Well, if you’ve been following the social media surrounding the January 1st minimum wage increase in Ontario, and the outrage and pushback by service industries who will be impacted by that increase … a whole heck of a lot.

In Coburg, Ontario, the billionaire heirs to the Tim Horton coffee chain immediately issued an edict to their minimum wage employees, decreeing that, from then on, their lunch breaks would be unpaid, they would be expected to pay a larger portion of government mandated benefits, and that they would lose personal benefits granted prior to the increase. The workers were informed that they would have to sign this new agreement, or forfeit their jobs.

boycottTimsPredictably, the internet went mad. Arguments were made for both sides of the dispute, most of whom wanted to send a strong message to the heirs and the coffee chain that they would not have government regulations manipulated to suit business. It is a tribute to our sense of justice that most Canadians found the Joyce/Horton’s highhanded demands a bridge too far.

But this wage increase, coming after years of employees being asked to tighten their own belts, for the sake of the economy, and to keep their jobs, coupled with the freeze of the minimum wage since 2007, is too little, too late.

The cries from the fiscally conservative, that this increase will decimate employment in minimum wage jobs – is hysterical and completely misses the larger point.

min wage earnersEmployees have been treated as little more than inconveniences for decades. Beginning with the corporate raiders of the eighties, who slashed and burned the employee rosters of major corporations in order to enrich stock holders and investors, followed by the well-intentioned, but ultimately cruel hobbling of staff who were asked to eschew wage raises and to double up their efforts as staff numbers diminished,  employees were always asked to minimize their own needs in order to further the economic needs of those for whom they toiled.

The economic crisis that collapsed the Greek economy was going on in North America as well, but our governments propped up failing businesses in the name of saving the economy, despite this coming at the expense of the workers. When businesses were told to tighten their economic belts, it was the workers who got smaller trousers, and less money in their pockets, or were dismissed, while upper management and stock holders incomes soared astronomically.

The austerity mentality that decimated the well paying jobs and sent many older workers home years before a well deserved retirement, had created an economy that saw, not value in the workforce, but a sea of gaping maws.

employee meatWhat had begun as a need for willing workers was now becoming an awareness of a glut of workers that wanted the jobs that paid for the basic needs of food, shelter and medical care when they were ill or old.

And when the big bosses looked around, they realized they no longer had the jobs to give them.

Those in power look at the conflicting and conflicted attitudes of the working class, and wonder how they will control the peoples’ needs, and how they can keep the people from recognizing that their needs have become a burden on the amassing of wealth by a very small percentage of the population. The workers have become a liability.

Capitalism is about supply and demand. The workers that were once valuable commodities are now in an oversupply and under demand position, as machinery replaces their roles.

The increase to the minimum wage was a paltry $2.40 an hour, but it might as well have been a rise to $50 an hour, or $100 an hour, because, as each year goes by, our oversupply of workers will increase, and the amount of jobs available will decrease. This long awaited wage hike will not matter in a very near future where most jobs have disappeared to technology.

We are engaged in a sound and fury that conceals the real basis of our fear and anger – we are many, but what is available to us is little. Today we fight for the staff of Tim Horton’s but tomorrow, we may be fighting for our own jobs and lives.

“Look, ” the stern faced keepers of the public purse tell us, “we need to give more money to the ‘job creators,’ so that they can make the jobs that will make you happy.  In exchange, we’re going to have to take away the social safety net. That seems fair to us.”

But the job creators always had the trillions of dollars necessary to create the jobs, either in their bank accounts or socked away in some tax haven. They just realized, a decade ago, that there was no reason to spend their own money to do so. They outsource the lowest paid jobs overseas, and patiently await the automation that will rid them of most other jobs.

VOLVO SWEDEN FORDIn times like this, we have to understand that fighting for the minimum wage of some not very desirable jobs is just one very small part of a problem that can only escalate. There are few solutions to that bigger problem.

So, despite our long term stakes and investment in the arc of capitalism that began somewhere around 1760, and that we’ve built with our own toil and sweat, what we should be contemplating is … what will be done with us when the need for our backs, our hands and our eyes no longer exists?

Can we count on those who hold wealth and power to provide some sort of Universal Basic Income? Or are our days numbered, as our value to ‘the machine’ dwindles down?

I’m just hoping our future wasn’t prophesied in the 1973 post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller, Soylent Green.

(that’s a joke! maybe … )

 

 

Wild and Wacky Weathering


In June 2012, Amazon picked The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker as one of the month’s best reads. A combination coming-of-age story and apocalyptic page turner, the novel focused on how people would react to a changed world, where “the Earth’s rotation slows, gradually stretching out days and nights and subtly affecting the planet’s gravity. ”     
age of miracles
The book outlines how a young girl, along with her family and friends, cope with this adjustment, as the planet wobbles off to it’s slow demise.  Meanwhile, the best laid plans and schemes from governments fail to make much difference in how the Earth’s denizens cope with the disaster.

And that’s kind of where we’re at these days, isn’t it? We’re in a vague malaise, unable to confidently say what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, while hapless governments, even if they agree that there is a problem, struggle to find bandaid solutions to  the earths’ sores that have been left to fester for too long.
trump alone at G20

Except this guy .. this guy thinks he knows better than anyone on the planet, be they incredibly educated scientists or those who have spent their lives dedicated to studying the effect of climate change on people. This guy is an asshat.

It must really be pointed out how completely insanely and selfishly Trump and his band of reverse Robin Hood Merry Men are behaving. They’re hooting and hollering like ignorant hillbillies as they seal the environmental fate of those fools who voted for them to make life altering decisions, in the name of ‘economic change.’ These corporate raiders of the environment are convinced that money and power will save them from dying from a lack of clean air and water. But just them. The rest of us? Dream on. We’re all going down with this ship.

Remember when the first rumblings about a change in the planet’s clime began to hit the middle class consciousness? Those who could see the bigger picture were worried about how even a slight shift in warming could damage our environment, the least of our worries being an increase in natural disasters, as melting polar ice caps brought about flooding, and extreme weather swings were tempered with more frequent and deadlier droughts.

Others smiled at the thought of palm trees growing down the main streets of large northern cities. With a thorough lack of understanding of the fragility and interweaving of climate and landmass, some hoped this warming would bring about new tropical beaches in heretofore frigid areas. These foolish humans thought they could somehow control where and when climate change would happen, and bend it to their wishes.

All of their fantasies depended upon where they were located, and hinged upon a lack of empathy for those who would see the opposite of these desires. In order to have the tropics brought to your front yard, many countries would have to be completely displaced or disappear from their current sites. In order to have Floridian temperatures in Boston, New York or Toronto, you first have to lose Florida.

But, of course, they were attempting to take a world problem, and make it into a personal triumph.  Still, Man proposes, god and the environment disposes. You’ve only to look locally, to the disastrous flooding on the Toronto Islands and the economic battering Toronto is taking on this matter alone, to see that we have no control whatsoever when Mother Nature gets pissed off. Instead of a tropical beach, you have land masses swept away, along with coastal areas being eroded, possibly never to be returned in our lifetimes.

I wonder what Trump will think when his precious Mar-a-Lago is swallowed up by the sea? It will happen, and I can only hope it will happen sooner than predicted. Right about now works for me.

elephant left to rotAnd when I think about those who continue to claim that our actions are too miniscule to have any sort of immediate impact upon the planet, I’m struck dumb by the hubris, and the inability of some to look at the damage we all regularly inflict upon the planet, and not see how integral each and every living creature’s actions are to maintaining this delicate balance.  Where once we knew, instinctively and intuitively, that the lowliest butterfly snatched from our timeline could have an impact upon the food chain, we now struggle to throw off responsibility for the most damaging of indignities and raping of natural resources ever seen in human history.

But don’t we love to talk about the weather! Talking about it, singing about it, trying to forecast what might be on the horizon, and molding our protective coatings around what we hold precious … this is what we have always done, since caveman days. Through the centuries we learned more about how the planet moved through it’s cycles, and how the sun and moon determined how best we could use the land and waters around us.

We learned to measure how precipitation complicated the times when seeds could be planted, in order to feed our populations. We began to understand that chemicals, seeded into the lifeblood of the planet, the very earth and air, could and would damage the reproductive cycles of all living creatures. We learned how to forecast what the weather might be in coming days, and when we would need to protect our bodies with clothing that would keep us warm, or sunscreen that would fend off the increasingly irradiating rays of the sun, which were no longer impeded by the thick coating of ozone we had taken for granted.

All of these things we learned over time, through observation of the repetition of the seasons, we now blithely toss aside in favour of commercializing and exploitation of resources, an exploitation that seems less inclined to profit humanity, but certainly enriches corporations with no concern for the actual ‘owners’ of the lands they rape.

We looked to the seasons as metaphor for our lives. The cycles of the seasons echoed the natural order of life. Spring reflected our callow youth, and Summer mirrored the fullness of being an adult. We understood that the fall indicated a slowing of days, and winter … dark, cold, unforgiving winter … symbolized a time of aging, and eventual death. The days have the same length, but there are fewer of them.

When the natural order of the seasons is displaced, when you can no longer count on April showers bringing May flowers, our human minds have difficulty grasping that which we’ve always taken for granted – the flow of time reflected in our environment.

The impact of climate change doesn’t end with the physical damage that’s being inflicted on the world. Now, those who study our psyches are beginning to see a change in how humans respond emotionally to the trauma and shock of weather events. Even if we try to avoid focusing on the earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and landslides which now occur more frequently, our minds are aware of these catastrophes, and our ability to absorb these disasters is lessened. Our empathy is impacted, leading to a rationalization of isolation, and of a need to protect what we have from those displaced by events beyond their control.

We are, in effect, living in a state of post traumatic stress and shock. Some might feel a low grade sense of depression and anxiety, while others, perhaps more sensitive to this imbalance, may have behavioural issues, ranging from substance abuse, to interpersonal and job-related difficulties. Other symptoms can include a heightening of violence and aggression towards others. It is no accident that the rate of suicide has risen in the last decade, as some decide that there’s simply no reason to carry on, in a world so out of balance.

Climate change on our planet will eventually impact every one of us, wherever we live. In recent studies (Bryant et al., 2014,) (Simpson et al., 2011,) it was noted that,
Changes in climate affect agriculture, infrastructure and liveability, which in turn affect occupations and quality of life and can force people to migrate. These effects may lead to loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear  and fatalism.

Extreme temperatures in their own right have a unique influence on behavior and wellbeing. As research by Craig Anderson (2001) and Simister & Cooper (2005) has shown, aggression increases as temperatures rise. Thus as summers get hotter, so might our tempers — likely due, the researchers explain, “to the impacts of heat on arousal, which results in decreases in attention and self-regulation, as well as an increase in the availability of negative and hostile thoughts.” Heat can also impact our ability to think clearly, they add, “which may reduce the ability to resolve a conflict without violence (Pilcher, Nadler, & Busch, 2002).” Higher temperatures have also been found in other research to increase the risk of suicide (Lee et al., 2006).

ecoanxiety
Add to this mounting fear and anxiety derived from watching the world around us change in irreversible ways — coupled with the helplessness of feeling as if we cannot stop or reverse global warming— and you have another effect of climate change on mental health:

“Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010),” the authors write. “Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).”

While it may be expedient and profitable for climate change deniers to continue on the path to ecological destruction, those who deny what is happening to their own psyches are impeding any kind of healing for the rest of us.  Seasons change, and we must change with them. But more gently.

With No Direction Home


When we first sold our house, worrying about finding a space that would be safe, affordable, and have amenities nearby didn’t seem like such a big deal. Really, we reasoned, how hard could it be?  I, for one, thought that our biggest problem would be agreeing on location.

Wrong.

welcome to the jungleSince our search for housing has begun, I have passed through all the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I now accept that my entire life is on hold, and that I will be a quivering mass of anxiety and frustrated tears until this home hunting issue is resolved. Or one of us kills the other.

I had no idea that so many of the baby boomers who had dutifully bought their suburban homes during good times would all be taking advantage of a seller’s market, with an idea of moving back into the city where they could enjoy their golden years. The hive mind’s plan was to sell before the real estate bubble burst, find a little place to squat until the madness calmed down, and then decide what to do next, secure in our gains and pensions.

Our lovely little bungalow was snapped up, and flipped again within the month. A friend just sent over a photo of it being demolished. East Ave demo Apr 2017As glad as I am that we are now ‘Former Scarberians, ‘ I did feel a pang at the sight of the rubble.

What we did not fully comprehend was that as the price of real estate rose, so did the greedy little hearts of landlords seeking to cash in on square footage. We’ve had rent control in Toronto for decades, but that only covers units built (or occupied) before 1991. The easing of rental controls was meant to encourage new rental units to be built, but was not acted upon – in the decade between 1996 and 2006, 95% of all new housing built was private residential ownership.

But having committed to the house sale, we established an east end home base, with an eye to sorting ourselves out before finding a ‘forever home.’ Unfortunately, when your stuff is in boxes, in storage spaces, and scattered to the winds, a sort of inability to move forward takes over … when you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t see any road ahead. Easier to lie back in the poppies like Dorothy than to sort through hundreds of cryptically labelled boxes to find the potato masher.

Toronto subway systemWe made up a wish list of what we could and couldn’t accept in housing. Accessibility to amenities, shopping, libraries, etc was priority number one, since I don’t drive. So this palace had to be close to the subway line, and roughly west of  Woodbine station, and east of Ossington station.

High rises were just out, right off the bat, after hearing countless horror stories about tenants battling cockroaches and bed bugs. Low rises were a low priority – still so much noise and too many neighbours!

A three bedroom would be best, a large two bedroom acceptable IF there were separate dining and living rooms. Parking would be great, street permit parking would be considered. A little back yard for the cats, or at the least, an enclosed balcony, was also on the list.

We established a maximum monthly rental cost  that we could comfortably afford, with the knowledge that rental costs would inevitably increase yearly. If we needed to include utilities in the costs, electrical heating could not considered if we were to be able to afford both heating and eating.

Oh, how the Gods laugh, when humans list what they will and will not accept!

housingOur first forays into the rental world were fun and interesting. Thirty years of home ownership had us lulled into a false confidence. Hours were spent burning out corneas, sifting through Kijiji, Craigslist, ViewIt, and countless other rental sites. We were ready and willing to explore what was out there.

Preliminary research done, it was time to inspect what was available. We saw apartments, condos, tiny houses, and lofts. We looked above stores, under stores, and at underground parking.

And every time we’d find something that was either ‘just perfect!‘ or ‘close enough to be almost perfect!’ we’d be scooped by some other renter frantically trying to avoid homelessness. Everything, it would seem, was fair in apartment hunting … lies, bribery, tantrums …

evil landlordLandlords today are the Gods of the past. They can drive a grown man to tears, never mind a small French girl. They are merciless. They can not only demand more private and confidential information from you than your doctor will, they can gleefully skip over rental/tenants agreements willy nilly, banning everything from smoking, to small pets, and cooking smells. They can demand thousands of dollars in certified cheques be handed over, before they’ve even looked at your 11 page rental application.

It is to weep.

Over and over, we’ve been told, despite having responded to an ad only two hours old, that there were several people who’d seen and applied for occupancy before us. Our impeccable credit ratings meant nothing, if another applicant fanned a wad of cash in front of the landlord, and agreed to pay hundreds more than the stated rental price. It is back to the dark old days of ‘key money,’ and laws and legalities be damned.

living in a boxI no longer look forward to viewing living spaces, nor do I mentally dress them in my mind. I have no reason to expect that finding anything more than four walls and, hopefully, a roof, await me. To quote an old Monty Python sketch, I’m beginning to realize that I may soon be living in a cardboard box in the middle of a busy street. In the game of apartment hunting, I have had my tenant heart broken.

When the hunt for a home resembles the worst of the Wild West, it’s a lose/lose game for both the renter and the rentee,. Those who finally win a place to live at any price feel no joy in the victory, no loyalty to the landlord, and no need to be a responsible tenant, if that success has come at a cost that will prevent them from enjoying the rest of their lives.

10 worst tenantsNor does the temporary flush of money, money, money help the landlord when he discovers that he’s rented to someone willing to cough up the extra dough so that the space can be turned into a grow op or a crash pad for six other friends. Good luck evicting bad tenants .. that’s one place where the law not only comes down heavily on the side of the resident, it’s actually followed to a fair thee well. Your squatter may be around for a very long time.

Setting aside the morality and ethics of rental wars, there’s an impact on society at large.

demoralizedAnyone who falls through the cracks, economically, is hopelessly disenfranchised in this battle. Kids in college, or right out of college coping with short term employment contracts, or gawd forbid, unpaid ‘internships,’ are right out of luck, along with the disabled, the elderly, the vulnerable, and those who don’t pass the scrutiny and whims of landlords. Demoralization and often, homelessness, loom in their futures.

When greed rules the markets, lawlessness runs rampant. We cannot balance a Trumpian  ‘smart business practices’ fallacy with a failure to acknowledge that Toronto‘s historically low vacancy rate of 1.3% will have a negative impact upon the social and economic success of the city. Short term gain is never the equivalent of what can be achieved by long term, responsible, financial planning that takes into account the needs of all of a city’s inhabitants.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear if we have been chosen for an apartment that, while not ideal, ticks a few of our wish list boxes. But I’m also getting ready for yet another ‘go see’ of a space that could be made into a cozy space for two to curl up in.

We’re lucky – we have options, although it often seems that our options keep narrowing, and the lines we drew around what is habitable keep getting redrawn. How those without those options will cope is beyond me.

Wish me luck.

Inaction and Consequences


There are risks and costs to action…But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.          John F. Kennedy – 1917-1963, 35th U.S. President

Somewhere along the line – was it in the disco 70s? The ‘Me” decade of the 80’s? The Naughty 90’s? The despair of the Noughties?

Somewhere in there, we lost our way.rox-1964-5th-grade-lacademie-assomption

In the 1950s, we were all shook up, and in the sixties, we tuned in, turned on, and changed the world. We believed in ourselves and that our actions had global impact. And we were right.

But all that action was exhausting.  We couldn’t keep it up, and we were busy patting ourselves on the back for being so hip and cool and groovy. We had used our flower power to launch a civil rights movement, and to stop an unjust war! The U.S. landed a man on the moon! Now we dance!

civil rights 60s protest.jpgRetribution for the changes we had wrought came swiftly. Those who hate change targeted those who encouraged change. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy – all assassinated for daring to dream of a better world.

Racism and ignorance tore the bright and shiny dreams of peace and equality of the sixties into shreds, and now, it threatens to do so again. The way forward is not paved with bullets and brutality. The raised voice and fist of dictatorship enslaves;  it does not elevate a people or a culture, it tramples them into the ground.

Our years of ‘comfortable inaction’ have birthed some of the worst, most self-indulgent, and reprehensible political representatives of all time. Around the world, and at every level of government, the choices are dismal, with little to discern one corrupt, manipulative and greedy candidate from another.

Before you point the finger – know that you did this to yourselves. Know that wanting our own well-being at any cost, opting for indulgences as we decimated the middle class, slotting anyone who didn’t look or act like us into the reject pile of life … all of these ‘inactions,’  in the name of comfort, created the monsters we now see before us.

walle_interactionThe years of focusing on what made us happy; on choosing the cheap over the well-made (and in that group, I include the ‘heroes’ we pedestaled;) the crude and ugly brutality of racism and bigotry whipped up by leaders who chose fear of others as their platforms; the laziness of passionate if largely uninformed opinion over fact and reason; the years of “too long: didn’t read”  – all of those   combined – have given us the governments we deserve.

govt-we-deserveWe lost belief in ourselves, and demanded less of our leaders. We lost sight of the fact that every action we take has global impact. We refused responsibility. We chose comfort for ourselves over the welfare of the planet.

The actions we could have, and should have, taken in controlling our voracious greed for wealth and power, never happened.

And now we are reaping the long range risks of comfortable inaction.

Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights


The Canadian relationship with winter and snow is a lot like marriage; some love it, and look forward to their time together. Others tolerate winter, but spend a lot of time apart during cold spells. Still others grumble, but it’s a loving martyrdom that takes the good (skiing) right along with the bad (shovelling.)

winter bench no snowBut one thing is certain – this winter, so mild and light on snow, is having an effect on the Canadian psyche. It’s as though we’re all a little off-kilter, a little crankier, testier, because we know something’s missing, but we’re not sure what it is.

The media’s always more than happy to give us something to talk about, but this year, even the media is freezing over. After Postmedia gobbled up all but four of the daily papers across Canada, it found it had actually bitten off more than it could chew. Godfrey looking like House of CardsWith advertising and circulation plummeting, there was only time to quickly give CEO Paul Godfrey his salary of $1.6 million (which included a special $400,000 bonus for being so … special?) before it started hacking away at those menial, blood suckers (like journalists) who were destroying the company. Still, Postmedia’s annual net loss for the financial year more than doubled to $263.4 million. Who knew journalists got paid so much!

Journalism is one of our primary democratic institutions, playing a major role in how Canadians learn about each other, and how to do stuff … like vote. During the Harper years, Godfrey worked a sweetheart deal that allowed him to bend regulations and sell 35% of Postmedia to the New York hedge fund , Golden Tree Asset Management.

“For generations, Canadian law has forbidden foreign ownership or control of Canadian cultural assets. But after permitting the sale to non-Canadians of practically the entire Canadian-owned steel and mining industries, then PM Stephen Harper’s government signed off on Postmedia’s creation as well. The Americans put a Canadian face on the deal by selecting Paul Godfrey, 77, as Postmedia’s CEO. Not by coincidence, Harper and Godfrey, a diehard Tory, are kindred spirits.

Though it was a thinly disguised foreign takeover, Ottawa didn’t object that Postmedia’s advent showed no sign of complying with Investment Canada’s one basic demand of foreign takeovers — that they be of “net benefit” to Canada.

Five years later, no one can credibly argue that Postmedia has been of net benefit to Canada. The most Godfrey can do, as he did recently, is insist that Canada is lucky that someone plucked the National Post, the Edmonton Journal and the Regina Leader-Post from the Canwest ruins, since no Canadian bidders stepped forward to do so.

That is a lie. There were at least two credible bids by Canadian interests, as Godfrey well knows. And the Canwest papers would not have perished in any case. They would have been auctioned, individually and as regional groups. That would have served readers better than the monstrosity of Postmedia. It’s Postmedia that is in financial extremis, not Postmedia’s papers…..

Postmedia is said to be lobbying Ottawa for a relaxation of Canadian ownership rules on cultural assets, since some of the deepest-pocketed bidders on a bankrupt Postmedia’s assets are likely to be foreigners.”

(http://www.thestar.com/business/2016/01/30/the-problem-with-postmedia-olive.html)

As it stands, industry insiders say that it looks like Postmedia will be forced to seek creditor protection, which means the company could be broken up and sold off to U.S. hedge fund creditors in a debt- for- equity swap. That would open bidding to the U.S. and other foreign interests.

canada-v-usAnd that move would put all but four of Canada`s daily newspapers, the supposed cultural and democratic voice of Canada, under foreign ownership. Writers, get ready to jettison your keyboard’s ‘u’ key, and learn the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Just to give you some idea of how damaging losing control over our daily papers would be, think back to October 2015, when Godfrey imposed support for Stephen Harper on all of the major papers in the chain. Wasn’t the first time … Postmedia did the same thing during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories.

Sun 2015 Harper supportBut this time they also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers. The ads were designed to appear as official electoral information, and gave ranting warnings about the folly of voting Liberal.

While not technically illegal, the endorsement was a shocking insight into who really controls a newspaper’s editorial voice, as staff across the country hurried to distance their own views from the ‘yellow journalism.’

Godfrey’s support of the Conservatives has been unwavering since before his days at the Toronto Sun, where he allowed only favourable stories or photos about then mayoral candidate, Mel Lastman to be printed. Reporter Don Wanagas was removed as a municipal columnist for the sin of writing unflattering pieces about Lastman.

godfrey lastman rogers.jpgNewly minted Mayor Lastman went on to preside over one of the most corrupt regimes in Toronto’s history. And as David Miller, elected mayor in 2003 on a platform of cleaning up Toronto’s city hall after Lastman, has said “There’s no question he was very influential with Mayor Lastman. I certainly knew as a city councillor that Lastman’s office was in touch with Mr. Godfrey all the time.”

Godfrey’s political machinations aside, his business reputation was cemented on iron-fist management and slash-and-burn job cutting practices. newspapers-dyingPrior to the purchase of Sun Media, Postmedia’s workforce had shrunk to 2,500 employees – from 5,400 five years before. Today, 2,826 people do all the heavy lifting cross Canada, from sales, to writing, to printing.

“NDP industry critic Brian Masse noted that the easing of ownership rules designed to guard cultural industries is a “fair discussion to have” in light of the emergence of digital news alternatives, but warned that foreign control could lead to an infiltration of offshore biases into Canadian editorial content.” 

No shit, Sherlock.

online-journalism-then-versus-nowGodfrey’s control of the press is by no means novel in these times of corporate greed gone mad. In the United States, 94% of the media is controlled by just 5 companies; Disney, ViaCom, CBS, News Corp, Time-Warner and Comcast. And that’s what they call the ‘liberal’ media; 94% of all your information and entertainment, owned and controlled by the 1%.

Can someone tell me when and how the voice of the people will be heard? It certainly has been, and will continue to be, drowned out by the voices of those with the money and power to impose their own visions onto an unsuspecting nation.

Democracy begins with freedom of speech in and of the press. It ends with corporate monopoly, and foreign ownership.

Bits and Pieces ….

lemeowI’ve mentioned this soul-jazz duo from Ottawa before. leMeow, comprised of Gin Bourgeois and James Rooke, and filled out with Jansen Richard on drums, Brent Hultquist on keys and Karolyne LaFortune on fiddle. released this YouTube delight recently. That’s My Man is the debut single from leMeow’s upcoming album, due in June 2016.

leMeow new single ….

sam taylor the sound cdSam Taylor has the musical honesty and enthusiasm of a young Jeff Healey, with a band (The East End Love ) that kicks out a bottom end reminiscent of Cream and the stop-on-a- dime dynamics of early Who. These up and comers are not to be missed.
And so it was that on Friday night, I found myself at the Only Café with Pat Blythe, meeting Sam and enjoying some hot blues on a cold night. Pat’s written at length about the band, which consists of drummer Jace Traz, bass player David MacMichael, and rhythm guitarist Will Meadows.

I found this fan video on YouTube that captures some of their ‘live’ excitement. From last spring, at a gig at Relish, on the Danforth.

Funny … back in the 80’s, Jeff Healey would occasionally play a Sunday night gig at Quinns, the old bar on the Danforth bar, where I then bartended. He’d often ask me up to join him for a tune or two. History repeated itself on Friday, when I got to share the stage with Sam and the band. Thanks, guys!

 

(first published Feb/2016-https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/roxanne-tellier-last-one-out-turn-off-the-lights/)

 

Climate Change What Climate Change? … The Aftermath


  • Climate change denial, or global warming denial, involves denial, dismissal, or unwarranted doubt about the scientific consensus on the rate and extent of global warming, the extent to which it is caused by humans, its impacts on nature and human society, or the potential for human actions to reduce these impacts. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_denial)

Part One: https://frustratedboomers.com/2015/08/12/climate-change-what-climate-change-part-one/

Part Two.https://frustratedboomers.com/2015/08/13/climate-change-what-climate-change-part-two/

It’s been a few days since I wrote parts one and two, and, not surprisingly, there have been those who have taken offense at my stance and my words.

Here’s one response:

suzuki warning“your blog part one is just name calling. It’s like you are standing on a soapbox and ranting. You won’t get anyone to listen to you talking like that. I’m p**sed off reading it, and I’m your friend. I am not convinced that mankind is contributing to climate change. And you call me names because I am still weighing the evidence, looking for proof.

When I was writing part one, I weighed carefully how I should reference those still in denial of climate change, and how humans have contributed to the mess. I settled on “uninformed and part of the problem” as a way to describe this way of thinking.

Call me biased, but I think worrying about someone being offended by my words, while the majority of us are worried about becoming extinct if change is not acknowledged and tackled, is treading a little too close to a world where bruising people’s feelings is more important than facing the inconvenient truth.

jesus I'm no scientist“I’m no scientist, but …” Stop right there. No good comes from continuing that sentence. That’s mindless and lazy, and denies credence to the actual scientists, who are telling you what’s going on. It allows politicians to pander to a base that would prefer not to think about a future less cozy than the present.

Climate change is the most important and relevant issue we are dealing with today. All else pales in the face of drought and starvation, which people in other countries are already experiencing. The fact that we have felt only the periphery of the impact should be appreciated, but should also sound a clarion call for action.

And yet still, after decades of warnings … some are still “weighing the evidence?” On which scale? Who’s got their thumb on which side? And just how long is this weighing going to take, because while we’re weighing, the problem is compounding.

false balanceImagine for a moment that you and 75% of mankind all believed firmly that, based on scientific data and research, a cataclysmic event was about to happen. Imagine also, that there was a chance that that event could be forestalled, if not completely prevented. At what point would you cease to stop talking about the problem, and actually start working to fix it?

At what point do you stop trying to reason with people who’ve had decades to see the reality of climate change and tell them to just get out of the damn way? This is not a win/lose argument, if you winning the argument means all of us suffering, and potentially mankind becoming extinct.

I can assure you, I will not gloat if I am right and you are wrong. If I am right, I’ll be too busy struggling to breathe, or begging for water to say “I told you so.” If you are right, what’s the worst that can happen? whatIfGetABetterPlanetForNothing

As Secretary of State John Kerry said recently,

“If we make the necessary efforts to address this challenge – and supposing I’m wrong or scientists are wrong, 97 percent of them all wrong – supposing they are, what’s the worst that can happen? We put millions of people to work transitioning our energy, creating new and renewable and alternative; we make life healthier because we have less particulates in the air and cleaner air and more health; we give ourselves greater security through greater energy independence – that’s the downside. This is not a matter of politics or partisanship; it’s a matter of science and stewardship. And it’s not a matter of capacity; it’s a matter of willpower.”

Not making a decision IS making a decision; a decision that might well doom the rest of us to not taking a proactive stance in working with the environment.

I understand that the thought that your children and grandchildren will not live in the same world you grew up in is frightening, but denying the reality of the changes around you is not the solution. Mankind is contributing to climate change. We ARE guilty. But we are presumably intelligent and brave enough to accept these facts and work towards solutions.

Those palm forests being grown in the smouldering coals of decimated rainforests throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, are financed and put into place by large corporations who place profit over humanity’s future, while the country’s leaders are bribed to look away from their country’s destruction. orangutan palm forest

Palm foresting is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.

In total, 50 million tons of palm oil is produced annually, supplying over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production. This single vegetable oil is found in approximately 40-50% of household products in countries such as United States, Canada, Australia and England. Palm oil can be present in a wide variety of products, including: baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste.” (http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/Whats_the_issue.php

crime against humanityLook, no one is asking YOU, personally, to handle the enormous and expensive clean-up job that we need to do to try and save SOME of our species, and human life. It’s not down to you, personally, to have all the answers to how we continue to feed all the people in the world, or what we’ll do when oil runs out.

But it is down to you, and me, and everyone – every country, every world leader – to acknowledge that we can’t keep putting money over people. Those days, of mindlessly consuming without a thought to where all the goodies are coming from, are gone.

clean up your mess Mother EarthEvery day that passes ensures further compounding of climate change effects. What was once thought to be safely decades or centuries away, now looks to be our problem, not our kids’. (And why were you leaving it to your kids and grandkids anyway? This is YOUR mess .. YOU clean it up.)

The time for dithering over climate change and who’s responsible, is over. It’s now time for action. Let politicians know we will not allow corporations to suck down our country’s resources at the expense of the people. Protest, campaign, work with eco activists. VOTE!.

It would be an awful shame to lose mankind over a fear of causing offense to others.

coping with grief about climate change

For an interesting read on what it means to accept climate change, and all of the fear and sorrow and regret you inevitably feel, I recommend this column.

As the writer says, “To cope with losing our world requires us to descend through the anger into mourning & sadness, not bypass them to jump onto the optimism bandwagon or escape into indifference.”

http://www.ecobuddhism.org/wisdom/psyche_and_spirit/tgg

Climate Change? What Climate Change? Part One


Wouldn’t it be great if we knew what our regrets will someday be, before the fact, and when we still had time to do something about preventing them?

what me worryThe single biggest issue facing the planet right now is climate change. Inequality would be second, but without a globalized approach to climate change, inequality is moot. As is war, reproductive rights, trophy hunting and gay marriage. Everything – no matter how deeply you care about it – is nothing but condiments to this picnic, issues to keep the population squabbling amongst themselves, and oblivious to the coming storm.

The wars in the Middle East are braided into the reality of climate change; Climate change drove the Syrian uprising, as drought and rising temperatures hurt agriculture, and pushed desperate people into conflict and exodus. With the cities already suffering from poverty, refugees from Iraq poured in and open conflict was inevitable. As was the migration of refugees pouring into Europe, fleeing war and starvation.

climate_change_inequality_mapIn every South American country, concern over climate change is above the 90% mark, with this level of worry shared by Mexico, India, Tanzania and Morocco. Japan is one of the few highly advanced economies in the world to have a population as concerned about the risks of climate change.” (The Guardian, July 2015.)

francis_climate_two
The Eastern Mediterranean countries are drying out; East Africa, Somalia and Sudan are nearing crisis, and, closer to home, parts of Central America, especially Mexico, are short of water in countries reliant on agriculture.

If you still don’t believe in climate change, and mankind’s place in accelerating it, then you are not only uninformed, you are part of the problem. The people who mock the idea of their own personal impact on the planet, who brush aside 98% of established scientific fact as ‘junk science,’ are the same people who leave their litter behind in public parks; who carve tGlobal-Warming-bushheir initials into bridges and railings; and who graffiti monuments. These people are incredibly selfish, and believe that the world revolves only around them, right this minute. In a childish fit of pique, they deny what’s happening globally, because it’s not currently affecting their well-being. They are, in a word, greedy. They not only want it all, they want yours as well, and see no problem with taking what they desire from others. What happens elsewhere is of no concern .  If they can’t see it, if it doesn’t impact on their personal satisfaction, then they just don’t care.

Their numbers are dwindling, but they are a vocal group. They are the fools who toss a winter’s snowball on the floor of the Senate to prove their ignorance. They are the politicians who strip away environmental protections from their country’s resources, and pocket the blood money corporations funnel into their party’s war chest. They are the brainless citizens who look at all of the research and data showing irrefutable proof of ecological damage, and choose to ignore what they see.

In large part, this is because they either lack the imagination to imagine a world where water replaces gold as a standard, or because they understand just enough about what’s coming for their minds to simply shut down, unable to process such a scenario.

hurricane-sandy-hits-new-jerseyIt is not until their trailer parks are swept into the ocean, or their crops dwindle to nothing that they finally see what bull-headed opposition to reality has wrought. . And then they blame everyone else for the destruction, and expect the government to pick up the tab.

Many will say there is no point in just one country tightening it’s belt on carbon emissions. After all, they’ll say, it’s China that’s really doing all the polluting, so why should we suffer while they profit?

GlobalGHGEmissionsByCountryLast year President Obama signed a pact with President Xi Jinping of China. China leads the world in overall carbon dioxide emissions, but Americans per head are the greatest generators of greenhouse gases.

This doesn’t guarantee that these two nations will keep their promise to reduce fossil-fuel use within a realistic timetable, but it does mean that corporations and free market capitalism, which look to make the most money in the shortest time, will find legal stumbling blocks to continued fracking and pumping crude oil. Investors will look to the next profitable venture, hopefully in renewable energy and green technology.

kiribati-630x420_edit2The world’s best scientists have tried to tell us for years that we are at a tipping point. It may already be too late to turn this situation around. Those countries around the world that we don’t think or care about – they are already suffering. Temperatures are soaring in India, small island countries are being assailed by sea-level rise and tropical cyclones. Droughts are no longer rare – and in America, California is entering it’s fourth year of drought, it’s deepest ground water almost completely depleted.

Some will tell you that what we’re seeing is the tail end of the Ice Age, which began somewhere between 18,000 and 80,000 years ago. The climate is always changing, it’s cyclical.

cat climate changeThe climate has changed before; fossils and archaeology tell us that there have been previous periods that appear to have been warmer than the present despite CO2 (greenhouse gasses, but mainly CO2 and methane) levels being lower than they are today.

But what’s happening now is accelerated. When CO2 levels jumped rapidly in the past, the global warming that resulted was often the cause of mass extinctions.

CO2 levels, rising global temperatures, ocean acidification, and rapid carbon emissions are generally known to decimate life on Earth.

climate change apathyToday we are emitting prodigious quantities of CO2, at a rate faster than even the most destructive climate changes in earth’s past. The Rain Forests, nature’s lungs, which have played a huge part in clearing our air, are being decimated. Thanks to human activity, we seem to be on the verge of another mass extinction, and sooner rather than later.

I’ve stopped arguing with those who deny climate change. Life is too short. But I have to wonder … who profits from encouraging disbelief in scientific fact? exxon-mobil climate change

See Part Two.

https://frustratedboomers.com/2015/08/13/climate-change-what-climate-change-part-two/

and Part Three

https://frustratedboomers.com/2015/08/20/climate-change-what-climate-change-the-aftermath/