Okay – who stole July? It was just here a minute ago! In truth, I barely recognized it, under all that rain, but I know I saw it!
1969. I’m in class in my high school, ignoring the teacher’s droning voice, because one of the cool boys is softly singing to me that “Summer’s Almost Gone.” No! I tell him, it’s only May! In that infuriating way that an ‘older’ boy of 17 schools a ‘younger’ girl of 15, Gerry laughs derisively at my childish ways. Ah, he says, it’s gone before it even begins.
“We had some good times, but they’re gone. The winter’s coming on. Summer’s almost gone.”
Gerry didn’t make old bones – he died fairly young, like so many dreamers. But he was right about how quickly time flies by, first metaphorically, and then in reality.
Summer used to be when I’d get into the ‘good trouble’ that my mum called ‘bad trouble,’ but it was all part of being young and feeling free. Summer was lying on Anne’s half-roof, slicked with baby oil, chasing the perfect tan. It was Summer Blonde by Clairol, and purple polka-dotted short shorts. Cranking the transistor radio and singing along to “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe. Motown. Learning how to French inhale, buying ‘weed’ that turned out to be parsley, but getting high anyway. Feeling sophisticated when the bottle being passed around the campfire was Mateus. Community swimming pools and boys boys boys!
But Gerry was right. I blinked, twenty summers passed, and far too soon, I found myself watching my own daughter chase the elusive soap bubbles of teen summer fun. And then she blinked, and now she’s watching her own girls race into their adult years.
Summer’s almost gone.
This has been such a crazy year. We’ve had highs. We’ve had lows. Many of us have eagerly pursued and received our double shots of vaccine, and have had the joy of embracing family and friends for the first time in nearly two years. I’m mask free when I’m in the still fairly empty streets, only masking up when I have to come in close contact with strangers. Shopping has lapsed into a benign activity, free of a frenetic fear of what you can buy this week, but not the next.
We are in the PushMe PullYou time of COVID-19. Television ads trumpet “Welcome back … back to normal … it was a long time, but now … welcome back ...” But it’s not really normal yet at all.
Baby steps have been taken. We tiptoe back into what was once mundane. First, we nosh on the patio, then, with hesitancy, we head inside the restaurant. Some remain fearful, their eyes darting around the room like woodland creatures at a rest station.
We hear rumours of live music happening, initially on the driveways of the musically inclined, and then, slowly, slowly, in outdoor venues. In some places, musicians play on the sidewalk, aiming their sound at the diners within the venue.
And, as surely as the swallows return to Capistrano, with the first faint sounds of live music’s return come the first complaints of the music NIMBYs.
From the Beaches to Birchcliffe, and along Spadina Avenue, the Devil’s Advocates begin their plaintive refrains.
“It’s not that I don’t LIKE music, it’s that I’m trying to be considerate of those that may not, “ they explain. “Even if I personally don’t live anywhere near where this music is being performed, I feel it my duty to complain on behalf of my brothers and sisters who may not be as forthright as I am.”
“Music broadcasted outdoors in a residential neighbourhood is not considerate!” wrote one such Advocate this morning, about the Happy Pals afternoon outdoor gig at Grossmans.
Several musicians had responses for this ‘brave’ fellow, including one who helpfully suggested that “People who live near Queen or Spadina and are shocked when they hear live music outside, ESPECIALLY AFTER AN EXTENDED LOCKDOWN, will find Burlington much quieter, and they should move there immediately.”
And so say all of us.
Summer’s almost gone.
Can we really be rounding summer’s corner, stampeding into the fall, and heading straight into the last five months of this confounding year?
The new school year is roaring towards us at breakneck speed, neck and neck with dire warnings of a Fourth Wave of Covid-19. This year has had a few twists in the tail. We don’t know any better now, than we did 18 months ago, of what might be on the horizon. Lockdowns? Masking? Will school age kids be the next group sacrificed on the COVID-19 altar?
We can’t minimize the trauma that kids, teachers, and all the workers with children, have dealt with since the onset of this pandemic. Don’t wave off the hard work of everyone, parents included, who had to deal with a once in a lifetime public health crisis, while protecting and shepherding the minds of the young. And consider that they have also had to contend with self-important government officials who changed rules and tactics with the wind, and who regularly chose approaches that may have satisfied some economic ideal, but were often completely wrong-headed for the needs of children.
Assuming that Canada sidesteps another plunge into lockdown, our kids and those that care for them are going to be dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions. Getting everyone mentally and emotionally prepared to start a new school year is gonna take a little work.
Many will be drowning in ‘all the feels’ of a new endeavour, all at once. There’ll be fear, anxiety, excitement, sadness, relief, and curiosity, each fighting for attention. They won’t know what to expect, and to help ease that uncertainty, everyone’s going to have to choose some coping tactics to get through tough moments. Hopefully, having some good stress relieving strategies, like using deep breathing to take a pause, will alleviate some of the worst tensions.
We are all like those children. We’ve been buffeted by trauma, and it’s going to take some time to re-emerge fully. This is the time to be gentle with each other, and to learn the lesson that the Big Pause should have taught us, that sometimes we ride Life, and sometimes, Life rides us.
Summer’s almost gone. August is the Sunday of Summer – Summer’s last stand.
To be honest, I haven’t much enjoyed the last five years or so. I’m not just talking about politics, though, if there was ever a time in which it became apparent how much politics affects every aspect of our every day lives, this was that time.
I’ll bet even your grandmother learned how to use the “block” function on her Facebook page.
Almost imperceptibly, the world sustained a seismic fracture, dividing families, communities and nations into camps. On one side, those who believe in equality, and that everyone has human and civil rights. On the other side, those that SAY they sort of agree with those precepts, in theory – but have their reasons for why they really don’t. And, like door-to-door proselytizers, they’d be happy to bend your ear for hours on end, to let you know exactly why they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In progressively louder sentences.
I think the last eighteen months of COVID just did me in. It was the final straw. Eighteen months of fear, uncertainty, deprivation, and doubt. Eighteen months of never being sure what day or month it is. Eighteen months of not being able to come together to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. No parties, no musical events, no theatre. And, perhaps the cruelest of all, no chance of gathering to bid a final goodbye to the loved ones we lost.
How could so many people that we love have died, and been buried, with so little recognition or fanfare? Some days, an old friend’s birthday circled on my calendar fills me with anxiety, as I wonder – did they make it through this year? Or were they one of the many who left our ranks with little to no fanfare?
Mustn’t grumble, we’re told. Yes, it’s all hard, but complaining won’t do any good. No, it won’t. Complaining won’t change a thing. It won’t bring back our dead, or our equilibrium.
I’m sick of being expected to simply assimilate this decade’s horrors, compounded by all the crap that the Powers That Be rain down upon the masses, and just smile, smile, smile.
Smile as climate change burns one half of the planet to a cinder, while the other half drowns in torrential rains and melted ice caps.
Smile while our rich cities become unaffordable to the middle class, and smile as the city’s elected officials send hordes of police to evacuate and destroy the homeless camps that are filled with their fellow citizens, citizens who are financially unable to live in the cities they built with their toil and taxes.
Smile while the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, because only the wealthy can afford to run for leadership roles, get elected into power, and once in place, be relied upon to act to shore up laws and regulations that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the common people.
Smile while federal and provincial leadership is so badly handled throughout a once in a lifetime global pandemic that, while half the city goes mad struggling to figure out how and where to get vaccinated, the other half holds anti-mask, anti-vax, super spreader rallies in the downtown core, unimpeded.
Smile as an orange madman’s most important legacy seems to have been his ability to teach his followers (in the US and Canada) two new commandments:
call anything you don’t like or want to believe ‘fake news’, and,
should anyone expect any accountability or ‘adulting’ from you, double and triple down on your ‘rights’ while denying any responsibility for your acts.
It feels like there’s no one and no thing making much effort any more. Thanks to the internet, we live in a world where we’ve never been so aware of evil people and deeds, of corruption, of fraud, of social media voyeurs with a sadistic bent, of sickness, death and horror – present or impending – occurring on a global scale.
And yet, for the bulk of the population, rather than act, it’s a time to double down on escaping into the soothing waters of social media, where one can bathe in an uninterrupted stream of whatever turns your crank, until the day the grid topples.
Apparently, it’s never the time to fight to change what seems an inevitable slide into the abyss. There’s something good on television, it’s too hot/cold/rainy out there, and what does it matter anyway? It’s not like anything I do can change the world, right? No, I’ll just stay home. And maybe sign this petition. It’ll be fine.
There is little to no response to any suggestion that our actions might have brought about the mess we are leaving to our heirs. The ability to feel remorse and/or shame seems to have been genetically modified out of our systems. Or have we just passed the buck for so long that we no longer remember what happens when we’re the last one’s holding it?
Our legacy of little horrors only begins with the hoards of useless and unrecyclable junk that broods in our basements and attics. Our children will live with their memories of a better planet. Our grandchildren will never know the world that baby boomers took for granted.
And I say to myself …. Where’s THEIR Wonderful World?
I will be honest; I don’t know where we go from here. The bus is on fire, and we may have missed our last chance to turn it around.
But I’m tired of smiling, and pretending that what we see happening around us, isn’t happening. That way madness lies.
All that’s left is to prepare in the way Maya Angelou advised, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”
On January 25th, 2020, a Toronto man returning from Wuhan, China was the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Canada. By March, with the disease raging across Canada, the World Health Organization had declared COVID a pandemic, the NBA, NHL and most other sport leagues had suspended their seasons, while the Olympics were officially postponed to 2021, the Juno Awards were cancelled, Parliament went on break, and schools began to close from coast to coast.
We went from zero to 60 in a matter of weeks, and many, many mistakes were made as countries and organizations began to try to manage this novel, and extremely frightening, attack on our health and ways of life.
We began a global journey through a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which had much in common with the blindfolded fumblings of Sandra Bullock in the film Bird Box; it’s a miracle either saga finally found a respite in which to take a deep breath, and you just know there’s still a further twist to the tale, which will involve yet more monsters.
Mistakes were made. Many, many dumb and well-meant mistakes were made, by many very smart and well-meaning people. Remember when Dr Fauci told Americans that they didn’t need to wear face masks? As it turns out, that was because there were severe shortages of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep healthcare workers on the front line of hospitals safe. Some nurses and doctors had to resort to wearing plastic bags instead of proper gear, to try and protect themselves, and many died while trying to save the sick.
Sadly, experts like Fauci and the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams knew that the same Americans emptying stores and hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer were likely to put masks on the ‘must have’ list, further endangering those health care workers. Were Fauci’s words a lie? A mistake? A true reading of the selfishness, greed, and lack of empathy they knew Americans were capable of exhibiting in a crisis?
16 months later there are anti-maskers pointing to Fauci’s words as justification for disobeying public health regulations currently in place, so I’m not sure that his impulse was his best career decision. It’s not right up there with injecting bleach into your veins, or shoving light sticks up where the sun don’t shine, but Fauci’s probably justifiably low opinion of his fellow citizens had a pretty serious rebound effect.
On March 30th, our PM Justin Trudeau announced a new wage subsidy program that would cover all businesses whose revenues had dropped by at least 30% because of COVID, and on April 14th, that aid was extended to nearly 5.4 million Canadians as CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) Some received as much as $2000 a month, which, along with other pandemic discounts, like a reduction of primetime Hydro costs, allowed singles and families to limp along as stores were shuttered, and restaurants and bars closed their doors – some, forever.
For a very long time I kept a tally of the rising numbers of the dead, even as I noted in my calendar the passing of friends, whose lives were never officially celebrated, because of limitations on gatherings.
Throughout the summer of 2020, families struggled to keep themselves and their kids occupied, as teachers frantically worked to put together some sort of curriculum that they still did not know if they would be presenting in person, or by ZOOM. Most teachers had to do double duty, and prepare prospectuses for both aspects.
At the beginning of October, as America neared the critical November presidential election, it was suddenly announced that then president Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was whisked away for treatment, where a battery of specialists laboured to save his life. We now know that it was touch and go for him, and that he would not have survived had he been an ordinary patient without access to emergency and experimental medications. Still, insouciant and ungrateful, he was released from hospital within a few days, and triumphantly removed his face mask for the camera in a carefully posed for posterity, ridiculous, photo op.
(And is it just me, or does that pic not scream it’s resemblance to the imagery and vibes of The Man In The High Castle?)
Had he died, or had he finally told his followers how severe the disease was, and had he told them that simply masking themselves could help with slowing the spread, he might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But he did not, and the death toll in America soon hit a landmark figure – half a million American souls had died from this horrible disease.
Trump received 74 million votes, but there is no indication of how many of those were ‘mercy’ votes. Regardless, the tally was still lower than Biden’s, who received more than 81 million requests to take over before the ship of state went down for a third and final time.
The development of a vaccine was on the horizon. Although it normally takes about 10 to 15 years to produce a new vaccine, scientists had been working on something along the lines of COVID for a decade, since the SARS epidemic of 2009. Between that headstart, and the liberal application of government funding, at least three workable vaccines were produced in record time.
On December 8th, the first Pfizer vaccine was injected into the arm of 91 year old Margaret Keenan, of Britain, and on December 14th, both Canada and the U.S. began administering vaccines to their citizens.
But there’s a difference between having a vaccine available, and getting that vaccine out and into the arms of those who need it, and in this case, about 7 billion people needed two doses of it, and STAT. Many, many more mistakes were made.
While governments struggled to put schedules into place for the procuring and administering of the vaccine, the toll of the sick and the dead continued to rise around the world. Quebec and Ontario were hard hit, and curfews and stay-at-home orders took effect, restricting our movements.
Winter dragged listlessly into spring. Time became amorphous, and most days, I didn’t know if it was a Monday or a Thursday. Nor did I care. I applauded those that took creative control of the lockdown and produced work, but refused to beat myself up for not being industrious in traumatic times.
On April 7, 2021, a much more vigorous third province wide lockdown went into effect in Ontario, and Ontarians learned a new term – ‘non-essential goods.’ We discovered that this covered children’s toys, books, underwear, shoes and sandals, hobby supplies, and non-garden centre gardening items.
Everyone had their high and low points; I’ll never forget the day I nearly burst into tears in a Dollarama because the foam mannequin head I needed for a craft project was deemed ‘non-essential.’ It wasn’t the foam head I was mourning, so much as the very idea of simply entering a store, choosing an item, and being allowed to freely purchase said item. That’s what I’ve done all of my life. Having that ‘right’ denied cut like a knife. I had had enough. I did not want to play pandemic any more.
On the day that Ontario’s shopping lockdown was lifted, consumers headed out in droves to satisfy their itch to buy-buy-buy. There were lineups at every store, including the dollar shops and charity outlets. One morning I wanted to shop at a local charity store. About twenty minutes before the store was to open, there were 17 people in line ahead of me. When I asked some of the waiting if they had a specific purchase in mind, they told me that just being able to get into a store, to see what was available, and to freely touch the items was all they wanted.
We are not just human-touch starved, it seems. We are also starved of the everyday, ordinary tactile experiences that we used to take for granted.
Because I have certain health issues, I made it a priority to get vaccinated as early as possible. Shawn and I had our first jab April 6th, and our second on June 7th. We’re now covered and eager to get back to some semblance of a social life in the near future.
But sixteen months after our COVID-19 journey began, the world has actually had more COVID deaths in 2021 to date than it did in all of 2020. It’s NOT over. We, the lucky and the vaccinated in the West, can’t afford to rest on our jabbed laurels; the ill and the dying in less wealthy countries are producing variants that may be able to sneak past our vaccine defenses.
Where are we now? The Delta variant of the virus still poses a danger for the unvaccinated, and it’s apparently more contagious and deadlier than the previous version. The fully vaccinated are probably protected. This variant represents a phase of the pandemic that focuses on the unvaccinated.
Even as the number of Canadian hospitalizations and deaths fall, people around the world are reimposing mask requirements and death tolls are rising. In Africa, a third wave is surging, and threatening to be it’s most devastating and worst wave yet. India has recorded over 30 million cases, and nearly 400,000 deaths. In Sydney, Australia this week, at least half a million residents have been forced into lockdown for yet another week.
And still there are no plans to shelve the Tokyo Olympics, which open officially in just four weeks. One option in play is a ‘no-spectator games,’ but the situation changes from day to day, and organizers need to remain flexible to changes. Since there’s already signs of a resurgence of infections (1% in the last week) athletes have to roll the dice to decide whether or not participation is a wise choice for their health and their careers.
Last week, two members of the Ugandan team tested positive for the Delta variant upon entry to Japan. No matter how extensive the testing may be, there are 11,000 Olympian athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Tokyo, along with the tens of thousands of additional participants amongst the coaches, judges, and federation officials. That’s a lot of testing. And a lot of room for error and mistakes.
Covid-zero nations are working diligently to eliminate the virus through isolation and mass vaccinations. Biden’s White House has said that it will provide Afghanistan with 3 million doses of the J&J vaccine, of which only one dose is needed, along with oxygen and other supplies, in an effort to help with an outbreak of the delta variant.
Overall, the United States is donating 55 million doses to the world. Canada has plans to donate 100 million doses as part of the G7 effort to provide a billion doses to low- and middle-income countries, but for now, we are donating 13 million ‘surplus’ doses, which are mainly comprised of brands which we are either having difficulty bringing into Canada, or which haven’t been authorized for Canadian distribution.
It’s been a devastating sixteen months, and it’s not over yet. We’ve seen the best in people, and we’ve certainly seen the worst come from the words and deeds of the selfish and the ignorant. Many of us seem determined not to give those who got us here their due; again, there have been mistakes made, but we’re still standing, and in Canada, we’re closing in on the finish line, with reasonable numbers to show for this unexpected and overwhelming calamity.
We’ve learned that being elected can’t turn a bad politician into a leader, and that leadership doesn’t come naturally to all contenders. And we’ve learned that we, as a nation, are strong enough to make it through a crisis that brought other countries to their knees.
If you have recently gone from having a little trouble getting into your skinny jeans, to contemplating buying your whole new summer wardrobe from Omar the Tentmaker, you may have fallen prey to that other pandemic within the pandemic known as “The Pandemic 15,” fifteen pounds being the median amount of weight that many of us have piled on in the last year.
It’s not your imagination; you HAVE gained weight, and most of it is sitting uncomfortably around your middle. A year of uncertainty, stress, and endless lonely hours when food seemed as good a companion as any, has broadened our behinds more than it has our minds.
Surveys have shown that the average adult has unwillingly gained weight since the onset of COVID 19, up to more than 50 lbs in some cases. You can chalk a lot of that gain up to mindless grazing, with 1 in 4 adults also reporting that they’ve been drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress. Two in three people say they’ve had unwanted changes in their sleep patterns, either sleeping more or less than usual.
The majority of essential workers have told surveyors that they’ve been uncharacteristically indulgent in their food and drink consumption, simply to cope with long term stress, while the incidence of those seeking treatment for mental health disorders has risen about threefold.
For those of us who haven’t had much social contact in the last 14 months, personal habits have also changed, with people being less likely to ‘make an effort’ to be showered, made up, and properly dressed when the likelihood of coming into physical contact with other humans has become nearly non-existent. There’s a fortune waiting to be made by the company that properly markets “Pyjama Power Suits.”
It’s not about will power. The epidemic of obesity that hit the planet around the late eighties, and which has soared over the last 40 years, wasn’t a sudden drop in mental strength that led to everyone over-indulging, rather, it was attributable to many different ideas and habits coinciding in this new century, but fully attributable to corruption and greed beginning in the last.
You came by that junk in your trunk honestly; and if you’re American, you paid for it with your tax dollars. You own it, baby.
So what changed? Oh, so very much, and so insidiously.
Remember when ‘healthy snacks’ suddenly became a thing? All of a sudden, we were encouraging our kids and each other to avoid hunger pangs by adding a couple more meals to our day. Instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, we were now enjoying breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. And – I hate to break it to you, but most of the snacks just weren’t as healthy as suggested. In fact, they were more likely to be indulgences that packed on the calories, carbs and sugars.
What was also breaking down was the amount of time in which our bodies were able to process those calories and sugars. If there was traditionally 4 to 5 hours between meals, we’d now shortened that to about two and a half, or three hours. The mean number of minutes between eating forced our digestive systems to work harder, with less down time to get the body ready for its next feeding.
Some call this way of eating ‘grazing,’ but what it actually does is create a state in which the body is constantly awaiting more material to process internally, without pause. And that’s not the way the human body was meant to consume and digest comestibles.
If anything, it’s more akin to the way geese are overfed to produce foie gras, with a very similar result developing in the human liver.
This and other changes to when we anticipated a sweet or salty treat sprang from clever marketing and merchandising that taught our brains to expect certain things when combined with external events. We’ve been programmed.
When you go to the movies, you probably feel like the experience will be poorer if it’s not accompanied by popcorn and a large drink. Maybe some chocolate as well. Hmm… I wonder why that is?
The average adult female needs between 1600 and 2400 calories PER DAY, while men can eat about 2000 to 3000 calories.
Assuming you are likely to grab the large fountain soda (370 calories) and one large buttered popcorn (1200 calories, 120 mg of salt, and 60 grams of fat) you will have consumed not only the equivalent of a day’s caloric intake, but have also blown out your fat intake for the day by a factor of four. (The Mayo Clinic advises that people aim for around 15 grams of fat in their diet on a daily basis.)
Multiply that indulgence by all the other little moments in the day that are linked in your brain to ‘treating’ yourself. Mid-morning break calls for a little something to keep you going until lunch – a coffee and a danish sounds nice! And how about a little break in the afternoon? Gonna need a snack to tide you over til dinner!
And then, later that night, relaxing in front of the tv or computer, it seems only fair, after the day you’ve had, to reach for a couple of cold ones, to wash down the Doritos.
By that point, all those little treats have added up to about 6000 calories, or the equivalent of eating for three or four.
And you wonder why you just can’t lose weight? There are billions spent on getting you to buy this junk food, and even more billions to be made on the other side, when you try to lose the weight you gained while you filled your boots and bootie with ‘fun’ foods.
I won’t go into a huge song and dance about the evils of Big Agriculture, Big Dairy, and Big Junk Food, but if you’ve got an interest in the subject, I can highly recommend a new book written by Mark Bittman, American food journalist and fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, From Sustainable to Suicidal, Bittman outlines how junk food, aka engineered edible substances, have created a “public health crisis that diminishes the lives of perhaps half of all humans.” Dependence on agriculture that “concentrates on maximizing the yield of the most profitable crops, “it has done “more damage to the earth than strip mining, urbanization, even fossil fuel extraction.”
Worse still, taxpayers in the U.S. subsidize the growing of these products.
“Congress and the Department of Agriculture are spending more than $1.28 billion annually to subsidize the crops that are used as additives in manufacturing cookies, candies, soda pop and other highly popular junk food that arguably are among the primary contributors to childhood obesity. The sweet, fatty and calorie-rich Hostess Twinkies alone contain 14 ingredients made with highly subsidized processed ingredients, including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable shortening.” (Business Insider, 2012)
That was in 2012. So, how we doing these days, after the trump trade wars?
“Farmers got more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019 — and most of the money came through a program that Congress never approved. It’s the highest level of farm subsidies in 14 years” (Whitehouse archives.gov)
All of which brings us back to Bittman’s book, and his words on how all of this jiggery pokery has stolen the dollars from tax payer wallets, and repaid them in blubber.
“The ability to produce massive quantities of a few commodities—wheat, corn, and corn syrup—has enriched not farmers but a few giant middlemen (companies like Archer-Daniels-Midland and Cargill) and implement dealers (John Deere makes four times as much money providing credit to struggling farmers as it does selling tractors). And it has created a new problem: what to do with the massive amount of calories that this commodity-focused agriculture produces. “The system,” Bittman explains, now “delivers a nearly uninterruptible stream of food, regardless of season,” and in the process it has created junk: the processed food that now dominates the Western diet and, increasingly, many other diets around the world. “Junk made it possible to encourage people to—really, [made] it difficult for them not to—eat too much non-nourishing food over a prolonged period.”
As Bittman notes, “the calories have to go somewhere, and—thanks in no small part to the advertising industry, which attached itself to the food industry like a remora to a shark—they went inside us; we look the way we do because of the need for the Krafts and Heinzes of the world to keep their profit margins growing by finding new ways to get us to consume their limited line of basic commodities. “Global sugar consumption has nearly tripled in the past half-century,” he writes, and so has obesity; the number of people worldwide living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980. “Two thirds of the world’s population,” Bittman tells us, “lives in countries where more people die from diseases linked to being overweight than ones linked to being underweight.”“
Scientific studies of the US in the 90s showed a rate of about 10-14% of obesity. By 2019, the average rate of obesity was anywhere from 30 to 40%. And a lot of those suffering, physically, and emotionally, from being overweight – are kids.
“As of 2019 it is estimated that over 150 million children in the world are obese and that this will increase to 206 million by 2025. Without intervention, overweight infants and young children will likely continue to be overweight during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.”
As I slide into my later years, I feel the literal weight of all the wrong food and drink choices I made in my own health care over the years. While I can’t turn back the clock, I can go forward with better options for what I consume, and try and relieve some of the strain my choices put on my body.
Cutting out the junk food and the carbs will go a long way towards lightening the load all that grazing assembled. After all, we’re gonna want to look our best when we can finally gather together again!
When it comes to excuses, I’ve got a million of ‘em. Even now, as I should be writing this column, I am thinking of two dozen other things that I should be doing first – like alphabetizing the vitamins in the bathroom cabinet or swinging up to the grocery store for some spices that I won’t need until Halloween.
Successful procrastination doesn’t just ‘happen’ – no, you have to work at it. I’ve made it into such a fine art that you can still find unpacked boxes from our 2017 move, marked ‘important’, underfoot and unopened. A tall bedroom dresser squatted in the living room from last November to last week. There are two shelves in the middle of the kitchen that desperately need to get gone, and I can’t decide where they’ll go. I mean, who’s gonna see it anyway, amirite?
The struggle to actually complete the multitude of tasks I set myself every day is real. Quite obviously, the smart thing to do would be to tackle one job, and keep at it until it’s done, damn the torpedoes. But there are so many other, more interesting things, I’d rather do.
I honestly thought that the pandemic and subsequent ‘lockdowns’ would do the trick, finally forcing me to knuckle down and get stuff done, but no. Turns out, no matter how much time I have at my disposal, I’m capable of finding a multitude of unimportant, frivolous time wasting activities to steal that time and then, for those little niggling skivers to demand that I give them even more attention, ensuring that the timely arrival of this column, or indeed, trifling matters like taxes, is backburnered until sirens are blaring and the police car’s strobe lights are scaring the cats.
My lack of discipline has cost me tens of thousands of dollars over my lifetime, but apparently, I can’t be bribed or fined into completing tasks in a timely fashion. Nothing seems to work, though many have tried different tactics, from cajoling to yelling to threats of bodily harm. Nope. Unmoved. It’ll get done when it gets done.
My heel dragging and lolly gagging on some issues is in sharp contrast to my almost manic approach to fresh projects. If I’m fully immersed in a new venture, I’ll work 16-hour days for weeks, to birth this new interest as quickly as I can. Everything will be everywhere, but I’ll make sharp progress ….
Until the day I decide it’s time to take a break. And at that point, sorry, but I just can’t tell you when I’ll be ready to finish – or tidy – the mess that I started. Many times, I’ve considered speaking to the Pope about canonizing my husband for his saintly ability to simply dwell within the chaos, uncomplaining
On the other hand, he’s also long been the beneficiary of my need to “do it all myself,” AND to do it in the hours when he’s elsewhere, like at work. Thing is, since he retired, I tend to get a lot less done, because there never seems to be a time when what I’m trying to do won’t be a disturbance to what he’d like to do. And I really don’t like or want observers when I’m constructing or deconstructing a ‘thing.’
Between a retired husband and two incredibly spoiled cats, I’m run ragged before I even add on any projects of my own that will take up time, space, and sound. It’s always something. Phones are ringing. Cats are yowling to be let out or let in. Delivery people pound on the door with packages for neighbours. Memes must be shared across a crowded room. It’s madness, I tell you!
And living in a very tiny cottage with barely enough room to swing a cat, if one dared to risk the cat scratch fever, or could lift the weight of either of these spoiled felines, isn’t much help. All the articles on how to live in increasingly small spaces advocate using vertical space, but when you’re already surrounded by tall, filled to the brim, book shelves, it appears that the ceiling, rather than the sky, may indeed be the limit.
I really did think that having all sorts of spare time during COVID, what with the lining up to get into some stores, and the downright closure of so many places where I might have whiled away the time being coiffured, manicured, or massaged, not to mention the lack of places to dine, drink or dance, would have freed up so much time that I’d be able to finally set all earthly things to rights, while tossing off a magnus opus or two, without breaking a sweat.
Sadly, I was very wrong.
As it turns out, living through a global pandemic is a little tiring. Worry, fear, and depression can wear the edges off even the nicest, most positive, non-whining person you’ve ever known, so why would you think that someone like me could keep their sunny side up indefinitely? Have you met me?
We’re living through some really rough times, and even Canadians, some of the most easy-going and long-suffering people you could ever hope to find, are on their last nerve. They’ve had it up to their tonsils with poor leadership, restrictions that are often nonsensical and seem more punitive than effective, and the sense that those nominally in charge are in fact spinning completely out of control. Patience wears thin as Year One morphs into Year Two (second verse, same as the first.)
Even a mild form of depression will have an effect on what you’re able to accomplish, even if all you’re trying to do is just limp along doing routine tasks. The world is not easy to cope with, these days, and the things we used to do to cope, like going to a movie, hitting the gym, or enjoying meals with friends, aren’t there to relieve the pressure.
Hey, if this ‘pause’ has allowed you to learn a new language, write a book, or start a business, more power to you! But for many of us, in a world filled with grief, depression and anxiety, putting one foot in front of the other, and remembering to shower occasionally, is all we’ve got left in the tank. And that’s okay too.
Realistically, we’re in unprecedented times, and we need to cut ourselves some slack. You’re allowed to slow down, rest and reflect, and to just say ‘no’ when someone asks you to take on some of their burdens to lighten their own load.
Sometimes we have to let some things go, in order to soldier on in difficult times. Can’t bear to wash another dish? Buy paper plates. Ignore the dust bunnies – they’ll still be there when you’re ready to vacuum.
It’s not only okay, it’s imperative that you make room for a little joy and self-care in your day. You can’t help others if you’ve let all of your own energy drain away. Take the time to pamper yourself a little, even if it’s just having a spa day in your own bathroom with those little face, hand and feet masques you bought for a rainy day.
Just as when, in a flight emergency, we’re told to put on our own oxygen masks before we help others, we’re in a time and place where we have to find ways to put our own mental health first, lest we be in no shape to help those we love when they need us.
In the wonderful “Time Enough at Last” episode of the Twilight Zone, our hero, Mr. Bemis, becomes the last person on earth, with all the time in the world to read without interruption. But he stumbles, and breaks his glasses, leaving him unable to do so, and in so doing, he learns that having time enough can be a curse, not the blessing he’d hoped for. He wanted solitude, not isolation.
This planet is in kind of a similar place right now. We’re discovering that there’s far more to life than we thought, and that time off the grid comes at a cost.
Give yourself a Mental Health Day. Take a load off. Relax in a bubble bath. After all, it’s not like we’re going anywhere, anytime soon. Be good to you. You deserve it.
During the trump years, it was a staple of reporting; when asked for their opinion on something the Administration had done, all the top Republican Senators either brushed off reporters with a breezy, “hadn’t heard anything about that yet,” or stopped just long enough to run whatever party line MitchMcConnell had broadcast to them earlier that day, into the microphone.
It was so common that comedy shows often ran clips of the beleaguered Senators, or of Conservative media talking heads, mouthing in lock stop whatever nonsense they’d been fed.
Fr’instance, remember the parroting of McConnell lies in 2016, when Senate Republicans said that the seat vacated by Justice Scalia’s death should not be filled in an election year, and refused to hold hearings to consider Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland? McConnell argued that the Senate had not confirmed a Supreme Court nominee by an opposing party’s President to fill a vacancy that arose in an election year since 1888. Of course, it was nonsense.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said in 2016.
And at a Judiciary Committee meeting in March 2016, from Lindsey Graham …
“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination, and you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right. We’re setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year, at least of a lame-duck eight-year term, I would say it’s going to be a four-year term, that you’re not going to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today. That’s going to be the new rule.”
In 2020, Senate Democrats were outraged at the GOP, charging them with hypocrisy, when Trump and McConnell blithely chose to shove through a Supreme Court justice to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, mere weeks before the presidential election.
“I therefore think it is important that we proceed expeditiously to process any nomination made by President Trump to fill this vacancy. I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same,” Graham said, with a perfectly straight face.
Trump’s “Big Lie,” accepted and repeated ad nauseum, by his supporters, and conservative social media, is another example of how blithely mindless people can become, as they parrot the words that contain the seeds of their society’s destruction.
Party lines. Talking points. All political parties do it, in an effort to present a position of solidarity within their ranks. There are scripts written for the rank-and-file members to follow, if they are asked for their opinions. And their answers shape public opinion, especially within the ranks of those who believe their leaders are usually right in their decisions.
There’s a modicum of laziness, and of a lack of time or interest, in that approach. Though, I’ll admit, as someone not gainfully employed, I have a lot of time in which to fall down the Internet rabbit hole, ferreting out the details behind the party line.
When I hear about something that has happened that will affect other humans, I have an immediate gut reaction. I then process the new information by digging deeper into the issue; reading opinions, both pro and con, on the subject; and finally coming to a conclusion with which both my mind and heart can feel comfortable assuming. Even then, however, I retain the right to change my mind, should I receive newer, additional information that is pertinent to the issue.
But that’s not how everyone deals with the day’s data. Most people have a lot to do in the day, at work, with their families, getting through their own personal issues, and simply have neither the time nor the inclination to care.
Which is where the ‘party lines’ come into play. It’s not just those in Parliament or on Capitol Hill (or the Kremlin, or Westminster) who lean on those talking points, it’s a lot of people who will eventually be charged with electing or re-electing the people who will be following those lines and points while in office, shaping the country.
The trouble with relying on talking points and party lines, rather than thinking for oneself, is that lazy judgments can have a huge impact on societies.
Take the rhetoric that I’m hearing from many whom I thought were less gullible, on the subject of Georgia’s new voter suppression laws. For two days, Morning Joe Scarborough whitesplained and whatabouted that these laws were actually GOOD for voters, even as his guests, people of colour and women who would be aversely impacted by these changes, tried nervously to explain to him why his information was faulty. (birx reacts to trump.jpg)
Seriously, it was like watching Dr Birx dealing with trump assuming she’d be all in on injecting bleach into oneself to prevent COVID. Deer in the headlights time.
Leaning heavily on the unfairness of major Georgia corporations, like Coca Cola and Delta Air Lines, condemning the new laws, as well as the decision of MLB to move the annual All Star Game, he inadvertently quoted Republican talking points (new laws make Georgia voting safer than that of New York) falsely claiming that these laws would actually make voting easier. He was wrong, but even after being schooled by those who had the correct information, he turned a deaf ear to their words.
A similar thing happened on Bill Maher’s Real Time on Friday, when Heather McGhee and Reihan Salam discussed the restrictive new voting laws in Georgia. Mr Salam is a conservative American political commentator, but in this case, he was reduced to simply mouthing the party lines, and being schooled on the truth, live and in colour.
Something similar is going on right now with the increasing likelihood of international “Vaccine Passports.” Already several countries have started to lift lockdown restrictions for people who can show vaccine papers that prove they have been vaccinated.
There is a desire for opening up entertainment venues and travel after a year of isolation, but liability laws make owners of those venues nervous about allowing the non-vaccinated to enter. This isn’t about dictating to consumers, it’s about Free Enterprise doing what they must to turn a profit, and it’s as legal as demanding that your customers wear shoes and shirts to receive service.
In countries with a universal health care program, a reputable record of vaccination is fairly easy to produce; the vaccines are under the auspices of each province’s health care registry.
The same cannot be said for the United States, and this has created a bit of a conundrum. If there is no central processing point to be had by the government, then it leaves a hole that will be filled by … Big Business.
And if you thought you mistrusted the government, just imagine how sorry you’ll be if all of your personal and private health care information is put under the auspices of some massive corporation that has no need to worry about re-election at some point in the future. Be very afraid.
Enter talking points and party lines. The Republicans down south are already working themselves into another ‘rights’ lather, at the very idea of their country becoming a ‘papers please’ nation.
And that’s pretty rich, coming from the party that wrapped America in incredibly restrictive security measures, post 9/11, 2001, which have still not been rescinded, nearly twenty years later. Ah, but that was their own party, demanding that everyone show a passport, carry their shampoo in a one-ounce bottle, and remove their shoes to prove they didn’t have a shoe bomb hiding in there. So that made it okay.
There are some genuine concerns over these passports, which are essentially the same sort of vaccination documents that travellers to certain countries have had to produce for safe travel for decades.
“People are trying to circumvent that (not being allowed entry into venues) by creating false documents, essentially putting the lives of others at risk,” Beenu Arora, founder of cyber intelligence firm Cyble, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an online interview.
Global news reported that “Fake COVID-19 vaccine passports are being sold online for “peanuts” in a fast-growing scam that has alarmed authorities as countries bet on the documents to revive travel and their economies, cyber security experts said.”
This is why we can’t have nice things.
“Last week, 45 attorney generals from the United States signed a letter calling on the heads of Twitter, eBay and Shopify to take immediate action to prevent their platforms from being used to sell fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine cards.
“The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threatens the health of our communities, slows progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states,” it read.“
Global News Ca
There will always be a breed of selfish, greedy, psychopaths that delight in putting a stick in the spokes in the wheels of civilization. The pandemic seems to have brought many more out from under the rocks where they usually reside.
Party lines. Talking points. These are a sop for the lazy minded, since it prevents real thought and opinion from forming, based on further investigation of whatever it is a government wants to ‘sell’ to its people.
The repetition of these concepts is a form of gaslighting, a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth. The “illusory truth effect” is something that politicians and markets have been doing for decades, knowingly manipulating your mind by manipulating your cognitive bias.
Trump and his administration were masters of this kind of manipulation, pummeling lies and illogic into people’s minds non-stop before, during, and after his term in office. He’s still doing it now, with his “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him by Biden. He can’t seem to stop doing it, and a lot of people can’t seem to stop believing him.
“Repetition makes things seem more plausible. And the effect is likely more powerful when people are tired or distracted by other information.” Lynn Hasher, a psychologist at the University of Toronto whose research team first noticed the effect in the 1970s.
It’s not a new concept. Adolf Hitler knew of what he spoke when he wrote, “Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea,” in Mein Kampf.
Repetition is a staple of political propaganda. It sells fake news. It sells toothpaste. It drums in concepts that most often are so outlandish that we can’t believe we’re repeating them. And yet, we wondered where the yellow went, when we brushed our teeth with Pepsodent.
We’re slowly coming out of a terrible, traumatic, time, and we’re all a little fragile. Still, it’s not the time to be spoonfed platitudes. What we need now are not party lines and talking points, but intelligent, common sensical directives on how to get back safely into our lives and world, ensuring that the rights of everyone are considered and protected.
I’m still marvelling at how much more relaxed the world has become since January 20th. Feels like a luxury, not being on high alert every minute of every day, and I’m loving it.
As the fog of negativity lifts, there’s time to look around and marvel at how much our lives have changed, and will be forever changed, by our experiences. There’s no discounting that the very framework of our lives has been reworked by the ravages of COVID-19. Nearly everyone has lost someone dear to them to the virus, and many who became ill with the disease may have healthcare issues impacting them for the rest of their lives.
We’ve often felt scared and alone, dealing with our concerns. Studies have shown that feeling happy and enjoying life have been associated with longer lifespans, and a reduced incidence of serious illness. Our attitudes define how we treat ourselves and others. COVID-19 greatly impacted our quality of life, and shut a lot of the doors that allowed nearly everyone, regardless of mental or physical health, to seek out healthy encounters and to be part of the cultural mosaic.
The isolation can literally kill us. While some of us are missing our coffees at Starbucks, or our lunches with friends, others are suffering alone in silence, contemplating their own mortality. I worry about those at both ends of the age spectrum, since the very young and the very old are often at the mercy of caretakers who are under great strain themselves.
The times, they are a changing, and more than just our lives have been upheaved; our economy has taken a brutal beating. Many have not been able to work. Tens of thousands of stores have closed. Our major cities will be reshaped as the bone structure created by small business and entrepreneurs fractures due to the loss of investments and opportunity, and is replaced with franchises. Our hospitality industry has been decimated. People in the arts, or those who work in fields that support the arts, have been either unemployed, or underemployed, for nearly a year.
And strangely, the majority of people that continue to work during this time, often against their own better judgment, our ‘essential workers’ who toil in menial jobs that allow the rest of us to continue in relative comfort, are some of the lowest paid workers in the country. Meanwhile, their bosses, some enjoying six and seven figure salaries and bonuses, haven’t left the house in 12 months, and never missed a single paycheck.
Is it time for The Great Reset? That term came from the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, held in June 2020. They were originally more focused on initiating entrepreneurial solutions to handle the problems of climate change and achieve sustainable global development, but as the pandemic has dragged on, and dragged down global economy, the more imperative question has become how to move forward in sectors that have been devastated by the pandemic’s effects.
“The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems –from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties.
As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.” (weforum.org/great-reset/)
This has a lot of people quite concerned, especially those with a vested interest in squashing the idea of a better, brighter, more sustainable future. Within 72 hours of the announcement, a petition to stop it gained 80,000 signatures. A lot of people are very much afraid of not having the status quo to kick around any more – even if that status wasn’t all that quo to begin with.
Those who rail against Big Government, Big Pharma, and the Big Corporations are certain that these ideas are being put into place to either take away people’s money, guns and freedom, or, even more bizarrely, some conspiracy theorists believe that this would signal the beginning of humanity’s enslavement to the Lizard People. (Hard to believe they’d be any worse than trump and his cultists)
So, what does the Great Reset propose we do? Is this the best way forward for the planet, and all of the people who inhabit it? And who are the people that want to design and control the implementation of the plan?
Those that deny that a global pandemic is a cause for alarm are the same cadre who were the climate change deniers of the last decade, who subscribe to the age-old idea that we should just keep on talking about inequality, climate change, and the pandemic, without ever actually doing anything about these problems.
The Great Reset has been championed by global celebrities, like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, cellist Yo Yo Ma, andmodel Lily Cole, leading some to believe that these idealists are more interested in their own wish lists of progressive ideas, including a return to an independent media, support for the arts, sustainable architecture and demilitarisation.
But at the core of the Great Reset is the request that every recovery stimulus, fiscal and monetary, ensures an inclusion of Green conditions. The reasoning behind that thinking is that any money tossed at the economy will likely help, at least a little, but why not invest in the planet’s future, rather than simply patch up its current wounds?
If there are to be economic recoveries, the key lies in joining the need to create jobs with the need of most countries to sink more dollars into infrastructure, education, and health care. Creating jobs to further those endeavours puts money into the hands of the workers, who in turn, spend that money on their community and country’s businesses, ultimately making the economy stronger. Everyone’s quality of life thus improves.
The key is ensuring that the jobs being created contribute to the long-term health of the planet, rather than the depletion of scarcening resources.
It’s not surprising that some of the wealthiest people fear losing their ability to plunder the planet, and are calling this agenda, “another example of wealthy, powerful elites salving their consciences with faux efforts to help the masses, and in the process make themselves even wealthier and more powerful.” (Forbes.com)
In Canada, Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre described his idea of what he believes is Justin Trudeau’s approval of the plan.
“Last week, the presumptive finance minister in Erin O’Toole‘s “government-in-waiting” warned that “global financial elites” are attempting to “re-engineer economies and societies” in order to “empower the elites at the expense of the people.” Canadians, he said, “must fight back against global elites” and “their power grab.” He invited those who share his concerns to sign a petition calling on the government to “protect our freedom” and “end plans to impose the ‘Great Reset’.”
That certainly does sound like a frightening scenario. But there are some holes in the plot.
The item that so alarmed the Conservative frontbencher was a clip that circulated online last week of the prime minister speaking at a United Nations conference in September. “This pandemic has provided an opportunity for a reset,” Justin Trudeau told the conference. “This is our chance to accelerate our pre-pandemic efforts, to re-imagine economic systems that actually address global challenges like extreme poverty, inequality and climate change.” (CBC.ca/politics/ Nov 27, 2020, Aaron Wherry, CBC News)
Oh my yes! How very terrifying it would be to actually address such challenges! There are profits to be made, and profiteers to feed!
Those unable to contemplate change have seized upon a rallying cry attributed to Davos attendees. “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.” Were that the end of the quote, I might find it disturbing as well. But what it actually refers to are changes that are already upon us, and to come, based on actual changes to our needs and priorities.
And the quote came from a series of predictions for what the world might look like in 2030, that was published in November 2016. It accurately noted that for many, especially in cities that ‘work’, there is no need to own a car, a house, or any appliances. All of these are rented, and you can leave them behind when you move on to another location. Products thus become services, not something to own, but to use and discard when their use is no longer necessary.
The other eight predictions include global carbon pricing, a lessening of U.S. dominance, a change in how we interact with health care providers, a move to a diet less reliant on meat, the testing of Western values, and the opening up of practical applications for space technology in order to move humans off Earth, and onto other planets. Much of this has indeed come to pass, just in the five years since the predictions were written.
We often falsely believe that those who have become wealthy through commerce have society’s best interests at heart. But then again, we also used to believe that of our politicians, and certainly we can agree that that is no longer always true.
The Great Reset is merely a proposal; however, it seems more in keeping with the progressive direction that the planet needs to take, post pandemic, in order to ensure not just humanity’s survival, but the survival of our planet. We could do worse than listen to what is in the proposal. We already have.
What a difference a week makes! Since the inauguration, I haven’t had a single communication with another person that didn’t involve a distanced high five, and a recounting of how much better we’re all sleeping and eating since we saw the backend and ignominious departure of the previous resident of the White House.
Trump was that creepy uncle that you only saw once or twice a year, and learned at a young age to step lively around, lest he pinch you cruelly, and in a ‘private’ place. His words were lies, his ‘truth’ nothing but narcissism and tales of his own greatness, believed only by the gullible.
Predictably the QCrazies are bereft, inconsolable, losing their minds, because, it seems the Kraken didn’t awake, the Storm didn’t break, and all the money they spent on champagne to toast a forever trump presidency is gonna have to paid for, so it’s back to the proverbial chain gang, trumpless.
There’ll be no pardons for those that opted to follow their leader’s words, and attempted to overthrow the government, just arrests, fines, and imprisonments to remind them that black out drunks and highs have consequences.
A new Biden administration toddles into place, just a few days old, and already under siege from a Republican party that believes their bluster will protect them from the wrath of not just the Democrats, now in a majority, but the millions of Americans who watched trump and his lackeys attempt a coup in broad daylight.
Gone, but not forgotten, America must now sift through the rubble left behind by a corrupt and criminally incompetent administration whose response to crises was to throw blame and shade on everyone around them, before taking off for some R & R on the golf course. There’s a lot of work – a mindboggling amount of work – to be done before America is back on track.
Yes, Creepy Uncle is gone. In his place, we have ‘No Malarkey’ Joe Biden, a man whose backstory would make an amazing made for TV movie. A dog lover, and a lover of trains, he’s a man who has spent the best part of his life in and around D.C., in public service.
It’s an interesting moment in time. The 74-year-old contender was beaten by a 78-year-old retiree. While the new vice-president, Kamala Harris, is just 56, Nancy Pelosi, who is third in the line of succession, will be 81 in March. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 70. Mitch McConnell will be 79 in February. The incumbent Secretary of State, Daniel Bennett Smith, is 64. Many of the most prominent members of both parties are in their seventies and eighties, including Dianne Feinstein, 87, whose mental capabilities have been questioned in recent months, and Chuck Grassley, who is also 87, and who recently won yet another six years in office. Prior to last week, Wilbur Ross, 83, was the US Secretary of Commerce, when he wasn’t busy on his side hustle, as Jeff Dunham’s puppet, Walter. (Wilbur Ross Walter Puppet.jpg)
South Carolina’s Senator Strom Thurmond left office at the age of 100, after having served almost fifty years in power. West Virginia’s Robert Byrd died in office at the age of 93, as did Georgia’s John Lewis, at 80. Prior to the most recent elections, it was virtually unheard of that a Senator be under the age of 40.
The United States has, thus, for some time been effectively a gerontocracy.
“A gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population. In many political structures, power within the ruling class accumulates with age, making the oldest the holders of the most power. Those holding the most power may not be in formal leadership positions, but often dominate those who are. In a simplified definition, a gerontocracy is a society where leadership is reserved for elders. “ (wiki)
Under trump, that gerontocracy was in full bloom, as he placed into positions of power septuagenarians and octogenarians willy nilly. By contrast, the majority of Biden’s nominations look more like the average American than in any previous administration, with the exception of a few, like Janet Yellen, 74, who has been nominated to serve as Treasury Secretary.
And this, a younger, more diverse cabinet, is deeply needed, since the aging of the three branches of government has been repeatedly connected to the broader themes of American decline.
How weird is it that, in a country where, clearly, we treasure the ‘wisdom’ of our elders, based on our electoral choices, where we only feel safe and in good hands with those as old as our grandparents and great-grandparents in the highest elected positions – that we also treat the poorer, less powerful, and frailest of our elderly with such dismissive contempt?
If we believe, as has been said, that the weight of years and experience is responsible for the wisdom, gravitas, and good-hearted balance brought about by decades of living, how is that so few of those opining on the ‘common sense’ approach of ‘herd immunity’ in dealing with COVID-19 feel absolutely no shame in expressing no regrets, publicly, that the first and most voluminous group of martyrs in such a program would be our elders?
In Canada, COVID-19 has wreaked most of its wrath upon seniors, disproportionately affecting the elderly. In November, StatsCan reported that more than 52 per cent of those who had died from the virus were individuals aged 85, and older, while 36 per cent were aged 65-84. 88 per cents of our deaths have been in people over the age of 65. Only 12 per cent of the victims were younger than 65. 77 per cent of those deaths can be traced to long-term care, and senior homes.
95 per cent of deaths in the US were of people over the age of 50.
That we have failed so dramatically at protecting and prioritizing the health and care of our elders is a colossal moral failure. It appears that we only value people who are deemed economically productive. Once that time has passed, and regardless of how much we may have contributed to society throughout our younger years, people who are no longer economically productive are essentially perceived as worthless, and without further value.
In Ontario, twenty-five years ago, and under the Mike Harris government, hospitals were closed, and the jobs of thousands of nurses were eliminated, while the public role in long-term care was reduced, allowing corporate players such as Sienna Senior Living, Revera, Extendicare and Chartwell Homes to enter the game. Regulations were relaxed, and public oversight was reduced. Seniors would now have a range of options for assisted living and long-term-care housing, but at a significantly higher price.
In May of 2020, the Toronto Star reported that “three of the largest for-profit nursing home operators in Ontario, which have had disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, have together paid out more than $1.5 billion in dividends to shareholders over the last decade.”
The article added:
“This massive sum does not include $138 million paid in executive compensation and $20 million in stock buybacks (a technique that can boost share prices), according to the financial reports of the province’s three biggest publicly traded long-term-care home companies, Extendicare, Sienna Senior Living and Chartwell Retirement Residences.”
A decent society resists the temptation to take the easy way out, no matter how profitable it may be. The elderly deserve more than warehousing, secured away from their loved ones, while they wait to see if they’re next to die. It shows a horrifying disrespect that we are not making more effort to protect them.
Ontario may be the guiltiest province in Canada for hypocrisy. In April 2020, when the province wanted to appear ‘caring,’ they brought in the military to help with the abject neglect and chaos in long term care homes, brought about by those lax regulations, and poor staffing choices.
And yet, in June, and despite record-setting profits, the CBC reported that the majority of Ontario’s LTCs were still operating at 1972 structural safety standards.
“Ontario changed its structural safety standards back in 1998 — mandating, among other things, that nursing home bedrooms should house no more than two residents.
Homes that didn’t meet the new standard were allowed to keep running as-is, with an expectation they would upgrade eventually. The vast majority of homes that haven’t yet upgraded are run by for-profit companies.
While non-profit and for-profit homes have been equally likely to experience outbreaks, those outbreaks have proven deadlier in for-profit homes.“ (CBC Canada, June 2020)
In January 2021, Mike Harris, who spent the last 25 years raking in profits from the long-term care system he helped create, and who is the chair of Chartwell Home’s board of directors, was nominated for the Order of Ontario, despite protests from numerous minority groups, most vocal of which have been the Indigenous communities of Ontario.
(“Between 1995 and 2002, Harris was premier during some of the province’s most notorious scandals in recent history, including the shooting death of Indigenous protester Dudley George in 1995 and the Walkerton water crisis five years after.”) from CTV News, January 2021
We believe that we live in lush capitalism, but that’s not true of all of society. In fact, we are in end-stage capitalism, where even the lions turn upon each other. There are homeless living in our parks, but millions in dollars in pandemic aid is going to corporations making healthy profits, who are paying out dividends with one hand, while receiving federal wage subsidies in the other.
In Canada, 53 public companies disclosed receiving more than $10 million under the Canada emergency wage subsidy program (CEWS). CEWS will have cost ALL Canadians more than $100 billion by the time it wraps up in 2021. But only a small segment – the wealthiest – will have received the most benefits from that and similar protection programs.
While far right Republican and Conservative pundits clamour that the Democrats will ruin their economy with socialism, their parties actually preach and platform something more akin to dog eat dog, where people are only valued for what they produce. These groups advocate the removal of any sort of social safety net, in the form of Social Security or Medicare. What these politicians never acknowledge is that the removal of those nets will doom the elderly, the frail, the ill and the disadvantaged to spending their days in situations akin to that of the worst horrors of the 19th centuries poorhouses and workhouses, where society placed stigma and shame on those unable to support themselves.
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the truth in the social safety net, that it was never adequate protection in times of major risks like pandemic illnesses, because of the massive inequality of resources in capitalistic societies. If not addressed and amended, the worse is still to come.
I’ve long contended that the gerontocracy of the United States government is a negative factor, in terms of governance, primarily because those making the rules and regulations for the future have no stake in that future; they won’t be around to reap the rewards or punishments of their decisions. That’s on top of the fact that the majority of those in power are long term seat holders, who have amassed significant wealth and fulsome pensions and benefits, and so are unaffected by the ebb and flow of the average citizen’s lifetime.
They don’t look, act, behave, or earn like the hundreds of millions of Americans they represent. Yet they define the parameters for everything those hundreds of millions must do, from birth to death, and everywhere in between.
Some have called me ‘ageist’ for this position, which is almost laughable, in that there is no ‘ist’ or ‘ism’ that takes away one iota of wealth or power from that most blessed group of elected fortunates.
But what do we call those who look at the opposite end of the age spectrum, at the people who are poor, sick, frail, and without any of those benefits, and deem them of no value to society? Nothing that can be repeated in polite society, that’s for sure.
These last few years have been hard on all of us, in Canada, and in the United States, as we’ve struggled under circumstances made all the harder in the last year with a global pandemic. I want desperately to believe that there are better days ahead. I sincerely hope that Biden has begun as he means to go on, and that his successes inspire Canada and other countries to look in the same direction of progress, healing, and more equal opportunities for all, not just the privileged.
“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over. A new one just begun.” (John Lennon/Yoko Ono)
In 18 days, this year – this miserable, disappointing, painful, ugly, disquieting, frustrating and lonely year – will finally end. Good riddance to it; it’s broken far too many of us.
It was a year when being an introvert might have saved your psyche, if it weren’t for the people you were locking down with. Really, the pandemic opened our eyes to how socially distant we already were, in our own minds. For many, not having to be around other people was wonderful. The world, as a rule, is built for extroverts, who enjoy and thrive on the energy generated by gatherings, their brain’s ‘reward’ centre activated. But if you’re an introvert, dealing with others is overstimulating, akin to being drained by a vampire; it takes a while to recover from the contact, no matter how pleasurable.
This year, we learned to fear others, since there is no way to know if that kid on his scooter, the crazy lady in the supermarket, or that guy walking on your side of the street, is carrying the virus. We are less quick to remember the niceties of civilization, like holding open the door for others, or asking a confused looking person if they’re all right. In our misperception, we are more likely to push the automatic door opening button rather than touch the door’s handle, without realizing how many others, potentially infected, did the same thing.
But it’s also the year in which we came together, within our ‘bubble,’ and, perhaps naively, assumed that people we knew, or those who looked the most like us, could not possibly be the carriers of the plague. It was a little like the bad old days of herpes and HIV/AIDS, when many threw the sexual dice based on how ‘clean’ the potential partner appeared. I wonder how many people, grateful to interact, joyfully greeted the instrument of their demise with hugs and handshakes.
2020 was when we learned who the real ‘essential workers’ are, and it’s not the 1%, or the CEOs; it’s the guy or gal on the front line, making your coffee, wiping down tables with antiseptic cleanser, or processing your order. It’s the drivers of the delivery trucks that deliver an unending stream of necessities and baubles to keep our brains and hands occupied. It’s the hospital staff who keep working during the worse time of their careers. It’s the construction worker who is fixing the sidewalk, or the plumber that comes to your house to fix that leak. Now we need to learn that these people who keep the world turning deserve to be paid accordingly.
We also discovered what an enormous role, emotionally and financially, the arts play in our lives. When the world of entertainment shut down, a big part of our leisure lives went with it. The entertainment industry were already calculating at least a $160 billion hit, over the next few years, just a couple of months into the pandemic. The many industries that exist to support theatres, concert halls, and other places that offer music, theatre, and dance are also struggling to survive.
With so many people unable to use the pressure-relieving valve of gathering, be it at work or play, a lot of things we took for granted as being ‘just the way it is,’ were revealed to be illusory. The important things – food on the table, a roof over you head – shone a light on how foolish we had been in equating the skyrocketing stock market with the economy. In actual fact, inequality has never been as sharp. We are a nation of haves and have nots, with one end of society able to ply their trade from home, while the other may be losing their homes and contemplating life in a tent in a city park.
In the United States, more than eleven million people remain unemployed, while 614 American billionaires grew their wealth by nearly a trillion dollars. And in Canada ….
“A report released on June 17 by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) reveals staggering levels of social inequality in Canada. Often portrayed in the corporate media and official politics as a “kinder,” more “progressive” society than the United States, Canadian capitalism is exposed in the study as an oligarchic social order.
According to the PBO, the share of wealth held by the top one percent of Canadians is 25.6 percent. This is almost double the estimate of 13.7 percent given by Statistics Canada.
According to the new PBO estimates, the top one percent in Canada owns about as much as the poorest 80 percent. The upper middle class and petty bourgeoisie, the 9 per cent immediately following the top one per cent, own 30.8 per cent of the wealth.
The millionaires and billionaires in the richest 10 per cent of the population own a staggering $5.829 trillion. “
There’s an ever-widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor, in Canada, as in the rest of the world. The richest one percent of the globe’s population possesses twice as much wealth as the poorest 6.9 billion. And that has had devastating consequences on those struggling to survive. The poor are more likely to have less access to higher education, to suffer from health problems, and to die many years earlier than the wealthy.
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our personal and financial circumstances, even before you take into account the emotional toll it’s had on us. As humans experiencing the trauma of the pandemic, many are experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks, grief at what has been lost, and suicidal ideations. Worse, whole communities are being impacted, so that the pandemic is about to leave a societal scar. Beyond the struggle each of us are dealing with, we are experiencing a collective or communal trauma. Psychologists say this can impact the psyche and culture of our communities, sometimes spanning generations.
2020 has been a horrible year for so many reasons. But it’s also had a few bright spots. There’s been a number of scientific breakthroughs that may help curb the effects of climate change. A drop in pollution caused by commuting has brightened our skies, and even made the Himalayas visible for the first time in thirty years.
In Europe, an app developed in Denmark called “Too Good To Go” has kept over 30 million meals out of the trash by connecting businesses with excess food to consumers who can buy that food at reduced prices.
A Brazilian and U.S. non-profit initiative is paying farmers and ranchers to keep the Amazon forest standing. The pandemic also shone a light on the ‘wet markets’ where poorly handled animals being consumed contribute to about 75% of recently emerged infectious diseases affecting humans, with cities finally willing to work towards shuttering these places.
The wave of kindness and community that blossomed at the beginning of the pandemic is waning, but in its place are new and often renewed charitable agencies helping people to get through these tough times. Volunteerism is up. Animal adoptions are at an all time high, as people connect with a furry friend and companion.
In the States, Joe Biden is the president elect, and Kamala Harris is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian American to be elected to the vice presidency. In just over a month, the reign of error that was trump will hopefully be in our rear-view mirrors.
Not one, but several vaccines have been created at breathtaking speed, and are being distributed around the world, leading to hope that within about a year, we can look forward to returning to some kind of normal. And the pandemic itself has taught us some important lessons about responsible health care that is already having an impact on the rate of colds and flus that regularly take us down when our bodies are stressed. Turns out, washing your hands, wearing a mask, and staying home when we’re sick has a positive outcome on lots of more common illnesses.
So it’s been a year that closer resembled a Chinese curse than a gift, but it’s almost over, and many of us survived. We’re all a little older, wiser, and greyer. Some of us have less money than before this trial, while others learned that money really can’t buy happiness, but a CERB cheque can buy a lot of cool junk on Amazon. And they deliver.
What a ride, eh?
Wishing that your holidays be merry, and your new year a blessing. Love to you all.
Generally, writing about the continuing political clown show in America is more exciting than writing about what are often picayune matters in Canadian politics.
Canada has practically sailed thru the pandemic, in comparison to other countries. We’ve been lucky, overall, and much of that success is because the majority of us are happy to comply with regulations that will help stop the spread of the virus. Things could most definitely have gone much worse.
Yes, I think we’ve handled the pandemic fairly well. Certainly, better than I have handled realizing exactly how selfish, self-centred, and horrible so many have become in the last nine months. No one is enjoying living through this crisis, but some are not only behaving like obnoxious, spoiled brats, they’re forcing others to carry them through their ‘trauma.’
This week, our activist citizens thrust themselves into global prominence with the arrest of Adam Skelly, a young man from a wealthy Leaside family, who claimed to be acting in the name of ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ when he defied the province’s 28- day ban on indoor dining at Toronto’s bars and restaurants.
Skelly owns a couple of restaurants in the city, including one in the suburbs of Etobicoke. When the ban was imposed, Skelly simply ignored the law, declaring on social media Monday night that he would open for business, including for in-person dining. On Tuesday, the city’s public health chief explicitly ordered him to close his doors, but on Wednesday, he continued to serve customers, resulting in non-criminal charges for Skelly, and the corporation that owns the restaurant.
The location became a gathering spot for anti-maskers, who congregated around the diner, protesting vocally and with placards, warning about political ‘communism.’
The police and the city dithered for a few days, a mistake which allowed the protestors to gather in strength. However, on Thursday, the police finally acted, and led Mr. Skelly away in handcuffs.
“On Thursday, police changed the locks on the restaurant, but allowed Skelly into a portion of the building they believed was not covered by the closure order from Toronto Public Health.
However, according to police, his supporters smashed through drywall to access the restaurant area to try and reopen it.
Skelly was led away in handcuffs and now faces a number of charges, including attempting to obstruct police, mischief under, failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act, and failing to leave when directed under the Trespass to Property Act.
He appeared in court via video link on Friday, and was released after his wife posted $50,000 bail.“ (CTV News)
That bail likely came from a GoFundMe organized by his supporters immediately after his arrest. To date, that fund stands at $271,166. So – it’s been rather lucrative for the scofflaw.
Skelly and his customers were blatantly disrespecting not just the law, but their fellow citizens, whose lives they were risking for their own needs. And – here’s the thing; I’ll bet if you asked any of those protestors how they feel about ‘Defund the Police’ they’d be on the side of the Boys in Blue. Just not when those Boys are ‘interfering’ with what they consider to be their own privileged rights.
Here’s Doug Ford proving the adage that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
“Speaking with CP24, criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind said Skelly could face some serious further charges if he continues to defy the law.
“He could be charged with serious crimes that are called ‘fail to comply,’ Goldkind said. “And when you get charged with fail to comply, you’re taking your jeopardy of these mischief and obstruct charges and you’re increasing it greatly.”
Goldkind said the conditions of Skelly’s bail are “significant,” including the stipulation that he not use social media. That charge likely stems from his use of Instagram to announce that he would defy the lockdown orders and invite people to come eat at his restaurant, and his subsequent use of the platform to call for locksmiths and other help to re-open the restaurant after it was shut down by police and public health officials.” (CTVNews)
Whether or not Skellly’s protest works out financially for him (and I’m gonna bet it will,) we do have to look at the growing swell of Canadians who are totally fed up with what seems like arbitrary rules that ignore science, in deference to Big Business. Where is the justification in the closing of restaurants and shops that have bent over backwards to comply, while keeping their customers safe?
It all starts to look a lot like how the province behaved when the drive to stop smoking in public began. Businesses kept trying to comply, while the province kept making it harder for the businesses to do so. Yeah, I’m glad we’re not allowed to smoke in restaurants any more. I’m just very much against how they went about achieving that objective.
Small businesses all over the city are suffering under Ontario’s rules for surviving the pandemic. This time of year is when most count on making the bulk of the year’s profits. Ford played the Grinch when he decided to shut them down, while allowing Big Box stores to remain open.
By the spring, we’re going to see a flood of personal and business bankruptcies, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the Dirty Thirties.
Schools remain open, even as cases rise, and our hospitals worry they’ll once again have to cancel surgeries. Skelly playing scofflaw as others play by the rules only ups the ante for those who’re unable to pay their rents or staff.
With few exceptions, political leaders have bent over backwards to accommodate Big Business, many of which are also Big Donors to their campaigns. There’s been a real tippy toeing around the need to completely shut things down for the 4 to 6 weeks it would take to break the virus’ stranglehold on our economy. But had we done so back in the spring, we’d be looking forward to celebrating a much merrier Christmas by now.
Our leaders promised to “do whatever it takes” to stop COVID-19; and then, they didn’t.
Instead, the city and the province are allowing scofflaws and rabble to warp the narrative to their own agendas. Until those breaking these laws are fined heavily, and possibly arrested for multiple offenses, we can look forward to their anti-masking, anti-lockdown protests to scale up as tempers ramp up.
Every weekend, a group of anti-maskers gather at Dundas Square to share disinformation about “science” they’ve gleaned from the nonsense Russian bots convey on YouTube, and whatever flavour of nutso Parler has up that day. And every weekend, those crowds grow larger and louder. Why are the protestors – at the very least the instigators – not being fined for flaunting laws put into place for the safety at all?
I’ve heard from people who live in the area that these protestors will often spread out to other areas of the city after the rally, shouting at pedestrians and trying to rip the masks off other people’s faces. This is assault, even were there no public health laws in place for the safety of us all.
This has been a really rough year for everyone. It would be great if we could just try to get to the end of it in one piece, with our city intact.
Arresting Skelly is a first step. Now it’s time for our local, provincial, and federal officials to stop pandering to those who are too spoiled and selfish to care who they infect. It’s not about ‘freedom’ – it’s about a public health crisis, and the need to care for ALL Canadians.