It’s a winter wonderland! A marshmallow world! And way too soon! It’s only November, dammit!
I’m not ready for winter. I’m nowhere near done with the packing and the sorting that has to be done in the back of the house, and yet, here we are. Oh, climate change, why could you not have brought palm trees to Toronto, instead of this untimely dump of white stuff?
We’ve been incredibly busy, in the last month, working out all the paperwork and miscellanea that needs to be done for our move in January. The ‘to-do’ lists are endless, and include low key celebrations of an anniversary, the recording of some Christmas songs, (for me) the recording of some the heymacs songs, (for Shawn) and the filming of a new the heymacs video next week, the day after my birthday.
I have now packed 160 large boxes, and I’m guessing I’ll need to do, at minimum, another 100 before we’re ready to leave here. I’m running out of room to pile up said boxes, and we’ve grown used to walking sideways to get past the stacks. I’m keeping the massage studios and back pain pill companies in business, and trying not to die from the malnutrition that comes from eating nothing but frozen pizzas and tinned beans.
It’s been a blur of activity, compounded by much needed breaks for lunches and get-togethers with friends. I even managed to squeeze in a trip to the Lift&Co Expo 2021, which I’ll be writing about next week.
Which is all to say that I haven’t spent much time worrying about ‘maybes,’ ‘whatifs’ and ‘possiblys’ of late, and that’s a good thing. It took several months to come down from the hysteria of the trump era, but having to focus so minutely on all that it takes to buy a home 250 miles away, sight unseen, has finally pushed away any remaining need to focus on what comes next in the Great Faux Election Steal of 2020. Done. Finito. The whole gang that couldn’t elect straight is no longer on my radar. I’ll let them return to top of mind when we’re trying to figure out which prisons will have the pleasure of their company.
There are a couple of issues that I’ve got simmering on the back burners of my mind, including the reports of the new Omicron mutation of the COVID virus. This was NOT what I wanted for Christmas; this is even worse than that time I got a vacuum cleaner from ‘Santa’. The biggest problem here is that it’s quite possible this mutation may effectively wipe out all the protection our previous vaccines had given us, which would mean we’d be as vulnerable as we were at the beginning of the pandemic.
And I really could have done without a news dump, two days before the American thanksgiving, that touted an unprecedented strengthening of ties between China and Russia. Both countries see an opportunity to strike at what the media is presenting as a weakened United States, and this, as tensions escalate between the East and West, portends a climate of fear as the holidays near. Also not what we needed at this time.
And you have to wonder precisely why the media is pursuing both of these disparate issues with such glee. Yes, we have to know what’s going on around the world, and yes, we need to be ready to protect ourselves from enemies at home or abroad, but could we just maybe take a breath or two before we dive headfirst into another vat of fearmongering?
Americans should be celebrating the passage of part one of a massive infrastructure bill, that will plow $1.2 trillion back into the economy, while repairing roads and bridges, and providing much needed broadband across the nation.
There were record breaking sales figures for the orgy of commercialism that is Black Friday, despite the media trumpeting that the collapse of the supply chain would result in empty shelves for the winter holidays.
More than 5.5 million new jobs have been created in the last ten months, and unemployment claims are the lowest they’ve been since 1969. Workers’ pay has risen, and anyone who wants a job should be able to write their own ticket, since employers are screaming for more staff.
Americans are also enjoying more than $5 billion in rental assistance, and the Biden administration expanded the Child Tax Credit, to the tune of $66 billion, which has gone out to more than 36 million households. The child poverty rate has been cut in half, for pete’s sake!
Sure, it’s not perfect. Nothing is, as any person with a fully functioning brain knows. But there’s something quite ugly about the media failing to acknowledge all the positives of the last 10 months, while banging the drum of failure, war, and plague.
It just stinks of a voracious, avaricious, mob of greedy, thankless, demanding spoiled brats. If you’re looking for your plague of zombies, look no further than the hordes who can never be satisfied, and who are intent on tearing their nation in two, to satisfy their masters, and some sort of political tapeworm.
The real bad guys are in your house, on your phone, and in your tv. But they were invited in, and warmly given a place at your table. They can just as easily be shown the door, and asked not to come back until they’ve got something better to offer.
We’re about to enter the last month of the year, December, a month that is filled to the brim with opportunities to gather together joyfully, to link arms with friends and family in a spirit of peace and community, and to reach out and share with those that need our help financially, physically, or emotionally. Every major and minor religion has a holiday in this time period, designed specifically to bring us together, to get us through the cold, dark months, and to prepare us for a brand spanking new year.
“Every religion I know of, including in the Pagan traditions, celebrates light in some form around the Winter Solstice. Each one relates to the coming of darkness, the need to collect and preserve that which nurtures (including foods) through dark times, and planning for the coming return of light with the Vernal Equinox/Easter/Passover, et al. It is a perfect time for reflection (another light analogy) and introspection. Without both shadow and light, there is no form, after all. We ignore equal attention to both at our peril.”
Mara Seaforest, from a Facebook comment.
Each of us has the opportunity to choose to see the bright light of coming together in love and peace, or to decide to chase after the darkness of divisiveness. Choose wisely. We have no idea what lies ahead for us, but facing uncertainty is easiest when faced together.
Have you ever bought a car, and suddenly noticed that nearly every car you see is the same colour and style? Or, if you are pregnant, have you been surprised to see that it seems that everybody else is pregnant as well?
This is known as the frequency illusion, or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It’s something that happens thru two separate psychological processes –selective attention and confirmation bias – coming together, that makes us believe that there is more going on around us than what meets the eye.
You’ve probably noticed something similar during the last two years, as we’ve dealt with COVID. Our ‘selective attention’ can force us to overlook a lot of other news that might normally catch our eye, since most of us are hyper-focused on anything new or important to do with the protections necessary to fend off the virus.
Confirmation bias leads us to search out this news, and to find ‘experts’ that agree with our already held beliefs. That’s why those people who are convinced that there is something wrong with the vaccines cannot stop searching out those that agree with them. They are desperate to find others who share their thoughts.
Whether it’s COVID, pregnant women, or the incredible number of red vans that prowl the streets of Toronto, becoming aware of something you hadn’t noticed before can throw you for a loop.
Since my little cat died a few weeks ago, I’ve become hyper aware of how many people have also lost pets recently. But it’s quite likely that my sadness and grief has made me more sensitive to information from those who are also dealing with losses.
It is, of course, the frequency illusion that has concentrated my attention on what appears to be an explosion of ill health amongst furry critters that so many of us have been experiencing. If I were not aware of this phenomenon, I might begin to believe that there is something sinister happening to our four-legged friends. There isn’t; it’s just a coincidence that the time of year, the weather, and the inevitable aging of our pets would have to eventually culminate in their passing on.
Whenever something occurs on which we become focused, there are several roads that appear before us. So it was for me, with my mourning of my long-time furry companion.
While I don’t know how I feel about adopting another animal any time soon, I’m very aware of how beneficial it can be to singles and seniors to have a pet that gives them a focus. We grow so close to our little friends, and they give us so much in return.
But pet love is increasingly expensive, and vet bills can cause pet owners a lot of pain – emotionally and financially. Trying to decide when to let a pet go, or when to engage in an expensive fight for its life, often depends on how much money we can devote to that fight.
Pets are incredibly important in the quality of life for those who spend a lot of time alone. My experiences with seniors and senior pets have shown me that there is a need for organizations to help defray final costs. In the future, I’d like to find a way to work with groups working to make that difficult time a little easier for both the human and the pet.
A few days after Farley died, and in the midst of a flurry of friends dealing with the unexpected losses of their pets, a fellow whom I’ve known for many years suddenly went on a Facebook rampage, in which he posited that there was something wrong with those who deeply mourn their pets. Unspoken but inferred was that the public mourning of a furry friend went beyond odd to possibly immoral. He contended that no one could or should equate the loss of a dog or a cat to the loss of a human child.
Of course, these are two very different kinds of losses; a pet is not a human being that we have brought forth from our own bodies.
On the other hand, many people don’t have children. Some never wanted to have children. And still others have children that they rarely see or have interactions with. Regardless of the circumstances, it seemed odd for someone to feel that they had the right to publicly pass judgment over how other people choose to express their grief at the passing of their pets.
I tried to explain that pets play different roles in different times of our lives; during COVID, many people adopted pets to take the place of people they couldn’t see in their isolation. The loss of a pet that has been a constant companion, that is, in some cases, a reason to get up in the morning, can often be no less painful than the loss of a person whom one loves, but with whom one has less frequent physical contact.
This fellow’s insistence on being the sole arbiter of what qualifies as a justifiable emotional pain felt like bullying to me.
I was not the only breathing creature dealing with the loss of Farley; his long-time feline companion was mourning as well. During Farley’s last days, Lady Jade tried to give him comfort, by crawling into his bed and sharing her warmth. For about 17 years, they shared their beds, their treats, and their lives.
After his final trip to the vet, little Jade, who is 18, blind, and quite small, was bereft. She crept quietly around the house, searching for him. She would silently appear in dark spaces, and was often in danger of being crushed by our feet when we’d fail to realize she was there. The only time she would calm was when either Shawn or I would hold her on our laps.
Since we’re packing and preparing to move house, I was having to choose between doing what was necessary, and comforting my poor old kitty. I needed a solution, and came up with an idea.
I often use an organization called Freecycle to give away items that I no longer need, and to find odd things I’m looking for. In this case, I put up a request for a child wrap, or some kind of carrier, that would allow me to cradle Jade against my body, but still allow me to have movement to do household chores, pack, or even to just answer the door without having to disturb her.
Cat slings – it’s a thing.
Within a few days, I received an email from someone who wanted to know if I’d had any luck with my request. This woman was concerned because she’d had a similar situation when her older dog had passed, and his cat companion mourned him so deeply that a vet’s attention was necessary to prevent the cat from dying of grief.
This freecycler wanted to help, and by the next morning, she had decided that she would buy a baby wrap, called a ‘Cuddle Bug,’ that I could use for Jade, and we made arrangements for delivery.
When the packages arrived from Amazon that evening, I was stunned to see the extent of her generosity. Not only had she sent the wrap, she’d also sent an array of Jade’s favorite foods, and a new cat treat – Squeeze Ups – that I’d never heard of that must be kitty crack, because Jade can’t get enough of it.
I was quite dumbfounded by the kindness of this stranger.
In my mourning, there are lessons to be learned. I clarified to myself that my future would involve somehow being of help to others dealing with pet illness and death. I have seen the ugly side of someone who is unable to empathize with the pain that others feel, but I’ve also seen the beauty of a total stranger who responds with their whole heart to a cry for help from someone in pain.
Funny how life can show us the many ways that we can choose to live and interact with each other. Many paths lead us forward, but nothing is quite as wonderful as being able to grab hold of a hand that helps us in choosing the right direction, out of our pain, and into a shared light.
I had really hoped that taking a week off for a ‘mental health break’ would allow me to come back to the column with a fresh, breezy attitude, and a determination to sort through complicated ideas with ease and élan.
Didn’t happen. I’ll probably need way more than a week to get from here to there. I’m dealing with a ton of bits and pieces of life, some parts being more digestible than others. Nothing to see here, folks, move along – it’s just the stuff that life is made of.
That’s what being a human is about. At any given moment, every one of us is processing what’s going on in and around our lives, and somehow still managing to put one foot in front of the next to get through the days. We give very little thought to all the kinetic activity that surrounds us daily. We balance the input and output of our own minds as we perambulate through our days.
In life, and in general, we are more inclined to favour solutions that cater to our own wants and needs. That doesn’t always sit well with those in positions of power; the powerful also want what they want, and they are more likely to land up in situations where that is exactly what they’ll get.
When we’re in our peak adult years, dealing with finding love, growing our families, and focusing on bringing in enough income to pay for our needs, we usually don’t have a lot of time or headspace for worrying about external events. These are years in which we eschew too much philosophy, or follow much politics, favoring expediency over worrying too far ahead into the future.
It’s understandable that most people are too busy getting through their lives to worry about what can feel like abstract questions, compared to quotidian details. The cynical will say that we have always been pawns in a larger game, and that we are all victims of the lies of politicians and the powerful, therefore, complaint is pointless.
I have always had issues with situations that feel unfair, that slant towards the rich and powerful, and that leave the poorer and more vulnerable unprotected. But now the situations are more alarming, more encompassing, and contain more potential for long term disaster than ever before.
I can’t go for that. No can do. I’m a human being, and whether I like it or not, my life is impacted by political decisions. And my kids and grandkids, who will be around long after I’m gone, deserve a better planet than the one I’m currently poised to bequeath them.
Take human-caused global warming, for instance. This is settled science. There is no further need for debate; deliberation, in this case, is being used as a stall tactic, by those who profit from fossil fuels. We need to prioritize clean air and water, for ourselves and for our heirs. We cannot allow foot dragging and obstruction.
The public health crisis caused by COVID-19 is not faked, a conspiracy, or a ‘false flag.’ It is a very real pandemic ripping through the fragile bodies of people all over the globe, that has killed over 5 million people, and ruined the future health of millions more. There can be no excuse for failing to join in the fight against this virus.
The trial of a 17-year-old boy whose mother drove him over state lines, carrying an AR-15 that he was not legally allowed to own, and whose actions set into motion the death of two people and the near mortal harm of another, should have been a no-brainer for anyone with a shred of common sense; the deaths would not have happened had the boy not entered the picture. Yet, he will likely go free with a slap on the wrist, and a hero’s welcome from the Second Amendment brigade.
Meanwhile, had he not been white, he’d likely not even have made it home from that fateful encounter. This is more about race than it is about guns, but those with their own priorities have highjacked the case.
Hysterical reportage from the U.S. has decried a shortage of people needed for low paid, low benefit, positions. These are often the same jobs that just last year, at the height of the pandemic, were considered ‘essential.’ Not essential enough to merit a living wage, but ….
Yet studies have shown that there are many seeking employment, but not being hired. And one study showed that the assertion of a truck driver shortage was untrue; there’s tons of able, licensed, drivers. It’s just that those drivers are unwilling to play by the same unfair rules and pay scales that were commonplace pre-pandemic.
Turns out there’s lots of people looking for jobs, but the jobseekers are as capitalistic as the potential employers; they know about supply and demand. You need supply – they’re making demands.
In the early months of 2020, when the pandemic first hit the planet, the cost of energy was down. People were working from home, and offices and factories were often closed or idle. The roads and airports were empty, and gas prices were low. As the economy slowly gears back up, the price of gas is on the rise. That’s not attributable to presidents or prime ministers. It’s a global phenomenon that should have been expected, had we been paying attention.
Donald Trump’s Big Lie is the fabricated conspiracy of a poor loser, bolstered by the seditious and treasonous in his cult who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. And yet there are many, even sitting in the halls of Congress, who deny Biden’s election win, and who plot to overthrow the legitimately elected POTUS. Democrats need to put some bite into their investigation into what was most definitely a coup, planned by the former president and his minions.
Far too much of what passes for terrestrial news, over the last five years or more, has been crippled with misinformation, lies, and even deliberately manufactured counterpoints to reality. That’s not what ‘news’ is supposed to do; news is meant to simply illustrate important events and to warn the viewer about events, financial issues, traffic issues, or weather that might impact their daily lives. Instead, the news has been commercialized, and is now partisan.
That is simply not fair, or right. The average person makes dozens of miniature decisions during even the most boring day. Asking that same person to now ‘do the research’ and parse out a dozen different possibilities to determine the veracity of what they are being told is simply asking too much. The news is not supposed to be political. Ain’t nobody got that kind of time.
Live long enough, and you’ll see everything, they say. I know I would never have dreamed that there would come a time when people in power would play quite so fast and loose with the truth. When Sean Spicer’s vehemently insisted that trump’s inaugural drew more lookyloos than Obama’s, we laughed. When U.S. Counselor to the President, KellyAnne Conway, used the phrase ‘alternative facts’ to defend Spicer’s lies, we crept a little closer to madness. And on almost every day in the four years of trump’s presidency, we were bombarded with more lies, more misinformation, more deliberate manipulation in the truth, culminating with a criminal disregard of the safety of the U.S. citizens trump had sworn to defend and protect when he took the oath on that very inauguration.
He’s been gone a year, and he’s STILL lying. No one should have been surprised that trump lied about having won the presidential election; he’d primed millions of his supporters to believe exactly that, since he won the first election, and somehow whined about that. He taught his cult to ignore what they saw with their own eyes or heard with their own ears, and to only respond to what he and his minions told them was real, and he very nearly succeeded in a treasonous coup to overthrow a free and fair election.
In order for trump, his family, and his defenders to survive and thrive, they needed to alter how people perceived reality, and to pervert justice. They did both of these things very well, and continue to manipulate the rule of law to their benefits in 2021.
Each of us, no matter where we are, or where we live, wakes up every morning and deals with all the machinations of the day. It’s asking too much of us that we also contend with an altered universe where things may or may not be as they seem, where we are manipulated into believing whatever works to benefit the rich and powerful is good and necessary, while our children’s and grandchildren’s futures are being gambled away for the temporary gain of the few.
We have to learn from the past. We have to see that manipulating reality, and demanding the wholesale swallowing of lies are the tools of those that seek to destroy democracy. We cannot allow our human rights to be perverted for the benefit of the few.
It’s simply too much to ask. And that way, madness lies.
I’m trying to remember the last time I went trick-or-treating as a child. It was in Montreal, and might have been when we lived in Park Ex, which was, back then, really not a place that was safe for a young’un to be out alone late, and especially not to be traipsing around in the dark.
But hey – free candy! Sometimes pennies! Maybe even a free razor blade! Or was that just an urban myth?
Halloween was ‘one night only.’ You might have started thinking about a costume in the last week of October, but most of us borrowed heavily from the closets of our older siblings or parents, and if all else failed, you could always grab an old sheet and go as a ghost.
By the time my daughter was of age to panhandle from the neighbours, costumes had become a lot more sophisticated. She became increasingly creative and daring with her outfits as she grew older, and these days, she has a storeroom of fabulous costumes she created for her kids over the years, too good to part with willingly.
But something spooky started happening about six weeks ago, in my neighbourhood; people began to compete to be the house with the most awesome Halloween decorations. Around the middle of September, when the visual aperitifs of the holiday started to appear in the flyers, there were already hints of ghostly décor to come, up and down these windy streets.
For young, comfortably middle-class, families with kids, Halloween is beginning to overtake Christmas for flash. After all, Christmas doesn’t focus quite so strongly on kids and community togetherness as do activities like trick-or-treating. And who doesn’t want to be the house with the biggest, scariest, and loudest dragon inflatable on the block?
Some residents will spend far more time and money on elaborate Halloween decorations than they will on their Christmas or Hanukkah displays.
It’s gone a little bit crazier every year for the last decade or so. Consumers will spend about 30% more on Halloween this year than 10 years ago, about an average of $92 on Halloween food and decorations, a holiday that only lasts for a day. (I spend that on just the candy we shell out.) In comparison, the average shopper will spend around $227 for all of their winter holiday needs, which spans the two months from November 1 to December 31st.
Around here, people start plugging in the inflatables and lighting the bat garlands just before the sun sets. A stroll down Swanwick Avenue is a walk through a haunted street of enormous, prowling, black cats, 12-foot-tall ghosts, full Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin displays, and, yes, a fire breathing, moving, purple dragon, that will cost you nearly $300, including tax.
During last year’s Covid Halloween, there was a move to completely eliminate the trick or treat aspect of the holiday, by moving candy distribution to other venues, like schools and community centres. But that didn’t go over well with parents who wanted their kids to have the ‘full experience,’ even if that meant the kid bringing home some virus with their chocolate.
And so those who wanted to shell out despite restrictions turned to some interesting methods of candy delivery. Some just left bowls of candy out, trusting that the little ghouls and ghosties would respect an ‘honour system.’
A few of the more hands-on participants chose to ‘suit up’ in full protective gear in order to ‘keep the dress up spirit in the holiday’, while still others invented candy catapults, horrific handouts, and zombie ziplines.
So what has caused Halloween to become the newest big thing in holidays? Retailers trace this trend to millennials, young adults who have completely embraced an opportunity to dress up in ‘sexy’ or politically incorrect costumes, to use the abundance of inexpensive décor to create Instagrammable gatherings for a night off from worry, and to decorate their homes and yards to entertain themselves and their kids.
Social media has a lot to do with the rise of the holiday; what better way to tell your story than thru videos and photos of your creative self-expression. It’s a great time to show your Facebook and Instagram friends just how cute you are, all dressed and made up. Make them jelly when they see how much fun you’re having without them around!
If you were a big “Halloween person” as a kid, you’re very likely to want to continue being one as an adult. You’ve probably now got the money to go all out with your ideas, and showing the kids how you celebrated in your own childhood is an excuse to keep the fun going by sharing the scaring with your progeny.
Halloween merch is everywhere, from the dollar stores to Amazon, and people begin shopping early, since the stores run out of the ‘best’ goodies well before the day. Pumpkins and even hay bales begin appearing in stores at the beginning of October, and some families compete to see how many fun and unique Jack o Lantern carvings they can display.
There’s less ‘baggage’ to Halloween, and that’s appealing to time-strapped families. From Thanksgiving through to the New Year, there’s family baggage, cultural baggage, and, for many, a sense of obligation. There’s guilt in not spending enough money and time on and with family at Christmas or Hanukkah, but all you need for Halloween sharing are some photos or a nicely shot video to include those you might not otherwise see but once a year.
The holiday is so significant now that events begin at the start of the month, and go on through all four weeks, with kids and adults enjoying everything from costume parties to parades. For many families, a car tour of the neighbourhood to enjoy décor and light displays is now as important as their Christmas drive throughs once were.
Halloween is ‘low-obligation;’ it’s escapism. It’s a night for the normally repressed to howl, for the shy to show their sexy side, for the repressed to express what they might not have the courage to do on any other night. It’s a safe way to have fun by changing how we appear to others, and to play chicken with our fears.
And, of course, on the political side – it’s yet another opportunity for Big Business to rake in the Big Money as we gleefully spend, spend, spend …..
Ah, lighten up. It’s Halloween. Get your pumpkin on, and howl like a werewolf!
For the political …
A few interesting costume ideas to consider for All Hallows Eve revelry ….
And here’s some wonderful creepiness to have playing in the background while you launch your candy into the maws of witches and goblins …. Listen to David Tennant read vampire stories ….
When did people start ending every conversation with “be safe. Keep yourself safe”? Am I the only one that wonders when it was decided that we are living in a time of war or zombie attacks? And why is it so incredibly sad to know that the enemy we’re being cautioned against is a disease too often spread to us by our own loved ones and ‘friends’?
The other day I suddenly thought about Gary ‘17’ Webb. For a few moments I wondered how he was doing, and what clubs he was monitoring for his webpage. And then I remembered that he’d passed in December of 2020 – not from COVID, but from another health issue.
It got me thinking about the sadly large number of friends and acquaintances that we’ve lost during this time. It’s an extensive list, and it continues to grow, from the pandemic, but also from the complications of health care in a time of ‘plague.’ Without funerals, and often with memorials and tributes put on hold indefinitely, how many of the dead will fade from our thoughts in the coming years? Humans need to gather to mourn; COVID took that away from us.
We lost so many in our music/entertainment community over the last two years. And countless more in other fields and endeavors. Sometime in the future, someone will ask you when one of these luminaries passed, and you won’t remember, lost in the flood of the names of the famous and infamous whose leaving went almost unnoticed in the sheer volume of deaths recorded.
Humans are funny creatures. Of all of the living species, we are likely the only species that understands that we are finite beings. We are born, we live our lives, and at some point, we die. It’s the natural order of things; we see it in all of the living beings around us, in nature, in the seasons. We know without a doubt that we are finite. But most of us choose to pretend that we are not.
Society and civilization depend on the collective mind believing that there is a productive and better future to come. It’s our gamble. It’s why we buy insurance. There’d be no economic incentive to build cities or empires if we didn’t believe that our hard work and sacrifices wouldn’t ultimately pay off, for us, and for our heirs. We want a future; we can’t anticipate a time when there won’t be one for us.
I recently read that a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the most productive age in human life is between 60-70 years of age. The second most productive stage of the human being is from 70 to 80 years of age. The third. most productive stage is from 50 to 60 years of age.
That means that the best years of your life are between 60 and 80 years of age, and that, at age 60, you reach the TOP of your potential and this continues into your 80s.
And yet, because of our submerged, unvoiced fear of aging and death, birthdays after 50 are too often greeted with sadness, gifts of tonics and hemorrhoid creams, black balloons, and cards that inform us that we’ve gone “Over the Hill.”
While we may have, in our youth, invested in collectibles, antiques and art, we are now informed that not all things increase in value with age. People, it would seem, diminish in worth.
But how can that be? In some societies, elders are revered as wisdom holders, the keepers of the culture, the teachers, the mentors, replete with the wisdom of a life well spent! In an ideal world, an elder that has walked the path in their field would be actively sought after for their insights.
In our modern world, long term care facilities are often modern-day ice floes upon which we place our old and sick, so that they might drift far away, and not disturb our fast-paced lives. During COVID, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, even suggested that patriotic oldsters would gladly die to save the economy.
But failing to respect and access the accumulated knowledge and experience that many elders possess is to potentially throw away some of the most valuable assets that we possess. Ideally, our society would accept and anticipate becoming a respected elder, who is available to provide valuable insights, based on their years of experience.
Not all elders are wise, nor are they always right in their opinions. But no one is right, all the time, and even the wunderkinds don’t understand every field that exists.
There are some instances in which an elder should be discouraged from commenting, and in that, I would include technology that they have not yet encountered, understood, or conquered. It would be folly to ask, as members of the U.S. Congress did recently, that senior members, who are not fluent in current internet tech, rule on how technology will go forward in the years to come, when they will most likely not be around to live under those rules.
Each of us must respect the stages of life. We must also be aware that those coming up behind us will need the time and space to enter into the workplace and develop their own experience and wisdom. In time, their wisdom will be of use to the generation that is coming up behind them.
If we all could look forward to a beneficial aging, rather than a collective shunning, we could be more proactive in our ‘golden’ years.
It’s not a crime, or shameful, to realize how aging will affect us. While there will be a lucky few that escape the ravages of time largely unscathed, many of us already know what lies ahead, in terms of wellness and personal vulnerability.
I decided long ago that I would be honest with myself about how aging and illness would affect my life, my living quarters, and my need for independence.
A few years ago, I was contemplating the purchase of an e-scooter, something that I could use to do errands, and to maintain some independence from needing to use public transit or cadging rides from others. But the more I thought about a two wheeled scooter, the more I realized that it wouldn’t really suit my long-term needs. I needed something with room to transport groceries, or library items. I also worried about maintaining my balance on two wheels.
So, when I saw an ad for a beat-up old mobility scooter on the buy and sell board of my supermarket, I decided to go for it. It was going for much less than a scooter, new or used, and I figured it would be a good ‘first vehicle’ for me. And I was right. Learning to steer and properly drive any vehicle can be a period of trial and error, and it can sometimes turn deadly. I’ll be forever grateful that I chose to learn while I still have full use of my limbs and faculties.
Sure, it was a little embarrassing, buying into the whole mobility scooter look, but it freed me up to do my errands when I wanted, how I wanted. And that independence means a great deal to me. Had I waited until a mobility scooter was my only choice for transportation, I might not have had the flexibility to roll with the learning curve punches.
I’m under no illusions about aging. I look at my face in the mirror every day, and it’s not the face (or hair, or body) that once looked back at me. Aging is inevitable, and non-negotiable. This is where the GIGO ends; garbage in equals garbage out, and if you chose to fuel yourself with ‘garbage’ throughout your life, garbage is what you’re left with to negotiate your last years.
With that being said, it’s not only fun to soothe our egos with mementos of our glorious youths – sometimes it can be a life saver. The conceit that our past precedes us can do real damage in situations where our pasts are unknown.
When two of my doctors retired, exhausted from the restraints of COVID regulations, I was suddenly faced with entrusting my continued healthcare to a new doctor who had never known me as anyone other than the senior person they saw sitting in front of them. They don’t know my past experiences, which means that they can’t see how those experiences resonate in my choices of today.
That’s why I brought along a portfolio of photos from my youth with me to my first face-to-face encounter with my new family doctor. She’s a busy woman, and I can’t expect her to waste her time in trying to imagine where my thoughts and feelings come from. So I showed her photos of myself on stage, in community settings, with my kids and grandkids. I let her know that I’m not just a new patient that falls neatly into a geriatric box, but rather, a person who has had a full and rewarding life, that’s not ready to be sloughed aside in any form of triage, based on age.
Maybe I’m fooling myself, and those photos made no impression on her. All I could do was try and visually show her that my present visage may appear to be old and vulnerable, but my youth prepared me for a good fight to the finish.
Bette Davis was right – old age is not for sissies. Having a full, rewarding old age takes work. But consider the alternative … it ain’t pretty.
The east end of Toronto has always been an interesting mix of peoples. Heavily treed and with many well tended parks, it’s a beautiful area, diverse and dynamic.
As real estate mania crested, beginning in the ‘80s, the traditional division of what was considered the highly priced Beach kept moving northward from the original Queen Street East designator. I’ve seen homes above Gerrard and just below the Danforth being called “Upper Beach” housing. Madness. Big Money.
The homes, be they bungalows, duplexes, or single dwelling two- and three-story homes, have soared in value. Finding anything for sale for less than $1 million and a half is pretty much like a unicorn sighting. A tiny bungalow across the street from our rental bungalow was listed last year for about $699,000. It was snapped up within a week for a million more than list price.
The tenants of these homes are now a mixture of the original owners, and the new owners, those who can afford to buy into these lovely streets. And that can cause some interesting problems, depending on how the residents, both new and old, react to neighbourhood incidents.
Long term EastEnders tend to be old school, a little bit lefty, but very property proud. The newer residents are generally younger, and upwardly mobile. They have to be, in order to afford these prices.
A couple of years ago I noticed a torrent of messages in a page on Facebook that is populated by people living in the Woodbine and Danforth area. It was a lovely summer night. As the sun began to set, someone posted that a man and his son had erected a tent in the center of East Lynn Park, and were blasting tunes quite loudly.
The poster’s concern was that they had just put their kids to bed, and that the noise was keeping the little ones awake. They also wondered what would prompt someone to treat a city park as a camp ground.
Within moments the chain of messages headed for AbsurdiaLand, as far left proponents speculated on the circumstances, and began a campaign to politicize the event. This was around the time when people were beginning to ‘occupy’ Toronto parks, in protest, and several people assumed that this was the case here.
Others presumed that this incursion had to do with the man and his son being homeless and indigent; several proposed gathering up food, water, blankets, and other welcoming items for the two.
Many respondents were angry with those who agreed with the first poster, that this was noise pollution. It soon became apparent that noise was the least of their worries, as comments soon appeared that noted that the boy, and the dog they had with them, were using the kiddie wading pool as a toilet.
And then there was the drink and drugs that were being used – hey, it’s legal now, said some. Others thought that the presence of a child, in a children’s park, indicated that this was not the right place in which to indulge such habits.
Hundreds of belligerent, and of escalating emotional messages later, the Battle of East Lynn Park concluded when it was discovered that the man and his son had rolled up their tent and left. The war of words had been fought in a flurry of suppositions and assumptions, because, as it turned out, the man and his son were simply nearby residents who had decided to play camp that night.
But following that evening’s arguments, many long-time neighbours began a cold war of resentment against each other’s political views.
During the pandemic, something similar happened with the arrival of ‘porch pirates.’ While most people who had their deliveries of groceries or Amazon goodies pinched were justifiably angry and disturbed when things they ordered were stolen, there was a very loud faction of residents in the East End who felt that exceptions must be made for people who might be stealing those items due to financial misfortune, or psychological impairment.
One woman wailed that her delivery of groceries had been stolen off her porch in the time between when she’d received a phone call announcing it’s delivery, and her walk from her kitchen to her porch. No sympathy was extended to her, however, by those who felt that the groceries might have been righteously purloined by people financially inconvenienced, who might need that food more than she, a resident in a well-to-do neighbourhood, could ever be expected to understand.
No matter how egregious the actions, there was always a noisy faction that could find every conceivable excuse for the thieves, excuses that absolved the crimes, and placed the onus on the innocents who merely expected to receive the things they’d bought and paid for, in a time when many were afraid to leave their homes and mingle with the great unmasked.
As we near Halloween and the holiday season, people are starting to worry about teens looking to pull pranks on neighbours. Some pranks are relatively harmless, while others can be considered vandalism and malicious. We can’t write off the fears and damage done to residents and property by kids enjoying themselves by absolving the perpetrators, and blaming the victims for having the temerity to own homes in a desirable neighbourhood.
There have been incidents along Queen Street East, and into the Beach area, throughout the pandemic. There have been unsupervised bonfires, dogs being sicced on baby foxes, and reports of roving gangs of teens damaging property along the main street. In one well publicized incident, a rave up devolved into horror when a partygoer began running through the Leslie Spit, threatening people with a chainsaw.
Toronto police have not been very responsive, and can rarely be bothered to respond in a timely manner to residents requests for help. Add to that the far-left voices that seek to absolve the kids of their crimes, and who, remembering their own halcyon days of the toilet papering of neighbours and other minor acts of vandalism, chuckle that ‘it’s just kids!” and ‘boys will be boys!’
Small comfort when it’s your porch that’s been trashed, your garden that reeks of urine, and your job to clean up the mess left behind by the youthful marauders.
Now, here’s the thing. The demographics of the vocal minority of the left are surprisingly similar to that of the right; as a rule, those speaking in defense of minorities, the poor, and the disenfranchised are actually the better educated, wealthier people, in two-parent households. Couples who wait to have kids and buy homes tend to have higher incomes and better social mobility, and that can make them more attuned to the real or perceived lack of funds and rights of people struggling with less.
But that attunement can pitch them into a battle against the people on the right who feel no such empathy towards those who have, for financial, physical, or emotional reasons, eschewed the traditional paths of a family friendly agenda.
And it’s definitely causing huge divides, even between the centre left and the left, and that’s a battle that can lead to some pretty severe consequences politically, in time. While it’s currently more visible in the States, where the centre left leaning Democrats are battling with their own party’s far-left leaning members, to the detriment of the nation, we’re daily creating our own smaller divisions that are sending milder, less vocal, small and capital L liberals to the ‘other side.’
When people act in extreme ways, when we see the hysterics of the far right or the far left, we can easily see how off-putting this is to those whose beliefs and needs lie straight down the middle. What we often fail to see is that this can lead to the actual, less vocal, majority moving towards the conservative right, which has traditionally been the home of the politically conservative, veering towards regressive, voters.
That’s what’s happening to the Democratic party in the States right now. On the far left, the vocal majority is imperilling the good that could come from the Build Back Better Act by emphasizing tactics and ideology that repel the centre left. Centrists in the party believe that some of the demands of the younger, more progressive members leave them open to attacks from the Republicans, who will use the more ‘out there’ demands to paint the entire Democratic party as radical socialists, all of whom want nothing more than to enact far-left positions like late term abortions and defunding the police.
Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema, far to the right of centrism at the best of times, are able to ride that position in their own states to justify denying important infrastructure projects, on the grounds that their conservative viewpoints can’t accept using funds to help with college tuitions, childcare, senior care, and major action on climate change. Their decisions to deny funding anything they disagree with, will effectively kill any likelihood that all Americans will be able to profit from the use of their own tax dollars to improve their lives, when the Act has been ripped to shreds to satisfy the outliers, both on the left and the right of centre.
That’s what happens when we give extremism too much free reign. Many of us have solid opinions, and have strongly held views about our society and our neighbours, and that’s our right. What we don’t have the right to do is to quash other people’s opinions and views. In a civilized society, in a democracy, we all have rights, and the key to keeping things moving forward is balancing the right and the left, so that neither side is given too much sway in how we live our daily lives.
The place to start, where we begin to work together rather than to tear each other apart, is right in our own neighbourhoods.
Having empathy and understanding means being able to hold two thoughts in one’s mind simultaneously. We need to be able to look at acts that threaten our values and rights in a balanced fashion. This means that those who commit crimes, regardless of the motivation, need to be held responsible for their actions. If their actions were compelled by socio-economic or psychological problems, their actions still endangered, or damaged property owned by another person, and there needs to be some justice done to mitigate that crime. We can talk about how we can help that bad actor to change their life path AFTER we address the damage that they have done to our society through their bad actions. No one is entitled to ‘more justice’ than the next person. Justice demands balance.
Can we really be living in a time when we’re addressing issues like the #MeToo movement, but simultaneously saying “Kids will be Kids… Boys will be Boys” and allowing them to engage in destructive and bullying patterns that will transition with them from childhood to adulthood?
Children who are indulged when they engage in pranking, bullying neighbours, or hurting animals are just kids in training for a future where they believe that bullying women, children, minorities and animals are fair game.
It may be difficult to look at the young, shining face of a child or teen and find them guilty of harming others by what seems to be mere childish pranks, but for every kid that gleefully ran up to a door and rang the bell at midnight, there’s an adult who has spent hours finally getting a child to sleep; a senior suffering from a painful illness who just found a comfy spot in their bed; a beloved pet jolted from rest and into defensive mode at a sound in the night.
We shape our future society by what we teach our kids, and how we encourage them to engage with others. If we teach them to respect the needs, values and rights of others, we get a society we all enjoy. But if we allow our children and each other to selfishly demand that our rights and needs be given precedence over that of others, we choose a path of anger and chaos, and a society where we run the chance of people in positions of power taking away our rights, since we clearly aren’t able to handle them for ourselves.
I’ll just put it out there .. I hate moving. I like looking at other houses that are staged to sell, and imagining what it would be like to live there. I like watching DIY experts slap $40 worth of paint onto walls, transform a wood pallet into a piece of luxurious furniture, and change a blah room into a stunning piece of art. In the past, I myself have spent major dollars and worked insanely long hours, hoping to make a sow’s ear into a silk purse. DIY porn. It’s a thing.
But that was then, and this is my aching back now. And here we go again.
I am already dreading the physical work required to get out of one nest, move to another, and then transform a house into a home. Expect no renovation/decoration miracles from me until I catch my breath. Maybe not even then, if my breath’s run far enough away from me. It’s enough to know that I’m going to have to, for the third time in 5 years, tidy, declutter, and pack up my stuff, and then get it from point a to point B reasonably intact, and at a realistic cost financially, mentally, and physically.
Not that that ever happens. It’s always a dog’s breakfast. I’m still discovering things that went missing in the last two moves, misplaced or disappeared into the ozone. Four years after finding the bungalow we’re in right now, I’m still trying to sort the stuff that I was supposed to downsize the last time we danced this house moving polka.
Most major cities have gone real-estate mad, and prices have risen astronomically. I would hazard a guess that the nouveau riche of the 2010s and 20s are the agents that broker the multi-million-dollar deals. Those commissions are lush. Crazy times, when ratty, post-war bungalows, that cost about $10K when built in the 50s, now regularly go for well over a million dollars.
The owners might make out like bandits, but they’ll usually also find themselves priced out of staying in the market, unless they’re willing to move out of the big cities and into the hinterlands. It’s getting so that even the furthest flung of hamlets have million-dollar sale stars in their eyes.
That being said, after selling our home in 2016, we entered the rental market with much trepidation, and had many not very fun adventures in Rental Land. We found this little place in 2017, and have been happy with the location. But our landlord has decided to downsize his portfolio, and take over this property as his own, in the Spring.
That is, of course, his right. It is, however, our problem, and after much deliberation, we’ve decided we don’t want to be at the mercy of landlords ever again. We’re gonna put our toesies back into the real estate market, and try to find a little place where we can lay back and enjoy our retirement years.
It’s crazy. I’m already having trouble sleeping, my mind racing with all the things I have to deal with. We’ve got our mover set, and I have an idea of the size of our moving van, which helps in making decisions on large items … heavier items will be staying behind, if we can’t justify the expense of moving them. Wanna buy a treadmill?
Endless lists are being made. Although we’re months away from actually moving, the house already looks like the cover of a House Horrible Magazine. Each day I wake, still tired from the tossing and turning of the night before, and try and tackle another area that must be sorted, dispersed and packed, while leaving enough necessary items out for our use between now and when we leave. AND second guessing myself on whether this might be the time to decide that we don’t need three large pots, but what if I have to cook both corn on the cob AND pasta at the same time, while making a sauce?
Decisions, decisions, and more decisions. This work is not for the nervous, the anxious, the easily stressed.
I have always had a need to hang on to things, ‘just in case’. And those ‘just in case’ emergencies happen just often enough to convince me that hanging on to elastic bands, thumb tacks, used balloons, and broken rulers, all of which might be urgent requirements in the future, should not be discarded.
But I’m really, really, trying this time – to let things go, to look forward to a sleek, uncluttered future. And I have some ideas for how to get from here to there. I just hope these ideas are less stalling tactics, and more the right way to get around my reluctance to let go of things that still feel too valuable to pass on. My fear is always that I risk not having something when it’s actually needed, not being able to replace an important tool, or not having the funds to re-purchase an item if the need arose.
Each of the recent moves has been an opportunity to trim down the chains of ‘stuff’ I’ve worn like Marley’s Ghost for pretty much all of my life. Few of these chains, “made of cash boxes, padlocks, ledgers, deeds,” are actually of much value, except in sentiment, and in what the items represent to me, emotionally.
Like Marley, I ‘forged these chains in life.’
“Dickens clarifies that these are the “chains (he) forged in life”, reinforcing the idea that he is suffering due to his own actions. The fact Marley has clearly caused his own suffering would perhaps cause the reader to view his character unsympathetically. This lack of sympathy is furthered by the animalistic imagery used by Dickens to describe the chain which is “long, and wound about him like a tail”.
Marley’s Ghost – a character profile
In my case, I began forging these chains when I was about 10 or 11 years old. My parents split up, and my mother, sister and I fled Alberta for Montreal with little more than the clothing on our backs, and a small trunk of sentimental items. Leaving behind all that had been important to me up until that point in my life made me cling all the harder to the things that came my way in the succeeding years.
In 1976, I again fled a province, this time leaving Quebec behind for Toronto, and abandoning all that I had accumulated in the proceeding years. I repeated this pattern a few times, over my adult life, and each time, it became harder to let go of things that I had gathered.
When we sold our house in 2016, I did the most drastic purge of my life, but still had a house full of stuff, as well as an 8 x 10 storage unit, stacked floor to ceiling with the trash and treasures left behind by my father, mother and sister who have predeceased me, and the remnants of the collectible business I’d had in the early 2000s. That unit, too, was eventually disbursed, the treasures within mostly donated to charities that had need of the items.
And now, here we go again. Since we moved into this place in 2017, I’ve had to buy six bookshelves to try and contain a portion of the books that overflow every room, and lurk in every corner. These will all have to be sorted, and pared down to just the reference tomes I want to keep. The books I must part with will go to the Little Free Libraries in my neighbourhood.
I have been working on a new project that involves crafts, and all of those bits and pieces that I’ve already amassed will have to be carefully stored until I have a space to spread out the goodies, and work my magic upon them.
In this last month, I’ve also been interviewing clients of local food banks, for a project I was hired to do. One of the questions that I would ask each respondent was what non-food item they’d like to receive regularly. Some of the answers matched up with items that I have in my kitchen and bathroom hoards; I’ve begun sorting those little things, like soaps, shampoos, razors, cleaning products, makeup and hygiene products, and am assigning what I’m collecting to the people who run these food banks, for distribution to those that need these things.
Winter’s also a good time to collect up any extra woollies, hats, scarfs, gloves, warm socks, boots and the like, to help out those people who will be looking for warm clothes as the weather changes. Food banks are always looking for donations, as are charitable foundations that clothe refugees and immigrants.
I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever need a full stage wardrobe again, so some lucky charities are about to receive some very fancy stage tops and shoes; I get such a kick out of seeing some of my wilder stage items on display, when I later visit the charities that received my pretty possessions.
I always find it easier to let go of the things that I’ve collected when I know – or at least, have reason to believe – that these goods will go to people who will appreciate them.
Sorting and discarding these things now, in preparation for this move, is a lot of work, but it also feels ‘right. At some point in the future, my husband and/or children will have to deal with all of this ‘stuff’ if I haven’t, and I’ve never wanted to leave a big mess behind for others to deal with.
“The meaning of life is having a place to keep your stuff.”George Carlin
While it may seem morbid, in truth, I’ve always been the person that had to clean up the ‘stuff’ that my family members have left behind, and it’s a very hard thing to grapple with, while also dealing with the passing of a loved one. That kind of emotional baggage can leave one depressed for years. I know those losses contributed to an ongoing depression that I’ve struggled with for decades.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but for my kids, most of my stuff is trash that they don’t need or want to have to deal with. They don’t want my junk, and I don’t want them to have to tidy it away. My goal is to eliminate the need for them to have to deal with too much of my left-over junk some day. One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is to ease their burdens when they’re dealing with their own emotions.
Conversely, what’s trash to them, is my treasure, and now I get to pack it all up again, and move it to some other place that will hold my ‘stuff’.
Yep, here we go again, taking that deep breath and preparing to take a giant step outside our comfort zones. Big wheel keeps on turning ….
If you had told me, twenty years ago, that this last decade would be one of the most terrifying/interesting/instructive/growth inducing periods of my entire life to date, I’d have laughed uproariously, and then kicked you out of the room.
And yet – here we are. Whether you have been glued to media – either social or terrestrial – or have simply been putting one foot in front of the other for the last ten years, you’ve been buffeted by the winds of change like never before. Or perhaps, like we’ve not seen since the sixties.
If you were around when the ‘youthquake’ hit in 1964, you’ll remember the ripples that spread mere hours after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night television show. Overnight, what had come before was overturned, and those that weren’t ‘hip’ to what they’d seen took out their shovels and began digging the Generation Gap that would divide the world into those that ‘got it’ and those who would try and hold back the tsunami of change.
As Michael Nesmith put it in his terrific autobiography, Infinite Tuesday:
“It was unthinkable to everyone who had just fought World War II that the music, the fashions, the designs, the whole cultural imperative of the victorious warriors would be torn down by their kids as if it were ugly curtains in the den. Armed with originality and intention, the youth of America would take off their clothes, ties them in knots, and toss them into vats of dye with all the colours of the rainbow, then got skinny-dipping and make love while high on grass and LSD. Put any four in a room and they would start bands like the Grateful Dead. The generation gap was deep enough that one could die from falling into it.
The early rock and roll of the 1950s was subsumed and transformed by the rock and roll of the 1960s. How could this be? I asked a friend of mine at the time why he thought the Beatles had affected such a profound changed. He answered in one word: hair. It was a flip remark, but probably truer than either of us know. It shows how little anyone understood what had taken over.
Many said it was the music. Many said it was the new drugs. Many said it was the new art. Many said it was television. Most said it was all of the above. Certainly, these forces all came together to create The Monkees.”
Something similar, though not nearly as edifying, happened in the mid 2010s. While the catalyst may have been Trump, the move towards a more militaristic society with autocratic governance in the United States had been creeping forward since Americans had had the audacity to elect a black man to the presidency, not once, but twice.
Someone was going to have to pay for that overturning of American history. Trump just came along at exactly the right time to push the already ripe for discontent, economically frustrated, closeted racists into joining a new cult revolving around his personality, that he would attempt to turn into a dictatorship within four years.
In 2016, Robert Kagan of the Washington Post, wrote:
“What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger.
…. What he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the ‘mobocracy.”
Where the Beatles had had magnificent hair, trump had an orange swirled haystack, but his trademark MAGA hats would hide his, and his aging supporters, lack of hirsute elegance. The Beatles brought laughter and intelligence to their interviews; from the beginning, trump’s interviews were laden with malapropisms, garbled slogans, and word salad. The Beatles wanted everyone to love everyone; trump brought the hate, channelling all of his supporters economic and political anxiety into a burning hatred of anyone that didn’t look and think exactly like he and his fan club did.
A broken mirror image, but with nearly the same outcome. Trump had a huge effect on society, but other factors were in play as well.
Prior to 2010, cell phones were gaining in importance, but by 2019, only about 4% of the population did not own a phone.
Cell phones changed more than how we communicated with each other; they changed how people dated, as online dating became the primary way to meet a new partner. Apps that automated your cell phone made the remote control of your home’s lighting, media and security became common place.
The improvements made to those phones also allowed other societal changes; while MTV had first launched new musical acts, now it was YouTube and Vine that propelled the viral videos that made new stars overnight. YouTube and a profusion of specialty channels, also viewable on your phone, led many to ‘cut the cord’ and abandon their terrestrial TV and cable usage.
So much has changed, and yet we’ve barely noticed, as we have become more dependent on our social media, “Pictures, or it didn’t happen;” our new reliance on rebooted dramas or cartoon superheroes to populate our movie screens; a wide acceptance of the once verboten, but now legalized pot in our homes, and the growth of services like Uber Eats to call on when the munchies attack.
Canada legalized same sex marriage in 2005, and the United States finally did the same in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that statewide bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. That lead to members of the LGBTQ+ community, along with those that identified as pansexual, transgender, and non-binary to be more comfortable and visible in society.
The rise of the gig economy, along with a relaxing of work constrictions in the white-collar world, lead to a confusing place where would be entrepreneurs learned that working from home or as a contractor for Lyft or Uber meant never actually being ‘off the clock.’ With wi fi, telecommuting, or a ‘side hustle,’ people could work after hours, on weekends, and on their holidays, at least until they finally collapsed from overwork.
And, of course, Facebook morphed into an arm of the right wing, choosing to align with the most contentious of messaging, rewarding all those treasonous ‘likes’ with more exposure, and allowing gangs advocating hate and violence to be exposed to the most viewers possible within the network.
But, saddest of all, we broke politics. Where once it was possible to hope for hands across the aisle on important, national issues, partisan divide on basic issues like race, immigration, social services, and democracy are deeper than ever before. The right thinks the left is insane; the left thinks the right are nuts. You can’t successfully run a country with that kind of animosity.
For every bit of progress gained, there’s been enormous steps back, particularly in the U.S., but also here in Canada, where so many aspire to the same sort of politicking.
To add even more angst to the trump years, the pandemic came into play in 2020 and had a chilling effect on society and the economy. There will be long term consequences to the planet from the ‘pause’, and not just in terms of overall health.
Outbreaks are like black holes; all resources and all expertises are drawn into its maw. While we deal with the problem at hand, other agendas, like education, child survival, and even basic primary healthcare services are interrupted. Kids due for their measles and mumps jabs might fall between the cracks, as might seniors, who typically see their doctors more often as diseases of the elderly progress.
How we work has been forever changed. It’s unlikely big companies will return to leasing large office spaces for their employees to do the things they can do as well, if not better, at home. That will change those large business buildings in the heart of the city; will they remain empty, or be converted to more necessary uses?
Schooling from home has been a double-edged sword. Kids thrive on communicating and getting to know other people. Many kids flee to school for some of their basic needs, like food, and sometimes psychological aid. But for many kids, working from home, at their own speed, has actually enhanced their connections with their families, and allowed the student to learn at their own pace.
Dealing with a deadly pandemic, while trying to right the economic vehicle is tricky, and not a job for the faint of heart. Watching Biden attempt to deal with all of the current societal ‘fires’ in his nation, while also respecting that ignoring COVID and its impact could destroy all they have worked for, has been a spectacle, rather like watching a world class juggler. The more items he’s given to juggle, the likelier that some will fall. But eventually, all the agendas will be back in his hands and moving smoothly.
I contend this last decade has been the most significant since the 60s. We’ve been forcibly required to acknowledge that inequality is rampant in our societies. It has become clear that those with wealth are the most likely to survive, assuming they take advantage of the healthcare and vaccines available.
We have learned that our essential workers are those most likely to make the least money, and to be the most likely to be exposed to the virus. It’s the people who had to keep working, relying on a daily wage, or those who live in crowded housing, that paid the highest price.
A lot of those minimum wage workers have learned that the small amount of pay they received for doing a necessary work was just not enough to warrant their continued labour or loyalty. Many of those workers used the pandemic down time to gear up for a change of career. It will take a few years for there to be people needy enough to queue up for low paying jobs with little future.
Around the globe, people in third world countries often are without access to clean water and soap, or able to enforce social distancing, and those countries are even less likely to be receiving the vaccines, or care when ill. In the case of forcibly displaced populations, like the Haitians fleeing their politics, or the highly vulnerable East Africans, the pandemic is just on more incredible challenge, which they will experience in overcrowded and under-resourced refugee camps, if they’re lucky enough to find themselves there.
We have learned that we don’t need to buy so much ‘stuff’, but that it’s often fun to do so anyway. We’ve made trillionaires out of billionaires. We’ve seen some of the world’s wealthiest people push to the head of the vaccine line, and then use their largely untaxed dollars to build rockets meant for joyriding millionaires, but ultimately turned into machinery for the delivery of arms to other nations around the world.
Some parts of the economy were killed, and will never return, just as the once ubiquitous buggy whip companies saw their day come and go.
Now, in September 2021, Kagan returns to the subject of trump, his cult, and fascism, and makes these predictions:
“The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial…
The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests? Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have…
Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate.”
It’s been an interesting decade … and it ain’t over yet ….
Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
FACEBOOK! If you’ve been following my Facebook antics – or lack thereof, as I have sat banished and abandoned in Facebook solitary for the better part of the last six months – I am happy to report that I have been allowed to return to the site. Well, for the moment, anyway. I’m already getting warnings for doing really horrible things like posting links to how to determine if you might be addicted to social media.
If you’re using any social media on a daily basis, you probably are addicted, whether you realize it or not. Seeing those ‘likes’ on your posts are like hearing the cha-ching of a slot machine paying off, or the crinkle of a bag of potato chips; betchya can’t eat just one.
All that time in solitary was a very effective cold turkey method; I’m pretty much weaned off Facebook now, and intend to use it primarily for my business needs. That’s assuming the company doesn’t find some pretext for booting me off, just because they can.
(yes, there IS a cold turkey app – getcoldturkey.com. It bills itself as “the toughest website blocker on the internet,” designed for studying or focusing on work. It will block distractions like social media, games, apps, YouTube, or even the entire Internet. There goes your last excuse for finally writing the Great Canadian Novel/Song/App.)
Wrote this on Saturday to let the ‘FB Friends of Roxanne’ know what I’ve been up to.
“I’m poking my nose up to say ‘hi’ and to thank those of you who’ve posted messages of encouragement during my last 30 days in FB solitary. I missed you too. But, quite honestly, don’t expect me to be around here much. I can’t live in a gulag, and that’s what FB has become, sadly, for some of those voices that don’t just talk about the weather and post pics of their dinner and/or pets. I can’t tolerate that anymore. My every word is being scrutinized by either an out of control and unsupervised algorithm or malicious observers who get joy in reporting people with whom they disagree. That ain’t what I call fun. I’m too old and tired to fight anymore. You win, Facebook. I’ll shut up. At least when I’m on here.
Little by little, Facebook has moved the needle to the right, suspending and banning liberal voices, while encouraging and profiting from those who seek to overturn laws like Roe v Wade in the U.S., and to gather supporters for ‘protests’ that seek to overturn democracy.
But most people who still call FB ‘home’ are boomers. The kids left long ago, for Instagram, TikTok, or any one of a dozen newer and more social social media sites.
Boomers, on the other hand, are a little nervous about picking up and moving to another social media site; it’s just too much work. It’s a bit like trying to find a new place to live when you’re in your sixties – what you’re really trying to find is a place where people will leave you alone until you die. You can put up with a lot, if they’ll just leave you alone, and not make you confront your hoard, and heaven forbid, make you pack up all your baggage and move it to some other location.
While Facebook’s move to encourage and abet the spread of right-wing misinformation hasn’t gone unnoticed, nothing’s been done. Congress, old and out of touch with tech, simply pretends they understand Zuckerberg’s explanations, excuses, and promises to change and improve.
And like the sad victims of any kind of abuse, they swallow his words, and really believe that he’ll change. THIS time.
But, here’s the thing – he won’t. With all the money in the world, he’s simply too greedy to stop doing what buys him one more mansion or airplane. He’ll keep doing what he’s doing until the next time a Republican party gets into power, at which point, they’ll shut him (and Twitter) down aggressively and with malice, for denying their beloved leader a platform.
Until then, Facebook will continue along their merry way, warping the minds of kids, and supporting acts of domestic terrorism and violence.
Same as it ever was.”
Now about that election ….
VOTERS! They would like us to believe that they are intelligent, well read, and rational. I so wish that were true.
Most are not. They’re just not. They rail against System A until they get System B, at which point they whine and complain about System B until, inevitably, System A is returned to power, and we start the whole mess all over again. In the unlikely event that System C should win, proponents of both Systems A and B will make the leader’s life a living hell, and prevent System C from actually accomplishing anything worthwhile during their time in power, with the result that System C’s party will likely be shut out from getting another whack at governing for several decades.
And the losers are never any of the Systems; it’s always the voters. The ones that would like us to believe that they are intelligent, well read, and rational. Even when they’re not.
With that said – here we go again. It’s the election no one wanted, at a time when the precautions necessary to protect voters from COVID-19 are guaranteed to make the process as uncomfortable, maddening, and irritating as possible.
I’m working this one as a Poll Supervisor. Which means that for about 16 hours tomorrow I will be supervising and filling in for Information Officers, Registration Officers, and Deputy Returning Officers, all of whom will also be working through a very long 16 hour or more day.
Most of the people working will have had about four hours of training. Many will have never worked at a polling station before. Few will be ‘political junkies,’ and none will be allowed to wax political during the day. In fact, they’d be booted out of the station were they to do so.
People working at polling stations must maintain neutrality; we’re not allowed to wear any clothing in the colours that the political parties claim. That means no red, blue, green, orange or purple is to be seen (although blue jeans are okay.) No political buttons, no banners, or posters for any party are allowed in the room.
Elections Canada sets out certain standards that have to be maintained throughout the course of an election. The voter’s privacy, and the secrecy of the vote are time honoured precepts. Accessibility needs must be met, and all voters have the right to interact with poll officers in either of our official languages.
Health and Safety has always been a major concern, but this year, it’s changed the way a lot of things are done. For one thing, every polling station has to have a separate entrance and exit. Social distancing will be maintained, and there’s a strict, “No Mask, No Vote” rule in place. There will be no exemptions. Contact tracing will also be in play. I am really, really hoping that this does not prompt fanatics to add to what will undoubtedly be a challenge for many voters with protests or arguments with polling officers.
I’ve read complaints levelled against the slowness of the voting process during advanced voting days. I wish I could assure voters that this won’t happen on Monday, but I can’t. COVID-19 safety regulations have to be followed, and that’s slowing things down, but also, there’s been a change to what happens when you’re finally in front of the deputy returning officer, and ready to vote. In the past, there would have been two people at that desk, one doing the paperwork, and the other preparing your ballot. Under COVID laws, there is just one person doing both of those jobs. So please be patient.
There’s a lot of protocols in place for a safe and secure election. I consider Canada a beacon of sanity compared to the chaos that we see of voting in the United States. Our nationwide protocols are secure. We use the same electoral protocols right across the board, coast to coast, and, thru years of trial and error, we have created a system in which every Canadian can be assured that procedures are being properly followed, and that, at the end of the day, a winner is legally declared.
This Monday, September 20th is the day when Canadians all across the nation are asked to do their civic duty and vote for representatives and political parties that we hope will have the intelligence, strength, compassion, and leadership ability to guide us through what is hopefully the end of the pandemic, and into the economic recovery that will emerge after this healthcare crisis.
It’s not a time to hold on to petty grudges, or to ‘stick it’ to the people who, just like you, are fallible and capable of making mistakes. Voting is not just a civic duty, it’s a gift we give our children and our future – if we do it right.
Let’s be the example of how well a strong democracy works when the people actually want everyone in their entire country to succeed, now, and in the future.