My City Was Gone


“Living just enough, just enough, for the city.”

The Big Cities of the past weren’t for everyone. In the hardscrabble days when I was growing up in Montreal or in Toronto, a city rat could always make ends meet, somehow, some way. There was always that neighbourhood where you could find a deal, that part of town where, while it might not be pretty, but, be it ever so humble, you could find a place to crash if you were short of dough. Or a place to score if you wanted to get high. You might not have a Rolex, but you could find a knockoff for a couple of bucks. k market 1976

When you’re really hungry, a bag of smelts tastes like caviar. And back then, the smaller, inner city groceries, run mostly by the children of immigrants, could always be counted on as somewhere to find something cheap and cheerful to feed the belly of the hungry.

 

 

But getting older often means learning the hard way that the city you once knew is gone forever, for good or for ill. Cities change, landmarks disappear, and the people’s needs change. Progress seeks to whitewash the reality of the poverty and the needy that always lurk in a big city’s depths. Your need to find a little corner of the metropolis to call your own won’t necessarily be fulfilled when you most need it, even if you’re willing to bend to nearly breaking point, just to stay where you’ve lived most of your life.

Life in the big city was never gonna be easy for everybody, but for those of us who came here chasing a dream, there was a time when it was easier to make it work. These days, the city rats have to give way to the up and coming high tech mice, who have the wherewithal to pay the big rents, the big mortgages, and who have enough of the ready to enjoy the best of the city that wants to be world class.

for sale signsWhen we sold our home in 2016, we didn’t worry about where we’d land up next. Surely we’d come up roses on a nice, new place to rent, someplace where we could keep our ‘stuff’ and exist comfortably for the foreseeable future.

But our search was far more difficult that we’d thought, and we didn’t find a cubby hole to curl up in straight away – there were a lot of twists and turns on the journey. And once here, the drawbacks of this particular rental surfaced, meaning that this isn’t where we’ll be staying long-term either.

But where we were lucky was in having a good credit rating, reasonably good health, and a couple of bucks in the bank. Not that any of that guarantees you’ll find a decent living space, but when you put them all together, it will help make the search just a little less frustrating.

There are several reasons why living in the bigger cities of North America has become harder for the lower to middle class. We’ve lived through decades of foolish governments who hung on to power by failing to increase taxes enough to keep the city running. Our infrastructure has been strained to it’s limits without the injections of cash needed to keep the trains going, or the hospitals able to handle an aging society.

Those same governments, as a rule, also tended to side with commercial leasing entities over renters, allowing businesses to take huge tax write offs on over priced properties that could stand vacant for months and even years, until a lessee with big dollars took occupation.

Real estate prices have soared in the last decade, until even the tiniest, most rundown, residential property in the city starts at a million dollars, and goes up into the stratosphere from there. Real estate agents are becoming the nouveau riche. Who can afford to buy those properties?

And yet the ‘for sale’ signs go up, and in days, come down, with the replacement sign reading, ‘sold over asking.’ How many of these buyers are house poor, I wonder? And how will they pay the overblown mortgage should one half of a couple lose their jobs or become ill?

straight outta scarboroughGentrification has been excising the more interesting parts of the city for at least the last thirty years. Within another three to five years, Yonge Street south of Bloor will be as nondescript as a Scarborough mall, packed with chain stores, fast food franchises, Starbucks, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on every corner.

If I wanted Scarborough drab .. I’d go to Scarborough. “Cleaning up” Yonge street really means erasing our sense of history and place, and of sanding down the grit of People City, leaving behind the sort of bland, generic playground that is fit only for the children of the very wealthy.

dying from exposureI know that this is no longer the city that I came to conquer back in 1976; there are new generations coming up behind me, young and hungry, and eager to prove themselves in their fields.

But how are they to survive, when those with the ability to raise them up, choose instead to shackle these young spirits with internships and exposure? Where exactly are they to find the bootstraps these strugglers are supposed to pull up?

And most importantly… where are these young tyros supposed to live? And how are they to eat? When living is reduced to just surviving, there’s little time or will to create.

Once upon a time, those who yearned to enjoy and participate in Canada’s culture flocked to Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver, and took their chances, clawing their way to success, or falling by the wayside. But international big money has taken that option out of the equation.

If you didn’t buy real estate twenty years ago, you’re going to have to be in rarefied company to be able to afford to buy today. Even your ability to rent in a ‘better area’ of the metropolises is an iffy proposition.

Globalization, gentrification … we’re moving from the end of the industrial age into the fullness of the digital, high tech world. And our cities reflect that change, just as at one point they reflected the scions who traveled in horse and buggy.

The cities have begun to depend upon video, cellular communications, artificial intelligence, and eventually, a robotics industry that will force countries to accept a basic income that will keep the lower and middle class in just enough financial stability to stay alive … though that life may not be what many would have considered livable even a decade or two ago. The digital elite will own the residences; the rest of us will vie for the privilege of renting.

tent cities 2018And those who fall between the cracks will live in the tent cities that are now springing up to house the homeless.

The cities, as we knew them, are changing. Some cities, like San Francisco and New York, are already gone. and it could be argued that Vancouver is next, with Toronto not far behind.

As much as we may yearn to keep this from happening, globalization is inevitable, and as unstoppable as a tidal wave.

And, for many, that wave is washing away the possibility of aging in place in the Big City.

 

It Was 20 Years Ago Today


When you are smack dab in the middle of massive change, it’s nearly impossible to parse what is going on all around you.

hippies love not warBaby boomers have been there a few times. The chaos of the sixties, when the world suddenly went from belonging to your parents, to belonging to you and your like-minded friends – remember that?

That same sort of massive overturning of the status quo happened again around 1998, and most of us just rolled with it, not realizing how irrevocably our world was about to change. Once again, the world was being handed over to a new generation, and those who wanted to keep current, were about to be sent back to school or risk being considered a dinosaur.

tech change computers

A few weeks ago, a Facebook buddy, Walter Frith, posted something that I can’t stop mulling over in my mind … how is it that I lived in the middle of a complete technological upheaval, and never felt so much as a tremor?

Walter wrote, ” I’m watching the first season of The West Wing again for the zillionth time and having begun in the 20th century, it’s a hoot seeing the occasional typewriter, enormous video cameras, referencing the Encyclopedia Britannica with no mention of smartphones, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Twitter, all of which had not been invented yet. Watching a political drama series without ANY reference to social media seems almost absurd now but the times were what they were back then, 19 years to be exact.”

… mind … blown …..

I was actually working in tech back then – first at Oracle, then as a writer and sales person for the Canadian rags Toronto Computes, then The Computer Paper, and finally We Compute!

old cell phonesFrom Parade Magazine:
The Evolution of the Cell Phone
• 1973 – The first cell phone. The phone Martin Cooper designed for Motorola weighed 2.5 pounds and had a battery life of 20 minutes.
• 1983 – Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. …
• 1984 – The Nokia Mobira Talkman. …
• 1995 – The Motorola StarTAC. …
• 1996 – The Nokia 8110. …
• 1998 – The Nokia 5110. …
• 2004 – Motorola Razr. …
• 2007 – The iPhone.

I had a cell phone in the late eighties, early nineties, but it was enormous, and cost hundreds of dollars a month to service. Very few people, beyond those who could write it off as a business expense, bothered with cell phones back then.

We moved to Scarborough in 1998, and I found a new career selling collectibles on eBay (which had debuted in 1995.) Most of my transactions were done by cheque or money order, until PayPal launched in 1999, and forever changed international commerce.

There was no Wikipedia prior to 2001, and though it may feel like you’ve always been on Facebook, that site launched in 2004, eventually burying MySpace, which had launched in 2003.

Youtube came along in 2005, and Twitter arrived in 2006. Mixtapes were effectively put out to pasture when Spotify debuted in North America in 2011.

And the smartphones .. ohhhh the smartphones! It was 2007 before we began arguing over which iteration of LG, Samsung or iPhone was best. Can you imagine that? In only eleven years, trillions of dollars have been generated for an industry that didn’t even exist before 1973.

It’s hard to envisage how we lived prior to all of this tech. Cast your mind back to 9/11, for instance. At that point, with almost no one being on any form of social media, the North American phone network became impassable in hours, as we all tried to connect with people who might have been affected by the tragedy.

The cell phone changed our life. The smart phone put an incredibly powerful computer into our pockets and purses. And most of us can’t envision leaving the house without that lifeline.

You know what else didn’t exist, even ten years ago? The iPad (2010,) and tablets in general. Uber (2009) and Lyft (2012,) AirBnB (2007,) Pinterest (2010,) 4Square (2012,) Instagram (2010,) and KickStarter (2009.)

And that’s just a few of the apps we believe we can longer live without .. and we have no idea what leaps and bounds of thought and tech might be coming down the pipeline to blow our minds in the 2020s.

There’s only one way that this relentless tech explosion could feasibly be stopped – if someone, a powerful person, so out of touch, so narcissistic and so megalomaniac, believed that it was within his right to take over the heart of current tech – the cell phone – and bend it to his needs.

That would be a bridge too far, I believe, and might even cause those who rely on the convenience of this ‘computer in their pocket,’ to opt out … to reject the very instrument that has become their lifeline to the rest of the world.trump on cell

But that would never happen .. right?

 

oh oh ….

 

 

 

HEY! Give Me Back My Hour!


Happy 100th birthday to a really dumb concept.

We can thank the railroad companies of the world for the entire idea of time zones, which were basically established in the late 19th century in order to get the trains to run on some sort of consistent time. Prior to that, people just looked up at the sun to know what time it was. And at night, it was dark, so they didn’t need much more than a vague idea of the time. railroad workers. jpg

First time zones, and then along came the concept of standard time, and suddenly we needed alarm clocks in order to get to school or work Oh yeah, the Industrial Age was a slave driver.

And here’s the thing – the railroads were such an enormous economic engine, all around the planet, that the replacement of sun time with standard time was enacted with no legislative backing, and very little public resistance.

daylight savingWhen it came time to mess around with the time zones we’d landed up with, proponents of a ‘daylight saving’ bank pushed those who believed moving our clocks ahead by an hour during the months with the most sunshine, would reduce energy consumption and encourage people to get out and do things outdoors.

Well, they were partly right.

Moving the clocks ahead DID influence our behaviour. When the days are longer, later sunsets dramatically increase participation in after school sports programs, and increase paid attendance at pro sports events. Golf ball sales in 1918 increased by 20 percent. In fact, the entire golf industry was well served by daylight saving, with each DST month worth mega millions in additional sales and greens fees.

But energy savings? Not so much. In fact, studies have proven that North Americans use more domestic electricity when they are in daylight saving mode than when they are out. And, yes, they’re going to the park at night, but they’re driving there, so there’s no decrease in gasoline consumption.

daylight saving NativeWe also didn’t have a lot of info, back then, on what messing around with our brain’s sense of time could do, and how changes impacting our sleep could do real harm to our society. We certainly know a lot more about that now.

It was on March 18, 1918 that American President Woodrow Wilson signed the Calder Act, requiring Americans to set their clocks to standard time. And less than two weeks later, on March 31, 1918, the nation’s first experiment with daylight saving began.

And was repealed within a year.

However, many of the larger American cities, including New York City, were setting their own daylight saving policies, apparently without requiring or asking permission of their government to do so. In 1920, it appears that it was the Chamber of Commerce that decided these matters.

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen an increase in sales of everything from golf balls to summer fashion? By 1965, pretty much all of the states had a daylight saving program in effect. And have continued to practice that ‘savings’ ever since.

” There was a time US municipalities could choose whether or not to observe daylight saving. Then, as technology integrated different local economies, differing time changes and zones caused chaos and confusion. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which required whole states to fully commit to daylight saving.

States have the option of opting out, so long as the whole state stays on the same time. Arizona and Hawaii, for instance, don’t observe daylight saving. Florida is doing something different, in wishing to be on DST permanently, which requires congressional approval.”

Florida lawmakers are considering a “Sunshine Protection Act,” which would make daylight saving a year round reality.

By contrast, consider an experiment done in Queensland, Australia. After a three year trial of pushing their clocks ahead one hour during the summer months, the people had a referendum on the question, “Are you in favour of daylight savings?”

While there were many who argued that later daylight hours in the summer would be beneficial for both economic and public health, in the end the voters narrowly chose to abandon the practice, 54.5% to 45.5%.

The plain truth about daylight saving is that it was never about energy savings, health, or giving farmers an extra hour of light to work the farm.

It was always about corporations lobbying to sell more stuff. There are no energy savings. But we spend more money in those long summer evenings. The big winners during daylight saving are the candy lobby, the barbecue lobby, and the golf ball lobby.

Fore!

Meanwhile, sleep deprivation experiments run on healthy people prove that less sleep leads to slower reaction times and an inability to handle tasks that require concentration.

“There’s some literature showing that there are increases in accidents, workplace, motor-vehicle accidents, and the severity of them is greater following the time change. And there research showing that even a small amount of sleep restriction, an hour or two, can have an impact on your ability to drive, and things like that. “

There’s a movement going on that wants to end the daylight saving programs all over the U.S. Lives are a lot more flexible now, and we tend to set our own schedules, morphing the hours we spend at work and play to fit what works for ourselves and our particular group of friends. We don’t do ‘event TV,’ anymore, we watch it when we feel like it. Our world is 24/7.

So, if we are no longer slaves to ‘official time,’ why change it twice a year? The Monday after the clock springs forward is notorious for having more car accidents, heart attacks, and the general grumpiness of sleepy people. Time to stop that artificial construct, and maybe save a few pedestrians lives …

 

 

 

******************************************************

Being apolitical, not having the need to follow the politics of your own country and others, is a privilege. It may not seem so, but the very fact that your life and identity does not hinge on the whims and laws of those in power, is a very big privilege denied to many.

Ai WeiWei, a Chinese artist and political activist, has lead an interesting life, most often at odds with authorities. His latest project is the documentary, Human Flow.

Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.”

The trailer images made me weep. Even as countries harden their borders and hearts, the stream of refugees continues. This film should upset you, and make you think. It is only by the grace of your current place and status that you are not one of those fleeing,

 

 

 

*********************************

seagulls pulling my girls Wilhelm photography

And now, a delightful palate cleanser! I just discovered this wildly entertaining family, lead by John Wilhelm, an IT Director at a Swiss University.

 

pregnant mama john-wilhelm

The family – mother, father, three daughters and a son – are the subjects of Wilhelm’s surreal and imaginative photo manipulations.

 

beaver child john-wilhelm

It is a world of fantasy and imagination …

 

 

mouse trap john-wilhelm

“Due to the fact that it’s more an obsession than plain passion I call myself a photoholic.” John Wilhelm.

 

Discover more of his wonderful art on Facebook at tuasmalou.ch, or visit his website for even more amazing images!   http://www.johnwilhelm.ch/

 

To Boldly Go …


Thintelligence: “The state of mind where a person does something without considering the consequences. The idea may seem brilliant at first, but the after-affects usually prove to be deadly. This phrase was invented by Michael Crichton in his 1990 book Jurassic Park.

JurassicPark glasses

“They don’t have intelligence. They have what I call ‘thintelligence.’ They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and call it ‘being focused.’ They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences.”

While it might be possible to reanimate a dinosaur from it’s DNA, what real purpose would that serve in a world where a dinosaur would be just another endangered species?

Most of us are eager to jump on hot new technologies that promise to improve how we experience our lives, while rarely considering what the lasting effect might be on current technologies. The invention of the car put an end to all of the industries previously surrounding the care and comfort of horse drawn carriages. obsolete techDigital photography killed most of the industries that provided material to those who preferred film. Cassettes replaced vinyl, and then were themselves replaced by CDs.

If it’s new, it’s cool, and we can afford it … we want it. Now.

This is the world we have created, bit by bit, as we embrace what science and technology have helped to provide for our entertainment.

Without realizing it, and without ever technically agreeing to these changes, we have slowly awoken to a world that greatly differs from the world in which we once lived. Most of us just buy into whatever becomes the new standard. How we live within our world subtly alters, and we barely notice.

When I was a young woman, social contact with other people was my primary focus. When I couldn’t be with friends, I had a slew of hobbies to keep me busy. Now, I can’t remember when I last pursued any of those crafty pastimes.

And I honestly can’t remember ever being ‘bored.’ Oh, I’m sure there might have been an instance or two before I discovered boys and booze, but overall .. nope.

I don’t see friends nearly as often as I used to, these days, even though I probably have more free time now than I ever did then. It’s just so much easier and more convenient to keep in touch through social media.

That loss of face to face, hand to hand, contact has had an affect on how we see and treat others. We are quicker to make judgements about other people, for good or ill, and less empathetic to those outside of our social bubbles.

Those tiny steps from there to here were imperceptible. Those of us who now rely on a tablet sized phone to corral all of our communication and computing needs hardly remember the consumer uncertainty and fear that surrounded the advent of the first personal computers.

first pcEarly adapters eagerly coughed up the cost of a new car to have one of the ungainly machines in their home. But for the average consumer, it would be a good twenty years before a home computer became commonplace.

Today’s teens can’t remember a time when they weren’t tethered to their phones. They barely spare a thought for their ability to be in constant contact with anyone, anywhere in the world, and to the informational capability of their device.

UN human rightsIn fact, this access to knowledge has become so universally accepted that the United Nations have now decreed internet access human right, up there beside food, water, and freedom of speech.

Knowledge is Power.” At one time, only the educated and the rich had access to the amount of knowledge now available to every one of us with the desire to be taught, and an internet connection. From the most obscure bit of trivia to schematics for the creation of nearly every machine known to man, any one of us can be experts in as many fields as we wish to conquer.

Or we can watch funny videos of pets being shamed; it’s our choice.

The flip side of the process that lets us do price comparisons online is that it is the same means that allows terrorists, criminals, or sexual deviants, to find online communities filled with like minded, twisted, individuals, and gives them the freedom to access instructions for how to make bombs and other destructive weapons.

pros and consAnd the computer language that allows us to do our banking online is always under attack by those who would use computer made trojans and viruses as a way to steal our money and personal information.

This is the place where the future can be held hostage, in a struggle between the thintelligent and those who rightly wonder what horrors could potentially be unleashed by new technology.

Even the smallest of changes can impact directly on what our future will look like. You do, however, have to have an understanding of how fragile civilization can be, to see what devastation can occur when we fail to take into consideration the impermanence of our past achievements.

Those who would rather argue over who is responsible for climate change, rather than deal with the effects of that change, will suffer the consequences as horribly as those who can see that we have to alter how we treat the planet, or risk not surviving. Those who believe it’s better to put government and corporate resources into sucking out the last of the oil, wherever it can be found, and at a frightening cost to the planet’s ecology, are arch princes of thintelligence, unable to see the consequences of NOT buying into less aggressive and sustainable energy sources.

We are in a time of flux, just as we were when the first cars began to appear on the dirt roads, that would, in good time, become the highways we drive upon today. The biggest difference between the past and present is that we now communicate our words and thoughts much more rapidly. For some, this onslaught of possibilities is exciting; for others, a nightmare.

But we cannot halt the future. Those who vilify a good old daysworld that doesn’t resemble what they believe to have been better times, and who would tear down all that has gone before that doesn’t fit into their memories, be it governance or infrastructure, are naive, and dangerous.

Demolition may be exciting to watch, but the slow and back breaking labour necessary to rebuild can throw up roadblocks that may stymie future generations for decades.

And it takes a great deal more than bravado to create the future. Most of us simply don’t have the intelligence or ability to transform thoughts and words into architecture or proven science.

There’s a middle ground to be found and walked, one in which we honour what we have created, and look to the possibilities some visionaries have proposed. But always with a nod to the unforeseen consequences all change brings to the planet and it’s inhabitants.

Running On Empty


It’s minus -21C today – that’s 5 below zero in Fahrenheit – and it’s so cold my cats have cat I has a sadgone beyond being angry and have become despondent, either staring sadly into space or denying the existence of the world with their heads smacked up against a wall. I’m sitting at my desk, wrapped in a black flannel poncho, and wondering where I’ve left my fingerless gloves.

I sprang from my bed this morning, rested and brimming with ideas of ‘great social and political import,’ but instead of researching, I’m waiting for oatmeal to cook – this is not the sort of day you face on an empty stomach.

On days like this I am very grateful for the science and technology that allows me to stay warm. I’m over the moon that I can flip a switch and have light to see by, and flip another switch to start up my computer and read mail and messages from family and friends. I’m really pleased that I have warm clothing that just rests in my closet until I want to wear it, and I’m grateful for the closet being part of a house that has walls and a roof that keep out the worst of the cold.

Silly-HolidaysWe often take for granted what less fortunate people would consider luxuries. We set aside a day here and a day there to give lip service to the giving of thanks, the honouring of lovers, parents, veterans and a host of others to whom we see fit to throw a bone. “Here you go, secretaries. It’s not much, but we’re calling today National Secretary Day! As soon as you’ve read that card, I’ll have a coffee with two sugars. Thanks for being you!”

Our culture has moulded us into people that can never have enough. Everywhere we turn we’re told that we’re missing out on something – a new power drill, an iPhone6, a bigger or tidier home, a more luxurious car, vacations in the sun, and most importantly … money, money, money!

and then we'll get himEven though studies have definitively shown that those with heaps of money are not significantly happier than those with enough to comfortably cover their needs, we’re still told that it is only with the amassing of wealth that we can really be content.

In reality, rich people are not all tanning by their dollar-shaped pools while chatting casually with the men and women we’ve elevated to media stardom. They’re far more likely to be spending their time trying to get yet more money, in any way possible, and are probably more anxious and hostile than you are when trying to decide whether to go with a name brand tin of peas or the generic house brand.

Scrooge-PorpoiseBeing addicted to money is like being addicted to drugs; at first, a small amount gives you a buzz, but as time goes by, you need higher and higher doses to maintain the high. And if money is your drug, that upward spiral contains another component – a need to have more than anyone else, to have it all, regardless of whom it damages. Exorbitant, mindless wealth precludes empathy towards those who struggle to survive on minimum wage or government assistance.

“The peasants have no bread!” “Then let them eat cake,” tittered Queen Marie Antoinette. Her joke, rather than having them rolling in the aisles, soon had heads rolling from the guillotine instead.

That anecdote is likely only the fabrication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiographical, “Confessions,” but has been used ever since as a cautionary tale of the perils of great wealth and self-indulgence in the face of social unrest. One would think the lesson would be self-explanatory, but apparently the accumulation of wealth does not always translate to the accumulation of historical knowledge.

In Canada, we can point to arriviste Kevin O’Leary, who, with a net worth of US$300 million that the true 1% would consider pocket change, can’t seem to stop patting himself on the back. When he’s not crowing over his own wealth, he’s exhorting the poor of the world to pull themselves up by their socks – even if they don’t own any socks.

But of course, that’s the dream we’ve been sold since the Industrial Revolution. “Come, work for me, make me wealthy and I will share my largesse. You too can be like me, all you need do is work hard, save your money, and keep your nose to the grindstone.” And we bought it, for decades. We called it the Protestant work ethic, and called anyone who didn’t agree lazy and stupid.

scrooge silly pleasures“The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and diligence as a constant display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition.

The phrase was initially coined in 1904–5 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” (Wikipedia.org)

We forget that his essay was his observations on the Germany of his time, and not a ‘how-to’ manual. Weber considered himself agnostic. His argument was that Catholicism, with its emphasis on doing good works in the hope of eternal salvation, rather than pursuing wealth for its own sake, impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West.

Capitalism depends upon everyone in the society believing in the same goals. When the West had a booming middle class, there was room within the prosperity to dream of a country free of traditional constraints. We could reach out a hand to those who needed help, be they poor or infirm, or young or old. That sense of community resulted in government safety nets and a surge of infrastructure building that connected and included all of the people, regardless of their economic place.

North America looked at what they had wrought in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and found it good. Good enough to not make a priority again until it started to collapse around us.

glittering TorontoIt’s been decades since the roads and bridges and communities were put in place, decades in which the needs of the wealthy became more important in politics than the needs of the tax payer. In Toronto, once Canada’s most glittering city, our highways are clogged with commuters, while our transit system is woefully inadequate to shuttle workers from their homes to their jobs. The local politicians have been arguing about whether to tear down the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway since the 1990’s. And the majority of our subway system, which opened in 1954, is held together with patches and prayers.

business and politicsThere’s blame enough for everyone at this sorry state. Although we love to complain about ‘the system,’ every aspiring politician has to present a platform that will be seen to not only address community issues, but cost the tax payer less. Once in office, the newly elected official can point to budgetary concerns, and remind us all that there aren’t any funds since he’s cut taxes, just as we requested. Or that they are working on a solution, but we mustn’t hope to see real change until some year in the future where they will hopefully no longer be held accountable for the project and the additional costs incurred during the delay.

Politics on crosswordFor corporations, political concerns are less about the community, and more about expediting the accumulation of more wealth. Despite needing an infrastructure that allows workers to arrive at the work place on time, and roads and other delivery systems to get product to consumers, the emphasis is placed squarely on tax cuts that they have convinced politicians, and even many consumers, will result in a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Corporations spend billions on pushing forward measures that will deny workers fair wages and benefits, and will spend yet more on media essentially blackmailing consumers into giving them what they demand. Health care, no. More tax cuts, yes. Or we’ll take our ball (company, franchise) and go home. Many even believe that we have no other alternative but to agree.

The last several decades of austerity for the general public, but unheard of wealth for the few, is slowly shaping us into a timid, obedient mass, who are only valued as long as we are able to further enrich business through our labour and consumption of goods and services.

hedonic-treadmillThe pursuit of happiness has become a joyless pursuit of money, dooming its followers to an endless treadmill of greed and desperation. You’ll never catch up to the 1%, no matter how hard you try, but real happiness and satisfaction can be had in a life that encompasses empathy, generosity, and gratitude for what you’ve achieved.