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And was repealed within a year.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/

 

Come The Revolution


Work Or RetireA friend of mine is looking forward to retirement, after being with the same company for nearly 40 years. She’s been there through the formative years, and the technological shifts that overtook them in the past three decades. Since she’s in Human Resources, she’s privy to information that was never committed to either paper or computer files.

This year, her work colleagues are basically downloading all of the insider information that only she can divulge, siphoning off her knowledge and memories of the people and actions that created the agency she’s helped to build and maintain.

And therein lies the difference between being a cog in the machine, or one of the main wheels. What she contributed to the agency, through connection, trust, and patience, cannot be duplicated, only recorded.

Do any students today even consider a gold watch after a lifetime career in a company, never mind a field or trade? The loyalty once prized by workers and bosses alike is a thing of the past, broken under the wheels of corporate capitalism, overwhelming greed, and a complete lack of empathy for the workers that make companies great.

While my friend is excited about the opportunities retirement will bring, there’s always a bit of a sadness in leaving behind the ‘real’ world that has shaped our environment. The restrictions we’ve chafed against were the frames – physical, emotional, and in the very days and hours we were expected to be resident – that shaped our lives.

As the Baby Boomers near and attain retirement age, we’re seeing an enormous sea change in North American society, a major shakeup of the status quo, and a repudiation of a tendency to believe that our social attitudes are set in stone, are ‘just the way things are’ and can’t be changed.

florida students nine daysCould there have been a #MeToo movement before 2017? The Womens March?  A #BoycottNRA? What has changed?

We Boomers had a good run – possibly the best run of any previous generation. And many of us became leaders, politically, or in the business or entertainment world. We have changed the way the world worked since we came of age in the sixties, and have kept our thumbs on the scale to keep it going, the way we insisted upon in our youths. Or – in some semblance, some blurry nostalgia, of what we thought we wanted in our youths.

And for those who have wielded power, the prospect of being powerless has no appeal.

Trouble is – there’s another wave coming up behind us, and they need the world to reflect their interests and concerns. It’s not that the next generation is demanding that we ‘leave the premises immediately,’ it’s that an awful lot of very powerful people are hanging in, with their outdated ideas, and in doing so, are holding back the fresh air this new wave will bring to society.

The way we did things in the past has to change, because new and often improved systems have come into being. We went from paper to digital, from the rotary phone to the handsfree and then smart phones. We can change. We just often balk at changes to our environment, and can be slow to embrace new systems – mainly because we are afraid we’ll fail to excel at the new tasks.

The fear and paranoia that propelled Trump to the American presidency came from the older and middle class voters, who were, essentially, out of ideas. The head of steam that the young bring to the planet was largely absent.

But we need to acknowledge and face the truth – the kids are here now. They are determined, opinionated, internet and media savvy, way stronger, more dogged, and less tired and jaded than we are … and they are gonna outlive us. They are the ‘WE’ we used to be, full of ginger and moxie and ready to take on THEIR world.

Which might be one reason why they’re so pissed at the mess we’re leaving behind. Most of us wouldn’t even leave an overnight stay in a cheesy motel in the disastrous shambles we’ll leave the planet.

Does Don Cherry speak for millennial hockey fans? The recently departed Billy Graham, or his son, Franklin, a political hack busily rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system ruled by fear of Muslims and homophobia? Any of the heads of state in any country, who give lip service to rights for everyone, but consistently fail to keep their promises once in power?

A media that constantly brays about ‘breaking news!’ that is rarely, if ever, acted upon in a reasonable length of time, and relies on controversy over substance? The daily newspapers that contain more advertisements than actual news? A housing market and stock market reaching astronomical heights that few, if any, millennials will ever get near?

Seriously .. subscribe to the NewsBroke channel on Youtube .. you will be glad you did.

This week, the NRA, once an institution that advocated gun safety and control, now run by the delusional Wayne LaPierre, lashed out at the kids who survived the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, for daring to criticize and protest the NRA’s chokehold on policy and politicians. In an ironic and sickening twist, the survivors are now receiving death threats from NRA members.

But the kids are fighting back, and holding their own, disputing the NRA’s nonsensical claims and extremism, and Trump’s ridiculous notion of arming teachers rather than addressing the core problem – a plethora of deadly weapons, and the very real risk children run of being killed in a school shooting. (Since 2000, there have been 188 mass shootings in American schools and universities. So it’s getting to be, not a question of IF your kid will get shot at school, but when.)

thoughts and prayers cartoonI’ll admit that I greeted the latest shooting in Florida with grief, anger and cynicism. These murders, combined with the mealy mouthed offerings of ‘thoughts and prayers‘ rather than actually taking action to prevent further murders, drove me to despair.

But this time around, it seems that the victims themselves have opted to ‘be the change they want to see happen.’ Rather than wait for the next massacre, they are demanding that the authorities take responsibility, and work to prevent another slaughter in their halls of education.

And the adults, many of whom have sat quietly by, cowed by the bile spewed by the NRA and their rabid fans, are getting an infusion of energy from these students, with many even developing a spine from the shattered vertebrae of their previous compliance.

boycottNRACompanies that have now severed ties to the NRA under the #BoycottNRA hashtag, include the nation’s largest privately owned bank, First National Bank of Omaha, which will no longer offer an NRA branded Visa card. Other companies, including car rental firms Hertz, Entreprise, Alama, Avis, Budget and National, soon followed suit, while the Allied and North American Van lines pulled their perks as well. Software giant Symantec, MetLife Auto & Home, home security company SimpliSafe, Teladoc, Chubb, HotelPlanner.com, United and Delta Airlines, and even Vinesse wines, which operates the “official wine club of the NRA,” have joined in the protest.

Talk about being on the wrong side of history. The NRA overplayed their hand – and it’s bust time for the ammosexuals. In order to prevent the complete demise of his association, LaPierre will have to choose which master the NRA will serve in the future – the powerful and wealthy weapons manufacturers or the right of the American people to live in safety and peace.

every great institution Emerson quote. jpg

Our children are watching as all of our time honoured institutions, those collections of rules and norms agreed upon by human beings, the venerable systems we could look to for protection and security are being attacked, denigrated and abused. Every day we get closer to the day that these institutions will be weakened to the point of collapse, and once that happens, the very character and quality of democracy will fall with it.

So – can you really blame the kids for being pissed at the status quo? What exactly are they meant to inherit from us, except massive debt, chronically unstable employment, and the ruin of a planet we couldn’t be bothered to clean up after we’d used up all of the good things it once had to offer?

the future is hereAll of life is a flow of non-linear changes, threads in a tapestry that is ever changing and unpredictable. Our challenge must be to learn how to confront and respond to new life transitions, no matter how unpredictable they may be.

The world is changing, as the world always does, and it will continue to turn long after our time has come and gone. Mark Twain reputedly once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

For many in power, the time has come to step aside, and let the future unfold, just as it always has. Step aside, and let the new kids in town take their turn at centre stage. They certainly can’t do any worse than we did.

no man ever steps in the same river twice

 

 

 

An Embarrassment of Riches


Money and power have one very similar trait – neither are destructive at face value, but both become toxic when an obsessive love of either or both overrules a person’s basic humanity.

when you're rich you can do anythingBoth can be hoarded, without much censure. Many look at the very wealthy or very powerful, and envy their hoards. Even if the hoards consist of ill-gotten, or at the very least, suspicious, gains, morality ceases to matter in the face of a society that has elevated the acquisition of wealth over all other talents or abilities.

The ability to acquire wealth, by shrewdness or stealth, does not automatically confer godliness or any other talents upon the wealthy. To believe that someone who is rich is thus inevitably able to excel in other fields is misguided at best, and heinous when peddled as truth to those who have neither wealth nor common sense, and consequently, will literally “buy anything.”

I actually remember a time when it was considered ill-mannered and rude to brag about your wealth, your possessions, or yourself. Now, it’s not only allowed, it seems to be required of anyone who wishes to appear as a valuable commodity, ripe for exposure. Today, everyone has to have and hone a ‘brand.’

making it rainMusic’s been tainted with this obsession. I can’t listen to most of the songs that extol mindless consumerism and waste of resources. And I can’t watch videos that equate the humiliation of others, professionally or sexually, with an enviable use of power. It is abuse, condoned and even applauded, by the easily entertained.

While it might not be politically correct, I also abhor the conceit that the portrayal of overly sexualized femininity makes the female artist more powerful. To the contrary, the music business is one of the most sexualized industries, and women artists have been routinely harassed and abused since they first entered the scene. You’re not ‘getting out front’ of being defined by your sexuality because you disrobed first – you’ve just made the task of undressing you easier for others to do. A woman is more than her sexual parts. In truth, we give away our power every time we need to look outside of ourselves to find acceptance, or a sense of our own worth.

An awful lot of what passes for popular music strikes me as the rantings of the terminally under-educated. There’s fourteen writers for some of the songs, and still they can’t avoid plagiarism and triteness. It’s not that the music of my era, or any other era, was that much ‘better,’ it’s that there seemed to have been more of an attempt to learn and grow, be it musically or spiritually, than there is now. Once, we built an art form from the bottom up. Now it’s deconstructed from the top down.

We are a confused society. First frightened by high tech, we’ve now embraced it with all the fervour of the newly converted. The very thought of being without the constant information available terrifies many; they challenge each other to undergo the horror of 24 hours offline. Or to eat a Tide pod. And the very idea of not having access to anything consumable we might fancy, at any time, seems something only the most disenfranchised would have to contend with.

media controls usYes, we are a confused society. And thus – ripe for those who would take advantage of this seesawing state of mind by using the disorder to mould and shape the thoughts and opinions of those who gag at the glut.

Historians will look back at these times and wonder at our lack of sophistication, our inability to tell reality from fiction, our willingness to be led by social media trolls that rely upon our innate prejudices and biases to warp how we assess and treat each other. And they will marvel at how easily we would shed the rules of law to rush to the court of public opinion.

Too much of anything is as bad as too little. Both extremes warp our personalities.

We are soaking in media. We like to think that we’re capable of floating through the cacophony of noise, dissent, fear, and paranoia, interspersed with the odd moment of joy, and carry on multitasking our busy lives with ease. The truth is that we cannot. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that doing several things concurrently means that not one of the tasks is actually getting all of our focus and care. Instead, all of our responsibilities are getting only as much of our distracted attention as we can spare, meaning none of them receive our very best efforts.

Self-Deception,jpgA few years back I realized how easily we fob off our inattention. When we stub our toes, or fail at a task, it’s human nature to seek a culprit to blame our error upon. Damn! we say, it’s not my fault! It was the stair’s fault for not being perfectly even, the bartender over served me, and that noise I heard made me lose focus! Once I had decided to take a mental step back whenever my knee-jerk excuses came into play, I realized that, almost inevitably, the misstep or blunder had to do with my own lack of attention and/or mental laziness.

If we’re honest with ourselves, there is really only one person to blame, and that is ourselves. But honesty, especially of and to ourselves, is something we learn to avoid at an early age, even before we become skilled at swearing that the dog ate our homework.

slow down and thinkSome days, our lives feel too short, while on other days, it feels like an endless slog. The reality is somewhere in the middle. But we do ourselves no favours when we try to game the system, excuse our own foibles while pillorying other people’s errors, and live a life of self-deception and lies.

Sometimes an embarrassment of riches is just a pretty billboard concealing a reeking garbage heap. Knowing which is which is the hard part.

Roxanne Tellier, wealth, money, power, self-deception, media, control, sexualization, Tide pod challenge, laziness.

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


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

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

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

economic history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employment_by_Industry_in_the_US-2013 (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(that’s a joke! maybe … )

 

 

Of Time and Tides


not ready for growingupNext week, I’ll be heading to British Columbia to visit my daughter, granddaughters, family and friends. My husband gifted me the fare; he knows I’ve been aching to see the girls. I’ll be there for my daughter’s birthday, and to reacquaint myself with my granddaughters, who are teetering on the brink of their teenage years, at ages 11 and 13. My daughter will have her hands full for the next decade with these two little minxes.

I, on the other hand, have ‘grandmother privilege.‘ I get to see them when they’re on their best behaviour, and to leave the room for a nap or to visit friends when they’re acting up. Life is good!

For years I was unable to travel. A weird combination of finances and bureaucracy kept me from obtaining the necessary identification to board a train or plane. My clever friend, Barbette Kensington, steered me through the morass of paperwork, and now … I am a genuine, legally viable, traveling person!

So I’m looking forward to this trip, for many reasons, and despite my insane fear of flying. It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to travel, and one that I’ve not been able to do in over 16 years.

Getting older is a privilege as well, although many of us hate to think about it. As our loved ones, idols and contemporaries succumb to time, it starts to seem like the world we once knew is fading away, leaving us adrift in an altered space.

Coming to grips with aging looks a lot like getting thru the stages of grief. You’re gonna have to go through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before you finally come to acceptance.

I have my own theory on how we deal with getting older; I think I read it somewhere, but it’s mine now. Basically, there’s three stages.

In the first stage, you feel pretty much like you always did. You still want to do all of the things you used to do, and for the most part, you are able to socialize, travel, and maintain your hobbies with maybe a little more resting time needed than before. But you’re still a you that you recognize, and if you’ve got a few bucks, you can finally relax and enjoy life.

In the second stage, something goes wrong, either physically or mentally. Maybe you break a hip, or have a stroke. Now you’re wishing you had gotten in that trip to Peru before your lungs decided high altitudes were no longer an option. You get a little angry that your social calendar looks barer than it used to, and you might start to tell people that you’re “not as young as you used to be,” in order to get out of doing any sort of strenuous movement … like walking up the stairs.

do not regret growing olderIn the third stage, you can’t do very much at all, and there isn’t much you look forward to anymore. That’s the last bit of the human journey, and probably the least anticipated.

Aging is inevitable, and few would prefer the alternative. Ready or not, at some time in your late fifties or early sixties, you will realize that you’re nearing, or in, that first stage, and that you have no idea when exactly the second stage will kick in.

We live in wonderful times. While we can’t turn back the clock, we can be grateful that medical science now allows an array of options for dealing with aging bodies. Hip surgeries and knee replacements are commonplace. Who knows what miracles will be available as we age and need a few more drastic nips and tucks?

laser surgery. jpgWe simply can’t anticipate what the future will hold, for good or ill. As a kid, I never dreamed that there would someday be a surgery available to correct vision … I had just assumed that I’d eventually lose my sight entirely, as both of my grandmothers had. Thanks to lasers, I had two decades of perfect vision. One of these days, I’ll have more laser surgery, and that will correct the effects of aging as well.

It would be great if there were big advances in cancer treatments. Cancer is a cruel bitch, and she’s taken away too many of my loved ones. Last fall, I had to finally admit that it was time to stop smoking, and I quit cold turkey. I’ll be dealing with the damage that I did to myself from here on in, and keeping my fingers crossed that I escape the Big C.

Took me too long to realize that you only need to change a few letters to go from ‘excuse’ to ‘exercise.’ A regular exercise program makes me feel a lot less stressed. Maybe the aquafit will also help me lose a few pounds. Couldn’t hurt. For sure it’s refocusing my attention on how good it feels to be able to stretch without pain.

The first stage of aging can be a bit of a shock – it’s almost as though our bodies are betraying us. After years of doing pretty much whatever was asked of them, our bodies have gone mutinous, and are demanding that we treat them with more care.

There’s several reasons for these changes, but they are all inevitable, so you may as well get used to them.

” Two biological phenomena appear related to the aging process:

• Accumulation of waste products in the cells
• Loss of elasticity of the connective body tissue

These changes, sometimes called nongenetic, occur at the cellular level. They have a direct bearing upon many declines we experience in our physical and sensory capabilities.

Many bodily changes take place over the entire lifespan— some beginning with birth. They are part of a relentless, post-maturational phenomenon called senescence (biological aging).

Senescence results in a decrease in the physical capacity of an individual, accompanied by an increase in a person’s vulnerability. As a result, any product or environment may become less friendly and less supportive for some people while adequately providing support for others.

Most of the changes that characterize senescence occur slowly. As they occur, individuals adapt to them. For example, people with arthritis may select utensils with larger and softer handles to ease the pain and enhance their grip.”

http://www.transgenerational.org/aging/aging-process.htm)

While the changes are inevitable, how we deal with them is up to us. Denying the realities of aging only leads to a more rapid decline, and if we try to force ourselves to perform at the same level, mentally or physically, as we did in our prime, we’re doomed to failure, and to setting up a negative feedback loop that tells us that it’s no use to even try for what improvement we can rationally expect.

What we really crave is a happy aging experience, and that’s easier to get to when we aim for smaller goals, with less dramatic gains, but gains that are progressive and ongoing. In a positive feedback loop of self-reinforcing and self- energizing behaviours, we can find the sweet spot of feeling comfortable at any age.

those who love deeply never grow old. jpgThere’s got to be joy in our lives. That’s what really motivates us, and leads us to the healthy actions and interactions that make getting up every morning something to anticipate rather than dread.

We need ‘fresh air and friendly faces,’ people that we care about and people who care about us. We need to love and be loved, and to hold dear those whom we treasure for the good impact they’ve had in our lives.

We need to appreciate where we’ve been, and what we’ve done, while embracing new experiences that stretch our abilities. And sometimes we need to get on an airplane even when we’re terrified of flying.

There’s no sense in denying your ‘golden years;’ there’s only the reality of how you’ll choose to live them. My choice is to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.

mark twain on travel

 

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.

Boom Times in the Big Smoke


It’s Boom Town for realtors in Toronto these days. 243,400 houses were sold last year, and as of April of this year, the average residence in the city had a starting price tag of a cool $921,000.

378 East Sept 2016My old house in Scarborough, which we sold last July, was re-sold twice more by speculators before the year ended, each time jumping another $100K or so in price. It’s now been demolished and rebuilt as a monster home. I wouldn’t recognize the place, they tell me.

Fine by me. We sold, we moved, and I can barely remember the person I was when I lived in my big, old bungalow. Turns out it’s great not to have the onus of house maintenance, and the constant waiting for the next expense to drop. Renting, after 30 years of owning, may not lend the same sense of autonomy, but it also comes with a lot less responsibility and chores.

Taxes can be a burden on the home owner as well, since your residential tax is based on current value, not what you paid for the place at the time of purchase. If you lucked out in the eighties and bought your dream home for around $100,000, you might be considering a second job just to keep the taxes paid and the utilities flowing.

hawkstone-manorGood ol’ Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins has his big estate, Hawkstone Manor, up for sale. Again. He tried to sell it for $14.9 million back in 2013, and failed. But it’s up again, this time listed at $4.3 million. If it goes to a bidding war, which is not out of the question, he could still get closer to the $10 million mark.

From the Toronto Star, April 2013:
“It’s a $100 house on a million-dollar property.”

The nine-bedroom, five-bathroom home is really only notable for the lifetime of memories that line its orange living room walls. A buyer would likely bring in a bulldozer.

But the house sits atop a rare piece of prime Kawarthas real estate — 165 acres gently sloping down to almost 4,000 feet of waterfront that, on these sought-after shores of the Trent-Severn Waterway, can go for $5,000 a foot.”

The Order of Canada recipient is 82, and not in the best of health. Whatever the final price, he and his wife will be able to cash out big and find somewhere a lot cosier to shelter them in their golden years.

sold over asking. jpgAnd that’s the ideal situation to be in, in the market right now. If you’re selling and have to purchase another place in the city – good luck to you. They want ridiculous money for so much as a garage, without a house attached. It’s madness. Tiny bungalows, like the one I’m renting, list for $800K and sell for over a million.

And when the interest rates rise in a bit, it’s gonna be even crazier. How can the average person buy so much as an entry home in the city, without a family income somewhere in the $300K a year range? It’s nuts. Rock, meet hard place. Rock musicians … move to Hamilton.

Funny thing, though, about this real estate madness – with hundreds of thousands of properties changing hands in the last two years, there have never been more paper millionaires minted in the city than it’s likely seen in it’s history. scrooge_mcduck

Not just millionaires – multi-millionaires. If you’re one of those lucky enough to have pretty much retired the mortgage, and are ready for retirement yourself, you could be walking away with more money than you ever dreamed you’d have. (Not me, I hasten to add – we did alright but didn’t hit Scrooge McDuck status. We’re barely McDucklings. We’re Ova McDuck, if anything.)

Barring a lotto win, which is unlikely, since I keep forgetting to buy a ticket, I’ll probably spend the rest of my days in rental properties, of decreasing proportions. Part of me would love to be a home owner again, but the rational, sensible part of my brain is quite comfortable with letting someone else worry about the roof, the septic tank, and the tyranny of ‘keeping up with the Jones.

I’m liking this downsizing, says the unrepentant hoarder. I’m liking trying to fit everything that once overflowed a 4000 square foot sprawler into this teensy tiny, less than 1000 square foot bungalow. It’s given me the chance to actually sift through all of these souvenirs and memories, and sort the metaphorical wheat from the chaff. I’m culling the hoard. It’s great to tear willy nilly through the detritus, and toss out the junk. It’s fun to put boxes of odds and ends on the lawn, under a big sign that says ‘Free!’ and watch cars screech to a halt, their drivers eager to find some little treasure to haul home.

1 800 got junkIt’s really heartening to go through all of the boxes of clothing, shoes, books, craft items, and linens, choose what can be redistributed within our family and friends, and then pass on the overflow to people who will appreciate what we’ve donated. There are so many who have so little, while others have three of everything. Distributing some of my bounty to those who can use it liberates my home AND my heart.

I didn’t need three apple corers. In fact, I have never even used one of them, not even once. Ditto the cherry pitter.

For the first time in my life, I’m no longer buying stuff ‘just in case,’ or with a view to some future purpose, because my future is now, and I want to be present.

I’m happy for those who are selling their properties for a tidy profit. I’m happy for those who are finding their dream homes. I worry about Torontonians who missed the real estate roundabout, and are now trying to find something affordable to rent. But this is all going on around me, and like you, I have very little say in what the Toronto of tomorrow will resemble.

Owning a home is not for everyone. It’s a very nice thing, and can certainly be wise and profitable in midlife. But when it comes time for retirement, home ownership is more like an anchor around your neck, keeping your proverbial boat stuck in one place. To enter new waters, you’ve got to haul up that anchor, and unfurl the sails, letting the fresh breeze take you somewhere new and exciting.

Avast, me hearties … I’m bound for uncharted shores!