Monday, September 26, 2011

Storm at the outfall

Clover Point is one of the sites of Victoria's infamous sewage system. Awful isn't it? In the summer the little promontory is congested with tourists, but when the story season arrives, it's Victorians who line the shore to watch the waves pound the rocks. We like to watch the ships pass by along with the odd whale or seal, and always the seabirds. Today a half dozen windsurfers skimmed the waves.

When I retired I thought I would have a lot more time to spend on projects like this blog, but it hasn't worked out that way. Not having anything to do is apparently something difficult for me to handle. Oh, there are always things to do, such as wash dishes, do laundry, grocery shop, vacuum the floor and such like, but it's not quite the same as having to drag myself out of bed in the morning and get to a job I need to have in order to pay my rent. Rent is a necessity, laundry, which I used to have to squeeze in on days I wasn't working, I can always do tomorrow.
For someone who writes for a living, a blog would be a job just like any other. But doing a blog that nobody reads seems quite futile. Anyway, does the world need another pundit? I'm almost glad nobody reads it, otherwise it would be like being married to an ugly wife. Because sometimes you just don't feel like doing it. I read several blogs and I admire their authors for the work ethic they must have to keep it up every day, year after year. Yet they do have to say pretty much the same kinds of things over and over again and I don't envy them that kind of dedication. It requires a certain courage of conviction that I don't have. I think I'm right about a lot of things but I don't fool myself into thinking I'm some kind of expert on anything. I'm acutely aware of how limited any human being is to fully understand even the least of life's mysteries. That doesn't mean we should stop trying, but it does mean that as soon as we think we've got it all figured out we can count on something coming along to give us a shake.
Nevertheless, as a human being immersed in the world of mortals there are times when even the most reclusive of us must pick a side and run with it. Storms come along in human affairs just as surely as they do off Clover Point. Some of us run away from storms- it's probably the most rational thing to do- while others jump into the middle of them, just like the windsurfers who heard the storm and stopped whatever else they were doing to jump on a piece of plastic and plunge into it.
I think we human beings are built for struggle. While in the midst of it we long for peace and comfort, but without it we pine away. We have succeeded in building a world where struggle isn't necessary. In a developed country in my lifetime it has been pretty well impossible to starve or freeze. It can be done, but you really have to try hard. Maybe struggle is like gravity. We often wish we could do away with gravity and levitate to wherever we want to go, but it's gravity that makes it possible for us to move at all. Without the resistance of our weight against the greater weight and resistance of the earth beneath us we wouldn't be able to propel ourselves forward. We would be like an astronaut floating in space, flailing his arms and legs to no avail.
As for this blog, I'm not sure if I'm back or not. I certainly feel like that astronaut floating in space flailing away to no avail, but maybe I can learn to enjoy flapping my arms.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Sea of Troubles.

It seems a little disrespectful to Japan to think about spring, so our gloomy weather of the last few weeks seems only fitting. How can I enjoy flowers and sunshine when so many are suffering in the cold without food, water, fuel or sanitary arrangements. And they are the lucky ones, the ones who weren't swept out to sea or buried underneath the rubble. At the same time the Japanese are struggling to help the survivors, a nuclear power facility is threatening to blow up, rendering that part of the country uninhabitable for generations to come. They say that this was one of the most powerful earthquakes in history. In terms of the Richter scale, it's a straightforward, objectively measurable ranking. The tsunamis that followed were also measurable and quantifiable. But the jolt delivered by this calamity to the world is only beginning to gather force. I am not talking about the minute increase in the planet's rotation, or the movement of the island of Honshu, or the shift in the earths axis, but about the global economy. Japan is one of the most productive economies in the world, a linchpin in the structure of all our economies. The Japanese are also one of the planets most educated and civilized people, making important contributions to our common intellectual and moral capital. They are going to have a tough time recovering and the rest of us are going to miss their contributions. At this point it's pretty well impossible to guess what will happen, but with the turmoil in the Middle East threatening oil supplies, and the world's financial system already in trouble, more devastation could be on the horizon.
The human suffering is always the same, whether in Haiti, Chile, Indonesia and New Zealand. People alone, hungry and cold, with many of their loved ones- parents, children, friends- dead. It's hard to imagine. And yet, if poor Haiti disappeared tomorrow it would hardly make a difference on the global scale. But Japan is a giant, it will make a mighty crash heard around the world.
Meanwhile life goes on, as the saying goes. Daffodils are finally blooming on Beacon Hill's south facing slope, and a demonstration was going on outside the legislature.
The demonstrators were university students complaining about the high cost of school, and more to the point, why they should have to pay for it. I got in a bit of an argument with one of the protestors, a reasonably intelligent young man. I asked him why he thinks I should pay for his university education, and he answered respectfully without really addressing the question. Probably I wasn't that clear at this unexpected encounter. What I meant was this. When they carry their signs around, they are asking the rest of us to buy something. It's not that I don't think society has an obligation to educate its young. The problem is, I don't want to pay for something I don't like, and I very much dislike the 'product' that our public education system sells. Schools are no longer places where students can go to learn about their heritage. Far from it. Students are taught to despise their heritage. Schools have become indoctrination centres. The young man tried to tell me that he was taught how to think at school, but all the evidence I have seen shows me that they are taught what to think. If he truly has a vocation to acquire knowledge and understanding he's better off to find a useful occupation and in his spare time read. Above all, read the classics. Stay away from the university at all costs. And, no. I don't want to pay for the stink hole that university has become.
Been watching the tantrum the union goons are throwing in Wisconsin? If so, maybe you are like me and asked yourself, "What are these people doing teaching school?" Apparently they don't believe in elections. They don't believe in peaceful discussion of the issues. They do believe in making death threats to people who don't give them what they want. They do believe in using the children they are supposed to be teaching as props. Ah, the unions. That's a rant I'll leave for another day.
Pray for the Japanese, once our bitter enemies, now our loyal friends.

Friday, February 25, 2011


There's a lot going on around the world right now. It reminds me of an old protest song.

They're rioting in Africa,
They're starving in Spain,
There's hurricanes in Florida.
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls,
The French hate the Germans,
The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs,
South Africans hate the Dutch,

And I don't like anybody very much.

The fellow in the video reminds me of a comment made by Will Rogers to the effect that while everybody seems to know a lot, unfortunately most of what they know is wrong. And one of the things many, many people are wrong about is unions. They would whole heartedly agree with this fellow's opinion that the only reason anyone gets decent wages is because of the unions.
The tirade is part of the nationwide union tantrum in the US that started with Wisconsin Governor Walker's initiative to rein in public spending by curtailing some of the power and expense of unionized government employees. I have been following the coverage fairly closely on the conservative outlets and listened to the governor's statements, and I believe they are using the wrong arguments. The budget has to be balanced, has been the oft repeated message. But the reason for the budget shortfalls is that the economy is not producing enough to cover the bills. The protesting union members don't seem to understand that businesses will be bankrupted if taxes are raised to pay their wages and benefits. What unions do not and never have understood is that in order for a business to compete it has to constantly reinvest in upgrades. If it doesn't do that it will go out of business and then where will the jobs be. This lesson should have been learned by the unions long ago... if, that is, they really care about their members.
For a graphic illustration of what I am saying, take a look at the history of post war Britain. The unions there effectively destroyed the British Auto industry. The sickness of the auto companies in North America is also largely due to the unions, and for the same reasons. They took away money the companies needed to reinvest in new technologies and equipment. If union leaders were really concerned for the welfare of their members you would think they would be deeply concerned with the health of the industry. You would think they would be interested in seeing the industry under intelligent management. But no. For union leaders the employer is the enemy.

Maybe we have a hard time understanding the principle of capital formation because we were hunters and gatherers for many thousands of years. Itinerant hunter gatherers were not capitalists. They simply took what they could from the land and when it was exhausted they moved on. They followed migrating herds, they exploited resources as they became available at different times of the year, but they since they could not carry much on their travels, possessions were liabilities instead of assets. There had to be a pretty good reason to justify lugging something around from place to place.
Farmers were the original capitalists, and seed was the original capital. It's very nice to have a good harvest so that everybody can feast and enjoy themselves. But if you want to feast next year too then you had better make sure that you save some of your harvest for seed. That's what capitalism is all about.
The conflict between socialists and free enterprisers is not about capital so much as who gets to control it. Capital is what's left over after the fundamental needs of the community are met. Over the centuries the way capital has been accumulated and allocated has changed, It seems that the first civilization based on large scale farming was the Sumerian, located in Mesopotamia, where Iraq is now. It happened rather suddenly. Primitive neolithic farming had been practiced in many parts of the world, but because of the seasonal patterns of flooding the Sumerians didn't have to worry about the exhaustion of soil. They learned that by building canals and dams they could control the water supply. This required a much higher level of organization than the kind of slash and burn agriculture that was still practiced in North America by the Iroquois up until modern times. In ancient Mesopotamia a system of absolute kingship, a priestly class, and cities organized around temples sprang into existence. The kind of farming practiced there was the first to produce enough of a surplus to support an entire class of people who did not directly participate in the acquisition of food. It was the first bureaucracy. Ever since then all bureaucracies have had a tendency to expand beyond the ability of the economy to support them. When they do that they choke off the motivation of the producer to produce, and then the culture begins to decline.
This has happened over and over in history, and it's happening now. That's really what the fight in Wisconsin is about. And Greece, and Ireland, etc. Oh, and I noticed the Alberta budget has gone into the red this year. We retirees better hope that the adults win this fight. More than anyone else we depend on the economy producing enough of a surplus to keep us in reasonable comfort. This is especially so since we have been systematically killing the oncoming generation so that there will be fewer and fewer young people to support more and more old people.
It's still cold here in Victoria, sunny and cold. Tomorrow we are supposed to get back to normal- soggy and mild.
I usually only post my own photos here, but the top one today, of the buddha in the snow, is by an acquaintance of mine who calls herself Lotus Johnson. In one of my posts I opined that maybe I was taking more pictures of Victoria than anyone else. I was wrong. In my updated reading list you will be able to access all of her wonderful photos, as well as those of Gordon Handford.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snowflakes and cherry blossoms

For the past few weeks snow has been getting closer and closer to Victoria. This morning it finally got past our protective ring of hills and mountains and arrived on our doorsteps. I think this would be the perfect time to burden my audience with a sample of the author's doggerel entitled:

That Old Dog Winter

Ol' Dog Winter got lazy this year.
Boreas some call him, an Easterneer,
Comes prowling (that wormy mutt)
At night up on the Malahat.

Comes howling for crystal snow to chill us,
Then slinks across to the low Sooke Hills
Where he hangs around them there tall trees.
Jack Frost, his frisky pup, comes by with a freeze.

On clear starry nights he gives us a whiff,
So our dried up tomatoes set a bit stiff.
On a winter's day all muffled in white,
Here in Victoria we don't mind that, quite.

I know the rest of the country finds this hilarious, but when it snows in Victoria we are virtually paralyzed. Victorians have a reputation for driving ineptitude. That may be because we have such a large population of retirees- including 1000 licensed drivers over the age of ninety, as a government official in my cab once informed me. But my own theory is that Ontarians of all ages are the problem. For one thing, they can't get used to the fact that you don't have to hurry in Victoria. It isn't that big. We have a rush half hour. Some Ontarians can never get used to that. Because they have driven all their lives in places where snow is normal they think they are experts. However, in Ontario they don't have much in the way of hills and it often comes as a surprise that a vehicle- even with four wheel drive- keeps going on a downhill slope no matter how hard the brakes are applied. It can be quite amusing to watch cars drift through the red light at Tyee as they come down the hill on Esquimault Road.
Luckily, I don't have to drive in the stuff anymore so I can enjoy it. Once or twice in the year hearing the crunch of new snow under ones feet is quite pleasant, especially with the black waters of the harbour looming out of the darkness. The ducks and geese seem as confused by the snow as our drivers.
This morning's temperature is hovering around the freezing point and I suppose it will warm up later today. But it's supposed to get colder this week, and if that happens all that half melted snow will freeze solid. That's when the fun will start.
A lot of bad stuff is happening in the world right now. While we shovel a little snow New Zealand is recovering from a terrible earthquake while the Middle East is going insane. I think the difference between how we handle things compared to them is instructive. In New Zealand, neighbour helps neighbour and the machinery in place to deal with emergencies moves into place. Victorians are out with snow shovels clearing sidewalks. In Egypt after supposedly gaining freedom from a brutal dictator two million Egyptians gather together and celebrate by chanting, "Death to Israel."
There seem to be a lot of apologists for Islam in our media, but pay no attention to them. Islam is not about peace as they pretend but about brutality. If we value our peaceful institutions and our freedoms we have to do our utmost to keep it out of our society. It's hard for most Canadians and Americans to believe, but they want to kill us, too.
An Iraq war veteran enrolled at Columbia University trie to explain that to his fellow students but they wouldn't listen.

“It doesn’t matter how you feel about the war. It doesn’t matter how you feel about fighting,” said Maschek. “There are bad men out there plotting to kill you.”

Several students laughed and jeered the Idaho native, a 10th Mountain Division infantryman who spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from grievous wounds. . ."

The media coverage of Islam is deplorable so it's understandable that average citizens who are busy raising families and going to work don't understand what's going on, but it's shocking that students from a prestigious university in New York could be so ignorant. Some commentators are a little more realistic but excuse the religion of Islam by saying the bombings and savagery are committed by a few extremists. That may be true as far as it goes. Most Muslims probably don't want to strap explosives to their children. Most Muslims are probably content to raise their families just like the rest of us. But all Muslims are required by the Koran to wage war against non believers. Jihad is what it's called, and it doesn't mean 'interior spiritual journey,' it means any means of destroying competing belief systems is justified. In Islam there is no crime in killing an unbeliever. On the contrary, it's a duty. These beliefs are not tangential to Islam, they are and essential feature. How somebody can go through university without figuring this out is beyond my understanding.
I rather think that we are in a pivotal phase of human history. The First World War was one of those pivotal points. Before the war Europe was still dominated by the kind of monarchical empires that had been in place since the Napoleonic Wars. There had been a century of peace, prosperity, and an unprecedented advance in human knowledge and technology had taken place. In 1815 the fastest mode of travel on land was by horseback, as it had been for thousands of years, and by sailing ships on the high seas. No message could move any faster. But by 1915 we traveled by railroad, car, steamship, and airplane, while communication via telegraph, radio and telephone was instant. Most people were still poor, but also there was a burgeoning middle middle class, and more people could become middle class than ever before. These technologies brought down the old empires. At the end of the war there was no more Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Russia the Bolsheviks had overthrown the Tsar. Much of the world map was coloured the red of the British Empire, but it was to be a relic. Republican France still had an empire but it had lost a generation of young men in the war. Neither the British nor the French had any more stomach for world domination. The second world war finished them off, but the US took on the British task of keeping the seas open to trade, and faced down the only power able to threaten world peace. Now we seem to be entering the post American age. Now it seems as if Islam, which never emerged from the medieval world, is either on its way to world domination, or is finally beginning to self- destruct. Who knows how it will end.
If the chaos keeps up it will mean a massive disruption of the world's oil production. Some are predicting gasoline at $10 a gallon in the near future. That alone will shut down trade everywhere, even locally. Envirofascists have been pushing for localism recently, and they may soon find out what it's like.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

Tomorrow I suppose the Valentine's themed display at Chapters will be taken down. I didn't make an inventory of titles but if there was anything about love I didn't see it. Unless love is just an old fashioned word for sex... because all I could see were books on sex, and how to have good sex. As opposed to bad sex, which seems to be the norm judging by the necessity to provide advice. And all directed toward women. On a table not far away from the Valentine theme were books dedicated to losing weight and shedding flab, the prime motivation being to enhance one's chances of having sex. More sex, or better sex, one infers. Come to think of it I didn't notice a single item directed at men... unless you count the boxes of chocolates in another display nearby. Maybe the fitness books are for use after the candy is eaten, and the sex books are for use in case the one who was supposed to buy the chocolates didn't, because it obviously means he doesn't love you.
Personally, I think it's a sad commentary on modern life that sex is thought of as synonymous with love. I'm not referring so much to the moral issue as the issue of lack of imagination, the shallowness and the inconsequentiality we have grown so used to. Is romance dead? Then so is poetry and depth of feeling and that hackneyed expression 'spirituality.' No wonder that the children's section is so bland. They can't have anything telling children how to have good sex, so they stick to teddy bears, and mice- anything to avoid drilling down to the core of the human soul. That's because we're no longer allowed to have souls, I guess. That would be subversive of the new world order which strives to dissolve the differences between the sexes.
Of course, it is romantic love that Valentines Day is about, and, well, the beast with two backs will never be called love, will never inspire a play entitled Romeo and Romeo. Somehow, I think men will always be inclined to fall in love with women no matter what. None of the poetry works otherwise.
Still, I can't complain too much. At least in the west it's not illegal to send Valentine's, like it is in Iran. It is frowned on in Pakistan, too, but they are making an exception for the governor of Punjab who was shot because he publicly advocated religious tolerance. But it wasn't the governor who got the valentine, it was his shooter.

Mumtaz Qadri shot dead Punjab province Gov. Salman Taseer in January while serving as a bodyguard. Qadri has told authorities he killed Taseer because the governor spoke out against harsh Pakistani blasphemy laws that impose the death sentence for insulting Islam....
A small group of college students gave police flowers and a Valentine's Day card they wanted delivered to the defendant.
"Happy Valentine!" read one of the banners....

In my religious training I was taught that I was commanded by God to love my neighbour as myself, and to do unto others as I would have done to me. Could it be that there is something fundamentally different between the teachings of Christ and the teachings of Mohammed? Am I allowed to say that?
At any rate, there are many people who I have loved through my life- friends, family, and even a few romances (mostly unrequited), for whom I would like to wish a coming year full of love and happiness. And I'll try to pray for the souls of the Pakistanis who took so much pleasure in the death of a man who tried to bring justice to his country. That's something I was taught in catechism, too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Joan Crescent

When the crocuses start poking out of the ground it almost seems worth it to have gone through the dark days of winter. It always seems miraculous.
The grass and tree lined Joan Crescent is well-supplied with crocuses and makes a nice route to take to get to Government House when the bus drops you off on Fort Street. Built in the 1890's for the Dunsmuir family, Craigdarroch Castle perches at the crest of the hill where it once presided over its own pocket empire of 27 acres. It's grounds and interior are popular tourist stops. Below the castle along Rockland is Government House. The queen's representative to the province lives here. The Lieutenant Governorship is mainly a ceremonial position and the appointee is chosen by the provincial government. When the queen visits, Government House is her official residence.
I was there for a tea given for the Cancer Foundation. No, I wasn't one of the wealthy donors paying for the privilege of listening to the boring speeches. I was just one of the help and came in through the servant's entrance and was led through subterranean passages to get to my post in the ballroom. The British class system still survives at Government House.
The grounds are beautifully maintained and the views to the south are spectacular. I was surprised to see a rhododendron in full flower already. Someday I'm going to have to find out the story behind all the sequoias lining Rockland. They are easy to spot because of their great height and easy to identify because of their rounded tops. Up close in somebody's yard, they are massive, dwarfing the house.
For a visitor to Victoria, the loop along Joan Crescent to Government House and then via Rockland back to Cook Street for lunch would make for a pleasant morning walk.

Unfortunately, I missed the relaunching of The Quadra Queen II. By the time I looked out my window this morning it was already in the water.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This is where they used to hang people in the old days.

Frosty mornings yielded to warm and sunny afternoons for a few days in Victoria this week, taking us all by surprise. But a pleasant surprise, and a good time to take a walk along the sidestreets and back alleys.
I've never delved into the history of the city too much, but it's very obvious that at the end of the 19th century it was a budding metropolis. It was the capitol of a huge province, it was a bustling seaport, and the future was unlimited. When the railways came to Vancouver and Seattle, and steamships took over from sailing vessels, it became a backwater. You can tell just by traversing the downtown. The 20th century has come between our time and those glory days, over a hundred years ago and in that time the downtown still has approximately the same boundaries. That would be Chinatown to the north, the Empress to the south and Blanchard, or perhaps Quadra to the east. That just makes it very walkable.
Most of the buildings in the downtown were erected between the 1880's and the early 20th century so they incorporated the materials and techniques of that era. They were put up one brick at a time. There's something very pleasing about the earthen tones of fired clay brick, and the necessities of its capabilities meant that the graceful lines of arches, corbeling, weren't mere decorative flourishes but practical ways of adding strength. Gravity was used to create space and airiness. And this all comes out as beauty.
That technology also demanded craftsmanship and the kind of knowledge and lore that was passed along from one generation of mason to the next. The architect has very little to do with it. All he did was draw the conceptual lines. It was up to the craftsmen to figure out how to turn the concept into reality.
By contrast, while it may be practical and durable, there is nothing that can be done to make concrete beautiful. That may not be the worst thing about it from an aesthetic standpoint. The worst thing is that an architect can get away with just about anything. No longer limited by the constraints of gravity and brick and stone masonry's lack of tensile strength, there are few limits to his fevered imaginings. The craftsman is pretty well gone now, replaced by the engineer. It's now the engineer who has to translate a drawing into a wall. Oh, it takes experienced carpenters to build formwork but they've been relegated to bull labour. And it doesn't take long to train a new one. That's a good thing because we do not like to go to the expense of training the workforce. For years we've gotten away with outsourcing it to other countries. We raid other countries for the talent they thought they had developed for their own benefit.
When I was in the trade Europe was the primary source, but today it seems to be Mexico. It's done differently now, too. The Mexican worker doesn't come up here and apply at the construction site. He is part of a contractors crew that hires itself out to whatever project is willing to pay the freight. The last job I worked at had an Albanian crew to install the windows. It's not that good of a deal to be a construction worker anyway. True, the money is good... but construction has always been a boom and bust sort of business. There will be periods when it isn't possible to take on all the work available. Money comes in (and gets taxed away) until some financial crisis comes along, and then it all stops for a few years. By the time things get going again many of the experienced workers of the last boom have gotten out of the trade, retired, or gotten too beat up to go back. Construction work takes a heavy toll on the body. It's great when you're twenty-five, not so great when you're forty-five.
Maybe it's partly because I used to be a bricklayer that I enjoy seeing the brick buildings. I can't help think of the men who laboured on them as I pass my eyes over their work of so long ago.
While I never built a boat, it was something I always wanted to do. And there's one thing about a boat. It doesn't matter so much what the material, the ocean makes demands that never change. For most working watermen the age of sail has been over with for a long time. First came steam and paddle wheels, then the propeller, then came diesel and gasoline. So it's no longer necessary to have to balance wind against current as much as before. Just hit the ignition and plow through the waves. But boats still have the same shapes as ever, they still have to stay afloat, and so even new ships are beautiful. I hope I'll be able to get out and watch the Point Hope shipyard relaunch the Quadra Queen II.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Victoria Street Newz and Gizmo

As I was going by Swans yesterday some of the usual suspects were sitting on the sidewalk. But Gizmo wasnt with them.
I see in the Newz that Gizmo has died. I can't say that I knew the poor fellow, but I have been acquainted with him for about fifteen years, ever since he jumped into my cab. Neither he nor his friends had money to pay their cab fare. Gizmo said he was expecting money soon and if I dropped back later on to the house from where I picked him up he would be able to pay me. Not expecting ever to get paid, I nevertheless was in the vicinity a few hours later and thought I might as well give it a try. I was already too late. He and his friends had come up with some money but they had already spent it. When I sidled into the half open door he and his friends were stretched out randomly on the living room carpet in their desired state of oblivion.
That may have been the last time he lived in a house. From then on I only saw him when he was panhandling on the sidewalk with his friends- one of them a huge pet wolf. The wolf died some time ago.
As usual in the Newz is the obligatory genuflection to the gods of victimhood. The writer of the obituary, after a few hundred words of tribute, announced, "I'm just not into party politics." And then the next few paragraphs are devoted to politics. She doesn't come right out and say it in so many words but the gist of her commentary is that Gizmo was a victim of the system. It's always the system, you see.
"I do know what it's like to be flat broke, though, facing a world where some have more than they will ever need, and others, many good people among them, left hungry and out in the cold."
Well, yes, there are inequalities, and some of those inequalities are unfair. Korky Day, another writer in the issue, opines, "Work should not be required; that's slavery. Work should not be a privilege; that's the present fatal failed system in Canada." I think these words of wisdom are intended as an aphorism. Let's leave aside the fact that the second statement does not follow from the first. Hmmm. in what way is work a privilege? Does the writer mean that just because someone is unqualified, or unwilling to work, or doesn't feel like getting up in the morning, that he should not be denied a paycheck? Maybe he means that a person should get a paycheck regardless of whether work is available. I'm not sure what he means.
But the statement that work is slavery and that it shouldn't be required is a little bit shocking. Does the writer think that food arrives on store shelves all by itself? Does he think that somebody in the government just waves a magic wand and poof, there is food? How does the writer suppose houses get built, logs milled, electricity generated, etc, etc. If people don't work, then how does he suppose things get made? "Guaranteed Jobs... a practical way to end forced homelessness," is the title of the this piece of idiocy. Later on he compares the workers paradise of the old Soviet Union where millions of people died of starvation with the inadequacies of Canada. Jobs were guaranteed in the CCCP all right, but what good is money when there is nothing to buy? In that communist insane asylum they used to say (when the secret police weren't around) "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." A neat way of saying that when a person is not allowed to keep the benefits of his own labour he is unlikely to see any point in working. This is the fatal flaw in all schemes to redistribute wealth.
This is the truth about poverty in Canada. In my lifetime, in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and most other western countries, anybody who is willing to participate in the capitalist, free enterprise system has done well. Many have done spectacularly well. Collectively, there has been no other place or time when people have been so free of economic distress. And if you can't find work because of some disability or temporary difficulty, then all sorts of programs are available. As someone on the street once told me, "It's almost impossible to starve to death in Victoria." But what if someone is unwilling to work? I remember going by Swan's one afternoon and some of the regular panhandlers were hanging out on the sidewalk. Maybe Gizmo was there. A young kid was there I know, maybe a recent runaway. Loudly and proudly, one grizzled old veteran was bragging, "I've never worked a day in my life." Presumably he was entirely satisfied with sleeping under bridges, smoking other people's discarded cigarette butts and fighting with the crows and seagulls for half eaten Big Macs.
Jesus is quoted as saying that the poor will always be with us. Maybe he was thinking of people like him.
Gizmo and his associates are often played up in the media as examples of how the system failed them. They are victims of our cruel society. Well, yes, they are victims all right, and of certain aspects of our system. For all intents and purposes our welfare agencies have for many years actively subsidized the illicit drug trade. I can't really prove this, but I firmly believe that without welfare the drug trade would go broke. At the root of most our 'homeless' problem is drug use. Drugs are like a cancer in our society, and that is something that is never mentioned in news reports.
Would a Robert Picton have been possible without the drug infestation? First off, he himself was a drug user. You never hear much about them, but many studies have shown strong evidence that drugs, even so-called soft drugs like marijuana, cause mental disease. My own personal knowledge of long time drug users leads me to believe these reports. So perhaps it's worth inquiring if the drugs he used helped turn him into a monster. Secondly, where would he get his victims if there wasn't a ready supply of street whores to draw on? Another unmentioned fact is that most women who sell their bodies on the streets are doing it for drugs. Their pimps are both suppliers and slavemasters to these unfortunates.
There is a lot wrong with the system, but the things that are wrong are completely ignored. Why is that? Because a suffering underclass makes very handy propaganda material for the parasites who want to lobby for new government programs to 'help the poor.' It's really sick.
I wonder if poor gizmo ever had time to look up from his never ending search for oblivion to see Mt Baker, or a sunrise over the waters of Juan de Fuca.
I'm glad this post is over with. Now I can throw that rag of a newspaper away.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Port of Sidney

Lochside Drive is even more illogical than most of Victoria's illogical streets. It begins inauspiciously just north of McKenzie Avenue off an orphaned spur of Cedar Hill Cross Road and runs for about a block...if you are driving. If you are walking or riding a bicycle, though, you can keep going because it joins the Lochside Trail. It's a very pleasant stroll or ride, especially as it passes by Blenkinsop Lake, and after about three kilometres it becomes a street again for a few blocks. Then it stops again before picking up again to parallel Cordova Bay Rd. until that street zigs and cuts it off at the junction. Lochside continues to hopscotch until it finally comes into its own as a self-respecting street at Mt. Newton Cross Rd, by which time it has almost arrived in Sidney. However, it ignominiously vanishes, never to be heard of again, just before it reaches downtown Sidney.
When I go to visit Sidney I like to get off the highway at Newton Cross so I can take Lochside the rest of the way. While the rest of the traffic hurtles in lockstep toward wherever its going, I prefer the scenic route. Likewise, when I get off the ferry I like to take the first exit and take it easy through Sidney while the poor highway tries to swallow the herd of fish disgorged by the ferry.
Sidney is a pretty little town, a good place to have a coffee, or browse Tanner's Bookstore or just park somewhere and go for a walk. Much of the part of town around the pier at the foot of Beacon Ave has been redone since I was here last and it looks quite spiffy, even if it's a little upscale for the likes of me. There is a lot of money around the north peninsula, and a lot of it is parked in Sidney's 'dockominium.' I don't have enough money in my bank account to fill the tanks of some of these floating fibreglass palaces. Personally, I'm more drawn to the lower end of the boating scale, to boats built by their owners. Myself, I can't afford a rowboat. Such is life.
One thing I noticed when I walked out on the dock was how quiet it was. I like that.
Today is this blog's first anniversary. I don't know how long I'll keep it up, but I've enjoyed doing it. According to the stats compiled by blogger I have had 756 'hits' in the last year. Not many, but it's strangely affecting to know that people from all over the world have stopped by. I wish a few of them would take a few minutes to jot down a reply.