Ripping Out A Heart

When a newspaper dies, a community is lesser for it, opines Roy Macgregor over at the Globe and Mail, and I would tend to agree, but the timing of the dying is connected to the definition of death. As one who always loved the idea of a weekend morning ensconced on the couch with a pot of coffee and at least one fat weekend edition, it has been wrenching foregoing that often somewhat masochist pleasure, and even the occasion for a few pangs of regret when the daily five-minute scan or our local rag was abandoned for a bouquet of reasons (price hike, less content/more ads, unending editorial spew) and finally had a stake put through its heart when Black Press shut the paper entirely as summer faded into fall this past year. Then yesterday, there was a lot of wiling and gnashing of teeth as the Nanaimo Daily News faded to Black (whew!) after a run of 141 years, amply demonstrating David Black’s utter contempt for anything other than profits and hatred for unions.

Macgregor’s pronouncement has some truth in it, but the reason these papers died was apparent long before management chose to right-size the local paper industry: as I said to the subscription folks locally on a number of occasions that the paper had morphed into utter irrelevance. It died when it ceased to serve the needs of the community, and it’s only now when there is no “paper of record” that people in these parts wander around with blank stares wondering how it is that we don’t have a central organ to connect citizens with each other and with a semblance of knowledge on which to base some form of wisdom and discernement. It reminds me of (wait for it) a line from an old song that Paul Butterfield sang in 1968: “Your mind is leaving’, but your body’s staying’ here.”

By the way, closing small schools is a good way to rip apart rural communities, and, I’ll wager, urban neighbourhoods. This is David Black working from the same plan as our provincial administration in the quest to turn us all into industrial ciphers.

We’re Number Nine!


Actually, the is supposed to be good news, but, as is often the case, the joy or pain is related to how one views the subject.

This came up when scanning the Globe and Mail this morning, where Canada has been listed as the ninth least corrupt country in the world. I guess this is reasonable because we don’t have to deal with the level of garbage that happens in much of Africa, say, or the “Stans” (notwithstanding characterizations of Canada as Canuckistan), but with the B.C Rail deal, Site C, the Health Ministry Firings, Quick Wins, LNG, the Massey Tunnel replacement and everything else that just doesn’t smell all that clean, it would seem that someone missed something in this little corner of Canuckistan. Allison Redford showed us that our neighbours aren’t ready to let us steal a march on them, Kathleen Wynne is facing some sharp questions about her practices and those of her predecessors, and, certainly since the days of the Big O and the ’76 Olympics, there are few who would attribute lily-whiteness to Québec politics. For brevity’s sake, we need go no further, without even getting started with the Federal governments of many ages, in wondering if, since we’re so wonderful, how the hell does anyone get anything meaningful done anywhere else without a level of bribery and corruption that boggles the mind and bends the definition.

It’s a sad perversion of the idea of beauty being in the eye of the beholder and conjures up thoughts of the press saying anything it thinks would be cute, of ourselves being smug, and of a wilful ignorance on a grand scale.



Piketty: «Les réformes promises mais non tenues tuent l’idée même de démocratie»



For those whose French is a work in progress, the headline, from Libération, states that unfulfilled promises of reform kill the very idea of democracy. Of course, this is very true of the current administration of President François Hollande, as it is of Jean-Marc Ayrault and Emmanuel Valls, his two Prime Ministers, but it seems a recurring theme with governments both in Canada and abroad, and very much on point with current discussions of the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership, where the meaning of the campaign slogan “Real Change” is shown for the hollow rhetoric that it is. Minister Freeland would have us believe that signing is not ratifying, but with a whipped majority and an ignorant electorate, ratification looks like a reasonably sure thing, showing to what extent the Liberal Party of Canada is in thrall to the same interests, if not exactly the same players, as the previous Conservative administration. Trudeau is looking increasingly like More Of Same rather than Real Change, in much the same fashion as the Hope and Change of 2008 morphed into Wall Street ever present in D.C., Guantanamo still open, another market bubble, increased wars and more carbon than ever pumping into the atmosphere. Is it any wonder why people seem reluctant to spend whatever minimal time it takes to get to the polls? It isn’t as though North America has a corner on the broken promises, given that the hope for a better future engendered by the formation of the EEC and then the EU has turned into a huge bureaucratic boondoggle and an entirely captured enterprise in the neoliberal mode. The rising tide of economic activity in Asia has failed miserably at making a decent life for most Asians, and Russia, post-USSR is a basket case with economic disparity on a level rivalling the Russia of the Tsars. The phenomenon occurs at all levels, not being restricted to national governments, as can be seen here in BC where our current administration wants to pull both triggers of the climate shotgun by giving pride of place to dilbit pipelines and LNG development, having first created conditions to ensure that none of the possible benefits stay here in BC.

Is democracy sacred? We look to find out fairly quickly whether its replacement will do better and creating conditions for inclusive well-being, a state that should be sacred.


“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
― Frank Zappa

Snowed Under



As last year(!) drew to a close, I found myself making like a BC Liberal flack and wearing out the <delete> key in my inbox. Both my wife and I, in our retirement, have taken it upon ourselves to be active in the community and beyond, in aid of creating a social and economic system that works on the principle of inclusion and that works toward a model of ecological regeneration, she from the standpoint of Christian obligation (as well as a generous nature), and I from the standpoint of a morality evolved through secular readings and observations. Our main focus is on our local community, which, it’s plain, is in need of an awakening to current circumstances and to a rebuild foundation for economic activity and reward, but she has ventured as far as Kenya with a women’s missions group, and we both maintain links to both national and international groups seeking to redress the worst (at first) of the world’s ills.

The sad parts that, once one has established a link to an organization, it seems that the relationship becomes one of lifetime support. My inbox has offered me more opportunities to donate in the last couple of weeks than I could ever hope to match, and there are many serial “offenders”, people who remind me several times daily about upcoming deadlines for tax receipts, or opportunities to meet matching donation quotas. The language has gotten progressively more florid as the deadlines approach, tugging ever harder at the heartstrings and guilt pangs to ensure the survival of each and every progressive social and ecologically-focused organization ready to vanish into the ether without my paltry donation.

I guess I can be a hard-hearted bastard when I need to: long ago, I learned to say a firm “No, thank you” based on the principle of being an active reader, seeker and link-follower. I can find the people with whom I need to connect to lend support and don’t need to be solicited with cold calls of one kind or another to prompt me, lest I forget to feed the machine: we do, of course, also get solicitations through Canada Post and via the phone, and my constant refrain when called upon, boils down to “don’t call me, I’ll call you: the best way to get left off the donations list is to ask.”

None of us can do it all, and it is precisely because we don’t seem to act in concert a good part of the time that concentrations of money an power find so ready a lever in the mechanisms of our current society, but I rue the day when we have a superstructure on the scale of the United Way for apportioning money donated to social, political and economic causes. Organizations of that nature seem to become self-focused and look after the organization itself before tending to the needs of the component causes. There is also a multiplicity of approaches that exist to deal with the inequity and iniquity of our current circumstances, some focused in the political realm, some purely ecological, some social initiatives, some squarely aimed at economic levers. I’m good at deciding where to put my time, money and words, and I don’t want people tugging at my sleeve at every corner, upsetting my internal harmony. I also know how fortunate I am in the circumstances of my birth, upbringing, career, cultural and social life, and to sense that my fortune should be everybody’s fortune, but please, a little decorum.