— Juan Ramon Jimenez
News reports say that a disturbed man was killed by police bullets at Knight & 41st yesterday. There will be a police news conference this afternoon to explain their actions but, frankly, from the information already available it is obvious that this was a completely unnecessary death.
The man was armed with a two-by-four piece of lumber and was threatening people walking by. There is no doubt that he needed to be pacified and probably taken away for help (or incarceration if required). What he certainly didn’t need to do was die.
It seems that police surrounded him and used gun-fired bean bags to try to disarm him. That didn’t work. So the police closed in, to within two meters, and shot him multiple times with real bullets until he was dead. Why? The man had a piece of lumber, not a projectile weapon and therefore the only possible danger was to people immediately close to him.
He could have been shot in the legs and disabled. The police could have used Tasers, usually their favourite toys, and brought him down. The police could have used a riot shield to knock the lumber out of the way and grabbed him by sheer numbers. The police could have simply surrounded him until he fell asleep or gave up.
There was absolutely no reason why the man should be shot dead at point blank range. None.
Today is laundry day in our household. The ever-loving — a self-described laundry Nazi — loves to split the pile of cloths and linens into a much larger variety of “types” than the simple whites, coloureds, reds that my mother taught me. Thinking of this got me musing about how drastically this particular household function has changed in the last 70-odd years.
Time was that the laundry represented a full day of hard physical labour, one that most housewives faced each week with dread. Today, that has all changed, at least in the westernized world. With automatic machines and efficient driers, each load takes perhaps just four or five minutes of effort to load, unload and fold. Five or six wash and dry loads can be completed with less physical effort than a single wash load (not including wringing and drying) meant to my grandmother.
In my research on the retail and social changes on Commercial Drive in the middle of the last century, one of the key factors of modernization that emerges in the 1930s and 1940s is the evolution of many hardware stores into appliance retailers; and, prior to the introduction of TV in the 1950s, it was the steady improvement in laundry technology that drove this process.
As an aside, it is worth mentioning that virtually all domestic technology engineers in the 1920s to 1950s were men, men who would have had little or no first-hand knowledge of the drudgery of household laundry. I assume that the power of persuasion by their female partners played a significant role in these improvements.
First published 5th January 2011