The Anarchists Amongst Us

September 11, 2019

Philosophically and politically, I have been an anarchist for a very long time. However, I find myself embedded within this capitalist web and I’m frankly too comfortable to do much these days except pontificate from the heights of theory. There are, however, true anarchists that live among us, living as anarchists.

They are perhaps not as obstrusive as they once were, but they are with us nonetheless. These true anarchists are the hobos. They travel where they want, do what they want when they want, and work as they need. They are burdened by no quantity of possessions and leave little or no footprint on the environment.  They are the modern equivalent of the pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers.

Unfortunately we are forced to define by exclusion here, to overcome a long-held societal belief that hobos are bad folk. We are not talking here of tramps and bums, nor even of the urban homeless. As the late “hobo doctor” Benjamin Reitman, P.h.D, noted,

“a hobo works and wanders, a tramp dreams and wanders, and a bum drinks and wanders.”

Tramps and bums are seen as lazy, alcoholic, or dirty but authentic hobos are none of these, according to 2003 Hobo Queen Mama Jo LeCount. They are migrant workers, honest friends, and grateful stewards of the earth. A true hobo will always offer to work a chore in exchange for food and shelter. Handouts are for bums.

hobo2

In North America, Civil War soldiers seeking a way home spawned the hobos and they were propelled by further economic necessity during the Depression years. Today, to live as a hobo is generally a lifestyle choice.  I am reminded of this by a fascinating article in the Smithsonian magazine that looks at wannabe hobos and the annual Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa.  Thousands

make the trek each year to convene with their fellow wanderers in joyful celebration and community at the convention, held in Britt since 1900. The week long event, which often includes weddings and parties, is filled with hobos and “hobos at heart” alike.

Mama Jo LeCount describes the hobo life as an “adventure” and there is certainly something in that.  The road trips many of us made around the world in the 1960s (in our hippy search for something that may or may not have been just drugs) were hobo-like in that adventurous sense.  However, most of us did those trips knowing that, at the worst, we had middle class parents and/or a full-employment economy to come home to.

For the true hobo, however, there is no backstop and their choice of lifestyle is much more serious than just “adventure”.  I am certain that the absolute freedom to choose — the essence of true anarchism — that is essential to the lifestyle is at the heart of their choice.  I’ll add it to my ToDo List to get to Britt one year and talk to them about it.

Advertisements

Forty Years On

September 2, 2019

In the late fall of 1978, I came to BC to work on a job in Stewart BC. The twin otter I flew in on was the last plane to land for about a week due to bad weather, and it snowed several feet every day.

The local mine up on Tide Lake had recently closed and the tiny town was populated mainly by hunters and trappers. For a city boy from London, it was all very strange.  For Christmas that year, we were sent down to Vancouver for a few days and over the next few months I grew to love both BC and its people.

When my job finished in the following February, I went back to London and then on to Israel where I was under contract for another job.  During that spring and summer of 1979, I decided to move permanently to Vancouver and it was forty years this week that I arrived and formally immigrated.  It was just before my 30th birthday and now, nearing seventy, I don’t regret the move for one moment.

Thank you Canada and Vancouver for taking me in, making me very welcome, and making my life so much better than it might otherwise have been.


A Parade of Cars

August 25, 2019

I was standing at the bus stop at Commercial & Adanac this afternoon when a whole parade of American muscle cars went by.  Most were of the elongated and colourful variety. There must have been two dozen of them.  I managed to get shots of three.

I’m not interested in cars that much but these were fun to watch drive by.


Shooting The Moon, 50 Years On

July 20, 2019

On this day in 1969 I was in Yugoslavia working as a Third Assistant Director on a movie called “Kelly’s Heroes“. I was nineteen years old and having a wonderful time working with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Salvalas, and a whole wild bunch of American actors. like Harry Dean Stanton and Dick Davalos.

We were living at the Petrovaradin Hotel in Novi Sad and most nights I joined the Americans in games of high stakes poker. We took over one of the small banquet rooms and several of the hotel staff were deputed to look after us with drinks and food. These games were a useful but expensive education for me; over a few weeks, I managed to lose several months’ worth of per diem expenses.

Apollo_11_bootprintOur game on the 20th July 1969 coincided with the first manned landing on the moon and we arranged to have a black and white TV set up in the room  so we could follow the action.  I remember that, just as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Eagle and on to the moon, we were in the middle of a game with a good-sized pot of American dollars piled in middle of the the table. We agreed to pause the game to watch the historic moment.

Several of us took the opportunity to stand and stretch for a moment. As I did so, I noticed that the American actors were glued to the TV screen intent on cheering their countrymen while the hotel staff ignored the TV and were all staring at the big pile of money, mouths agape.

It was an unforgettable night.


Kids and Dirt

June 25, 2019

A new report from the Royal Society for Public Health suggests that health is not affected by too much cleanliness.  They agree that kids should play in the dirt but parents should make sure they wash their hands.  Fair enough.  I wrote the following some while ago and still believe in it.

*  *  *  *  *

When I was a kid, I bet I ate a whole field’s worth of dirt as I played.  My mates and I mucked around in the Thames which, in those days, was little better than a sewer; we got colds and upset stomachs and simply ran them off, more as likely in pouring rain.  Sometimes we got real diseases like mumps and measles but they were considered age appropriate and we all knew it would be over in a week or two.  If any of us had suggested we had an allergy to peanut butter, say, then we would have been stuffed with it until we got over it.  We spent our childhoods shaking hands with every germ and bacteria on the ground and in the air and we grew up to be a fairly healthy generation.

These days parents protect their kids from any kind of contamination and we have the sickest kids in history, I bet.  Many parents pride themselves on keeping their home environments as — or more — sterile than hospitals.  And yet their children have allergies to this and contra-indications to that.  They are as clean as they can be and they are sick as dogs.

I believe there is a direct relationship between the health of kids and the amount of dirt they eat.  The more bugs they collect early in life, the better immunities they develop later; and the more sniffles they get as a child the less likely they are to show hypochondriac tendencies as adults.  To put it another way, the less a household pays in cleansing and sanitizing and “protecting” their kids, the less they will need to spend in health care costs later.

This change from healthy dirt to dangerous prophylaxis has occurred within my lifetime.  How did it come about?  Marketing and capitalism, that’s how.

By the 1940s and 1950s, major industrial cleaning companies had developed a whole range of cleaning solutions.  No one really needed them, but the marketers set out to convince parents, mothers especially, that they were doing their children great harm if they did not use their products.  They used fear as the primary motivation — not only fear of sickness in their kids, but more viscerally the fear of appearing to be a bad mother. And they succeeded perhaps beyond their wildest dreams.

And now we are all paying for it, with a generation of children with allergies and neuroses and medical conditions that were almost unknown fifty years ago.  It sure did the Johnson & Johnsons and the Hoovers of the world a lot of good financially, but is this really progress?

 


Italian Day 2019

June 9, 2019

A few images from a very crowded Commercial Drive …

I love these events that show off our neighbourhood so well.  The only problem I have with having so many people on the Drive at one time is that they tend to fill up all the places (benches, walls, etc) that a semi-invalid old fart like me needs to use to sit down every block or so!   I can happily put up with that a few times a year.


Happy Birthday Dad!

April 25, 2019

 

Today my father would have been 92 years old.  He has been gone almost 20 years now, but I seem to speak with him more often these days than I ever did when he was alive.  He was a wonderful man and, I now recognize, a marvellously supportive parent; an attribute that I was too dumb to notice far too often when I was younger.