Site C: A Personal Reflection

December 13, 2017

Yesterday was the worst of days for British Columbia. A government we had achingly hoped would inspire British Columbians has instead bowed to its Big Labour masters (often as reactionary as the most plutocratic tycoon), played fast and loose with its implied campaign promises (and overall economic analysis), and kicked the First Nations in the teeth once again. Reflecting on just how significant this betrayal is took me back a long time, back to the days when I realised I could never be a unionist, or a social democrat.

A Londoner, I grew up in a strongly union family: my grandfather, a railwayman, was involved in the General Strike, and both his sons — my uncle Alf who eventually became mayor of Brentford, and my Dad — though professionals, were active supporters of the Labour Party. As a very small boy I remember folding brochures for campaigns, and labour matters were always on the agenda when we visited my uncle.  By my mid-teens, I was a member and volunteer at both the local Labour Party and a Transport Workers Union office. It was the mid-1960s and Harold Wilson’s white hot technological revolution was leading us all to the labourite paradise.

By then I had started to read deeply in left wing theory and history, and I developed quite the revolutionary zeal against the evils of capital and the systems of oppressive inequality that were fostered by it. I shared these thoughts and ideas at the labour hall and the Labour Party offices. And I was laughed off, brushed off, told not to worry about “abstract theory.” At first I assumed I was being ignored because I was a young kid. But I swiftly realized that the party and union leaders were plainly uninterested in the failures of the capitalist and “democratic” systems.

They didn’t want to change the systems at all, they just wanted their share of what the systems could give them and their members; seats, sinecures, and power for the party members, washing machines and a small car for the workers even if it meant sweetheart deals exploiting labour in other ways. Those leaders with intellectual pretensions argued for the value of “incremental benefits” and for the postponement of radical change until some indefinite future.

Even after this realization, I continued to make my arguments at the halls until, quite quickly, I was shuffled out the door as a malcontent.

Today, I feel just as disappointed as I did fifty-plus years ago. I am disappointed in the NDP and the unions, of course; but I am equally disappointed in myself for hoping that social democrats and big labour could ever accept real change and the challenges it offers.

 

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Back To The Old Days!

November 28, 2017

I actually spent four days or more at home without my computer. That was odd. I realised that much of my daily life — my to do lists, my medical record-keeping, my recipes, my banking — was all centred around the box that I didn’t have to hand.  Somehow I survived (and didn’t even have to watch England being tormented in the first Ashes Test).

I spent a lot of time reading (getting through two Jo Nesbo novels of 500+pages each) and listening to the CBC Radio. I also scribbled a few pages of notes that, even to me, look more like proto-Japanese than English.

It was a joy to get the machine back this morning, but the pleasant feeling slowly dissipated as I worked my way through several hundred emails.


Computing Interruptus

November 24, 2017

I was working on the computer last night when, quite suddenly, my second monitor — on which I was watching the Ashes — simply blacked out. I assumed it was a connection issue but quickly noticed that all the display attributes on my main monitor had become wonky — none of the web sites I was visiting or the documents I was working on looked the way they should.

Like any experienced computer user I knew exactly what to do: I turned off the computer for a reboot. Sadly, my computer decided it did not want to boot up again

Luckily, just two blocks away from the apartment, sits VCV Computers on Commercial Drive.  The proprietor, James, has run the store for many years and has kept us on-line several times in the past.  I took my damaged baby to see him at 10 this morning, and by 6 this evening for a very reasonable fee I had it back, almost as good as new. Excellent service and good rates, as always; hard to recommend them highly enough.


False Memory Syndrome

November 22, 2017

Fifty-four years ago today, my mother and father visited their closest friends, Ron and Betty, who lived a few miles from us in West London. I was in the backseat of the small black car.  It smelled of leather and my parents’ cigarettes. I was sullen because I was just turned 14 years old and I had far better things to do than visit my parents’ old fogie friends to play cards.

I remember this all so clearly because, just as we pulled up outside Ron and Betty’s row house, the car radio broke off its normal programming and a solemn voice replaced the happy chatter.  The voice announced that President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been shot and probably killed.  I can still feel the goose-flesh that crawled over my skin. I remember the loud gasp as my father realized what had been said.  John Kennedy was one of my father’s heroes, and he was mine too. He was our hope for the future, and now he was dead. Nothing else about that evening do I remember. I’m sure my folks and their friends discussed the assassination, but that has passed from recall.

Within two years of that day, though, JFK had — in my eyes at least — fallen from the pedestal upon which his charisma, his beautiful family, and his martyrdom had placed him.  He was quickly revealed as just another centre-right US politician who was happy to send the boys to war, who was happy to squander the nation’s wealth on weapons and imperialism, who had no answer to segregation but brother Bobby’s federal agents.  We also learned (perhaps we always knew) he wasn’t quite such a great family man, either; that Camelot was an expensive sham.

Kennedy and his people lived in the tuxedoed world of High Society that was soon to be swept away by the real world of Soul on Ice and Revolver.  We might have hated that big Texas bully who followed Kennedy, but it was Kennedy not Johnson who pushed the US into South Vietnam, and it was Johnson not Kennedy who brought forward the Civil Rights Acts. Looking back, we can now see that both Kennedy and Johnson were equal participants in the cabaret that is America the Superpower. Unfortunately for the truth, Kennedy will always have the smile, the beautiful wife, the cute John-John and Caroline, while Johnson will always be pulling the ears off those damn beagles.


Mid-Binges Report

November 19, 2017

I have finally joined the 21st century — or at least a part of it: I have been binge-watching on Netflix.

I am completely hooked on “Scott & Bailey“, a British cop show that is brutal in its telling of procedurals, but which allows me to understand life as it is today in Manchester as the characters’ personal lives weave in and out of the murders and other serious crimes they have to deal with.  Series five is currently airing on TV. Over the last ten days I have completed the first two seasons, 14 shows, each as good as the previous. I am looking forward to starting series 3 later today.

When I’m not watching “Scott & Bailey“, the chances are I am binge-reading the entire collection of Jo Nesbo Norwegian detective mysteries. I am currently working my way through “The Redbreast,” the third of the Harry Hole series. Harry Hole is an alcoholic and often deranged senior detective based in Oslo. An outsider. A rough diamond. A brilliant detective. A lot of cliches and stereotypes that Nesbo creatively manages to use to create a very interesting background against which the crimes are committed and solved.  I have four more volumes stacked up on the table beside me.

Not a bad way to  spend rainy days.


Memoir: A Day of Infinite Possibilities

November 9, 2017

It was 9th November 1989 and I was watching TV, watching the news from Berlin.  And soon a dozen people are hacking at the Wall from both sides and the party has begun and CNN’s cameras bring this extraordinary and historic wish-fulfillment into the living rooms of the world, and my living room in particular that November night.

And within moments, it seemed, there were thousands singing and candles blazing. And even though I was in Vancouver at the time, my heart was with them because at heart I was and remain a Londoner. And Berlin is VERY close to home to Londoners, especially to those who had spent decades watching people die as they tried to go over and under and around the Wall. And I wept openly and for days when the Wall came down.

It was a day of ultimate possibilities because here was an impossibility happening in front of our tear-misty TV-mediated eyes.


Oh What A Night!

November 3, 2017

Tonight we went to see the Canadian rugby team play the Maori All Blacks at BC Place. We were wrapped up in our winter woollies with scarves and gloves and the whole bitter cold night thing.

Before the game, we went to the food hall at Costco’s for two polish sausage hot-dogs with all the trimmings plus two soft drinks (and refills) and a massive vanilla ice cream cone for $5.50.  I’ve written before about how this is the best deal in town. This was cemented in my mind when, after that satisfying snack, we headed into the stadium and saw that a single foot-long hot-dog by itself was $9.25!

Canada lost by 51 points to 9 — quite the blowout — but that wasn’t too unexpected a result, let’s be honest.  Canada kept it close in the beginning — 9 points to 10 at one stage — but then the All Blacks scored three easy tries from three Canadian mistakes and that was that. In  the second half they just piled it on; but the Canadians never gave up, kept pushing, and when they had a decent break up field the full house roared them on.

Talking about a full house, it certainly looked full and felt full, and the announced attendance was 29,840 which is  a record for a full rugby international in Canada.

It has been a long time since I saw a rugby game in the flesh — and this would have been the very first one for the ever-loving who loves everything New Zealand and so was ecstatic at the result.  Seeing the Maori’s haka live was exciting, as was the half time show of traditional Maori song and dance.

A grand night!