Liberalism. As It Was So It Shall Always Be.

August 30, 2015

eminentvictorians

In Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, mock biographical essays on 4… well… eminent Victorians, the author goes to town on Dr. Thomas Arnold, self-styled educational reformer, longtime Rubgy School headmaster and father of poet, Matthew Arnold. “The son of a respectable Collector of Customs, he had been educated at Winchester and at Oxford, where his industry and piety had given him a conspicuous place among his fellow students,” Strachey writes of the young Dr. Thomas. “It is true that, as a schoolboy, a certain pompousness in the style of his letters home suggested to the more clear-sighted among his relatives the possibility that young Thomas might grow up into a prig; but, after all, what else could be expected from a child who, at the age of three, had been presented by his father, as a reward for proficiency in his studies, with the twenty-four volumes of Smollett’s History of England?”

Later on, Strachey describes the adult Dr. Thomas’ Liberal politics in a manner which caught my attention for its modern appropriateness. A definition that appears to never go out of style.

Now, I know some of you will see this as a partisan attack. But, let me assure you as much as I can, that when I read this passage, party politics was the furthest thing from my mind. It was the concept of liberalism that sprung out at me. The notion of not-conservative, I would call it. A contrast versus a designation. This is what I’m not not this is what I am.

drarnold

He was, as he constantly declared, a Liberal. In his opinion, by the very constitution of human nature, the principles of progress and reform had been those of wisdom and justice in every age of the world — except one: that which had preceded the fall of man from Paradise. Had he lived then, Dr Arnold would have been a Conservative. As it was, his Liberalism was tempered by an ‘abhorrence of the spirit of 1789, of the American War, of the French Economistes, and of the English Whigs of the latter part of the seventeenth century’; and he always entertained a profound respect for the hereditary peerage. It might almost be said, in fact, that he was an orthodox Liberal. He believed in toleration, too, within limits; that is to say, in the toleration of those with whom he agreed…He had become convinced of the duty of sympathising with the lower orders ever since he had made a serious study of the Epistle of St James; but he perceived clearly that the lower orders fell into two classes, and that it was necessary to distinguish between them. There were the ‘good poor’ — and there were the others. ‘I am glad that you have made acquaintance with some of the good poor,’ he wrote to a Cambridge undergraduate; ‘I quite agree with you that it is most instructive to visit them.’ Dr Arnold himself occasionally visited them, in Rugby; and the condescension with which he shook hands with old men and women of the working classes was long remembered in the neighbourhood. As for the others, he regarded them with horror and alarm. ‘The disorders in our social state,’ he wrote to the Chevalier Bunsen in 1834, ‘appear to me to continue unabated. You have heard, I doubt not, of the Trades Unions; a fearful engine of mischief, ready to riot or to assassinate; and I see no counteracting power.’

transcribedly submitted by Cityslikr

 

 


Democracy By The Square Foot

August 28, 2015

As summer cools and fall looms, the options report for Toronto’s ward boundary review begins to sink into focus. (I’ve written – dare I say it? – voluminously about it . Most recently here.) wardboundaryreviewoptionsreportJust now, I am struck by a thought.

Should city council be the ultimate decider on this? How wards get reconfigured may have, will have, a direct impact on more than a few sitting councillors. It’s difficult not to see something of a conflict of interest inherent in this process.

It’s a horse that’s already left the barn, obviously, but you can see the optics of even the most well-meaning councillor being called into question, read it in the comments section of any news story about the issue. No politician will decide to get rid of their own job! Less pigs at the trough not more! The Jays are going to fold just like they usually do! Oh, yeah. And I hate politicians!!

Such a specter of negative public perception will most definitely hang over the proceedings. The consulting group responsible for conducting the public meetings, writing the reports and making the recommendations have taken the two most contentious and illusorily logical options off the table. Simply cutting the ward numbers in half elicited little, if loud, public support. thumbthescaleAligning ward boundaries with the new federal ridings failed to address the voter disparity, the democratic deficit that served as the ultimate reason for reworking our ward boundaries.

This doesn’t mean city council can’t revive them. Staff and expert reports are rarely treated as sacrosanct especially if they get in the way of politics. It would be naïve of anyone to think politics won’t play a part, a significant part, in this when all is said and done.

One political angle has already emerged. It emerged early on in the first round of public consultations and popped back up in a CBC article a couple days ago. “Residents of towers [high rise apartments and condo buildings, I guess] rarely interact with their councillor,” Ward 4 Etobicoke Centre councillor John Campbell said. apartmenttower“Most interaction we have I would say are residents calling about property issues. They are homeowners.”

Homeowners. Property issues.

In response on the Twitter, John McGrath made a very interesting and telling point. “Almost everywhere, municipal government is about and for single-family homeowners, with everyone else shoehorned in where necessary.” Councillor Campell’s mistake was just saying out loud what is true but nobody wants to talk about.

Homeowners. Taxpayers. Hardworking taxpayers.

In response to my rather pointed, shall we say, social media queries at the councillor about his comment, he informed me that in Ward 4 there are 14,000 homes versus 6,000 apartments, roughly a 70:30 ratio. densityandsprawlYet his office only gets 5% of calls from apartment/condo residents requiring work of some sort from him. Thus, to his mind, “equal distribution [of residents/ward] will not provide equitable representation.”

Setting aside the fact that on the city’s website, the Ward 4 profile (according to the 2011 census) has it that just under 47% of households are technically considered “apartment buildings”, a significantly different ratio than the councillor stated, Councillor Campbell seems to be equating representation at City Hall with how much work he is called upon to do for a resident. Homeowners demand more. So homeowners’ votes should count for more.

Or something.

Perhaps a more generous interpretation would be that, in Councillor Campbell’s view, an uneven distribution of residents per ward is warranted since different built forms demand different levels of work for councillors. If your ward is dominated by apartment towers, full of residents making fewer demands because, apparently,towers apartment dwellers are more content than those forced to mow their own lawns and shovel their own sidewalks, that councillor can not serve more of them.

“Capacity to represent” is certainly one of the considerations being factored in to the ward boundary equation but should hardly be the sole determinant in calculating full “effective representation” the report is striving toward. It’s the customer service aspect of serving as a city councillor, the crowd pleaser. Surely, there’s more to the job of being a city councillor than completing work orders, isn’t there?

If some of Toronto’s residents aren’t engaged with City Hall, maybe it’s because they haven’t figured out they can or why they should even bother. Shouldn’t at least one aspect of this “capacity to represent” be about proactive engagement by our local representatives? suburbs50sIf Councillor Campbell is only hearing from a very small section of Ward 4 residents living in apartment buildings, maybe he ought to wonder why rather than conclude, It’s all good.

As difficult as it might be to believe, given the last 5 years or so around these parts, civic engagement isn’t only about airing out our grievances. There should be a much more positive exchange. Of ideas and opinions rather than just complaints.

There’s also a bigger political question at play here. While certainly Toronto’s population and development growth isn’t concentrated just in the older legacy part of the city, people are moving in and moving on up in the southern part of Etobicoke, along the lake just under Ward 4, as well us up north in Willowdale and the northeastern part of Scarborough, there can be little denying that a critical mass are heading to a few wards right smack dab downtown. More people could translate into more wards in that area. shutthedoorIt would stand to reason and only be fair if we have even a passing interest in “voter parity” or the old rep-by-pop saw.

Such a demographic and democratic shift could well threaten to upset the ruling coalition of suburban council votes that has been a mainstay in Toronto since amalgamation, and even under the previous Metro form of governance when the population had migrated from the core of the city. Power shifts to where the people are, and I’m not just talking geographically. The reign of traditional ‘homeowners’, as Councillor Campbell defines them, detached, single-family houses, living the Cleaver lifestyle, is under threat. There’s no room anymore in Toronto. What there is now is all there will ever be.

In order to resist such change councillors like John Campbell, and Scarborough throwback, Jim Karygiannis who voiced similar flippant disregard during the first round of public meetings for those deemed not to be real homeowners, will have to work to diminish non-homeowners’ status as residents of this city. viewPeople living in apartments and condo towers have their own building management at their beck and call, the local councillor from Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt opined. Granting them equal representation at City Hall would be just unfair.

Democracy by the square foot, in other words. Nothing new, of course. But we need to call it what it is.

size mattersly submitted by Cityslikr


The Meddling Public Sector

August 26, 2015

While governments at every level and of every political stripe spend our money like it’s theirs, threatening to send all us hardworking taxpayers to the proverbial poorhouse, it is the private sector, the merchants of free enterprise, muckingupthewordswho keep the ship of state upright, generating the wealth which floats all our boats. With a laser-like approach to finding efficiencies, customer service and competitive pricing, the profit motive greases the wheels of a functioning society, pretty much as God and Milton Friedman proclaimed. “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem,” actor-turned-politician Ronald Reagan crowed, “government is the problem.”

Allow me to introduce exhibit A.

Right now in Toronto, City Hall sits guilty of stifling not one, but two heroic businesses, trying their best to make this city a better place to live for all of us. lucyBack in 2009, city council demanded to pay Bombardier nearly a billion dollars in return for 204 new streetcars. Clearly, it was an unreasonable 10 year delivery timeline with 37 of the vehicles expected on the road by the end of 2014, 60 by the time 2016 rolled around. To date, only 8 are up and running along the streets of Toronto.

Obviously the only reasonable explanation for such a delay and overwhelming under-performance on the part of Bombardier is the intrusion of government into the sphere of the private sector. The company has also been forced to delay orders of new subway cars to New York City and Montreal. What’s the common factor in that equation? (Aside from the delays, that is.) Ethrowingmoneyaroundxactly. Cities, and government.

Where the hell are all these public pension bloated fat cats with their hands out full of money, offering to buy planes from Bombardier? Because of this stingy, public transit-oriented attitude of municipal officials, the company’s aviation arm has been hindered in its honest pursuit of an honest day’s capitalism. Reduced to near ‘penny-stock status’, according to the Globe and Mail, Bombardier sits helplessly on its stock of beautiful C-series flying technology, waiting for somebody, anybody, from the public sector to step up and perform as it was meant to do. Write big fat cheques to private companies with as few strings attached as possible.

Here’s the kicker.

Rather than sit around complaining about how Bombardier isn’t living up to its streetcar contract, Toronto city council could be channeling that negative energy into something positive. greasethewheelsSuch as, for example, bulldozing ahead with approval of the island airport expansion. This would allow another valiant private company, Porter Airlines, now obstructed by a pernicious officialdom, bureaucratically hung up on ‘proper environmental assessments’, ‘public input’, ‘people oriented waterfront development’ and other make-work, nonsensical jargon, to green light its order of Bombardier CS-100 whisper jets and expand its reach and, fingers crossed, bottom line.

In turn, flush with cash, Bombardier could ramp up its street and subway car assembly lines, delivering to the politicians what they’re really in the business of: vote getting. That’s what they call, out here in the real world, a win-win-win for everyone. Government keeps spending money in order for the private sector to make money. Wealth is then spread accordingly in the immutable law of Economics 101. lenderoflastresortAs it should be.

We elect our representatives to pay up, step back and observe the miracle of commerce. Nothing more. Until we learn to do that, and that only, we will continue to hinder the real engine of our well-being, leaving us empty-handed with fingers pointed in blame at the wrong people for delays, cost overruns, contract breaches and an underwater tunnel taking too few people to too few places.

If that comes to pass, who will be left holding the bag? In the end, somebody’s got to pay. That’s just the way of the world. Governments need to accept that responsibility, their responsibility, and fall into line, knowing it is always better to be the payer of first resort than it is the lender of last resort.

matter-of-factly submitted by Cityslikr


An Olympic Beg

August 20, 2015

Of all the reasons that steer me in the direction of, what would you call it? Fuck An Olympic Bid?, the one most compelling is the cynicism sitting right at the heart of Toronto 2024 proponents. haveigotadealforyouMaybe cynicism is too strong a word. Pure political calculation might be more appropriate.

It’s this.

If we get the Olympics, X piece of infrastructure will get done. The Olympics will bring us new social housing. A forced Olympics deadline will deliver all those things this city has been clamoring for for a generation now.

It seems in this day and age, a wholly adequate 1970s transit system for a city of 2.5 million in 2015 fails to meet the definition of any sort of deadline. 7500 homes boarded up in less than 10 years if more funding is not forthcoming from senior levels of government for Toronto Community Housing does not constitute any firm deadline. No. The only deadline that matters now is the discriminating gaze from the rest of the world as it turns its attention toward the Olympic host city, 20xx.

Our international reputation is on the line here, people. Time to pull up our socks. The clock is ticking!

I’m not about to get into all the nitty gritty about the pluses and minuses of hosting the Olympics.polishthesilverware It’d be generous, I think, for me to call it a wash. Sure, cities get stuff they didn’t have before, some of it necessary even. But the costs for that seem to be very, very steep.

On CBC’s MetroMorning this morning, former Olympic bid… guy, Bob Richardson (but definitely not that thing this time around) blithely assured the radio listening audience that the International Olympic Committee have changed their tune and the body is now more reasonable in its approach. “The IOC is really trying to ratchet down their costs…and making the rules a lot more flexible,” he told host David Common.

Somebody ought to tell officials down in Boston that news. A report that came out after the city decided it wasn’t going to bid on the 2024 Games after all paints a slightly different impressionistic picture of the IOC, the bidding and hosting process.

The report found that the risks it examined are inherent to the bidding process as specified by the International Olympic Committee, calling them “inflexible elements” of any bid. “In requiring these guarantees, the IOC imposes financial risk on the part of those entities providing the guarantees and, ultimately, in the case of Boston, on city and state taxpayers.”

That was just after stating this finding:

The State and Local governments, while having only limited ability to influence and shape the bid, would bear significant financial risks as the ultimate guarantors under the financial Letters of Guarantee. All of the risks associated with public infrastructure spending would fall completely on the Commonwealth. The taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would be the ultimate risk bearers.

In my experience, always be wary of those assuring us that this time, it’ll be different.

Even if you can justify an Olympic investment in terms of the benefits accrued, all your t’s are crossed, your i’s dotted, it feels a little like a civic hostage taking. Do the bid or the city gets it. alcaponedeaddeaddeadRather, do the bid or the city doesn’t get it. Affordable housing? Dead. Transit upgrade? Dead. All infrastructure needs? Dead, dead, dead.

And what happens if your city is deemed not Olympic worthy? Sorry, Winnipeg. Nothing for you this decade because the feds are throwing a shitload of money at Olympic Host City X to show the world what a great country we are. Maybe team up with Regina and Saskatoon for a co-bid in 20 years or so.

“We got more done in the last 5 years [leading up to the PanAm/ParaPan Games] than we did in the previous 15 years in terms of infrastructure,” Mr. Richardson told Metro Morning.

Does that mean in order to invest in basic upgrades to the city, we have to be in perpetual bid mode? Bring the world to us and reap the benefits. Otherwise, this is the reality of our situation. “Almost half of Ontario’s municipalities have to hike property taxes by at least one full per cent to raise $50,000,” the Association of Municipalities of Ontario president, Gary McNamara, told the conference this week. olympicgoodies“Policy-makers at Queen’s Park need to understand (it all adds) up to one serious problem faster than they can imagine.”

“There is a strong case for municipal government to be better funded than it is, not just in Ontario, but in other jurisdictions across Canada,” he said, pointing out that “the federal and provincial governments receive 4 or 5 more times revenue than municipalities” which represents more than 90% of every tax dollar collected at every level of government.

Yet increasingly, cities have to gussy up and perform pony tricks to access necessary funds from their ‘partners’ at the senior levels of government in the hopes of keeping things running properly. Local politicians tap into that dynamic, some using it to absolve themselves of responsibility for, you know, governance. You want project X? Well, dance, monkey. Dance. The alternative is to go to war with Ottawa and Queen’s Park or, heaven forbid, start tapping into our own methods of revenue generation to get that project done.dogshow

Instead, we choose to use an Olympic bid as the middle man for major transactions between our elected officials, facilitating the movement of money from public coffers to public good. For their efforts, middle men skim a little of that cash off the top. Nothing underhanded or particularly shady, it’s just the nature of middle manning.

But it does raise the question why, in terms of building necessary infrastructure, a middle man is required?

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


Now We’ve Got Options!

August 17, 2015

unreadableHave you ever found yourself thinking: Man I would just love to get my hands around the throat of a public policy issue and throttle it into submission but all those official reports and papers are so dry and dense and full of inscrutable bureaucratese that’s it’s impossible to figure out what to think almost as if nobody wants you to know what’s going on…

Yeah?

Well, first. You need a little punctuation in your thought process. I mean, come on. Run on sentences lead only to disorderly logic and a fundamental inability to think critically. Use (but never over-use) commas.

That said, and after deciphering your brain gibberish, I highly recommend you sit down and read the Ward Boundary Review Options Report. pageturnerIt is a beautifully written document. Clear, to the point, no messing about. Official and essential beach reading.

What is the Ward Boundary Review? We wrote about it, first back in November. (And then again, here and here, and talked about it a couple times too, here and here).

What exactly is a Ward Boundary Review? (From an earlier report):

As a result of significant growth in the City over the past several years there are some wards that have considerably higher populations, and some lower, than the average ward population. This means that the equity of representative democracy across wards has been compromised. The Toronto Ward Boundary Review is looking at the size and shape of Toronto’s wards in order to address this inequity and ensure that all Toronto residents are fairly represented at City Council.

The City of Toronto Act (2006) gives City Council the authority to make changes to its ward boundaries. It does not, however, provide specific instructions for how the ward boundary review should be undertaken or the parameters that should be followed. Municipalities in Ontario look to past Supreme Court cases and Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) decisions for guidance. The historic Carter Case, which was one of the first electoral boundary cases to be taken to the Supreme Court, set the precedent for ward boundary reviews in Canada by establishing the principle of “effective representation” as the basis for making ward boundary adjustments.

Why is a ward boundary review and subsequent changes to ward boundaries necessary now?

Toronto’s current ward structure, developed approximately 15 years ago, has become unbalanced. This impacts voter parity (similar but not identical population numbers among wards) not just at election time, but every time City Council votes.

Not to mention that it probably doesn’t hurt to assess the state of your local governance structure at least every 15 years or so.

So after one round of consultations with the public, politicians and other various civic “stakeholders”, we’ve been presented with 5 options for ward realignment. wardboundaryreviewBigger, smaller, more, fewer, in a nutshell. I’m not going to break the options down much more than that right now, mostly because I really want you to read the report for yourself. Did I tell you it’s really fantastic and completely worth your while?

I will say this in terms of my immediate impression of the options, mostly having to do with what was left off the table. Both the idea of cutting the number of wards in half and keeping them aligned with federal/provincial ridings were deemed lacking in support and non-workable, respectively. Hoo-rah for that, I say.

“Since the idea of having 25 very large wards [aligned with the new federal ridings in Toronto, effectively cutting council size in half] gained virtually no support during the public process,” the report states, “it has not been pursued as an option.” intothebinThat may come as a surprise to all those chanting along with the former mayor and organizations such as the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition about reducing the number of councillors at City Hall but there it is. Despite the volume and repetition, there was ‘virtually no support’ to go down that reductionist rode. Good riddance.

While it seems to make sense to far more people to keep doing what we’re doing and design our wards along federal riding lines and then simply cut them in half, the report sense a problem with that too.

This option does not resolve the issue of very large wards in the Downtown and southern Etobicoke and the numerous small wards. It merely continues most of the inequities of the current situation that led to the TWBR. An option based on using the federal riding boundaries and then dividing them in two will not achieve effective representation and has, therefore, not been pursued.

And as I’ve said all along, why would the city want to design its electoral structure based on that of the level of government that has the least amount to do with our daily lives?

Shouldn’t we take this opportunity to come up with an actual made in Toronto formula? allergictochangeSince amalgamation, we’ve complained about the dysfunction at City Hall. Might part of that be the way in which we elect our local officials? Let’s try and figure out how why might be able to do that better.

I am not, however, hopeful of that occurring. Early signs are not encouraging. “The last thing we need is more politicians,” Mayor Tory said, summoning up his radio talk show, drive time persona, in response to one of the options for more wards with fewer residents in them. It’s a sentiment hardly more thoughtful than the cut-`em-half crowd but what passes for reasonable and rational these days.

Given the chill of maintaining the status quo that’s descended upon City Hall since our current mayor took office, it’s hard to see things going much further than Option #1, Minimal Change, “Change, if necessary, but not necessarily change,” as the report refers to it although even this one would guarantee an increase in the council size while “minimizing change”.haveyoursay

Still, there are now lines on a map, options for change to be considered and debated. Round 2 of public consultations happen in the fall before this gets decided next spring. Now is the time to read up and inform yourself about a decision that will affect this city through the next 4 election cycles. People will be listening.

excitedly submitted by Cityslikr


Book Club XIII

August 16, 2015

I am not a woodsman. I do not commune easily with the great outdoors. The deep, dark forest unsettles rather than edifies me. scarywoodsI am like Socrates, as portrayed by Plato in Phaedrus, and quoted by Frédéric Gros in his book, A Philosophy of Walking. “Nature had not enough to say to him.”

Wilderness walks reveal to me a bigger, wider world of indifference. Where some see bounty and accord, I sense a cosmic m’eh. For every sprig of new life, there’s death and decay from every vantage.

Let me ask you this, mother earth lovers. Would you really like a parent as disinterestedly neglectful as nature is with us? Sure, there’s plenty of food and sustenance on offer. You just have to figure out what stuff’s good for you and what’ll kill you. No. Don’t look at the bird eating that berry. Well fine for the bird, the berry could be poisonous to you. That river bringing you life-giving fresh water and delicious fish (depending on the fish and how you cook it, of course – always with the qualifiers), also rises up on occasion and floods your village for no discernible reason whatsoever!

Even as we sit here now, willfully pumping the air, the waters, the soil with life-threatening toxicity, earth responds with biblical vengeance, beginning with everything least responsible for inflicting the damage on it. It’s like killing the hostages. aphilosophyofwalkingStop doing what you’re doing, humans, or the beautiful, endangered, blue… billed… flying thing from the Amazon gets it.

Son A takes the family car out for a joyride and wraps it around a tree. Son B gets spanked for not telling his parents what his brother was up to. Doctor Spock might have some issues with that style of parenting, is all I’m saying.

I don’t see harmony out there in the hills and dales, the trees and poison ivy, the streams and alligator filled swamps. I see competition to the death, a contest we currently have the upper hand with but nothing we should be complacent about. Our demise lurks down any benign seeming path.

So, you’ll excuse me if I don’t share Monsieur Gros’ exhilarating and restorative view of mountain treks and fern strewn glen hikes.

That’s not to say I don’t like walking. I love walking.  If time is of no consequence, it is my preferred travel mode, with distance seldom factoring into the plans.

Nor should you take from any of this a dislike of the A Philosophy of Walking on my part. I liked the book a lot. It’s a nice easy read, with very little clunkiness of translation (by John Howe). Any philosophical pretensions – and how could there not be? nietzschewalkingFrédéric Gros is French, for god’s sake! – are ever so slight and very accessible. The man actually humanizes super-walker Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Strode Zarathustra.

No, my one quibble with the book is its whiff of anti-urban sensibilities, let’s call them. Gros is all about the humanity-affirming sojourn into and through the wilds of nature. “Walking means being out of doors, outside, ‘in the fresh air’, as they say,” Gros writes in Chapter 4 titled, well, Outside. “Walking causes the inversion of town-dweller’s logic, and even of our most widespread condition.”

In Chapter 7, Solitudes, Gros encourages the solitary walk, away from other people.

So it’s best to walk alone, except that one is never entirely alone. As Henry David Thoreau wrote: ‘I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.’ To be buried in nature is perpetually distracting. Everything talks to you, greets you, demand your attention: trees, flowers, the colour of the roads. The sigh of the wind, the buzzing of insects, the babble of streams , the impact of your feet on the ground: a whole rustling murmur that responds to your presence…

Fresh air. Flowers. Trees. The babble of streams.

The only 3 chapters in A Philosophy of Walking really dedicated to city walking are fraught with friction, jostling and preening. French poet Gérard de Nerval (Chapter 17, Melancholy Wandering) wound up hanging himself from a ‘window grille’ along a ‘narrow, slimy, sinister’ staircase leading to the rue de la Vieille-Lanterne in Paris. Chapter 20, Public Gardens talks about the strict social construct of the Grand Allée “to show off a beautiful fabric and reap the fruits of their toilette.” Even The Urban Flâneur (chapter 21) is little more than a ‘walker…fulfilled in an abyss of fusion, the stroller in a firework-like explosion of successive flashes.” As opposed to the ‘great romantic walker’ like Rousseau or Wordworth who ‘communed with the Essence.”walking

I walk a lot in cities. I can easily get lost in their ‘Essence’, the ‘Essence’ of, I don’t know, 50% of the world’s humanity? In fact, I discovered A Philosophy of Walking during a stroll through the streets of San Francisco and a stop at the world famous City Lights bookstore. Like Rousseau, I too “like to walk at my ease, and to stop when I like. A wandering life is what I want…without being obliged to hurry, and with a pleasant prospect at the end, is of all kinds of life the one most suited to my taste.” I just feel little compunction to head out to the woods to find it.

And hey. I’m not alone in that. Lots of people like to be able to walk in their cities, neighbourhoods. They don’t need the great outdoors to keep themselves happy or sane or grounded. Perhaps it’s not about where you walk but just the fact that you can walk, sometimes with no real purpose other than to be walking. Simply ambulant.

That is the great thing about A Philosophy of Walking, Gros’ exuberance in laying out the humanizing effects of walking.

Walking is the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found. To walk, you need to start with two legs. The rest is optional. If you want to go faster, then don’t walk, do something else: drive, slide or fly. Don’t walk. And when you are walking, there is only one sort of performance that counts: the brilliance of the sky, the splendour of the landscape. Walking is not a sport.

Once on his feet, though, man does not stay where he is.

The key here is the slowness. What we’ve lost, according to Gros, in this hepped-up world of ours, is the ability to saunter and absorb our humanness through walking.

The illusion of speed is the belief that it saves time. It looks simple at first sight: finish something in two hours instead of three, gain an hour. It’s an abstract calculation though, done as if each hour of the day were like an hour on the clock, absolutely equal.

Slowness means cleaving perfectly to time, so closely that the seconds fall one by one, drop by drop like the steady dripping of a tap on stone. This stretching of time deepens space. It is one of the secrets of walking: a slow approach to landscapes that gradually renders them familiar. Like the regular encounters that deepen friendship.

We walk because we’re human. Humans walk. Walking, without any particular purpose, keeps us being human.

walking2

bookishly submitted by Cityslikr


BREAKING: ANOTHER PANDERING POLITICIAN

August 14, 2015

newsflash

—–WE INTERRUPT THIS REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG POSTING TO BRING YOU SOME BREAKING NEWS. FEDERAL NDP LEADER THOMAS MULCAIR IS IN TORONTO TO ANNOUNCE THE APPOINTMENT OF A STAR CANDIDATE TO A RIDING NOT LOCATED IN SCARBOROUGH—–

[PRESS]: Scarborough subway. Yea or nay?

[THOMAS MULCAIR]: If elected in October, an NDP government will, working with our provincial and municipal partners, develop a National Transit Strategy which will include delivering more money to cities in order for them to begin rebuilding their transit infrastructure that has been sadly neglected and abandoned by previous federal governments.

[PRESS]: Scarborough subway. Yea or nay?

[TM]: Well, it is hardly in the purview of the federal government to be weighing in on specific, local transit project decisions, to show up with an oversized novelty cheque in order to pander for votes or score political points. As I said, if elected in October, an NDP government will, working with our provincial and municipal partners, develop a National Transit Strategy which will include delivering more money to cities in order for them to begin rebuilding their transit infrastructure that has been sadly neglected and abandoned by previous federal governments.

—–WE NOW SEND YOU BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG POSTING—–

You’re welcome, you fucking idiots.

**sigh**

saddrinking

already-fed-upply by Cityslikr


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