Oh Happy Days

Coming of age in the 1970s as the revolutionary ethos of the previous decade waned, the rearguard, reactionary counter-attack came in the form of a nostalgic, totally manufactured pining for the good ol’ simple days and ways of the 1950s. These Happy Days are yours and mine (oh Happy Days). Culminating, of course, in the election of Ronald Reagan and Morning in America.

More than 30 years on and those forces haven’t budged an inch. I guess that’s the nature of reactionary thinking. Pick a period and stick with it. Talk of change or getting with it is for the kids. Pure heresy. No retreat, no surrender.

This world view manifested itself here in Toronto over the past week or so… actually, since October 25th… with City Hall’s declared war on graffiti. In their righteous march to scrub city walls clean and put on a shiny face, it seems our soldiers of blight removal eradicated a mural out the Junction way that the city had commissioned just a couple years ago. Oops. A mistake of over-zealousness? Perhaps, but there was talk the administration wasn’t crazy about the politics they perceived behind the piece.

Provincial Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, out in campaign mode with his Changebook, then got in on the anti-graffiti act. According to the CBC’s Queen’s Park coverage, in a speech he gave to the Canadian Club earlier this week, Hudak suggested that graffiti is a sign that “gangs rule here”. Yes, people. If you’re wandering around the streets of Toronto and come across any graffiti, immediately call 9-1-1, identify yourself and exact location before heading for the nearest house with a Block Parent sign in the window.

I mean, seriously. How old are these people anyway? It’s like their whole world view has been formed by the 70s movie The Warriors. No, wait. Footloose. Like John Lithgow’s Reverend Shaw Moore, they abhor and condemn anything they don’t agree with or understand. It’s the handiwork of the devil. Or gangs.

Graffiti? Gone. Ad hoc displays of public art? Get it out of here. Street festivals and charity bike rides down expressways? Leads to horseplay and unwanted pregnancies.

We’ve given the keys of power over to the Abe Simpsons amongst us. In my day—zzzzzzzz. Tiresome and irksome in our elders, straight up creepy in those we call contemporaries.

Of course, when it comes to Abe Simpson, none do a better job around these parts than our Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday. (At least he’s of the same vintage.) Councillor Holyday was at it himself recently, yammering on about the need to clean up the streets of panhandlers and the homeless. To hear him tell it, it’s a veritable obstacle course of filth and aggressive begging out there. “I know that when I’m downtown,” the deputy mayor tells the National Post, “sometimes you have to walk around these people, they’re right in the middle of the sidewalk and you’ll run over them if you don’t pay attention.”

Sometimes we’re actually forced to walk around these people. The indignity of it! We, upstanding citizens and taxpayers, actually have to change our course slightly because people, neither upstanding or taxpayers (probably), have made the choice of living and sleeping right smack dab in the middle of our thoroughfares, and asking us, sometimes forcefully, to pay their way to living the high life on easy street.

What can we do? According to Mr. Holyday “…we’re paying millions of dollars to try to help people…” and what thanks do we get for it? Disrespectfully having our way blocked.

In my day, beggars knew their place. In flophouses located on Skid Row, safely tucked away from where the tourists and thrill seeking suburbanites came and got the wrong impression of us. Where all the buildings were scarred and marred by senseless graffiti which invariably led to senseless criminal behaviour, lewd acts and smoking of the Mary Jane. In my day, if somebody got out of line, some impertinent hobo or reprobate, not knowing their place, made me step over them as they took a little drunk nap during the middle of the day right in the middle of the sidewalk, it wasn’t frowned upon if you gave them a short, sharp boot heel to the ribs. Let them know you didn’t approve of their lifestyle.

“In my day” is how the fearful and unimaginative see the world. The past was perfect. The future dire. The present, a hand basket on route straight to hell. Everything new or different is suspect. A deviation, in all the negative connotations of that word.

With it, we grind to a standstill, missing exciting opportunities when they arise and embracing values and notions that, if they ever really existed in the first place, are probably in need of some serious updating to their software. Like most of us. Try as you might, you can’t simply wipe clean that which you don’t like or understand.Believe me, I know. I’ve been trying to eradicate the last six months or so. No matter how much I scrub or sandblast, it just keeps reappearing in all its ugly, depressing reality.

nostalgically submitted by Urban Sophisticat

5 Responses to Oh Happy Days

  1. Walt says:

    Dear U.S.

    Please help me understand your hopes and wishes for this city because, I’m ebarrassed to say, I just don’t get it.

    Your opinion seems to be that the right is wrong and the left is the defender of the poor and downtrodden. It appears to me that there is nothing that the right can do to satisfy your ideology and the poor will suffer even more under the oppresive regime of the right. I’m assuming that the 7 years of Miller met your wishes and anything else is just plain wrong.

    I don’t consider myself neither right, left, nor centrist. I make my decisions on issues based on the circumstances not a strict ideology. At times the right is nothing short of disgusting while the left can be completely assenine by diggin in their heals and refusing to see any good in other’s opinions.
    As a ploitical outsider looking into the current state of politics of this city, to me you all look like assholes. Spoiled children who hold their collective breaths until you get your way. Left or right, by taking positions based on ideologies makes you look as completely self serving. “I’m OK but you must be an idiot because you don’t see things exactly my way”.

    As such, in order to give you the city that you would be very happy with, do you want me, the average Walt, to:

    1) Drop the few bucks that are left in my jeans at the end of the week into buddy’s Tim’s cup? Broke again but buddy is a little happier and off the street.

    2) Work more than my current 60 – 80 hrs per week so that I have more to drop into buddy’s Tim’s cup? I often feel that I’m just not doing enough and if I work just a few hours more each week then, maybe, buddy will be happier and off the street.

    3) Agree to pay more in taxes so that buddy doesn’t have to sleep on the sidewalk? With a higher tax burden, unless I work more hrs then I won’t be able to drop anything into buddy’s Tim cup so the increased tax revenue will have to cover the costs of keeping buddy safely off the street. How much will this cost me? Do I need to work more hrs to cover this tax increase? Do we force the upper levels of government to give us more of our own taxes back? If so then who do we take this money from? Does some other group have to do with less or do we just increase the taxes across the board? If we increase the taxes then by how much? Why fuck around with 1 or 2%, let’s all agree to pay an additional 10%? 20%? 50%? What will it take to look after buddy so that he is truly comfortable for the rest of his life? Let’s just do this once, do it right, swallow the bitter pill and things will be wonderful forever.

    I believe in fairness and mutual respect. If I can then I help those who need help but who the fuck is helping me? Who is respecting me? Its OK for me to work my ass off and try to make a life for myself but if I try to keep a few bucks in my wallet instead of dropping into buddy’s Tim’s cup then by the left I’m considered a right wing pig who only thinks of screwing the little guy.

    Walking downtown I get nervous when the change in my pocket makes a noise and I quickly look around to see if anyone else heard it and is drawn to me like flies to shit. They’ll be after my treasure chest and will tear me to pieces to get at the gold in my pockets. Quickly, blend into the crowd so that the source of the evidence of treasure is lost. Ha! Made it with the my entire fortune still intact.

    I believe that my situation is similar to a majority of the middle/lower class in our society who just want to work our way through life and enjoy any rewards of such work. So, U.S., from the above choices, what do you want from me: #1, #2, #3 or is there a #4, #5,….? What can Walt do to make you happy and make this city one that you will be proud of?

    • Sonny says:

      Dear Walt; you’re the asshole! Since you don’t like what you read feel free to get a complimentary copy of the Sun. Some people are depressed that Harper got a majority of seats with 39.6% of the vote. And yes Ford mayor with 47% of those voted. Who’s the bully?

      P.S. I hear 7 is a lucky number…

  2. Leah says:

    “Your opinion seems to be that the right is wrong and the left is the defender of the poor and downtrodden.”

    No, I think Sophisticat’s opinion is that the time these policies seem to be trying to return us to never actually existed, and that things like homelessness and urban renewal and the discrete culture of a city are real issues, and that you can’t deal with real issues by moving them out of view and pretending they were never there. They were always there. You have to look forward and actually deal with them.

    Although if I’ve taken the wrong point out of that, I will gratefully welcome a correction.

  3. Bravo, Walt.

    That was an Oscar-worthy performance. Ordinary hard-working middle/lower-class guy who’s just trying to get by, not partisan or political, with a few misspelled words and typos thrown in just to add an air of authenticity.

    It’s a very clever narrative you set up. Right from the get-go, you’ve framed the whole discussion in terms of poor little you, set upon from all sides by ideologues of various persuasions who look down on you because you don’t agree with them. This way, you’re the victim and everyone else, including Urban Sophisticate, is an intolerant hectoring busybody calling you names and picking your pocket. Naturally, anyone reading this without an appreciation of context is going to identify with you.

    And more than that, they now have an excuse not to wrestle with opinions and viewpoints that challenge their own. And who can blame them, really? Who wants to deal with complexity and nuance? Thoughtful reflection and critical engagement are hard.

    But you don’t stop there, Walt. The best part is the way you set up such a comprehensive array of straw men. It gives the impression that you’ve thought deeply about all this and listed every reasonable alternative, when in fact what you’ve done is artificially limit the conversation by not asking some of the most glaring questions of all.

    And the cherry on the sundae? Your carefully tailored appeal to suburban paranoia. Oh my god, I can’t walk around downtown because the sound of change in my pockets draws predators to me like flies to shit. It’s dangerous down there. It’s full of menacing Others who want to tear me to pieces.

    Don’t misunderstand me, Walt. I’m not attacking you. I’m saluting you. That was one of the best bits of astroturfing I’ve read in weeks. Did you get this gig on Craigslist?

  4. Andrew says:

    There are makers and there are takers. If there are more takers, what is the incentive to be a maker?

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