Easter Contemplation

April 3, 2010

Being an outsider in all matters religious I must confess to a certain unease with the concept of Easter. It is a period of observance that, laying it all out on the table for you, kind of gives me the willies. The joy that springs from death, and not only death but a savage, grisly, barbarous death at that, unsettles me.

Yes, yes, I do understand that this is the serious meat and potatoes of Christian faith. Death and resurrection and one must die in order to live eternally and that Jesus was put up on the cross for our sins but couldn’t he He have taken the whole Socratic route and insisted on drinking a cup of poisoned hemlock instead? Too suicidal for you? How about just one to the back of the head then? Clean, simple and we’re all off for the rest of the weekend to wait for his miraculous, heaven-bound reappearance.

It’s the reveling in the gory details of the death – the Gibsonian Passion of the Christ – that seems so unnecessary, so full of life denouncing abnegation. Existence is nasty but we must bear it devotedly in order to live again gloriously in the presence of our Lord and Saviour. Just putting in time, probably miserably, until I can shrug off this mortal coil and kick back to enjoy eternity without a care in the world. Far too much stake in the future for my liking.

In addition to which, if the whole Easter holiday is so important to Christians, why did I get a phone call from a friend in the U.S. yesterday who expressed surprise that I wasn’t working? It’s Good Friday, dude. The whole place is closed up almost as tightly as it would be at Christmas. Apparently not so much Stateside. Aren’t they supposed to be the most religious country in the western world? If the whole Easter commemoration isn’t that important to them, are they practicing their religion incorrectly? Should someone explain it to them?

And another thing. If the death and resurrection of Jesus is so integral to Christian doctrine, what’s with all the Christian based anti-Semitism? If he He had to die in order that we all shall live again, shouldn’t we be thanking our Jewish friends for setting the Romans on Him? Judas should be celebrated rather than reviled for betraying Jesus. If he’d done the honourable thing and not sold Jesus down the river for a few pieces of silver, history, as they say, might have been entirely different.

Still, I’m not going to turn down the prospect of a couple days off for the sake of a theological quibble. Especially not this weekend given that it seems we’ve skipped the whole spring thing and plunged right into summer. I slip into my sockless shoes, pull out the old straw fedora and head out for a mid-afternoon promenade along College Street.

Only to be stopped up by crowds of people that can only be described as nothing less than a throng. It’s as if taking a cue from the weather, the street festival season has just decided to start. Cars are parked everywhere. Huge packs of families meander, ice creams in hand. It’s a holiday, sure, with exceptionally good weather but.. all of Toronto has descended onto College Street? The Eaton Centre must be closed.

Then the music kicks off, a dreary funeral dirge, and I suddenly come to my senses. The Good Friday Easter Procession making its way through the heart of Little Italy. You think I would’ve remembered, what with all the previous talk about this particular religious festival. So I step up onto a restaurant doorway to watch the passing of the parade.

Almost immediately, The Godfather or, more precisely, The Godfather Part II springs to mind. Robert DeNiro’s young Vito Corleone stalks the white suited local mobster, Don Fanucci, during a similar religious procession in New York and kills him in the darkened hallway of a tenement walkup. Another Easter. Another execution. There seems to be no escaping it.

The procession participants are mainly older expect for those having to do anything at all overly physical. Like the Jesus who’s getting beaten up by Roman soldiers. Outside of that, the numbers skew heavily toward the elderly. I wonder if their children, down visiting from places like Woodbridge and now watching from the sidelines, will step up and fill the void when this generation dwindles. There’s that whole death and rebirth symbolism at work again. It’s hard to imagine. Rather than occupying a central spot in the lives of the younger folks, religion is merely observed, thought of only during the holiest of days and on monumental occasions like weddings and funerals.

There it is again. Funerals. Death. No escaping it, it seems when Easter comes around. A funny thing to design a life around if you ask me.

Politicians on Parade

No wonder they came up with the whole bunny angle. Sure, sure. Life is full of pain and misery. Death awaits us all. But it’ll all be worth it when we go to heaven (if we go to heaven… otherwise… well, just get to heaven) and live forever in blissful contentment. Not sold? OK, so there’s this bunny and he brings you chocolate…

religiously submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Wilting Democracy

February 17, 2010

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have been thinking a lot lately about the state of local democracy. Well, not all of us. Urban Sophisticat seldom ponders on the subject as his preference would be for a benign dictatorship that banishes cars from cities and permits cannabis cafes on every street corner. This is not a belief conducive to thinking straight about democratic institutions.

But for those of us here not wandering around in a perpetual haze of glassy eyed, marijuana induced idealism, we have been mulling over our situation as duly appointed participants in the democratic process. Yes, it all seems alive and vibrant while in the midst of an election campaign. Caught up as we are in the proceedings, it’s hard to fathom that there are those out there more akin to Urban Sophisticat’s mindset who aren’t devouring every little morsel of news and information coming in off the campaign trail. Neither are they eagerly awaiting October 25th in order to be first in line at the polling booth to mark the requisite Xs in their appropriate ballots.

Trolling through the interwebs as is our want, we stumbled across the fact that over 60% of eligible voters did not vote in Toronto’s last municipal election. I’m sorry. You said over 60% of voters did vote in Toronto’s last municipal election, right? No, we didn’t. Over 60% of eligible voters did not vote in Toronto’s last municipal election. (Note the use of the bold, italics and underline functions for emphasis. Twice.)

Holy mackerel, that’s low. That’s low, right? Yes, it’s low. Criminally low as it would be in some places like Australia where voting is mandatory under penalty of prosecution. Keelhauling, we think they still do down there, what with their naval and shipping of convict heritage, if found guilty of voter neglect.

Yet not voting is par for the course here in Toronto. To say that we have a disengaged electorate is to dally in the shallow waters of DoYaThink!?! Creek which is a tributary of WellD’Uh River. When it comes to municipal politics, Torontonians are passionate about their lack of interest. It’s tough to fight City Hall when you’re not even sure where it is. That funny shaped thing, down by the Eaton Centre, right behind the outdoor skating rink, yeah?

From our inception, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke has chalked up voter apathy – not just in Toronto but in municipalities all across the province of Ontario – to the fact that those we elect as mayor and councilors don’t really have the power and resources to deal with the demands placed upon them. The purse and authority lie with our elected officials at the provincial and federal levels. So why waste time worrying too much about the hired help?

Turns out things might be a little more complicated than that, as much as it offends our sense of strict black and white reasoning to admit. The democratic deficit under which we are operating is a broader, deeper pit of entropy according to those who actually examine the phenomena rather than simply opine glibly about it. If Toronto isn’t alive with voter fervor, it is most definitely hopping with enthusiasts who want to change our complacent attitude toward elections.

A quick trip through the tubes and pipes of the internet reveals a bubbling cauldron of activism at work on behalf of local democracy. At a website of Kris Scheuer, city hall bureau chief for the Town Crier newspapers, there’s a concise overview of the voting (or rather non-voting) habits here in Toronto. In that post, there is a link to a blog from a fellow named David Meslin.

mez dispenser, the blog’s called and it is the work of a self-proclaimed artist and organizer who doesn’t appear to need any sleep. As the site shows, the list of his undertakings is long including City Idol where participants vied to become candidates in the 2006 municipal election. One of his latest projects is Better Ballots which is a push for electoral reform in Toronto; a drive shared by other organizations such as the Toronto Democracy Initiative.

While impossible to summarize in a single post, among other overriding concerns of such individuals and groups is the exclusionary nature of our voting system. The traditional first past the post method is a boon for incumbency that has become so entrenched that City Hall is a pale (pun intended) reflection of the diversity of Toronto. Females and visible minorities are vastly under represented while some councilors can get re-elected with just 20% of the votes cast! (I’m sorry. Did you say that there were councilors at City Hall who got elected with–Yes, I did. Such is the sad state of democracy in Toronto.)

It is a hole that we will not dig ourselves out of quickly. Aside from the usual difficulties of transforming a well fed status quo, there is the ever present problem of having to get the OK from Queen’s Park for much of the proposed electoral reform. And this is a government that was lukewarm at best toward the 2007 provincial reform referendum on proportional representation. So it’s hard to see how they would be all that permissive in allowing Toronto to have a go at it on its own.

Still, you either throw in the towel, shrug your shoulders in defeat and head off to the nearest cannabis café to watch passively as more and more of your city is handed over to those who think of it as their own personal playground or you stand up and say, there is a better way to do things. Democracy is not dead as long as there is enough of the latter kind of people. From that standpoint, I think Toronto’s doing just fine.

upbeatedly submitted by Cityslikr