A Repugnant Blight

April 24, 2015

So there I am, minding my own business this week, catching up on my magazine subscriptions, making my way through the June 2014 issue of Harper’s. Second article in, The Civil Rights Act’s Unsung Victory by Randall Kennedy [subscription required unless you’re much better with the internets than I am which is a very real possibility]. The following day Desmond Cole drops this searing piece for Toronto Life, The Skin I’m In [no subscription required].

Mr. Kennedy writes about how his family used to pack food picnic-style for their trips back to South Carolina from Washington D.C. to avoid having to find meals on the road in the few places that served African-Americans. Even the car ride itself was fraught with danger. “My father was particularly burdened by the drive,” Kennedy writes.

He became noticeably nervous at the sight of police officers. Over the years several of them pulled him over. They did not charge him with any infraction. Rather, they stopped him seemingly out of curiosity and a desire to test his willingness to accept the etiquette of white supremacy. Their colloquies went something like this”

“That’s a nice car you’re driving, boy.”

“Thank you, officer. Have I done something wrong?”

“Not from what I can see just yet. I notice you’ve got out-of-town plates. You know, we do things different down here. You do know that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Boy, you do know that, right?”

“Yassuh.”

“Okay. You’re free to go.”

In one of the most dispiriting and gut-punching passages in Desmond Cole’s article, he too describes an encounter with the police, our police, on a highway from Oshawa to Niagra Falls. His cousin throws a Kleenex out the window and police pull the car over immediately. Almost as if they’d been following, waiting for a reason.

A hush came over the car as the stocky officer strode up to the window and asked my dad if he knew why we’d been stopped. “Yes,” my father answered, his voice shaky, like a child in the principal’s office. My dad isn’t a big man, but he always cut an imposing figure in our household. This was the first time I realized he could be afraid of something. “He’s going to pick it up right now,” he assured the officer nervously, as Sana exited the car to retrieve the garbage. The cop seemed casually uninterested, but everyone in the car thrummed with tension, as if they were bracing for something catastrophic. After Sana returned, the officer let us go. We drove off, overcome with silence until my father finally exploded. “You realize everyone in this car is black, right?” he thundered at Sana.

We here up in Canada use the ugly, overt, Bull Connor racism of the American south (or apartheid in South Africa) as a smokescreen to hide our own inherent racism. Come on. We’re not that bad, as if a kinder, gentler racism is possible. We have no history of slavery in Canada. Therefore, no racism exists.

Events in the past couple weeks here in Toronto should disabuse us of that notion. Not only is racism a clear and present danger, it has been justified under the banner of effective policing. At its heart, the current practice of ‘carding’ is the assumption that people of colour, young men of colour especially, are more prone to criminal activity, therefore they forfeit their charter rights to lawful engagement with the police.

If Desmond Cole and I were walking down the street together, any street it seems, he would more likely be stopped by the police and asked for his personal information than I would be. Why? For no other reason than the fact Desmond Cole is black and I am white.

That’s racism, pure and simple. Hum and haw all you like, rationalize it, spin it and massage it. But if we condone the current practice of police carding, we are condoning racism.

By doing so, what kind of democracy does it say we live in when people are forced to go about their lives, negotiating how they move around their shared city differently? Take equality and fairness off the table. They don’t exist unless the words mean something other than I thought they did.

Show me your papers! That’s the essence of police carding, isn’t it?

If an appeal to a sense of decency or basic human rights doesn’t move you, what about the fundamental attack on civilian oversight by our police services we’ve been subject to? Recognizing there were some questions of legality with carding as it was being done, the police services board last term demanded that in a non-investigative interaction with the public, the police had to first inform a citizen that the exchange was entirely voluntary, they could walk away if they so desired. Also, the police were required to provide a receipt of the interaction giving, among other things, reasons for the interaction.

Turns out the police didn’t want to do that. So they ignored the request from their civilian oversight board, rendering their demands non-‘operationalized’, to use the term of our mayor who also doesn’t believe such a thing as white privilege exists, thus there’s no such thing as racism. Police dictate the policy they follow. It isn’t dictated to them.

Raising the equally dire specter of who’s exactly running the show here?

Not only does a strong democracy require an unwavering commitment to equality in all its forms, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, law enforcement must be subservient to its political masters. Anything else bends toward authoritarianism. We tried in good faith to negotiate a workable, acceptable form of carding. That failed. Nothing short of a complete abolition of the practice will now do.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr


Book Club VI

February 16, 2015

It’d be easy to write Harry Smith off as a novelty. He’s the 91 year-old fresh-faced author of Harry’s Last Stand and internet phenom, ‘This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time’. harrysmithAhhhh. Isn’t that cute. Great grandpa knows how to use a computer!

Certainly, Smith’s style, how he strings his story together, would hardly disabuse you of viewing him as a novice. His prose is no nonsense, straight forward if at times meandering. A reader reads often of how Smith sees himself and his life, all things considered, as a lucky man, in constant awe of how he’s lived so long, survived what he survived.

There’s almost something childlike about him and his take on the world he’s lived in. He possesses a seemingly bottomless faith in the goodness of people, a belief in their ability to turn even the most hopeless of situations around. Sure things look bleak but Harry’ll tell you they’ve been bleaker. The answers to our problems are as plain as the noses on our faces. All we need is a little resolve and a big dose of collective action.

It’s startling to read something so lacking in guile and free of cynical spin. Harry’s got an agenda, no question about it. But he wears it right out there on his sleeve. This is how it was. This is how it is. This is how to fix it.

His answers to the problems that plague us – essentially Harry’s angry at the unravelling of the welfare state – are not new or particularly ground breaking. margaretthatcherHow do you simply reverse a generation of anti-government sentiment and private sector veneration? The collective will has taken an awful beating since Margaret Thatcher (one of Smith’s bete noires) declared society as not a thing. Taxation isn’t a means to an end these days. It’s just mean.

The golden days of the post-war welfare state come across as a little too golden in Smith’s telling. He glosses over the period in the 70s when it hit a serious snag. The oil crisis, stagflation, perceived union militancy, everything that paved the way for the neoconservative coming of Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher.

In one telling scene, Harry recounts meeting up with some old mates during the long hot summer of 1977 to have a few drinks and watch a football match. He keeps quiet during a heated political conversation of the state of affairs. Afterward, a friend asks why.

I was just thinking that things are bad today, but not for me. Not like how it was in the past. I’m worried about how everything is changing and getting mucked up. But I feel lucky. I can pay my mortgage, I can pay for our groceries. I can even take holidays with my wife. Besides, my lads are healthy and my oldest is at uni – that’s more than we could have ever hoped for. And I know it is a bit of a worry for you, but your house is paid for and retirement is nearby. Your daughter’s done her schooling and now has a right good job. It weren’t like before, because we have better housing, the NHS and real universities that the working class can attend and make something of themselves in.

“It weren’t like before…”

Yes, things were bad in 1977 for a lot of people but nowhere near as bad for the likes of Harry Smith who’d lived through the worst of the Great Depression, gone off to fight in World War II, witnessed first-hand the destruction it wrought. texaschainsawmassacreHe was a middle-aged man in 1977. He’d fought his fight. How much more was expected from him?

Besides, who could imagine such a full frontal assault on everything good that had been built from the ashes of the war? Housing. Health care. Affordable education. A genuine sense of equality of opportunity and meritocracy.

That’s the world nearly 40 years on that Harry Smith sees. A regression to the meanness of the age he was born into. The long, slow surrender of liberalism, to paraphrase the title of a March 2014 Harper’s I just happened to read after finishing Harry’s Last Stand. (Faithful readers will know of my own long, slow slog with a handful of magazine subscriptions that keeps me roughly a year behind current issues.)

The left has no particular place it wants to go. And, to rehash an old quip, if you have no destination, any direction can seem as good as any other…It lacks focus and stability; its metier is bearing witness, demonstrating solidarity, and the event or the gesture. Its reflex is to “send messages” to those in power, to make statements, and to stand with or for the oppressed.

This dilettantish politics is partly the heritage of a generation of defeat and marginalization, of decades without any possibility of challenging power or influencing policy. So the left operates with no learning curve and is therefore always vulnerable to new enthusiasm. It long ago lost the ability to move forward under its own steam…

As political scientist professor Adolph Reed Jr. sees it, Harry Smith isn’t wrong or off the mark in his ideas of what’s happened. nothingleftThe left got thumped in a couple of elections, and rather than stand up, dust itself off and wade back into the fray, it caved, adopting the harsh, 19th-century narrative of the right, attempting to merely soften the sharp edges of the ascendant ideology. Big government and welfare became dirty words. Greed was good. A rising economic tide did raise all boats.

Blah, blah, blah, and despite all evidence to the contrary.

Reed Jr. is more critical and damning of both the Clinton and Obama administrations than any of the Fox News inpired crazies on the right. They both continued the Republican led attacks on the public sector, expanded the war-mongering international forays and assault on civil and human rights, loosened the restraints on the out-of-control financial industrial complex. “It’s difficult to imagine that a Republican administration could have been much more successful in advancing Reaganism’s agenda [than Clinton did]”, Reed Jr. writes. “We’re Eisenhower Republicans here,” Clinton declared. “We stand for lower deficits, free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great!”fellforit

Liberal acquiescence to the neoconservative war on liberalism was not just some American exceptionalism. Think Tony Blair’s Labour triangulation in the U.K. and his ultimate cuddling up to George W. in their post-9/11 Iraq fiasco. Here in Canada, the left’s reshaping of itself as just a softer, gentler manager of the triumphant neoliberal project, concerned with pocket book issues rather than grander collective ideals. Electability, we are told, depends on a public declaration that there are limits on what government can do for us.

For 35 years now, all the ‘vaporous progressive politics’ can claim is how awful it would be if conservatives were still in charge/came back to power. There’s nothing about how much better things could be. Just, how much worse they would be. You think you’ve got it tough now? fellforit1Yeah well, this is as good as it gets in this system we’ve heartily endorsed in order to remain politically relevant.

Both Harry Smith and Adolph Reed Jr. agree on the damage done but disagree, not on the causes, but on the culprits. If we just pull together like we did back in the day, Smith essentially says, we can beat back this neoconservative scourge. Reed Jr., on the other hand, senses a more difficult path forward. “The crucial tasks for a committed left…now are to admit that no politically effective force exists and to begin trying to create one.”

There’s no ‘we’ to currently pull together, Reed Jr. believes, at least not in any official, political capacity. That may be the most successful aspect of modern conservatism, this obliteration of any sense of ‘we’, replacing it with just the individualistic ‘you’ and ‘me’. hollowmenAll the king’s horses and all the king’s men…

Certainly, as a society, more adverse conditions have been overcome. Harry Smith can attest to that. The will to do it has to be there, though, and Adolph Reed Jr. doesn’t see much evidence of that in the traditional places we used to look for it. That absence will make for a tougher battle to win.

bookishly submitted by Cityslikr


Book Club I

November 21, 2014

(Today I introduce a new semi-regular element to the site. Book Club where I review city/urban-centric books from the pile that have been gathering dust here around me, victims of very good intentions but little carry through. I have some trepidation, to be sure, of revealing my towering ignorance of urban issues through this series. But hey, that’s never stopped me before. Besides, these books aren’t going to read themselves, and if they did? They could bloody well review themselves.)

bookclub

*  *  *

It was pure coincidence that I decided to take Triumph of the City with me on my recent trip as well as the September 2013 issue of Harper’s. Yes, my magazine subscription backlog is as impressive as my waiting to be read book pile. Essentially, I’m admitting my eyes are bigger than my brain or self-discipline. harpers0913I wonder if there’s a book to help me with that…

“Saving Your Children from a Harvard Education” (subscription required) was the title of that month’s Anti-Economist column by Jeff Madrick where he outlined a series of crimes against economic theory committed by Harvard professors over the past 3 decades or so. The last example he cited in his piece was the debt-to-GDP debacle foisted on the world by two Harvard academics, Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, which gave cover to governments worldwide to go on an austerity frenzy. Turns out the paper was full of “data omissions, questionable methods of weighting, and elementary coding errors”. An ‘academic kerfuffle’, the authors shrugged although the world still awaits the positive outcome of the austerity measures they helped justify.triumphofthecity

Turns out Triumph of the City’s author, Edward Glaeser is a Harvard appointed professor as well and, I have to say, he doesn’t exactly burnish the school’s cred any with his book.

It’s not that Glaeser is some anti-urban, pro-sprawl, pro-car type like, say, Wendell Cox although he does share the sentiment that housing prices are influenced mainly by onerous land use and development regulations. Get rid of planning rules, let developers build anywhere there’s demand and more people will be able to afford home ownership. Like Cox, Glaeser cites Houston as somewhere that’s doing it right. Build it and they will come. When they come, keep building more. Supply meet demand. Demand? Supply.

Sure, even Glaeser admits, Houston has a huge carbon footprint, in its insatiable need for electricity to keep all those ranch style houses cool in the summer, and the gasoline consumption for all the driving necessary. singaporeBut what are you going to do? It’s the free market at work, am I right?

Glaeser’s analysis of cities seems only partial, using the bits that fit and ignoring those that which doesn’t. While reading the book, I kept thinking it felt a bit Freakonmics-ish, funny coincidences that in no way denoted causality. Unsurprisingly, when checking his endnotes I discovered regular citing of Steven D. Levitt, a co-author of the Freakonmics books.

Singapore and Hong Kong seem to be the model for Glaeser’s ideal city of the future. Density created almost exclusively through tower living. Its simplicity runs at odds to the complexity of most current cities. While there is nothing inherently wrong with skyscrapers, is that all there really is? What about encouraging more midrise growth in places that seems more appropriate? houstonCouldn’t we help fight the negative externalities of sprawl in places like Houston by promoting less single family housing with slightly more dense forms of dwellings instead of expecting New York City to loosen up and allow more tall buildings around the perimeter of New York City’s Central Park?

For such a free market advocate as Glaeser comes across as, he seems uninterested in addressing urban sprawl with any sort of market costing. While he gives a thumbs up to the congestion charges in London and tolls in general, he doesn’t make much of putting a real price on the cost of infrastructure like the roads and highways that are necessary to maintaining single use communities with single family housing, content to claim that housing is affordable simply because the market’s keeping up with demand. detroit1Glaeser also spends surprisingly little time on public transit. Somehow it’s just going to be there as people make their way to their high rises downtown.

I guess that’s what I found most dissatisfying about the book. The lack of, I don’t know, thoroughness to it. Fixes were straight forward, mostly if the heavy hand of government would just keep out of the mix. Glaeser sees slums and tenements as hotbeds of opportunity, where everyone has one innovation in them to fill a niche that will eventually allow them to prosper. He skirts around the role racism has played in the decline of places like Detroit, suggesting its reliance on a single industry was the sole cause of what’s happened. He sees little merit in doing much to help places like Detroit or New Orleans. History has dealt with them. Let’s move on.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh on Professor Glaeser. It’s not so much that I disagreed with much of his views and conclusions. horsefeathersThey just didn’t come across as very vigourous. He seemed hidebound and stuck by his laissez-faire ideology. On more than one occasion he presented choices in a simplistic, binary alternative. “As noted earlier,” Glaeser writes re: the public school system, “this problem could be eased by a move either to the left or the right.”

Really?

I guess I just expected more from a Harvard professor. But as Jeff Madrick pointed out in Harper’s, that’s a mistake too many of us make.

— bookishly submitted by Cityslikr


Organized Discontent

February 15, 2012

Despite what I think to be the George Hamilton like tone I carefully nurtured with a secret combination of cooking oil, mesquite rub and deet during my weeklong absence, there seems to be rumours a-swirling about the “real” reasons I went awol during what The Grid’s Edward Keenan called “The most significant week at City Hall in a generation” (probably just to taunt me). Dudes. Check out the tan lines. I went somewhere sunny and warm because it was February here. I thought February was going to provide some downtime at City Hall. No one circulated the Special Once In A Lifetime Special Council Meeting memo in my direction. It was merely bad timing.

So no, I am not a Team Ford double-agent — working from the inside to try and discredit the opposition with my ludicrous and often times illogical rantings about the mayor — who simply couldn’t stand to be around during his darkest hours to date. I’dve given my eye teeth to be here but, Expedia being Expedia, the whole she-bang was non-refundable. And no, it was not a clandestine rendezvous with a certain councillor from Etobicoke whose seat in the council chambers also went unoccupied last Wednesday. I admire the lady. She’s got, what do you call it, the moxy. It’s just, we come from such different backgrounds. We’d never get past that whole urban-suburban chasm.

Also, there was no slipping away for some discreet elective surgery. While I acknowledge a certain none-to-subtle ageism within the ranks of those covering City Hall (witness the cutesie, self-satisfied back-slapping of the young in yesterday’s tweets between the aforementioned Edward Keenan and writer David Hains), I stand proudly by my 28 years of age and wouldn’t think of furtively seeking some desperate attempt to look even younger than I already do. Why no, sir. I am not an unpaid intern at an unnamed publication. But I am flattered you thought I might be. How old do you think I am?

The fact of the matter is, last week was the first of a semi-annual, enforced Magazine Catch-Up Retreat week. Get out of town, get out of your work head and get reading those damn magazines that are littering the place up. Either that or cut back. What?! And do without my McCall’s?! I’m sorry, what? It’s been called Rosie since 2001?! I thought that was my gardening magazine. And it hasn’t been published in 10 years!?!

You see what I’m saying here?

Thus, I found myself cracking into the first of the 2011 issues of a couple subscriptions at the same time I was already receiving March 2012 issues. I knew Lewis Lapham had stepped away from his Notebook in Harper’s but was unaware that Thomas Frank had become the permanent resident in that space with his Easy Chair. I’m not yet sure how I feel about that. Lapham wasn’t so overtly political. It rarely felt like you were reading a screed. It was patrician subtle. Frank is as partisan as they come right now. I don’t want that from my Harper’s. I can read my own stuff if that’s what I was looking for.

That said, I’m hardly appalled reading Frank’s stuff and did come across an interesting tidbit in his January 2011 entry, The Fatal Middle. He quoted Howard Phillips, one-time director of The Conservative Caucus, saying way back during the early Reagan era that the job, the role, the genius of the right wing was its ability “to organize discontent.” Hello? What was that again? To organize discontent.

Some thirty years on and nothing much has changed. Perhaps it took a little longer up here in our cosy little corner north of the 49th because true, visceral discontent first needed to be stirred up amongst the hoi polloi before it could be organized into a viable voting bloc. A recession or two. Draining of the manufacturing sector. The general gestation period needed for the seeds of subversive disinformation to come to flower.

But, good goddamn, has our right wing learned how to organize discontent. We now believe ourselves to be over-taxed to the max with all our money being spent on greedy, self-interested politicians, unions and the undeserving poor. The rest of us are all the struggling middle class unless, of course, you don’t share our particular discontent. Then, you are a downtown, champagne-sipping, latte lapping elitist/socialist, two steps left of Joe Stalin who reads, well, Harper’s or The Walrus (up to April 2011 issue currently) or that Toronto Star rag.

Discontent. Resentment. Division.

In three words, Rob Ford’s victorious campaign and modus operandi since becoming mayor. This city does not have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. (Discontent). The War on the Car. (Resentment). Those in the suburbs pay for everything and get nothing in return. (Division with a little factual incorrectness thrown in for good measure).

It’s the Holy Right Wing Trinity and fits in perfectly with their views on government as a destructive force that needs to be reigned in and shrivelled down to size except for its law and order, enforcement side. The beauty of it too is that it is self-fulfilling because the more ineffectual you make government, the more discontent, resentment and division you breed. Almost like a political perpetual motion machine.

The remarkably depressing thing about this is that it’s neither new nor particularly covert. This has been a staple in North America since at least Richard Nixon and his Silent Majority. That’s 44 years ago, folks. And somehow we haven’t found a way to counteract it. When conservatives stumble and fall out of favour, it’s usually to do with their own missteps not some brilliant and uplifting piece of political theatre by their opponents.

Look at what’s happening here in Toronto. The mayor is not really being out-manoeuvred or out-played. He’s simply fucking up, left and centre, his setbacks washing out any steps forward. The very notable victory he can claim with the CUPE 416 settlement has been lost in the noise of his illogical transit plans. It’s not a question of contesting but containing him and all the damage his ideology wants to inflict on the proper governance of this city.

The easy appeal to voter discontent, resentment and division means right wing politicians have a leg up when it comes to campaigning. It’s the only thing really that keeps them in the game at all. If conservatives were judged on what they do once elected, they’d never get near the levers of power again. They couldn’t even present a perception of competency. Our system and beliefs in it suffer because of that.

We have to learn to confront them before they get the keys to office instead of always having to clean up their mess on the way out. That means appealing to people’s better nature not their worst, instilling hope rather than despair and anger. It’s a tall order, for sure, especially since the public well has been so poisoned by ugly rhetoric and anti-social policies. But the alternative is continued degradation of our public institutions and way of life.

imploringly submitted by Cityslikr


You Can’t Just Wish It Away

November 14, 2011

I am over-subscribed.

My life is jam packed with magazines. They litter most surfaces of the office and accumulate by my bedside. Magazines cover up the piles of books I also haven’t yet read. The interwebs is not alone in creating an informational overlord overload.

There are some advantages to this. Months and months behind on issues, you become a very selective reader. Articles have to grab my attention PDQ if they want to be read. No time to be mildly entertaining or informative. Do you know how many magazines are vying for my attention?

More interestingly is the retrospective angle one is afforded when playing catch up. Was this writer bang on or completely full of shit? Has the issue at hand lingered in public discourse or has it faded from view? That’s right. I’m asking you, nameless Us scribe who predicted a long, happy and fruitful Kim Kardashian marriage.

So it was over the weekend as I was reading the October 2010 issue of Harper’s. Bookmarked (more or less) by an essay in the Readings section by Roger Hodge, author of The Mendactiy of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism, and a book review by Terry Eagleton of Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land, it was as if I was trying to discover the genesis of the Occupy movement. Again, this was over a year before the tents were pitched and camps founded in cities around North America. In these two articles, plenty of reasons were stated why a grass roots disaffection was brewing.

Some snippets.

From Roger D. Hodge: “Corruption, in its institutional sense, denotes the degeneration of republican forms of government into despotism, and typically comes about when the private ends of a narrow faction of citizens succeed in capturing the engines of government… a corrupt citizenry is one that has allowed its private and narrow personal interests to trump those of the general public.”

Terry Eagleton on Tony Judt: “What matters is not how affluent a nation may be but how unequal it is.” ‘Public squalor’ versus ‘private affluence’. “Once the state hands over its functions of care…to private agencies, nothing remains to bind the citizen to the state but the fear of authority. The result…is an ‘eviscerated society’, one stripped of the thick mesh of mutual obligations and social responsibilities to be found in social-democratic setups.” “Men and women have been politically demobilized and so are politically disaffected.”

Of course, I hear the critics immediately jump up and exclaim that that’s all about the United States not here in Canada. Here in Canada, well, everything’s just fine. No need to be protesting in our streets and cities. We look after one another. Our elections are fair and above board. Just ignore the growing income disparity. Disregard those frightening October job numbers. Pay no attention to extended time needed for the feds to balance the book. Never mind the woefully pathetic turnout for our elections. Nothing to see here. Time to pack up your tent and go home.

The nerve of some people to question the state of our democracy.

Because, wandering through the Occupy Toronto encampment at St. James Park over the weekend, I could not for the life of me figure out what other reasons there were for the increasingly shrill cry for the ousting of these people. Aside from the less than pleasing aesthetics of mismatched tents and tarps throughout the park, some mounds of refuse here and there, there was nothing unpleasant, intrusive or obstructionist about the gathering. It was easy to cross the park on the paths or you were free to meander randomly through the tent sites. No one accosted you. There was no unwanted proselytizing.  Try as I might, I couldn’t ferret out any surreptitious feet sniffing.

I stood on the north side of the park, looking across Adelaide Street at the restaurants. How exactly their customer numbers could be adversely affected by the goings on in the park was tough to say. Going about your business on the periphery of St. James, you could pass the gathering within it with little more than scant notice.

As for the noise complaints registered by local residents? Walking through the park on Saturday night, it was impossible to distinguish the din rising within it from the downtown traffic swirling around all 4 sides of it. In fact, the incessant drumming we’ve heard about was drowned out before I even left the park by the pounding of the bass out of a passing SUV full of Leafs’ fans leaving the game.

This is in no way meant to diminish or discredit the complaints. I’m sure it must be a minor annoyance and inconvenience to have had the park filled with people for the last month. I hate the streetlight that forces me to close the curtain in my bedroom every night. It just sort of comes with the territory. Urban living comes with unpredictability, both pleasant and unpleasant.

But those, to paraphrase Roger D. Hodge, are ‘private and personal interests’, they should not ‘trump those of the general public’. That is what this whole occupy movement is about, in the U.S., in Canada, internationally. Thirty years or so of private interests trumping the public good. If you’re looking for the message, you could do worse than that. Public space being occupied symbolically as a stand against the growing encroachment of private interests into every facet of our lives. Health care. Education. Dissemination of information. That fucking spot above the wall over an ever increasing number of urinals in public bathrooms. All to the detriment of most for the benefit of a very few.

Of course, I’m a little sceptical of the call for a clear and straightforward message. If you really don’t understand why there’s an occupy movement in the first place (here or anywhere else) and the tactics they’re employing, chances are you’re not going to be won over to the cause because somebody can sum it up in a pithy phrase. You’re comfortable in body and/or mind about the way things have been going and think everybody would be much better off if they just cut their hair, covered their tattoos and went out and got themselves a job. Pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Put their nose to the grindstone.

It’s an affront to these people, nothing more. A threat only by way of a question. Are we as a society on the right track, economically, equitably, sustainably? It seems like a reasonable thing to ask, given our current state of affairs even here in Canada the good. Denying people a little patch of grass to ask is an indication of moral and intellectual disinterest and failure. Essentially, a stultifying acceptance of the status quo.

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr