Posts Tagged ‘London’

Do Canada’s Leaders Have the ‘Nads?

May 10, 2008

The stink being raised in Quebec over Governor General Michaele Jean talking up Quebec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations this year highlights Canadian politicians’ lack of vision and leadership.  There are two objections that Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and others raise.  I disagree with one but agree with the other.

Separatists are offended by the idea that Ms Jean and the federal government are calling the celebration a Canadian celebration.  They say it is a Quebec celebration.  This is the one I disagree with.  Quebec is part of Canada and Quebec’s history is part of Canada’s history.  I studied it in school, too.  Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain made Canada possible.  They discovered and founded a French colony, not an independent country.  So, it is every bit as much Canada’s history as Quebec’s.

Where I agree with the separatists is their complaint that the Governor General represents the British queen.  This is a national embarassment that I wish the rest of the country would want to remedy as much as some Quebecers do.  As the queen’s representative, she is a reminder that we don’t even have our own head of state.  Separatists see the link to the British crown as a constant reminder of the capture of New France by the British about 250 years ago.  This is one of the biggest problems they have with the rest of Canada.  They think of the rest of us as the British conquerors and colonizers.  Why can’t we feel that humiliation and decide to do something about it?  I mean, really, borrowing someone else’s head of state?  Are we an independent country or not?  The separatists know they want to be one.  Maybe if the rest of the country felt the same way, we could get on the same page and move forward as one.  As one joke goes, Quebec can go as long as it takes the rest of us with it.

They aren’t the only ones who are offended and think we should have our own head of state.  When I was living overseas in London, I was asked several times why we didn’t “go with the Yanks”.  They don’t understand why we would maintain a link with them.  They were often offended to hear that the queen has the title Queen of Canada.  “What?  Now their taking our queen?”, they would say.  They don’t want to share her with us.  She’s their head of state.  Every country should have its own head of state.  They think like a country.

By contrast, a lot of people in Canada still want to share their head of state rather than have one of our own.  They think like colonials.  Many of these people are British immigrants or recent descendants of them who don’t want to let go.  Some may be descendants of United Empire Loyalists who cling to British roots partly out of bitterness over what their ancestors endured at the hands of their former neighbours.

This attitude is holding us back as a country.  Not only does it give separatists something to complain about, it permeates our political and business leadership.  Colonial style thinking is still widespread.  Fitting into others’ plans is the easier option than conceiving and executing our own.  Sending raw materials to bolder countries that know what they want to do with them is easier than making and marketing products.  Arguably, we’ve even been lazy about that.  I don’t agree with everything in it, but, as Andrew Cohen wrote in ‘While Canada Slept’, we don’t export to others so much as allow them to import from us.  If we still cling politically to our colonial connection to Britain, economically we look a lot like an American colony.

Letting go of mummy’s apron strings would go a long way towards alleviating the resentment felt by many separatists.  It would be a good investment in national unity.  It could also result in a new attitude and outlook among our political and business leaders – one that puts us first.  Maybe then, if we stop clinging to the past, we will start thinking about and planning for the future.  Maybe we could see leaders emerge with a vision of the future that extends beyond the next election.  Maybe we would see some forward planning, with short, medium, and long term goals.  They might even think about where this country could be at the end of this century, for example – long after they’re gone.

Vision.  Goals.  Planning.  Going your own way.  Takes balls.  Do we have ’em or not?

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Family Reunion

March 16, 2008

I arrived at my aunt’s house in Glasgow for a family reunion, of sorts.  The whole family wasn’t there, but it was crowded enough.  My brother had found me in London and told me about it.  I’d been working on a movie, which was exhausting, so I figured I could use a getaway and some relaxation.  I must have been exhausted, because I’d forgotten that the words ‘family’ and ‘relaxation’ were incongruous.

Besides my brother, there was my sister and her husband, their daughter, a couple of cousins and their spouses, their mother, and my older cousin’s daughter.  Those were just the ones visiting from Canada.  We were all staying in my aunt and uncle’s house.  Then there was all of their children and grandchildren who were there most of the time, as well as other occasional visitors that weekend.  I’d have left the keys with someone and told them to call me when they’re clearing out.

Despite the chaos, it was nice to see my siblings and cousins after many years.  We talked and filled in some of the gap.  At some point on the first day, we Canadians were on our own and somebody told me that one of my Scottish cousins’ son, whom I had met for the first time a little earlier, was basically a sociopath.  His mother took a liking to me that weekend, and it was mutual.  I would have found it difficult to not like her.  Although she appeared to suffer from low self-esteem and, possibly, occasional depression, she had a lovable quality about her.  Maybe a need to be loved, too.

I thought back to the last time I had been in that house.  I recalled a late night conversation with my aunt years earlier.  She talked about her pregnant teenage daughter.  There are some words spoken that you just never forget.  They leave a mark.  They affect you.  They inform you about the world around you and become integral to who you are.  She said, “She made a mistake and now she has to pay for it.”  I grew at that moment.  If that’s the way that kid is going to be raised, I thought, what chance does he have?  If he’s going to be treated or made to feel like a punishment from god, what hope is there for him?

Now, I remembered why I hadn’t been back up to Glasgow since then.  I also remembered why I hadn’t been back to Canada to see my family.  This Catholic christian attitude that seemed to come with the territory was annoying, off-putting, and even offensive.  This kid, who was raised in an environment that considered him something dirty, was now being described as a sociopath and the description did seem to fit.

If he didn’t seem to care about other people, I was told there was one exception.  Before returning to London, I had another one on one talk with my aunt.  This time, she talked about her grandson, the sociopath.  She said that only she could get to him or tell him what to do.  She is the only one he’ll listen to.  Only she could teach him right from wrong.  The same person who created the idea that he was a punishment from god was now his only salvation.

My aunt can be a nice lady, but she is a personification and microcosm of her faith.  By being that, she seems to have undermined her own daughter’s self-worth and manipulated her grandson.  It’s no wonder my very likeable cousin seemed to need love.

One Little Lie

February 16, 2008

I took a look at the results of The Georgia Straight’s sex survey on the recommendation of a reader.  There were a few interesting results, although they emphasize it was not a scientific poll.  One thing that stood out is the few percent of people who have sex more than thirty times a month, or more than once a day.  Even more interesting was the fact that 5.3% of married women did, while only 0.7% of married men did.  Hmmm…

What else is there?  Have you ever blatantly told a lie to persuade a person to go to bed with you?  No, not me.  Oh, wait a minute.  There was that one time…

Shortly after arriving in London, I realized the English had a serious attitude problem when it came to Canada and Canadians.  Sure enough, I came across a book that listed things that were ‘naff’, or unfashionable.  It included things you shouldn’t say, do, wear, or be.  It declared that Canada and Belgium were ‘naff’.  By contrast, in those waning years of the Thatcher era, they had America on the brain.  Maggie had been promising them for years that it was “going to be just like in America”.

One night, I was in a pub on Seven Sisters Road, I believe, just across the street from a theatre that had been a popular concert venue in the 60s and 70s, where Bowie and others had played.  There was a sort of early club in the pub, with live music, DJ, fun decor, oilwheels, and lighting.

I spotted a pretty girl who really appealed to me.  She wasn’t very receptive when I approached her, at first.  Then I decided to try an experiment.  I told her I was American.  A big smile came across her face.  You know all those enemies of America who call Britain “America’s whore”?  They’re right.  It’s a Bangkok hooker with “FUCK ME USA” painted on her back.

We went back to my place and had a great time.  We discovered, among other things, that she couldn’t pee and give oral sex at the same time.  We spoon slept, waking up perfectly positioned for more.  It was great.  The chemistry was great.  I felt great.  I really liked her and, when she told me about some carnival or fair she was going to that day and asked if I’d like to come along, I wanted to say yes.  But, I couldn’t, because it was all a lie.  I quietly said that, no, I wouldn’t really be into it.

The truth was, I didn’t care where she was going.  I wanted to accept her invitation and spend the day with her.  I walked her to the door and watched her walk out of my life.

Belief Does Not Make You Good

January 28, 2008

There is no correlation between morality, or ethics, and religion or belief in god.  The one doesn’t require, or guarantee, the other.

China is officially atheistic but they have strong traditions and morals.  Women are taught to be modest.  They might even be considered prudish compared to western women, including Christians.  They believe a man wants to marry a virgin, so – no sex before marriage.  I’m not saying this modesty makes them better, but a religious zealot would aspire to a society of such ‘virtue’.

Things are changing, now that the country that used to talk of western decadence has adopted the mantra, “It’s glorious to be rich”.  So, it seems that economics and the pursuit of material wealth have more to do with influencing ethics and morals than belief or non-belief in a god.  You could be a highly ethical atheist or a sleazy believer.

I was once in the presence of someone who I think may have actually killed someone, and he told me he believed in god.  I found myself in the London flat of someone who knew someone I knew.  Someone else was there, too, sitting across the coffee table from me.  The conversation revealed that he was twenty-six and he’d just got out of prison after serving eight years.  So, he was sentenced at eighteen.

Maybe the situation is different in Britain these days, but at the time the papers were screaming about wishy washy liberal judges who were soft on criminals and more concerned with their rights than the victims’.  They also complained about parole being automatic.  So, if he served eight years, he was probably sentenced to at least twelve to fifteen.

I wondered what an eighteen year old kid had to do to get a twelve to fifteen year sentence from a wishy washy judge who thinks he deserves another chance and that, given the position of disadvantage he started from, it was inevitable that he would make some bad decisions.  The only two things I could think of were murder or a particularly brutal rape.

But, he believes in god, so, according to his fellow believers, he’s a better, more ethical person than me.

God’s Free Gift

January 27, 2008

A couple of years ago, on my way to the supermarket one Sunday, I was walking along East Broadway and passed a church.  There was a man standing just inside the church’s property line facing a couple of young girls, who were probably about twelve or thirteen years old, standing on the sidewalk just outside the property line.  As I approached, I heard one of the girls say something like, “So, if we come in, do we get to keep the presents?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Had the religious really stooped to such new lows?  Luring unaccompanied children – without parental consent – into their churches with presents?  I glanced at the man.  Incredibly, HE shot ME a dirty look.  I guess I offended him by catching him doing what he must have known was wrong.  If he didn’t know it was wrong, he would have carried on nonchalantly and wouldn’t have noticed me passing.  Couldn’t he hear his own conscience?

Imagine there wasn’t a church behind the man.  You see a man offering young girls presents to come inside.  What would you think?  Utterly abhorrent, predatory behaviour.  For some reason, religions get away with things we would otherwise find offensive, or even criminal.

Although this was the first time I’d ever seen such blatant and crass religious marketing, I later found out it was by no means an isolated incident.  A Korean student told me last summer that it’s common in Korea.  Christian churches routinely offer children presents to come in and join a mass.  Korea and Asia are ‘growth markets’ for Christianity.  Make no mistake, they’re in the god ‘business’.

Looking back, the guy standing just inside the property reminds me of the legal fine line the girls standing in the doorways of the ‘hostess’ bars in London’s Soho district tread.  Now there’s a comparison to be proud of!

I feel a little ashamed that I didn’t do anything about this guy.  I wish I’d called a cop.  But, being the nice, tolerant Canadian that I am, I didn’t.  We have to respect religion, after all.

Why?

Pork on Friday

January 25, 2008

I like to eat pork on Fridays.  Not just because I like pork – which I do – but because it’s a simple way to defy the ridiculous dogma of four major religions at once.

Christians are supposed to eat fish on Fridays.  Jews and Muslims, when not trying to kill each other, actually agree that pork shouldn’t be eaten at all, let alone on their holy day.  Hindus are supposed to be vegetarian, a position I can understand when individuals freely take it but I don’t like any religion telling me what I have to do or eat.

So, by the simple act of eating pork on Friday I can thumb my nose at those who impose themselves on us.  It’s my little protest, and no one gets hurt – except the pig, I suppose.

It surprises me that these rules persist, but they do.  A few years ago, when my brothers visited Vancouver, we went for Japanese food.  It was Friday.  One brother had recently gone vegetarian for religious reasons.  The other brother and his future wife had sushi, but he seemed a bit surprised and slightly offended when I ordered katsu don.  I guess he adhered to the old rules and expected that I would, too.

But the rules are more deeply ingrained in other places.  Years ago, in the cafeteria of an organization I worked for in London, I was looking over the lunch ‘options’.  There was nothing but fish.  Not being in the mood for seafood, I mentioned it to the middle aged woman behind the counter.  When I asked if there was anything else, she replied in an Irish accent, “No, it’s Friday”.  When I furled my brow, trying to find the logic, she added, “Fish Friday”, in a tone suggesting I’m supposed to know this.  After more facial contortion I replied, “Why, because they both begin with ‘F’?”.  I had successfully forgotten fishy rules, having liberated myself from my upbringing.  Now they were being imposed on me again.

It ended moments later with her saying that if I wanted something other than fish she wasn’t going to make or serve it.  She absolutely refused to consider the possibility that someone else might not share her belief.  She felt she had every right to impose her beliefs on everyone else.  It was all about her, not the diverse collection of customers.

My peaceful protest may seem silly, but so are the rules the little act of defiance is aimed at.  That’s the point.  And where does anyone get off actually being offended by what someone else chooses to eat?  If that’s not a sure sign that religions and the religious take themselves too seriously, what is?

Move Over Chicago, There’s a New Windy City

January 15, 2008

Another wind storm tore through the city yesterday and into the night.  They seem to be happening more often than usual.  I don’t recall the weather being as windy as it has been lately, in general, let alone the kinds of storms we’ve experienced over the past year or two.

It was about a year ago that the wind devastated Stanley Park, blowing down thousands of trees and causing a landslide that closed the seawall.  Then, in September, just after the seawall finally reopened, there was another one that closed it again.  I wonder what the damage is this time…

Downtown, Georgia Street was actually closed at rush hour because a window pane was flapping around in the wind on an office tower.  A couple sheets of plywood were blown off a highrise under constructon and landed on cars below – one of them occupied.  People trying to get home to the north shore had serious problems, since Georgia Street leads to the causeway through Stanley Park that leads to Lions Gate Bridge.

My own inconvenience was limited to the incessant flapping of the plastic sheet that was tied down over my bicycle where it’s locked to the railing on the deck outside my window.  This was my ingenious design to allow me to store the bike outside the apartment this winter, rather than inside like last winter.  A great space saver.  I guess a couple of the strings broke.  I try to help the environment with pedal power and what does it give me in return?  It’s a good thing the whole thing didn’t break free or who knows where it could have gone or what kind of damage might have resulted.  Can you imagine a big sheet of plastic landing on your windshield while you’re driving? 

Something like that happened to me once years ago in London – on my MOTORCYCLE.  But it wasn’t even clear plastic.  There I was just riding along and, suddenly, THWAP!  Where is everything?  Where did this plastic bag come from?  Fortunately I managed to pull it off before anything else happened.

Oh, there was another noise that I heard last night.  I heard something falling on the deck.  That’s not unusual – things fall off the balcony above me every once in a while.  I went outside this morning to see what it was.  This one was a little unusual.  It was a table leg.  I wonder where the rest of it ended up…