Impatience and Unrest

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Wow, the violence and demonstrations and civil unrest of the Muslim world right now, amirite?

Protests bigger than those that overthrew Mubarak at Tahrir Square in January of 2011 are happening as we speak, calling for the elected replacement Morsi. That Egypt, can’t get its shit together – so backwards, with religion overriding common sense. And man, even Tunisia elected an Islamist leader after their igniting revolt, and they haven’t fully settled down like the quiet suburbs outside of Indianapolis. Syria? That shit’s still going. Turkey has had mass protests lately too. What is going on there?

A lot is. There is a lot of change and unrest in the Near and Middle East and major things are happening. In our present, able to read about it or watch it in nearly real time through the same modern conveniences that give us too much time to talk about it, this looks like chaos and disorder and a whole chunk of the world is going to burn itself to the ground.

But consider a few things here.

Go to the Wikipedia page of any day of the year and you will find an openly curated list of things that happened on that day. Look at what’s there in American events between the years of 1774 and 1783. Or 1861-1865. See anything French from 1789 to 1799? There is usually a highly concentrated list of events included from 1939-1945. These are major historical periods, volatilities abound, when protests and violence were frequent as a part of drastic social change. They also happen to be very popular subjects of both professional and amateur historians, so Wikipedia (particularly in English) is going to be heavily biased towards marking these events. If Wikipedia, or something like it, exists decades from now in Arabic it is going to weigh heavily to the span of the past two or three years to however many years to come because this is when their major social change is happening.

Also, make some demographic considerations. Even the lowest brow of journalistic commentary includes information on the weight of the young population in these areas, as possibly the source of such powerful momentum (or the high numbers more easily brainwashed, depending on your angle). And the reason there are so many young people is because of how much the world’s human count ballooned over the past few decades, particularly in these parts of the world. Give some credit to the progress of the status of women in these countries, even if you like to paint Islamic countries in oppressive colours – they are more educated than they ever have been and delaying childbearing long enough to be part of this movement.

This isn’t the End of Days. The world is not going to be destroyed from Cairo or Istanbul or Damascus. Periods of history just as densely populated with significant events have even arguably led to greater prosperity (for the winners, at least) or have at least been recovered from in due time, to a net gain for most. Things need time. If you, isolated from these places via oceans and computer screens, want to tell these people “You’re not doing democracy right” I’m going to put my index finger over your lips and gently whisper to you “Shhhh…[pause]ut the fuck up.” There’s no right way of social change.

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A Moment of Silence

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The office is quiet. About a third of people took the day off and it’s one of the calmer days after two weeks worh of work being stuffed into two and a half days. Being that I work at a business that serves other businesses, most clients probably also have vacant offices for a top-up to the official long weekend.

Cottagers trek to their quiet lakeside home and campers drive to their site to listen to the wind and the birds and the crickets. Except it’s quieter here than it is there, possibly for the whole weekend. Sure, we have plenty of urban Canada day celebrations, but noise is relative. I don’t think on weekends like this those who brag about a second home in the country get what they’re paying for.

Is it Still Wednesday?

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It’s been a long week. I suppose in ways that’s better than feeling like time went quickly between weekends, because that means over 5 days nothing remarkable happened and I’m still in the same job.

Good news: it’s also going to be a long weekend. But bad news: it’s the red-and-white, naively patriotic, family-friendly long weekend when my neighbourhood is rotting with children. I partially take back what I said earlier this week about the positives of happy children having fun on my street. It doesn’t count when they have face paint.

It still feels like Wednesday, and next Wednesday will probably feel like today. Life content overwhelms, especially when awaiting vacation.

Winnipegication

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I made a spur of the moment decision on my next series to watch – Californication. It was available on Netflix and something about the style of David Duchovny’s hair made it appealing to me. I’m most of the way through the second season and I quite like the show.

It’s like Sex and the City for men. (Coincidentally the two series share an actor, Evan Handler, the bald stocky Jewish guy who somehow keeps managing to land roles in heavily sexual sitcoms.) Obviously this is not in New York, but on the other coast – in L.A., hence the name of the show. The comedy is the conflict that comes out of sexual promiscuity and the strain it puts on real relationships. Using the impression from these shows, giant metropolises (metropoles?) like New York and Los Angeles have a lot of casual, practically anonymous sex. And it makes sense, with the giant populations and moral reputations of these escapes from the “real America”.

What appeals to me about Californication is the bad luck of a big city turning out like a small town. I can relate to that living in Winnipeg, where everyone you meet independently already knows someone you know, and you can’t escape gossip circles if you misbehave or something hilariously embarassing happens. I can relate – well, more specifically, my self-conscious anxieties can relate – to the troubles of everyone knowing someone who knows anyone you do. (Double entendre – interpret as you like.) What I can’t relate to is the short-lived embarassment with no lasting shame.

At least L.A. has the culture where there is no shame. It’s why there are 10 million people in and around there. In Winnipeg we have to apologize for everything, and casual encounters – or even early dating stages of budding relationships – bring about a lot of “sorry”s to friends and partners. It’s almost as impossible for me to escape these existing networks as it is for me to escape myself. What’s worse – going out there, or staying at home?

The Apolitical Playlist

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For a long time I’ve been incredibly self-conscious, and very private, about the music I listen to because of people I’ve encountered who based so much of their everyday judgement on music. Try being in a relationship with a sanctimonious music snob. Often they’re just on high-and-mighty power trips and want somebody to just agree with everything they say (and bow down to kiss their feet). Other times people are so invested in their music tastes that they won’t have much else to talk about or relate to without that conversation. Having met many people from both sides, I find it better to retreat and not talk about things at all.

It takes just a couple of vulnerable moments coinciding with this type of person to develop the social phobia of sharing music tastes that has shaped my life. There are running semi-jokes with family members who have no idea what music I have ever liked or listened to. When a conversation among a close group of friends organically turns to the subject of music I go mum and wait until the subject changes to something else. When hanging out in other people’s territory I go with the flow and don’t complain. In neutral territory I make no comments on the ambiance chosen by the venue in question.

But what do I do when I’m the host? What can I do that won’t be commented on there to my face, and what I can convince myself people won’t make fun of behind my back when they leave?

I’ve tuned out of popular music for nearly a decade now. I don’t listen to the radio for a number of reasons (primarily because I don’t drive a car and that seems to be the only place where radio still matters) and music specialty channels on TV stopped playing music videos years ago. The benefit of those was that I could passively be exposed to these new things. Other mediums like iTunes and YouTube where things are posted and you can go look for exposure to certain music and go by recommendations similar to your taste require active initiative: I’m responsible for what I choose to listen to. At least when I ignore music I can play the, well, ignorance card. When all I hear is played outside of my own choosing I am at least vaguely familiar with what songs are out there. But we’re in a different world – a world where music snobs have at their fingertips everything they need to be incredibly selective and refine their list of appreciated artists, but where the timid are in jeopardy of faux pas galore, in case anyone ever gets onto their computer to look in their music folder, or even their cache. Erase your history. You may start an ongoing feud because you watched one Carly Rae Jespen video online.

Fountain Suds

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on Friday I was being generously given a ride home, and driving down my street we passed the subterranean fountain at my corner. It’s sunken, with seats alongside the steps leading to the stones the (dyed blue, for some reason) water splashes upon. all red-brown cobblestone. We passed the fountain with many people sitting, standing, and playing around it, as it was filled with bubbles.

This happens frequently in the summer months when this fountain is in operation, but there were more suds than I’ve ever seen before there. And there were lots of people – I’m assuming separate groups because they seemed to keep to smaller cohorts and covered a range of demographics – sitting around this fountain, playing with the suds, playing in the suds and water, falling into the water, and losing their shoes. After being dropped off I just grabbed my camera and went back out the door to this part of my corner and took pictures of people having fun. It was a form of vandalism, really, but harmless vandalism that parents with infants and toddlers were enjoying alongside thirteen year old friends and eighteen year old couples. People fell into the water and got wet. I ran back home and grabbed a spare towel that I didn’t mind losing if I went in for the night before these obviously energetic young folk decided the fun was over. It was the kind of thing I would do with my friends as a teenager. It was the kind of harmless trouble that should be happening in all sorts of neighbourhoods. It’s the potential that can be found in a downtown area if people start opening their minds and working to defy the stereotypes.

Clearly I haven’t fully become a crotchety old person if I was encouraging these kids to keep playing. The number of people who believe homes are for sheltering yourself and neighbourhoods are for being quiet is surprisingly high even downtown. If I’m going to make snow angels and snowmen in the winter, people should be playing safely in fountains in the summer. And having picnics. And throwing frisbees. And if this is all happening in places not “designated” for such activity, it’s more fun. It’s the change I want to see in my neighbourhood.

Young Woman, Without Child

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You know what I’m doing to be “financially responsible”, as so many commentators claim my generation is not?

NOT HAVING CHILDREN.

And I don’t plan on it. Ever. I also don’t plan on living long enough to retire, but I am still contributing to a company pension on top of meagre but existing RRSPs. I go on binges of putting thousands of dollars into savings once an expensive time has safely passed – expensive times, might I add, that revolve around other people’s lives almost each and every time.

I’m made to feel poor. This is mostly self-inflicted, and that in part comes from a deprivation type mentality indirectly present in my upbringing. While older generations may feel like they were making more and spending less at my age, however, there’s a key difference in how expensive it is for me to live and how expensive it would’ve – should’ve, at purchasing-power-parity – been for them. When my mother was my age she was pregnant with her third child. I have no children. I make less as a household because I live by myself, so I spend more per person on living expenses – but, if logic were included anywhere in here, that’s becuase I can.

If anything I’m planning for my future too much. I won’t have children so I don’t need to save up for anyone else’s future tuition. I won’t have a wedding (must shut mouth must shut mouth must shut mouth) and there’s five figures saved. I’m paying modestly into pension and retirement plans even though I’m fairly sure that I’ll die prematurely and/or retirement age will always move up to be just out of my reach if I do last to what’s currently considered “senior years”. Even the people who are having children are having them later – my cousin’s wife is pregnant and they’ll be having their first child at the same age my parents had their third – which theoretically should build up a career to a higher earning level in time to support children better.

But nobody is giving us credit for that. They’re criticizing later childbearing as higher risk to children’s health and disconnecting families as grandparents don’t get the privilege until a later age in a more fragile condition. They’re saying not having children young is more selfish than having children poor. Combined with purposely redesigning the working world to not give us permanent, subsistence employment is cognitive dissonance.

Anyway, while I panic over my financial situation and how harshly I’ll be judged for taking a week-long vacation within my own country, I need to remind myself of how much easier this all is for me because I don’t have another mouth to feed. Give me some credit, even if I won’t give you any grandchildren.