we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is

Kurt Vonnegut – one of my all-time favourite authors – the further on he gets in years, the straighter he tells it…. check out his recent opinion piece in In These Times –

commuting and moving and pollution….

this morning i woke up at a friend’s place way out in the fraser valley, and thus had to do what thousands of people seem to do every day – get in my car and drive for two hours to get to work. i just have such a hard time believing that there are people out there who commute like that 5 days a week, so monstrous is the traffic starting and stopping – watching the odometer creep as the hour ticks closer to the start of the working day.

it’s bad enough that we sit in these prisons called cubicles 8 hours or more per day, but to also spend 2-4 hours in the casket that is one’s car seems like truly inhuman punishment. what kind of a culture is it that normalizes such nonsense?

because i never drive in from the valley at that time in the morning, before today i have not noticed that first thing (around 6:30 or so) in the morning, the smog layer rolling out of the city is particularly striking in its toxic appearance. this morning was clear as a bell, except for the rolling brown fog blowing on an ocean’s breeze down the highway – making for some of the poorest air quality in canada. even worse is that once you are under the brown cloud, it becomes imperceptible as if to trick us into thinking that the air we are breathing is good for us….

i think it is time to move away – but here is my own dilemma about commuting – if i move to the sunshine coast it will be a trip at least a few times a week by ferry and bus into the city. can i handle that? i have never had to travel more than 25 minutes by bus (55 minutes walking) – and could i stand the idea of working from home a couple of days per week? every time i get close to looking for a place over on that side of the mainland, i stop myself by worrying that it won’t work out – that somehow i will destroy my career, my union work, and will be consigned to a life of singledom (which shouldn’t even matter, but when i’m on a roll with worrying it does).

but the other side of me wants just a little house with a garden and a fruit tree – which i can afford there – and i can’t afford in the city. it’s so ridiculous this conundrum of working class life – that where we can afford to live is not where we work, thus suspending us perpetually in a state of dislocation – never firmly rooted in the place where we live *or* where we work. i suppose that if we were more planted in one locale we might more fiercely fight for it, or steward it, rather than treating it as one more waypoint on the road to our consumer paradise.

at least i have a computer job, and it is feasible to work from any part of the province as long as i have an internet hook-up. a good friend’s advice last night and the brown cloud on the horizon this morning swung me back in the direction of moving up the coast for my physical and mental health which will surely deteriorate the longer i stay here…..

just another dry monday

another sunny day in east vancouver and i am reminded once again that the rainfall levels this spring are at an all-time low. why has the city not introduced water-restrictions yet i wonder? will it be like last year when they waited until the reservoirs were under 40% to tell people not to fill their swimming pools and water their lawns?

there is no question the amount of rain that has fallen in the last two months, and the early and rapid spring runoff will produce a mid-summer water shortage if we don’t start paying attention now. and by paying attention – i don’t mean the introduction of water-metering which only penalizes low-income people and statistically does little to curtail the water use of urban areas.

is this what the collapse looks like? not a bang but a long drawn-out whimper as the last of our resources trickle away?

Qui seme la misere recolte la colere

translates to “Whoever sows misery harvests anger”.

the death of 5% of the iraqi population (many of them children) – not to mention the ruthless bombing – is misery sown through and through – why are americans so surprised at the anger displayed by the people?

a bibliography of the last six months

It is Saturday night, and having just arrived home from a three-day road trip that took me from vancouver to merrit to kamloops and then to the sunshine coast, I am too worn out to socialize, and also too exhausted to think of much interesting – so I thought I would post my recent booklist here at a friend’s request.

This winter I spent a lot of time reading around certain themes – the history of human civilizations, ecological healing, trauma recovery and community development. Out of that long list of reading materials, I have culled a few of my favourites for short review.

Books I have recently read and would recommend (in no particular order)

Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond
This was published in 1997 and has since won a number of awards including the Pulitzer Prize. It is a powerful argument about the impact of the ecological and thus material forces that have shaped our histories of development as peoples of the world.

Walking on Water: Reading, Writing & RevolutionDerrick Jensen
Jensen is one of my favourite authors of the last two years, and his A Language Older than Words remains one of the most powerful books I have ever read (and re-read). This recent work is another critique of civilized society through an exploration of the repressive nature of the formal education system. This is another well-written work by Jensen that contains intelligent analysis inside humorous examples and the occasional rant at the system. For would-be teachers, or anyone interested in further exploring themes of education, this book includes an excellent bibliography.

Gone to Croatan: Origins of North American Dropout Cultureus Essays – Ron Sakolsky & James Koehnline, eds
This is another “hidden” history of North America, exploring the social formations and cultural expressions of America’s tri-racial communities in the early days (up until the 1900s) of colonization. These various tribes were made up of disenfranchised Europeans, runaway African slaves, and displaced First Nations people. The multiple essays in this anthology provide a fascinating and inspiring look at those who rebelled against the homogeneity of white colonization by their very existence.

My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western CivilizationChellis Glendinning
Glendinning’s theory is that all humans in the civilized world are suffering from an “original trauma” caused by our disconnect from and continuing assualt on the natural environment. This puts all of our society in a continual state of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is further compounded by the fresh traumas that we encounter in the course of our lives. I don’t know if I entirely buy all of her arguments, but I certainly agree with her central premise which is that we are living in an extremely detrimental way to our psychological and physical well-beings and the only remedy for this disconnect is something quite drastic.

Plant Technology of First Peoples in British Columbia J. Turner
This is an encyclopedia of how First Nations people in BC used plants, and what purposes different plants served in day to day life. I grew up here, partly in the forest, and I found it fascinating to find out what different common plants could be used for.

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma A. Levine
Levine offers a counter to standard trauma therapists who encourage patients to endlessly talk through trauma. The premise behind the therapy recommended in this book is that our bodies store trauma in physical locations and in order to heal, we must access those locations, release the trauma and reconnect our physical and mental selves. I personally find a combination of bodywork, physical exercise and counselling to have been the only thing effective for my healing – which makes me inclined to agree with a lot of what Levine says in this book.

WoodSquat Vidaver ed.
This is a journal of essays about the now-infamous Woodward’s Squat that Vancouver’s homeless and local activists erected a tent-city in front of for three months in the fall of 2002. Recently released, this is an important collection of photos, essays, legal documents and celebration about resistance in one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Creating a Life Together Leafe Christian
This is one of those must-have how to books for people interested in intentional community-building. Christian walks through all the potential issues including vision, land, legal options, community problem-solving and much more.


Books I am currently reading:

  • On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality – Ward Churchill
  • Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests – George Draffan & Derrick Jensen
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