In the early 60’s, I read Rudyard Kipling, Sir Richard Burton’s translation of the Thousand and One Nights from the original Arabic and Robert Service’s poems of the Yukon, Paris back-alleys and ambulance driving in WW I. My local library yielded up numerous descriptive journals written by or about the explorers and military commanders of the nineteenth century. In Baton Rouge it was not uncommon, on Sunday afternoon TV to see Alec Guinness in Tunes of Glory or William Conrad in Leiningen Versus the Ants or Carry On Up The Jungle with Sid James and Jacki Piper or even Carey Grant and Joan Fontaine in Gunga Din.
When I arrived in North Vancouver, my sixth grade teacher at Lynn Valley Elementary had been a personal friend of the famous Canadian flying ace, Buzz “Screwball” Beurling. Between bouts of punishing sarcasm, brow-beating and shaming, us students were treated to and inflicted with daily stories of the Falcon Of Malta and his 39 kills from the cockpit of his RAF Spitfire.
An eleventh grade teacher I had at Argyle Senior Secondary was a soft spoken Scot who taught algebra. That silver haired gentleman used to regale his students with a never-ending story of his personal adventures as a tail-gunner in a Wellington bomber. Each tale was perfectly timed to require attendance the next day in order to find out if the port-side engine did in fact explode or whether or not the bombardier managed to stop his arterial bleeding. No one ever skipped that class.
By the 80’s when Message In A Bottle fought for airspace with Night Moves, most young folks were on UIC. A minority of persistent ones eventually found employment. Those who were in their mid-twenties were typically thrown together with others forty years their senior who were nearing their retirement, especially in the Public Service and Trades arenas.
Several times, I found myself paired up with one of these old fellows as a work mate, as an apprentice or as a trainee. Looking back, I realize that had I lacked the celluloid and literate grounding that I’d managed to glean in my boyhood; I would have been completely out-gunned in those short but intense inter-generational work relationships.
I did a pastiche of jobs that involved everything from deep fryers to brick-work scaffolds, drop clothes to jack-hammers, ship’s hulls to Police cruisers and carpenter’s belts to bank vaults. This potpourri eventually came to a boil at Canada Post. Many of the silver-back males at that establishment had seen war in a variety of theaters that visited everything from the freezing rain of the heartless North Atlantic to the malarial monsoons of the steaming jungles of Burma, from the sub-zero bomb shattered mountains of the Korean Peninsula to the corpse strewn shattered rubble of a pulverized European infrastructure. Many matriarchs I worked with had also been in those same theaters but were much less likely to speak of their adventures than the men. Back then, men mostly did the killing and destroying while women mostly did their best to save lives and to comfort the casualties.
I met men from Naval, Air Force, Merchant Marine and Army backgrounds. Though Canadian, they were of British, German, Yugoslav, Dutch, Danish, Italian, American, Scots, Irish, East Indian, Japanese and First Nations heritage. After hearing their stories, I easily understood their attitude towards our relatively soft duty of stuffing paper through door slots for the Queen, rigging up gas-fired boilers, painting apartments, sculpting lawns, cooking meals and riveting hulls. Of those men, the Germans were the most philosophical, the Slavs were the most poetic and the Brits, by far, were the loudest and the proudest.
As a young gas-fitter in North Vancouver, I was assigned to ride along with a British war vet for two weeks prior to his retirement. The mission was for him to impart some of his knowledge of servicing older gas fired heating equipment. I only had experience installing new piping and devices. I remember the look our boss gave me as we drove off to that first shift.
It seemed to say, “We’ll just see how this works, kid. If you can make it for a day or two, it’ll set a new company record. Either way, its bound to tie your shit in a knot.”
My mentor had been resident in India in a military capacity during the very last tumultuous days of the Raj. He was old school. If he’d been a glass of wine, the first sip would have been described as abrasive, opinionated, prejudiced, racist, fastidious, narcissistic, elitist, caustic, manic, acerbic, impatient, uncompromising, rude, ignorant, misogynistic, prone to outbursts of fury, humorless and unimaginative. I knew better than to judge him without taking into consideration the soil he’d sprung from and the cask he’d matured in.
I could well imagine that when he looked in the mirror each morning he saw the last hope of civilization looking back at him through pale blue eyes. His chief physical characteristics however were ear and nose hair tufts like paint brushes and breath that would stagger a charging rhino.
In his estimation, my accent alone betrayed my abject hopeless stupidity. When added to the other demerits imposed by my place of birth, mixed heritage and youth, I’d wager he felt like a Lord with a fear of germs being told to share a glass of Claret with a wet leper at sword point. Foam formed on the corners of his grim blueish lips when he was particularly agitated and his hands shook when not wrapped tightly around something.
By the infinite wisdom of the universe we became unlikely work-mates for a time. I learned nothing of my trade via verbal tutelage, and gleaned what I could from pure observation at safe distance. It was like working with my Swedish grandpa in his East Texas garage workshop. Questions were an unmanly sign of weakness, sitting was forbidden, touching things was actively discouraged and permission to actually undertake a project lived in some mythical distant future that shrunk back farther in time the closer you got to it like a Saharan mirage.
Lunches at the Third & Lonsdale Army and Navy Veterans Club helped us find some common ground over bowls of soup and pints of ale during this time. Once in a while, after such a good feed and several dust cutters, a strange light would come into the old man’s eyes as we drove to the next boiler job in the post-war neighbourhoods of West Vancouver. Once the old boy got started reminiscing, the smoking light was green.
“Mick, it was in the last days of the Raj. I was stationed in Cawnpore. My wife and daughter lived there with me. We had a pet mongoose to deal with the cobras that were always slithering up from the Ganges and into the house. Our dhobi-wallah was nearly bitten while sorting out shirts for starching one afternoon. The mongoose was brought in and the girls stood on the table to watch the fight. Two minutes under the piano bench was all it took for little Georgie to do his job. That was all before the partition. Nasty bit of work, that.”
Our arrival at the next job would always trigger an end to the stories and my mentor would retreat back to his scarred shell like a hermit crab poked with a stick. After two long weeks, I attended the grand occasion of the old soldier’s retirement party at the Army and Navy Club. I had typed up a passage from Kipling’s poem, Gunga Din for use when the toasting and story-telling got underway. When my turn came, I rose and delivered the piece.
I won't forget the night
When I dropped behind the fight
With a bullet where my belt plate should have been.
I was choking mad with thirst,
And the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinning, grunting Gunga Din.
He lifted up my head,
And he plugged me where I bled,
And he gave me half a pint of water-green:
It was crawling and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I've drunk,
I'm most grateful to one from Gunga Din.
It was "Din! Din! Din!"
Here's a beggar with a bullet through his spleen;
He's chawing up the ground,
And he's kicking all around:
For Gawd's sake get the water, Gunga Din!
He carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
And a bullet come and drilled the beggar clean.
He put me safe inside,
And just before he died:
"I hope you liked your drink," says Gunga Din.
So I'll meet him later on
At the place where he is gone--
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
He'll be squatting on the coals,
Giving drink to poor damned souls,
And I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
When I finished and everyone had drained their raised glasses, the Englishman rose from his seat and gave me a crushing handshake and two stout claps on the shoulder, his wife smiled and his daughter agreed to my request for more stories of the intrepid Georgie.
Our boss just grinned and said, “Shit! Mick. Cheers to that.”
Later, as a letter-carrier at Station O, I worked with ex-Navy and Merchant dudes. Out on the streets between Fraser and Main, I got to know some vets of the South-East Asian theater and yet others who had seen very recent action in the Middle East. Over time, my hair deserted most of my scalp and my beard sported a distinctive pewter tone. My ear and nose hair took on a new enthusiasm as did my eyebrows. The quickening was upon me! All this while, new blood flowed into the Armed Forces, across battlefields and into the Crown Corporation that had once been the Canadian Postal Service.
At a certain point, in a particular Sortation Facility, I started to feel well and truly old. I looked at the fresh faces around me, thumbing their cell phones with one hand and sorting mail with the other. Everyone was pierced, tattooed and gender ambiguous. Green, blue, purple and orange had replaced blonde, brunette, red and black for ladies hair colours. Many of the new hires washed out long before their training periods were over. Morning sortation began to be filled with the plaintive mewling of reality-seared newbies as they tried hard to come to terms.
“You mean, we have to deliver it too?”
“What SPF does the Post Office provide us?”
“I didn’t bring lunch. It’s snowing so hard. Aren’t they going to send us home?”
“Dude, seriously, it’s raining.”
“We have to take all those flyer thingies too?”
“Are we gonna die?”
“This is brutal!”
“I though slavery was like, banned-uh.”
“How do they even expect us to do this shit?”
“Of course I brought it all back! For your information, there were dogs-uh.”
Girls were losing gym time and man buns were coming undone. Earbuds were getting lost, batteries were dying and cell phone screens were getting scratched. Sometimes the negative weight of this commotion annoyed the seasoned troops, curdling the milk of their human kindness while undermining everyone’s resolve. Schizophrenic customers, bi-polar dogs, drive-by shootings and tainted contract negotiations were already contending for space on everyone’s plate, even on good days.
One morning, I’d had my fill. Standing idly by while the troops were tightening their grip on the shit rope was no longer an option for a man of honour. As any watcher of the Trailer Park Boys knows, the tighter you grip the shit rope, the faster you slip. Our sortation cases were made of hard maple and likely over one hundred years old. They stood higher than your head and were usually arranged so you could only see the person to your immediate right or left. As compensation for this visual limitation, one could hear a thousand conversations at once like a dress rehearsal for the Tower of Babel scene in a bad movie.
As in a dream, I found my voice that morning and I addressed the work floor from where I stood while continuing to sort my own mountain of mail. Within seconds, all other voices stilled. Only the staccato of envelopes whacking the blue metal backing of the cases accompanied my oration like spent bullets raining onto a car hood.
“Reminds me of the time we were setting up Postal Services in Equatorial Guinea. I was a Postal Clark in Francistown at the time. The telegraph lines had all been sabotaged a fortnight prior by the Mau-Mau uprising and the Crown had to rely on natives to get their signals through by drum. We were tasked by Home Office with capturing a live specimen of the Cleora nigrisparsalis moth for subsequent engraving and use for a commemorative First Day Cover postal stamp in Guinea proper on the West Coast.”
“Let me say it’s a long, long way to Conakry. Most of the lads contracted dysentery, malaria and somnolent fever on the jog up from Botswana through the Okavango Swamp. Beastly hot! Not two days out we were engulfed by a ghastly cloud of blood-sucking, fever-carrying Tsetse flies. Our ranks now decimated, we were forced to halt while bribing new porters. The rinderpest outbreak had just been contained and most of the available workers were busy burning the diseased cattle. Jolly difficult to find any helpers, as it were.”
“Our search for the elusive insect took us up to the headwaters of Zambezi River. We approached the Congo by overland trek and after burying our dead we turned North-West and set our compasses for Kinshasa. From there, we popped down the coastal route to cross the Gabon and traverse the Cameroon. Two days out of Douala, just south of Calabar, the porters became very uneasy. The drums had been particularly incessant that night before after the thunder and lightening finally stopped. Something of ill omen was in the fetid wind.”
“Plagued by Black Mambas for several weeks, we had lost those men who hadn’t remembered to cover their heads when passing under the trees. A pride of male lions in musk had scattered the crates of tinned peas and the hyenas had savaged our corned beef. I told the remaining porters to gather up these provisions and to report on what items had survived. While they worked, I sent young Jenkins off with two wildebeest bladders in search of a water source.”
“Our gin hadn’t survived the crossing of the Congo. The quinine had been stolen by a deserter. We found his scattered, bleached bones several days later but the medicine was gone. A herd of heat-maddened hippopotami had rushed the supply boats and capsized the lot into crocodile infested rapids. After, we had to make do with gathering moisture from bromeliads into hollowed out ostrich eggs.”
“As the men carried out my orders, the blood red hammer of the sun rose over its blistering forge of savanna promising another soul sapping, wit destroying day on the waffle iron that was the Massif lying to our North waiting to be crossed. I poured the last greasy drops of protozoan laden water from my canteen into my shaving mug. I fixed a bit of polished steel onto a crotch of a thorn tree and after evicting several large scorpions from my ruck sack, I drew out the mummified monkey’s fist that served me as a shaving brush.”
“Shirtless, I stood in my last pair of starched khakis, stirring the soap briskly. I hung my pistol belt on a low branch of the thorn. I checked the action, chambered a round and left it in the holster with the clasp undone. I had traded my razor weeks ago to a toothless Portuguese rubber trader for a year old sports section of the London Times. I drew out the Zulu knife I kept in my boot and regarded its jagged, sweat-rusted edge and zebra covered acacia wood handle. It would have to do until I got to Conakry. I stropped it as best I could on the back of my mouldering, Postal Issue pistol belt and leaned toward the reflective steel.”
“I laughed ruefully when I remembered that my Bay Rum astringent had been lost on the Zambezi, spirited away from our camp by a troop of murderous, blue-arsed baboons, baring their fangs. I was just about to commence my toiletries when men and boys came running higgledy-piggledy from the bush. They dropped the supplies they had managed to salvage near the dying embers of our elephant dung fire. Midst their agitated vocalizations, I recognized one word from a previous and still painful experience. Marabunta! Marabunta come! Aiiie!”
“I ordered a porter to bring me the rubbing alcohol and I ordered Jenkins to take a folding spade and cut a small trench around our pile of provisions. He put down his water skins and got cracking immediately. Only four porters held their ground when that living river of ants spilled out of the jungle and flowed like Satan’s pancake syrup, devouring everything in their path. You could hear the insane snapping of their mandibles and cries of the frightened animals that had succumbed to the ravenous frenzy. I tossed a coal onto the alcohol moat with only seconds to spare.”
“As we watched in horror and relief, the reddish-brown river of misery split into two lethal branches to avoid the flames. One of the lads began to gibber and had to be soundly slapped before he regained control of his faculties. Two hours later, it was over. I dispatched the four remaining porters to scour the hills for the deserters and bring them back to justice. Happy to have at least our few remaining supplies, I returned to resume my shave.”
“Jenkins, three paces to my left, was massaging a suppurating ulcer on his withered bicep. Presently, he began teasing out a reluctant bot-fly larvae with a paper clip while whistling a Zulu lullaby. I heard a twig snap in the distance. The schizophrenic call of the White-Crested Turaco floated over the undulating heat shimmer like a mentally unhinged Welsh lighthouse keeper shouting down a storm. It was wart-hog mating season and I hoped to avoid any confrontations with the hormone-driven, godless, porcine threat.”
“Jenkins stood now furiously cleaning his spectacles with a stained piece of gun cotton. I turned away to begin once again the work of lathering my soap and I smiled. There, happily perched on the tepid sticky cake of soap was an extraordinarily robust female Cleora nigrisparsalis. I summoned Jenkins to ready the small cage we had brought from the Francistown Depot and to fetch the net. Soon we had the little perisher safely and suitably housed. This turn of events seemed to cheer the young squire. Whistling softly, he shuffled about gazing at the prize through the ventilation holes.”
“A few minutes later the whistling trailed off and then stopped abruptly. A darkening stain formed and crept down Jenkins khakis into his puttees. The moth cage fell onto the tick infested saw grass and turned on its side. I squinted hard into my mirror and saw the glints of a thousand points of light in its reflection. I slowly drew my service revolver from the holster and cocked the hammer back. I turned smoothly around where I stood.”
“Jenkins…Jenkins, steady lad.”
"I lifted my gaze to discover that we were entirely surrounded on three sides by a numberless, naked horde of gesticulating pygmies, chanting a hellish, poly-rhythmic cacophony and brandishing their spears with unbridled ferocity. Leveling my weapon, I searched fervently for the leader. Stinging sweat ran into my eyes, attracting clouds of gnats and causing me to draw my arm across my face. In that instant, a shot rang out.”
Well, folks, at this point in the story, it was time to go and deliver the mail I had been sorting and bagging while I orated. Over subsequent days, different supplements were trotted out to the amusement of some and the mild annoyance of others. Overall, it served to build a bridge across the River Kwai of misunderstanding between the different generations and heritages all thrown together by work. By redefining what suffering is and how it is perceived, people may begin to make allowances for their differences of scale and culture, eventually coming to respect each other. Old prejudices, stripped naked and thus deprived of their power serve admirably to remind our current menu of accepted prejudices that their day too will yet come.
Every Spring, right around the Vernal Equinox, something of small consequence occurs in Canada. The Finance Minister gets a new pair of traditional shoes and the Queen’s printer churns out metric tons of soft-cover copies of the much anticipated Budget. Like Blue Moons or neap tides, once in awhile this event coincides with a coming election and in these instances especially, the contents of those future glossy covered fire-starters is as predictable as a ten year old boy and a sling-shot. Across the nation, shouts of “BOHICA!” fill the air. Bend over, here it comes again.
I have been enjoying them since the early 70s. Typically, there are promises of relief for childcare fees and spaces, help for home buyers, help for low income earners, help for medical expenses, help for housing shortages, help for the homeless, help for senior citizens and many more besides. The largest and loudest demographics are always served first with the promises.
The lead up to the publication will have seen all these problems front and centre in the news feeds, so as to coax the maximum relief response when those particular nasties are listed as being solved by the brand new budget. What ever party was in power prior will be blamed for the current fiasco and the required spending. When the current sitting party changes, the new party will announce that those folks over spent and that now, by God, we will all do the right thing and tighten our belts to pay for it all. This tough love will be appreciated by the tired old folks and dazed young folks alike.
Statistics are massaged and rendered down like oolichan grease, lined up and presented in such a format that any dumb bunny can argue convincingly with anybody else in the lunch room at work or on the transit to and from. Aptly named bullet lists are shown on the flat screens with the new amounts that have been ear-marked for fixing the chosen problems of that year.
These amounts are generally in the millions of dollars Canadian and to some people, still elicit a wow response that is much like fiscal strawberry jam covering the burnt toast of reality underneath these sums. Although, I am speaking of Canada, I would be very pleasantly surprised if these tried and true methods were much different in other countries.
Depending on the big picture of International Finance, interest rates, the Stock Exchanges, the Commodity Markets, the Carbon Exchanges and Foreign Exchanges, one can begin to see the flawed logic of the relief being proffered.
An example would be the current promise of relief for first time home buyers. Now, evidently, a person may take $35,000 out of their RRSP instead of the former $25,000 to add to the down payment of their real estate purchase. When a Canadian uses this mechanism, they are legally bound to replenish such used funds within 15 years. It would be interesting to see a conspicuously missing statistic, that of all the folks who have become renters due to the astronomical percentage of divorces and dissolved relationships, who don’t qualify as “first timers” until some prescribed length of time expires making them again eligible for this “help.”
If the lucky first timer happens to live in Vancouver where a house costs well over a million dollars, the $35,000 they are able to bolster their down-payment with would be akin to urinating on a volcano. In the good old days of 30% down, 20 year mortgages, a person paid the purchase price of their home about three times over, even with a “good” steady interest rate for the life of the mortgage. Things ain’t so steady now. Interestingly, I saw on the news about a year ago that the average Canadian, you know, that guy, doesn’t have $3,000 in savings, let alone $35, 000. A short list of the mechanics of many of the other relief schemes basically boil down to making it easier to borrow more money with less emphasis on actual creditworthiness. Hey dude, if you are here in the Shark Tank asking me for cash for your business, I’m writing the rules or you can walk.
Now, if we look at some numbers of a very different magnitude, engaging people of a very different kidney, some interesting speculations begin to form. In the world of drug trafficking, particularly cocaine trafficking, the sums of money being dealt with are beyond the abilities of normal folks to calculate or to conceive of. According to Roberto Saviano, in his book, ZeroZeroZero, folks employed in this business have to weigh their money on scales, while the folks we usually think of as wealthy can get by quite easily with counting it, like we do.
The consumers of this alkaloid are ubiquitous, non-denominational, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, gainfully employed and strung out, scholarly and street smart, elegant and shabby. It is not likely that this drug will ever suffer a shrinkage in demand during the current Inter-Glacial Period we are living in. The opposite is almost a guarantee.
It is an illegal substance and tons of it move around the globe, breathing super-human energy into all the population centres. As has been said many times before of caffeine and nicotine, if these substances were to disappear, the world would move at a much slower pace as a result. This is exponentially more true with the white powder.
Traffickers and smugglers are as old as civilization and those employed in the movement of cocaine have much precedence to draw upon. Over the decades, a flow chart of this movement from Southern jungles to Northern latitudinal nostrils would reveal that in spite of any plan by any State to curtail or subdue this commerce, the demand itself acts as half of an electrical circuit. To dream of stopping it is akin to attempting to stop lightening from occurring while natural static charges build up in the earth and sky from the very motion of the planet.
Today’s traffickers employ private customized submarines and submersible vehicles, ships, boats, trains, planes, helicopters, drones, humans, animals and automobiles to transport the product. The profits enjoyed are of such an order of magnitude that it has been discovered that some submarines, for instance, are scuttled after only one use. We are made to feel guilty about plastic drinking straws and shopping bags while some guy young enough to be your nephew chucks out single use disposable submarines.
It has been in our local news recently and repeatedly, that money laundering is rampant in Canada and is especially virulent in Vancouver. Do you think? The typical news feature will have a quick video of some dude who’s anonymity is guaranteed, unzipping a Samsonite full of cash bundles in the back office of a local casino. A report on the problem has even been generated by the Government. All we get to see is the cover of this august tome. Links to the real estate market have been suspected. In fact, some millions of Canadian dollars have been ear-marked for studying this exact problem in the newest budget.
I can say that this activity was obvious nearly thirty years ago to anyone who cared to look. It was obvious to me, a high-school educated mailman. I say that without denigrating myself, but rather, to suggest that it must have been even more obvious to many other brighter folks. Like the ones who cluck their tongues and shudder at today’s news casts. For those involved and profiting from the business, it’s been a long, cool ride. Fish are jumping and the cotton’s mighty high. The result of this suitcase cash/poker chip/real estate phenomenon has been acres of uninhabited, hastily built foreign owned high rises. The names of the agents on the real estate flyers are becoming harder to pronounce, harder to spell and more often hyphenated.
Mothers were already working before this happened and now both parents are likely to have two jobs each. Newer immigrants are sometimes working three jobs. Graduated students from post secondary are working jobs they could have qualified for without the boon of that university or college education if they are lucky enough to find employment. Their pay goes to rent, transportation and servicing their student loans. The ray of hope held out by the new budget to that sorry group, is interest forgiveness. The principal amount they owe will likely keep them busy enough to forgo seeking mortgages or pairing off, settling down and raising children.
The traditional banks that have always handled the proceeds of crime are still the majors and technology has greatly aided their operations. It is not likely they will ever change and besides, the fines paid by them when caught are such a small cost of doing business that any financial analyst would not be alarmed enough to suggest any change in the status quo.
The cartel dudes, aka the suppliers, are perfectly happy with the exorbitant rates charged to them by the existing money launderers. It is an acceptable cost of doing business again but several orders of magnitude higher up the scale. The producers, aka farmers, are happy to eat, whether they are cultivating poppies, coca bushes or potatoes. The distributors are an ever changing group tending towards monopoly but contending with greedy, would be one man band schemers from time to time. The retailers, aka the guy at work, on the street, at the Starbucks or at the gym are an as yet unmeasured but constant portion of our species who are either ready and willing vampires with expensive tastes, a dislike of conflict and a disdain for honest work or good people driven by economic necessity out of love for themselves or their families.
The substance ain’t going away and neither are the players enumerated above nor are the users. In fact, I would bet on an increasing amount of users in the developed nations as a result of the hopeless rat-race most of them exist in. The middle men may well shift from Sicily to Calabria as appeared to be the case to one unfortunate investigator who looked deeply into those matters. Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala have made big leaps forward as players. The reckless, vicious style of these war-torn, military trained boys may well be a match for governance by the traditional code of honor with ancient roots in Aspromonte. Time will show.
What if, I wondered one day, the government of British Columbia created a Provincial Money Laundromat? It could be called the BCPMLA or the British Columbia Provincial Money Laundering Authority. Without legalizing the substance, its sale or use, depositors could make physical deliveries of cash under total amnesty and anonymity. This service could charge rates that would be criminally high yet still points off the other options available.
A very large staff would be created to do all the physical jobs and technology would interface with the banks involved. The banks would have to fork up a share of the fees they charge for these types of transactions. People down the line who profit from the trade can then lose their clean surplus cash in legal casinos and Hummer dealerships.
The billions raked in by the BCPMLA could easily and speedily solve the daycare crisis, the housing affordability crisis, the homeless crisis, the medical care crisis, the substandard living conditions of First Nations peoples crisis, the education crisis, the transportation crisis and all of the other things listed each year on government budgets. If these problems, as we are told by our leaders, are in fact solvable by dollars, then I would argue that throwing billions at them instead of millions would be a step in the right direction.
If the nation took notice of these provincial proceedings, it could lead to solving problems for the whole of Canada. If the Northwest Passage does thaw out enough to be navigable year round, the transportation routes traditionally used for the flake will likely shift from their current placements anyway. Armies of workers who need no sleep nor food, who are numb to the cold, impotent and hyper alert will flock to the new frontier of opportunity that is Canada’s North. Trump’s Border Wall could become Trump’s Border Mall in short order.
These government run cash laundry speculations of mine are of course satiric. You may think of it as sit down comedy, if you will. They are intended to point out the fact that there is no shortage of money in our world. There is no problem with a financial solution that could not be easily solved by the dysenteric river of drug money that flows right past those who need it, feeds the worst of us along its way and comes to rest in constipated cisterns of real estate holdings belonging to young, spoiled, abused widows whose husbands are peppered with lead, boxed and buried well before their natural time of dying.
To be fair, we must look at what could possibly go wrong. That is easily done. What would go wrong would be what always goes wrong. Humans would be human. Fear, greed, jealousy, revenge, lust and everything Shakespeare wrote about would be visited upon the enterprise in epic proportions. The gristle in the fajita is the fact that all those failings always exist in proportions large enough to make the life of the average law abiding citizen anywhere on the planet a patch of bad road.
The cat winking one eye seems to say that even if the fictitious government money laundrette worked for even a year and was then dismantled, the sums obtained for the doing of needed good here at home would form a fund that if properly invested in safe, legitimate, traditional stock and bond issues; would easily dwarf the pocket change flung at our problems each year from the proceeds of hyper-taxation.
If this doesn’t pan out, perhaps domestic and foreign corporate criminals can pay their fines by public service in the form of financially addressing the problems on that years budget litany of woes. Now we have a system where law abiding citizens foot the bill for the attempted prevention, prosecution and punishment of the few criminals who do get busted.
Income tax began as a temporary war measures act and never left when the dance was over. Sales tax, carbon tax and their ilk continue to create a species of desperation that leverages good people over the edges of the law. Perhaps it is time to take the bold step of recognizing that crime is human and it will always be with us. Perhaps it is time to tax crime. The relief forthcoming should work to steadily remove the tensions and temptations that lead to a general sense of hopelessness which in turn fuels the beast of self medication that has been so consummately served by organized crime.
To cap this talk, I will share a story I heard several decades ago in a Post Office lunch room. A fifth grade class, a teacher, a lawyer, a priest and a politician were randomly thrown together by fate on a small inter-island ferry under a stormy sky. Halfway to their destination, the small craft began to take water and the captain determined quickly that the situation was dire. He issued instructions to the crew and the passengers to assemble by the port side life boat davits and flotation device locker.
The school teacher herded her kids, calmed them and started to help them with their life preservers while the deck-hands readied the boat for loading and lowering.
“Women and children first,” shouted one deck-hand to the lawyer, who was pushing others out of his way and trying to clamber aboard.
“Screw the children!” yelled the man in the three piece suit.
The priest turned to the other deck-hand and inquired, “Do you think there’s still time?”
The deck-hands finished loading the children, their teacher and then shoved the old man of the cloth into the boat. The lawyer and the politician who had come to blows were physically separated and settled just before the Captain appeared with his log book and compass.
Soon all the men were aboard and the sailors successfully lowered the wee hull into the foam and began to shove off from the gurgling wreck of the ferry as it began its slide into the depths. In their fight to get aboard, the lawyer and the politician had neglected to put on their flotation devices. The captain ordered them to do so now and their renewed struggles in that regard, capsized the life boat. The high chop prevented righting the boat and the strong breeze soon separated the floaters. Sadly, all souls but one were lost that afternoon. Not from drowning but from sharks attracted by all the commotion. The politician alone was pulled from the salt chuck three hours later, safe and sound. Why didn’t the sharks eat him? You may well wonder. Time honoured professional courtesy.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.