The Madman of Moscow has invaded Ukraine (again!) and dares anyone to try to stop him. “I’ll nuke you—I swear I will!” Putin has spent the last ten years trying to persuade the world he is just mad enough to think Russia, or anyone, can win a nuclear war. He’s probably bluffing now, but who wants to take the risk? The West responds with severe sanctions—let’s take their money! Hey, it sort of worked with people in convoys, why not try it on people in armoured columns?
The funniest gesture of support—if anything can be funny today—is the demand from Mr. Obvious, Jason Kenney, Premier of (oil rich) Alberta to immediately block all oil and gas exports from Russia. Are we really supposed to believe he’s thinking about the Ukraine’s interest right now?
Meanwhile, every one and their dog (yes, I know of dogs that have Twitter accounts) is lashing out on social media demanding that something be done. I suspect even Russian bots have been caught up in the frenzy, though the right-wing of the Republican Party seems dubious as to whom they should support. Let me help you. When Ronald Reagan said: “Tear down that wall!” he was speaking to a Russian leader (and, indirectly Vlad Putin who was head of the KGB in East Berlin at the time).
You might think I am adding to the wave of condemnation by blogging today. I am not. Of course, I condemn the Russian invasion and worry that one wrong move by someone—who knows who—will bring about nuclear Armageddon, just when I got used to the reality of the much longer slower extinction promised by climate change. However, I know that absolutely nothing I write here or on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Reddit or whatever other popular or unpopular social media site exists will slow a single tank from rolling into Ukraine or prevent a single Ukrainian soldier from firing an anti-tank missile at said tank. Taking Putin’s money may seem far removed from the immediacy of an angry tweet, but it probably will work in the long run—if there is a long run.
The sole purpose of social media is to provide an outlet for outrage, the comfort of cat pictures and the proliferation of clever comments by me. Oh, yeah, and to make oodles more cash for the people who own them. Don’t believe me? Then why does J. K. Rowling still make more money annually than almost any other author despite a years-long social media campaign against her? I’m sure someone will explain it to me at great length and in high dudgeon. Save it, it doesn’t really matter.
So, what does? I’m getting to that.
One might think that the invocation and termination of the Emergencies Act, given that I was living in the centre of the emergency in question, would be a matter of great import to me. Sort of. I had no doubt that the Act needed to be invoked. Nothing else was stopping the torment and if it was an overreach, who cares? It got the job done and, surprise, surprise, it was used exactly as advertised, in a focused, geographically limited way, respecting Charter rights and ending when it was no longer needed. A tool was taken out of the tool box, used to fix what was broken and then put away again.
It’s true that things might have been solved using existing laws (by the way, the Emergencies Act is an “existing law” and has been since 1988) but the Ottawa Police, recently criticized for its brutality and tasked to do better, was slow to respond forcefully either because of being surprised or unprepared or too mellow. One can say they should have done things differently but, my friends, hindsight has always been and always will be, more accurate than foresight. Some speculate that the response might have been quicker if it had been indigenous or black protesters, and, given our history, it is not an unreasonable speculation, but it is still unproveable as speculations about alterative histories always are. Besides, should we really criticize the police for acting in a limited and proportionate way? Now, we can point to Ottawa in the future and say to them—see, that’s how it’s done.
By the way, the use of existing laws would have required the Premier of Ontario to step up. While he made a few tut-tut remarks he did little else. Even after the state of emergency was called in Ontario (and where was the Conservative outrage at that?), he did almost nothing, leaving it up to municipalities to do the heavy lifting. At least, he had the guts, unlike his conservative counterparts in Parliament or Alberta, to speak out against the damage the blockades were doing and to distance himself from Randy Hillier and even his own daughter.
Meanwhile, two conservative Senators demonstrated clearly why patronage appointments to the Upper House are a bad idea. One in a drunken rant, denigrated the people of Ottawa and his own wife (he subsequently sort of apologized for his remarks which he didn’t know would actually become public). The other described the convoy members as kindly and patriotic, which given the stated goal of some of them to overthrow the elected government and hang the Prime Minister, suggests either complicity or stupidity.
Not that I care. They will eventually turn 75 and retire and be forgotten. If Putin doesn’t kill us all first. Meanwhile Jason Kenney says anyone who supported the Act must now feel humiliated. Ha! Not me! Dear Jason, I know it’s been tough being dumped on from all sides, but projecting your feelings on others is a sign of mental disorder. Seek help.
Of course, I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook claims that the expressed outrage of Canadians made Trudeau back down. What utter nonsense. If he didn’t blink at a bunch of yahoos, blowing horns and threatening mayhem, if he consulted the Premiers and said this is what I’m doing no matter what you think, if he stood up to being yelled and insulted by the chattering right wing, if he did all that, do you think he even read your posts? No, what he read was the riot act. To be fair he also read the polls which showed that 57% of Canadians were for his action and 30% were against and most of those 30% were supporters of the Conservative party or the far right PPC. BTW, how could 13% of Canadians have no opinion on this?
But that doesn’t really matter.
It is increasingly clear to me that we will not have a federal election for two or maybe three years, by which time Premiers Kenney and Ford may well be in retirement (though like their mentor, Steven Harper, still stretching out their dead hands to try to influence current events). The federal Conservative Party may find a leader who can lead rather than being jerked from pillar to post by internal factions and external polls, or more hopefully, will have once again split in two. It would be lovely to have the right once again as divided as the left. Infinite diversity through infinite combination, I say (as long as none of those combinations involve conservatives).
Not that it really matters. Putin is going to kill us all next week and, if he doesn’t, the coming US civil war will do the job and, if not that, the desperation of a diminished China which is on the demographic road to have the oldest population in the world within a decade or two is in the running, or maybe our old friend, climate change, will still have a shot, or a planet-killing asteroid will strike or an evil AI will lead us all into the Metaverse, I mean, the Matrix and turn us into a power supply. Or Elon Musk will take us all to Mars to die in the cold dusty vacuum of a dead planet.
Or maybe we’ll all just get old, get cancer or dementia, and die anyway. Certainly, in a hundred years, every one I know and all their children will be dead. I suppose immortality is always an option. If they actually get fusion power to work, we can start saying immortality is just ten years away and always will be. Too late for me in any case.
But that doesn’t matter, either.
Are you depressed yet? Because I’m not. I’m increasingly at peace and I’m happy to be there. I intend to become more peaceful. No, I’m not dying, nor am I becoming a Buddhist monk or going to live in a medieval village in the woods of northern Ontario.
I am entering a new stage of life, the final one. This has been slow to dawn on me. I retired from my day job but kept being a publisher, retired from publishing but remained a freelance editor, retired from editing but continue to write. I will likely continue to write but I may retire from being a writer—the jury is still out on that one.
Last year, I published two mystery novels but, to be honest, they were written several years before that. I’ve been plugging away at a third, currently writing 500 to 700 words most days. I may write a fourth or I may not. I’m still completing a couple of contracts and am enjoying the work but I won’t take on another job. I really don’t need either the money or the effort.
This January, I started up this blog again after five years of relative inactivity. I wanted to see if I could build an audience again and I did (thanks, ironically, due to the convoy). I’ve had as many readers this year as I did in all of 2016 when I was last really active. In a week or two, I could surpass 2014 and even my glory year of 2015 is within reach, it I were to keep at it day after day.
But I won’t.
For an avowed socialist, I’ve always cared too much about money. Maybe it was because I grew up poor in a household that believed in work. Maybe it’s because I started making my own money at 13 and found how liberating it was in a society where it sometimes seems you are only as valuable as the things you own I don’t know, but now that I have enough (though not much more than enough) to live comfortably, to buy books and give to charity, and maybe, pandemics and my inevitable declining strength willing, to travel a bit, more money seems pointless.
I sold two stories this year (yippee!); the income will pay for a dinner out but not in the best restaurant in town. My last story out to market was rejected today. I may send it and the half dozen others in the inventory out again—it costs nothing, not even much time–or I may not. I still have story ideas but I only have written one piece of fiction (other than the novel) since last August and I’m not happy enough with it to do the needed re-writes.
I had a new idea yesterday and it may get written but only because it interests and challenges me, not because I think it might interest you. Writing now has become personal; I am writing for myself rather than any potential audience. I want to play, to explore and experiment, to delve deep into language for its own sake and for mine. None of that requires more than a reader or two.
I guess what I’m saying is that I no longer need to talk to the world even as I grow more and more interested in listening to it, not through social media, but through thoughtful analysis, through books and art, through history and the discovery of place and human difference. I need to think more and speak less and be present for my wife, my family and my closest friends.
I recently read that we really only have deeply intimate connections to at most a dozen people, most of us only four or five. Think of that, all this effort to have five thousand friends on Facebook or a hundred thousand followers on Twitter will never mean what we want it to mean, it will never replace those intimate partners that make our life worth living and whom we could lose through neglect or in the endless noise of the world. (Of course, I want you to know that you are all my closest intimate friends!)
Is this good bye? Oh, I don’t think so. As the old man said as they carried him to the plague wagon: I’m not dead yet. But I will be quieter, less present on social media and more present in my life. My writing may appear from time to time, though I expect more and more it will be shared with a limited circle or kept to myself as befits a personal pastime.
For those who have become addicted to my daily blogs, for god’s sake, get a life! I’ll still be around on those days I have something to say but that won’t be every day. I’m not sure if it will even be every week. Or month.
If you miss my writing, you can always buy one of my books. They are easy to find, just google my name, I seem to be smeared all over the Internet.
Not that it matters if you do.
Photo by Javardh on Unsplash