The new year has already had me clean up several kinds of faeces, including human, off of the snow-covered ground. It has had me see the reproductive organs of two single, middle-aged, grey-haired males, both dropping their pants in places that would not be deemed appropriate by a court of law. The new year has seen me drag a half-conscious man from a snowbank into a building to escape from a -40 degree Celsius Saskatchewan windchill. Two thousand fifteen can’t come soon enough.
Seeing penises does not make me a better person. I have a rewarding job, people often tell me. If this is the reward, then you must have an odd sense of payoffs. Nice to be able to make a difference, others claim. If the difference is that I get paid to ensure people don’t freeze to death on the street, then I claim that every citizen should somehow participate in this difference.
Later in the same day that I dragged Leon into the coffee room, I was walking to the library in the early evening darkness. A plastic bag was fluttering in the wind, but caught under the packed snow of the street. I bent down to grab the bag to put it in the proper receptacle, and had a flash of my action earlier in the day; dragging a man, foaming from the mouth, into his proper receptacle, that being Carmichael, and shortly after that, a police cruiser. I fleetingly feel shame in comparing Leon to a plastic bag stuck under road snow, but then again, this is how the man is treated. His proper receptacle is one of three locations with a span of three blocks, Carmichael, detox, or cells. The system has made his proper receptacle sanitized State-run facilities of oppression. An extermination hidden behind poor State-run social programs. I despise dragging a man, normally on crutches, grabbing him from under his armpits, as though I am hauling a piece of meat in a slaughterhouse (I couldn’t decide if this or leaving him lay in a snowbank was more dehumanizing). I despise calling the the undertaker, his hearse a police cruiser, but it is, through much experience, the only thing I can do in the current system of care to make sure Leon doesn’t freeze to death in the outdoor cooler. Passed around from under the armpit until he eventually dies and the program of cultural genocide continues.
Heartbreaking. Tragic. After calling in on a single person fifteen times, after two penises, after several species of shit, it isn’t heartbreaking or tragic. It ensues rage. It ensues rage for the reason that those who dictate these people’s lives through policy, through programming the state and public mentalities, are uninformed. Those of them who are informed are often purposefully-distant, economically- and socially-conservative tools of the State. Leon, they see as an inevitability, a ‘well-we’ve-come-this-far’ colonial stepping-stone, as a financial burden. And only when Leon can be seen as less of a financial burden, by proving to them that their system of oppressive police systems, court systems, correctional systems costs more than treating Leon as if he weren’t a bag caught in a snowbank, but as a human, only then will they listen. Only then will they consider his humanity. And when he becomes a taxpayer and not a leech off of the system, then will he be truly rehabilitated, and the program of forced assimilation continues.
Those are the two outcomes, deliberate and purposeful.
But Leon will never rehabilitate. He will likely never sober up. He will likely die in a snowbank, as he told me he wanted to, while he laid in a snowbank. And at his funeral, if the State were to attend, they would eulogize him by absolving their responsibility to help such a person and say that they offered him supports but he just couldn’t sober up. Because his addiction was the reason he was homeless and unable to rehabilitate—not the fact that he was the victim of a multi-generational genocide planned and carried out by several levels of government, and assisted in the apathy of the general populace. No, he was always fond of drink, they’d say.
Conservatives are not heartless, and progressives aren’t flawless. But conservative politics are heartless, based on and committed to a market-driven capitalist system that leaves people who cannot help themselves out in the snow, whether their supporters know it or not. If they do know it, and feel that it is neither the role of government, nor their role as citizens is to bring justice to the marginalized, then, well, they are as selfish as their politics. An ideology where an accountability to the market trumps an accountability to a human being is frightening when one looks into the already dimming future. And progressive politics are utopian, equally as damaging when they are bred in a bleeding-heart ignorance. Selfishness and ignorance, we are bound by thee.
I’m tired of penises and I’m tired of calling the police on people whose only crime is nearly dying outside. I’m tired of participating in a system of oppression. I’m also tired of my ignorance that leaves me helpless in offering change to a system so badly flawed. And if I got an education, I would be tired of dealing with politicians with track-blinders on, and a Social Services system designed for the likeable, sober, employable, white homeless man you saw as a kid in the PeeWee Herman movie—designed for the eradication of a culture that represents the opposite of a consumption-based existence. And if I got an education and participated in the reform of the system, I’d likely be tired of something else. Probably tired of living in the dregs of socialism.
The next day, over a bowl of chilli, Leon and I compared tattoos. He stuck his hand up my t-shirt sleeve to get a better look at mine, then he pulled up his leather jacket sleeve to show me his—four of five dots on his forearm that he did himself before the tattoo gun broke and he couldn’t continue. It was an eagle, he said, flying free in the sky. He gave a toothless grin, took his chilli and crutched his way to the north coffee room of his community-run receptacle.
“Do you prefer summer, or shit weather like this?” the Brazilian man asked me on McIntyre Street with his eyes peeping out from a burly knit scarf.
I told him, and he coughed a laugh and called me a liar.
“Then what do most Canadians prefer, do you think, summer, or this minus-forty stuff?”
“Most Canadians likely prefer summer. Most of my friends left—”
“And went elsewhere. Yeah,” he interrupted me. He and I, likely making up one-third of the city’s total pedestrians of the day, stopped on the street and talked about mutual misery, or at least that is what he thought we would be talking about. I told him that I loved it. I just finished a bike ride to the outdoor rink where I played hockey on the only three-metre by three-metre patch of ice that didn’t still have grass growing through it. He told me that he liked the weather in Brazil, “one-thousand percent more than this,” and I don’t blame him.
One of my few optimisms is in that which causes everyone else’s negativity. I heard on the radio that this is a sign of sociopathy. One way or another I have become a person that instinctively finds the actions of the majority as absurd, whether or not this feeling is justified. I like the winter, but I like it more because it causes misery to a large percentage of the population. Though it merits conversation because of its indomitable power, it is not worth the endless crying chatter, the talk of thriving in a different province, the several trips to shitty resorts in developing countries. It is not worth the complaining. Nothing is. Peoples’ inability to deal with a climate that they have lived in for their entire lives is a side effect of having everything they’ve ever wanted since they were old enough to slurp on a nipple. It is unattractive. These are the people with homes and vehicles with command-start and $1000 jackets filled with the plume of geese and the ability to go inside a mall without getting kicked out. They truly, without a doubt in my mind, have nothing to complain about.
The winter does not threaten my survival—I don’t make a living where I could die, and I don’t have a living situation or addiction that may cause me to end up freezing to death outside. But those who do with whom I interact go about their daily business without much fuss. Because dwelling on it makes it significantly worse. And because it makes my days worse listening to it.
My friend from Brazil and all migrant companions have grounds for disapproval of the weather. They are here putting up with frostbite and chaffing thighs potentially for people elsewhere. They weren’t born into it. And though being born into a climate is not enough reason to love it, it is enough experience to know how to get through it without whining like the moronic family dog.
While biking to work in December, I waited at a stop light in the middle of the lane. A black Dodge Neon slid to a halt six inches from my right handlebar. The man fumed, rolled down his window, and yelled at me for holding him up for one block. I proceeded to call him a degenerate asshole. He asked me,
“So why are you even riding your goddamn bike in the winter?” to which I answered by stating my masculine supremecy over him and his teenage-girl car. But the question bewildered me in its ignorance and raw stupidity. If you are going to hate anything about this place, anything at all, please don’t pick on the mother nature, who we have abused and mistreated to the point of her trying to exterminate us with extreme weather. Please take note of the general small-town mindnedness of the general populace who surround us. This is something worth griping over, because somehow, in someway, it might be able to be changed.
See you on the ice-covered, snow-packed, gravel-sprinkled, 50-centimeter-rutted road, you annoying, lazy, degenerate prick.
I love winter.
Promptly at 12-noon each day, when lunch break begins, I turn off the radio. CBC Radio One is my daily deliverer of news and interviews, albeit news and interviews that do little to capture the truth behind current events, because, like all mainstream media, has reasons to not upset the prevailing order. Following Q with Jian Ghomeshi, the deified interviewer and cultural compass to the barely-left-of-centre young adults of Canada, and following the half-hour segment about medicine, Francophonie, or comedy, Saskatchewan’s most awkward radio host takes the reins on the aptly named, nothing-of-substance, Blue Sky.
Hungover in a van, clutching the natural hydration of a coconut water driving home from Saskatoon, we listened as people called in to ask questions to a Butterball turkey cooking expert. One-sixty-five Celsius in the breast and one-eighty in the deep thigh. Confident great-aunts claimed the greatest turkey dressing in the southwest of Saskatchewan and asked about the cooking properties of smoked turkey. Public broadcasting strikes again; getting down to the issues that matter to Canadian families—gluttony and blind tradition at all costs.
And now I am here, alone on Christmas day, just wishing that a call-in show about turkeys would exist once more so I would know where the hell the deep thigh of a 29-pound turkey is. Christmas makes me ill, and has consistently in my short life. This year I have been resting with pneumonia-like symptoms at the house alone, saving myself for the days after Christmas where work and friends will take another toll on me to ensure that I catch the dreaded fiction-defying double-pneumonia. Last year it was fever-hallucinations in the basement of a party house. When I was eight the family spent the holidays in Edmonton, and as I vomited though the holiest day of the year, my family rode rollercoasters at the West Edmonton Mall. I sat at home and pouted, the highlight of my day being a 600mL bottle of ginger-ale. Spending Christmas home alone hasn’t been as exceptional as that of Kevin McAllister, but it hasn’t been as miserable as people seem to think it would be. That is because it doesn’t matter. Being alone today is no different than being alone two weeks ago.
Talk radio has been playing continuously in my parents’ garage since far before I existed. It has just recently been a conscious part of my daily life, and only now, with a personal investment of months, can I really distinguish between shows. The production quality, the natural flow of interviews, the call-in shows. Rex Murphy’s voice is about as hard to mistake as his fossil face and recently on his own Cross-Country Check-Up I had the opportunity to hear five or six passionately uninformed Canadians weigh in on prostitution. I learned nothing except that ignorance is painful.
It is also inevitable. We are all unlearned creatures and will continue to be this way regardless how long we live. Ignorance isn’t inherently negative. It becomes harmful when the ignorant believe they are experts. Call-in shows celebrate ignorance by allowing the comfortable middle-class to weigh in on topics that are often foreign to them, and encourages them through polite recognition of their opinions. An opinion is irrelevant if it is ignorant. The democratic nature of such a forum is as imagined as that of a constitutional monarchy, for although it is open to the public, it purposefully alienates those it deems unimportant, often those who don’t pay taxes. And like the debates and propaganda in politics, these call-in shows only further people into their partisan stubbornness. When ignorance is purposeful, in a blissful attempt at self-preservation, it is equally as harmful. These forms of ignorance are harmful not to the ignorant, but to the subject which they are ignorant about.
As a person who has been labelled a vegetarian, I am currently roasting two of fifteen turkeys. I will not eat them, and the rinsing of their giblets and the massaging of their frozen breasts makes me ill. I am admittedly ignorant about cooking turkeys, and dammit, I’d like to keep it that way.
Christmas makes me sick for infinite reasons, all of which I will save for the next call-in show I hear, asking about family Christmas traditions.
I recently had a long, meaningful conversation with a former girlfriend when she said she had learned a lot about herself in the past several weeks. I asked her specifically what these were. Among more profound familial lessons was her new life decision that she was never going to have kids. She had expressed similar sentiments in the past, but it had since become definitive, and unless something changes significantly in her life in the next ten years, she said, that is how it is going to stay. As her former partner, when she would bring forth such ideas in the past, I would be selfishly disappointed of such a bold statement as if it were an avoidance of commitment (like this is something I should ever be sour about), but now, after a week of heading up a Kids’ Camp, I can understand her new realization. And though I would never plainly state what she has, I am currently examining the possibility that I hate kids.
Thirty-six community children ran my ass ragged through their extreme energy and stubborn defiance to simple participation. Their guiltless tears and their visible joy of catching frogs disgusted me. I shouted more than I spoke. I swore at children in utter resignation. I wished for their demise under my breath, and sometimes over my breath. I could tell which children had structure and discipline in their lives, and tried to rationalize the multitude of the children’s flaws with the difficult lives of their parents. But mostly I blamed the children themselves.
Nearing a quarter-decade of life, my peers are deciding that their libidos and personal energy can be well-spent on the magic of progeny. This is admirable. What has been called ‘our greatest resource’ is comprised sadly of miniature caracatures of the absolute worst of ourselves. The disorder-diagnosed, bed-wetting, pill-prescribed, blatantly selfish human beings that will one day be the drivers of our communities and councils of our cities. Tar sands seem almost preferable.
People always say that it is different when it is your own kid, a truism that I cannot speak to. And I guess that is something I could look forward to; the chance to unimpededly warp the mind of a human unlike I have ever been able to do before because of previous parenting/brainwashing. My closest comparison is eating a rotten vegetable from my own garden; it somehow still tastes better than the neighbours’.
The one kid at camp that wasn’t addicted to meat, sugar, video games, or attention, still managed to annoy me. He ate what I ate, he enjoyed reading rather than pestering other children, he was interested in science. But because his parents (with whom I likely have much in common, who likely eat the way they eat for presumably the same reasons as I) brainwashed him to a painful degree, it bothered me. If my child grew up with my exact ideals, I’d be disappointed; zero surprise, zero independent thought, zero digression. Zero evolution.
But children, you may say, are impossible to hate. Their crooked teeth, their high pitched voices, their clear vulnerabilities. Their innocence and foibles and miniature features that formulate the broad term of ‘cute’.
When I drove back into town, minivan exploding with bottles of old condiments and lost-and-found underpants, I waited at a red light next to the gaudy yellow lettering on forrest green back drop of the lamest chain store in the world, DOLLARAMA. I waited at the red light behind a massive SUV with stickers on the back window—stick-figures representing each member of the family including dogs and cats, but with the former father-figure sticker visibly scratched off. The truck next to me, the ultimate fan, had an upside-down novelty Roughrider license plate, showing off his true partisanship and devotion to ignorance. The light turned green and I grinded my teeth.
Parallel to my former partner’s realization, I could say I have come to my own. I do not hate children. I hate who the children will inevitably end up being. That is, their parents. I hate their future selves and their parents for reasons that I just now understand. Because they are both selfish, ignorant morons. But this examination also reveals that I hate children because they make painfully evident the things that I loathe in myself. Over-controlling, short-tempered flakiness that I despise in others, and only see in myself when I am telling a child named Denzel that he is an idiot. Though I have been well aware of the fact for sometime, it was humbling to see how unprepared I am to be the guardian of offspring.
I hate the children because the children are me.