Zeno’s Paradox of Infinite Disitance:
Before arriving, one must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on.payday loans This requires one to complete an infinite number of tasks, which Zeno maintains is an impossibility.
Along the north shore of Lake Superior, the Trans-Canada Highway becomes a 300km long slow-motion roller coaster. The slopes seem to grow as you grind slowly up, unfurling an endless length of road behind while maintaining a constant distance between yourself and the summit. Read more
I pulled the plug on my Facebook account a couple days ago. Their censoring the direct link to the recently-released Wikileaks ‘Insurance File’ was the last straw.
It’s entirely likely that, as Facebook claims, their blocking of this link is an automated part of their system (and no – it has nothing to do with it being a link to Pirate Bay. Read more
I’ve just read something quite awful: here it is.
And here’s a summary of what I, as a participant in Occupy Toronto, stand accused of:
- manipulating and marginalizing the homeless
- being elitist
- denying people use of the park
- being “gutless blowhards”
- being unproductive
- not being on par with Jesus Christ (seriously)
- devolving to “increasingly debased forms”
- being too lazy to clean the toilets.
As you can see from the list of points, it’s a pretty damn interesting read and I suggest you check it out yourself. It tops the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy for pure vitriolic entertainment! And, making it twice as ugly, this was written by someone I used to like and even admire.
It’s mainly insults, with a sprinkling of transparent misrepresentations and descriptions of situations the writer clearly has only the vaguest knowledge of. I mean, has she used one of the toilets herself? Experienced their sparkling cleanliness and springtime-fresh odour? I don’t think so. They’re portapotties! They have shit and piss in them! But they put the washrooms at the Java House to shame, and the city still gives that place a orange “conditional pass” on every sanitation check. And as to “devolving to increasingly debased forms”, yes, I’ve noticed the beginnings of a tail sprouting from my backside. I was worried it might be haemorrhoids until now – thank you for setting my mind at ease.
But the central point of this article, the one about the occupation’s “elitist” nature and our relationship to the homeless, deserves an answer. No, that’s not the right way to put it: the only way to arrive at a true answer would be going to the park, engaging with the people there, and arriving at a conclusion based on the evidence of direct experience. But, as this author is unwilling to do that before launching into a skreed about us being feral elitists, words will have to do the trick.
Being accused of elitism online, and by someone who’s obviously elite enough herself to engage in philosophical and political debate, is a bit rough. At least when Rob Ford accuses people like myself of the same he sets a bar low enough for a dachshund to step over. But this accusation coming from an articulate, literate person is an invitation down the rabbit hole; a chinese finger trap; the monkey’s paw in the coconut. To engage with these arguments at the level they’re presented would be offering a guilty plea.
Fortunately, however, the argument being made is more than political and philosophical. It’s also fallacious. It’s a false dichotomy, a binary proposition. And, like all such fallacies, it’s easily debunked by simply describing reality:
There are people who have jobs involved in the occupation. There are people who are utterly disenfranchised. Black people, white people, asian people, Native people. Educated people and people who may well be functionally illiterate. These differences cause tension. At the General Assemblies we’ve articulated “the differences that exist out there don’t exist here!” and we’ve echoed en masse via the people’s mic: “I’m an ex-con”, “I’m disabled”, “I’m a rape victim”, or “I’m a suburban kid from Etobicoke”. Looking into someone’s eyes, repeating words that come for different worlds; looking for connection, an affirmation, something like a shared understanding and respect – it means something.
But it doesn’t change anything. Occupy Toronto isn’t a “utopia”, as you and many others have cynically called it. It’s not a fairy tale where talking foxes cavort with dancing hounds around a magical ‘Togetherness Tree’. There are real conflicts between the perspectives those eyes and words represent. We argue and debate all the time: at General Assemblies, when we crawl out of our tents in the morning, when we do dishes. I’ve learned more from arguing confrontation and nonviolence with the punk sleeping a couple tents over than you’ll learn in a lifetime of clever tweets.
Because this is real. We don’t block each other, we don’t turn our backs and walk away from someone who’s saying something we don’t want to hear. Instead we take care of each other – because it’s cold; because it can be wet; because some people are vulnerable and need help. Because we chose to be in this together. We’ve chosen to place ourselves in a situation where we can’t hide from “the other”, disparage it in ignorance, isolate it, stereotype it, call it “lazy” “gutless” “worthless” and the rest of the demeaning labels you’ve given us. Instead we listen to each other.
Where else can that interaction happen? Is it valuable? Worthwhile? An opportunity? For this alone, the occupation is entirely justified.
But perhaps this is too abstract? You want a concrete reason why we insist on staying in this damn park? Ok. Here are two, tailored to your Toronto-specific interests:
1) During the G20 more than a thousand people were arrested without cause. This set a new Canadian precedent for the use of force in responding to public demonstrations, attacked our Charter rights to freedom of assembly and expression. Many people, myself included, are here to push back against negative changes to our culture that event represented, and to re-established a sane relationship between citizens and our government. Many people see our society accepting the door to public political action being shut by increments, both by our government and by increasingly apathetic and intolerant public opinion. Independent of any particular goals of the movement, our continued presence in St.James part acts as a wedge in that door.
Were that the only reason for the occupation, it’s justified.
2) Our mayor was elected on a platform of “trimming the fat, without service cuts”. And, having manufactured a crisis (ala The Shock Doctrine) by eliminating sources of income, he’s now begun to hack away at programs many Torontonians see as foundational to the city we want to live in; programs that have been developed and invested in for generations. When citizens responded to this bait-and-switch by showing up en masse to depute at the Executive Council meetings, we were disparaged and ignored. Their speaking time was reduced to a fraction, and the mayor’s hand-picked committee refused to listen. The occupation keeps eyes focused on developments in our mayor’s efforts to transform Toronto into the world’s largest strip mall, and provides a vehicle for organized response to the same.
Were that the only reason for the occupation, it’s justified.
I could go on to Federal issues: the Canadian Council of Corporate Executive’s mandate that Canada increase its military spending, which Prime Minister Harper is doing his best to oblige; the financial support given to Transcanda’s Tar Sands / Keystone project and its impact in stifling sustainable energy development; our perpetual sidekick role in America’s wars. And I could talk about our support for people internationally who recognize similar issues, and the value of communication through the various occupations. Of course we support them morally, but our presence also supports them practically: we supply awareness and our occupation pressures news media to cover the often violent response to other occupations.
But perhaps this is all, as you said, “tedious”. Frankly, people commenting on the complexion, motivations, and viability of those they’ve not bothered to meet strikes me as tedious. But we each have our own tastes, I suppose.
As I write this, I’ve just left our general assembly on Sunday, during which we divided ourselves by our colour. Not the skin colour division you mention, but colours we’ve each chosen to adopt for ourselves when the police inevitably come calling. I’m a “red”, which means I’ll be amongst those willing to be arrested defending the occupation through nonviolent resistance.
You close your critique, after the really funny bit about how we’re unlike Jesus, by saying “things are changed by people who do, not by people who talk.” That really reaches a high point of hypocrisy. May I ask: where will you be while I’m standing arm in arm with people I’ve come to know, respect, and love? Where will you be when I’m in jail for standing behind a movement I value, understand, and chose to invest myself in?
Myself and other cyclists in my ward (Beaches-East York) are disappointed that our councillor, Mary-Margaret McMahon, voted for Rob Ford’s awful “bike plan”. But we’re not about to sit here and whinge about it: No way! We’re organizing an awesome group to advocate for cycling. McMahon’s not one of the legion of Toronto anti-cycling troglodyte politicians. I think her heart’s in the right place but she didn’t weigh the pros and cons of this plan very well. So we want to make sure she knows what our interests are in the future.
I figured the best way to get started is to write her and see where she’s at: what’s the rationale behind her vote and why was the cycling group that already exists in this ward sleeping during this debate? I bet I’m right in that she’s a good person who made a mistake because she was misinformed. And, if I’m wrong in thinking she actually has our interests in mind, this little seed might sprout into something very sharp and thorny.
So to get the ball rolling I’ve written a letter and invited others to check it out and suggest edits. If you have suggestions to improve this letter, please comment. And if it’s something you’d like to add your name to before I send it on it’s way to Councillor McMahon — please say so!
Dear Councillor McMahon,
We’re writing on behalf of a group of Ward 32 constituents wishing to organize to better promote cycling in our community.
Your excellent speech to council expressing your concern about pollution directly affects your family inspired us, as did your concern for Shawnte Clow – the resident of your ward who was struck by a car while cycling to city hall to add her voice to the others asking you to reject the Mayor’s Bike Plan. The fact that you’re a cyclist yourself and passionate about making Toronto a bicycle-friendly city; yet voted for a plan which will have the opposite effect, suggests that the cycling community in Ward 32 didn’t effectively communicate our interests to you.
We wish to ensure this failure of communication doesn’t happen again.
We believe the Mayor’s Bike Plan is fundamentally flawed in a manner ensuring it will not make Toronto a safer and more welcoming city for cyclists:
First: the removal of already-existing infrastructure designed to protect cyclists and encourage cycling is not in our interests. This aspect of the Plan is, beyond debate, a step backward for cycling in Toronto.
Second: the removal of infrastructure without consulting with that ward’s elected representative is a thoughtless and irresponsible decision which points to a lack of respect for neighbourhood residents and their concerns. We speak specifically of the removal of the Jarvis St. bike lanes and the restoration of the 5th lane. This is not only a waste of money, but it flies in the face of the ongoing revitalization of Jarvis St. It endangers the vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood that Jarvis is slowly becoming, turning it into a downtown highway for North Toronto and suburban drivers against the wishes of its residents and Councillor Wong-Tam. Many Ward 32 residents use the Jarvis St. bike route, and its destruction is not in our interest.
Third: the proposed separated lanes are, as Councillor Vaughan very effectively pointed out before the vote, proposed for roads which are currently incapable of integrating separated lanes. Because the proposed lanes are contingent on study and consultation, as opposed to a fixed timeline with concrete plans for the end product, we believe it very likely they will never be fully implemented. A thoughtful and progressive plan for cycling infrastructure would include guaranteed improvements. The only guarantees in the Mayor’s Plan are losses.
Finally: even if the intended separated lanes were delivered in a form that would genuinely improve cycling in Toronto, the long-term ramifications of this plan far outweigh its benefits. The Major’s Bike Plan involves shifting development from city streets to off-road trails. None of us object to improving off-road trails for cyclists. But such investments don’t promote cycling as a valid form of urban transportation, they promote cycling as a recreational activity. There is nothing wrong with cycling for pleasure and exercise, but it’s cycling as an everyday means of transport – every day, in all weather, and in every season of the year, that has the potential to change our city for the better. This is the kind of cycling that invites mass participation, that reduces congestion and pollution, that promotes economic development and the beautification of the neighborhoods we live in. This is the kind of cycling the city should be investing in.
The shifting of investment away from city streets to off-road trails does not promote cycling as a valid and safe form of urban transportation. To the contrary, it’s a massive investment to redefine cycling as a hobby that will impact the direction of cycling development for a very long time. This is not in the interests of Ward 32′s cycling community.
The promotion of communication between yourself and those affected by your decisions is a necessary component of advocacy. The fact that you seem to care very deeply about making Toronto a more bike-friendly city and yet voted for a plan that will have the opposite effect suggests that such advocacy didn’t happen in Ward 32. So we wish to ensure, by establishing an effective and open means of communication between yourself, Ward 32′s cycling community, and the constituency at large, that cycling issues are given the prominence they deserve in a ward to which cycling is so important to our daily lives.
We understand that a cycling group called “32 Spokes”, with which you’re directly affiliated, already exists in Ward 32. We’re happy to find that this group exists in our ward, but disappointed by the fact that it has so little presence in the community. As passionate cyclists and politically-engaged constituents we find it very surprising that we’ve never heard of it. This group seems to have no online presence and no visible outreach to the cycling community.
And, as shown by the fact that this group didn’t effectively influence your vote on this very important issue, we have concerns about 32 Spokes’ effectiveness as an advocate for cyclists’ interests. As you’ve offered yourself as the contact for 32 Spokes we consider it appropriate to direct these concerns to you, as well as our concerns regarding your vote on the Mayor’s Bike Plan, in hope that you can advise us on how to best move forward.
Our sincere best wishes,
Me! and Us! and… maybe You?!
If you live in Ward 32 please get involved by offering criticism, grammatical corrections, support, and hopefully your name to add at the bottom of this letter. Use the comment buttons.
Or, if you want to get in touch privately, feel free to email me:ben [at] parkdalerevolutionaryorchestra[dot]com
Or say hello on Twitter.
What’s All This Then?! no.30: What Do You Do For A Living?
Margie Gillis vs. Krista Erickson vs. Reality Read more
What’s All This Then?! 29: Cycling – Jarvis Lanes, Cycling Culture and Politics, Critical Mass, Couriers, and Ford Nation
Yah! What’s All This Then?! is back. Today, all about Toronto’s current cycling issues: the Rob Ford bike plan, the potential removal of the Jarvis Bike Lanes, Critical Mass, etc, etc… Read more
Day 11 (august 10 2010: Kakabeka to Ignace
Trains – Storm – Rural Superheroes – Dire Wolves – Toilet Paper Fire – Kids vs. Hippies vs. Cops vs. Me
The same railway line that ran through Lake Superior’s north shore mountains toys with the road northwest of Thunder Bay, crossing and re-crossing the highway; disappearing into woods and hills to and emerge hours later. This railway zigzag-paralels the Trans-Canada for, I think, its entire length.
While I was looking for the CD recording of Kristin and I playing in that tour I mentioned in yesterday’s cross-country cycling journal entry, I stumbled across something really weird: a recording of some of the first music I ever wrote. Read more