The Mosaic Melting Pot or Rail Begone


The daily news is a constant reminder that our world is full of hatred, prejudice, intolerance, and injustice. To cope, Dr. StrangeJob was compelled to seek solace in his humble beginnings. In the beginning … Dr. StrangeJob was born a poor white jerk-boy on the wrong side of Steve Martin Boulevard.

The Doctor grew up in a small steel-mill town that, to all appearances, was the Norman Rockwell equivalent of the great Canadian Mosaic. Immigrants seeking employment at the local steel plant settled within small subsections of a segregated area known as the Pier. Polish, Italian, Ukrainian, African, and other immigrant groups created their own little havens. The groups kept to themselves and the Pier was isolated from the rest of the town by an underpass etched beneath a train trestle. The well-to-do citizens, or townies, lived on the non-Pier side of the railroads tracks. Stephen Harper would have referred to townies as potential supporters or “old stock” Canadians, but those from the Pier referred to townies as either rich or Sir.

To all appearances, the Canadian Mosaic was a perfect portrait of the positives of cultural diversity and the benefits of shared learning experiences. For the Doctor, this picture of tranquility was shattered in 1969 when he started junior high school. There were two adjacent junior high schools in the Pier. One school was attended by mostly Caucasian Catholic students, while the other was attended by mostly non-Caucasian Protestant students. The students from the two schools fought constantly, so much so that the school administration was forced to alternate school hours, recess times, and lunch breaks. The great Canadian Mosaic was more like a melting pot starting to boil over.

Thank goodness for progress. Forty-five years later, the underpass is now an overpass, the steel mill is now a green space, bootleggers are now drug dealers, and historical buildings are now attractions for cruise ship tourists. Many of the original company homes have been torn down, but some have been refurbished and rented to temporary foreign workers currently employed in coffee shops, hamburger joints, and chain department stores. So much has changed, yet so little is different.

But not all is black and white. The foreign-owned railroad company has recently suspended the local rail service and will likely apply for abandonment next spring. Many see the railway abandonment as an impediment to progress, but the Doctor sees the removal of the tracks as a necessary crack in the Mosaic wall. If there are no tracks, then there will be no arbitrary line to determine which side you are on. As Canadian icon Leonard Cohen states, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.  Imagine that.

Dr. StrangeJob

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Agent 86: KAOS and Canadian Politics

The 60’s TV show Get Smart pitted Agent 86 of CONTROL against the nefarious KAOS organization. Agent 86 was perhaps the most incompetent secret agent of all time, but he somehow managed to save the day with the aid of his most competent female partner Agent 99.

What is the significance of the number 86 in Canadian politics?  Would you believe that in the year 1900, plus 86, Canada received the United Nations award for sheltering refugees and, in the same year, sanctioned South Africa for their apartheid policies?  Would you also believe that Shirley Carr became the first women president of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1986?

But if only Canada had used 1986 for good rather than chaos. Would you believe that in 1986 the Canadian dollar hit an all-time low of 70.2 U.S. cents on international money markets?  Would you also believe that negotiations began in 1986 on what would eventually become the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement.  What if I also told you that Stephen Harper became disillusioned with federal politics in 1986, resulting in the formation of the Reform Party of Canada?

Fast forward 29 years to 2015. What if I told you that Canada’s 86 richest people currently own more wealth than Canada’s 11.4 million poorest citizens?  Meanwhile, politicians ply us with promises to save the middle class when they can’t even agree on who the middle class is. Senators are being suspended left, right, and center but none of them are willing to rock the trough. Billion dollar trade and arms deals are being negotiated under a cone of silence, and gullible voters appear to be falling for the old “vote for me” trick once again.

So here we are 29 years later in the midst of Canada’s 42nd election arguing about niqabs while a $15 Billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia is being muzzled. Guess what 29 + 42 + 15 equals?  Would you believe 86?  Would you also believe that the number 86 is synonymous with being fired, cut, or cancelled.  Canadians need to get smart, keep control, and eliminate chaos on October 19. If Canada wakes up on October 20 with the same government, then I will remind you that I asked you not to tell me that.

Get Smart Trivia:  Urban legend has it that Agent 99 was initially called Agent 69, but the censors thought it was too risqué. I guess the creators were ahead of their time, but I certainly hope Canadian voters don’t blow it on Election Day. Otherwise, Dr. StrangeJob will be truly sorry about that grief.

Dr. StrangeJob

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