No matter how fractured our collective political lives become most of us would still tend to agree that preventing premature death by any cause is a good idea. Recent data from the United States should therefore interest all of us, regardless of how entrenched in some total ideology, or our total indifference, we are.
What to make, indeed, of recurring tales of woe-induced pluck and why the media is often so keen on them. We salute those who endure, who doesn’t? But we also have to demand greater depth in the general social discussion of hard times. Look at these images of a teenage fast food worker in a neck brace and sling.
If you thought the media handling of this province’s increase to its minimum wage last month was biased to the corporate perspective, and not that of the workers receiving it, well, you were right. Here’s some numbers to prove it.
Not surprising that a truly inescapable structural feature of the sprawl around us is now closely and directly associated with what this blog has been on about, and in a very public way. In all their brown brick glory Tim Hortons outlets are usually located with predictability, outside the malls anyway. Timmy H’s are most often found at a major intersection with commercial/industrial zoning nearby and a twelve pump gas station out front. Cars are everywhere, six for every last Dutchie it would seem. Lined up around the building and into the street sometimes, idling as their owners anticipate a hit of caffeine and sugar from the little sliding bay windows at the side. With lots of parking and cars grinding or flying by depending on the time of day we have never found these outlets pedestrian or bike friendly. They can be a challenge in a car.
There’s hostility inside the doors, too. The product is popular enough but we mean all the people working hard for too little money day and night. Like other corporate employers Tim’s has gotten riled up at having to pay living wages this month. Pathologically selfish franchisees and the rationalizers at corporate office are now stuck with the label of tip stealer, benefits gouger and paid break abolisher. How’s that for some great publicity? This pooh-sandwich is slick corporate talent in action?
A few pennies passed on to the customer would have avoided shareholder nightmare ka-ka like this: #boycottTimHortons
Canadians still count themselves lucky to have escaped much of the type of economic madness that came to afflict the United States after the 2008 crash. Still, there seems to be some discomfort with the state of things here if the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index is to be believed. This globally-focussed think tank praises Canada frequently, placing us at number eight this year with Yemen dead last and Norway number one, after assessing a range of socio economic factors. This index is picked up quite widely in the business media most years and it appears to contain much general truth.
Suburban poverty has its own awful Australian TV show. Great! It looks like some of what is often called poverty porn found on UK TV and must surely generate similar feelings. On one hand this kind of thing brings attention to issues of poverty and social difficulty under neo-liberalism in a resource-research country (sound familiar Canada?). On the other hand does it change anything, help anyone?
Two comic efforts at understanding North American economic reality brought some laffs to the suburban-poverty.com bunker complex this week. Unintentionally hilarious, but no less instructive for that, is a hot new self help book from KISS front man Gene Simmons. The second, a sharp strike from Rick Mercer.
To understand Gene’s book, picture an elevator shaft as black as On Power’s faux leather cover at the bottom. Ayn Rand chugs a mickey of rye whiskey on an empty stomache, takes two or three hits off a crack pipe and tosses herself down the elevator shaft.
Mercer’s rant about Ontario’s coming move to a higher minimum wage is a little more to our liking. Together, the two efforts tackle powerful myths about life here.
editor’s note: let’s give Gene props for urging us to read books and self educate. He’s right, there are no excuses when all the knowledge of the world is available to us on the screens in our hands.
Some bits of this item on future suburbia are intriguing. Others are less convincing extrapolations. With their monstrous student debt alone it is unlikely the Millennials will carry the burbs Atlas-style into the overheated decades to come.