God I'm getting old and so is this blog.
Ten years is a long time in politics. It's an eternity in blogging. What the hell was I thinking?
Well you can stroll through the archives and come to your conclusions. Due to various shift in the blogging template over the years the archives only go back two years. It's something I'll sort out eventually when I have the time. This also explains the occasionally erratic posting schedule. This is not a source of income for me and I must prioritize accordingly. Unlike many blogs there is a fair amount of original content posted at GCH. That makes the process of keeping this site going somewhat more labour intensive than average.
But ten years is a very long time. A decade ago the Iraq war was still in its early and mostly hopeful stages. John Kerry was the Democratic Presidential nominee. Paul Martin was beginning his suppose decades long reign as the Greatest Prime Minister in All of Canadian History. Stephen Harper was a marginal Right-leaning figure whose Reform Party connections would doom him to political irrelevance. Rob Ford was a somewhat obscure city councillor. David Miller was the mayor of Toronto. Kathleen Wynne was a parliamentary assistant to Gerard Kennedy. Justin Trudeau was dropping of engineering school. Dalton McGuinty had broken less than two dozen promises.
That's the details stuff. The historical minutiae that future generations will forget, save for desperate graduate students seeking a thesis topic. The big tech stuff has still been fairly big over the last decade.
In 2004 cell phones were used for calling people and occasionally texting. Virtually none of them had cameras and their internet capabilities were limited or non-existent. Netflix's primary business model centered around mailing DVDs. Blu-Rays were still a very new and very pricey technology with players selling for thousands of dollars. People bought desktops and with them printers. The printers cost more than the ink. The idea of making a living online was considered fanciful. No one had ever heard of Facebook, Twitter, You Tube or Instagram. People still bought and read physical newspapers.
For those of a certain age, say who remember the Apollo missions, this all seems like so much gadgetry. Communications technology has improved exponentially over the last ten years. But so what? We still generate electricity, manufacture cars, treat the sick and run our governments in much the same way we did forty years ago. We've had technical improvements here and there, and those have had a significant cumulative impact, but there has been no Big Bang that will take your breath away.
Watch or re-watch the film The Right Stuff and ask yourself if the cultural universe in which that film was made, much less its historical setting, still exists. Could anyone make a movie like that today? Would it make sense to a generation that gets excited over a phone app that is slightly more efficient at doing nothing in particular. A generation that is not only the antithesis of Chuck Yeager and the Mercury 7 but likely wouldn't even grasp their importance.
This blog was started with a feeling that the culture of the West was, a few upticks aside, on a long down trajectory. A decade later I have little reason to revise that assessment. The gadgets get smarter but the people seem to get dumber. A growing political problem in a stagnant economy where only the most skilled seem to have a decent and stable living standard. That is until those industries get technologically disrupted as well.
That which does not change dies. But that tells us nothing about the nature of change or our ability to cope. A nation of self reliant individualists, reared on the stories of Horatio Alger, can cope with change far better that an overcredentialized and under challenged populace. Real change isn't mastering the latest gadget, it's figuring out how to walk off a cliff and not fall. That's a talent for survival and improvisation that previous generations had, as a matter of necessity, in abundance. The soft-wrapped creatures I encounter in my daily life, eager not to offend and terrified of defying social norms, are not the sort that encourage much hope.
Kate McMillian, who has been blogging only slightly longer than I have, has a wonderful saying:
She's got about a thousand variants. They're funny because they're true. I have no idea how much actual social decay she sees out in Saskatchewan, but here in the Imperial Capital it's an object lesson every day. The punchline gets less funny when you deal with this nonsense on a daily basis, when it passes from internet meme into a living physical problem standing in your way.
The reams of entirely pointless government regulations. Young workers who lack basic numeracy and literacy skills as well as anything resembling a work ethic. The triumph of office politics over even marginal competency. Even the sheer obliviousness of people walking down the street. And that's just the ones not glued to their bloody phones. Working in downtown Toronto is like doing an obstacle course with the added bonus of filing your lungs with pollution. Virtually everyone I know past thirty-five, no matter what line of work or education, is just trying to survive long enough to pay-off the mortgage and cover their kid's education. They have no ambition or dreams beyond that. The cynical idiocy of daily life had beaten it out of them.
My father, who grew up without running water and electricity, does not envy the youth of today. They have every material advantage he lacked, but they seem to lack everything he took for granted. Not all change is for the better. He has seen Toronto go from an efficient WASPish town into a disorganized multicultural bazaar. This isn't obvious to the WASPish elite that still runs this town because most of them don't live in Etobicoke or Scarborough. Those are places they drive through on their way to Montreal or Niagara-on-the-Lake. They enjoy the restaurants and the exotic dresses that dot the downtown. They miss the subsidized housing projects where black veiled women are ubiquitous. If the menfolk work its seems improbable they bring in enough to support their large families. That's what I deal with because my daddy didn't buy me a condo on Queen's Quay.
Diversity is fun when you meet the smart, intelligent well educated cream of the crop. Where I work the Indians, Chinese, Jamaicans and Latin Americans are by far the best workers. They seem to blend the best of their traditional cultures with an ambition that is mostly lacking in the WASP working and middle classes. But how many are like this? For every civilized man and woman how many peasants who refuse to accept even the basics of assimilation? The Cult of Multicult has taken a few sharp shocks in recent years but it is not dead. Those who could speak refuse to out of fear. Those who want to speak are ignored, excluded or marginalized.
Where there's life, said a pastor to me many years ago, there's hope. True enough. But that same pastor also taught that God helps those who help themselves. That kind of old time religion is in very short supply. I'm not quite ready to Enjoy the Decline but I don't see much of an alternative.
Here's to another ten years. Hopefully less bleak than the last.