Unintended Consequences

Having spent the last eight weeks on the beginnings of socialist theory in a historical context I am suddenly see British Columbia in an entirely new light. Cos I am doing a degree, innit…which I suspect I’ll lever into most posts until the novelty has worn off.

I come back to BC every 12-18 months and it’s pretty much the same old same old. Now I notice nationalised – or do I mean provincialised? -functions where I am used to seeing privatised operators (in the UK). BC Hydro is the water company, BC Ferries are the ferry operator, BC Transit is the public transport company and so on and so forth. Over 50% of the population works for the government so this is the closest I have seen to the workers owning the means of production. Marx would be beaming.

Everyone seems fairly happy, few people are disgruntled. Perhaps this is just because the Brits are genetically programmed to moan about their lot and the Canadians are just simpler souls not prone to the introspective self-destruction and external envy that fuels British society. Class distinctions are completely absent here. Not suppressed, not there at all. People don’t judge you by the car you drive, the accent you speak with, where your kids go to school (there are so few private schools here they number under ten). Whatsmore, the have-nots don’t hate the haves. There is no class war, struggle of the workers against The Man, the assumption that all the rich are bastards that only got wealthy by screwing the poor.

All the usual ills of society are here. Drugs, homelessness, historical mistreatment of the indigenous population etc etc. In place of the Class War that the radicals in the UK are forever fighting (I doubt it will ever end) the biggest movement seems to be the environmental protesters. In a tiny little island like the UK I kind of get the worry about large infrastructure projects. Here you only need to drive for four or five hours to get an inkling of the absolute vastness of this one province out of ten. The country is extraordinarily large and is one of the biggest contiguous land masses in the world.  Yet the thought of driving an important pipeline across the province excites the most extraordinary levels of indignation. If anywhere has the land to afford this kind of necessary blight, it’s Canada. Necessary because we ain’t gonna be weaned off oil just like that. Especially here. The Canucks (and I daresay the Septics) think a pick-up truck that manages 25mpg is an engineering marvel. And they moan about petrol that is half the price than it is in the UK. In fairness though most of the distances, except in town, where the environmentalists seem to congregate, are not sensibly cycleable, especially in the winter. The car is here for a while yet.

Food. Food here is terrible by and large. Sweetened to death and with gargantuan portion sizes when eating out and buying. Quantity is considered a marker of value for money. Rarely is the conversation about the quality of the ingredients or cooking. Pile it high, sell it cheap, throw a shitload of high fructose corn syrup on for good measure and then puzzle over the obesity problem? It is considered de rigeur to bitch about the European Union and on many counts it is a gigantic waste of money. However, the directives on food labelling seem to produce more informative packaging for the consumer. Here the lobby groups for the big corporations seem to have won the day regarding what goes into “food” and how it is labelled. Alternatively, I might just be the nut with my obsession regarding what I buy to shove in my gaping maw. I like my bacon to be just that, bacon. Not some minced together turkey (god knows the conditions it was raised in – like the worst chicken farms I imagine) agglomeration that is so full of other stuff in order to look, cook and taste like a bacon rasher with lower fat – for that is how it is marketed, as a “healthy” alternative to bacon – than the real McCoy. Here is an idea…how about steer clear of regular bacon consumption and then when you do eat it enjoy it for what it is? Bacon. Food rant over. It is cheap (and sweet) so broadly speaking no one is moaning. Proper cheese? The Quebecois have a lot to answer for so lets leave it at that.

Just re-reading the last proves to me the basis of my stock reply when asked which is better, Canada or the UK? The grass is always greener. I think the magnificent outdoors would swing it for me if there were not other unchangeable factors keeping me in the UK. That and Hockey Night In Canada.

Free At Last

In fairness, finishing my first term of Uni isn’t quite up there with gaining civil rights plus I am a middle-class white boy. Nonetheless, and though it shall pass, for the moment I am sitting in bed with coffee just feeling as if some tyrannical yoke – of capitalist oppression? Apologies, still writing for exams – has been lifted. If I were on the other side of this post I should scoff at the whingeing student bleating away. From this side all I can remark on was how bloody tough it has been this first term.

I imagine it is largely to do with my congenital idleness married to the first formal academic environment since school finished some *ahem* twenty years ago. It was a shock. On induction day we had warnings about trying to do anything else other than study. Two day long lectures plus one, one hour tutorial a week  meant I indulged in a small snort of derision. I was so very wrong. Part-time job has gone, much socialising has gone, girlfriend has gone and application has steadily increased. Although I am not up to the additional voluntary thirty hours a week of self-directed input suggested, I am creeping towards it.

All I need to do today is get ready to go to Canuckistan by buying dollars, chucking a few shirts in a bag and indulging in totally guilt-free feelings of excitement that precipitate a trip home to B.C.

If you are my mother’s neighbour in Canada and are reading this then I remember your kind remarks and will drop by to say hello. Two options for you are now available: battening down the hatches, turning off the lights and cowering in a back room pretending you are not in (a very British way of dealing with Trick or Treaters incidentally) or alternatively, mines an egg-nog laced with rum thank you very much.

These last two to three weeks has been a time of a relentlessly steady but minutely incremental application of pressure. If anyone wants to know about the Hegelian dialectic approach to crude Marxist theory please don’t expect me to enlighten you. No essays, no revision and no exams. Free, free at last. Well until next January.

Bah Humbug