Friday, October 25, 2013

Future Not Bright.

A Feng-Shui spiral. (Arnold C.)

No economy can remain static. It’s either growing or shrinking.

Our way of life is based upon constantly expanding markets. The notion that we can continue to improve standards of living while lowering production and consumption flies in the face of everything we believe about market capitalism. And in fact no one has had this notion. I think I’m the first!

When you consider that I dropped out of school (upon request) about halfway through grade ten, then that’s really saying something about the intellectually sterile environment we’ve created in Canada.

Every business person realizes that if revenues are capped at $100,000 then the only
way to increase profits is to cut costs. But that is an assumption. You could sell fewer
units, while still generating the same revenue—simply raise prices and lower production.

But no one ever thinks of it that way—lower costs by creating efficiencies and driving up demand by reducing the number of available units.

Yet this is all indicated by the currently-accepted theories of economics! And I’m not saying that all the theories are self-justifying bullshit. It’s just that one of the things a philosopher does is to invert things—and see what falls out of its pockets.

And in this society at the present time, consumption drives production, which drives employment, which drives taxation. That is one reason why we now have half as many people living in homes that are twice as big as our parents lived in. In some ways we are a victim of our own efficiency. The housing industry is so competitive, that there is little profit in a 1,200 square-foot home, once the risk, liabilities, capitalization and time factors are put into the equation. Why would a builder waste six months to earn a profit of ten thousand dollars? He wouldn’t be able to live in the very houses which he builds for others. It is far better to build a 4,500 square-foot home, make fifty to a hundred thousand in profit, and at that rate, not only can you afford to do it again, it’s even worthwhile. It still takes six months of his precious time. The lot represents a fixed cost, so the bigger the building, the greater the profit.

So the real problem is how to maintain standards of living without conspicuous consumption, without over-production and without stagnating wages and profits—because apparently the only path to prosperity for the greatest number of people is to constantly expand consumption and production.

How is it possible, in a nation with a constitution and the rule of law, to compel the rich, the powerful, the corporations and institutions to make do with less? They don’t respect the law or any kind of morality—they never have.

How can a CEO tell the shareholders, “We must lose money (or reduce our expectations of profit,) for the next five years in order to make these changes?”

Stock prices will fall. The CEO has ‘damaged’ the company and the shareholders.

According to shareholders, “Surely it is not our responsibility to save the world?”

(I say it is, actually, but no one listens to my absolutely fantastic long-term investment
strategies. But then they want ‘big profits right now.’)

Only the poor can be compelled, for they don’t have the ability to resist. Price increases affect them first, and the most, but they don’t have the resources to invest in
newer, more efficient technologies.

Hydrogen-powered cars have been announced as being just around the corner. Yet
a different source says, ‘They’re just a myth.’

In order to make hydrogen; ‘You have to burn methane,’ i.e. a fossil fuel. And electric vehicles are really only about 30 % more efficient than comparably-sized fossil fuel vehicles. In ten years your town will be spewing out just as much pollution as it ever did…we’re trying to sell more cars, after all, in order to employ more people to buy more cars, and homes, and electricity…we must expand to increase profits…it’s a vicious circle generated by conventional thinking and people and corporations who inevitably put their own interest first, ahead of all other considerations; including species-survival.

(Not just our own species, but every species.)

Battery-powered electric cars hold promise, but the required increase in generation capacity must almost inevitably come from nuclear technology, with all of its attendant problems.

Ford and GM and Chrysler do not want to build small, efficient cars because there is
no profit. It starts to look like a very expensive little car, in a very competitive market niche. To re-tool for hydrogen cars will take billions in new investment. And the car
companies create unionized, middle-class factory jobs. This makes for a nice block of
middle-class voters; all of them afraid as hell to rock the boat or upset the status-quo,
which after all makes their own smug and comfy existence possible.

It is a fact of human nature, “Those whose livelihood is involved, cannot see the
problem.” And if you can’t see the problem then you can’t even conceive of a solution.

They are simply unable to perceive the evil that they are doing, by their persistence
and insistence on continued conspicuous consumption, for surely a Hummer or a Ford
F-150 are nothing else. Most of those vehicles still have one occupant and never carry a
serious load in the entire life-span of the product. It is so much about status and so little
about utility that it is a kind of indictment of middle-class ethics and morality.

Oh yeah, the middle class wants change, just don’t ask them to contribute, or don’t put it in their neighbourhood, or both. One lady objected to a solar farm due to ‘transformer
noise,’ yet one wonders if that farmland wasn’t noisier with the trucks, tractors,
mini-bikes, flocks of blackbirds…worms digging in the soil. She was simply an idiot. Her kitchen clock makes more noise! A middle-class Canadian idiot, and we have many of them.

Where are you going to put the next nuclear reactor? I have a couple of concerns as
well. These include the ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome, and the usual cost overruns
associated with any project organized around government patronage. In Sarnia-
Lambton, a petrochemical company was assembling a piece of land for a refinery. No one
had any real environmental objections, and people were disappointed when it failed to go
ahead. One wonders how they would have felt about nuclear power.

We already have nuclear waste trucked down local highways, and ending up in provincial landfills. We try real hard not to think about it too much.

Local food production would reduce the carbon footprint of our diet. For every ten
units of food energy, a hundred units of carbon are released by the transportation and
processing of food. Local food production might employ a lot of people, and that sounds
good in the middle of a depression. The problem is that historically, we haven’t paid
folks like that enough to afford $400,000 homes. And it begs the question of how can we
compete with a sixty-five cent New Zealand apple, shipped and trucked twenty thousand

For some reason it’s called ‘global warming,’ but the problem is really about our selfish lifestyles. Talking about waste isn’t sexy. It’s pretty square. We have such great expectations for ourselves, but the changes our world is undergoing carry a strong risk of the mass migrations of peoples, war, revolution, famine and endemic disease. All of our standards of living are going to fall. That is the big secret that no politician has the courage to talk about, in fact they will tell you, “There’s nothing wrong with our lifestyles.”

Middle class wages have been stagnant for about fifteen years, the working poor have seen incomes fall over the same period. Only the rich are doing well. So if our lifestyles are not going to fall, why are they in fact falling? How do you explain it?

“Oh, I can assure you it’s not a conspiracy,” you might say.

I never asked about a conspiracy. You brought that up all on your own.

If our lifestyles are killing the planet, then they are simply immoral. That’s pretty
tough to accept. To call for a ‘carbon tax’ is politically unpopular, but no one thought to
call it a ‘pollution tax.’ (I would call it an ‘ignorance tax.’) The biggest shortage in this country is leadership, with any kind of firm resolve, or clarity of vision. And the truth is that a lifestyle based on greed, consumption and conspicuous waste, has become kind of immoral, and some people are becoming quite alienated, like a kind of subculture.

The government is in no position to provide moral guidance, and guys like me are in no position to run for election. I guess we’re pooched.

Now, in the perfect economy of the future, an artificial and theoretical construct; all (or most) products and services will be intangibles, such as financial planning, wellness consultation, motivational speaking and literature, news-casting, e-publishing, etc.

What this means is that Canadians will be able to enjoy a high standard of living without the need or benefit of unions, as everyone will be self-employed. They will make good livings, based on the provincial $10.25 an hour minimum wages, and they never have to cut a tree down, skin a beaver, dig up coal, put out a fishing net, or do any of the traditional resource-export-based things we did in the past.

Once you get your head around this notion, then you will quickly see that the perfect economy of the future is perfectly designed for constant expansion of productivity—all products are useless and therefore luxuries and therefore desirable, like a thousand ‘apps’ for your text service provider’s ‘free phone,’ and oh! What a surprise when the monthly bill comes in and it’s six hundred dollars.

I’ll be selling essays, or better yet, bartering them for aromatherapy or feng-shui classes, getting my colours done and using my cell-phone apps to keep track of my pedicure appointments, or my reservations at ‘Grille 23.’ The pemmican is great, you should try it sometime.

In a world where ignorance is popular and superstition sells, a bullshit-peddler like me or that nice Mister Kevin O’Leary on CBC should make out all right.

Mr O’Leary and I agree on one thing for certain: people are basically pretty stupid.  

I guess the only solution would be a long-term program of mass education by a disinterested and highly-honourable consortium of mass media. Oh, sorry—we already have that. Right?

Anyhow, I'm off to class. At least now I know what a Feng-Shui spiral is.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Old Apartment

My 'allergies' are clearing up nicely now, two years later.

My sister was shocked when I told her I paid $8,000 in rent last year.

That’s enough to buy a house, but of course people on the Ontario Disability Support Program can’t get a mortgage—maybe that’s a half-truth. I once went to the bank and they were prepared to give me a mortgage of $30,000. They wanted a down payment of $15,000. So they would have lent me $15,000, at about six percent as I recall.

You can’t buy a house for $30,000 unless it’s in Taliban country or at the extemities of the Earth.

There are no services in Taliban country or at the extremities of the Earth. No plumbing, no heat, no electricity, and of course your investment is uninsurable.

(Without insurance, you can’t get a mortgage. Catch-22, don’t you know.)

With a house, it’s not just the mortgage payment. There is heat, hydro, insurance, property taxes, and water, which includes a lot of hidden charges for ‘delivery’ and surcharges for past debt. Also, in this town at least, some of the price-jacking on the property taxes is stuck in the water bill.

City Council talks big about ‘diversification,’ mostly before election time but not much afterwards.

The Province of Ontario talks big about ‘poverty reduction’ before elections, but not much afterwards. It is a slogan, nothing more, and the bourgeoisie buys into it, but then they are all cynics and hypocrites and they all know it is bullshit.

I owned a house once. Before I bought it, I did a budget and came up with a figure of $675.00 a month average. My ODSP income was $930.00 a month at the time, and I knew it would be a tough go. I knew I’d be going to the food bank, and I knew I wouldn’t have a car, and I knew I’d be sponging smokes off anybody that had ‘em…but at least you are building equity in a piece of property, and my grandmother was kind enough to give me $1,500 for a down payment.

For a while there, it felt good to own a home, although my working class neighbours didn’t like it much. They had to get up and go to work in the morning, while I was ‘sponging off the system.’

One of the neighbours told me that once. He was self-employed, although he has since gotten hired to work for the city, at about $25.00 an hour for unskilled labour.

Who’s sponging now, (insert disparaging term of choice, but mine is very naughty.)

(It rhymes with fuzzy sock licker, sort of.)

In summer, it might be less, in winter, it would be more. That included a mortgage payment of $292.00 per month on $50,000 amortized over 25 years.

Now, buying a trailer is different. The lot fees run anywhere from $350.00 a month up to over four hundred, possibly higher depending on where you live. This includes the lease and water, as well as the property taxes. 
If nothing else, you get a place to live out of it.

You can get a trailer for as little as $6-12,000, and I have looked at trailers in the $27,000 range. I’ve seen them as high as $72,000. The six thousand dollar one was a wreck. It had been gutted inside. As soon as I bought it, it would have been condemned.

There would still be heat, hydro, and obviously home insurance is a must if you have a mortgage—that only makes sense.

My home insurance went from $220.00 a year when I moved in, (in 1999) up to about $465.00 four years later. One month (February) in winter I had a $270.00 gas bill. For two months in the summer, there was no gas bill. Then I could at least eat.

Trailers are nowhere as well insulated as the typical home as the walls are only two inches thick.

Even so, they are smaller and the heating would be less, on average. The hydro might be less, but typically I run one or two lights, a computer, and air conditioning in summer. I’m fairly frugal in that regard, and I do have some respect for this planet, and never run Christmas lights, and all that sort of thing.

When I owned that home, my property taxes went from about $1,400 a year to over $1,800.00 a year within four years. I once used eleven dollars worth of water in a six-month billing period but the bill was more like two hundred due to all the ‘hidden’ charges.

Poverty is endemic to our system. It’s built in. My sister was shocked at that tax rate incidentally, as she only pays about $1,200 a year for a small bungalow similar to the one I had, but my name is Mudd in this town. 

You can attempt to appeal to the property tax assessment people, which is a provincial agency, even though property taxes are a municipal affair.

(Good luck on that, by the way.)

Municipal taxes have provincial sanction ever since the province downloaded certain costs of social programs onto the municipality.

Bureaucratic harassment of the disabled is also endemic here in Ontario, which is in Canada, one of the greatest countries in the world by all accounts.

I had no problem renting my present pad.

My credit checked out, and in fact my credit rating is surprisingly high for a guy on ODSP. That’s because I am a responsible adult and I pay my bills first and eat later.

In some sense, ODSP subsidizes landlords. They know it is a secure and steady income (disability is for life) even though the bank sees it as high risk.

(I don’t know if anyone has ever escaped the ODSP, but as an officer and a gentleman, my duty is to escape.)

(Or at least give ‘em hell whenever I can.)

You can’t really get a mortgage on a trailer.

That’s because it’s movable and the bank figures you’ll stop paying and drag the thing off somewhere else, an expensive process involving permits and fees and of course the cost of the contractor. It’s helpful if you have someplace to go.

I once signed up for geared to income housing. I’m not stupid, and I thought it was the right thing to do, according to all conventional wisdom. And almost two years went by. We took all the ‘facts’ into account.

When we knew my old man was going into the old age home and his house was to be sold, I called the Sarnia-Lambton Housing Authority.

I had been told the waiting period was about two years for a single person. My number was supposed to come up in ‘May or June’ according to them, right?

We kept my old man in his own home as long as we possibly could, and it was reaching a crisis point. We did the best we could for him. He went into the old age home in February 2011.

So I called up, as my old man’s house sale was closing July 15—I lived there in the basement while looking after him—and they told me something special.

They said they wouldn’t have anything until September or October.

I had no choice but to rent an apartment, right? Geared to income housing is pegged at one-third of income. 

Now I pay, according to my calculations, more like sixty percent of my income—rich people are smarter than that, as I’m sure most will agree.

Imagine my disgust when I had moved into my apartment, and paid over $1,500 up front to move in. 

Imagine my disgust when there was a noise problem from the landlord’s kid, living below me rent-free while he saved up to go to university. I was paying all the costs of the house I was in, with some left over, probably a couple of grand a year, for clear ‘profit.’

I paid first and last, and of course the landlord wanted thirty days notice of leaving, oh, yeah, and one week later, the Housing people were calling my alternate number, i.e. my mom’s place, and they said they had a placement for me.

One week later, ladies and gentlemen. That’s why I call them bad things.

I sent the Housing Authority a letter stating that if they ever tried to contact me or my family again, I would call the police and charge them with criminal harassment.

Don’t you ever talk to me about a ‘sense of entitlement.’

All human beings are entitled to food, shelter and clothing. That’s the position of the United Nations and I won’t contradict them because they are big, important people who wear suits and ties and make the papers every stinking day.

Some would argue that everything we do in life involves some moral choice. I would retort that back on the government, this city, the bourgeoisie and anyone else who will listen.

If you don’t like that, you can pull a black hood over your face, and come around here and kill me.

You see how it is, don’t you?

I know who you are.

It is never a mistake to stand up for the disabled, the mentally ill, the working poor, and plenty of other unfortunate people in this town, your town, any town you care to name.

I live in Ontario. Someday I will tell you about how the pigs got me out of that house. Perhaps someone else will tell the story, but I doubt if they have the fuckin’ balls.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

On Church and State

Epicurus: 'Why does evil exist?'

We don’t really have separation of Church and State in this country, even though the claim has been made that we do. 

There has never been a church that revolted against this state, and the state has never represssed a single religion. 

Well--maybe a few. Maybe just a little bit--but they came around in the end.

To the state, all religions are equally useful.

They keep the people placid, and that’s good if you want to exercise power over them. Once the truth has been revealed, it is unchangeable—an important element in any system of beliefs.

The truth is unchangeable. Truth comes from somewhere far above you.

Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, these are all state and religious holidays. People who haven’t seen the inside of a church in years for any reason other than the wedding of a friend or the funeral of a relative celebrate religious holidays with an inconsistency that to me seems schizophrenic.

Religion is an excuse to have festivities.

The state itself rests on some religious foundation. The Queen of England, the titular head of our constitutional monarchy, is also the titular head of the Anglican Church. We have Henry VIII to thank for that, when all he wanted was to appoint his own friends to benefices that were up for grabs, (and the income derived from them) which up until then were strictly Catholic. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen—Henry VIII was a Catholic. Some would argue that all he wanted was another divorce, and the pope at that time refused.

It was a power struggle, nothing more, and I don’t think Henry VIII had any great theological arguments to back him up. So in that sense, it really wasn’t about the Reformation or Protestantism per se.

No one wants to talk about this. We prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. I’m just supposed to accept things and keep my mouth shut—because you guys have given me freedom.

And you’re not going to give it up—or the power that goes with it, anytime soon.

What a ludicrous claim. You have given me my freedom.

No one can set you free, ladies and gentlemen.

You must free yourselves or be perpetual slaves in service to your corporate masters.

Personal freedom requires the individual to take full responsibilty for themselves—and responsibility is hard.

Before each session of the Legislative Assemby of Ontario, the proceedings are opened with a prayer.

It is true those dummies need all the help they can get, for surely one or two of them had some vision…before they got elected, and had hopes of making some sweeping social progress in the context of this century, a hope that will be quickly pounded out of them by ‘realities.’

I’ve never actually heard it, but it’s likely not the Roman Catholic version of the Lord’s Prayer that they use. 

They had to pick one, and only one, of several creeds.

In fact, when I switched from a public school to a Catholic school back in the 1960s, the words of the prayer were slightly different. The hair-splitting of theology is legendary.

One syllable, one wrong word, one wrong inflection or accent and the transgressor is immediately condemned to everlasting hellfire. Since I’ve uttered that prayer both ways, it’s difficult to see me as anything other than but one of the damned.

The trouble with atheism is of course morality.

Without a God, one socially-acceptable to my neighbours, where can morality possibly spring from?

What if I agreed that murder, theft, arson, violence of any sort was wrong?

Would you doubt my word, even though these things are first of all illegal, and secondly, they are impractical methods of conflict resolution?

Ah, but Ian, where are you getting all of this? Surely a man, a normal man, is incapable of figuring these things out without some miracle of divine intervention, a lightning bolt, a splitting of the Earth, or even just a stork leaving town in a hurry—a flock of birds behaving strangely, or perhaps the meteors of the air, showering the world with sparks and pestilence…but I digress, ladies and gentlemen.

Where do atheists go on Halloween? Because we don’t believe in the supernatural, it would be hypocritical to dress up as a ghost or a goblin; or to indulge in superstition such as reading the horoscope, crossing our fingers for luck, or throwing a penny into a wishing well.

Atheism, in order to be valid, must be supremely rational, and that is also its greatest weakness.

That’s because none of us are completely rational beings.

We cannot escape our upbringing. From our upbringing stems all prejudice, for we were born a clean slate with no rational thoughts at all.

Atheism takes power away from Church and State. No longer is there a fountainhead of morality, one that all can recognize and agree to, even if it is only as a legal fiction.

Atheism empowers the individual. It empowers them to be free.

I say the power to govern stems from the people, but in the maternalistic political world, the people can‘t be trusted and so we need a Queen. And in order to justify one person being Queen over some other choice, a person equally or perhaps even better qalified to be Queen, we must accept their ‘Divine Right of Kings.’ 

We must accept the prerogatives of birth and blood, their pedigree. We must accept not only history as it was written—mostly by educated males of the ruling class, but we must also accept that it can be no other way. We must accept the tyranny of past precedents without question.

Otherwise there is no legitimacy, and that includes the legitimacy of elections based on historical precedent, which is the only argument that you have when God is taken out of the equation.

Our ancestors fought for those rights for sound personal reasons.

Personal reasons, and today we can only speculate as to what they may have been.


You could try speaking to me in purely practical terms, but I think you incapable of actually doing it, without quickly running out of arguments and falling back on tradition.

Genetically, we are asked to accept that the blue-bloods are not just morally superior in that they have the right to govern, it seems we must also accept their genetic superiority! Something that has not been scientifically proven seems to be an unwritten law.

Otherwise, the only other possible argument is that they are rich—or that they have a monopoly on truth, one which stems from somewhere far, far up above the common man.

Objectively speaking, if we did away with Queen Elizabeth II, would the country collapse of its own internal moral inconsistencies?

(But of course you don’t see that we have any moral inconsistencies.)

Of course not. Someone would find the justification to continue with our present system, with absolutely no changes (or disruption,) at all. Anyhow, they always have another king or queen waiting in the wings to take over, don’t they? If you follow the genealogy of the Royal Family, it goes all the way back to Wotan—the god of war, whose effigy was placed on a wagon and drawn through the camp of the barbarians before battle in order to remind those savage warriors that the gods were on their side and that Valhalla awaited the heroes who gave their life for their king and country.

It would seem that either they were wrong or now, in the present day, we must be wrong. For now all religions are equally valid before the law.

We have changed religions many times over the last two thousand years, and in fact Christianity itself would be almost unrecognizable to Jesus in the unlikely event he should be ressurected and return to Earth for a quick look to see how things were going.

Our ‘belief system’ is irrational, and even more so, it is perpetuated by an unwritten code of bigotry and prejudice, a system of checks and balances to keep us from asking all the wrong questions.

It must be based on a system of unconscious assumptions.

It has to be unconcsious, it has to be unwritten, and it has to be accepted by all, just like the emperor’s new set of clothes, for to question it is to unravel the whole fabric of our society, very quickly, and in the interest of order, we prefer not to do that.

We simply must have order.

To an atheist, the whole basis of Canadian law and government is irrational—because it is based on assumptions of the divine, the revelation of religion, which oddly enough always seems to favour the predominance of the rich—and the well-born—and it is really nothing more than a way of squelching dissent from ordinary people, most of whom do not have time for great philosophical debates.

They’re too busy struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

I have no doubt most of them have an opinion, one which no matter how loudly shouted, bears little evidence of actual thought, any real practicality, or any real usefulness at all.

I don’t really have the right to say this. Freedom of expression is in the Constitution? Yes it is, but then the neighbours also have pitchforks and unlit torches in the back closet, just in case something goes terribly wrong and another belief system comes along to threaten their comfortable assumptions.

You see, since atheism is not a religion, my belief system is not protected by the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. It most definitely does not guarantee ‘freedom from religion,’ because Canadians ‘don’t want that.’

They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be left alone and not to have to think too much. 

They want some nice Christmas gifts, they want to eat turkey and give thanks for not being Americans—how many times have we watched Canadian journalists on TV, who report on the U.S. with such smug and self-righteous glee.

“Thank God we aren’t Americans.” How many times have we heard it?

To an objective observer half a world away, Canadians and Americans are almost indistinguishable.

But it means so very, very, much, to a Canadian, not to be an American.

Because Americans are unwashed. They are loud, boisterous, obnoxious people with a little too much power around the globe and a little too much money to spend at home…unless they’re here as tourists, in which case, ‘Bienvenue.’

Welcome to Canada, eh. The home of peace, order and good, rational government, a government of the people and by the people—well, two out of three ain’t so bad, eh?

And it is the home of an irrational system of beliefs which justifies much.

I hate justification. I think justification would suck a basketball through a garden hose if you gave it half a chance. In that sense, justification is much like assumption.

I hate assumptions, for they are a form of limiting beliefs.

If this nation really has a moral system of beliefs, a moral system of government, one which takes into account more than just the ignorances and prejudices of the loudest mouths, would someone please tell me why the disabled must live thirty or forty percent below the poverty line; a situation which has persisted for decades, and which will go on for the forseeable future?

But you can’t do it, can you?

Religion, morality, tradition, none of that can help the true hypocrite explain a situation that is intolerable to any thinking person.

Maybe that’s why I became an atheist.

You simply couldn’t satisfy my inquiries. And now I have become like the state—I see all religions as equally valid, or perhaps vapid would be a better word.

The state sees them as useful, a fundamental difference of philosophy.