Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Life Measured in Garbage Bags

Three years is enough time to accumulate quite a bit of unnecessary shit. I would be polite, but there is frankly no other way to describe the utterly superfluous junk that I find not-even-sentimental reasons to save from their truly deserved place in a trash heap. Poorly-written snippets of RPG systems I was making up, long abandoned. Sketches of cool futuristic guns that I draw whenever I get bored. Eight hundred course outlines and schedules. The panic-ridden house-cleaning that my compatriots and I have recently completed has opened my eyes to a certain disparity between the person who I am, and the one I would like to be.

To borrow a phrase from Daydream Believer, I don't want to settle. Or, more precisely I don't want to be the kind of person who settles. I'm young, I'm physically fit, I don't have a lot of obligations: no children, no permanent career position with good benefits and a nice pension plan. Why should I tie myself down as though I do? Why should I spent what will be - if not the best - the most able and mobile years of my life building a nest? I will have plenty of time to build a nest when it's time to, um, lay There are some pragmatic and political reasons, too; I don't want to be the kind of person who gives in too easily to the empty acquisition of mass consumerism. I mean, where's the fun in that? I'm not such an extremist to believe that nothing bought can have "real value" - precisely the opposite: I'd rather have less stuff, but individually I want the stuff I have to mean more. Less stuff is easier to move. It's not as messy, even when it's not exactly cleanly arranged either.

This desire for less "stuff" is also a broader part of a life philosophy that I've been entertaining for a while now. We can call it "Technomadic" culture, if it indeed deserves a name at all. The combination of highly-portable computing devices, ubiquitous wi-fi and wireless internet access, and "cloud computing"* means that I can be a knowledge worker from anywhere, at - roughly speaking - any time. Besides, cross-time-zone businesses are practically old-hat now. What relevance does the standard workday have when you need to be ready to help customers half a world away? It should be possible to, through a conscious minimizing of junk possessions, escape some of the "shackles" of a traditional white-collar job, especially in a knowledge industry. It should also be possible to make re-locating myself much, much easier if most of my stuff fits into a modestly-sized attaché case and a laptop bag. I could move to a new city by hopping on a train, or taking the next flight. There are still accommodations to be considered, but as long as one sticks to cities with month-to-month rentals available it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

That's an awfully...different speculative life than the one I lead now. It's possibly not too environmentally-friendly (depending on where and how I move), and it most certainly is rooted in a certain kind of middle-class privilege. I can only say that it's a notion in its infancy, likely untenable. I find myself nonetheless compelled by a certain minimalist component. If I have to choose, I would rather live with a few items of high quality, than with an ocean of disposable junk. I would rather live modestly in several interesting places, than live opulently in just one. That is, of course, still my aspirational self talking. My real self is still content to sit on his ass and play videogames. But a man can dream, so dream he shall.

In other news, there's an election now looming on the horizon, and I may give Stephen Harper credit, for once in my life; he did say that this was something Canadians didn't really want. Well, from my tiny cross-section of the Canadian population, it looks like he was probably right, albeit not for the reasons that he would hope. The people I know don't see any difference between the two parties who can be expected to form governments in this country. "Mildly objectionable" has been the only way to describe Canadian Prime Ministers since Brian Mulroney was "Very Much Objectionable" in the late 1980s (or, if you like it with a dose of perspective, since before I was born). Of course, "Not Something Canada Wants" is not the same as "Not Something Canada Needs". Can we, perhaps, salvage this poor election by proving that it needs to happen? Eh, maybe.

The Conservatives were set to fall on their budget, so regardless of whether or not they turned out to be in contempt of Parliament, there was an election coming. I found Harper's suggestion that the budget was "not a political game" to be disingenuous; a bad budget implemented quickly isn't actually good for Canada. Was the budget bad? I must confess that I have not read it, but all of the opposition parties - together representing a majority of those Canadians who bothered to vote in the last election - seemed to think that it was. Their obvious partiality aside, the Harper Government seemed unwilling to introduce compromise measures to woo even one party's support. I think that's characteristic of Harper's government style, so it's no surprise. It's problematic to me, because I can stand a Conservative minority that makes concessions, that ever acts in the spirit of co-operation for the benefit of the nation and its people. I don't really have time for Stephen Harper and his mildly objectionable political games.

But let's talk about this "contempt of Parliament" thing for a moment. For the first time ever in any Westminster parliament, our Conservative government has been found in contempt of said body. If it were some antiquated relic, something that was a commonplace occurrence - a slap on the wrist - I might not think it altogether important. However, the fact of the matter is that the government was asked in a legal and legitimate fashion for information which they did not provide. This was a party that had run on a platform of increased accountability, and it fell flat on its face. This is to speak nothing of their broken promises to reform the senate and the judiciary. If Stephen Harper had kept his word on any one of these issues, I would be singing a different tune. Stephen Harper may have been an antidote to years of Liberal corruption, he may have been what we needed at the time...but now he has proven himself no better than those he supplanted. We may not have anyone capable of articulating a coherent and inspiring agenda here in this country, but we can give this douche the Boot. "And why not?", say I.

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