Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Riding Transit STINKS!!!

Now normally I will say that the worst part of public transit is the public part. If I could just have public transit that would pick me up at my door and take me straight to work and home without stopping to pick up other people, that would be pretty perfect. Plus, you know, I would really be doing my part for the environment and leaving my car at home.

There is, however, increasingly less to say in praise of the transit component of public transit. Ever since the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) debuted a bunch of brand new buses in my area I have been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the service provided by the TTC. These new buses are supposed to be handicapped accessible, and they are. In order to accomodate the dozen people in my entire borough that are confined to a wheelchair, the vast majority of citizens that ride transit are inconvenienced. Sorry, but this is mass transit. Majority rules.

In any case, I do have a specific complaint about the buses beyond the reduced capacity, inefficient design and uncomfortable seating/standing arrangement. My complaint is that these buses stink; literally.

They stink of fuel. They stink like diesel. Frequently. It is a nauseating, clinging stink like fresh tar and even after my many years of exposure to commercial inks and industrial solvents it even sickens me slightly. It can be any bus at any time. I know this because I took notes. What follows is an incomplete list. I started taking notes only after I had noticed the stink several times and I stopped for a while. Also, I didn't make notes when it was inconvenient to do so or when I didn't have a pen or my notebook, but I think this list still paints a pretty good picture of what I am up against.

October 17, 2005
#9 Bellamy Southbound • 2:00pm • Bus# 7439 • Fuel Stink

October 21, 2005
#16 Morningside Eastbound • 12:54am • Bus# 7496 • Heavy Fuel Stink

October 28, 2005
#86 Scarborough Westbound • 1:45pm • Bus# 7468 • Fuel/Exhaust Stink

January 10, 2006
#9 Bellamy Northbound • 7:30pm • Bus# 7711 • Fuel/Tar Stink

January 18, 2006
#9 Bellamy Southbound • 2:45pm • Bus# 7711 • Fuel Stink - Loud rattle from heater (same bus as January 10)

January 24, 2006
#116 Morningside Eastbound • 2:05pm • Bus# 7499 • Fuel Stink (+Loads of new graffiti and mysterious big white puddle on seat...)

January 30, 2006
#9 Bellamy Southbound • 2:00pm • Bus# 7728 • Strong Fuel Stink

February 07, 2006
#9 Bellamy Southbound • 2:00pm • Bus# 7768 • Fuel Stink

April 06, 2006
#86 Scarborough Eastbound • 1:40am • Bus# 7435 • Fuel Stink

May 24, 2006
#9 Bellamy Southbound • 2:00pm • Bus# 7772 • Fuel Stink

June 05, 2006
#116 Morningside Eastbound • 1:05am • Bus# 7421 • Fuel Stink

June 08, 2006
#86 Scarborough Eastbound • 12:50am • Bus# 7431 • Fuel Stink and Hot Plastic Smell Like a Melting Garbage Bag

June 12, 2006
#9 Bellamy Southbound • 2:00pm • Bus# 7522 • Fuel Stink

Far from a complete list, but I think you get the idea. Keep in mind these are brand new buses! When I spoke to the TTC Chair, Councillor Howard Moscoe about the reason for buying these awful vehicles, his only response was, "They are mandated by the provincial government." He missed my point - I wasn't asking why we needed accessible buses - just why we got stuck with these particular lemons from Orion bus manufacturers. I intend to make a little Flash animation explaining why these buses are so terrible but I never seem to be able to get around to it. They can't be changed now, but that doesn't mean I have to like them.

Hooray for Transit!

But Can I call Her Fans Paris-ites?

Just look at the Paris Hilton phenomenon and the way every other teenager looks like a prostitute.
Tom Ford, Designer 1961-

A woman should be less concerned about Paris and more concerned about whether the dress she's about to buy relates to the way she lives.
Geoffrey Beene, Designer (Speaking of Paris, France) 1927-2004

I really wanted to hate the new Paris Hilton single, Stars Are Blind. Really. Really very badly. I wanted to be able to mock it and revile it as I do the woman herself. I wanted to laugh along with others as we marvelled at this scrap of piffle crafted solely to satisfy the immense ego of a spoiled young woman with far more money than talent or grace.

Yes, I wanted that very much.

The problem is, the song itself is not all that bad. It's a pop song featuring over-engineered vocals that amelodically warble some mediocre lyrics over a canned synth-reggae beat track. In short, it sounds a lot like much of the other disposable pop music that bounces about in the top ten for awhile until its balloon, well, pops. Paris can't actually sing as such, but it doesn't matter. The song has been designed to play to her strengths, so she performs a kind of a chanting whispery affair that is as banal as it is forgettable. Certainly it will be very, very successful.

In addition to the song itself is a music video with only slightly less soul and relevance than its musical component. It is described by the Paris camp (crew?) as an homage to the video for Chris Isaak's Wicked Game. I would be tempted to believe that if it were not or two things: Thing One: Paris Hilton takes credit for the artistic inspiration to film the video in black and white. Truly she is a visionary ahead of her time! If her time were 1982, that is. Thing Two: I am not certain that Paris knows what an homage is.

Anyway, in summation: Not terrible. Far from great. Somewhat unadjacent even to good. Just not bad enough to muster any depth of disgust.

Looking around the web I see that there are many, many people willing to tear down the song simply because they harbour so strong a dislike for Paris. I think that there is some intellectual dishonesty there. Just take it for what it is. It is junk pop and a lot of people will love it - there is a fanclub that has recruited member from around the world to bombard a Los Angeles radio station with requests in order to force the track to number one. These are people (well, girls mostly... maybe some gay guys - do gay guys like Paris? Cole Porter did - ha ha!) that can't even tune into the station, but they love Paris Hilton. Go figure.

It is funny that I just saw Nelly Furtado's newest track and I think that the two of them, sadly, are of a similarly weak and forgettable quality. I understand Furtado's single is a solid hit in Europe. And then there is Madonna.

That, pretty much, is why I listen to talk radio.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How Hip-Hop Makes You Stupid

I don't even know where I was going with this one... I will need to re-read it and give it some though, but it has been sitting as a draft for a couple of months now. I want to tie it into a trend toward de-socialisation where we as a culture define our relationships more through the media which we consume and less through actual emotional and intellectual interaction. Rather than generating and communicating ideas, we are encouraged to consume and regurgitate...

Anyway, the following is still a work in progress:

I imagine that even those who have no interest whatsoever in the current popularity of the so-called “urban” music scene (which is paradoxical for finding its greatest popularity in the suburbs) are familiar with many of the names and faces involved with Rap and Hip-Hop. While they are ostensibly musicians, these personalities pop up in television and movies, on the covers of magazines and in every nook and cranny of current-events media. Many people, whether or not they have ever listened to or even heard the mad rhymin’ stylz of the likes of P. Diddy or Eminem have formed a negative impression of the entire trend. Some believe that Rap music, especially “Gangsta Rap” can be help directly responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills.

Here in Canada we have a federal politician by the name of Dan McTeague suggesting that rap star 50 (pronounced “Fiddy”) Cent be barred from entering Canada from the United States to perform a few concerts.
“Ridiculous,” say Mr. Cent’s supporters, “Just because he has a criminal record and promotes drugs, violence and misogyny?” Well, in a word, yes. Many Yanks have been denied entry for less.

Here in my hometown, Toronto, Ontario, many local voices are suggesting that our so-called “Summer of the Gun” (too many shootings to count and forty-something deaths – including one killing at the funeral of a teen shot to death the week before) might be a result of the influence of Gangsta Rappers. I don’t think that there is any merit to re-hashing that chicken-or-the-egg debate. I don’t know whether rap music makes listeners become criminals any more than I know whether Ozzy Osbourne inspires lonely teen boys to commit suicide.

What I do know is that Rap makes you stupid.

Now, having said that, there are going to be a bunch of people saying, “But I listened to “Cop Killa” back in the day and now I manage a bank.” Sure. But you were probably smart to begin with. And maybe you got out before the damage was irreversible. It’s like those guys I keep meeting that think that marijuana should be legalised. Their arguments frequently involve a bit of name-dropping and they seem to feel that because a few rather clever folks managed to make some sort of a contribution to society despite being potheads that they should be allowed to smoke up all day. The difference there, though, is that those famous people did more than just smoke dope and talk about how stoned they were. They just went about the business of doing stuff. Robert Louis Stevenson was pretty looped on laudanum (opium mixed with water) most of the time and was able crank out a couple of decent books. If you tried it, you are more likely to find yourself sleeping in a bed soaked with your own urine.

See the problem is that anybody that smokes pot or mainlines Rap music through their headphones is successful not because of these behaviours but in spite of them.

Pot smoking mostly stunts your mental and emotional development. It makes you stupid. So does Rap music, but for different (yet related) reasons. Here, then, is:

How Rap Music Makes You Stupid

Have you ever watched a young man on a bus or in a mall bobbing his head to some inane beat that leaks out of his headphones (and I love those crazy over-sized DJ style ones… that is the kind of fashion that you look back on and ask, “What was I thinking?”) and wondered what kind of pleasure he could possibly derive from that seemingly pointless activity? Well, the answer is quite simple; he’s been brainwashed. Literally.

I will explain.

Humans have used rhythm and repetition as a spiritual tool in religious ceremony since before recorded history. Rap and other urban music styles are so intently focused on rhythm and repetition that even melody is sampled and reduced to a rhythmic element. The lyrics of a rap are secondary to the rhythm and clear communication is often sacrificed in order to keep the beat. This is evident in the frequent forced rhymes and awkward metre of many rap songs. Every aspect of the creation of rap music is forced to serve the beat. Indeed, the creative process most often starts from the beat and works up.

When ancient cultures used rhythm and repetition in ritual, it was intended to render participants receptive to religious instruction. In ceremonies designed to commune with a higher power, celebrants would use rhythm, chanting and dance to transition themselves into a trance-like state of heightened awareness. In such a state, the mind is open to receive communication either through mystic channels or, as in the example of hypnosis, through more corporeal means. A shaman, for instance.

When this ancient conduit of communication is opened by urban beats in the form of rap music, there is no epiphanic experience waiting to fill these hungry mental receptors. Rap music tends to provide a message of materialism and miogyny. Waves of self-aggrandising lyrics that promote the performer as a branded product and present an implied (or often simply stated) endorsement of a culture of drugs, violence absent of moral or social responsibility. One brutally irresponsible example that is, along with its creator, enjoying some not inconsiderable popularity of late is "Gold Digger" by Kanye West. In his chart-topping ditty, Mr. West describes a situation wherein after eighteen years of paying child support (money that is allegedly spent on the lavish lifestyle of the eponymic Gold Digger) a man finds out that he is not the father of the child. If this scenario is meant to paint the woman in an unflattering light, it has failed to make this song a cautionary tale and succeeded only in reinforcing, for me, the image of irresponsibilty that might be at the root of most of the deepest social problems in our culture today. My concern is illustrated nearly daily on the Maury Povich Show. With regular segments devoted to presenting the results of paternity tests (after delving into the sad, ignorant, pathetic little lives of the guests, naturally), the tragic human drama plays out on the television. Time and again the male (I won't say man...), upon finding out that he is not the father, will jump up, pumping his fist in the air or even running out into the seats for congratulatory high-fives from the male audience members. See, the problem here is that if they had never put themselves in the situation where they might have thought there was a possibility that they were the father, there would never have been any doubt. Our culture seem to be swinging so far away from basic moral responsibility. I am not a prude - sex is great and I encourage everybody to do it at least once - but if you feel that you need to have unprotected sex, you need to be willing to accept the consequences from genital warts to eighteen years of financial obligation (and that is the very least you can do). That sense of removal from responsibility tends to extend to a lack respect and consideration for society as a greater whole.


I think I might be wandering away from the point here... but it still comes back to Rap.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Accidentally Hilarious?

I hate to make light of what is the story of a tragic accident, but this is pretty funny right here.


Sadly, the headline relates to the story of a mother and child who were killed when their car slipped into a CANAL. Perhaps when the editors at the Toronto Sun compose their headlines they should have a newspaper box handy to see how it will play on the street.

I just hope that if their is an inquiry into the accident they don't announce, "CANAL PROBE," or the public might think that aliens were abducting folks around town...

Oh, I apologise for this one. The whole thing. Sorry.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Take a Lookie-Loo!

Hooray! I made a new picture for my profile!
I sure haven't done much else with this blog lately... (oh, crap... I called it a blog... that means... that means... THEY'VE WON! Ooooooh, the humanity!
Oh, man. I had meant to use this space constructively. This week I am trying to get my Christmas cards printed. Hopefully I will have them done in time to deliver around Easter! Now THAT is optimism!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Letter to Rex

The following is the body of an email I sent to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation following an editorial featuring curmudgeonly journalist Rex Murphy. It was about 2:00 am and I thought I was being rather brilliant at the time.

Good evening, all...
I had the pleasure this evening of catching a repeat of Rex Murphy's "Point of View" on CBC Newsworld. I say pleasure, because just as I thought Mr. Murphy was about to turn recent shooting deaths in my hometown of Toronto into political fuel for the anti gun registry fires, he addressed my concerns himself. Rarely have I heard commentary that so deftly gelled my own vague perceptions into words. If the gun registry was a legislative effort concocted to communicate a feeling of proactive momentum to the voting public, it is only a single symptom in the overwhelmingly pervasive disease of people-pleasing policy that has permeated our government at every level.
Sadly, the socialist types that dominate the Toronto City Council have fallen for Thomas More's concept of Utopia. They tend to adopt a long term view of society that ignores the realities of the present. The cliché is the midnight basketball program - a suggestion that if the kids in troubled neighbourhoods simply had something more wholesome than crime with which to be involved then everything would work out for the best. Hugs and kisses and rainbows all around.
The simple fact is that we do need comprehensive social programs to address a multitude of elements contributing to the cultural collapse that has us all seeking a pinpoint of light or a hint of fresh air. Unfortunately, we should have addressed the problem thirty years ago. A gun registry is useless because it does not have an impact on fatherless children. It does not alleviate poverty. Registering legal guns does not help a child in my city make a positive choice for the future. It does nothing to keep a superficial culture of materialism, misogyny and drugs away from schoolchildren.
I am frustrated to see my elected policymakers prescribing a change in diet, more exercise and regular check-ups. The problem inherent with a politically correct approach is that it fails to deal with a cancer that is already spreading through our urban body.
We need prevention, yes, but we also need treatment. When a cancer patient undergoes chemotherapy there is necessarily a number of healthy cells that become damaged in the process. It seems that those whom we have selected to govern on our behalf are unwilling to accept the kind of "collateral damage" that must be incurred in flushing the disease from our city.
If we want a remedy, it's time we decided to swallow a rather bitter pill.

Thanks, Rex - you are my favourite Newfie apart from my wife.

Joshua Hardaker

Friday, October 21, 2005

Caution: Contents May Be Hot

The following is a cleaned-up lift of a posting that I made in response to a query about a somewhat tongue-in-cheek moblile phone ad which shows people distracted by their televisions on their phones. As terrible things happen to the animated characters, a legal line appears at the bottom of the screen to warn you against walking into open elevator shafts and so on.
The original posting was on the Southern Ontario/Western New York Radio and Television Forum.

Bear in mind that we do live in ( or directly North of) an egregiously litigious society. It was a question about the necessity of warning lines on all kinds of ads, including car ads that don't seem to have any dangerous driving but still say, "Professional Driver. Closed Course."

The professional driver/closed course one seems a little foolish when the car is just cruising the curves of some idyllic wooded highway, but the legal departments of all of these advertisers are keen to head off any conceivable lawsuit plausible or otherwise.

Those soft palate scalding fried apple pies at McDonalds used to warn, "Caution: filling may be hot." I should hope so. That's why they called it a "Hot Apple Pie." What it should have said was something like, "Caution: contents may be alarmingly and unexpectedly hot as they were just boiling in oil moments ago, moron."

Now coffee cups everywhere bear a cautionary, "Contents may be hot" because one dizzy old broad didn't have the wit to use a friggin' cup holder. McDonalds only lost that one on a technicality.

In another example (possibly apocryphal, but I can't be bothered to verify it), small sample packets of a powdered "lemon" diswasher detergent were distributed door-to-door in (as I recall) New York. In one neighbourhood, comprised largely of immigrants for whom written English was an unfamiliar or unknown language, a number of people became ill after mixing the contents of the brightly coloured package with water and drinking it. Funny, it doesn't taste like the picture...

You wanna believe that the manufacturer and the marketing/promotions firm would want to have a clear and specific warning against consuming their product to back them up when the inevitable lawsuits started raining down.

The "South Park" cartoon has a rather hilarious parody of a disclaimer at the beginning of the show which serves the purpose for which it is intended on a legal and a comic level. How many shows on TV and radio have a disclaimer that "The opinions expressed in the following program are those of the participants etc. etc."

I am not sure, but that Jarome Iginla/Markus Naslund Nike ad must have some proscription against whacking hockey pucks around downtown or jumping off of buildings.

External use only - do not ingest.
Plastic bags are not a toy.
Choking hazard.

I think my favourite, though, was from an animated commercial for Barbie dolls in which the v/o said, "Barbie does not walk and talk on her own." Was Mattel really concerned that a horde of parents might descend on the Wal*Marts of the world demanding that magical robotic Barbie with the Artificial Intelligence chip that their kid saw on TV.

I wish we could rely on common sense, but I am sad to conclude that it probably safer to err on the side of caution.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

No Equivocation on Flip-flops!

Slap-slap-slap-slap-slap… What’s that? Why, it’s the sound of a grown man ambling down the hallway of your office in his flip-flops. How did anybody come to the conclusion that the chintzy plastic shoes your sister wore when she was eight years old should be reborn as urban wear for any adult, least of all men? Tragically, I am inspired to write this after seeing a man walking up to my building from the subway wearing a suit with flip-flops. He was carrying a pair of proper shoes in one hand, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around his mindset. He seemed to have a vague understanding that the flip-flops were inappropriate as he had sensible footwear at the ready, but I really got the impression that if he could get away with wearing the flip-flops to meetings he would. Sadly, if he worked at my agency he could.
Allow me to proffer an advance apology to those inelegant souls who so obviously and passionately disagree with my opinion in this statement: Flip-flops must go!
Outlaw those vile almost-sandals! Restrict their use at the very least. If an illegal act may be decriminalised rather than made legal, I propose that flip-flops be semi-criminalised.
Certainly it would be an exercise in tax money well-spent to post by-law enforcement officers at the periphery of beaches and other areas devoted to overly-casual recreational dress. Those who attempt to leave such flip-flop containment zone still sporting the repulsive footwear will be sternly warned. Those who refuse to comply will be Tasered or, where municipal budgets cannot provide the Taser, simply clubbed about the head until compliance or unconsciousness results (if, dear reader, this seems a tad harsh, rest assured that the skull of the flip-flop wearer is the most impact resistant part of their body and the beating will have no appreciable long term effect).
Please know that my opinion is not some irrational, visceral, snap reaction to a disagreeable fashion trend. My revulsion has been building steadily through this long, warm season; my apathy eroding in inverse proportion to the degree of social acceptance of adults shuffling about in children’s footwear. ItÂ’s not about fashion. If it were, I would be equally perturbed over the popularity of those peculiar sneakers that look as though they are engineered for rock-climbing. It is unfortunate that men seem to have embraced that particular fashion this season but no more vexing than the millions of schmucks that shell out the bucks for basketball sneakers to tour the mall. That is their prerogative and does nothing to intrude on the lives of others.
No, it is not about fashion. It is about a greater cultural aesthetic that exists on a higher plane than the ebb and flow of the dictates of popular culture. This universal constant is the force that sees the blue-haired grannies tut-tutting the latest in youth clothing trends far in advance of the mass abandonment of those same unfortunate fashion choices by all but the most committed adherents. Skinny ties, platform shoes, leisure suits – soon to be joined by the graceless flip-flop in the vast and insatiable dustbin of history.
But not soon enough.
Flip-flops must be eradicated for a more germane reason than simple poor taste. It is just that feet are ugly. Offensive, really. Most of them. Despite what fetishists might have you believe, very few people have attractive feet and this applies especially to men. Those that do have probably already landed employment as catalogue foot models and aren’t displaying the goods for free on the subway. Or so it seems because the majority of those who have been flim-flammed into the flip-flop fashion faux pas have lumpy, gangly, scaly feet with crookedly disproportionate toes capped by crusty yellow toenails. They have been suckered into the trend just like a pudgy girl in the low-rise pants and a belly shirt; neither has the native sense of self-assessment to realize the absurdity of their appearance. Some might say that itÂ’s about body acceptance or self-confidence but it is just plain old-fashioned ignorance.
I don’t know how this or any trend gets started. There is a kind of a trend pyramid with the Innovator (or perhaps the Instigator) at the top, a range of influential Propegators in the middle and at the base of the pyramid a writhing host of Imitators to latch on to the trend of the moment. Sadly, the bottom of the pyramid is rarely able to really pull of even the interesting or attractive trends that the top of the heap so glamourised and by the time they even try, the Innovator has moved on to the next big thing. Perpetually shifting, I guess I just need to wait it out.
As for the flip-flops, I think I can look forward to the sweet cleansing cold of the relentless Canadian winter to put an end to that. At least until the Spring thaw…

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I will stop procrastinating ... Starting tomorrow. Promise.

It seems that it has been some time since I committed any of my inane thoughts to, umm... paper? Data? Whatever.
I don't have anything pressing to share at the moment except a comment that my wife made a couple of weeks ago. She told me that she hadn't really read my weblog posts (although she did print them out) and she actually had trouble reading them. I asked her if it was because I am long-winded and dull and she agreed adding, "You only need to write one entry anyway - all you really say is: Public transit sucks and I hate people."
I think that sums it up rather nicely.
Now I am off to mentally compose a lengthy list of complaints related to public transit and the ignorant clowns that use it.

Monday, July 25, 2005


In light of the July 7th bombing in London, public transit authorities in New York City have initiated random bag searches of commuters using their subway system. Similar strategies have been considered or employed in other major cities in the United States, including Washington D.C. I am not an authority in a position to effectively evaluate the efficacy of these efforts, but I don’t really think that this kind of program could actually prevent a determined bomber from carrying out their plan. Even a bomb detonated at the baggage check point would be pretty dramatic. Whether or not these searches have an impact on the future of security, or at least perceived security, remains to be seen. I am more disturbed by the attitude of some of the citizens of New York interviewed at the scene of the random searches and also by the reactions of callers to radio phone-in shows here in my own city, Toronto.
Watching the responses of commuters passing through the police spot-checks, there were three basic points of view. The first, and to their credit I think most common, was an attitude of cooperation and understanding, This is to be expected in a city of twenty-odd million that still has the image of death from the sky burned into their collective consciousness. These folks believe that the any and all measures must be taken to ensure the safety of the subway riders.
The second group, slightly smaller than the first approaches the inconvenience of the random searches as a necessary intrusion into their lives in the interest of serving a greater good. They may express reluctance or dismay at having to open their briefcase or backpack to an inspecting policeman, but they are willing to go along with the scheme.
The third group represented in those U.S. broadcasts was the smallest in number, but the most disturbing in its message. They were the rabid civil libertarians. Those of a sort that bristle at the mere hint of some force in authority interfering in any way with their free and easy rose-coloured perambulations through life. If it was not quite outrage that they expressed at having to suffer the indignity of allowing the forces of the establishment rifle through the granola bars and trail mix in their hemp fanny packs, it was certainly a form of open contempt. It is this attitude that I heard echoed in the calls to my local talk radio station.
Now, let me take a second to say that I fall into the second group. I am not going to be very enthusiastic about having to open up my bag for inspection just to ride the lousy transit system. I don’t have to like it to understand the reasons behind it. It might not help the situation, but I don’t really see the harm in it. Now, whereas the first group seems a trifle too eager to cast aside their concern for their personal freedom, they do so out of some sense of patriotism or social responsibility, however misguided. The third group reacts to the inspections as though it is a direct attack on them personally and is a symptom of the ongoing attempts of The Establishment to erode their civil rights. No argument on Earth will convince them that any such action is not just another spoke in the great wheel that is the conspiracy to crush individualism.
Many, and probably most of the callers to the talk shows here in Toronto seem ready to accept the same kind of random checks as were performed in New York. If there is a qualifier, it is that they would be more accepting in the face of a direct threat to the city. This in a city where the Public Transit Commissioner stated that the, “terrorists would have to find us on a map first.” Oh, yes, no unfounded confidence there at all.
The callers that were more troubling were the ones that resist any such measures. They claimed that it would be unnecessary and that the police would use these searches as a fishing expedition to entrap people for anything and everything whether terrorist-related or not. This kind of speciousness always attracts the argument, “If you don’t have anything to hide, you have nothing to fear,” which only serves to further agitate the agitpropists.
My concern is with this watchdog attitude to the perceived efforts to undermine the lifestyle enjoyed by North Americans generally and U.S. citizens in particular. If the same dogged persistence to minute changes had been applied to the steady shift toward permissiveness in our culture, we might not even have come to be in a position to challenge our own freedoms. The decadence and waste of the American way of life is certainly seen as a threat to other cultures around the world. We aren’t just exporting Coca-Cola and blue jeans. We are shipping promiscuity and irresponsibility along with every Britney Spears CD.
Freedom is something to be desired. I cannot imagine that there is any individual or culture that strives toward subservience. Not consciously, anyway. The problem with the flavour of freedom grown in the United States is that it is not seasoned with the salt of responsibility. A responsible population protects its freedom by balancing individual rights against the individual’s responsibility to society. When the American president Thomas Jefferson wasn’t sleeping with his slaves, he made a profound statement that, like many profound statements, has been used many times and in many ways to justify all kinds of behaviour both good and bad. That statement was, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Vigilance does not mean simply looking outward for threats to freedom. It also requires an internalized vigilance that preserves societal values. Change is healthy and there is always room for debate, but as a community we must learn to recognize the value in preserving a foundation of solid values that ensure a consistent and reliably progressive future. Does that mean that we should disallow homosexuality and gay marriage? Should we restrict freedom of expression? Impose curfews? Not at all. Freedom is indispensable to foment cultural growth and development. Humans must feel that they are permitted to take risks in the name of art or science. Our internal vigilance simply requires that we are prepared to take ownership of our actions. We must stand in the face of scrutiny and say clearly, “Yes, that was me. I did that, and I did it because… ” As long as our actions are informed by our sense of obligation to the greater community we should have nothing to fear as long as the commitment to that obligation is mutual.
I don’t really think it is possible to build a society like that. At least, not until after the revolution. Or the civil war. Or World War III. The toothpaste that is the selfish individualistic society of North America has been squeezed out of the tube. Probably from the middle. It cannot easily be put back in.

(I was going to go on and on about crackin’ out the Jackboots and the Broken Window theory of law enforcement, but I got called away for something else and I lost my momentum. I should really write a draft before I start these things… oh, well.)