Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ticking all the Boxes

"A man without a vote is a man without protection."
~ Lyndon B. Johnson

This Saturday, November 19, 2011, is a big day for me. Having finally attained full Canadian citizenship on September 29, it marks my first opportunity to vote in any kind of election. This election is Civic, therefore to elect councillors and a new mayor, and I'm finding it all very exciting.

As the world is seeing with such as the we're-as-mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore Occupy movement; the continuing 'Arab Spring;' social unrest and political turmoil most anywhere you'd care to mention, people are calling for change. Loudly. They want it NOW, and in many places are taking the initiative to force that change by any means necessary. While I am not remotely an educated political commentator, capable only of articulating this massive global social revolution in the simplest language here, there can be no doubt even to the most casual of observers that these are historic times we are living through. This year in particular has been extraordinarily tumultuous, head-spinning in fact, as almost weekly another tyrant falls, another nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, or riots rip the heart out of another community. (And no, the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver is not what I'm talking about. That was just sheer thuggery for the sake it.)

Just like anywhere in these times, Nanaimo is in need of change. There are many problems in this small city that are far from unique, and obviously some problems that are. But they all need dealing with, some with greater urgency than others, like a precarious unemployment rate that peaked at twice the provincial average earlier this year. That's very scary in an aging community of this size. And from what I'm gathering by talking with friends and associates and reading local press, it seems the general mood is that an entirely new council and leadership is what is needed in this city. I'm not sure I entirely agree, feeling that perhaps a couple of the incumbent councillors seeking re-election still have much to offer this city. But I do agree that there is a real need for fresh ideas, and so have spent time in identifying who I feel could bring them.

Living in the smallest community I 've ever been part of, it's been much easier to get really close to local politics, and the big issues affecting taxpayers, than I've ever known before. It's a compact community, feeling much smaller than the 86,000+ it actually is, so anything of concern to Nanaimo's citizens is generally easily noticed without trying. The scandals, the mismanagement, the waste of tax dollars... it's all very much in our faces here. The fact that Susan and I have become extremely fond of Nanaimo in the five years we've lived here has naturally led to our caring deeply for how things should or should not be done at the highest Civic level. This election, then, especially as it's my first, has seen us researching every candidate carefully, looking at what they can bring the city, regardless of political experience or local reputation. And now, because our political inclinations are pretty much aligned, we have agreed on a list of candidates we favour, and are ready to vote. In terms of everything going on around the world, even though this is just one small community in Western Canada it, nevertheless feels like a crucial election. For this and other reasons, I cannot recall ever having felt so politically-driven, so roll on Saturday!

Every day I read the local information and entertainment blog,, which has proved an invaluable source of information and opinions leading up to this election. This morning, outspoken blogger Jim Taylor, whose opinions I generally, but not always, agree with, under the headline Time For A Complete Change At City Hall? wrote:
"A sound argument could be made for needing the voice of experience on council for the next three years. However, that only makes sense if past performance warrants putting the same people back in for another three years. I think a valid argument could be made supporting the notion that this council has not earned the support of Nanaimo for another term."

So, what will happen? Whether up for councillors, school trustees or the mayor, I know who I'm voting for, but will Nanaimo, as Taylor asks, elect to "sweep away the cobwebs at City Hall?" In just a few days we will know, but whatever the results I'm glad I'll have finally had my say. 

11:11:11, 11/11/11

Where were you and what were you doing at eleven minutes and eleven seconds past eleven on the eleventh of November, twenty-eleven?

At that time in the morning Susan and I were with our dear friend Ariane, enjoying a delicious breakfast at the Cafe Zen in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kitsilano. If anyone's remotely interested - which is unlikely, but I'm going to mention it anyway - I had a B.C. Benedict and coffee. Excellent, it was.

When exiting this fine eatery with bellies full, I glanced at my timepiece to see it was 11:14.  When announcing the time to Susan and Ariane, something immediately dawned on us, and we all looked at each other aghast. We were instantly ashamed that, despite our best intentions to do so - we'd even discussed it the previous evening - we had forgotten at 11:00 to observe two minutes of silence in honour of the fallen of the two World Wars, and all other wars for that matter. Then again, seemingly not a single other person in the cafe had remembered either. We were to a man and woman all too busy stuffing our faces to even just for a moment stop to appreciate why we are able to do so freely. But it's not like there was any deliberate collective snub; I am certain that had an announcement been made at 11:00 by either the cafe staff or a concerned diner that it was the traditional moment for remembrance, that everyone present would have happily and respectfully complied. It's not like anyone would refuse, surely? It just didn't happen, because nobody thought about it. But the fact that it didn't, and that there was no announcement forthcoming, or probably any thoughts of one, is in itself food for thought, don't you think? What a self-obsessed and insular society we have sadly become.

Speaking of insular...

At 11:11:11 in the PM, however, Susan and I were back home in Nanaimo, watching Vincent Moon's typically intimate portrait of the world of the brilliant Danish band, Efterklang, on the DVD I had ordered months prior. (If you don't know the names Efterklang or Vincent Moon, I implore you to investigate.) The image above was taken at the exact moment in question, but you'll just have to believe me that it is indeed the movie, An Island, on the television! Fascinating, inspiring, and full of some of the most beautiful music of this young 21st century, An Island is a euphoric experience that served to powerfully amplify the single-digit uniqueness of the moment in time that occurred as we watched it. 

But to backtrack, it's weird, you know, that wherever I may be and whatever I might be doing, such an important thing as the Armistice Day two minutes silence should ever slip my mind, because November 11 is a massive date in my life. On 11/11 in 1966 I nearly lost my life when being mown down by a speeding car outside my house in Solihull Lodge, England. I broke my pelvis, left arm and three ribs. My liver split into three parts, and I have a 36-stitch abdominal scar as proof of how it was pieced back together. I suffered head injuries, had a complete blood transfusion, and was in hospital for six weeks. All in all, November 11 is not a date I should ever have forgotten the significance of, but despite the best intentions it can, and evidently does, happen to us all.