Canada, Inc. Part 9 – Health, Business, and the Environment

Greener cities; more exercise, healthier food.

We all need need these things. If the energy grid ever went down and we relied on fossil fuels in a post-apocalyptic world (something like Aleppo or The Walking Dead); without any sort of government structure in place; we’d soon run out and go mad. The chronically out-of-shape would perish almost immediately.

The time to be proactive is now. Solar panels on every roof. Windmills in every yard. ‘A self-sustaining micro-grid’ must be the descriptor of every community. Many communities that have poisonous industrial dangers (like Northern Pulp in Pictou County, NS) often have higher incidence of cancers (also like Pictou County, NS).

The individual writing this is in the beginning stages of his third tumor in ten years. When surgery comes, it will be number 5 was pretty darn scared a few months ago about this growth in his face that resembled a previous facial growth. Got way worse since it started this time around. Then I ate a pound of weed and it got better (or so it seems?). Weed works.

The last two tumors were not cancerous, so I was told. The surgery for each included nerve damage and has crippled me; to a minimal degree, ensuring constant pain and unbalance. The first tumor was in my right foot (a benign spindle cell tumor). Since the three surgeries for it; I limp; have constant leg and back pain; I trip over and fall a lot; and it takes me a lot longer to do certain things than it does other people. Sometimes I’m incredibly spry. I bounce and run and jump steps or shoot hoops for hours or do a half hour of cardio at the gym.

Those are times I have smoked cannabis. Period.

My second tumor was in my neck; in my parotid gland. The doctor sliced my neck and moved my facial nerves aside to slice out part of my face that was underneath… and part of my neck… and some lymph nodes. Turns out it wasn’t cancer, so they said.

Now, when I get sick, the left side of my throat doesn’t swell. There is nothing to swell. My right side though; aches. It debilitates me. My head feels like it was cracked with a hammer every time I get sick. I bite my lip. I get neck/muscle twitches; and the uneven nature of my neck muscles is the only thing about which I am self-conscious.

I grew up within aeration distance of Northern Pulp in Abercrombie, Pictou County, Nova Scotia. I also spent 7 months living downwind of the burn pits on Kandahar Airfield during some of the highest troop concentrations of that war. Every scrap of waste was burned. Mattresses; bottles, and body fragments included. Two carcinogenic pesticides were sprayed on every road every week to prevent malaria.

In addition to living near that pestilence; I was also a cleaner. Some of the sand in Kandahar is as talcum powder. Shortly before I came home; I found a document outlining the two types of pesticides they sprayed on the roads twice per week to kill the malaria mosquitoes. Both cancer causing. I had spent almost every day of work for 6 days a week for my first four months in theater in enclosed spaces sweeping up talcum powder dust that had been twice weekly dusted with carcinogenic pesticides without any sort of breathing protection.

So. Here is me. Finally with everything I have ever wanted in my life currently in my hands.

Poof.

Tumor number three. On the opposite side of my face as it was last time. Exactly the same place. It’s more painful this time. Different. This scare me. One of my eyes hurt.

Where do I turn?

Everybody in Pictou County is in the same risk over Northern Pulp as one another; so that brings me no help.

My time spent in Afghanistan was as a civilian contractor working for a large Canadian contracting company well entrenched in scandal. I was not a member of the military. I do not have a service number that entitles me to call Veterans Affairs for any sort of help. Given how the government has treated actual veterans, even if I did have a service number I can’t imagine they’d jump on board to help little old me with what is our generations “Agent Orange”. To be clear; I was not given protective equipment or informed of the risk. I found the MSDS for the pesticides on a whim and by chance.

There was a lawsuit in Florida that I tried to take part of a few years ago against KBR (Kellogg Brown and Root). KBR was responsible for burning the garbage in Kandahar; along with a lot of other bases during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. That lawsuit failed. The plaintiffs were a group of veterans who developed rare cancers and neurological issues after service. Their sicknesses are similar to the kinds of illnesses that 9/11 first respondents developed.

See… KBR is a subsidiary of Halliburton. Halliburton is the multinational oil company that former Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO of immediately before becoming Vice President in 2000. Immediately before the September 11th attacks. Shortly before the incredibly profitable (for KBR) invasion of Afghanistan. Somewhat before the even more profitable invasion of Iraq. See… these wars were wars of profit. Unfathomable amounts of government money being paid to corruptly connected companies for very fathomable amounts of work/products.

In the case of all of the garbage being burned; Kellogg Brown and Root bid on the contract to dispose of the waste at the cheapest rate for a specific period of time. They burned it; and poisoned us all. The government let them.

This is but an even grander macrocosm shining-example of what happens in the oil patches of Alberta; or the gold mines in Central and South America; or the chocolate slaves in Africa; or the indentured servants in Saudi Arabia, or the environmental racism directed at the Pictou Landing First Nations; or almost all of the rapes and pillaging of humanity over the course of human history. Well… at least since we came up with the concept of currency.

Almost everybody has a price and the ‘big winner’ is usually the guy with the most disposable cash.

Money talks. It ends every discussion. It makes people blind. It eliminates their empathy.

Most importantly, it buys influence.

The world we live in today is one in which a significant portion of the population stares into a small rectangle for most of their waking hours while they tap the front of it for dopamine shots.

All anyone has to do is pay a few dollars and target a message at generally where people are and they can’t help but see it. Imagine having unlimited money to dump subtle messages into the magic-hypno-cube of any and everyone you ever want to. Half the population is divided on an effluent pipe? Use marketing money to pump propaganda to confuse and divide people at a time when political advertising laws are not up to date with the ever-changing technology.

To create a healthier population; we need to prioritize health over profit in every situation.

Things like subsidized healthcenter memberships and mandatory access to healthy food. Subsidized self-sustaining gardens for every household. Solar panels and windmills for everyone.

It also includes things like choosing technologies and situations that will be good for us in 50 to 100 years not acutely profitable now (for example Northern Pulp). By also changing other things at the same time, like ensuring we are all eating fresh healthy food that doesn’t cause cancer. Things like guaranteeing we all have opportunity for exercise and education on being healthy.

We also must reduce the impact of harmful industries collapsing. The big fear of families that rely on horrible environmental disasters for income have is that they will not be able to pay their bills and feed their kids. Why can’t the government eliminate that fear for everyone through legislation?

  • High-speed internet should be a human right (but it’s not because somebody profits from it)
  • All transportation should be emission free (but it’s not because somebody profits from it)
  • Every community should be able to completely produce it’s own food inside a government subsidized food greenhouse. Every family should be given the tools to grow food on their own property or in their own home (but it will never happen because food companies like profit and drug companies want us sick)

These are a few simple examples. The illustration I wish you to see from all this is that all of these issues we face in our time affect each other; they are not stand alone. The common denominator is some dickhead in a corner office reaping the profits of our un-wellness.

All that dickhead and their arsehole comrades need to do is maintain the status quo. That’s it. Do nothing.

Having just one of these issues fixed appropriately would make an almost unimaginable world of difference for people in our country. People like me would hail it as an incredibly just victory. Much like we all thought we were doing with marijuana legalization. That itself is a shining example of a century of nonsense propaganda being proven wrong and conveniently never ever addressed afterward. Nor was the credibility of all those fighting against it’s legalization ever questioned; nor were they personally about how deeply and horribly wrong they were.

Their willful destruction and theft of the lives of people incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses since it was prohibited has never been publicly addressed with anyone in the Conservative party. We just keep on rolling as we stare at our rectangles.

The difference is this; our side would consider the government guaranteeing that every roof in Canada has solar panels on it would be a monumental victory for the continuance of our species. As a contrast; our deserved victory would be nothing but a larger-than-usual-yet-still-brief-dip in the value of those dickhead’s and arsehole’s investment portfolios.

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Part 10

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Oblivious in Sosua: Part 7

Waterfall jumping was on the menu for the day. My crippling fear of water was covered a few days before; why not handle the heights as well. The water itself was not as deep; and the waterfalls not as dastardly high as I had expected. The elevation was alarming; but after reaching the summit – we descended as if sliding down a watery staircase.

On the hike through the jungle I got to know the shorter, hotter, more confident, and most socially powerful member of the group of women that were staying at my resort. All my age. All attractive; from the plump sisters to the toothpick socialite I was lagging behind the group with.

‘Never fuck on the road’ is a mantra I adopted while travelling across the United States.  Surely my foremost rule about entering strange women shouldn’t be ignored. I had nearly crossed that particular line earlier in the week.

We walked and talked on the swinging foot bridge; a hundred meters or so behind the group. She was less on-guard than when her friends were present. I tend to have that effect on people. Disarming their defenses and momentarily caressing their souls.

She cared too much about what they thought of her; she had to be dominant in every situation in which they were present.

Alone she was an insecure sweetheart; more than simply interesting to talk to; fully worthy of the attention she so carelessly grasped for in their presence.

 

 

Oblivious in Sosua: Part 6

Canadians!

Those four wonderful souls from Thunder Bay that distributed the presidential malt beverages on the bus from the airport. Thank you; kind travelers. A brother and a sister; with their best friends and spouses. The brother and I shared the same name. These are good people; people like us; people like me; peaceful wanderers.

That was days ago. Here we are; halfway through the voyage and your tribe has located a patch of grass on which to sit. Why not? I’d thought. An unexpected perch of turf on which to rest ones appendages should be welcomed; not ignored.

Ride the wave.

If you prefer to hear this sentiment proven by an expert; as opposed to this drunken rambling quixotic wander; listen to the immortal words of of the Great Doctor himself, “Buy the ticket; take the ride.”

Such lack of discretion for ones personal safety is the deepest act of faith in God. Perhaps it was the medallion of Saint Christopher I carried; perhaps it was my ancestors; perhaps it was the natural serendipitous way in which this beautiful reality of ours is constructed – but I rarely felt unsafe. The invisible hand of the Universe has a poetic way of guiding its passengers.

The drugs and alcohol help with the weaving of oneself into the fabric of time.

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PART 7

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Oblivious in America: Part 8

Portal, North Dakota

Sitting in the drivers seat of my car; three vehicles deep; waiting to speak to the border agent at the drive-through window. Stuffed beneath the center console were a few extra packs of cigarettes; in addition to the second full carton hidden in my suitcase that I had no plans to declare.

Passport, please.

Three and a half days of stubble on my face; tanned from the springtime sun; I hand the melanin-positive-female-passport-gestapo my passport… the one with all of the squiggly stamps on it. She asks if I have anything to declare. I declare the first carton of cigarettes; and 40 ounces of my 66 ounce bottle of brandy.

Pull into the garage, sir.

Was it the squiggly airport stamps or the visa from Afghanistan, I’d wondered.

I sit on one of my suitcases; my sand-colored flight bag to be precise. At present; it was the only bag to have been completely searched by both border agents plus the dog. My car doors are open; the hood is up; the trunk is cleared; and the spare tire is out.

The dog is running coordinated paths around, under, and inside of my car. He’s standing on the engine, sniffing under the hood. I just smile. This is fun. How much trouble can a bloke get into for a carton of Pall Malls?

You didn’t declare this, sir.

He found the second carton of cigarettes; my Pall Malls. I declared my Marlboro’s. Neither the male; the female; nor the pooch mentioned diddly-dick about the extra 26 ounces of brandy.

I smile.

You missed some smokes, eh.

The pretty lady guard smiles.

I pop the center console and produce 6 extra individual packages of Marlboro’s that I’d picked up along the way.

What now?

The guy tells me that I have two choices. My first choice is to go pay the tax on the additional carton of cigarettes and leave with a good story to tell at some un-determined time and place in the future. My second choice was that they confiscate my contraband and I get put on a special list of people that border guards have; but I wouldn’t have to pay the tax.

I choose the former; and here we are.

Onward to Estevan.

Oblivious in Canada: Calgary – Part 1

“Spend the weekend in Calgary; check out some property in Red Deer.” he said.

Sitting at the base of a mountain coal mine that I’d just descended in my black-dust-covered white Prius; I excitedly embrace the words of my superior. Having just crossed the Southern Interior of the province, starting in Kelowna at midnight and riding South through the Okanagan through the wee hours until hitting Osoyoos.

I think back to where I’d landed the day before…

Driving through Kelowna early on a Thursday morning, leaving the airport at half past midnight after landing late on a flight from Saskatchewan – where I had been criss-crossing the province visiting potash mines all week; I was tired.

My goal was to be asleep in Osoyoos by 2:30; then showered and awake and on the road for 5:30 to make it to Trail for a Thursday morning meeting at the metal smelting plant.

On this calm evening, I took as many deep breaths as I could muster; slowly and in through my nose. I could see the dark impressions of the beautiful cliff-faces; contrasted ever so slightly against the dark night sky. If a place to visit before my death be chosen; the Okanagan Valley be the place I doth explore. I’ll need a designated driver, of course.

After passing a road crew painting lines on the road; I stopped for gas. That smell. I couldn’t place it. The entire valley smelled of it. Was it the nature? Was nature to blame for the peace and love I felt here? Orchards and fruit farms and wineries; everywhere.

But now, Friday, two hotels later – I’m sitting outside a restaurant called the Arrowana; about a half hour from the border with Alberta. My employer tells me that after being away for a week; I was required to be in Vancouver on Monday to pick up some tender documents. I smirk.

“There’s no bloody way I’m driving back through those mountains.”

Setting the GPS for Calgary; the following several hours of my life showed me some of the most breathtaking scenic realities available in our country. The Western window of my Prius contains miles and miles of lush green, perfectly manicured fields; the odd farm house atop a mound of grass; back-dropped by the Rocky Mountains.

The Easterly view be full of rain clouds that were quick upon me; cleansing my small emasculating rental car of the sins it committed climbing above the clouds as it scaled the coal mountain just hours before.

I text my brother on the East Coast and ask him to find me the address of a strip club in Calgary. I’d never spent any time in Calgary; or really any time in a strip club; aside from a few dodgy ethnic dance joints in the Middle East. Turns out his roommate at university; a guy sitting in the same room as him; is from Calgary.

He gives me a name and an address.

I re-calibrate the GPS and press on Northward.

Oblivious in America: Part 7

On a hill in Northern Minnesota

I exit the roadside dive and hit the road. This state is home to my hero; Bob Dylan. I hit North Dakota and head North to Saskatchewan. The beautiful rolling buffalo grazing hills of North Dakota were one of the most pleasant landscapes I have encountered until crossing into Alberta from the Southern Interior of British Columbia several years later.

Roaring down the highway, between hills of green, I can’t help but think of bison hunts; men riding on horseback with musket in hand – laying waste to this land’s population of both man and beast.

“Discovered” and “uncovered” America did you? Hah!

The same shit-stain capitalists that simultaneously monopolized trade and labor at the turn of the 19th century by driving down their own costs by lowering wages and cutting jobs; are the same shit-stain capitalists that crashed the stock market in 2007 and received Taxpayer money to bail their corporations out of the shit-hole of Taxpayer debt that they created by being dishonest shit-stains.

My hope was that the rolling hills and pump-jacks would continue into Canada. The  most unique sight I found traversing North Dakota was the abundance of pump-jacks; oil pumping machines; in the backyards of farmers.

Capitalism screws up the landscape.

Alas, the Canadian border is approaching.

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Part 8

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Oblivious in Dubai: Part 17

It’s time.

We land in Canada; Montreal to be specific; and part ways.

No more war. What was I thinking? Fuck.

My friends pick me up at the airport on my final trip home; three heavy bags in tow. I give them pashminas from the bazaar. It’s two in the morning when we arrive at their house. We smoke. I sleep soundly on the couch.

I wake to an empty house; they’re both at work. After showering, I sit on the stoop smoking a cigarette.

The significance of the feeling of the grass between my toes was something unfathomable moments ago.

He notices each cold and individual blade of grass touching the soles of his feet.

Every car seemed to be speeding past the house. Conditioned to hover at a constant 15 kilometers per hour in his bongo or his right-hand-drive, navy blue, SUV; he’s caught off guard by the constant flow of traffic running perpendicular to the walkway leading to the house connected to the stoop on which he’s sitting.

Sheeeeeit.

I need a Tim Horton’s coffee and a shower.

My first shower back in the world was awkward. Since my last trip home; this is the first shower I can recall taking in a tub-sized shower stall. My body; mannerisms, actions, instincts; my sense of self and situational awareness; were completely bombarded with new sensory input that I found frightening. I found it frightening that I found it frightening. This shower belonged to 20-something female friends of mine. Every ledge, every corner was full of bottles. Every color of the spectrum was squeezed into the limited ledge-space available in their tub.

I kept knocking things over. Every turn was stressful. My elbows hit things I should have known were there. My mind was screaming, “Oh shit. Oops. Crap. Oops. OUCH. Damn it,” for the duration of the activity.

The level of anxiety I felt while completing the most basic of daily tasks foreshadowed the inevitable fall from grace that was to come.

Fall I did.

As we all must.

Until the birth of my child; the destruction of my ego was greatest gift I had ever received from the universe.

The most troubled among us are often not prepared to completely change our ways; sometimes we have to be pushed.