Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Unto us a child is born.

The birth of a child, any child, represents renewal, the next generation to whom we will pass our wisdom, the offspring we hope will make better mistakes than we did.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Crying out for a great conservative

As an acolyte in the Anglican tradition during my youth, I often had occasion to read the last edition of Archbishop Cramner's great work, the Book of Common Prayer. In it, quite separately from the main burial service, was a specific service for the burial of a child. In my naivety, I regarded that as an acute and kind response to the trauma the death of a child must be to any family. Only much later did I come to realize the truth: for most of the nearly half millennium Anglicans have used Cramner's work, the death of a child was not an infrequent horror but a routine grief. Through the four centuries preceding antibiotics and other effective disease control methods, the burial of children was something relatively few families escaped. Family histories routinely chronicle births and then provide the number of children who lived.
Baby with adult hand
All of the history of the human species as we know it has taken place in the shadow of routine child and infant mortality. Family traditions, religious rituals, and state policies revolved around that single fact. Then, in a historical blink, everything changed. Vaccinations, antibiotics, indoor plumbing, antiseptic surgery and food safety all sprang from the discoveries of the late nineteenth century, and in barely more than one generation, they transformed a routine misfortune into a rare catastrophe.If we no longer lose half our children, more or  less, before they reach adulthood, what does that mean? If the number of humans doubles in one generation, our population will grow over thirty-fold in a century. Unless someone has a large supply of Minshara-class planets available, we will have to change our approach to bringing the next generation into the world.

Francis Montague Holl RA, I am the resurection and the lifeThat's not a small change. It means changing who we are as men and women; because most of us experience our humanity as members of one sex or the other, that eventually affects everything about us. It's a wrenching change, one we have to negotiate at the same time as we thread the narrow path between technological progress and mutual annihilation, and find a way to cope with the promise of automation that offers us wonders as it leaves more and more members of society with no place in the productive economy. But it isn't optional.

The phenomenon many of us call the "sexual revolution" did not begin with hormonal contraception. If I had to pick one representative pharmaceutical product to award the role of herald of the sexual revolution, I would pick diphtheria vaccine. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

On collective humility...

At the end of an eventful day, to say the least, I offer a brief anecdote, just to quell the worst of our impulses to indulge in self-righteous indignation. Just over a year after I returned to Toronto after a forty year absence, John Barber, one of the journalists who spoke for Toronto's downtown urbanists, wrote a column gushing with praise for the lawless thuggery of Richard Daley's destruction of Meigs Field. The former mayor of Chicago destroyed that city's waterfront airport in what Barber described as a "midnight raid", a romantic description leaving out the multiple laws this "raid" broke, or that it endangered everyone in the air over the American midwest that night. If "Ford Nation" has produced a leader determined to get his own way, law be damned, well, they have had some good teachers over the years, and those teachers have sometimes included ourselves and our friends.

Humility alone, though, won't save us. Yes, we, collectively, have contributed our share to the sorry record leading to Doug Ford's determination to cut down every court in the province, if he must, to get at Toronto's City Council. We still have to deal with the situation.

Next steps

This morning, we celebrated a victory. We hoped, briefly, Doug Ford would respect this city, respect the law and constitution, and let the election, already seriously, disrupted, go ahead. By this afternoon, we learned to our distress he was willing to try to break a long and honourable Ontario tradition of respecting the constitution and the principle of judicial review, in order to enforce his will.

An open letter to MPPs

Doug Ford at a parade
Doug Ford by Bruce Reeve
In a few days, possibly even less, you will receive a summons to Queen's Park to vote. Doug Ford wants you to invoke the "notwithstanding" clause in order to override a judicial decision preventing him from changing the size of Toronto's wards in the middle an the election already underway. You can do it, but you don't have to. You shouldn't.

The notwithstanding clause has always marked out a line, a line between the collective will and the rights of the individual. Until now, Ontario has always stayed on the side of individual rights. We have always had governments, and representatives, in this province who undertook to reconcile the desires of the majority with the rights of minorities. It made governing harder, but it should be hard. Members of the Provincial Parliament get offices and good pay and respect because you have taken on a difficult job. Make it easier by curtailing our rights and you lose that respect.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

An open letter to progressive councilors

As a follow-up to my previous post on resistance to the provincial conservatives' agenda for our city, and the most effective way to resist it, I am posting an open letter to progressive councilor in the City of Toronto. This letter goes out to both those serving and those community members who aspire to serve.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Maybe my most unpopular post yet

I have taken made a number of unpopular statements in the city since my arrival at the beginning of 2002. This may be the least popular, partly because I do not much like what I have to say. Unfortunately, I think I have to say it, or someone does, because if I and other people do not say this, we may end up with a much worse situation than the one we now face.

Doug Ford has probably won this round.

We can still hope the courts decide the conservatives' reckless move to slash council violates the charter rights guaranteed to every Canadian citizen, but given the place of cities in Canada's constitutional order, it would take a bold court to make that decision.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Old Mill Questions -- Introduction

In the middle of the year of grace 2017, a collection of prominent conservative theologians released the Nashville Statement, intended to express their position on the purpose of human sexuality as divinely revealed in the Bible. This triggered the release of a number of statements, one called the Denver Statement and another called the Nazareth Statement, which diverged strongly from the views expressed in the Nashville Statement.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Why Cyclists Take the Lane, Why Motorists Shouldn't Object

Toronto's Metro News generally has fair and positive coverage of cyclists, but they have the odd lapse, as this article demonstrates:
As a driver, I’ve also seen the kind of bike behaviour that gives all of us cyclists a bad name — weaving in and out of traffic, riding on the sidewalk, hogging an entire lane when there’s no need, failing to signal before turning or coming to a sudden stop, cutting off other cyclists or startling them by passing on the inside. One of the worst offences is riding a bike at night without a light, then having the gall to become indignant when cars almost run them over.
In the immortal words of Sesame  Street, one of these things is not like the others. Cutting other road users off, failing to signal, riding on the sidewalk: all these endanger other road users. Taking the lane, which the writer describes, wrongly, as "hogging an entire lane when there’s no need" doesn't endanger anyone. At worst, it annoys other drivers who would like to press their accelerators a bit harder. Drivers who resent cyclists for holding them up should ask if they ever fume about other drivers taking unnecessary trips alone in their cars, which cause far more traffic jams and waste far more time.