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Word on the Street: Change is in the air

Steve Campbell

When the world stopped turning a couple of months ago, everybody hunkered down. It’s amazing how quickly people read the rules, and responded to curb the spread of COVID-19.
At first this was The Great Inconvenience, but we soon learned we were going to be in this for the long haul. Here in the County, we once again had the grace of being somewhat separate from the rest of the world, and our numbers were low.
Still, we stayed vigilant, and six-foot distancing and face masks became the norm. Many shops were shut down, and the supermarkets, allowed to stay open as an essential service, went crazy adding footprint stickers and one-way arrows which really helped to make the process of buying a bag of milk and a loaf of bread into a 30-minute adventure. Well, not really an adventure. More like lining up for two hours at Space Mountain in Disney World, for a harrowing one-minute trip back to where you started.
As I mentioned before, as the crisis carried on, many of us gained a new awareness of our lives. And, more than that, an awareness of the world around us, and the pros and cons of how we have evolved as an industrial society.
As JFK once said: “Some people ask why? And some people ask why not?” In 2020, this is turned around. I spend a lot of time asking ‘Why?”
Why did we sell out our Canadian workers, and outsource our manufacturing to poor countries? Well, because in poor countries, you can have fabric made in India and shipped to the Philippines and stitched into clothing for about a buck a piece. Even with shipping costs, when you sell that garment for $75 to $500 here in Canada, yep, that’s a pretty hefty profit.
Globalization was a great thing, for the giant companies, and us – the consumer – who gets really cheap stuff out of the deal. So, can we bring this work back into Canada, and use Canadian workers? I ask “Why not?” And here’s the answer I gave myself: Hell, no! Do you think for a minute that the money-hungry corporations want to give up a 10¢ per item worker for a unionized Canadian worker? Hell, no! Even if they were visited by the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future, they would still say, “Are you kidding me? We got a sweet deal going here. And, by the way, a buck a day goes a long way in the Philippines. We’re actually helping them.”
But this column is about changes, and I think that’s one of the things that is going to change. We reached out to the world, and they gave us cheap goods, multi-millionaire CEOs and coronavirus. As we all pulled back into our houses, maybe it’s time we pulled back on our international trade and travel.
Thanks to my co-workers, I have learned to accept change, because I used to hold grudges for over 50 years against people who burned me for money. It’s the only Scottish trait I inherited from my Campbell ancestors – forgive but never forget. I once approached a former Warden of the County rolling through an Athol Day parade in his big convertible and shouted out. “Hey, you deadbeat, you owe me money!” But I’m almost over that now.

Check your Paranoia at the door
But change isn’t always good. COVID requires us to be aware, and mindful of our personal contacts. But some have let outright fear distort their lives. I call these people the ‘COVID Vigilantes’.
It’s one thing to abide by all the rules, but it’s quite another thing when people attack motorists who happen to drive Audis or Mercedes (because they are clearly individuals who are from ‘away’ and so are clearly ‘infected’ … or maybe locals who bought their car in the GTA). It is also not appropriate to attack people who don’t wear masks, or report people in groups of 6 instead of 5, or 11 instead of 10. Stand down.
Fear of every human being, and the very air around us, is not the answer. Relax, the ‘outsiders’ are not bringing us doom and destruction. I’ve dealt with them, and they abide by the rules we all live by … without exception so far.
The Change is in their lives too and, if you don’t know the rules by now, you probably live in a COVID-bunker, in which case you will not likely be a threat to anyone.

Whither Black Rights?
Everything is changing and, amid the virus, we had riots in the U.S., and gatherings of support from around the world. I’ve been following the Black Rights movement for a long time, since my hair was as long as my COVID-cut is now, but this time – it’s different.
It’s not just that everyone seems to be on board with Black Lives Matter, but it’s more that The Change has taught us not to go back, but to move ahead. The scorched land of the long-time civil rights movement can never be reclaimed. But the difference between this and previous claims for equality is: Now everybody cares. Now is the time to bust out of the 1800s and the 1950s and throw away the societal crap we’ve collected, and move on together.
There are a few things we need to shout ‘Stop’ to, and this is a big one. Women’s rights might take a back seat for now, as it has for years, but that had better damn-well be on the list when the changes start.
Even here in Canada, it’s time to get Equal Rights on the table in a big way. I can’t speak for black people, but I can attest to the harm done to women and indigenous people in this country. Easy to look at the messed up U.S., but we need some clean-up too.
I hate it when preaching column writers quote intellectual philosophical journals to support their point, but I can’t resist.
I refer you to ‘The Sneetches’ by Dr. Suess. If you had a poor upbringing, you may not be familiar with this tome. It involves Sneetches who have stars on their bellies, and Sneetches who do not. To quote:
“Now the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars; The Plain Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.” Brilliant! Shakespeare is kicking his own butt right now.
To synopsize this hefty volume: The Star-Belly Sneetches were superior, and ignored the Plain Belly Sneetches, UNTIL Sylvester McMonkey McBean came into town with a machine that installed stars on the Plain Bellies, which made the Star-Bellies remove theirs to maintain the separation of classes.
In the end, all the Sneetches went into the machine, paying $10 per visit, adding and removing stars, until nobody knew who was superior anymore, and everyone was broke. And peace prevailed. Sadly, in the end, coronavirus came in and wiped them all out. But still, a pretty potent story.
We’ll be okay. CDC and WHO are finding new information each day. A cure has not been found, and maybe never will be. But it doesn’t matter. We know what we need to do, as new information unfolds, we will adapt.
Facing the New Way is on the table. Fear is not.

  • Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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