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Archive for the ‘Greed’ Category

Hanging out with Intravenous Drug Users

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I used to hang out with intravenous drug users, due to an association belonging to my roommate at the time.  Mostly cocaine, but sometimes other stuff that i had or had never ever heard of.

There were two types of dealers in this netherworld – those that did do their own product, and those that did not. The ones that did their own product usually had you come to their place to purchase, which was usually a squalid apartment furnished with lawn chairs and an unusual number of second-hand mattresses. They dressed like, and usually were welfare recipients – Giant Tiger track pants and t-shirts with weird and dated logos on them. They took the bus or rode their bike if they were meeting you away from home.

The ones that did not do their own product usually met you at some 24-hour restaurant in Vanier, a rather shady part of Ottawa. They wore sharp suits or fashionable sportswear with lots of gold jewellery.  They usually had very, very fancy cars. I don’t know if any of them were on welfare or had other jobs.

The dealers that did their own product were usually living just on the edge of being in trouble with their upstream providers – they always had a tinge of desperation about them. They were generally happy to advance you some if you were broke and they knew you, especially if you were going to hang around on their mattresses and share.  I suppose the willingness to sell on credit was some sort of lazy putting off obligation till another day – a sale has been made and money will come. Some of them would also accept payment “in trade” or valuable objects. If you didn’t pay them in a timely fashion, they would get increasingly more desperate and angry, and would eventually fly into a rage and beat the crap out of you if they found you insufficiently accompanied by friendlies.  They’d take anything you had, books and CDs if they got into your place, even if it had no real sale value.

Users of their own product were usually vastly suspicious of my presence, a friend who didn’t use, hanging around.

Dealers that didn’t do their own product never sold on credit to regular users. If they knew you very well, and you had a stellar reputation, they might advance you a small amount. I’m not familiar with what happened if you didn’t pay back in a timely manner in such a case. If you managed to convince them you were a possible franchisee, they’d lay a goodly quantity on you with partial payment or on credit.  I was a secondary witness to and heard of several other occasions where the recipient messed up and used or lost the merchandise without getting an appropriate amount of money for it – it usually involved guys in balaclavas kicking in the door of debtor’s apartment and smashing the place and the occupants up. The actual dealer involved could be reliably found in his usual haunt while this happened.  Non-using dealers never accepted CD players and the like in payment.

Non-using dealers always congratulated me on the fact I wasn’t using.  They’d buy me drinks, confidentially wonder why I was hanging around with such losers, and give me rides places in their fancy cars (more than once as a trustworthy go-between to pick up some cash for someone). And eventually each and every one would get around to offering me a free sample or a limited-time-only reduced price selection of products.

I think of this little period in my life every time I think of current purveyors of products – The Execs at Blizzard Entertainment who don’t play World of Warcraft, fit and healthy directors at junk food and cigarette companies, builders of  tiny overpriced yuppie-hutch “exclusive executive lofts” who live in sprawling one-of-a-kind country chalets or century homes.  So much of the modern world depends on the appealing, addictive qualities of products and the common person’s inability to moderate or properly value things, which is reinforced by the constant demands of making enough money to buy critical consumer crap and then deal with less important needs like rent and food.


Written by balloonhed

May 11, 2011 at 10:37 am

Capitalists and other Pillagers

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In Canada, Centre-Left parties tend to build and create when they’re in power (if permitted), and when the Conservatives take power, they harvest what’s been left behind. Like Capitalists and other pillagers do in the real world. This used to be an “OK” system when the Conservatives were the odd choice in a landscape of Liberal leadership, but “Harper’s Conservatives” are not really “Canada’s Conservatives” – they’re a new hybrid derived from the Western Reform party assuming the empty hulk of the Progressive Conservatives,  and strong corporate (oil)/ultra-rich libertarian influences. We can only hope that once Harper is out of the scene, a more moderate Conservative party returns.

Harper likes to talk about Canada being an island of responsibility in a world of economic strife, thanks to the stability of our banking system. Was this system created by Harper, or by a conservative government? A historical Conservative party may have contributed to it, but definitely not Harper – despite his frantic squirming to stay in power, he ultimately sees the perfect world as being the situation in the US – low government regulation on everything financial, with the institutions being allowed to call their own shots.  Harper and Canada are fortunate that he wasn’t in power long enough or had  total power (i.e., a majority) to do what he’d like before 2008 came along – we’d be in the same boat as everyone else, and Harper would not have the glittery medal of being the leader of a nation that sailed through the crisis relatively unscathed with the sudden status of expert on world economics and everyone else looking for our secret.  “Harper’s Conservatives” and their rule had nothing at all to do with the Canadian banking system, aside from being Canadian in the first place.

Written by balloonhed

April 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Stephen Harper is not Governing for You.

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Stephen Harper is not governing for you. He is thinking of you, in a way, the same way one would think of a troublesome but potentially valuable resource, like tar sands. He wants to get your useful byproducts, like approval, votes and labour, but those benefits are tarnished by the necessity of providing things in return. He’s working very hard on changing that. Like anyone involved in exploiting a resource with negative side-effects, he is willing to make all sorts of promises, dribble out skewed examples and arguments, and produce wholly-owned experts who spout opinions that back up his actions. Like the propaganda surrounding a negative impact industry, all of this hot air causes you, the listener (and resource in this case), to hesitate and feel doubt/belief long enough for him to inch his agenda forward. he is depending on our desire and willingness to believe in a happy ending where we all win to get our cooperation.

Harper is not governing for you if you have to work for a living, have children, are a member of a minority, work for the government, believe in art, music, or culture of any sort, expect to be helped out or cared for when old, sick or unemployed, have a safe and rational place to live and work, appreciate the environment, or would like any sort of personal autonomy. He is very willing, and indeed depends on your being made to believe you are, or soon will be, one of the people he is governing for. His cause has a large role for fanatical nonmembers who believe their devotion will grant them entry, as this, in a way, is what he is.

He is governing for you, and thinking of you, if you’re one of the very rich. He’s governing for you if you’re capable of protecting your own interests with large quantities of money under all circumstances. He’s governing for you if you’re a member of any of the clubs that sit on the boards of large corporations and can expect favours from each other. He’s trying to create for you a place where the production of wealth is the only important criteria. All other considerations pale before this one.

A perfect society to Harper would be one where the government exists to give legitimacy to the actions of the very rich and their business interests, to encourage business activity, and to control the human resources. Pastimes and other pursuits (i.e., spirituality, fulfilment) need to be simplified to a basic set – a default religion, wealth, and demonstrating wealth.

Currently, our government and society is tooled out to many functions which doesn’t suit him at all. Currently, it provides for the needs of a broad range of human conditions, allows for many points of view, encourages many sorts of pastimes and behaviours, and provides jobs and sources of income which in turn fuel a large civilian economy. It generally doesn’t do any of these things in a spectacular manner, but that is the side-effect of having such a large mandate.

To retool our government, and society, Harper is doing a number of things. Firstly, he is destroying accountability in all levels of the federal government and concentrating decision-making into his immediate area of effect. This undertaking causes a certain amount of squawking, but it is worth it as it will ultimately allow even more outrageous changes to be made, unnoticed. The most obvious example of this is the census rumble. The census is an obvious target for Harper, as it legitimizes and identifies facts about the country that are outside of his concern, annoying minutiae that enables and encourages levels of government intervention he’s seeking to do away with.

He is also attempting (and succeeding) in turning views on governance exclusively into an argument about money. He is telling us that all other political parties want to take your money, in a way that makes us believe that we are a member of the very wealthy and this is truly a concern to us. He has boiled it down to his criteria, the production of wealth, and we’re buying it, forgetting the value of taxes paid, of the safety and security that gets us. he is making us forget about the larger society that we live in and depend upon that is enabled by our government. He is making us believe that a society that shows compassion towards all its members is hampering us, we’d all be doing spectacularly well if we just didn’t have this albatross around our necks.

Of course, He is willing to admit there will be losers in such a perfect world. Thus all the new prisons.

Written by balloonhed

March 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Nails in the Coffin

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So the Republican-dominated U.S. congress has decided to cut massive amounts of funding to various sex education and sexual health initiatives, heavily crushing female-oriented programs, all in the name of balancing a budget crippled by wonky priorities  and satisfying some knee-jerk reactions on the parts of their looking-for-someone-to-blame constituents. At the same time, various states are trying to crush unions representing public sector workers, again in an effort to save money and impress scapegoat-hungry voters.

In a time where there are active concerns about whether the U.S. will be able to maintain its status as one of the world’s leading countries, these are all excellent, decisive moves.  These actions will seriously degrade the quality of life of current and future workers, open up the possibility of public services being fulfilled by corporations with questionable goals and hiring practices (OK, not questionable: “Profit Margin”), and ensure a generations of uninformed and clueless teenage moms and STD victims.  All wondering about the State’s future status is erased: Third-World status is assured.

This troubles me, because, despite American inclination to view their issues as their own and no one else’s business, the health and mental stability of such a large and pushy nation/economy very directly effects the outcomes for every other nation and being on the Earth.

The Future

One of my biggest concerns is that the knee-jerkers will not remember that it was their instant-gratification-serving political candidates that put them in this situation.  The mitigating possibility is that eventually in the distant future they’ll get over the finger pointing, or the economy will improve to the point they’ll decide it would be nice if the government would take care of educating people on sex, improving the quality of health care, and dealing with the crappy  services provided by understaffed or corporately-run fire, police, and city departments by making them attractive places for appropriately trained workers to work.

My biggest concern is that this right-wing,  unthinkingly-culturally-retro-romanticist, selfish-rich-guy and corporately sponsored sideshow will continue to poison the Canadian political process through our unavoidable shadowing under the American media bubble.

Everyday Alphabet – Ff – Factory Farm

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Factory Farm

Larger version (for detail nuts)

Everyday Alphabet – Mm – Malicious Money

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malicious money

Written by balloonhed

January 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm

The Holiday Season Always Fills Me With the Urge to Deface Public Advertising

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OK, the holiday season and forgetting to take my meds.

For better or worse, however, I’m a responsible member of society with kids,  who aspires to having a job again some day, so I refrain.  I’m also ill-prepared to do it properly, since I feel defacement should carry a message for those who don’t care to think about the negative aspects of the stuff they buy and look at, or are just plain ignorant of these aspects.

Going home and dropping into a grocery store after dropping one of the kids at daycare, for instance, brought the following editorial possibilities to mind:

  • A splat of some undesirable substance on a poster for a “extreme fighting” bout to be shown at a local pub, featuring two guys that look like something out of a GI Joe cartoon (the white guy had Kanji tattooed over his heart – i wonder if he just thought it looked cool, or actually knows what it said).  And/or the statement “watching this will NOT turn you into one of these guys”.
  • “repackaged and neutralized subculture for your pathetic efforts to buy cool”  stickers for placement over the logo of a omnipresent corporate colonialist coffee shop.
  • “sacrifices newborn health for profit$” stickers for displays of product by an unnamed multinational corporation and its many stealthy affiliates and brands.
  • “slavery and environmental disregard saves YOU money”  for a certain american mega-retailer, and, well, most other retailers.
  • “Because penis enlargement might hurt and would definitely take too long” banners to be added in front of luxury car dealers.
  • “Because you’re important enough to warrant the use of large ships that sail around leaving a trail of sewage and garbage that would make a town proud” banners for travel agencies that tout cruises.