A Call to Arms

The Antennae Galaxies, softly colliding - clearly not the work of the author, but a good reason to invest in NASA, the ESA, the CSA and JAXA

Now is the time to fight. Like never before in recent memory have the constructive capabilities of mass communication enabled the world to inform and react to our shared crises like it can today. What’s more, we are most definitely still at the very beginning of our journey to finally make the world a Global Village, with all the expected responsibilities, and for those reasons the persons and peoples of the world must chart a careful and conscious course of action. The world is aflame today; any well-informed individual living in the first or second world is likely quite aware of the numerous overlapping conflicts and crises currently affecting the planet. We, for the most part, have unrestricted access to all pertinent data, and as recent events in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, North Africa, Japan, the Arabian Peninsula & Persian Gulf and even the Mid-West indicate, the people of the planet have an incredible power – to mobilize themselves, exchange vast quantities of information, and best of all, to support each other with global micro-philanthropy. As Western powers attempt to control information, they are attacked by anonymous individuals whose only credo is to maintain the full democratization of information and global communications. Try and stop Wikileaks, try to suspend donations for Bradley Manning’s defence fund – your business will suffer, your ability to communicate will be paralyzed. The children of the peaceful, democratic, industrialized world of the `70s, `80s and `90s were cultivated in a era of heretofore unknown interconnectivity, integration and, most importantly, they have largely been educated to believe in core progressive values, such as acceptance, cosmopolitanism, multilingualism and social-democracy. These ideals exist fundamentally in a great number of people, especially if you grew up in Canada during this time, and must be protected and promoted if the human species is to ever evolve our way off this planet and into the great hereafter. The progressives and the fascists spent most of the 20th century slugging it out in an international cluster-fuck of death, depravity and destruction. Today, March 25th 2011, we witness the end game of a Kleptocracy – Qaddafi’s reign is over, and it was the much-loathed Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who made this statement in clear English but a few days ago; today a Canadian is slated to take-over command of the NATO mission. It’s been an odd week for the Harper Government. No spin, no jive, straight talk Steve Harper at his most remarkable when he declared regime change to be the end goal; today he and his merry band of pugilistic liars lost the confidence of the Parliament – for the third time in five years. I detest this man with every ounce of my being for what he has done to my nation, but at this point I doubt his government will survive this round of screaming, spiteful democracy. If the last thing the Harper Government ever did was to declare Canada’s intention to wipe-out the homicidal regime of the Lunatic Qaddafi, then I will know the man did at least one just, right thing during his time in office. It doesn’t say much about him as a leader, but it speaks to something that I hope is fundamental to Canadians. We have a responsibility to the world, as all first nations do, to repay our debt to the peoples of the world who do not yet live in the comparative luxury and peace we experience and take for granted. Therefore, it is our responsibility (and only our responsibility) to seek out the means and allies necessary to affect regime changes the world over.

The 21st century belongs to the Global Village – we must destroy all vestiges of despotic regimes in the second and third world now while we can, and secure for all peoples of the world a life free of human bondage. Make no mistake the decadent West enslaves the poorest of the world; we’ve built our economy largely on exploitation. Yes, we are responsible for many of the crises that have defined our times – be it the economic collapse, the deteriorating environment or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the peoples of the nations responsible are awakening, and despite all the chaos, I see love in the hearts of so many fellow citizens. I see the unknown youth of the West taking responsibility for the free-flow of information. I see a youth that cannot be swayed by so much Fox News idiocy. I see progressives rising up and demanding and end to the abuses at home and the abusers abroad.

Thus, this youth of the Global Village must now pool their resources and abilities and declare war on the regressives, the tyrants, and those who seek to abuse us. We, who only dream of a world working as a well-oiled machine, lubricated by the Progressive Meritocracy. We, who were born with love in our hearts, who knew from our earliest days the world was an inherently good place, where love, courage and righteousness always toppled the evil and corrupt. I know I’m not that different from most middle-class Canadians who grew up in the suburbs. As a child my parents, family and teachers showed me a world of endless possibilities. As a child I was taught to love all as I would love myself, and to create and dream to my heart’s desire. And when my parents were working to provide for our family, a well-imagined network of services ensured I would be raised right. A multilingual, multicultural preschool; an excellent public school with a devoted staff of experience educators, backed up by an even more exemplary Home & School Association of volunteer parents. And then the after-school daycares, the after-school Hebrew lessons and Communion classes. And if that wasn’t enough we also had media specially dedicated to us; Mr. Dressup, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, Passe-Partout and the Umbrella Tree – all those lovely people on TV reaching out and telling me I was good, I was loved and all the world was mine to explore. And now this much-loved and adored generation of hipsters, rappers, freaks and geeks must declare war on that which would deny us the peace, progress and prosperity we were promised in our youth. Our progeny will not live in fear, our kin will not suffer, our clans will be united for once and for all and this Village we truly exist in will finally become self-aware; if attaining the complete and thorough state of global peace and satisfaction is not our universal end-goal, then what is?

Regime change seems to be the battle cry of the 21st century, for better or for worse. Unfortunately it is actually difficult to tell whether this world is better with or without Saddam Hussein, and its too early to tell what will become of Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya – we’ll be in a better position to judge once the World Powers realize their long-term responsibility to effect a lasting global democracy, a world where war, chaos and despotism can be neutralized in a matter of hours or days. Think of all the places in the world where the people live in one kind of bondage or terrorism or another. Realize these nations are armed with old, ineffective equipment, and can’t do much more than abuse their own people with them. Only the democratic, internationalist powers can remove this threat wherever it exists. And once this happens, the Powers must then destroy their own means to annihilate mankind and inflict genocide. In short, now is the time for responsible military intervention, peacekeeping and peacemaking on a heretofore-unknown scale. And while the Conservative elements in our society beef up their machismo by systematically neutralizing all the despots, all the juntas, terrorists etc – the Progressives will rise, get elected into power while government attention is elsewhere, and ensure a just society at home, before turning their efforts to stimulating a globally just civilization with our allies. Poverty, disease, famine, genocide, civil war, economic imbalance – all of this can be eliminated if the world were to finally act as one and pledge itself to democracy, diplomacy, philanthropy and the scientific method. With all these sources of suffering and human bondage removed from the face of the Earth, our singular people will finally conquer the skies above, and solve far greater mysteries than so merely why we happen to inhabit this planet. The grandeur of the Cosmos is ours to discover, yet we spend our time killing for profit and turning our eyes blind to so much death and depravity – abroad and at home. Worse still, we have the gall to believe these problems are unsolvable, and that idealism is misguided or naïve.

I used to think this way. But when I look up at the night sky or see a picture like the one above, of the eternal dance of the galaxies, I cannot help but realize these global problems were meant to be conquered, and that this constitutes the next major step in human evolution. We are changing as I write this, and the pace will not slow down. And if you can free yourself to look deep into whatever amount of the universe you can see at night, and spend some contemplating all those stars above, consider the wise words of another man with the initials SH. Stephen Hawking warned members of SETI of the potential dangers in actively trying to contact Extraterrestrial Life (which it seems a great number of people in the scientific community have already taken for granted, realizing that the probability of human beings being alone in our universe is likely impossible). Hawking drew a comparison between human beings in our current state and the Aboriginal Americans at the point of contact – in other words, if we’re not ready for ET, if we’re not mentally and sociologically prepared for contact, we’ll be doomed.

A more serious problem shared by all of humanity I can’t imagine. On the plus side, we’re at the far edge of our galaxy, and haven’t been generating nearly enough inter-stellar noise to flag down our nearest neighbour. In other words, we’re safe for now, but if we don’t start tackling the major problems we all face, we may one day wake up and realize it’s simply too late. We’ll wake up and realize we’re not alone; and then what?

The Centre de Commerce Mondiale de Montréal

Our World Trade Centre - work of the author, Winter 2011

This is Montréal’s World Trade Centre, constructed in 1991 as one of the many urban redevelopment projects authorized during the Doré administration to celebrate our 350th anniversary in 1992. This project saw the re-integration of several old buildings facing Victoria Square and running along St-Jacques and St-Antoine. It is an example of a ‘horizontal skyscraper’, and runs from the Square to the Intercontinental Hotel, completed at the Eastern edge of the block in 1994.

Our WTC is not in any way truly comparable to the infamous New York City example, but it provides a fascinating addition to the urban fabric. It is a core component linking the diverse sectors of the Quartier International de Montréal, and thus links the Stock Exchange, ICAO, IATA, the Montreal Board of Trade, the CDP, the Palais des Congres and several hotels into a coherent narrative. It has also assisted in the rapid transformation of the Old Quarter which precipitated a drastic re-integration of several diverse sectors into a better-flowing urban centre. Best of all, with new condo and hotel projects already underway nearby, there is little doubt new office towers won’t be far behind, and one could only hope the city is doing all it can to draw more international organizations to our city, and foster the city’s role in global affairs. What we have in this sector is a high concentration of potential, but it always seems oddly inert when I pass through this part of the Underground. That being said, having shown this little slice of Montréal to several friends over the years, I can’t help but think the experience of this place alone would be enough to encourage large international organizations to make Montréal their home. It’s a truly captivating place.

The reflecting pool and statue of Aphitrite, by Dieudonné Guibal, CCMM - work of the author, Winter 2011
Another view of the reflecting pool; notice the backs of various old office buildings have been integrated into the complex so as to give the impression of apartment balconies. Consider as well the canopy covering the length of the former Ruelle des Fortifications
Our own little slice of the Berlin Wall - one of many gifts the City of Montréal has on display from other countries and cities - work of the author, Winter 2011


An iconic image from the last time we danced this waltz - this was Ceaucescu's downfall; what will Qaddafi's look like?

Today is Wednesday March 16th 2011;

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor may be on the verge of meltdown, according to an American assessment team..

Qaddafi, the lunatic King of Africa, is bombing Benghazi, stronghold of the rebels. Last week the rebels had Qaddafi surrounded and trapped in Tripoli, but because the West sat on its tentacles, Qaddafi’s fighters led the break out, and have pushed the rebels back to square one. The Western Powers debated ‘what does a ‘no-fly-zone’ really mean?’, as if they had the time to get philosophical about the issue. For an excellent critique of the West’s unwillingness to get involved in the Libyan Revolution, click here. The world continues to change dramatically, and the West sits idly by, suddenly caught up with a case of obstinate isolationism – truly an American creed; “it’s not affecting us, so go fuck yourself”. Right now, Chadian and Black Libyans are being cut down and massacred, as are the Shia majority in Bahrain, by US-funded and equipped Saudis no less.

There’s a lot of unconfirmed chatter about a Libyan pilot defecting while en route to bomb the rebels. Apparently he turned around, fired on a Qaddafi palace in Tripoli, and then crashed his jet into the building, a modern-day kamikaze.

The CBC has been playing non-stop since Friday, and I sit here downloading as much information into my skull as it can handle.

It’s time for the 9 o’clock news:

A Canadian medical team has left Japan because they weren’t equipped to work in a potential meltdown zone.
The Red Cross is leaving Benghazi – they don’t have anyone to protect them.
The world’s largest internet-pedophile ring has been destroyed; Operation Rescue was a success.

Two steps back, one step forward – the world somehow marches on.

*** The bit about the kamikaze is unconfirmed and is apparently coming in ‘via twitter’ – I’m suspicious. There are other claims that a Greek registered freighter was intercepted by the rebel navy and found to be carrying large quantities of what’s being described as ‘Israeli military aid’ – the ship was bound for Tripoli.

It’s getting exhausting just trying to keep up with the news developments over the course of any given day; I’m growing paranoid because I’m not seeing many new developments.

I wonder how that reactor’s doing…

Brave New World

If only I had something to do with this picture...

I can’t believe I’m alive right now, bearing witness to a world in a state of emergency. And it feels like so much deja vu, so much repetition. The awe-inspiring part is that I now have access to a world changing in real time. I don’t know why it seems so much stronger now – haven’t I been awake for the last decade, more awake than before?

So why is it that everything before 2008 seems like a weird, numb, Kafkan dream? Why is it I feel like I have only just gained access to the vibrant pulse of world affairs? Why is it I feel like I traffic in a currency of knowledge and information, one which has supplanted the world of finance and capital in an unmistakable way?


So, I’ve been watching a lot of Al-Jazeera lately;

North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Somalia)
Japan (Earthquake, Tsunami, Volcano brewing…)
Madison, Wisconsin
the Persian Gulf & Arabian Peninsula

All of it developing instantaneously, miraculously. So much to process, and yet, so many have tuned it all out – flippantly, ignorantly. The number of “well that’s what you get for attacking us at Pearl Harbor” facebook posts with reference to the Tsunami was so gut-churningly, idiotically evil it fucked up my Sunday – I cannot recall a recent example where I was aware, throughout the day, that I really loathed humanity, and everywhere I looked I saw more examples of why we here in North America both suck and blow.

We are an impotent society, yet we have the luxury of watching a world changing dramatically before our very eyes, yet what is being done to assist in this change?

My adult life has been dominated by years of misled and opportunistic intervention, and now, when humanitarian and peace-keeping intervention are so desperately required, the decadent West sits on its hands.

Qaddafi’s not gone yet… No ‘no-fly-zone’, his troops are fighting back and succeeding, and we watch.

American governor Scott Walker acting like a dictator, breaking the law on camera.

The American banking system is thoroughly corrupt, and the architects of the Great Recession are largely free, and well compensated – yet the struggling masses rising up against the corporate oligarchy? At home, eyeballs glued to multiple screens, staring at nothing of importance. Conspicuous self-indulgence, vanity, voyeurism, exploitation.

We are sedated.

We are sedated and mildly content, sufficiently detached from the rest of humanity and free of suffering to believe we’re somehow graced by god. And then that manifests itself as mind-controlled evangelicals praising earthquake’s and improvised-explosive devices as God’s supreme will and triumph over an evil, sick society.

More comments read and feared:
– See, this is why nuclear power isn’t safe
– Those aren’t refugees, their line-jumpers
– But Qaddafi will fight the Muslim Brotherhood!
– That Assange guy looks like a creep, why doesn’t he mind his own business
– Of course they deserved it, they’re atheists y’know…

We have achieved the Brave New World – it’s not a perfect fit, but the basics all seem to be here. And we’re incompetent – we’re lethargic and apathetic at a time in which dynamic connection and meta-awareness are available to anyone. It almost seems unethical not to stay abridged of all that is happening in the world right now, and moreover, to care. And yet we’re paralyzed with fear and inaction, crippling depression and helplessness. How terrible to be afflicted by an immoral malady we gave ourselves.

If only I had a machine to rage against… {MUHC Superhospital WTF!}

Conceptual image of the planned MUHC Superhospital - gladly, not the work of the author

So today I was treated to a lecture by a McGill architecture prof on the history of Montréal hospitals, with a focus on the Royal Victoria Hospital as an interesting perspective on local social history. Among several key themes, the idea of a personal and societal connexion to a particular hospital arose, with the Vic serving as an even better case study on some of the cultural and ethical considerations to make when proposing radical modernization of institutions. As we ought to know, the Vic, along with the Montreal Children’s, a sizable chunk of the General and the Montreal Chest Institute will all be folded into the new MUHC Superhospital currently being excavated at the site of the former Glen Yard, near Vendome Métro.

If you’ve been reading the news for the last twenty years, you no doubt have a vague, intrinsically hostile reaction to the mere mention of the new compound word superhospital; it’s a seemingly endless quagmire of incompetence, delays and, compounding it all, that eerie sixth-sense tingling at the back of your spine nagging as to its fundamental necessity. Unfortunately for those of us not yet completely numbed to the inertia of the Québec government (in any form), we’ve been left to go back and look over the evidence, and its pretty damning. Worse still is that the superhospital project has finally broken ground – literally. They’re excavating about five floors worth of highly contaminated soil to eventually build a 2,500 car capacity parking garage – right at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the entire country. Atop this vehicular birdhouse will sit the hospital digitally rendered above; easily twenty years behind schedule, both new superhospitals have entered the preliminary stages of construction – that is to say, the demolition, excavation component. I encourage all of you to go see the mesmerizing sight of roughly ten construction towers looming over a massive floodlit pit – it’s truly breath-taking. The problem here is that the MUHC Superhospital is gearing up to be yet another white elephant in a city which has too many as is. Given that the buildings are in such an early stage of development, I think a new round of public debate needs to occur to make sure this project doesn’t become a complete disaster.

Here’s a short list of what’s going wrong. We’ve already covered the toxic soil – a result of the site’s former occupation as a freight railyard, pictured here:

The Glen Yard in the 1960s, looking east-northeast (I think)

And the fact that it’s located in the worst possible location, adjacent to the Turcot Interchange – which is due for a major renovation. And that they still haven’t factored in connecting this damned hospital to the Vendome Intermodal station (which is beyond incompetence – it seems clear to me that this omission was on purpose so that a contractor could benefit from an inflated price (estimated at $30 million to build a tunnel under the railway).

So on top of these scandals, and that the project is retarded to the tune of twenty years, it also won’t be able to accommodate the number of beds available in the hospitals it will replace – about 800 for the new hospital compared with about 1200 spread out through the current MUHC system. Read all about that here.

And then there are the common sense issues, like why anyone would build one big hospital when the city and province have already had considerable problems containing hospital based disease, such as C. difficile. Then there are the practical considerations: communities require hospitals, and hospitals build and maintain communities. Institutional memory and public reverence for institutions build character and solidify the social solidarity. It builds community consciousness and civic proprietorship. Building a white elephant superhospital, which is what this plan is shaping up to be, will not only result in cost overruns and traffic jams, it may also result in the hospital’s public losing faith in the institution. I don’t think Montréal Anglophones have much left to lose faith in – can we afford to lose important hospitals for the sake of modernization and efficiency?

That last point is another bone of contention. While the argument that a superhospital will save money because expensive equipment can be shared, the idea that the superhospital will be in any architectural or societal fashion ‘modern’ is blatantly false. This hospital was designed and conceived of in the 1980s. And it has been such an ordeal just to get to the point of breaking ground no one has given much thought to finding a more suitable location (ideally, closer to the city and university it is affiliated with and away from a traffic logjam) or what impact the hospital closings may have on the population it is intended to serve.

Among the hospitals slated for closing, the Royal Victoria Hospital is perhaps the most iconic and established amongst Montreal’s anglophone population; a building with far too many memories to be demolished. It has been expanded several times since it opened in 1893, and carries a caveat attached to the donated land and buildings – they can only ever be used for education and healing. A very old woman in Westmount is committed to making sure the wishes of Lord Strathcona & Mount Royal and Lord Mount Stephen are carried out, if it’s the last thing she ever does.

There has been speculation that the Vic may simply be absorbed into McGill University, which could greatly expand its medical school and potentially convert some buildings into student dormitories – an almost ideal evolution of the built environment at the corner of Pine and University.

But what of the Children’s?

If there was ever a hospital population to be segregated from the general population, it is undeniably children. Sick kids require a special environment, one ideally sealed from adult diseases, pain and suffering. A children’s hospital ought to foster the notion of recuperation, rehabilitation and optimism. I always thought the pediatric hospital and the birthing hospital should be in the same place – I can think of no other kind of hospital where the demand for a miracle be as high as in a children’s hospital, and can think of no better provider of miracles than a maternity ward. Our Children’s should be kept where it is – as it stands now it is an anchor of the Atwater/Shaughnessy Village area, and that area has already suffered the loss of the Reddy Women’s Hospital some years ago.

As for the General, it is unclear as to exactly what will happen here; since it will remain a level-1 trauma center and has a significant amount of space, it seems likely that it will be used to handle ‘overflow’, though how this will work is unclear to me. At the end of the day, the MUHC Superhospital is looking more and more like a highly specialized jack-of-all-trades teaching hospital. High specialization. Concentration. Education. Those are a lot of hats to wear simultaneously, and like anything else that tries to hard to be too many things to too many people, it will likely fail at its intended purpose. The Superhospital is probably going to be looked on as a super mistake, and the taxpayers will be left with a supersized bill. Once the project reaches the state of public derision and ridicule, much like the Olympic Stadium or Mirabel International, it will be seen pessimistically as little more than yet another recent failure of a once proud and successful people. Can we afford such malaise?