As another year hastens to its end, I am thinking a lot about ants and ant hills, not that they are much in evidence now that the long, grey, Canadian winter is upon us once again. My fascination with ants is two-fold; how do they figure out what they are supposed to do when they all seem to be working as a cohesive unit building an ant hill, and what do ants do in their spare time? Google, and several animated movies, A Bug’s Life and Antz, being two of my favourites, give good scientific and creative explanations.
It’s nice to be a part of history and although the mere fact of being alive makes us all part of history it is particularly thrilling when you realize you are living through something special and meaningful. I recall such a feeling when I was swept up in the Solidarity movement, while living in Poland in 1985. It was arguably one of the watershed events which led to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism, ending the cold war.
There are demigods at our doorstep and fake news at every turn. It seems there is no haven from the slow creep of instability wrought by nativist, xenophobic bigots using fear and discord to sway the sleeping masses to lemming like devotion. They are wrecking havoc on institutions and traditions, that have served us well in our inevitable evolutionary march toward a more liberal and progressive civilization.
I had the opportunity to take another heritage tour this summer, as I have for many summers of late. Being a first-generation Pole whose parents lived through and participated in the tumultuous years of World War II and its aftermath, what interests me most is Eastern Europe.Much of the history of the 20th century is writ large on a back drop of the cold war with two sparring ideologies, Capitalism and Communism, battling it out for the hearts and minds of a generation.
We put a lot of faith in our government and various institutions to keep us and our loved ones safe. Most people don’t expect that the tap water they drink may kill them. But that’s what happened in Walkerton, Ontario in the summer of 2000. With a population of less than 5000, 2300 fell ill and seven died from E. coli contamination in the city’s wells.
Most people agree that advertising on TV is intrusive and pernicious, but few are willing to shell out the money it would take a network like CNN or even our own CBC, heavily subsidized by Canadian tax payers, to stay afloat, exclusively from subscriptions. If you are a consumer of news it is especially galling to be interrupted from the newest, juicy tidbit, of the all-day soap opera, As the World of Donald Trump Turns, by what seems like ten minutes of commercials for every ten seconds of news.
As if we needed reminding, Canadian politics does not take a back seat when it comes to juicy scandals. In the many recent cases of men behaving badly, the long overdue Me Too Movement (“#MeToo”), is showing that, most men have probably sexually harassed women in one form or another at some point in their lives.
I’ve mentioned before, I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions but this year I feel compelled to do so. This one is much needed, but will test my resolve like no other.
The Christmas miracle for my brother and I never had anything to do with the little baby Jesus or how something extraordinary happened to ordinary people around Christmas, but rather how Santa Clause got in and out of our house without us ever being able to see him. And maybe because we were Polish and didn’t have a chimney, but for some reason we got to open our presents on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning like the rest of our friends.
I’m not waiting till I die to donate my body to science, I’m doing it while I’m still very much alive!
Any given day in the back recesses of academe, private research laboratories, and large pharmaceutical companies work continues on cures for the many things which ail us. White frocked researchers labour on remedies affecting the mind and body and the need for living, breathing, healthy or diseased human specimens, to test their many theories on, has never been greater. I’m more than happy to step into the breach.