Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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5

Jul

2020

Plague of locusts makes bad into worse

Author: Jim Taylor

News reports have called it “a plague of biblical proportions.” But they’re not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

            The Bible actually has very little to say about pandemics. About death from starvation or drought, yes. About death in war, oh my goodness yes. But very little about mass deaths from diseases – if I exclude the book of Revelation, which smacks its lips at the prospect of wiping out one-third of the world’s population in a single trumpet blast. 

            Rather, the “biblical plague” refers to locusts. Billions upon billions of flying grasshoppers that descend from the sky in clouds and eat the leaves off everything. 

            Rght now great plagues of locusts are demolishing agricultural crops across east Africa, Somalia, Yemen, parts of Iran, Pakistan, and India. 


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Moses, Locusts, plagues

28

Jun

2020

Don’t waste my wife’s last sacrifice

Author: Jim Taylor

Starting next week, there will be more cars out on our roads. That means more accidents. And if Canadian Blood Services were to run out of gas, figuratively, people would die. Because you can’t get a refill of blood if the main tank is empty.

            Earlier this year, there was a risk their tank could run empty. Because of Covid-19, fearful donors were staying away. Fortunately, after an appeal, giving went up 20%.

            In fact, a friend who volunteers at donor clinics assured me, the agency takes so many precautions that you’re more likely to catch Covid-19 at home!

            Canadian Blood Services maintains an online National Inventory of Blood Supply Products (https://www.blood.ca/en/blood). Earlier this week, the supply of some blood types was down to just three days. Only two common blood types had more than five days’ supply, across the whole country.


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22

Jun

2020

Empty pedestals await new icons

Author: Jim Taylor

The name “Winston Smith” probably doesn’t immediately bring someone to mind. Good -- that’s what author George Orwell wanted.  He deliberately made Smith, the central character in Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984, an unassuming, ordinary, fade-into-the-wallpaper civil servant.

            Winston Smith did a very ordinary, unassuming, kind of job.

            He rewrote history.

            Every day, the Ministry of Truth had him amend news reports that had appeared in the pages of London’s most prestigious newspaper, The Times, to make them match to the government’s latest policies. If Winston Smith were alive today, he wouldn’t be working in a musty back room. He’d be out on the streets toppling statues.


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18

Jun

2020

Relationships make us human

Author: Jim Taylor

As a song says, what a difference a day makes!

            On the last Sunday in May, my daughter called after church, to say that she might have found me a dog. She worries about me living alone since my wife died. Especially when Covid-19 isolation restricts me from visiting others, or having them visit me.

            By 3:00 that afternoon, I had a dog named Pippin.

            After three months of isolation, I feel like a February groundhog emerging into the brightness of a new day.

            I am no longer alone.

            I have someone who needs me.

            What a difference a dog makes.


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7

Jun

2020

Why police forces can’t help being racist

Author: Jim Taylor

Following the death of George Floyd, killed by  cop Derek Chauvin, which provoked days of protests and nights of rioting and looting, governor Tim Walz has launched an inquiry into whether the Minneapolis police force has “systemic racism that is generations deep.” 

            Of course it does. 

            Stop! Before you fire off flaming letters telling me that I’ve maligned the good people who maintain law and order in our communities, read on.

            This is not about individuals. 

            Individuals may disavow racism. But the system they belong to can’t help being racist, because it defends the rights and privileges of a class that is fundamentally racist. 


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31

May

2020

Pinching pennies kills seniors

Author: Jim Taylor

As I write this column, the COVID-19 death toll in Canada stands at 6873. Plus one potential death, that no one talks about.

            COVID-19 may finally have shaken the blind belief that private enterprise can do any job more efficiently than public.

            When death rates in long-term care facilities soared, the governments of Ontario and Quebec called in the military to help out.

            Some military members of those Augmented Civilian Care tears wrote a report on the care deficiencies they observed. Which they passed to their superior officers. Who passed it to the provincial governments. Who made them public.


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31

May

2020

COVID-19 is forcing our hands

Author: Jim Taylor

It’s hard to keep up with the rate of change. The other day, a news report announced that Army and Navy stores were closing. 

            I remember Army and Navy as the place to go to get stuff cheap. The late Sam Cohen founded Army and Navy in Vancouver 101 years ago, as a war surplus outlet. The Great War was over. He could get goods at going-out-of-business prices; hence the Army and Navy title. 

             The same week, news stories said the Reitman’s clothing chain was filing for bankruptcy. Even the survival of the venerable Hudson’s Bay Company was in doubt. 

            HBC is almost synonymous with Canada itself. The first Canadian limited-liability corporation, maybe the world’s first. Founded in 1670, before Canada was even a country. Opened the west to English trade. Made the world’s warmest blankets.

            I can no more imagine Canada happening without the HBC than without the CPR.


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18

May

2020

A “get out of hospital free” card

Author: Jim Taylor

A battered yellow booklet called “International Certificates of Vaccinations” tells me that I have been vaccinated against smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, paratyphoid (A and B), polio, typhoid, pneumonia, hepatitis A, tetanus, typhus, mumps, and both kinds of measles.

            Every one of those used to cause epidemics.

            The only difference between an epidemic and what’s now called a pandemic is that a pandemic also affects people you don’t know on the other side of the world. Locally, the effects of epidemic and pandemic are identical. People get sick. Some die.

            Because of my vaccinations, I needn’t fear any of those diseases. But an 80-year-old woman wrote to Dr. Keith Roach, author of a syndicated newspaper column, “I will never willingly get a vaccination for anything." 


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3

May

2020

Living through liminal times

Author: Jim Taylor

A new word crept into the language while I wasn’t watching – “liminal”. None of my dictionaries include it. And they were only published 20 years ago. 

            Not “limn,” which means to paint or portray. 

            “Liminal” derives from Latin “limen” meaning the threshold of a doorway. It marks the division between inside and outside, between warm and cold, between calm and stormy. 

            It is the moment of transition, when one state of being transforms into another. 

            A liminal moment is easy to identify if it’s a doorway. It’s more difficult with geography, for example. Exactly where would you say the mountains end and the prairie begins? Which do the foothills belong to?

            Or with light. At what point, as light fades, does day become night?


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Rohr, COVID-19, Liminal

26

Apr

2020

Oil’s worth goes worthless

Author: Jim Taylor

The world changed this last week – did you notice? The world’s most valuable commodity was momentarily worthless.

            No, I don’t mean gold. Gold has been valued for a very long time, mostly because it doesn’t tarnish. But the world could get along reasonably well without gold. Or platinum. Or even diamonds.

            I’m referring to oil.

            On one crucial day, for the first time ever, West Texas crude, the gold standard for oil, dropped to minus-$37 U.S. a barrel.


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