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

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca

 

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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19

Apr

2020

Three myths Covid-19 has killed

Author: Jim Taylor

I am soooooooo sick of Covid-19. Let me correct any misimpression – I am not sick WITH Covid-19. I don’t have chills, fever, or cough. I don’t have difficulty breathing. And I’m not in intensive care.

            I am sick OF Covid-19 the same way I’m sick of Donald Trump. And Brexit. And the way I used to be sick of the Democratic primaries in the U.S. Now, Bernie Sanders can throw in the towel and earn only a two-inch space on an inside page. 

            Surely something else is going on in the world other than Covid-19?

            Has Norway slid into the North Sea? Has Luxembourg declared war on Botswana? Has the Taliban professed Franklin Graham as their Lord and Saviour?  

            In the current pandemic of pandemic news coverage, how would anyone know? 

            The media’s obsession with Covid-19 makes me wonder what we might be overlooking. I suggest that three pervasive myths have had a stake driven through their hearts, 

 

           


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12

Apr

2020

Don’t expect to go back to normal

Author: Jim Taylor

People say to me, “When all this is over,” as if everything will return to normal -- whatever they think normal is -- as soon as the Covid-19 furore ends. 

            I doubt if things will ever go back to normal. At least, not to what we used to consider normal. 

            This may seem like a bleak subject for an Easter weekend, but it’s relevant – please read on. 

            A disease does not go away simply by restricting its transmission. 

            Suppose that Dr. Bonnie Henry’s isolation measures eliminate the Covid-19 virus within B.C. No new cases show up for, say, a whole month. All current cases recover. Our province becomes Covid-free.

            The only way to stay Covid-free would be to deny entry to anyone who comes from anywhere that is not equally Covid-free. Other provinces, and neighbouring U.S. states, to say nothing of the rest of the world. Otherwise the transmission ripples start all over again. 


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4

Apr

2020

Palm Sunday was not a victory parade

Author: Jim Taylor

Tomorrow, Christian churches all over the western world will celebrate Palm Sunday. (Eastern-rite churches will celebrate a week later. )

               Most of our churches will celebrate the day as triumphant. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. All four gospels tell us that the crowds go wild. They hail him as the long-promised Messiah. They tear palm branches off the trees and wave them in the air. They rip off their clothes and throw them on the ground for the donkey to trample on. They shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!”

               The streets of Jerusalem must have looked like downtown Toronto after the Raptors won the NBA championship, with Jesus playing the part of Kawhi Leonard.

               But the crowds just didn’t get it. 


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29

Mar

2020

Isolation causes its own social problems

Author: Jim Taylor

My grocery store has a sign up at its cash registers: “Due to the COVID-19 virus, we no longer accept reusable grocery bags.”  Instead, they’ll give away free plastic bags.

            Not that long ago, the same store encouraged reusable bags, to cut back on single-use plastic bags made from fossil fuels that ended up in landfill sites. Or swirling around the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

            I cite that as a single instance of the way the coronavirus panic is suddenly upsetting -- rightly or wrongly -- many of the notions that we used to take for granted. 


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15

Mar

2020

Serenity in short supply these days

Author: Jim Taylor

           As Scott Gilmore editorialized in Maclean’s, “It’s not the end of the world, it just feels that way.”

            Gilmore recalled his childhood days, reading a framed poem on a church wall. He assumed it must be “a piece of ancient wisdom, a psalm from the Old Testament.”

            It was neither. It was a prayer written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, in the 1930s:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

            It’s commonly called the “Serenity Prayer.” Alcoholics Anonymous popularized it. Other self-help programs have picked it up.

            Are prayers the answer to today’s chaos?

 


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