Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Learnings From 10 Days In Ontario

  1. Life is full of surprises. Forest Gumpish, yes, but no less true because of that. There were a number of ways in which life flamboyantly exhibited this characteristic over and around the interval of this trip, but I'll just talk about the one that feels like it is looming largest at the moment: somehow over the course of the visit the potential job opportunity that provided the pretext for the trip went from being merely a pretext and source of paid airfare to something being very seriously considered. And I'm feeling conflicted about it.

  2. Ten days of inadequate sleep is a poor approach to getting rid of a cold. It doesn't help when most of that time is spent in low level dehydration as well.

  3. Flying to LA from Buffalo via Newark is not necessarily as dumb as it sounds. It adds time to travelling, but there is partial compensation if you have never been to New York City because you get to gaze at the Manhattan skyline as you are landing in Newark.

  4. The closest a middle-class white North American such as yours truly is likely to come to experiencing something similar to people who live in poverty on this continent, barring the taking of political action which lands us before the courts, is when crossing an international border. Most of the time the texts which organize and legitimize social regulation and the domination which can be part of that are crafted in ways that leave us more or less alone (taxes, the odd speeding ticket, and an occasional corporate inconvenience aside). At the border, that privilege still counts for a lot, and we aren't targeted for harassment due to skin colour or religion or name (e.g. Arabs, South Asians, and Muslims post 9/11), or shot for wanting to be able to feed our families (e.g. every years some of the undocumented economic migrants seeking to enter the U.S. from Mexico) but it can still be a moment which temporarily weakens the facade of harmlessness that usually obscures the harsh realities of the liberal democratic state in middle-class perceptions. In that moment, we are at the whim of state minions who need care nothing for us, but only for making sure their actions conform to the texts which they are employed to enforce. Their power over us means they can be as nasty and unpleasant as their bad marriage, hangover, or gout tells them to be. They can present us with lists of requirements that nobody told us about, that contain items never mentioned in previous crossings, that are not consistent with the publically accessible guidelines available on the internet, and that could seriously screw with our plans for the day and the year if the agent's supervisor happens to be in just as grumpy a mood. In fact, the power dynamics of the situation means that the list of arbitrary demands presented by the minion can deviate from what the texts actually require, but it is very difficult for those subject to the demands to identify this fact and to take effective action if they do identify it. In all of these ways, it felt like a brief glimpse into the everyday realities of people on social assistance and their struggles with the systems which have control over their access to the necessities of life.

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