I took a vacation over New Years, and in British Columbia I set my sights on flora. There’s a lot of moss. I was enamoured by the hardy winter crops in rows on folks’ front lawns, gardens that have bunkered down for winter but hold onto some fierce kinda life force. That kind of pungent resolve lingers in a way that reminds me of author Barbara Kingsolver. If prodigal summer is “the season of extravagant procreation,” January in BC smells like menopausal interlude. The musk of decomposition lingers in a way that elides the finality of winter I’m accustomed to in Ontario.
Like winter crops and sunsets, my holidays were suitably hiatal. In other words, I’ve held onto enough of the past year to recognize its difficulties, but I’m moving on! I feel compelled to establish new routines – posting being one of them.
Living well in Hamilton is another. I started by unpacking more of the boxes sitting under my desk since September, but have since taken steps to remedy my broken oven and unequivocally decide that Ya Man‘s rotis are better than Island Cream’s in Peterborough (though admittedly it’s a close call.) I’m being a little facetious, of course: living well somewhere doesn’t mean giving up one’s histories. What I mean is I want a better sense of how Hamilton functions, its contours, and its inequities. This desire to deepen Hamilton’s hold on me was the most profound thing I took away from the holidays and from BC.
This also means – perhaps more than anything – taking responsibility to fight the insularity and corporatization of McMaster University. I can’t shirk the struggle to which I’m most intimately connected, though it’s a tall order. Students traverse from campus to home and back blinkered by a perverse edu-economic tunnel vision that seems impermeable, though the problem is much broader and systemic. In the new training module for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (an important document), the university emphasized ‘customer service’ language to describe the relationships between teachers, administrators, and students. Accessibility is a matter of justice, not good ‘customer service!’ Not to mention, they do a darn good job of obscuring the other forms of labour that make McMaster function. This institutional order is naturalized and I’d hazard a guess that most students (amongst others) buy it. More on this soon.
The problems are hardly ones of McMaster alone. Just yesterday the Hamilton Spectator published a story documenting how some Corktown residents (Corktown being a downtown neighbourhood in Hamilton, where I formerly lived) have lobbied to keep a residential care facility for young women out of the neighbourhood, arguing that the neighbourhood is becoming oversaturated with ‘undesirables.’ You can read the story here.
Apparently the ‘flood’ of residential facilities and their ‘undesirable’ residents are making it difficult for ‘people’ to move downtown, according to one councillor. What utter bullshit. This is another instance of vilifying poverty and individualizing structural violence (these young women aren’t ‘people,’ apparently), and a prime example of how the city machinery bends and sways to the sound of property owners crying about threats to their property value and narrow sense of community.
2012 and its challenges, welcome! You’re a sight for sore 2011 eyes.