Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Hideous Year 2016 and the Last Cheerful Nation.

Well the cursed year 2016 is almost over, and like the rest of you I'm rushing off to the year 2017, to try escape the dying old man's murderous scythe.

And this will be my last post for a while, because I'm leaving for Montreal in a couple of hours, and I fear I might not be in shape, or sober enough, to write anything for the next few days.

But before I go, I want to try to cheer up progressives for the last time this year.

By pointing out that even in this grim 2016, there were some things to celebrate.

Even if he wasn't one of them.

And remind everybody that while the media in our information overloaded society can sometimes make the world seem like a nightmare.

Hope is a slave to news; we should never forget it. And news has always been bad. Its currency is unspeakable horror, with hatred and doom darkening every horizon. News defies us to peer through the gloom and ever see light ahead.

The march of human progress continues.

Five years ago, the American scientist Steven Pinker wrote a book The Better Angels of Our Nature, seeking to compute the gains and losses of humankind over recent centuries. His sum was overwhelmingly positive – and despite “miserabilist” critics has stood the test of time. 

Violence, said Pinker, has vastly diminished. Both inter-state and civil conflicts are less common, and less deadly, than at any time in history. The chance of dying a violent death is a tenth of what it was just half a century ago. Starvation and plague have almost been eliminated and indeed make headlines when they occur. Life expectancy has soared, along with female emancipation, literacy, health, access to water, power and electronic communication. How can that not be a source of hope?

So if we don't destroy it, and can drive those who would torch it from power, we can still hope for a better world.

And the best thing is that no country has more reason to be hopeful at this time than does Canada. 

For as author Stephen Marche points out, fate has made us the last cheerful nation. 

When Donald Trump won the U.S. election in November, Canada became the last major western democracy to still believe in multiculturalism, Toronto author Stephen Marche said, calling Canada the “last cheerful nation” and suggesting that, for the first time in history, the national political identity is unique in the world.

In a world where so many countries are roiling with hatred, and under siege by right-wing extremists, our humble but precious Canadian values have so far saved us from that fate.

And we now have a chance to promote those values in a world that needs them badly.

For Marche, Canada’s rejection of ethnic nationalism and embrace of multiculturalism has left the country in a unique position in an increasingly closed-off world. For the first time, Canada’s political identity is distinctively its own and not a reflection of another government, such as Britain or the U.S. 

Or at least have a chance to set a good example by just being ourselves.

So that when we remember this image, which so clearly summed up for me the brutality of 2016..

We can also remember this one of a young Syrian refugee enjoying his first toboggan ride in Canada...

So that we can be grateful that we live in the peaceful Great White North.

And grateful too that we have a young and charismatic leader to take on Trump, and promote the values of tolerance and diversity on the world stage...

For whatever the ghastly old Trudeau haters think, who would turn this country into a place where hope goes to die, nobody at this time can do that better or more effectively than Justin can.

As for me, I have no idea where the journey of life is taking me, or even whether I'll still be living in Canada at this time next year. Or living in this faraway city...

And chasing another dream.

But right now I don't care. 

All I know is that it has been snowing in Montreal, and the only journey I care about right now is the one I used to make when I was a student at McGill. 

Down the side of Mount Royal through the trees to the edge of the university campus, the round medical building and Pierre Trudeau's art deco mansion.

Just not as fast or as spectacularly as this guy does...

But in the same spirit of living in the moment. 

So I can blot all the bad news out, and assuming I don't hit a tree, give thanks for the blessed fact I live in Canada.

The journey continues on Tuesday. 

Thanks for reading this blog.

And Happy New Year everybody !!!!


  1. Anonymous10:49 AM

    Hi Simon, have a wonderful time in Montreal, ..but please don't leave us in the dark too long! Best wishes for the new year from two fans in BC

    1. hi BC friends...thanks for your best wishes, and may 2017 be a super year for both of you. But you don't have to worry about me having a good time in Montreal. I love Toronto, just like I loved Vancouver during my brief stay there a few years ago. But Montreal takes me me back to my wild teenage years, so needless to say the authorities have been warned... ;)

  2. Anonymous11:29 AM

    Thank you Simon! Beautiful message, love the video. Hope and yours enjoy your stay in Montreal for the New Year celebration.

    Cheers, TS

    1. hi TS...I'm glad you enjoyed the video. Unfortunately I wasn't able to retrace Seb's path due to the icy state of the snow. But I did manage to snowboard down the other side of the mountain, and although I wiped out a couple of times, I had a lot of fun...

    2. Anonymous9:17 PM

      Glad your knee is doing better :-)

    3. hi TS....thanks, I was going to mention that although my injured knee almost ruined my summer, by keeping me off my bike. It's now fully healed, and it will not ruin my winter... :)

  3. Happy New Year, Simon! Keep up the excellent work in 2017.

    1. hi Lorne... thank you and all the best to you and yours. I must admit I never thought I'd still be blogging in 2017. But with the right-wingers on the march everywhere, like you I can't remain silent....

  4. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Happy new year Simon, thanks for all your hard work on the blog.


    1. hi MC...thank you and all the best to you and yours in the New Year. I know we don't agree about many things, but I am interested in hearing what you have to say, and thank you for contributing to this blog. You recently mentioned that you are struggling with alcohol addiction, so I also want to wish you the best of luck in getting that monkey off your shoulders. It's not easy I know, but it will be worth it....

  5. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Happy new year to you as well, Simon. Your blog is very heavy but it makes me laugh and feel hopeful at the same time.

    1. hi anon...I know my blog can be a bit heavy at times, and definitely too long. But there is nothing I enjoy more than making people laugh and feel hopeful about the future, so thank you for saying that, and Happy New Year to you and yours...

  6. Simon, you can eke out hope like nobody else. Thank you for every single blog this year, and Happy New Year to you (and Scotian and Bill and all other non-RWNJ readers and contributors.) Laurie

    1. hi Laurie...thanks for that sweet comment. I realize I am a bit like the kid who is always looking for a pony under a heap of manure. But if we want to build a kinder gentler world hope is essential, so even when I don't find that pony just looking for it keeps me going. Yikes. Happy New Year to you and yours...

  7. "It feels so good to breathe the air
    Another spin around the sun
    On this speck of light in the universe
    The gift of love is there for everyone
    "Every year another promise is made
    A pint of beer raised towards a better day"

    Edwin - Alive

    1. Hi David...I believe in the promise of hope and the power of love. So as dark as it may be today, I live for the blinding light of tomorrow...

  8. Anonymous7:08 PM

    Have a wonderful new year in Montreal! Sunny Ways good people ! Pamela💜💙❤

    1. hi Pamela... Thank you, I had such an excellent time in Montreal I had to stay an extra day. And Seb had to drag me by the ear all the way to the railway station or I might still be there. ;) Thank you for your support and Happy New Year to you and yours ...



    1. hi David...thanks for these links, and for all the material you send my way. You have a great eye for good material, and you make an enormous contribution to this blog.
      Let us hope that we can all work as hard as we can to build that better world...

  10. e.a.f.5:29 PM

    HAPPY NEW YEAR SIMON! Hope you have a great time in Montreal!. Put the blog on hold and enjoy your life. One of B.C.'s top bloggers goes off on vacation at regular times of the year. yes there is nashing of teeth and all of that, but bloggers need/deserve decent vacations with no blogging!

    2016, all in all was a pretty good year. Canada met its commitment to bring in the Syrian refugees and that on its own is pretty great.

    The federal government has finally started the inquiry into the First Nations missing women. The federal government now sends cheques to families with kids who need it.

    Although G.B. had Brexit, the country still stands and the Mayor of London is of the Muslim faith.

    Some European countries have not been welcoming of refugees, but others have. Germany still is led by Angela Merkle which is always a good thing. Italy and Greece which still have huge economic problems continue to help refugees coming across the sea.

    Yes, we have Putin and Trump, but they will both go the way of the junk in the dustbin of life. Bernie Sanders didn't get elected but he will be remembered as a positive cataylist in American politics. African Americans were murdered by police, However, in 2016 there was finally film footage to demonstrate clearly what many have known for a couple of hundred years and protested it, loud and clear.

    F.N.'s reserves are mainly still a horrible place to live, but it is now part of our consciousness and the federal government has plans and finances in place to start to deal with it. Film is again being used to clearly demonstrate where we as a nation have fallen down.

    personally 2016 was a good year, garden was fabulous. 2017? I prefer not to think of it as the year Trump came to office but as the year Alex Baldwin becomes a regular on SNL and Trevor Noah, Seth Myers, and Stephen Corbert have steady sources of material.

    Trump is going to put his foot in it and mouth and John McCain will be there to enjoy it and help get rid of him. Republicans by nature are conservative, or have been. being conservative isn't always a bad thing.

    Again HAPPY NEW YEAR, enjoy Montreal and life. Welcome to another year.

  11. hi e.a.f...thank you for your kind words, and for reminding us that we are so lucky to live in Canada. We do have our problems in this country, too many poor people, too many hungry children among others. But compared to other countries we are a peaceful oasis and we should never take that for granted. It was good to take a break from blogging, and since Seb conveniently "forgot" to pack my cell phone I wasn't just cut off from the blogging world, I had no idea what was happening anywhere in the world. The first few hours were painful, but after that I didn't really miss it. ;) Thanks for contributing your comments to this blog, and Happy New Year to you and yours...