The Beast

It’s the end of June, the fields are planted, kids are done school, and for those of us who work industrial, shutdown season is just about at its peak. There’s a little breathing room from the mad dash of the spring and the long days of the fall harvest. Summer is the time for going fishing with the boys, hanging out by the campfire, going camping and enjoying life. At least that’s the plan. But what happens when most of the work we rely on getting done in the spring is disrupted or destroyed by wildfires which seem to be getting worse every year?

The Beast taught us that the communities that took decades to build can be wiped out in days. That someone’s reckless actions in the bush would be responsible for two deaths, billions of dollars of fire related damage, and the evacuation of multiple cities, towns, and communities. This person probably didn’t think about how their actions would hurt others but who hasn’t done something stupid and lived to regret it?

Now that person didn’t start the fire that became the Beast, all they did was make a dangerous situation that much worse. And happens every day. Every day, we make choices good, bad, or whatever, that we don’t know will affect others. But what does this have to do with farming, campfires, and good times?

We live with rules and routines every day, when we get up, which side of the road we drive on, and more importantly, how we are supposed to treat others and the world around us. Some of these are laws, some of these are traditions, and some are just common sense. Like not lighting a fire in an area that is in the middle of a drought and as dry as tinder. Now many of these rules are there to keep things running smoothly, so that infrastructure and communities, and in some cases people are not harmed by others actions, because the theory is, if you follow the rules, you won’t get harmed.

And that makes sense, to an extent. Now we won’t talk today about laws and workplace rules and all that, but about those unwritten rules.[clarify this earlier on] Those behaviours and traditions that have passed down from one generation to the next, with some changes here or there. Now this is where we start having problems, unwritten rules or traditions don’t tend to be reviewed, they don’t tend to change with the times and most times, the reason for them are forgotten. The practice of women walking to the inside of the sidewalk and the men with them to the outside, for example.

While some people think that the reason was to be gentlemanly and that it showed chivalry and good manners, it started because before there was indoor plumbing people would often dump their bedpans and chamber pots right into the street. As anyone who has tossed a bucket of water can tell you, it doesn’t go straight down, there’s an arc there and so people closer to the street were more likely to get splashed (that’s also why shops tended to have awnings over windows, but that’s another story). Women were kept to the inside because it was seen as good courting to do this, as well as the amount of clothes women of the time wore meant that it took them longer to get dressed then the men. So, since no one throws shit pout the window anymore why do we do this? Tradition.

So that’s a quaint tradition, but what about other traditions? Like staying quiet when your buddy has a few too many and decides to drive his wife and kids home. Or when we hide behind politeness when we are asked why we don’t like the Chinese family that runs the grocery store. We can talk for hours on end about how the government likes to screw us over and our boss is bleeding us for all we are worth but we still show up to work and we still vote blue because that’s what we’ve always done.

The problem with this type of thinking is that it doesn’t work. Our jobs are going away, our government is selling us off bit by bit to the highest bidder and no one stands up to them, no one does anything because that’s the way it has always been and someone will always try to screw us. And to organize a union or challenge the government, well that’s what socialists do and we can’t be that.

Going back to the fire, what would have happened if we had done nothing? If the thousands of people organizing convoys, donating, money, time, and resources to helping out those affected and supporting those combating the fire, had simply said that’s the way it is and stayed home? Well, for starters, this would be a different article. But we don’t do that when it comes to natural disasters because that would make no sense. Of course, we would band together and help out. It’s what we do. Because we know we can make a difference and that it matters; so shouldn’t we start thinking about where else we can make a difference? This matters.

What would happen if the next time your buddy got drunk and loud and started bitchin’ about immigrants, you told him to shut the fuck up? Bet he would stop saying shit around you. What would happen if next time the dishes piled up, you did it instead of waiting for your wife to finish putting the kids to bed? Bet you’d have a happier marriage. What would happen if the next time your MLA took a selfie with the local hate group, you stopped by his office to give him a piece of your mind? Bet he’d think twice next time. What would happen if the next time your boss laid off half your shift, you walked out with them? Bet you’d sleep better at night knowing your coworkers would do the same for you. Its time for Albertans to revive old traditions and invent new ones. Traditions of pride and solidarity, of friendship and responsibility, and of standing up for our values against hatred and ignorance