Maxed out 

Fresh out of outrage

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There’s a popular bumper sticker, or perhaps it used to be a popular bumper sticker, that says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

I’m not really paying much attention any more.

I overdrew my outrage account at the Psychic Bank of Canada sometime in 2004, shortly after the last U.S. presidential election. I kept kiting outrage cheques, dodging notices and phone calls from the bank manager, putting on a brave face and an outraged front, but I knew I was faking it. Then, sometime earlier this year, the PBC closed my account and circulated those embarrassing notices convenience stores tape up next to their cash registers, the ones that say, “Accept no outrage from this deadbeat.”

Now the best I can do is fake a good outrage or speak solemnly and wistfully about outrages of days gone by. Quite frankly, my dear, I just don’t give a damn.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I still give a damn. I’m simply convinced my damn has been trumped by the soul-sapping soup of power, greed, indifference and hubris… oh, and iPods. Outrage? Screw it. Put those somaplugs in yer ears, read the latest about yer fav celeb and bliss out, dude.

I’m bushed. Make that Bushed. My descent into indifference began when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the guy with the fewest votes won the 2000 election. It was fuelled by the nihilistic destruction of the World Trade Center perpetrated by a cabal of Dark Ages Islamists. And it really went into overdrive by the Chicken Little overreactions to that sad event: a declaration of war against an ephemeral target, terrorism; a ginned-up real war against a country who had nothing to do with it; a relentless killing field with no exit and, ironically, the best strategy ever imaginable for recruiting new terrorists; the evisceration of the U.S. Constitution; ineptitude that seems to know no limits.

The only bright spot in whole mess was a Canadian Prime Minister who was smart enough to take a pass on the Coalition of the Willing. Too bad he wasn’t smart enough to foresee the inevitable troughfest of the sponsorship scandal and was just smart enough to leave Little Paulie Martin holding the bag, looking like an even bigger sap than he was and paving the way for a Conservative government. Not that Stevie Hapless has done much of anything, alarming or otherwise, but you know in your heart of hearts if he’d had his pudgy hands on the levers of power at the time, we’d be watching Canadian troops being blown to smithereens in Iraq as well as Arfghanistan. We’re just living on borrowed time until he really screws something up.

The only rational solution to all this was to think globally but outrage locally.

I mean, look at just the short list of local things a guy could be outraged about. Slash “Two-Drinks” Gordon rolls into power, arbitrarily flushes decades of workers’ rights down the toilet with his duly-rubberstamped laws gutting collective agreements in the healthcare field — now ruled contrary to the Charter of Rights’ guarantee of the right to collective bargaining — and then goes off to Maui to get nailed for DUI. More recently, he led the choir in giving him and themselves a monster raise notwithstanding the fact the overwhelming majority of B.C. residents don’t think they deserve one. Tacking on a cushy new pension plan, details to follow, didn’t seem like a stretch after that.

Even more locally, we’ve got the Olympic juggernaut steamrolling our way, not that any of us was given a choice in the matter but, in local style, we’ll make the best of it. Whether you favour the Olympics or not, one thing is indisputable about the entire enterprise: It’s a monumental, embarrassing, unconscionable, inhumane waste of money. It’s one of those many things history is not going to be kind to, at least any history that might be written by humankind that manages to evolve toward enlightenment… a longshot, admittedly.

And while it’s hard to tell whether the Olympic feedback loop is feeding or being fed by the frenzy to get things built by 2010, there are enough projects on the go — wastewater expansion, muni hall expansion, Taj-ma-library, athletes’ village, Nordic centre, medals plaza, Rainbow, Highway 99, Green River estates, Gondola to Nowhere, et. al . — to leave Whistler breathless, possibly broke but inarguably unrecognizable.

Jeez, even when we try to do the right thing we have trouble making it work. As a community we’ve got an award-winning vision of a très sustainable future. We’ve got committees and task forces peopled by every single person who lives here working on various disparate bits of that vision. But despite our best efforts, our footprint is growing like Sasquatch. More GHG, more solid waste, more, more, more.

And to top it all off, Whistler didn’t even make honourable mention in CBC’s idiotic Seven Wonders contest. I mean, really, prairie skies?

So what’s a guy who’s run out of outrage to do?

I’ve tried becoming part of the solution but the solution remains a shimmering mirage in the desert, always just out of reach but teasingly visible. Besides, my solution and your solution probably aren’t the same solution… and they’re definitely not the solution of the people pretending to run things around here.

But have heart, for there is a new windmill on the horizon. Saddle up, grab your lance and start tilting like there’s no tomorrow. No, it’s not TILMA, not the inappropriately-placed yet foregone conclusion of a medals plaza on Lot 1/9, not the pitched battle that’ll be fought over pay parking in the day skiers lots, not even the eye-popping proposal for the new museum that’ll make the library budget look like sofa change.

Plastic bags. It’s plastic bags, baby.

Ban ’em or keep allowing ’em? What to do, what to do?

As with all things, this town’s take on plastic bags will be coloured, if not entirely shaped, by the reality of being a tourist town. After all, there are only so many things a tourist can pack on a plane or in the largest SUV on the market. It’s not likely we’re going to add reusable bags for their purchases to the list.

Short of bringing your own bag(s), knapsack, backpack or duffle bag, I’m at a loss to come up with a workable solution for this conundrum. Carry things home in your hands? Paper? Edible bags? Or maybe some master program, kind of like those orange bicycles in Amsterdam, where you can stuff your stuff in a cloth bag, drop it off at your final destination and someone will pick it up from there and start the cycle all over again.

If nothing else, it’s a welcome diversion to build up a head of outrage over.

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