Yesterday was Queen Victoria day in Canada. Let me belatedly celebrate the old lady by ruminating on the glories of empire, resource development in the colonies, and the benefits that accrue to the politicians, businessmen, and priests of the ruling class.
On Sunday I rode along the dikes of the Fraser River past wealth unimaginable, and folly unassailable. On the one side is the sluggish river dotted by an occasional tug or barge transporting goods to Westminster. On the other side are large new houses–hundreds of them going on and on and getting bigger and more opulent as you wind down-river.
My riding companion told me these are the homes of those who make their money importing from China to the mines, industries, shops, and homes of Canada and the United States. These are expensive homes that sit on liquefiable sands below sea-level. One break in the dike, one earthquake and they could all be gone. I cannot understand how the government of a first world nation allows building in such places. Not only is this unsafe but it is extraordinarily ugly.
Still when the earthquake and liquefied sands clears them out, they will get Red Cross aid and government assistance, for this is Canada, a first world country. Keeping the social contract in place means you have to make money and pay both the rich and the poor to support their selfish follies.
Luckily we have mining, and in particular mining in South America to keep the social contract funded and vigorous. Not all Canadians realize this; some think the money comes from heaven or grows on tree: for example at this link is another of those dreary, myopic pieces that bewails the making of money from mines. Only on Page 20 do we learn that the Canada Pension Plan [funded by all Canadians], the British Columbia Investment Board [ for public sector workers and teachers], and the Ontario Teachers Pension between them own more than a billion dollars of stock in the mining company that is attacked for making money.
I rode home through the east side of Vancouver where the well-dressed, seemingly well-fed, and to judge by their crazy actions well-drugged homeless rule the roost. This takes money too. Maybe not as much as a big, ugly house in the flood plain of a river, but money is nonetheless needed to support so many idle people on drugs and food. I doubt the money comes from timber or fisheries. Maybe the money for the drugs and for the ugliest houses comes from the commerce of drugs which are grown in forests and fields and basements all around town. At least they do not exploit innocent South American Indians.
These ideas I know are heretical. I know they are politically incorrect. And I acknowledge that the level of insight and analysis is just about as silly and superficial as the volume I attack. So let us take one parting shot prompted by weekend observations:
Human beings individually can be rather nice–like the guy I went riding with. At parties they can be fun co-drinkers or eternal bores as they wax lyrical about some second-rate play they saw and misunderstood. As groups and tribes they can do incredibly stupid things like build besides dikes, below sea-level, on liquefiable sands. And as companies and countries motivated by self-absorption and self-pity they can and do demand the resources of other countries less educated or organized to withstand the imperial might.
How more fitting that the old lady who epitomised imperial might and empire should be remembered by these reflections on mining the colonies and building palaces and castles at home. Nothing has changed but the place names. Uphold and celebrate the status quo that benefits rich and poor alike in the home country.