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  • Writer's pictureChristine M

Thursday morning

One of the reasons I'm so bad at blogging is probably because I read a lot. This week, I'm re-reading Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar. The last time I read it was the early 70s. It's a difficult book to read, because of the format in which it's written. When I read it the first time, there were no 24/7 network news channels, and no social media, so I couldn't grasp the kind of ubiquitous intrusion of commercial broadcasting into every minute of a person's life. I couldn't imagine it. (And now? We're living it!)

So it's really like I'm reading this book for the first time! It often happens that I re-read a book. (Sometimes, over and over, as is the case with Dumas' La dame aux camélias.) And I'm often delighted to rediscover some passage or aspect of the story that I'd completely forgotten. But this is different. I think, the first time I read this, between the difficulty I had reading it and my inability to imagine that particular kind of dystopia, much of the story sailed right over my pointy head. I didn't think much of it, the first time I read it, and I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. But now, (while it's still a bit of a workout to read), I'm enjoying it so much more.

(But I did initially download it in audiobook format, so Mr JoyfulC and I could listen together, which we do with a couple books a week. I had to switch to print! This is one of the few books I've read that I think could be well-done in movie format. Oddly, no one has ever made a movie of it.)

It does make me wonder about the population issue. Today, people are divided. Some seem to feel that it's a problem we're going to need to address. While others seem to feel it's not a problem at all. (Lately you even hear some people talking about how there aren't enough babies of a certain race being born. Can you imagine obsessing over such a ridiculous thing? Some people's kids! 🤦) I kinda see both sides. We need to solve some problems If we are going to continue to grow, however.

And we'd do wise to remember Calhoun's Utopia studies, in which a confined population of mice was given everything it needed, as it's population ballooned, except more space. That didn't end well!

As some might know, after forty years of being tenants together, Mr JoyfulC and I were evicted from our last home. The problem wasn't that we weren't paying our rent or that we were bad tenants. Or even that we were paying under-market rent. The problem was that our landlord (who looked about 12, and reminded me of Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes) decided to sell, right in the middle of the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic. We'd encountered landlords who wanted to sell before, and it was never a problem. We always went out of our way to work with the landlords to achieve a win-win outcome.

But this time, we had serious misgivings! We were following all the anti-COVID measures. We were wearing masks, washing our hands frequently, staying home, social distancing, only venturing out once a week to shop--and if we forgot something, well, it had to wait until the following week. (Was it the right thing to do? 🤷 We're not public health experts. But we decided, if we were going to be wrong, we'd rather err on the side of social responsibility than ignorant defiance.) The last thing we wanted, at that time, was to have real estate agents traipsing lookyloos--who obviously either didn't grasp or were openly defying anti-COVID measures--through our little home! And we weren't thrilled with the prospect of househunting and moving during that mess.

Having discussed our concerns with our landlord and his vile realtor, we realised that, while inflated prices were the main reason they chose to sell at that time, for them, the cherry on the top was having the power to force people--who would otherwise be voluntarily complying with anti-COVID restrictions--to have to engage in activities that were counterproductive to that. This was a couple years before "the convoy," but I have no doubt that they would have been the type to support it! They communicated nothing but contempt for advice from public health authorities. I guess they figured they knew better!

So, we wrote to Premier Ford, explained our situation, and asked for his help. His office's response was, essentially, to hold out for an eviction hearing with the Landlord Tenant Board. They also advised us to ask our landlord to do virtual showings. (Which our landlord found cute, but disregarded.) In the end, this worked for us--it bought us an additional year, during which time, we were able to start vaccinations and to put off moving until it became more reasonable to do so. It cost the landlord some time and some extra money, but maybe he learned an important business lesson. Namely, that if your customers are willing to sit down with you and work out a solution, maybe you should at least consider it. Standing on your rights might be briefly gratifying, but there's nothing to stop your customers from standing on their rights too.

But during that year, I did a lot of research on residential tenancy issues, and what I learned about the state of renting in Ontario completely horrified me. If things continue the way they are, we're headed for a serious disaster! And it doesn't--and won't--just affect those of us who rent, but will hit everyone in this province where we live. Literally. It's one thing to have a rapid increase in population. It's another to completely ignore all the best practices for our built environment. We are engineering dystopia.

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