Since yesterday afternoon it has been snowing in London. Unlike Canada London has not seen snow on an ordinary basis in a few years, so it is quite entertaining to watch my neighbours interact with the snow as though it were some form of alien landing. It is an official snow day in London. The buses have stopped, the tube is interrupted, the airports are closed.
Kids rub snow off of cars to test out the weight of cold, while grown men test out their footprints on the white matter. A couple just waved up at me probably finding it strange to see a person sitting by the window just watching people from behind their computer. Snow suits London. In that cold kind of removed way.
There is a decidedly very gloomy tone to London these days. And I don't think it is just the usual grey weather. This week's newspapers are laced with the stench of financial crisis and Bush pleading for a substantial $700 billion bail-out. I am starting to wonder whether I should pack up and head to Cuba for those adventurous years I never lived out in my twenties.
I have never been as interested in the inner workings of banking institutions as I am now, which must make me a pretty typical Joe. The past two weeks have driven me to the business dailies trying to piece together what exactly a credit crisis means. My ability to recognize patterns is somewhat curtailed in this area, however from the little I have been able to understand is the fact that the current meltdown is not just the fault of greedy bankers (as much as we might relish the idea of hanging them by their suspenders from London Bridge and/or Brooklyn Bridge), our present financial turmoil is the responsibility of central bankers who took their eyes off of regulation and to a large extent allowed what we are experiencing to happen. Another piece that I have uncovered is that changes in the supply of money and credit have been the main driver of economic cycles and booms and busts. To a large extent, it is mistakes in monetary policy which have driven every major recession in 20th and 21st centuries.
I am not sure that understanding or knowing any of this relieves the current states of stress we are all undergoing, and that I am certainly feeling. As I travelled to work on the bus today, I could hear a Carribean accent explaining to his mate that Bush was begging for a bail-out when the Americans have all of the money they need in their pockets. The tone was not one of sympathy but of can-you-believe-the-hootzpah that Bush would expect to be saved by global bystanders struggling to feed their own families.
I've now been back just over a week. I'm still in the process of trying to figure out where I am mentally right now. There are atoms of me spread out all over the world holding conversations with people from my past and people I have not yet met. I guess this is what you call globalization, or some other form of human kind.
My brother Ryan has just arrived to start his one year masters at LSE on comparative politics. I am slightly jealous of his chance to start afresh this fall, but I also don't miss having the budget of a student or the open cupboard lifestyle that accompanies it. In the meantime, it is just fun to share with him the little I do know of London. He is a quick study and picks up on some of the nuances and contradictions of the stiff-upper lip country. He was picked up at Heathorw by an eastern cabbie who told him there was a difference between the English and Brits, and I couldn't help but smile. His cabbie was quick to point out that he was Brit, and that is was most of us immigrants can dare to aspire to in this divided patch of the world.
Saturday night we hosted a mix of friends and acquaintances to celebrate Ryan's arrival. Ryan kindly prepared the score for the evening, and I now greedily carry it on my iPod. It is amazing how similar and dissimilar we are, despite coming from the same Canada. Our dreams are somewhat the same and not, misshapen by our own misperceptions of ourselves and what is desireable. Here is to continued dreaming even when it goes awry. It always makes for interesting dinner conversation...
On Sunday the BBC aired the official Olympic hand off between Beijing and London. But before I can go into any brief recap of the closing ceremonies, let me begin with the tediousness of having to watch London Mayor, Boris Johnson, the IOC President Rogge, and his Chinese compatriot, Liu Qi's attempts to wave the flag without having the material wrap itself impotently and lifelessly around the staff.
And what of Liu Qi's speech, which I was very keen to get my hands on. The 2008 motto 'One dream one world' seems such a farce when we consider the source. Or perhaps it makes a lot of sense coming from a communist regime; when the Chinese government says one dream, then all of its’ people, and the rest of the world, should take note and line up to its' credo.
I had a very hard time not screeching every time I saw the official Olympic tag over the last two weeks. How can a country with so many human rights violations stand dead center on the global stage and proclaim with deadpan sincerity 'one dream one world'. Should China not get its own domestic affairs in order, before asking the global audience over for tea, let alone the Olympics.
A particular favorite passage in Liu Qi's speech was when he uttered that "The Beijing Olympic Games is a testimony of the fact that the world has its trust rested upon China". I am sorry, but I think this would be an oversimplification of the truth, or rather a gross misjudgement of individual sentiment. China should not misjudge the fact that Americans watched the 2008 Olympics in record numbers. Watching does not suggest an awareness of the host's political and social actions. Watching does not equate support, let alone trust. At this point in time, I would rather invest my trust in a dog than the Chinese governmen. China still has a lot more work to do, beyond Pyrotechics, cheerleaders, and lip synch to convince me that they are worthy of my trust.
This morning as I approached the office and made my regular departure from M&S with banana and yogourt in hand, I felt Rob watching over my shoulder as I passed by a bearded fellow selling The Big Issue, and so I decided to stop and purchase a copy. The happy beard thanked me, and then asked me if I was American. This is a regular occurence for Canadians in Europe. Just the other night a taxi only took Rob, a Canadian friend, and I on as long as we promised not to vote for the current US administration. Rob had to tell him this was not possible as we were Canadian and almost went as far as pointing out that a third term was as likely as beavers not building damns, but restrained himself.
I told my bearded friend, nope, I'm Canadian. To which he tisked and observed that Americans were tighter than Canadians, and in general we were a sincere community of people. However, he was much agrieved by our treatment and clubbing of the seals, who in his mind deserved a better fate. I could not counter his point but offered that this did not represent the interest of every Canadian countryman.
He then remarked that from Northern Scotland and Inverness one could see the energy sparks fly every time a seal was clubbed in Canada. I had to conceal a smile, but could imagine the bright flare as he described it.
As a result he told me he had not bought Canadian produce since. I wanted to ask him what manner of Canadian produce he had managed to buy in the UK, but instead decided to wish him well and was on my way again with new copy of the Big Issue.