TEA & TWO SLICES: On Lazy Ideological Rhetoric And The Abuse Of Goya’s “Saturn”

December 19, 2012.

by Sean OrrCanadian state devouring its citizens. Oh, I get it. I love the painting and I love Goya. I also despise the Conservatives, but I could give this many fucks whenever writers get lost in the wilderness of their own hyperbole.

Ending the False Debate about Save-On-Meats (a Mainlander story served up with a “frank” quote from our publisher, Andrew Morrison). Why is the current situation in Gastown still being described as gentrification? The truth is, as I mention here often, the neighbourhood was actually saved from a different sort urban renewal in the 70’s – that of freeway development. I guess when you’re a Marxist (and I wish I had the education to be one), pragmatism is just dismissed out of hand. I have lived in Gastown for 6 years working as a part-time dishwasher in one of these “fancy” restaurants. I am on the cusp of poverty (hence my recent “joke” about taking your sandwich tokens), and I have bi-polar depression. And yet I’m treated like a king by my peers in the restaurant industry. There is genuine benevolence down here. Every day I witness a desire amongst small, independent businesses to do right and good by the community. The Save On Meats program is just another example of this, and yet it’s completely misunderstood by the people who claim – by words much more than action – to ideologically represent those who stand to benefit.

Canada’s tax dollars aid Israel’s divide and rule tactics. “The Canadians are organized in teams we call road warriors, and they move around the West Bank daily visiting Palestinian security leaders, gauging local conditions”. I wonder where they learned that?

I guess it doesn’t help that I slept in and missed the Right to Recovery march. Oops.

A story no more: Vancouver beats NYC as most expensive city in North America. I’m more concerned with the horrible writing than dour and obvious truths: “despite the cost of items in the cost of living basket increasing.” Shudder.

What is not in Wally Oppal’s report on the missing women inquiry. Which leads to the Tweet of the Day, which is actually more of a heckle of the day, c/o Mike Kieltyka:

But it’s ok, the market will take care of it. Thanks Kevin O’Learly! You can crawl back into your cave now.

Meanwhile, Wente offers this bit of not satire in the Globe: Consumerism is good for the soul. I can pick this article apart in the title alone: a) there is no such thing as a soul, and b) consumerism is an ideology, not the act of buying things.

  • Geebs

    As one young able-bodied white male to another, I feel awfully bad that you’re on the “cusp of poverty.”

    C’mon, man.

  • Grace

    Making fun of dishwashers with bi-polar depression less than a week before Christmas = so fucking cool. You’re an idiot, Geebs. A real fucking idiot.

  • Geebs

    You’re right; pointing out that the author is much more privileged than the majority of residents seeking assistance in the DTES makes me a “fucking idiot.” Thanks for your thoughtful input.

  • Stinky

    Did you actually read and understand that article in Mainlander? I tried fairly hard but it just didn’t make sense to me- as in the message wasn’t evident after multiple passes. I did get that the writer was critical of pretty much everybody that’s doing anything (sort of like, well, you, but without the irony or snarkiness). I’m wondering if maybe the best strategy with stuff like this is to let it lie. It doesn’t really need more exposure. That’s twenty minutes that’s gone for good.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tassels Sean Orr

    Oh it’s ok I was kind of making fun of myself. I live a life of contradictions, I know this, and I am ok with it. It makes things exciting.

  • Keith

    Change is coming to Gastown, Chinatown and the DTES. It is inevitable and irreversible. The only question remains is: what form will it take?

    Those that are concerned about gentrification had better hope and pray that the likes of Mark Brand, et al succeed in their endeavors (or better yet, support it). For if it fails (as some seem to actively wish and work for), that will be the end of anything interesting or creative in the area. Future developers and entrepreneurs will simply point to that failure and say: “See, incorporating social benefit and neighbourhood inclusion doesn’t work”. It will be full steam ahead with Yaletown / Coal Harbour style development from there on.

    Is Mark Brand an arriviste who caters to the hipster dollar? For sure. But the fact that he and his ilk are trying something a bit different – a bit more geared towards the common good and away from “pure” capitalism is pretty amazing and quite historic.

    Some folks may want to think twice about relegating these efforts to nothing more than a footnote in an all too predictable history.

  • twirlip

    “Why is the current situation in Gastown still being described as gentrification? The truth is, as I mention here often, the neighbourhood was actually saved from a different sort urban renewal in the 70’s – that of freeway development.”

    What does a failed redevelopment proposal from 40 years ago have to do with the changes that are happening in the DTES today?

    Of course the DTES is gentrifying. Look at the storefronts on Hastings across from Woodward’s and compare them to what was there just two or three years ago. Who is the target market for places like Catch 122, Style Garage, or Hastings Warehouse (or Acme Cafe, or Bitter, or…)? It’s not the folks who used to eat at the old Save On Meats and drink at Funky Winkerbeans. How many of those people will be living at Woodward’s or Sequel 138? Not many. More and more of the DTES is being turned over to shops, restaurants, and housing like these — places that cater not to low-income locals, but to a different and more affluent population. You can argue that this is a healthy development if you want, or that it’s inevitable, but to say it’s not gentrification just makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    “But the fact that he and his ilk are trying something a bit different – a bit more geared towards the common good and away from ‘pure’ capitalism is pretty amazing and quite historic.”

    I don’t see how Mark Brand’s sandwich program makes any kind of substantial contribution to the “common good.” It’s an ineffective stop-gap for people who don’t have enough to eat. The fact that Brand is making a profit off it (directly, when people pay for the tokens, and indirectly, by polishing his public image) just makes it obnoxious.

  • lynsey

    sean, “cusp of poverty”?really??? don’t you have subsidized rent in a pretty nice loft? i guess that’s not fair and actually i have no idea about your situation, that being said, i don’t disagree with your closing arguments, but i think you could have left out that and personal mental health details in your rebuttal.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tassels Sean Orr

    @lynsey I just mean that people in the restaurant industry are very generous and kind. so yes its relevant. the people who opened these high end restaurants have worked all around vancouver and decided to take a risk on a neighbourhood. many of them started of as busboys as is the case with my restaurant. yeah I’m really lucky my parents bought me and my brother this place but i mean still. I’m a part-time dishwasher in the most expensive city in north america.

  • terry fitzgerald

    the fact that any entrepreneur in the dtes puts anything out there that challenges the state of affairs is positive in that it creates some introspection and of course vitriol. As a point of reference when people (s) remind us that it is a for profit business, take a look at the folks at Pivot Legal, Portland Hotel, DERA(are they still around) they all cash pay checks based upon their existence rooted in the DTES. That is for personal profit, they make their livelyhoods on the DTES and are not bringing in jobs or revenue to the tax base that pays the salaries of these public servants

    Merry Christmas Mr. Orr you are sometimes hard to take. But always worth the time invested.

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    @geebs While it is true that I am “much more privileged than the majority of residents seeking assistance” it is also true that there is no assistance for someone who is able to work p/t except that I get my brain meds for free under Plan G.

    @twirlip “What does a failed redevelopment proposal from 40 years ago have to do with the changes that are happening in the DTES today”? A lot, do your history. They saved Gastown by inventing it. Steam clock, cobbled streets, gaslamps, Blood Alley. So it was already gentrified in the 70s, turning textile warehouses into fancy restuarants like the Water Street Cafe and Al Porto. Blaming restaurants 40 years later rings hollow.

    It seems to me if these business had failed you would be happy, therefore you are only against them because they are successful. It was the businesses that left the DTES that are the cause, not the ones, specifically those aiming to be conscious of their geography, who are returning. The Province newspaper is one of them (cambie and hastings).

  • Chris

    Definition of Gentrification – “Gentrification is a dynamic that emerges in poor urban areas when residential shifts, urban planning, and other phenomena affect the composition of a neighborhood.[1] Urban gentrification often involves population migration as poor residents of a neighborhood are displaced. In a community undergoing gentrification, the average income increases and average family size decreases. This generally results in the displacement of the poorer, pre-gentrification residents, who are unable to pay increased rents, and property taxes, or afford real estate. Often old industrial buildings are converted to residences and shops. New businesses, which can afford increased commercial rent, cater to a more affluent base of consumers—further increasing the appeal to higher income migrants and decreasing the accessibility to the poor. Often, resident owners unable to pay the taxes are forced to sell their residences and move to a cheaper community.”

    I don’t care one way or the other but lets call it what it is, by definition, Gentrification is happening. I’m not putting a judgement on it, sometime it can be good, sometimes bad, it’s up to the interpretation of the people involved obviously. But just because we like to frequent the places such as bars and nightclubs and the owners are young cool guys with tattoos, doesn’t mean its not gentrification. If you like the change in your neighbourhood then support it, theres nothing wrong with that, but lets not get caught up in semantics.

  • Organmorgan

    What will become of places like SOM, Bitter, Catch 122 etc. when their success inevitably drives away the “edgy” backdrop for yuppie slumming? Where will their authenticity-seeking clients go when authenticity exits stage waaaaay further east? I suppose their job will be done, their pockets will be full, and the chain stores can move in.

  • twirlip

    “So it was already gentrified in the 70s, turning textile warehouses into fancy restuarants like the Water Street Cafe and Al Porto. Blaming restaurants 40 years later rings hollow.”

    Part of the DTES was gentrified 40 years ago. Other parts of the DTES went in the opposite direction in the 80s and 90s. Now those other parts are going through their own gentrification process, and all these new shops and restaurants are part of it.

    “It was the businesses that left the DTES that are the cause, not the ones, specifically those aiming to be conscious of their geography, who are returning.”

    If those old businesses are responsible for the effects they had on the DTES by leaving, then the new businesses are responsible for the effects they have on the DTES by coming in. I understand that folks like Mark Brand are trying not to steamroll the neighborhood, but I’m not convinced that their “good intentions” make any difference to the actual effect they have on the DTES. Sandwich tokens won’t mean much if landlords start renovicting people because they can make more money off the middle-class types flooding into places like Save-On-Meats.

  • http://seanorr.tumblr.com/ Sean Orr

    @Chris “If you like the change in your neighbourhood then support it, theres nothing wrong with that, but lets not get caught up in semantics.” Well put. If you’ve been reading my stuff over the past few years you’d know I had very similar if less didactic articles like in the Mainlander, railing against capitalism. But after living and working down here for 6 years… there has to be room for pragmatism.

    @Organmorgan I just think that will never happen. The ram-shackle array of housing and social services are too entrenched. I think talk of a yuppie invasion is hyperbole.

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