Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hair, Hair, Everywhere

It’s been a solid six months since I swore off shampoo (and conditioner) - an act which, while entirely impulsive and dubiously researched, I have stuck to with moderate success. My hair is still annoying, in that it frustratingly falls between curly and straight, brown and blond, ugly and really ugly...but that’s the way it’s always been. To be clear, it’s generally much happier than it was when I was using shampoo, and a good deal thicker with a bouncier texture, and that all seems good to me.

The entire point of the no-shampoo undertaking was tiny little baby birds, who were, along with many other diverse species, being adversely affected by the Pacific Garbage Heap, which is a content-sized pool composed of bits of plastic, which are often ingested by wildlife and wreaking havoc on the environment.

For all the attention that the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill has received - which is, understandably, a lot, considering the damn thing is still gushing oil into the ocean - we’ve largely ignored the manufactured bits of oil which are pouring continuously out into the oceans, in the form of plastic waste. Not to compare armageddon scenarios, but who can say which is truly worse for the global ecosystem, and its future viability? My money's on the continent-sized pool of plastic that nobody's talking about.

So, why haven’t we banded together across nations and continents to clean up this plasticy mess? Well, really, there’d be no point. The fact is, Asia and the Americas are pumping plastics into the oceans at such a geyser-like rate that, even if we did get rid of all the existing plastic bits, we’d replace them within months.

Think about it - how many toothbrushes, bottle caps, and daisy razors have you alone thrown away in the past year? Times six billion, that’s a lot of plastic crap. And plastic is absolutely everywhere - just yesterday, I assembled an entirely metal and glass desk and accompanying metal and fabric chair, but both items were packed in enough toxic styrofoam and thin plastic bags to smother at least a dozen adorable belugas.

In an effort to remove my six billionth fraction of the problem, I decided to forgo as much plastic crap as possible - which is a lot harder than it sounds. There are quite a few items which, it seems, are exclusively packaged in plastics - things like masking tape, yogurt, and, well, pretty much all food. Even my 100% recycled toilet paper is swathed in a sheet of non-recyclable plastic, because life is ironic like that and, in the age of long-haul shipping and consumer contamination-dread, sealing everything inside a transparent plastic sheath seems to be the disturbing norm.

Coworkers have learned not to hand out plastic utensils to clients when I’m in the room because, when they do so, I inevitably end up sad and talking about dying baby sea turtles, chocking or poisoned on plastic waste and getting caught in free-floating swirls of debris. When guilt-induced coworkers offer to put back the plastic fork, I sigh, “there’s no point. The baby sea turtles are probably already dead.”

And, indeed, they probably already are.

But, not one to be morose or discouraged, I decided to continue making an effort to cut plastics out of my life...this time in the form of disposable razors.

I haven’t bought disposable razors in months - but, thanks to a small stockpile and the leg-shading months of winter, I hadn’t run out of razors until recently, when I was faced with two options - I could become one of those girls with billowing plumes of underarm hair, or I could start waxing.

Waxing seemed like a smart idea, until I realized that, not only did I not want to pour scalding home-made wax on my tender underarm regions, but that the prospect of ripping off said wax, and a good chunk of my hair and skin along with it, did not sound like a fun time.

Doesn’t life give women enough pain, what with the menses, the childbirth, the menopause...why must we inflict horrific, Inquisition-like torture upon ourselves? Isn’t this just another form of self-subjugation? Haven’t we passed that point? Aren’t we liberated?

I remain deeply conflicted, while the hair grows, slowly. God have mercy on us all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Canada's sticky past...sadly, nothing to do with Maple Syrup

Today is Canada Day but, eternally stuck in the past, I must recall what happened four days ago - last Sunday. (OR, at least, this chronology would make sense, since I wrote this on Canada Day, four days ago...argh...still no internet at home, kids, bear with me and my wonky timeline.)

Drawn in like moths to a flaming police cruiser, thousands of spectators came in from the suburbs of Toronto to see what all this protesting was about - among them my brother, a former foot soldier turned women’s major from York University.

The massive international attention of the G20 summit meant that anyone with any sort of cause was out, armed with signs and rhyming slogans. A group of Hasidic Jews protested Israel. Another group of Hasidic Jews protested the Hasidic Jews protesting Israel. Yiddish insults were vaulted back and forth. And the police, seemingly absent the day before and only too happy to sacrifice shop windows and vehicles to angry mobs, were suddenly everywhere with militant force.

Black-clad in riot gear, a line of police officers halted the progression of protesters. The protesters protested, as protesters do. But then another flank of officers approached from behind the group, blocking them in, and leaving the protesters and spectators with nowhere to go. My mother, hearing this, thought of the Tiananmen square massacre - the news of which ruined her birthday some 20 years ago.

Caught in between in an ever-shrinking space, the civilians banded together in fear and confusion. Groups like this existed throughout the city, bordered in on all sides, held for hours in the rain. Some hoped to be arrested, fearing tear gas. Plain clothed officers roamed the city, grabbing civilians and throwing them into vans, breaking into houses to arrested suspected protesters and those with affiliations with groups deemed dangerous. Suspects, many of whom were simply outside on their way to work, were held without charge for days at a time.

My brother saved a boy from being trampled by charging officers on horseback. He said his legs hurt, from all the running. And surrounded by riot gear, he and the civilians he was trapped with decided, together, to sing ‘O Canada.’

I can’t say I would have joined in.

People, no doubt, were thinking about the Canada that used to be progressive in civil liberties; the Canada which, while fiscally conservative, was rated consistently as one of the most livable and socially responsible countries in the world, where human rights and human dignity were valued in a way which other countries admired and wished to emulate. They were thinking of the Canada of Trudeau, of universal healthcare, of Peace Keepers and bilingualism and care for ailing brethren.

Well, even the USA has universal healthcare, now, and Canada’s fallen behind Scandinavian competitors of many, if not most, of the factors which used to make it a symbol of democracy and human rights. Our minority government is the most conservative in decades, and, to add insult to injury, our monarch, the Queen of England, has decided to visit to remind us all that we’re still under British Empirical Rule...an indignity that India sloughed off decades ago.

Child soldiers being tortured in Guantanamo Bay, despite courts telling our Prime Minister that it is against Canadian and International Law...Internationally praised safe-injection sites universally deemed a medical and fiscal success, which the federal government keeps trying, in increasingly convoluted ways, to shut down...Children being trampled by marauding police, who apparently have limitless power and no recourse...and the Queen of England, spending Canadian tax dollars to shovel piles of dirt on pre-planted trees.

That’s Canada, to me. Canada, true North, great white, a rapidly disappearing image of its former self, like a snowman too late in the spring. That’s my home and native land. Though, it should be noted, that several impoverished aboriginal women always sing the lyrics to this hymn as ‘Home and White-man’s land,’ speaking to the realities of Canada's not-so-glorious past, continued on today.

Happy Canada Day, chums.