NOTES/QUOTES #14: A spit-take in Inuvik; tough times for 12-steppers; and NNSL apologizes for columnist
A spit-take is a comic technique you’ll see when a person spits out a drink — or food — in reaction to something funny or shocking.
But the nonchalant expulsion of that thick viscous substance as one walks down the street is not funny at all.
When I had a storefront photo studio in downtown Winnipeg, the large glass windows on one side were right at a major city bus transfer stop.
It was then I first noticed how often people would spit on the ground. I had never really paid much attention to people’s phlegm habits before. But once it caught my attention, I could not avert my gaze any longer.
It was shocking. Disgusting and shocking.
I can’t recall ever needing to spit much. Oh sure, I’ve tossed the contents of my stomach in a few bushes at music festivals, but walking down the street, my bodily fluids generally stay inside my person.
So it was interesting to hear that Inuvik bylaw officers and RCMP can now fine people for spitting, loitering, pooping and peeing in public under a new bylaw passed unanimously at a town council meeting in late February.
Yup, here’s the menu of what it will cost folks if they choose to do the following: Fighting $250; urination/defecation $150; spitting $50; loitering $75; littering $500; or failing to remove litter $500.
“I see no problem passing such a bylaw as this,” Inuvik Deputy Mayor Steven Baryluk told the Inuvik Drum newspaper. “In my mind it’s setting minimal acceptable standards of public behaviour. It is not out to target any one group, it applies to everybody.
“I don’t think anyone in this town or any other town would agree that defecating in the streets is acceptable and right now we don’t really have a way to deal with that.”
However, I’m pretty sure it’s not the tourists who are visiting the Beaufort Delta just to spit on the place.
It’s clear the street people, the public boozers and the homeless are the ones being targeted with this new law. So it’s also pretty clear it simply won’t work. If you have no money, the prospect of being fined isn’t a deterrent.
But town officials seem to understand that. Officials told the Inuvik Drum that once a ticketed individual is in the court system, they could have the potential to complete an alternate measures program.
The Drum interviewed Yellowknife outreach worker — and my fellow Rotarian — Lydia Bardak (spelling her name wrong in the story, but hey…).
“There’s going to be a cost associated with it,” she told the Drum. “Bylaw officers will have to be in court for bylaw court so they won’t be out there doing bylaw stuff.”
The only possible advantage is the town could end up with some free labour from folks needing to work off fines they couldn’t pay in court.
And those convicted public poopers could then be forced to clean up after others.
Ahh, the circle of life.
COVID-19 AND RECOVERY
For people who had trouble coping with the way society was structured in the pre-COVID era, this new government-imposed lifestyle of nothingness will allow recovering addicts to thrive or fail.
People trying to stay sober or away from illegal drugs face daily challenges. A stable routine, proper nutrition and reliable support systems that are readily accessible are so incredibly important for alcoholics and addicts.
If folks in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are following the Big Book and have good sponsors, then the lack of distractions — such as healthy recreation options, churches and booze-free entertainment venues — shouldn’t force them into the “stinking thinking” that leads to a slip.
However, as AA club meetings are cancelled and for an alcoholic or addict who was just casually sniffing around the edges of recovery, this extended period of being inside with others or — for some, even worse, being alone with their thoughts — could lead to a relapse.
For people with court orders not to drink or drug, that could mean a violation of probation and a trip back into court.
Or worse, if a relapse if severe enough, it could lead to violent events with others or, tragically, suicide.
People who aren’t in recovery but should be will now face increased stress, financial hardship, high anxiety, loneliness and despair. Those are fertile grounds for substance abuse and addiction to thrive.
These are the things that have to be weighed by the government when a decision was made to shut down the city and territory out of fear of spreading the China-originated novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease.
While we will be preventing the spread of COVID-19, there will be collateral damage. Those in recovery are one segment of society at particular risk.
The group therapy found in AA club meetings is indispensable.
There are online meetings, but that won’t help everyone and will not make up for the human touch of a handshake at a meeting. And being able to tell your stories of the past and how you’re faring in recovery are very important. People with unstable living situations might not have the freedom to speak freely in their homes, even if they have internet access.
A group in Winnipeg I was familiar with in the 1990s used to hold hands and stand in a circle at the end of each meeting while reciting The Lord’s Prayer. It was powerful.
A shared trait among most alcoholics or addicts is that they filled the space between the people they pushed away in their lives with booze and drugs. Now they are being asked to stay inside, perhaps alone, without grabbing for the nearest bottle or calling the local drug dealer.
Addicts are afraid to look inside themselves. Now they are being forced to do so without the usual supports.
They need to be strong and stay strong. Read the Big Book. Pray. Have a full faith in their Higher Power.
A once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic? This too, shall pass.
I have an app on my phone from Hazelden — find it at the Apple app store — that offers daily recovery thoughts. No, I am not in recovery myself. But I have a deep appreciation for the positive impact AA can have on people’s shattered lives.
A recent Hazelden thought for the day:
“When we were drinking, we used to be ashamed of the past. Remorse is terrible mental punishment: ashamed of ourselves for the things we’ve said and done, afraid to face people because of what they might think of us, afraid of the consequences of what we did when we were drunk. In AA we forget about the past. Do I believe that God has forgiven me for everything I’ve done in the past, no matter how black it was, provided I’m honestly trying to do the right thing today?”
Meditation for the day:
“God’s spirit is all about you all day long. You have no thoughts, no plans, no impulses, no emotions that He does not know about. You can hide nothing from Him. Do not make your conduct conform only to that of the world and do not depend on the approval or disapproval of others. God sees in secret, but He rewards openly. If you are in harmony with the Divine Spirit, doing your best to live the way you believe God wants you to live, you will be at peace.
Prayer for the day:
I pray that I may always feel God’s presence. I pray that I may realize this Presence constantly all through the day.
Just a quick note on calls for extreme restrictions on the sale of liquor and cannabis at the territory’s licensed outlets. This is a dangerous move that needs to be well thought out.
Closing down all liquor stores in response to the virus is an act which runs the risk of sending people with alcohol use disorder into withdrawal. Delirium tremens can occur, resulting in shaking, irregular heartbeat, high body temperature — and death.
It will also lead to increased bootlegging and the use of other non-potable substances — such as solvents — as desperate people turn to desperate measures.
Also, cannabis is a calming drug that is something certainly needed right now.
I’ll explore this further in the coming days.
DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE
In my last blog, I commented on the failings of Northern News Services columnist Nancy Vail.
The dyed-in-the-wool social justice warrior’s weekly pieces in the Yellowknifer have been a cesspool of leftist rants, ill-informed attacks on government policies and downright wrong information.
It’s so bad that NNSL publisher Bruce Valpy was forced to write a column of his own apologizing for, and correcting the content of, a recent column by Vail. On March 31, Vail went after the GNWT for “shaming” publicity hound Mike “Pike” Harrison — a character on the reality show Ice Lake Rebels — who boasted how he ignored directives by the chief public health officer when he returned to the NWT and did not self-isolate in Hay River as instructed, but continued to his homestead north of Fort Liard.
In the same piece, she also attacked the mining industry and how “we caused this pandemic by the unsustainable way we live, making a healthy economy more important than healthy people.”
In his April 3 column entitled “Setting the record straight on the ‘Pike’ Mike Covid predicament story,” Valpy admitted Vail got things wrong.
However, instead of tubing her column, Valpy chose to praise her.
“Nancy Vail is a valuable contributor to NNSL,” he wrote. “She and we are all writing on the fly doing our best for our readers.”
Unless NNSL simply can’t find anyone these days willing to write for it, there is no reason for Valpy to cling on to Vail in such a fashion. NNSL already has a host of left-leaning contributors, so losing one wouldn’t even come close to balancing the ideological scales.
And “writing on the fly” is what reporters do on a daily basis. You need to be fast and accurate. If not, you don’t belong in the biz.
Including Vail in that skills group is rather odd. She clearly is an opinion writer who is fast and free with the truth.
As a freelance columnist, she has the time to do the research to get her stories straight, if that’s what she really wants to do. For a columnist to earn any respect, they must base their arguments on solid facts.
The public needs to be able to trust what a media outlet is putting out there. Does Valpy’s handling of the Vail matter increase or decrease the level of trust you have in what NNSL is doing as a media outlet?