I’ve been waiting a long time to use that title… Yes, things are changing, but the Times will be staying around for a while yet. A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the troubles facing newspapers recently because of a shortage of newsprint on which to actually print them. In addition, the printing company we’ve been using for many years has been forced to close because of that and other issues. It is, in many ways, a further effect of Covid, as businesses who managed to survive lockdowns and restrictions, and hoped that things would improve with the end of those limitations on business, faced up to serious problems when they reopened.
Both of our newspapers, in North Grenville and North Dundas, have been recovering really well from the pandemic restrictions, but faced genuine existential threats when our printer went under. But we have found a new printing company, and things look to be moving on quite well from here. But delivery of copies of the Times were seriously delayed last week because of yet another problem that has been affecting almost everyone – a shortage of drivers. We do apologise for that.
It has been depressing, in some cases devastating, for many small and large businesses alike to find that surviving Covid lockdowns may not have been the achievement they thought it would be. Staff shortages throughout the many sectors of the economy have meant that restaurants and retail operations, among others, have been unable to take advantage of the opportunities that milder weather and the eagerness of people to get out of the house again.
Nor is this confined to our area, or even the country as a whole. I am writing this in Ireland (I’m back at work, just not back in the office), and this country has been dealing with the same issues, though it is not nearly as bad here as in Britain, where the rising cost of living has led to dramatic increases in energy and food costs even greater than those experienced in Canada and Europe. The UK defines people suffering from “energy poverty” when more than 10% of their disposable income is spent on energy for heating, cooking, travel, etc. It has been calculated that, by the end of this year, fully half of all UK households will be in that situation.
The series of dramatic, almost unprecedented, crises we’ve all experienced over the past three years – from Covid to war in Ukraine – have been added to in the UK by the absolute folly that was Brexit. But the overall impact of these various crises has been to seemingly perpetuate the changes in how we live. There seems to be no going back to the lives we had pre-2020. As Yeats said: “All is changed, changed utterly”, though we can’t continue with his line: “a terrible beauty is born”. There is nothing beautiful, albeit terrible, about the state of affairs facing us today.
The world is dealing with the greatest population shifts since the end of World War II, as literally millions of people, from Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and other countries, are on the move, looking for peace and safety and a future for their children. Their movement, coinciding with the decreasing standard of living in the nations to which they are fleeing, is only adding to an upsurge in racism and intolerance, something that had already been extremely worrying even before the pandemic, as social media sites encouraged the dissemination of hatred and xenophobia.
On the face of it, then, things are looking rather bleak, aren’t they? But we have to deal with the situations we face, and not look longingly back at how things used to be. Because the reality is that we also grumbled and moaned about the things that used to be before they were “used to be”. In football (soccer for the uninitiated), there is a saying: “you can only beat the team in front of you”, and that is the case for us today. Instead of gnashing our teeth and giving in to the conspiracy crazies (of which there are many, some in governments), we have to rethink the way we do things in a new world. If even British Conservatives find themselves having to tax energy companies to the tune of £5 billion in order to keep their people warm and businesses functioning, then we know the world is facing new realities.
Which brings me to the provincial election. Elections are always important because they decide the men and women, and more importantly, the ideology, that will decide much of how we live together. This is particularly important this time around. Old ways of doing things are having to give way to new, especially new ideas, new visions of how society should or can work for the good of its citizens. This is certainly not the time to fall back on old habits and family traditions. It is more certainly not the time to vote without thought, or, much, much worse, not to vote at all.
The pandemic showed us how suddenly things can change, and how vital it is that we have leaders at all levels who are capable of reacting to those crises effectively, efficiently, and humanely. Millions of people around the world died unnecessarily because people in government moved too slowly. There was a singular lack of vision on the part of many individuals in places of power around the world, and so people died. The images that have been emerging in the UK of Boris Johnson and his cohorts having drinks parties and celebrations in groups at the very time ordinary people were refused access to dying family members, or had to miss out on funerals, has underlined how divorced politicians can be from those who elected them and made the very rules they flouted.
So, as you think about the upcoming election, it is important that we put our vote in context. It is not so much a matter of which political party you vote for, but much more who the person is that you can trust to remain true to their word, act on behalf of all where possible, and have the vision to guide us into the new world we’re facing. Time for a revolution, I think.