Here in Monreal, the idea of a white Christmas is meaningless. There’s already two feet of snow on the ground and it won’t go anywhere until March or April.
As a Brit, it’s amazing to witness the ease with which Montrealers adapt to the snow. Because of its predictable regularity, people simply aren’t bothered by it. There aren’t even many special measures taken: people and cars just cut their own way through the snow. Some quieter streets have the snow removed by bulldozers. Nothing closes down. Nothing grinds to a halt. The problems faced in the UK whenever it snows could be avoided with some very simple advice: individuals need to reassess the meaning of ‘wrap up warm’ and governments need to at least partially subsidize central heating. British suburbia’s obsession with gritsalt is a red herring.
Personally, I love the snow. I’ve been playing in it. I’ve not even curbed my resolution to walk everywhere. I honestly thought I would begin using public transport once the snow arrived, but I’ve found in practice that it’s not a big deal. I simply wear warm clothes and big boots. The sub-zero temperature transpires not to be a problem: I actually find myself overheating from the exertion of walking against the snow and need to remove my hood periodically to let off heat. The real challenge in walking long distances in the snow is the physical work involved. You use different leg muscles in the snow: muscles that aren’t accustomed to being used. Since one of the objectives of walking everywhere is to get exercise, the snow actually adds value. It’s fun too. I like to imagine I’m Scott of the Antarctic.
The first Christmas gift we received this year came from our friends Kristin and Chris. In support of my recent conversion to tea , they thoughtfully bought us a lovely and well-designed teapot to replace our rubbish old drippy one. In addition to the teapot itself, Kristin crocheted a tea cozy depicting a Fluchtverdächtiger. As with any good tea cosy, this one also doubles up as a hat (as demonstrated in this photograph). A fab gift. Thank you, guys.
In the pub last week, a new friend and I discussed an idea for a website called This Is Why You’re Poor. It would be a more socially-minded version of the famous and funny This is why you’re Fat. Our website would catalogue the unfortunate consumer habits, inane consumer tat, excessive comforts, sense of entitlement, and unquestioned ‘needs’ that result in people having to work full time and to not have any savings.
It was a good idea in principle and I was geared up to register the requisite Tumblr account, but I became worried that such a site would place too conservative an outlook on the personal reasons for poverty and negate the very real social reasons: bad education, governmental neglect and exploitative marketing campaigns. Of course, our site could catalogue examples of these thing too, but I don’t think they would be as funny or light-hearted as inane products would be.
It turns out, of course, that the idea has already been done, though clearly half-heartedly and not very well. As I suspected, such a site would run the risk of propagating a conservative outlook, but I didn’t predict quite how repulsive it could be: the site here actually lists ‘immigrant laborers’ as a reason for poverty. Not very nice and not very true either. I’ve never understood the right-wing insistence upon immigration and international outsourcing being bad for the economy and local employment. Even from a right-wing point of view, isn’t it better to let foreigners do the dirty work of mining and farming while the natives of your country concern themselves with clean industry, consumer economy and being great world leaders? From my Internationalist perspective, I don’t see the difference between local people doing a given job and ‘outsiders’ doing it: we’re all part of the same species and the same international economy; and the task is to get a job done efficiently, not to worry about the nationality of the person doing it.
Whatever the causes of poverty, Christmas is the time of year we tend to think about it. Indeed, now that there’s snow on the ground, the homeless beggars of Montreal seem considerably more wretched and unhappy than in the summer. It is difficult to disregard their humanity or to convince ourselves that they’re ‘just going to spend it on drugs’ when they’re standing around in sub-zero temperatures in ill-suited clothes.
It’s at this time of year that we find ourselves thinking about our own post-Christmas debt as the result of overspending in December; and thinking of the poverty faced by those genuinely less fortunate. The former problem can be dealt with by committing to minimalsm and curbing material desires. The latter might be dealt with by committing a regular charity donation to an organisation geared toward educating people out of poverty. This fellow gives most of his monthly income to charitable causes and personally enjoys a life of reasonable frugality.
Have a great Christmas, everyone.
The New Escapologist Yuletide offer is still open. Get Issues One and Three together (surely the best of our work) for just £7 (€8.40 / $7.10).