Various Veins

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Ross Andrews - Various Veins


I must resolve to stop writing columns in the middle of the night. Last week when I came fully awake, it was on my birthday, I realized I was at the beginning of the eighty-fourth orbit around the sun, not at the end of it.

It probably doesn't matter much in the long view, but it shakes my faith in myself when I make a goof-up like that.

You may have seen the list of 25 people who, according to Maclean's, really run this country. It reminded me of some people who would have been on the list in the past. I can't remember most of the names. C.D. Howe was a big gun during World War II. He was in charge of getting supplies to England for the war effort there. In doing that he handled scads of money. In the course of a debate he was quoted as asking, "What's a million?"

To him it was peanuts, but to the average Canadian it was a sum beyond our wildest dreams. The $64 question was top prize in a popular radio show. Compare that with the prizes in today's game shows and lotteries. That off the cuff remark destroyed C.D. Howe's reputation in spite of all his brilliant service.

It doesn't take a careless remark to end a career. Robert Stanfield, sometimes called the best prime minister Canada never had, was sent out to pasture when one photographer showed him fumbling a football in the opening of a game and another snapped him enjoying a banana. It was impossible to look at that picture without associating the man with a monkey. Publishing it was as wicked as spying on peoples' e-mail to gather material for news stories.

And who was the man who solved all the knotty problems, I can see his large brain case atop a neck so spindly it seemed overburdened by the weight of the world. He was handed the Herculean task of wrestling Ontario Hydro into shape. Turned out he wasn't Hercules and he vanished from public affairs.

Recently Dalton McGuinty ran for the trees after his efforts to get Ontario power off coal and uranium drove much of industrial activity out of the province. His face doesn't appear on the cover of Maclean's  special issue about newsmakers of 2012.

Do people really run the country, or do the ebb and flow of events drag the people along? It's been said a good leader looks to see which way the crowd's going and runs to get in front of it.

When pilots were flying modified Steerman planes to spray crops, three or four hours of wrestling with the controls left them exhausted. There was no power steering to assist them. Men and women who wrestle with the business of a country show much the same wear and tear as their careers wind down, or crash in flames.

This week Maclean’s editors ask, “Are we facing a future without families?” A new study, they say, points to a future where self-indulgent singletons outnumber families.

Planners trying to stop urban sprawl and keep people in high-rise apartments are partly responsible for this shift, say the editors. Like Dalton McGuinty's, their efforts produce unexpected results.

Predicting how the future will unfold is a waste of time. Just look back over the past if you think otherwise. When I look across the street at my new neighbours playing happily together, I have no doubt families are here to stay. Looking across the seas to Egypt, I see that families are not all alike, but they are here to stay in that part of the world, too.

Here's a little ditty I like to quote when people talk of change. “There's no new thing under the sun, said Solomon, and he said true. Under the sun there’s nothing new!”


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