The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

Posts from the “Politics” Category

Entertained to Death

Posted on February 21, 2018

In high school, like so many other students from that time, I was intrigued by George Orwell’s short novel 1984. His vision of Big Brother seemed more to cast aspersions on the dark Soviet Empire of my youth than anything else.  But Orwell (his real name was Eric Arthur Blair) was too smart for that.  Dying of tuberculosis, he worried that the Western world he was leaving was giving too much power and sway to its political leaders.  By time he died at 46 in 1950, many began viewing his writings as prophetic. 1984’s nation of Oceania was a dystopian nightmare in which citizens traded their freedom for the empty promises of security and material goods, and ended up in a modern kind of…

Homes Without People

Posted on February 16, 2018

It’s a phenomenon few saw coming, but it’s beginning to turn our perspectives on modern cities on its head.  The point of the spear seems to have begun in New York City – Manhattan specifically.  The number of apartments in that region occupied by absentee owners and renters grew from 19,000 in 2000 to 34,000 by 2011 and has likely mushroomed since.  That’s a jump of 70% in just a decade.  One three-block stretch of the Upper East Side has a 57% vacancy rate for 10 months each year. It’s not just developers and owners excessively purchasing properties and holding on to them as they hold out for higher sales (we have lots of them in Canadian cities).  According to Richard Florida in his…

Is Our World Getting Any Better?

Posted on February 15, 2018

Is the world getting better or worse? It’s a ridiculous question really – not just because it depends on who you ask, but because a single answer proves impossible. The conclusion can only be that it is both. Plenty of research has been published legitimizing both arguments. As a kid growing up in Calgary in the 1950s, both dynamics framed my larger view of the world. It seemed a dangerous planet. The threat of imminent nuclear conflict challenged many of our neighbours to consider constructing bomb shelters. Polio made families insecure. Racism hovered over us as a dark cloud, given what was erupting south of the border. Most nations were anything but democratic and were frequently volatile. The communist threat was everywhere. Sadly, three…

Millennials Seek New Way to Effect Change

Posted on February 10, 2018

Like many other mid-sized cities, London is dealing with a difference in generational attitudes — value distinctions that affect everything from public transportation to employment, locally grown food, neighbourhoods and politics. To date, the friction generated among demographic groups is largely unresolved and that reality partly explains why so many citizens feel frustrated at our collective dysfunction. Neither our politics nor our civil society has succeeded in creating a shared vision. Research increasingly shows how millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) approach community life differently than the generations that preceded them. A recent Deloitte survey found millennials believe businesses should focus more on people than profits, are politically independent and distrustful of partisanship, and are far more inclined to use public transit than…

Public Places Shape Civil Society

Posted on January 31, 2018

He called it “the Third Place,” and though most haven’t heard of it, the name has remained an intriguing part of the vision many community activists have for our quality of life. Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, in his book Celebrating the Third Place (2000), tried to imagine what our communities would look like without all the coffee shops, bars, stores, parks, streets, celebrations, gardens and neighbourhood stores that serve as casual intersections where citizens cross paths. His conclusion? They simply wouldn’t function as effective living spaces. Oldenburg identified “third places” as those locations where the public meets between the “first place” (home) and the “second place” (work). They have existed in every community for centuries, though some observers worry that, with ever-expanding suburbia, third…

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