It’s hard to go one day without hearing something about how corrupt the Western world is. I live in Vancouver, and having worked in customer service, I can say with great confidence that probably half of small-talk conversations customers started with me were about how much they hated this city for one reason or another. And I’m really, really sick of it, cause none of these pessimistic jerks have any idea how lucky they are to be here and how much they have to be grateful for.
There are plenty of things to bitch about, being from here. Our mayor is a pansy who cares more about selling juice than about people. Sleeping in somebody’s closet can set you back $700 a month. Art spaces and music venues are disappearing quickly, we’ve earned the title ‘No-fun city’ with municipal government’s war on anything that isn’t a bike lane.
But these are all superficial, at the end of the day. We live in a wonderful place, and I’d rather be broke and tired in Vancouver than putting money in the bank anywhere else.
Let’s start with the geographical elements of this city. We have awesome weather. It’s actually the reason why Vancouver has so many homeless people, is because homeless people from across the country flock to the streets of Vancouver, since our winters are so much milder than the rest of the country’s. We have the best drinking water in the world, here and in surrounding areas. We’re right in between the mountains, the forests and the ocean. A twenty-minute drive in any direction will take you to numerous beautiful day trips. Just making the effort to surround yourself with some natural beauty is the perfect antidote to fast-paced and highly stressful city life – the Pacific Ocean, Cypress Mountain or Grouse Mountain, the boardwalks of Burns Bog, cycling around Stanley Park, a walk down the beach in Ambleside or White Rock, or any one of our numerous local trails are enough to keep you sane while you’re trying to pay rent here.
Our restaurants are easily some of the best in the world. Hey, that’s a big one for me. Or, as a more serious point: we’re a highly multicultural city, and the multiculturalism is actually working out great here. Immigrants and refugees tend to be very well integrated in society, and we don’t see ghettos centred around specific minority groups the way we’re seeing them in Europe right now. There is a bit of non-enforced social segregation as tends to happen in multicultural cities; we have areas of the Lower Mainland that are visibly predominantly young whites, old whites, middle aged whites with kids, Chinese, Indian, First Nations, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, Greek, Italian, Filipino, and German. These mini-communities make up the city, and everybody gets along just fine.
And, most importantly, we have FREEDOM here. Even in relation to the rest of the continent, the Pacific Northwest is a particularly free place. The realization of this really hit me over the head around mid-July. I live in Vancouver; Sen. Editor S. lives near the beach in White Rock. We had a lovely day off together where, on a bright and sunny day, he picked me up and we drove to a pot shop and legally bought some joints, then drove back to his place. We hopped a fence and did some minor trespassing; we scaled down a cliff that adventurers before us have turned into a trail, with ropes to hang on to; we climbed under another gate and crossed the train tracks, down to a rocky beach with nobody else around. We went swimming in the Pacific Ocean, then dried off on some rocks, smoked that joint and sipped on some whiskey, read essays by George Orwell and we talked about freedom of speech and how East of Eden is one of the best books ever written. Days don’t get too much better than that.
Later on, looking back on the course of events, I realized we had just done a number of things that in many parts of the world, could have gotten me arrested or even killed.
First off, I, a young woman, left the house with a man that wasn’t my boyfriend or my father. I was wearing shorts and a tank top, something like that, something normal a woman would wear on a hot day. In some parts of the world I wouldn’t be allowed to leave the house unless I was wearing a giant black sack leaving only my eyes covered.
We walked into a shop and bought weed over the counter – when marijuana possession is still a lengthy prison sentence in some parts of the United States even. We hopped a fence and trespassed on private property – the train tracks – and drank and smoked weed where we weren’t supposed to, but we weren’t caught. And even if we were, we would have just gotten a slap on the wrist – a fine of less than two hundred dollars, maybe we’d have been asked to pour out the whiskey and hand over the joint, and then the police would have hotboxed their car. I’m half-joking.
We swam in clean, warm water. The sun shone off it and the water sparkled, and I can’t think of a more beautiful natural sight than that. The air quality is amazing here too – something I really became aware of after coming back from six weeks in Europe.
I went swimming in a bikini. In Saudi Arabia, a foreign woman was gang-raped after wearing a bikini to the beach. She went to the police, no charges were laid, she was deported, and her passport was stamped ‘prostitute.’
We read the writings of an author who’s been banned before, in different eras and countries. We talked about freedom of speech, which is a very under-appreciated luxury we have here. It doesn’t exist in most parts of the world, and it might not exist much longer here either if the Regressive Left keep getting louder and more nonsensical. We openly discussed themes of religion within East of Eden; such could be considered blasphemy under theocratical regimes.
As you can probably tell, I’m largely critiquing Islam and the Middle East. But events like I just described could still get me in lots of trouble in many other parts of the world. And I got away with the events of the whole day scott-free.
You can look around the Western world and you can choose to see oppression and discrimination and inequalities and injustice. You can choose to over-exaggerate problems that are already fading into the past on their own time; you can choose to see problems that aren’t even there. Or you can take a step back like I did, and think about what consequences the same day would have carried for you if you lived anywhere else. I’m not saying we’re perfect here, but who wants perfection anyway? That would leave no struggle behind; our lives would be boring and static, there would be nothing to fight for, our lives would have no meaning.
Capitalism has done more to lift populations out of poverty than any other system the world has ever seen. The principles of the rights of the individual that the Western world were founded on have led to the desired equality of opportunity, instead of the oppressive and totalitarian equality of outcome.
I cut the conversation short now when people want to bitch about the city (unless I’m in a particularly bad mood, or unless it’s the first of the month and most of my earnings were just handed over to my landlords). I just say, “Yeah, but at least we have the Pacific Ocean.”
-Senior Editor A.
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