a strike – seems a quaint idea. these aren’t the days of unions. these aren’t the days of support for unions.

but if these aren’t the days, when will those days come around again.

strikes are as far from quaint as the north pole is to the south. particularly if the strikers are walking the streets in breath-freezing january.

these are the days of bottom line trumps all, even for the salvation army with altruistic goals. internally, the story seems the same as every other corporation – a keen eye on the bottom line, keep costs low.

the salvation army’s motto is ‘dignity for all.’ i guess 'all' doesn’t include their own employees. right now, in ottawa, front-line workers are striking – the people who breathe life into programs that reach out to help those with addictions, with no homes, or the working impoverished who are unable to afford even a one bedroom apartment.

why are they on strike? in large part because management refused to provide a 23 cent per hour raise. right now, the highest wage is $13.50. many other employees earn less than a living wage, perhaps, $11.00–11.50. substantially lower than their counterparts at the shepherd of good hope, which is blocks away and provide the same types of services.

the problem is untenable; these people are dedicated to working with those in need in our city, in this society. by its own annual report, the salvation army has $1.5 billion in assets and an operating budget of over $90 million. most is donations that average citizens offer.

is it just me or does 23 cents per hour seem like a pittance? where’s the concern that the s.a. shows those in need when it comes to their own employees? as it stands now s.a. management will not sit down and talk. instead, they have hired a security firm to fill these roles. I can’t say that’s a great comfort.

worse is that there are 39 executives making on average about $130,000 with the highest salary teetering on the edge of $240,000. the other army brass makes about $30-35,000 for ­­tax purposes. i’m not sure what that means but it certainly sounds like they make more than that and noodle around tax laws. moreover, the provincial and city governments provide funding in the neighbourhood of $2,000,000.  

this wage dispute is not what the s.a. should be about. having front line workers who often have to rely on the food bank to make ends meet is not the s.a.

the strike has lasted almost 2 months. for what? 23 cents. yes, a pay increase but excessive. no. it’s unconscionable that management won’t do them the courtesy of simply sitting down, talking over the issue. negotiating.

you’d think, given the type of job these people do, the abuse they face, the danger that is a reality, the least executives of salvation army could do is show these people the respect and honour they've earned.

or why doesn’t the management take up the slack and work with clients for a week. then consider 23 cents and if it’s a reasonable request. from the outside looking in, this is at best hypocrisy, at worst crass and heartless. perhaps s.a. management should remember the raison d’etre of the organization and act accordingly.

i keenly dislike reality shows. they seem downright mean, are sanctimonious, arrogant, self-centred. not to mention they take themselves much too seriously.

however some facebook-ish friend posted a surrealistic, at least to me, photo that led mostly to the following:

'but if someone made a surrealist reality show i would watch. the challenges would be staying within the lines while colouring, explaining their work and meaning and where the hell did that idea come from.  and writers must write a story with correct grammar, a proper story line and a definite beginning and definite ending. i disqualify myself. dead surrealists are welcome. the short list is dali, man ray, miro, klee, anyone who is aware of dada, and many more who join as i forget their names. maybe Canada’s entire government. 

these rules are lifted as we find surrealists suck at reality. no matter.
the reality show is a boring success and everyone quits, believing failure to be much more interesting. each are then offered their own programs on different networks. in the first progam, they simultaneously read a surrealist manifesto which contains statements like don't bother frogs, dams should only be built by beavers and life is a lot like ostrich eggs. they scat the rest of the manifesto.
they call for a reunion of the kids in the hall offering them plum political positions to which they have no access. they state in falsetto unison, irrelevancy is irrelevant. they do not issue any statement but support a tv channel devoted to the naked gun. the frantics, SCTV , the prisoner and at least 4 hours of canadian made white noise that should play in all public places. newscasts will be replaced with work from kindergarten children. this is the last time they appear on tv.

except salvidor who becomes a regular on game shows, on which he says things like 'each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure - that of being Salvador Dali.'

we were just discussing, hank and I, generosity and love. why? valentine’s day? sure, why not. and we keep coming to the same question – why does love or generosity or kindness confound people. wariness seems to be everyone’s default position. worse than this, we accept as harsh reality hatred and violence. maybe because there is no hidden agenda in hate and violence. what you see is what you get.

as for love. I’m reminded of a lyric – when you say it’s love, what were you thinking of? yes what are you thinking of. probably something different than I am.

what do I know about love? good question – enough to know that i won’t be giving out advice any time soon.

back in those long ago days – the era of high school and university – i had no idea what love was or even if i had the capacity for it. but it was pretty straight forward in terms of what I thought it was. 18, 19, 20 year old male – you fill in the blanks.

now, from the safety and experience of years gone by, i still don't know what love is really. it’s a jumbled and convoluted proposition. is it passion, compassion, laughter, attraction, sex, longing, needing, crying, desire, acceptance, shared values? all of the above. some secret combination.

love is elusive, it’s a shape shifter. and there are different kinds. romantic love and love for humanity. a spiritual love. out of which, comes generosity, kindness, empathy.

maybe that’s why acts of simple generosity are greeted with wariness. with questions. what are you really up to? what do you want from me?

maybe nothing.

that’s just weird. and doesn’t make much sense, if we only measure value in cents. and dollars.

very confusing for some people. i do know that love, of whatever kind, is a rare commodity. sometimes we don't recognize it. or we turn our backs.

that wariness makes me queasy and questioning. when a society is more at ease assuming the worst rather than seeking the best, we all should pause to ask ourselves why. we might not find an answer, but some time thinking about it, about love, can’t hurt.

happy valentine's day.