I've written the title of this entry not really knowing where it's going. There's been some truly interesting conversation in the shop of late, much of it centred on the intersection of economics, urban development, social justice and social policy more broadly and I figured that elements of these conversations were worth sharing here so that maybe others could contribute to and keep the conversations, about what I feel is some really important stuff, going.
Not surprising was that we had a number of views, falling across the spectrum of possible opinions on all of the topics. What was surprising was how thoroughly thought out many of the opinions were. It makes you pause when you realize how differently individual experiences can inform well-founded positions on things like whether or not public funds should pay for methadone, or who should suffer the consequences of an important government policy putting a large international trading company out of business. The exciting thing about Shatterbox is that several sides of the debates were being presented and not once did I think, "I probably shouldn't have brought this up..." There was a respectful tenor to the whole conversation and real willingness to hear the other side, it makes me wonder where this kind of debate is in "real" politics. But then, I guess this IS real politics - regular people, engaging with their neighbours, hoping to make tomorrow a little better, generally with the understanding that life goes on and winning an argument isn't necessarily as important as learning from one.
One of the more interesting things I've learned over the past few days is that simply put, commerce, or our economy, is about people trying to improve their current situation. People literally create commerce wherever they go. Wherever you find people, you find the transfer of goods and services - regulated or not. Typically the concept of the economy or any of its metrics - employment numbers, GDP, industry growth, etc. - is presented as an abstraction removed from the human element it encompasses. That's presumably because it makes it easier to make the "tough choice" for the benefit of "the system" or "to create synergistic efficiencies" or some equally banal or benign jargon. I'd suggest that by removing people from the conversation about economics, we're actually removing the humanity from our economy; a process that has given us unsustainable resource extraction policies in the North, irresponsible management of our coastal resources, homelessness, drug abuse and gang violence in our cities, and a disenchanted and disenfranchised youth. A happy healthy person is a happy healthy consumer, and consumption necessitates production which, in one way or another, generates a transaction, which of course is the basic element of an economy. If we as a community seek to serve human interest rather than personal interest, it follows that we'll all benefit from it. Granted, this stance raises tonnes of questions about how one goes about prioritizing people, and what criteria are used establishing those priorities, but if we as a community can put together the will to invest in the well-being of the person, more likely than not, it will pay dividends for us all in the future.
I realize this has gotten fairly long for an update from your friendly neighbourhood coffee shop, so I'll forgo the rest of what I've been thinking about after the various conversations at the shop. I guess all this has been to say, it's so rewarding to hear your thoughts are on these things, and I'm grateful that we live in a city in a country where we can talk about how things should change for the better. I hope that Shatterbox will always serve as a forum for the kinds of conversations that will make our community a better place for all of us - taboos be damned.
Thanks for reading, thanks for talking, and thanks for visiting!
See you soon!