Surprise….

 

…….seems Canada’s banks were not so squeaky clean after all.  According to the book, Thieves of Bay Street (by Bruce Livesy) our banks were caught like the Americans and Europeans in the sub-prime mortgage debacle as well.  Further, they needed ‘bailing out’ just like City Group, Fannie May and AIG.

The Canadian government provided something like 125 BILLLION in ‘cover-up’ money to the investment arms of our BIG FIVE banks.  And CIBC and RBC have been sued for even more by American investors for their part in pushing bad securities on pension funds and the like.  CIBC, in particular, has been ‘duped’ quite a lot over the past decade or so.  Seems they previously backed ENRON for years and have been sued over that, as well.

CIBC did OK on the great Global Crossing fraud (another great hole for pension funds that, until lately, was one of the largest business failures (read: scams) in history.  CIBC pumped and dumped with the best of them and ended up in the black that time (black what?  It stinks to high heaven so you figure it out).

Which reminds of that rat-in-a-suit Conrad Black but that is another rant for some other time.

The point: our banker boys are not as pure as the driven snow like we have been led to believe.  And the Canadian taxpayer has recently had to take up the collection plate on their behalf.  We are covering their losses and it is showing up in spades.

But we don’t hear about it.  They keep us in the dark and lie to us.  We think our financial system is rock solid and yet we hear that Flaherty is ‘tightening belts’ and ‘cutting back’ and we wonder why.  We see Harper flogging tar and raw logs like a used car dealer and we wonder why.  We have sorry, second world facilities and almost third world infrastructure and we wonder why.

Well, now you know why we ‘feel’ that things aren’t quite right.  ‘Cause they are not.  They – the Canadian Establishment –  lost a lot of taxpayers’ money.

Don’t worry.  I am not going to write about finance.  I don’t know enough.  What I do know is this: good, big Canadian (and other country’s) businesses have been ‘vampired’ by their respective financial institutions.  RIM, Nortel and the names go on……..bled dry by ‘our guys’.  And it ain’t stopping anytime soon.  The new really bad guy on the block is the banker, the financial advisor and the hedge fund manager.

No, there is nothing good to write about on that subject.  So, I’ll write about guests instead.  I like those people.  They seem to have a good heart, a decent mind and a love of nature and friendship.

It is like we all live in different worlds than that of Wall Street, Bay Street and Sussex Drive, don’t you think?  

Our visitors left today.  A family of friends from China – by way of Britain and Canada.  They live in Hong Kong now but were educated in Britain and Canada and began their family in Ottawa.  E still works internationally.  They have an interesting story – but it is theirs and I won’t tell it.  Suffice to say that, like so many modern families that have moved and worked away from home, they have become almost ‘international citizens’.  No place feels like home.  And all places feel like home when they are there. One of the kids is now studying in the States……and he comes with some attendant ‘Americanisms’ as a result.  Pretty interesting stuff.

It is also a pretty good argument for the value of working, living and traveling abroad – at least for part of one’s life.  Travel broadens the mind and opens the heart.  They are comfortable wherever they go.  Worldly.  Competent at an international level.  Sincere, honest people.  They are a real delight to have as guests.

I used to be.

In fact, I used to be a great guest.  I was so pleased at having the experience, receiving the hospitality and sharing the lifestyle being offered that I made sure that I was present when needed, absent when not wanted and polite and considerate at all times.  I was a great guest.  Today?  Not so much……………

It is not that I am bad.  I am still good.  Go ahead, invite me over.  I’ll be good, I promise.  But the thing is I am no longer entranced by foreignness.  I am not enthralled by ‘the difference’.  I don’t need the experience.  I, too, have become somewhat ‘international’ but I am more inclined to be local these days instead.

Becoming worldly is a good thing but it has a downside.  I have grown accustomed to the differences, actually and, I am a bit more blasé.  NOT unappreciative – just a bit of ‘been there, done that’.  I don’t like that about myself but I have to tell the truth about it.  I am not as keen to travel anymore……………..!!!

There!  I’ve said it.  I’m free!  I have let it out.  Whew!

Such an epiphany is shocking to me.  It really is.  Somehow I have shifted from a traveling man to a stick-on-the-rock (not enough topsoil to be a stick-in-the-mud).  I just like it here way more than I ever thought I’d ever like anywhere else. ‘Course, I may still have to go somewhere sometime but at least I can grouse openly about it now.

For the longest time I used to love going somewhere but, over the last decade I’d say, the poles have shifted.  I am now a bona fide homebody.  I like my own bed!  So, sue me.

“You must come to see us in Hong Kong!” they say politely as they prepare to leave.  And they mean it, too.  I am sure they would be happy to be visited in a year or so.

“Nah!  Love you dearly but I don’t think I’ll ever be in Hong Kong again.  You know……planes, airports, traffic…….I mean…you guys are great and I want to see you again but, like maybe if you go to Africa or something, ya know……?  Been to Hong Kong.  Hey!  Why not go to Mozambique!  That’s different! We’ll meet you there.”

Of course, I am not really that rude.  It is just my sense of humour, really.  But all humour has to have an element of truth to work and I do mean it a bit………..at least the ‘loving them dearly’ part.

The trouble is that my sense of humour is regarded as a bit weird at the best of times and it often goes unappreciated when it has to leap cultural gaps.  “Oh, yes, well……….of course………..if we ever go to Mozambique we’ll let you know……”

And, with a puzzled look on their faces they give us a hug goodbye and head off down the logging road that, when coming in, was a major adventure-challenge in itself.  They may be pretty international and flexible.  They may have open minds and a high tolerance for differences but visiting the Rock with Dave and Sal has pushed the boundaries a smidge.

‘And what was it with that Mozambique thing………..?’

 

 

One thought on “Surprise….

  1. I guess the average Canadian if they willingly wanted to bet the farm would go to a casino and bet it over/under at the craps table. Few would willingly belly up to the teller’s wicket and say bet it all in a hedge fund off shore but we Canadians are too prudent to gamble the farm in a crap shoot. And too naive to realize that our banks have been quietly deregulated putting our future security at risk. It’s the wild west out there and greed is doing the talking. There is a lot of leveraged currency out there not secured in anyway. Sadly the world has been to this dark place before and we appear poised to experience “The South Sea Bubble” again. You will recall dear reader that the bubble pioneered ‘too big to fail.’ The South Sea Company started to hype their stock, creating illusions of grandeur in the minds of investors. Speculation became rampant as share prices soared. It was thought that this company “could never fail.” And fail they did catastrophically leaving investors with shares that were literally underwater. Or what we call the housing bubble. “Eventually, word broke among investors that the South Sea Company’s management team had sold all of their shares in the company, leaving investors holding the bag. Panic selling immediately ensued as investors dumped the South Sea Company and soon other companies’ near-worthless shares.” Now all this happen long ago and as you see there were no lesions to be learned from paper speculation thus nothing was learned and here we are in the land of paper profits with “…those born between 1966 and 1975, belonging to Generation X (1964 and 1980), lost more than 55 percent of their net worth from 2001 to 2010, according to data released by the Fed and parsed by Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist Maria Panaritis.” Dark times ahead for Gen X’ers indebted, underemplyed and disenfranchised by Corporate Capitalism. Corporate Capitalism does not equal democracy nor does it offer hope to the middle class.

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