What to Read, What to Watch

Paul Weinberg’s new book When Poverty Mattered (Fernwood 2019) takes us back to the early 1970s mainly in Toronto, and Hamilton.  pauls-bkAnti-poverty groups were very active and the Liberal government of Trudeau (the elder) threw hundreds of thousands of dollars their way – to subvert them, de-fang them and even destroy them.  While the federal government especially Hamilton MP, John Munro, and Senator David Croll was trying to uphold Trudeau’s notion of a “Just Society” by funding anti-poverty groups, the RCMP and the forerunner of CSIS were infiltrating and trying to destabilize.

Weinberg’s book is fascinating.  I had forgotten about the mystery surrounding the break-in and the fire at PRAXIS, a left wing, anti-poverty research group located near the University of Toronto.   In a series of interesting interview “bites” Weinberg paints a picture of the times.  He recalls the mainly women who were “on the ground” activists, single mothers with children.  The first anti-poverty conference took place in Toronto at the Lord Simcoe Hotel (now some concrete skyscraper) and boasted more than 600 activists in attendance.  Their resolutions and resolve were amazing.

Now the distance between the poor and the rich is far wider than it was in the 1970s.  Just the other day the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) came out with their report, Fail-safe.  By 9.08 am on 2 January 2020, Canada’s top CEOs had already earned what the average working Canadian earns in a whole year.  In fact executives earn 227 times the average industrial wage.

Weinberg’s book is especially riveting  in the first two and the last two chapters. I enjoyed the interview with Vancouver city councillor and former anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson who wrote Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion.  also liked his glimpses into what the activists, lawyers, and even politicians are now doing – but frankly their best days are far behind most of them.swanson

family-lawFamily Law is delightful, it’s a DVD I got from the Library.  It’s slow and that is good.  It’s about a father and son who are lawyers in Buenos Aires and their lives.  It’s humorous, and sympathetic — and you see people who are not rushing around making deals and making money.  You learn something about Argentinian Jews, and you learn a bit about yourself — what drives you that shouldn’t.

It is rather the opposite of the series on HBO, Succession.   succession This is the series from hell.  It starts off slowly, but builds into this hate infested family feud of a rich NY family (modelled on Rupert Murdoch’s clan).  The dialogue is smart and quick; the characters are unforgettable, by the arrogance and stupidity of the wealthy stick with you  long after the episodes dissolve.  Worth watching but you have to have a strong stomach. Here’s the trailer.

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