Accidental Activist

Back and Forth

You have to look back before you can look forward.

By Ben Bull
Published January 10, 2007

My Mum used to say, "You have to look back before you can look forward". She also used to say, "What have you done to your brother?" and "What's this I hear about you smoking in the woods?" But that was a long time ago now. Best not to look back too far.

As I gear up for another new year I thought I'd take a quick peek in the rearview mirror, reflect on some of the happenings around the world, and in my life, and perhaps resolve to do a few things a little differently.

Let's start with some recent happenings.

In 2006 Mahar Arar was exonerated by everyone - except US Customs. No surprise there; have you been across the border lately? I tried it last September.

"Fill out these forms," barked the sourfaced Pretend Cop Border Guy.


Ten forms later, "That'll be seven dollars."

"Oh. I only have Canadian."

I'm directed back across the bridge to a 7-11 which, I'm told, "probably has an ATM you can use."

On my way out I notice a familiar little figurine, perched on top of a security monitor, could it be? The Statue of Liberty.

I resolve never to mistake more security for more freedom.

In July thousands fled their homes in Lebanon, on rubber dinghies rented by Stephen Harper. A few weeks earlier the Bull family shipped out of Hamilton to begin a new life in Toronto. One thing we realized during our time in the Hammer was that no matter how much you will a place to succeed, if things aren't working, you have to make a change.

Nevertheless, I resolve to continue rooting for Hamilton, because to me it will always feel like home.

In 2006 more people bade us farewell, most notably for me, the great Jane Jacobs, who taught me everything I know about the beautiful chaos of urban living. In 2006 my father-in-law Tony continued his long struggle with Lung cancer and, miraculously, saw the year to a close.

My wife Susana, who twice flew to Spain to spend time with him, grew in stature in my eyes as I came to realize she is the glue that holds so many lives together. I resolve never to forget how lucky I am to have her.

In October the white collar crooks at Enron exchanged a plush boardroom for a bare cell. Later that same month, yours truly decided to profit from the regulatory nightmare they left behind by incorporating and charging exorbitant fees for moderately proficient auditing services.

In so doing I cast away the safety net of a regular salary and benefits. Four months later, I've never felt so secure. I resolve not to let fear rule my decisions in the future, and never again to let others define my self-worth.

In 2006 everyone became one year older. My kids: Emily, Jack, Annie and Molly, and of course, me. I resolve to stop daydreaming and panicking about the future, to slow down the clock and enjoy the here and now.

In August the Scientific community ruled that Pluto was not big or bright enough to be called a planet.

In October I decided to trade in my old smile for a new one. When I was two my teeth became badly stained and I'd felt small and smile-less ever since. Getting a new smile was not cheap, but the results were priceless. I resolve to get the most out of my investment.

On December 14, 2006, Raise The Hammer celebrated its second birthday. This event made me recall a favourite episode of The West Wing.

President Bartlett is welcoming his new Communications Secretary (that bloke who replaced Rob Lowe). "Welcome aboard," says the President, to that bloke who replaced Rob Lowe.

"Thank you, sir."

Bloke who replaced Rob Lowe goes to leave the room, but the President calls him back. "Just one question before you leave."

"Yes sir?"

"What makes you think that such a small group of people [the President sweeps his hand around the room, taking in Toby, CJ, and that old giffer who plays his Chief of Staff] can change the world?"

Bloke who replaced Rob Lowe, thinks for a moment and then replies, "Because Sir, that's the only thing that ever has."

I hope that all of the small enterprises taking shape in Hamilton can continue to evolve so that maybe, together, we can all change the world. Now that's a resolution worth keeping.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted January 10, 2007 at 11:20:35


As with your other posts dated from today, some very cogent thoughts. Looking forward to reading more.

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By KS (anonymous) | Posted January 12, 2007 at 20:47:44

Nice writing, Ben.

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