Sunday, March 25, 2007

John Denver - Sunshine

That old secret cure - SUNSHINE! - has returned this morning.

Here's a guy I didn't really like so much until I interviewed him for CTV, appropriately enough on a hilltop in California. He was delightful - warm and smart and forthcoming.

Ici on Parle Francais

I've been ranting and raving here and on the radio and in print for years now about our reluctance to bring immigrants fully into the mainstream of our economies. Why not qualify doctors, nurses and teachers from other countries as soon as possible and let them contribute and earn as equals to any other Canadian, and so on?

Today, I have a picture from the opposite side of the fence.

On Friday, I phoned a downtown hotel to speak to a friend of mine, who is visiting from New York.

When the young lady at the hotel answered, she said something like, "Foogglarmishtot, Hody, qualpu?"

And I said, "I am sorry. I didn't understand one word you just said."

She repeated, and repeated, and repeated. Eventually I divined that she was, in fact, welcoming me to a downtown hotel and asking how she could help me.

My first unkind thought was to say, "Well, you could start by getting me someone who speaks English!!!"

But as I am now in my new and recent and beatific head space of "Take Life as it comes," I simply asked for the woman to whom I wanted to speak.

Imagine how many times I had to say that woman's name - uh, names, last, first, first, last, both together.

When the hotel operator (if in fact that is what she was) put me on hold, I moved on.

Yes, let's get new Canadians working as soon as possible. Let's allow them the dignity of supporting themselves and their families, let's give them the competitive wage, let's recognize their qualifications from Universities on other continents.

Let's do all that, and let's do it soon.

But could we not ask in exchange that some form of Understandable English be spoken if you have to deal with the public? If you want to live in a ghetto of your own making and speak the language of your Motherland here in Canada, that's your unfortunate choice. But if you are going to answer telephones for a big downtown hotel, shouldn't you speak in the local currency?

And why would a hotel put as their first contact with the public such a handicapped person? Putting me on the front desk at a hotel in Bucharest, Botswana or Bologna is not a great idea.

As we say in the hospitality industry, "Have a nice day."

Or, better yet, "Have a good one." To which I am always tempted to say, "Thanks, but I already do have a good one."

Hunters, Gatherers

Less than a week ago, I wrote here about how oil companies have consistently plundered the territories that make them rich.

This morning, the New York Times has an excellent article on the diamond trade in Sierra Leone.

This is of particular interest because it was only 2 nights ago that I watched "Blood Diamond." The subject and the setting are exactly the stuff of today's NYTimes piece.

Leonardo DiCaprio's character, the adventurer-mercenary, Danny Archer, says it best (in a flawless Rhodesian accent, no less) in the film when he points out that the history of Africa is the history of foreign exploitation. Diamonds, oil, gold, name your holy grail. The world has always come to Africa, and Africa has always been the worse off for it. Last week I talked about the enormous bounty Shell Oil is currently reaping in and around and off the shores of Nigeria, all the while further impoverishing the local people.

Nigeria is but a shiny stone's throw from Sierra Leone.

Read the Times story and weep for the continuing inhumanity of the upright biped.