It was a cold and clear sunny day, with a faint promise of spring in the crisp air but reluctant to let go of the hand of old man winter. At the top of my agenda, indeed what kept me awake most of the night, is the bully-war, presently under way in the Ukraine. It’s not a pleasant topic but one that needs discussing, even though mine and Camp’s opinion feel so futile and inconsequential and yet I had to get it off my chest. Camp was already seated when I walked in. I took off my mask and sat down just as Vicky placed a frosty mug in front of me.
‘You want to talk about Putin’s invasion, don’t you?’ Camp said before I could utter a world. ‘It’s what he has always wanted, to be master of the universe and to bring back the USSR.’
After a five-hour flight from Toronto we landed on the single air strip in São Miguel, at 750sqkm the largest of the cluster of nine volcanic islands that make up the Azores, a bucolic archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, between Europe and North America, first colonised by Portugal in the 15th century.
The last localized active eruption was about 500 years ago but most of these islands were formed some 40’000 years ago, long before any seafarers or tourists had to worry about what’s under foot. Hot bubbling springs and steam vents are active today in several places all over this island and the distinct crater walls, wooded and green today, are tame but spectacular evidence of former geophysical violence. The porous volcanic rock and rich black soil provide the island with building materials and vegetation and the regular rainfalls supply plenty of water and keep the island green year-round.
Now that some kind of war on the eastern front seems imminent – according to all the major news outlets half of Russia’s army is parked on Ukraine’s borders – I knew that my friend Camp had some views on this situation. It’s all so unreal, sitting here at our seaside pub in peaceful Gibsons; an oasis of tranquility in a sea of madness it seems. So far away from the Ukraine, Ottawa and Washington and yet so close whenever I turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper. Like it or not, we are part of it all, little tribal ants in a big, complicated colony, revolving around a sun, on the edge of a minor galaxy.
‘It’s pretty clear to me,’ Camp said. ‘This is exactly where Putin wants to be.’
‘How do you see that?’ I asked.
As countries and provinces are scuttling pandemic protocols and restrictions, we here in Canada have the biggest insurrection of any country. A few hundred angry, right wing, mostly white men with big trucks are occupying the streets, neighborhoods and border crossings with their big rigs. They are flying flags other than the maple leaf, proclaiming some kind of ‘freedom’ and demanding the reversal of all vaccine mandates and pandemic health orders as well as the resignation of the prime minister and the dissolvement of parliament. This has been going on for two weeks now and neither the RCMP nor the government has done anything to stop or end this anarchy. I think that’s it in a nutshell. I wanted to know what Camp made of this whole situation and if he had any solutions in mind. I wasn’t disappointed.
Camp was contentedly sipping his beer when I came in. I hoofed it to the pub along the waterfront since the days are getting longer and I can actually see where I’m walking. That’s a good sign. On the news front the ongoing and growing divide between the so called ‘freedom fighters’ and all the other people is at best perplexing and at worst disturbing and is not a good sign for society as a whole. I also read those recent CBC interviews with the Ontario ICU nurses and doctors in which all tell the same story. I pointed this out to Camp for the umpteenth time.