Indian Uprising La Carotte Joyeuse


Indian Uprising

La Carotte Joyeuse

Beggars in Paradise

Wallow through the excess, and love every minute of it.

Toronto, Ontario
12 July, 2001

I love Toronto. I always have. It is so... harmless. Everything is so clean and straightforward and nice. I knew long ago that when I left Central America I would need a safe harbour to run to, to rest and repair, so I chose Toronto. I had come here twelve years ago as a student to work for a summer, so I knew it well, so safe and free of distracting sights or things to do. Every street at a perfect rectangle, every crowd waiting for the light before crossing the road, every toilet brimming with toilet roll. I have to force myself to stop stealing and hoarding toilet paper, Mexican fashion.

Toronto has several tourist attractions. I avoid them all and head to the mall. What else does one do in North America? Toronto posesses one of the largest underground concourses in the world. You can enter it near the CN tower and emerge on the other side of the city centre, a mile away, completely lost. I wandered, content to be lost, content to be safe from hardship, effort, corruption, fear. After emerging from the poverty of southern Mexico and Guatemala, I could now drift, at an optimum 25 degrees through this clean world of enormously frothy coffee, nutrified juicenators and the Gourmet Spud.

There is so much to buy and eat here, and instead of poisoning me, they try to sneak in extra vitamins without my noticing! And instead of kerbside piles of rotting vegetables they have huge HUGE heaped mounds and sacks of popcorn and coke and pizza slices and megasmoothies just to see an audience through the hardships of a two hour movie.

Canadian Honey

And the women here are beautiful. I can't believe how much. I think I have been reduced to a sinister gawping prowler. I stand slack-jawed, staring, amazed. Perhaps they are not more beautiful than in Cuba and Mexico, perhaps they simply have better access to exercise, micro-bran facial scrubs and supportive underwear, I just don't know.

I stare into own my reflection, wiry and hollow eyed after too much squat'n'squirt in the slimy jungle latines, and I think, this won't do.

I am not buff. I need to eat more, fatten up. I search the foodshelves. There is no fat. Check again. Skimmed milk. Fat free yogurt. Slim'n'cheese. Canada has purged all the fat from its system, like an impolite guest. I ask for milk. They have seven varieties, 1%, 2%, 0%, choco-flavor with extra Vit. D! but nothing bears any resemblance to that which once came from a cow. I drink a grande-plus fruta-yogurty and hope for the best.

Hardy Excess

I hang out... I wallow through the excess, and love every minute of it. The culture shock is intense. Last week I watched a barefoot Indian family cheerfully going through the backbreaking 15-hour a day chores of their everyday life. Now I am surrounded by all the choice and possibility made available in a great and free society.

For many Canadians, the ease of life and opportunity is hard to bear. Most people in Cuba or Central America would sacrifice anything to have the chance to live this well, to navigate the course of their own lives instead of being at the whim of bad government, poverty or persecution. But for a Canadian, as for the rest of us with the good fortune to be born into such freedom, the inevitable question arises: free to do what? Our forefathers suffered and fought to give us this precious time in the world, now what do we do with it?

A common answer is the pursuit of hardship. I am guilty of this myself. My ancestors toiled for years to escape bondage to the unforgiving soil and come down from the hills to the light of the cities. Now I spend half my leisure time hurling myself back up those same mountains.

Canadians love to pursue hardship. They run, hike, cycle, rollerblade, inflict pain and dirt and the strain of the elements on themselves, spending vast amounts of time and money to recreate the very hardships that the farmers of Guatemala can never escape. It is absurd. It is as if we cannot accept the civilized life we have created for ourselves, that unless our bodies tell us that we have laboured in some sustained, physical way, we have achieved nothing.

Whiney Youths

Freedom and opportunity have proved too much for some. In Toronto I found one of the oddest sights of my travels. In some of the hipper streets, it has become cool for healthy, educated young people to sit in the dirt and beg for spare change from passers-by. I could hardly believe it the first time and broke stride. In Cuba there were many sharp hustlers, but that was a result of a lack of opportunity. In Cuba, there is nothing for astute men and women to turn their talents to. In Guatemala and Mexico, in spite of the torturous hardships of everyday life, most people were far too proud to beg. What could possibly have brought such young people with so much opportunity in life to demean themselves like this?

I had to ask. The answer was, that they could not get a job without debasing themselves in some way. They'd be forced to cut their hair or remove their piercings. They refused to take part in a society they despised. I could not understand it. I held back my arguments, knowing them to be useless, and anyway, I was getting in their way. Although they rejected society, they had a single-minded focus on acquiring its spare-change wealth that would do any asset-stripper proud. It seemed like muddle-headed vanity to me, to sacrifice personal dignity for the self-endowed image of a rebel, and live like a flea on the dog's back rather than be the dog.

I am unkind. Perhaps they are like me in some way, unable to content themselves in the ease and confusion of choice available in a first world society. Perhaps they seek to inflict some self made hardships on themselves, to make life more basic, to bring it back down to an everyday struggle for survival, winning each day from the jaws of hardship.

And so I must enter the fire again. In a nice, planned, Canadian sort of way. I'm going on a two week tour of Quebec and Ontario, risking my all in wild bouts of hiking along paths and canoeing as long as it's not too wet. And if there's a cow out there, I'm going to milk it.





North American Land Routes


Hat & Spoon



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The Facts

Where I stayed
Toronto: Canadiana Backpackers. Clean rooms, cheap, friendly helpful staff, good for meeting people.

How I got around: Lounging around consulting my ease.