Change is Scary.

So I’m sitting here watching Pleasantville and reflecting on the conversation I had with my aunt today. Strangely, these two situations have quite a lot in common.

Today’s conversation with my aunt went as every one of them has gone for approximately five years now. We exchange pleasantries, she tells me what to do, and proceeds to rail against how Vancouver/BC/Canada/the world is changing.

The way I see it, the world is getting smaller. There are more people and there’s only the same little blue-green planet to house us. This means that populations are growing. What my aunt doesn’t seem to understand is that Vancouver’s burgeoning population and changing ethnic makeup are not a sleight against her, personally.

She misses the nineteen fifties. Or she thinks she does. What she misses is the idealized little malt shoppe-and-whitewall tire pictures she sees in her brain. She’s forgotten the endemic racism in Vancouver in the 1950s against the Japanese and Chinese Canadians. She’s forgotten residential schools. She’s forgotten that there was a time, in this city, when you couldn’t even buy a pizza, because there were almost no Italians here! Her 1950’s dream is a flawed fragment.

In Pleasantville, after the kids all start turning colours and Jeff Daniels paints the sexy mural of Joan Allen, the bigwigs in town print up a list of ‘How To Get Along’ or some such stuff. Essentially, it’s a list of how the people who have turned colours have to conform to the pre-existing society of black-and-white-and greys.

Of course it doesn’t work, but that’s what my aunt wants for this city, this province, this country. She wants us freeze-framed into an idealized picture of the world, and that’s just not happening.

I do see her point. I don’t like some of the changes, such as housing prices, rising rents, homelessness, and gang violence. But I don’t think the solution is to legislate a stasis in the 1950s.

I’d miss the pizza.

5 Comments to “Change is Scary.”

  1. By stephanie, December 28, 2007 @ 11:44 am

    After I watched The War on PBS, the 1950s made a lot more sense to me. People needed to be cookie cut because the War was so effed up. This is why I see old men driving around with Bush/Cheney stickers on their cars.

  2. By Liz, December 28, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

    Exactly. There’s this “If we can just stay still long enough, bad things won’t happen” idea.

  3. By elswhere, December 28, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

    Yah. I’m reading this novel called “Small Island” which is basically about the years just after WWII when the first Jamaican immigrants were moving to England. Basically it’s a portrait of a country on the verge of becoming multicultural.

    The white guy in the book has just come back from the War and is completely freaked out by the Jamaican boarders his wife has taken in in his absence. He’s totally the bad guy for most of the book, and then you read about what he went through in the war, and you’re like, right. He just wants things to be the same as they were; he can’t handle any more shakeups.

  4. By Arwen, December 28, 2007 @ 8:49 pm

    Also, to be blunt, the endemic racism and maltreatment of the Japanese, the Chinese, and the First Nations probably didn’t directly affect your aunt. She may well want her experience of the 50s, and from an advantaged viewpoint, the 50s may look good: she likes canned ham and jello and doesn’t think about racism that she does not see.

    We’re all like that when comfortable and it takes a certain amount of humanist commitment to see beyond our own comfort levels.

  5. By Liz, December 28, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

    Good points, both, Els and Arwen.

    When my grandfather came home from WWII, he had a hard time assimilating back into regular life. However, he didn’t come home to Jamaicans, he came home to children, and he could not understand why my grandmother couldn’t be at his beck and call 24/7.

    Arwen, that may be a big part of it. She was working-class, but she was a WASP in a WASP city.

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