Thursday, April 01, 2010

Of Course We're the Robbery Capital, Who Even Doubts This

You Got It, Uptown Magazine!

Why, who's that handsome realist that wrote a column for this week? Yeah, you know it. With Winnipeg declared the reigning Robbery Capital last week by Statistics Canada, to the surprise of likely nobody, I figured it would be a good time to relate a 100%-true personal anecdote that probably explains significant chunks of my personality. If anybody out there has a more quintessentially Winnipeg origin story, I'd definitely love to hear it, but I do say in my own humble estimation that it doesn't get much more representative than this -- so one day when I inevitably go stark raving Louis-David-Riel crazy and try to take over the city, at least you'll know I've got the credentials for it.

Anyway, Winnipeg is terrible for public safety and it always has been, full stop. What, you want me to lie to you? Naw, son. You think these were ideal weather conditions for the first peoples? You think things got much safer for them when white dudes rolled in and started setting up shop? How about our violent, awesome guerrilla warfare that established the province in the first place? Or the perpetual booze-soaked brawling and debauchery of our early city history, right through to the 1920s? (If you've never read James H Gray's 1972 book Booze: When Whiskey Ruled the West, I totally recommend it.)

How safe and secure would you have felt during the Great Depression? During the staged Nazi invasions in the general unease of World War II? During the legendary flood and polio outbreaks in the 1950s? (Would you believe, in the mid-1950s, we were the Polio Capital of Canada? With our luck, we probably still are.) The '60s were characterized by tensions from counterculture idiocy (baby boomers you know I love a lot of you but you've got to admit your generation turned out to be pretty awful for everybody), the 1970s saw the mass movement of Native populations from their reserves to the downtown core of the city -- coinciding with white flight and mass unfounded hysteria that continues to this day -- and the 1980s were awful enough that Portage Place seemed like a good idea at the time. Who here considers Portage Place a bastion of public safety and order? Hands up where I can see them! And the 1990s and 2000s were recent enough that I doubt anybody has rose-coloured glasses for either decade, but suffice it to say we haven't been winning any Safest City awards for a very, very, very long time now.

Honestly, I don't mean to be a downer, but Winnipeg is pretty much the shadow of death with a statue of Mercury on top. You have to understand this. This is the way it is, and this is the way it always has been, and throwing a few hundred easy targets in Best Buy uniforms onto the streets isn't suddenly going to reverse hundreds of years' worth of murders and lootings and floods and plagues and uprisings and racial tensions and everything else that makes our One Great City so continually interesting.

I was hoping to use this time to brag and boast about my appearance in another avenue of local news, but thus far it has yet to pop up online. I actually have no idea how it turned out, but I do intend to be boistrously insufferable about it regardless because I have no shame whatsoever and nothing better to do with my time. So, look forward to that! I'll let you know when it turns up.


Chris said...

Hey there, Mr. Howard,

The article you refer to will be out in May now... Apparently it was so awesome that when they tried to print it on regular paper it burst into flames. Mouseland press (printers of The Uniter) will be ordering new awesome-proof paper for May. Hold tight until then!


James Hope Howard said...

Ha! Yeah, a'right, that sounds like a reason I'm willing to accept.