Killing Cats with World Vision, Red Cross and Plan Canada

In Vietnam the Ace of Spades was a symbol, crammed into the mouths of women children, young men and villagers, massacred in the millions by the American genocide of that nation. Now adorning the walls of this colourfully painted downtown apartment are a series of Ace of Spades, with the names and faces of this year’s top salesmen attached. They sit alongside pictures of young children in poor villages around the world. All the usual suspects are present, the African child with the bloated belly sitting by mud huts, the south American, pudgy faced kids running around nearly naked, World Vision, Red Cross, Plan Canada all the major charities have their plaques, awards and photos crammed alongside one another.

The apartment that sits atop a café in the Bathurst area of Toronto has been converted into office space for two separate marketing companies working under the DCF umbrella and competing with one another in singing up sponsors for various charities. When I first started there I was apprehensive as the interview room was clearly a rotating door, decorated with magazines and a flat screen TV playing Seinfeld episodes. Yet seeing as how I had been out of work for a month and needed to pay off some student debt I decided to give it a shot, after all I was assured that most of my day would consist of chatting up young women on the street. My team, who had a collective run at the organization consisting of about 13 months, had assured me of this on my first day over a pint of beer.

The pay was near minimum wage to start, 11$/hour but I was assured that good salesmen who could bring in two sponsors a day would be making near 20$/hr on a salary which changed week to week. Quickly enough I learned that, that was what it was all about and the strategies being used to peddle charity were no different that those one would employ for snake oil. These men would sell bath salts door to door if they found it profitable enough and this was not merely part of their character but built into the corporate training of the entire organization.

“There are so many ways to kill a cat.” These words were spoken out by Patience, the gorgeous African boss who started up our morning meeting in the training room. “You know I like to put a picture of the child up near my face, so that when they say no, they’re not saying no to me. They’re saying no to the child.” Just one way to kill a cat I supposed, that one had been Patience’s strategy. There were others of course, never give an open ended question was the first revelation I came across. Asking if anyone has a moment to talk usually came with a quick response… NO. Asking if they would consider a program like this, or be interested in helping garnered the same reaction. Instead I was coached to ask yes only questions.

“You agree that all children have a right to education right?” Not many people answer no to that question and it keeps the potential sponsor engaged in the conversation. That particular piece of advice had been passed on to me by Cat, short for Catalan. Come to think of it all of the real salesmen, the Ace of Spades, had short salesmen like nicknames, Cat, Cam and Chip were the team I worked under most often. Cat delivered another useful tip during one of our morning training sessions. Cam had begun by writing “Bouncing Negs Yo…” on the blackboard, to which I commented “that’s kind of racist isn’t it?” Nobody seemed to understand the joke and we moved onto the task to of handling objections; I’m out of work, I have kids of my own, I’m a student, I support *** already, we don’t do door to door, I need to consult my spouse, I’m a single mother, were all common objections and as a group we would talk about ways to push past these reasons.

Catalan had a suggestion, “You know, about that whole single mother thing, Josh is actually the master at this. When they tell him that, he just says he was also raised by a single mom, tosses the flyer of some kid with a single mom into her hands and she’s putty.” This got a few smiles, a few chuckles, a few surprised faces and no objection from any mangers, after all that cat has to get killed somehow.

At the core of being a salesman, as Cam had said it, “You gotta mind fuck people.” This energetic 20 year old who had quickly become one of the company’s quick risers, liked to pump us up with talk like that and at least he was being honest with someone, not the sponsors of course but us at least. There are no illusions amongst these men that they were striving to help children, they knew nothing more about the charities they were promoting than what their pamphlets told others and they didn’t care. Cam had another useful tip when I had given him my pitch. “You know your educated and you know a lot about what the charities are doing but you don’t need to tell people all that. They know we’re a charity and nobody really cares, what you’re selling is yourself.”

Is an action good if it helps the poor but is derived by nothing more than greed? Do the ends justify the means? Does anyone really care? I don’t know but it seems worth asking the question, I quite my job after a week, having never once pressured someone into making a commitment they couldn’t afford, I helped no children and I’m okay with that.


Unwasted Land

The growth of the Urban garden is not a new trend but I found myself intrigued by the new garden community within the electrical corridor near my apartment, which has recently sprouted in North York, a roughly five minute walk from the York University campus.

Underneath the towering power lines over 130 plots of varying sizes are marked off by makeshift fences and adorned with hanging boots and shoes. Some of the spaces have constructed ramshackle huts for escaping the Sun or cleaning up, one woman even had a mirror.

The land costs 76$ to rent for a year and in exchange the city provides spartan water lines and… well, nothing. Yet that’s the beauty of the entire project, Kumar, one of the local gardeners doesn’t need the government to provide fertilizer, fences, hoses or skill, he has all that, land and water is all it takes and in this massively sprawling, otherwise unused setting, land is abundant.

Kumar currently has green onions, tomatoes, chilies and green beans all growing on his small lot and of course this garden fails to cover all of his family’s food needs but it does supplement their diet with healthy, naturally grown produce and in a world where GMOs and pesticides are indistinguishable from corn that doesn’t contain “acceptable” levels of poison that will explode root worms’ stomachs, this seems like a good thing.The only remaining question is why it is, in this unused corridor of arable land 10.4 km long, that we are only instituting this program along 15 400 square meters, when the cost to the taxpayer is no more then setting up a drinking fountain?

Zombies & Zimmerman

It’s happened, Florida’s cultural zeitgeist has become so massive and entangled that it’s begun to collide in odd ways. Inspired by the states recent facial gourmand,Rudy Eugene, Vitaly Zdorovetskiy, a 20 year old prankster, has taken to Florida’s streets in an attempt to ride that beautiful comedy wave of fake zombie attacks over panic stricken black people.

[Rudy Eugene, 31,  was shot and killed by police as he chewed the face of Ronald Poppo, 65, May 26]

On a side note Rudy Eugene’s autopsy showed no sing of human flesh having been digested, there was also no toxicology report or documentation in anyway linked to bath salts, or even any hearsay that he had been linked to the drug but there’s no need to let facts get in the way of a good headline. Although perhaps New York Daily News’ article Bath salts: Officials say the synthetic drug in disguise was behind recent ‘cannibal’ attack” could have more apply been title “Bath salts: Officials say sometimes bad things that happen might or might not have absolutely anything to do with completely unexplained face chewing”

In the video, featured in the link above,Vitaly Zdorovetskiy dawns an impressive zombie costume with an even more impressive growl, he lurches and jogs towards local black people, mostly young men and all who watch laugh hysterically as they run the fuck away. In an interview with Tosh.0, when asked if he had chosen to attack black people specifically, he stated that he had tried going after white people but they “didn’t give me any reactions, they were just standing around laughing”. On more then one occasion however the prank came dangerously close to going wrong and he even found a gun pulled on him at one point. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and even in the worst situation when he had been chased by a gang of young men at a basketball court he explained the prank and they all had a good laugh, according to Vitaly they even offered him a crack rock afterwards, and people say there’s no community spirit anymore.

This story did not go unreported but what did not get asked was what would have happened had those young men not had the calm and possibly good nature that they did. Had he been gunned down on the concrete would his assailant have been standing his ground? With the Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman case hanging in Florida’s ether I can’t help but wonder if a black gangster gunned down a white 20 year old in the street, only to tell police that he had been standing his ground against the encroaching zombie, would it have gone over quite as well as George’s excuse? Perhaps, perhaps not but more importantly it makes me think of the role that panic plays in our actions.

The thing about the Zimmerman case is that whatever the result, the law itself will remain unscathed, simply because if Zimmerman is convicted it will simply serve as proof that the law did not apply to his case. It will be nothing more then an acceptance of the fact that following children with a gun in your pocket can hardly be dubbed self protection but the interesting thing about the zombie scenario is that it is, for all intents and purposes an example of self defense, ridiculous as fuck but self defense.

What the stand your ground law does is turn crimes of passion or panic into justifiable homicide. It allows us to forgive people by accepting the notion that in times of crises men and women must be forgiven for acts of weakness or acts that were poorly calculated but what this does not take into account is that this would all be a none-issue without guns. So everybody you have my word, the Rudy Eugenes of the world aside, no one is going to try and eat your face, leave your guns at home (locked if you have kids please).