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Opinion, Dave Dale: There has to be a better way

What’s worse: having nails but no hammer or hammer without nails?
hammer and nails
Is it better to have nails but no hammer or hammer without nails?

Everything about the world right now is the same as it ever was. The struggle is real, the challenges are astronomical and unrelenting. We’re lucky to be alive and have the good sense to think things are going to Hell in a handbasket.

Naturally, that’s how it was intended. It’s frustrating to see so many people bound and determined to step on the gas toward the cliff of the abyss. There are so many things we could do much better to make this ride a little less of a horror show and more like a calm drive through the country.

Have you had the chance lately? Take one of the long winding roads connecting all those little hamlets, a peek-a-boo when the lakes show through the trees and you bend your neck for a better view.

It’s so calming.

Sorry if this sounds privileged to some who don’t have that luxury or live so far away from the country you get wound up just getting there. Take heart knowing I’ve had to fix the old 2009 Sportage after every fix of rolling peace.

I’m just recommending you give it a try if you haven’t for a while. Maybe a friend has a car. Even at $2 a litre, the payback is in spades. In fact, if you know someone who needs such a spin, and you have a car, call them up and take them for a jaunt. It’s like Christmas but without all the nasty retailing.

Anyway, my point is there are ways to reset the outlook on things and it doesn’t have to be complicated. If there’s a timber stand and pond within relatively easy reach, it connects you to something far away from the over-digitized, plastic life that is today.

I don’t really know what the secret formula is for taxing people in a way there is a common good and happy dreams. Some of the directions government take boggle my mind so much I’ve come to think it might be me that has it all wrong.

Bombs are blowing up hope in dozens of countries, others are ravaged by all kinds of earthly disasters, and the streets are filling with rage.

Is it worse and more pervasive than in the past? I think we’re actually doing pretty good in comparison but it sure seems like we’re headlong into a perfect storm of challenges. And we can safely say the kettle whistle is blaring truth about how edgy everybody is getting.

I was finishing up a piece on the Italian-Canadian internments during the Second World War, looking at the photos displayed at the Davedi Club, on June 11. It was after the federal apology monument of remembrance was unveiled at the waterfront. And as I recorded the video, I thought again of the Ukrainians treated the same during the First World War.

In a sense, despite the criminality they suffered, they were, in a general sense, the lucky ones with millions upon millions killed in the wars or gassed with genocidal prejudice. And I’m sure they knew it, as many people who survived the Depression and then sacrificed for what should have been the Last Great War.

To know people who have risen from the rubble of historic abuse is to know it can be done.

Of course, the realization of struggles to come is its own fuel for a fight-or-flight panic. And with our technology for communication reaching critical mass and speed, the future is propelled by its possibilities and conspiracy that match. That’s why it seems, some days, calamity is knocking at the door when it’s still far off and maybe not coming after all or not as bad as advertised.

Those who can, financially, will find a way to insulate themselves, but the cold hand of rapture wouldn’t stop at a driveway gate.

Probably the best thing to do is do what we should be doing all the time: connecting with the forests and lakes and rivers so we can look at things in a better light – which improves the disposition immediately, offering a chance at a wise next step.

There’s no lack of special interest causes to pour yourself into to make change. That’s all well and good. It drives a community forward taking care of micro matters.

I’m starting to think, however, that it’s not always the winning hand to play one card at a time. It takes a pair to beat an ace, so to speak. And there’s nothing but anxiety all around if we’re flipping them over in singularity.

I’m going the long way around town, I know, with my analogy. It’s safer to speak in generalities these days. I wouldn’t dare say abortion isn’t just a women’s concern, it’s too easily misconstrued when I say it’s a humanity project, of course, it's the actual pregnant person's final say. Are we even allowed to stand firm on the belief neither sexism nor racism can be offset by sexism and racism? And only a pariah would say nobody should alter their sexual chemistry set before at least 21 years old – and supports should be there for all those who need it, all adolescents, no matter their need. Everybody having access to mental health care would be the goal but starting with all teens first would be ideal.

My gambling line about playing cards was purposeful. It grew from a discussion the other day about Cascades Casino on the south side of town. Bright lights, bells and whistles are not my cup of tea – neither is economic policy that is wringing out local wallets to feed the provincial mill. But I understand why people think differently, fill your boots if that’s your bag.

It runs parallel, I believe, to a growing sense of individual despair that is rampant in every direction while exponentially invasive online. Everything has to be glitz and glitter, polished, covered, injected – a fakeness race multiplied and amplified. That’s the one part I think is worse than ever before, a shallowness and rubber materialism that shakes me to the core.

If I was granted one wish it would be to eliminate the emotional starvation people fill with fashion and trend. I wouldn’t feed the hungry, I wouldn’t cure the ill, I’d invent a world people could face with their own face. Everything else would mend toward an accord, like a silky-smooth lake at sunset.

That’s my “old white guy yells at clouds” rant.

Seriously, there are much bigger priorities and the only way to soften whatever blows this decade or the next will bring is to start thinking community. Holistically. Or at least like a bunch of communities working together. I’d settle for a few little fiefdoms in concert with each other, possibly a memo of understanding to help each other out.

Interestingly, if you get out for a drive, and you’re touring along the Lake Nipissing countryside or down the Mattawa River watershed, you’ll figure out we already have the basics covered. Each town has its warts, no doubt. At the same time, they do beat a lot of them out there I’ve seen after way too many moves.

It’s actually not too shabby, this place we have here. It’s probably a good idea to appreciate it more and more often.

The bottom line, if you’re looking for causes, I’d suggest environmentalism that protects natural, thriving spaces; and then well-run agri-businesses next. Food security and bio-diversity are renting a big space in my mind for some reason.

Anyway, those are the thoughts I have when there’s time and gas to cruise along the back roads.

As for the riddle, let’s just say I wouldn’t blame you if the hammer came to mind because it offers immediate brute force and power. If you come across someone with nails, it could prove menacing enough to get the person to cough up the spikes. Could be nasty on the noggin. The nails, however, can be hammered home with a rock. They could be used to tip a spear, a shiv to stab, or even to trade a few for using the hammer – bartering cooperation, so to speak.

Just a bit to chew on there. Have a good Canada Day. Maybe hug a tree if the mood strikes ya – but be careful, the forecast in Nipissing calls for lightning. Wouldn’t that be a shocking punchline, eh? Reader sues columnist for bad tree advice.

P.S. What is the over-under for the number of North Bay candidates for mayor and councillors? I’m thinking five mayoral horses – including a dark horse to come – and a record low council wannabes, 16 at the most. Feels perfectly fine looking on from the peanut gallery.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses meant as Letters to the Editor can be sent to To contact the writer directly, email: or check out his website