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By Terence Dick

I was wearing socks, long underwear, jeans, a t-shirt, two sweatshirts, a sweater, a jacket, a scarf and a hat. I was curled up under a comforter, three blankets and a sleeping bag. The heat was on and I was shivering. There was a week until my deadline and I had my umpteenth cold of the winter. My editor wanted something about the “Canadian Malaise”. I didn’t want to write anything and figured an interview could be my reprieve. (Let someone else supply the content and have me merely sign at the bottom.) I couldn’t think of anyone I could call that week who was worth an entire article. Hallucinating, snotty and brain dead; I had the Canadian Malaise.

I figured I could do many little interviews, maybe ask just one question, use whoever I ran into that week, collect the answers and hopefully end up with something semi-coherent and quasi-publishable. If my idea worked, I would have a finished article, not have had to write it and be in possession of some all important insight into matters of utmost urgency (which I could then translate into a perceptive social commentary). My question: How do you keep from getting sick?

You have to eat food. Don’t take drugs. Eat vegetables. And drink milk. Drink orange juice. -Timothy Morse (nine years old)

Sure there are easy answers, but they only work in a perfect world. What if milk was one language and juice another? What would the lactose intolerant speak? Do you see where I’m coming from?

I don’t do anything. I just get sick. I figure it’ll happen anyway. -Chuck Shepherd (graduate student)

Resignation or nihilism is not a proper course of action. Sometimes you feel powerless or meaningless or overwhelmed, but allowing yourself to get sick merely aggravates your situation. Furthermore, laissez-faire attitudes only serve those who take control of power relations (implicitly or explicitly) and render to will-less subject subject to the will of wilful subjects (Huh?Ignore that last sentence.)

I don’t hang out with anybody and that way, I don’t get sick. -Miro Kovacevic (layabout)

As a political stance, isolationism ignores every aspect of global social-economic relations at the end of the twentieth century. More blind to the present power structure than those who give themselves up to it, people who consider themselves removed and therefore “safe” endanger all they exclude, empowering that which they deny . On top of that, they are no fun.

I go to sleep a lot more and I sleep for a long time. Usually at night, if I feel better, I’ll probably pretend that I’m all better and the next day, I’ll feel like shit. -Christina Smutny (student)

I used to do this too. I had a sore throat for weeks because I wouldn’t skip a couple nights of drinking beer. The only good that came of it was a transcendent concert experience involving an art-damaged blues-jugband. For some things, like opportunistic infections or increased tuition or mass oppression, pretending it is not there will not make it go away (I know because I’ve tried, passive-aggressive political passive-activist that I am).

I don’t exercise too much but I never get sick so I guess it’s not that important. -Kathryn Begora (rock star)

And so we continue to tempt hubris. Once, when I boasted to a co-worker the resilience of my health, I was immediately felled by chills and fever. Like some unnamed figure in an unknown Greek tragedy (because I skipped class that day), he (or she) who discounts the possibility of harm will often be harmed the most.

I don’t share juice with other people. Try to wash my hands a lot. And… I don’t do enough. That’s the problem. -Misu Burns (student, rock star)

Hit the nail on the head. Then again, how much is enough? In terms of personal health, things that are bad for you always seem to be the most enjoyable (at least in the short run). But as you get older (and realize that fifteen minutes of bliss with a meatball sandwich results in a weekend of intestinal cramps), sprinters become marathoners. The playing field is extended. But again, how far? I’m scared that some of my closest friends are sacrificing themselves for the greater good, forgetting to save themselves before they save the world. I’m not one to talk, or rather, I am all talk and no walk. My one excuse is perspective. It’s a lame excuse.

I keep from getting sick by taking massive doses of vitamin C in the form of tablets called midoxin. – Michael Morse (musician, educator)
If I feel myself starting to get sick, then I swear by the herb ecchinecea. It works for me every time, and it doesn’t just boost my immune system, it keeps my energy level up too, for some reason. I don’t think it works like that for everybody. -Khaled Mously (fire fighter)
Ecchinecea and rest. Water. I think that’s it. What did you say? – Jonah Schein (educator, musician)

First of all, I don’t know how to spell ECCHINECEA. I’m just guessing and hoping the reader will figure it out. In Halifax, I heard the guitarist from CHIXDIGGIT make a joke about it. Last March, when I was sicker than I have ever been (I had a delirious dream wherein I had three bodies and they were all in pain), my roommate Sam nursed me back to health with it. The taste is comparable to the still-cold water you drink and immediately hurl when you are dry heaving. I don’t believe it works. But I get sick all the time and Sam doesn’t. I don’t know if Michael, Khaled or Jonah get sick as much as I do. There are many factors involved, I’m sure. Topping the list is the individual’s immune system; a tenacious topic, biologically and politically. What would Canada’s immune system be? Rather than answer that complex (and fascinating) question, let’s move on.

When I feel like I’m about to get sick, I go out to the store and buy a two litre container of Tropicana grapefruit juice. Then drink it as fast as you can and fall asleep. And you will. If you drink the entire thing in four minutes – ideally in one minute – as long as you get it down in three or four minutes, your system will go through a bit of a shock and you’ll pass out. You’ll wake up an hour later and you’ll feel better. And pray before you do this. Tell God that you’re doing it for him. -Rob Carson (student, musician)

Reflecting on what I have written and trying to perpetuate some sort of coherence before I reach a reasonable word-count, my meager attempts to cobble together a semi-valid statement about health and the body politic through a parallel anecdotal account of everyday life seems to suffer more on the side of the big picture than the small. My admittedly weak-to-non-existent grasp of national issues renders most of my commentary too general to be of any merit. I don’t understand the language problem, the deficit, the megacity, Native rights, workfare, free trade, party politics, political correctness, moral panic, etc. I do have a somewhat stronger grasp on making it through the day, the week, the month (but not yet the year [guilty again of short term thinking (the farther into the future I project, my plans fade to schemes and my schemes into dreams; I dream my place in the world two months from now)]).

How do I keep from getting sick? That’s such a reactive thing. I prefer to be a proactive person. I think a more proactive way to ask the question is: how do you stay healthy? How do you achieve health? Some are born healthy, some achieve health and some have health thrust upon them. I don’t know if I fit into any of those categories, but to the extent that I fit into any, I think it’s all joie de vivre, attitude. One time at infantry school, at the college of knowledge, I got diseased. We were doing section tacs which is basically like you stand up and run for a few steps then you fall down for a while, then you stand up and run for a couple steps and you fall down again. You’re moving like your buddy is firing to keep the enemy suppressed. You’re supposed to move while he fires. It’s called “fire and movement”. Like two legs, one leg is standing to support the other leg while it moves. Anyway, push came to shove; it was in the swamps of New Brunswick and I got all infected. My legs and knees were all swelled up. To stay healthy there, I went to the hospital in Fredericton. They put this IV into me. There was a really shitty training nurse (’cause I was like a training patient). So she said, “Ooh, is that the vein? Ooh, I’m sorry. I’m a training nurse. Don’t worry about it, I’ll try again.” And she kept puncturing me. They eventually got the IV into me and I just laid there a few days. And my girlfriend, who was my roommate’s sister in Newfoundland, came in and she jerked me off and we had a good visit. Eventually I sorted myself out on the IV, getting antibiotics and I got well. I left the hospital and that’s how I stay healthy. -Joe Playfair (institutional equities trader)

If there is a sickness in Canada today (You’d be a fool to say otherwise. The entire world is messed up.), the only way to heal our country is to heal ourselves. (Refer thyself to the personal-as-political school of thought and all that gobbledy-gook.) Those who govern us do not have the resources or wherewithal to change things. (Typical response of suspicion and ungrounded cynicism from one wallowing in helplessness.) A cursory look at social improvements over the course of this century would reveal overwhelming evidence in support of grassroots movements. (Maybe Vietnam, but World War Two? Sure, the Allied Forces were a “popular movement.”) The crucial turn in our political consciousness is that which recognizes the agency of the individual who no longer merely appeals to representatives but is personally active in community matters. (This might be an interesting point if the writer wasn’t so obviously obfuscating [as I am doing here].) Accepting responsibility for self is the first step in the creation of a society that is responsible for (to?) its citizens. (What’s the second step, smart guy?)

I got better too. Hung out in my pajamas for a couple days, drank herbal tea and ate oranges. Took some aspirin as well, though I’m suspicious of drug-invoked cures. I worry that medication is only temporary, the sickness retreating momentarily only to reappear stronger, more virulent. I was lucky enough to have the freedom to be useless for a couple days and recover. How does that translate to the national malaise? I can’t say because I would never hold myself up as exemplary or authoritative enough to judge. Maybe that’s the problem with Canada. It’s definitely the problem with me. The next article will ask: what are the grounds for an ethical social commentary. Then maybe I’ll be able to produce one.


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