My friend warned me; "I've heard Safeway will, literally, make you cry". Of course I've heard that too. That is to say, having returned recently from Africa, 36 hours ago as of writing this, I am supposed to walk into a modern supermarket and weep at the incredible bounty of food available, contrasting starkly to the scarcity of food back there. To be honest, the first day back wasn't as bad as I'd worried. I had some 'why the hell did I leave Africa' anxiety in the morning when I woke up, and I didn't appreciate the snow, but fortunately by early afternoon the sun was out and the streets were rather navigable. I put on my cool shoes and my big winter coat, both of which I'd missed, and ventured out to do some banking and eat some shanghai noodle soup. First myth busted; I wasn't any more cold than anyone else on the street. I might previously have been roasting in the equatorial heat for two months, but I am still Canadian.As I walk the streets I can't help but marvel at how ugly a group of people we are compared to Africans. I'm sure that's surprising, but it was so plainly obvious. Africans are beautiful, sleek, strong, stylish people. What makes them so particularly beautiful, and us so ugly, can be summed up in one word; Darwin. Africa is a giant, seething, natural selection machine. It's hard to describe just how hard the environment of Africa is. Everyone on the street is there because they managed to survive, and consequently, they have a stack of dead siblings, family members, and friends who are not there with them. Death is ever present and it works a special magic upon the people. Because they have yet to be cut down, they are very happy to be alive. Every handshake, every plate of beans and rice, every bottle of beer is an affirmation that you lived another day.
It also efficiently culls out the weak, the slow, and the sick, leaving the people stronger. Any individuals mechanism of survival is displayed openly to an observer; attractiveness, strength, health, cunning. African people's survival traits are strong enough to be obvious, and it makes them respectable, if not beautiful.As I walk through Vancouver I can't say the same of us. To my eye, despite the physical beauty and middle class stylishness of some, we are essentially are an ugly, pasty people who are in dire need of a cull. I think many of us are alive because our stomachs are filled with plentiful food, our streets are safe from violence, and our hospitals are modern and free, certainly not because we've been tested and earned the right to live. Without death to remind us to be thankful for life, many have become vain and petty people, the kind that feel their happiness is a right that others are obligated to recognize; "Out of my way, I'm special", "I'm hot and you should treat me like I am", "That's right, it's me". It as though years of repeated advertising messages telling us that we are such distinct individuals have sunk in and we are convinced that we are despite objective evidence to the contrary.
I'm worried that Africa is already beginning to fade. Only the photos keep me there.So I went into the Safeway on Davie Street yesterday, less than 24 hours off the plane, to test the theory. It looked and smelled like Safeway. All I thought was 'Your halibut steaks are dry, not very fresh looking, and way overpriced".