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by Christopher Mudiappahpillai

Last night, I attended a public workshop on Toronto’s new Coordinated Street Furniture initiative, a program which aims to better the pedestrian experience throughout the city. (More on that later.)

The meeting itself was very interesting – and the first of its kind I’ve ever attended – but what struck me the most was that out of a city of several million, only around 120 persons showed up. And while there were other venues and places the discussions were (and still are) being held, I can’t help but think that there should be more public involvement, with most of the onus falling on the ‘public’.

What makes this especially disturbing is that last night’s experience was just a repetition of another ‘public’ debate I attended on the university campus last week in relation to this year’s student council elections. I was one of – at most – three people there who was not in some way part of the current SAC.

Mind you, I’m not preaching. I’m far from being a person who’s truly active in my community. I’m just concerned by this lack of activity, especially by those in my generation, when it comes to anything that seemingly does not involve us directly. It’s almost as if we’ve lost the ability to look outside of ourselves and our petty problems.

I guess it’s always easier to “do nothing.”

This song isn’t exactly related, but it comes to mind…

Flower Lady
Phil Ochs
From the album Farewells and Fantasies

Millionaires and paupers walk the hungry streets
Rich and poor companions of the restless beat
Strangers in a foreign land
Strike a match with trembling hand
Learn too much to ever understand
But nobody’s buying flowers from the flower lady

Lover’s quarrel, snarl away their happiness
Kissed crumble in a web of loneliness
It’s written by the poison pen
Voices break before they bend
The door is slammed
It’s over, once again
But nobody’s buying flowers from the flower lady

Poets agonize, they cannot find the words
And the stone stares at the sculptor, asks “are you absurd?”
The painter paints his brushes black
Through the canvas runs a crack
Portrait of the pain never answers back
But nobody’s buying flowers from the flower lady

Soldiers, disillusioned, come home from the war
Sarcastic students tell them not to fight no more
And they argue through the night
Black is black and white is white
Walk away both knowing they are right
But nobody’s buying flowers from the flower lady

Smoke dreams of escaping souls are drifting by
Dull the pain of living as they slowly die
Smiles change into a sneer
washed away by whiskey tears
In the quicksand of their mind they disappear
Still nobody’s buying flowers from the flower lady

Feeble, aged, people almost to their knees
Complain about the present using memories
Never found their pot of gold
Wrinkled hands pound weary holes
Each line screams out you’re old, you’re old, you’re old
But nobody’s buying flowers from the flower lady

And the flower lady hobbles home without a sale
Tattered shreds of petals leave a fading trail
Not a pause to hold a rose
Even she no longer knows
The lamp goes out the evening now is closed
And nobody’s buying flowers from the flower lady

Sorry to be so dreary. Nicer things soon.