Roderick Haig-Brown – echoes of the past

Author, soldier, law enforcement officer, international conservationist, magistrate and judge, University of Victoria Chancellor but, above all Roderick Haig-Brown was a consummate angler in the mold of Izaak Walton. Below is a short excerpt from his last book, “Bright Waters, Bright Fish”, completed in September 1976 – one month before his death.

“So Canadian anglers have in their heritage three unfortunate concepts: there is an unlimited supply of fish, regulations are unnecessary, and fishing should be free. These concepts must be eliminated. The resource cannot support a meat fishery, it cannot be enjoyed for long without close regulation and management, and if it is to be managed properly, there must be a source of revenue — it cannot and should not be offered without direct cost to the participants in the form of licenses.”

“All this regulation is gain rather than loss. The resource is put in proper perspective, as something of immense value, to be cherished, used respectfully and passed on unimpaired to future generations. True, management also brings about some loss of wild freedoms and in some sense a loss of quality; but these are penalties of increasing population. Angling, if it is to persist, can only do so as a sport of high principles, strong ethics and intelligent recognition of the true nature of the resource. Such principles, like the ordinary concrete regulations that bind him under the law, are not a burden upon the angler but positive enhancements of his chosen pursuit. To be fit to make proper use of the fishery, he has to bring something more with him that a rod, a line a hook and a desire to kill fish.”

Now, 37 years later, we are faced with the entire resources of Earth’s biosphere threatened by those who, like Haig-Brown’s meat fisherman cannot think beyond the desire to kill fish or, in this case, to convert natural capital into accumulated personal wealth. The difference of course is that, while few people worldwide have had their lives threatened by a group of fly fisherman who can’t practice restraint, the entire human species is now threatened by the capitalist wealth accumulators who suffer from the same unprincipled greed.

Over the years, I have bored many friends, family members, colleagues and casual acquaintances (I try not to discriminate) with my stories of lost quality of life and I still consider that, in my case at least, Quality of Life and Standard of Living exist in an inverse relationship — as one goes up, the other goes down. I’m not going to expand further at this point (maybe in a later post) but if we run into each other when you happen to be looking for a way to kill some time, ask me to explain . . . . .

There is More to Corrosion Than Getting Rusty

I took a break from Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded”
to read through a small book—”The Corrosion of Character” by Richard Sennett, described by Studs Terkel as “A devastating and wholly necessary book”.

Sennett’s book is sub-titled “The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism” and it deals with the ways in which current work environments in the industrialized world undermine the moral and ethical behavior of individuals and society in general. For instance, trying to reconcile the bringing up of children to honour long-term commitment and loyalty while working in a world which routinely “downsizes” the workforce by getting rid of the longest-term employees and values only those workers who can accommodate major changes in direction on a moment’s notice causes many people to become disconnected from the reality of life. Teamwork, one of the tenets of the new capitalism ideology is shown to be based on superficial co-operation and held together by fear; failure to be a “good” team worker will often lead to dismissal so workers feign co-operation and belief in the ideology only to prevent termination of employment.

Rather than assigning value to long-term experience, corporations look at older workers, perhaps still in their 30’s as being averse to risk and behind the times in technology and knowledge so they are the first to be “downsized” when the business feels it is necessary to become leaner (and meaner). Even youthful appearance is valued over experience in many enterprises so the work experience tends to be shallow, fleeting and incoherent.

Perhaps those who vote for the party that promises “jobs, jobs, jobs” should take a look at themselves to see if they fit the narrow and superficial requirements to be hired for those jobs as well as how many of those low-wage, long-hour and soul-deadening jobs they would need to survive and support their families.

The last words of the content are – “. . . a regime which provides human beings no deep reason to care about one another cannot long preserve its legitimancy”.