11 February 2016

In Defense of The Hammer

I was out and about on Tuesday and when I was coming home from Toronto, crossing the Skyway bridge, I started to think about all the times I hear and see people slamming my hometown, Hamilton, Ontario. So many times, especially on social media, I will see people posting about how they can't wait to get out of this city, how all the people here are losers and so on. I am struck by how they feel. I am not sure if they realise that it isn't Hamilton that does
anything to them and if they were being honest it has little to do with the city and more their own lives they are dissatisfied with. Is there crime here? Sure, my brother lives in a small town of a little over 4000 people and there is crime there too. Where people have less and struggle with just getting by means there will always be those who will choose to gravitate towards theft and violence as an answer, the location doesn't matter.
I have lived almost my entire life here and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. Sure I dream of living in Toronto or Vancouver or even Montreal, but that is just because I have always suffered from a wanderlust. Not because I hate it here, This city is where my parents raised my brothers, sister and I. It has given me wonderful opportunities and crushing defeats. Love and loss, spectacular views and smoke stacks all combined to make this my home.
 I think the main problem I have with those who put my city down is that they generally do nothing to make it a better place. More often than not, they are associating with the worst the city has to offer and not the best. There are few places in Canada, let alone the world that can boast the concentration of medical care and innovation we have here. I don't have kids, but I couldn't imagine not being near McMaster if I did need my theoretical kids to go to emergency care. With the exception perhaps of the largest cities, for our size, we are damn near the best in the field of helping care for the sick and dying this country has to offer.
The support of independent artists and small businesses is something else we have to be proud of. So many festivals, big and small, bring together the creative community with the people of this city all year long. If you really take your blinders off, Hamilton is filled with amazing opportunities to experience new things and expose yourself to different ways of thinking. While I am personally past the age where I go bar hopping, places like Augusta Street and Hess Village are packed cheek to jowl with great bars, nightclubs and restaurants. We have many fine dining options and small, unique places to explore all kinds of food. There really is something for everyone, if you just give it a chance.
As a beer guy, Collective Arts Brewing and their north end brewery are a godsend to me. Having locally brewed, fresh beer is just amazing and they are not alone in this endeavour. Other microbreweries and craft brewers are popping up all over the city, with the newest slated to open in Dundas very soon. It's a great time to be a Hop Head in the Steel Town.
Finally, I must address the issue of poverty. My town is home to a host of economic and social levels. No different than any other city in the world. I have lived on the fringes of society when I was a young man and while that was a hard time I imposed on myself, it wasn't as if there weren't programs available to help. There are so many kind and wonderful people and organizations who provide counselling, food, clothing and all sorts of other help to those who ask that I wish I could do more myself. The issue sometimes isn't access to the programs themselves, but the stigma associated with getting help. There is a notion that you are less than a whole person if you need help when you are down on your luck and that should stop. Everyone needs some help sometimes.
While there are those who abuse the system, I don't think it is any worse here than anywhere else. But I am sure that has been true since the first welfare systems came into being. There will always be those who try to get a free ride and contribute nothing. I'm just a humble beer guy, I have no solution to this except better education and scrutiny of those who cheat. But I know there has to be something we can do.
 Mental health issues plague us all over the country and we need to be doing better at addressing those and helping people who need it. Again, not a Hamilton issue alone, but one which all of Canada needs to get better at.
This is my hometown. It is not perfect. But it is the place in the world where I have chosen to live and build a life. Perhaps raise children, who knows what time will bring. If you hate it, feel free to move, but I have no doubt I will see and hear the same complaints about the next place you live. And the one after that, and so on. There is nowhere that's perfect and I know we have our problems here, but I would rather be part of the solution than the problem. Long live The Hammer!

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