No matter where I’ve lived, the one constant has been exhausted-looking Filipino domestic childcare workers carting around their young white charges.
From Fort McMurray’s Franklin Ave to the tony streets of Yorkville, these domestic workers are one of the most obvious symbols of two very different cities where your only worth is your wealth. Despite the social class differences (NOT economic classes) between the two cities, these women are the glue that helps keep each city humming along.
I never expected I’d live in Toronto. Hell, I never even really thought of it much. The only time I ever really paid attention to Toronto was when Mayor Mel called the army in to help clear the streets of snow and ice. As a proudly progressive Albertan, I assumed I’d be working my tail off to make my home a better place. The plan was to live and work in Calgary, volunteer and help move the province slowly, inch-by-inch, forward.
Yet, here I am in the deepest, darkest, downtown elite-iest part of Toronto, Ontario — Jane Jacobs’ Annex.
There are similarities between the bitumensands (or oil/tarsands, take yr pick) capital of the world and the Centre of the Goddamn Universe. Though similar in many ways, the major cultural differences between Toronto and Fort Mac provide reflect each city’s very different class compositions. Toronto has a very white-collar sensibility, where Fort McMurray has a very blu-collar mindset.
Each city is an important economic engine for Canada. Where Toronto is built upon the Bay St. financial and creative economy, Fort McMurray is built on the hard-toil work of mining the oily muck from the ground.
In Toronto you need an education and/or the right connections to access those high-paying jobs in skyscraping towers. Higher education and family networks are going to be hugely helpful. But in Fort McMurray, as long as you’re willing to work long hours and can pass a piss test, you can make your money out in the open-pits driving truck or working as a labourer. Skilled tradespeople are in ever-short supply in Fort McMurray and can make even more for their labour.
Those Filipina nannies are in many ways a symbol of each city. In each city, parents are busy with the reality of their time-consuming jobs. They’re unable to spend the time necessary to raise their kids because they’re out in the workforce earning cash money. In Toronto that may mean long hours spent at the law firm. In Fort Mac, that could mean long hours out at site.
Either way, it’s perfectly acceptable. Nothing wrong with having a Filipina nanny take are of the kids. It’s an ugly necessity. An ugly necessity that most lower-income families would never even get a chance to have.
But it’s a symptom of privilege. Parents who work hard and spend little time with their kids will, GENERALLY SPEAKING (in my experience talking to people and living my life, so I readily acknowledge I may be FULL OF SHIT HERE), throw money at their child to shut them up. Long hours at work mean lots of cash in the bank, so if a harried parent can’t give their kid time, they can give their kid cool cloths and toys.
This kind of treatment by parents is dangerous. It creates entitlement and privilege and teaches these children that your ultimate worth is in your wealth. If your parents can’t share their experiences with you, they can at least share their money and buy your love.
But money only wards off the emptiness for so long. The thrill of money is in the buying. Like a bump of cocaine, that thrill only lasts for minutes. Then the creeping emptiness is back upon you…