Ethnographic fragments #12: the dogs of Chernobyl, homelessness in Hickory, NC, unreal Canadians, the white hunter and his gun, and some unpleasantly real Canadians

I have a vision of the future, chum

chernobyl dog

“After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of “dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages.” Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: “Don’t kill our Zhulka. She’s a good dog.” There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.

Life is not easy for the Chernobyl strays. Not only must they endure harsh Ukrainian winters with no proper shelter, but they often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Few live beyond the age of six.

But it’s not all bad news. The dogs that live near the zone’s checkpoints have little huts made for them by the guards, and some are wise enough to congregate near the local cafe, having learned that a human presence equals food. These canine gangs act as unofficial Chernobyl mascots, there to greet visitors who stop at Cafe Desyatka for some borscht.”


Hickory, North Carolina

A stove built into the hillside at one of the nicer homeless camps in Hickory. Credit: Maddy Jones

“So Stacy and Dave ended up in a plastic tent in a hollow behind the Golden Corral, not far from the Hilton Garden Inn where Stacy found a housekeeping job for minimum wage. When Dave got a car, the back of the Walmart parking lot became a luxury.

Once the ‘furniture capital of the world,’ Hickory was left behind by the 21st century. The city of 40,000 dominated the industrial economy of North Carolina’s western Piedmont. Now the Wendy’s and Dollar General stores, abandoned properties and empty factories are the main signs of an economy, an ugly contrast against the views of Appalachia in the distance. Hickory and the rural areas around it are overwhelmed by underemployment, heroin, meth, pills, despair, and homelessness. In Hickory the epicenter is Lenoir Rhyne Boulevard, and that’s where I met Stacy, hanging out at the Life House, a day shelter next to the Salvation Army.

According to the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, there were 8,962 homeless in the state in the early months of 2017, and nearly a third had no shelter. Tent cities are an open secret. They’re in Raleigh, and Durham, not far from the nicest neighborhoods of the richest country on earth. And they’re all over Hickory, in the woods behind chain restaurants, in places most people choose not to look. They’re technically illegal. But it’s better than sleeping in a public park, or on the steps of City Hall, and absent trouble they’re usually allowed to stay.”


unreal canadians

tessa virtue

“Virtue and Moir have been a duo for 20 years now, skating together for the first time as eight- and ten-year-olds from London, Ont. In their final Olympics, they have again enthralled romantics and voyeurs the world over. Their intimacy shows in everything they do: it’s gentle as they finish each other’s sentences, it’s imbued with desire as they look longingly at one another as they speak, it burns with a sexual chemistry so hot you could set it alight as they weave easily into each others’ bodies on the ice. And they’ve been swearing for the better part of two decades that their intimacy stops just short of love.

We see the crackling moments of cinematic chemistry between them, but this isn’t the movies — it’s better. And every four years when they blaze across our screens, they give us something to hope for: that this kind of intimacy is not only real, but that it can last. That this kind of synchronicity, intimacy, understanding between two humans is not only possible, but gorgeously achievable.”  (from the National Post)


the (white) hunter and his gun


In the wake of the latest US school shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the real  “American carnage” in which 17 students were slaughtered by a white, male shooter (who liked to wear a MAGA Trump hat)—

“Seventy-four percent of gun owners in the United States are male, and 82 percent of gun owners are white, which means that 61 percent of all adults who own guns are white men, and this group accounts for 31 percent of the total US population. The top reason Americans give for owning a gun is for protection. 

What are the majority of white men so afraid of? Does anyone believe that centuries of racial and economic domination of the United States by white men have left no traces in our culture, views, or institutions? It’s not likely, given all the evidence to the contrary. The ongoing influence of this history is compounded by the lack of acknowledgment of the colonists’ savage violence across the continent that continued until the 20th century, and the legacies of African slavery through such practices as convict leasing, legal segregation, rampant institutional racism, discrimination, police killings, mass surveillance, criminalization, and incarceration.

There is another historical paradigm that contributes to the white American male’s affinity for firearms, namely, ‘The Hunter’ …”

Beautiful and timely literary analysis of White American myths of origin from Roxanne Dunbar-Oritz’s new book Loaded: The Disarming History of the Second AmendmentCity Lights, 2018.


real canadians


The Ottawa Citizen reports that “Hundreds of Asian-Canadian protesters, supported by several white, far-right, anti-immigrant groups stormed Parliament Hill on Sunday afternoon to demand an apology from the prime minister.

According to plans for the protest on, members of the Asian-Canadian community feel victimized by a Toronto girl’s false claim in January that an Asian man cut off her hijab and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent rush to view the fictitious incident as a hate crime …

Providing security for the Asian protesters were several anti-immigration, ultranationalist groups such as Quebec’s La Meute — or Wolf Pack — and the Northern Guard. Several Proud Boys — a far-right men’s group — were also in attendance.

La Meute’s Stéphane Roch said his members — of which there are 42,000 in Quebec — were in Ottawa to support the Chinese community.

Roch called them “real Canadians” who have been in the country for hundreds of years. “The Chinese community are a very good community. Trudeau don’t listen to them.”

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

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