“Mongolia is not an easy country to live in and David [South] showed a keen ability to adapt in difficult circumstances. He was sensitive to the local habits and cultures and was highly respected by his Mongolian colleagues. … David’s journalism background served him well in his position as Director of the Communications Unit. … A major accomplishment … was the establishment of the UNDP web site. He had the artistic flare, solid writing talent and organizational skills that made this a success. … we greatly appreciated the talents and contributions of David South to the work of UNDP in Mongolia.” Douglas Gardner, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Mongolia
This groundbreaking Mongolian Human Development Report – the country’s first – went beyond just chronicling Mongolia’s state of development in statistics and graphs. It placed the story of the Mongolian people during the transition years (post-1989) at its heart, using photographs, stories and case studies to detail the bigger narrative at play.
Designed, laid out and published in Mongolia, the report broke with the practices of many other international organisations, who would publish outside of Mongolia – denying local companies much-needed work. The report’s costs helped to kick-start a publishing boom in the country and significantly raised standards in design and layout. The foundations laid down by the project producing the report ushered in a new age in publishing for Mongolia.
The report’s launch was innovative, not only being distributed for free across the country, but also part of a multimedia campaign including television programming, public posters, town hall meetings and a ‘roadshow’ featuring the report’s researchers and writers.
The initial print run of 10,000 copies was doubled as demand for the report increased. To the surprise of many, once hearing about the free report, herders would travel to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, to pick up their copy. The report proved people cared passionately about the development of their country and that development concepts are not to be the secret domain of ‘development practitioners’.
Police say the wealthy and eccentric owner of a Bedford Road museum and rooming house sexually assaulted young men over a period of 17 years. Others say he is a victim of unfair persecution. Norman Elder isn’t saying anything.
The tattered sign on the door is barely noticeable, and its message gives little away: “Dr Elder has moved to Fort Torrance, Ontario. Sorry no tours.”
I peek in the window of the Norman Elder Museum on Bedford Road and see the eyes of a zebra staring back at me. To the left are formaldehyde jars filled with oddly shaped objects.
While Norman Elder, amateur anthropologist and full-time Annex eccentric, may be hiding at his Muskoka cottage, he has left behind a community stunned by police allegations that he sexually abused young men. His story is one of a man born into wealth who cultivated an image of eccentricity as carefully as he surrounded himself with the things he loved.
According to police, the assaults took place at Elder’s 140 Bedford home – a brooding Victorian mansion that’s one part rooming house, another part museum holding his large collection of artifacts plucked from the world’s tribes.
Detective Robert Mann of Metro’s 32 Division Youth Bureau says Elder has been charged with 12 counts of indecent assault/male, spanning 1972 to 1989.
“Some were minors, some were adults over the age of 16. Most were adolescent and teenage males between the ages of 15 and 19.” While the charges laid were at the end of February, police have still not disclosed the details. Without that information, Elder hasn’t entered a plea.
Last Wednesday, I walked past the gravestone that marks the front yard and approached three young men having a cigarette outside the house. Two of them said they lived in the house. One man with a skinhead hairstyle who looked to be in his mid-20s nervously said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” He admitted he was taking messages for Elder from the answering machine and had passed on my numerous calls. Calls to his cottage weren’t answered, and none of Elder’s friends and acquaintances contacted by The Gleaner wished to comment on the charges.
Mann alleges that Elder’s modus operandi was to offer homeless youths a place to stay in return for sexual favours. The multiple charges stem from men contacting police after reading articles in Toronto’s two dailies about the first charge, which was laid in February.
Elder’s trip to the cottage isn’t a case of spring fever; he is out on bail and has been court-ordered to not return to his house.
Off the record, several sources suspected that some of the young men living at the house were involved in the sex trade and weren’t innocent of trading sexual favours for a place to stay. In the language of the street, they say, Elder was a sugar daddy. Some acquaintances of Elder felt he was being unfairly persecuted by police for sexual acts that took place between consenting adults (though, legally, the homosexual age of consent is 18, while for heterosexuals it’s 16). They also questioned the validity of charges that are in some cases 25 years old and only ferreted out by police during the Maple Leaf Gardens scandal.
Elder may be an eccentric, but he is not a loner; nor did he keep a low profile. Elder was born into wealth and attended Upper Canada College with the likes of Conrad Black, whom he once called a friend. He is listed in the Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who in Canada. He financed his globe-trotting expeditions by selling artifacts collected in the Amazon, Africa and Borneo to museums, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not. He filled his house with exotic animals, including a 20-foot, 400-pound python called Peter.
As a one-man National Geographic magazine, Elder has self-published several books on his travels and made documentaries. His house served as location for David Cronenberg’s The Naked Lunch. He once told a journalist. “What bothers me most about going to zoos is that I’ve tasted most of the animals in there.”
In 1979, an article in The Toronto Star weekend magazine described Elder as a “slightly balding, surprisingly genial guy, who looks a bit like Jack Nicholson … and speaks a bit mezzo forte for a 20th-century Victorian.”
The former Olympic equestrian rider has had a long association with running rooming houses for youth that dates back to the 60s. When he was a social worker in Yorkville’s hippie days, Elder boasted of having 6,000 kids crash at his place in 1969.
In the 70s, he had political aspirations, running for city council and for the provincial NDP. He was friends with late New Brunswick premier Richard Hatfield, who was also dogged by rumours about his relationships with young men.
Update: “In 1998, Elder pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting 10 young men between 1970 and 1980. On March 12, 1998, Judge Faith Finnestad sentenced Elder to two years less a day in jail.”
“Elder died on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 in Toronto of an apparent suicide by hanging.” (Source: Wikipedia).
Id Magazine (Canada), January 23 to February 5, 1997
It was with hungry enthusiasm that I rushed to hear the great liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith speak. It was with enormous disappointment that I found a genius emptied of solutions to the current political battles in today’s Ontario.
For those unfamiliar with Galbraith, think of him as a hybrid of the liberalism of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and the manner of Jimmy Stewart. Now 88, the former Guelph agricultural economist became a servant of the US government just as president Franklin Roosevelt was beginning to introduce the New Deal – today’s rusting welfare state – as a solution to the cruel hardships imposed on Americans as a result of the Great Depression. Galbraith rode out the Second World War in a senior government position as Roosevelt’s price-control czar. He later advised Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, before seeing his influence in American economic thought wane under Ronald Reagan’s Republicans.
Galbraith has long followed the ideas of British economist John Maynard Keynes, who believed goverments should keep money tight in good times, but should spend their way out of bad times to avoid undue hardship. Galbraith also made the plight of the poor one of the pillars of his economic theory, and criticized the unnecessary appetites and demands created by the goliath American advertizing industry. He has supported wage and price controls and once, in the 1930s, even wanted to join the American Communist Party.
Last week, Galbraith breezed into Toronto with his ivy league roadshow. Speaking to a stodgy crowd of liberals (and Liberals, including former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and failed Ontario leadership candidate Gerrard Kennedy) at the University of Toronto, Galbraith was at an institution that comes as close as Canada gets to his current stomping ground, Harvard.
Symbolically, Galbraith couldn’t have visited Ontario at a better time. The Conservative government of Mike Harris is in the middle of an ambitious campaign to reverse everything that Galbraith has stood for: budget deficits to avoid depressions; social programmes to prevent poverty; taxes on the rich to fund those programmes; government policy subservient to public good. Harris oozes contempt out of every pore for the pillars of Galbraith’s thinking. In fact Ontario, once the bedrock of Canadian liberalism, is now joining Alberta in dismantling the welfare state.
A graduate of the University of Guelph when it was still the Ontario Agricultural School, Galbraith took his bitter memories of farming in southern Ontario to the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently to the Roosevelt government.
In his day, Galbraith was amongst a rare species of mainstream economists that earned respect from the once-abundant Marxists who cluttered universities. Not that the Marxists liked his compromises and complicity with the American government, or his assertions that he could save capitalism. But they thought he softened up the system for some body blows to be delivered by the workers’ revolution.
I am a member of a generation that grew up on government largesse, well-funded public schools, family allowance, university grants, and make-work progammes. But we have seen a lot of that eroded over the past eight years, during a period of high unemployment not seen since the Depression. It was time to see if this titan of liberal thought had something new to say.
Galbraith’s talk had two main points: the market economy is the best system going; he supports a guaranted minimum salary to prevent poverty. Other than that, Galbraith’s speech was a rehash of the same ideas he has been mulling over for the past 50-plus years. It could be called Liberalism 101.
His speech was peppered with euphamisms like the “socially concerned.” Perhaps he was pulling his punches so as not to offend the “distinguished” audience. The most exciting moments displayed his dry wit: “In the United States , the war against the poor having now been won,” or “We, the socially concerned, do not seek the euthanasia of the rentier class.”
He struck out against annual balanced budgets because they have been used as an excuse in the US to cut off benefits to the poor. He also slammed the globalization-uber-alles philosophy that sees welfare policies as uncompetitive – a sentiment that doesn’t seem to be in vogue these days with liberals. Last week, Prime Minister Jean Chretien told the South Koreans they need to remove jobs-for-life provisions to join the global marketplace.
His ideas and his approach to communicating those ideas come from a special historical time. A time when governments under pressure from trade unions and the far-left and right political parties decided to make capitalism a little friendlier. But they needed advisers who could speak the language of the elite. Eloquent, confident, pragmatic – advisers who felt comfortable in the courts of the democratic government. They didn’t want hot-headed union guys or hectoring left-wing demagogues.
Galbraith takes credit for civilizing capitalism and ensuring its survival: “It would not have survived had it not been for our successful civilizing efforts. We, the socially concerned, are the custodians of the political tradition and action that saved classical capitalism from itself. We are frequently told to give credit where credit is due. Let us accept it when it is ours.”
Galbriath’s economic theories have always been grounded by morality, preferring to avoid being a servant to flow charts. It is his most insightful side. When many fear to speak in broad terms about current economic problems, where many fear to make connections, Galbraith has pieced the complex puzzle together, much to the frustration of those who believe capitalism should be left unfettered. It is his worthiest legacy.
The Galbraith Interview
You point out it is reforms that have given capitalism a new lease on life. What policies would alleviate the worst aspects of today’s capitalism?
We still have the oldest problem. (That is) to eliminate the cruelties that are inherent in the system. In the United States, and I imagine also in Canada, we still have the terrible problems of the urban poor, of the people who do not make it. I see one of the central tasks of our time is to do two things: to provide a safety net so that in a modern rich society we don’t let people starve, and that we provide the means for escape from urban poverty.
How would you elliminate poverty?
No novelty about that. Two things are absolutely essential. One, that there be a basic safety net. That we accept in a modern society that there has to be a level of income below which people are not allowed to go. I do not join this attack on welfare, this notion the poor should be allowed to starve. Another thing is a strong educational system, which allows people to escape from poverty in the next generation. Those are the two absolute essentials.
Should government just concentrate on ending poverty and abandon universal programmes like public health care?
You can always have a conversation that separates itself from the reality. I think in Canada if some politician or some political group wanted to repeal the health system, they would soon find themselves in considerable disfavour. If they were committed to allowing the poor to starve, they would get a reputation for cruelty that no civilized society would tolerate. And if they started saving money on the schools, as some already have, we would find out how absolutely essential good education is for economic and social well-being. So we have a difference between what is possible in oratory and what is possible in reality … When the axing comes, it is a good deal less popular than it is in the previous rhetoric.
Who do you think, within or outside political movements, represents the socially concerned today?
I don’t speak generally on this. There is in all countries a substantial voting and politically expressive group. In the United States it is the political left, in Britain it is the Labour Party, in France it is the socialists, in Germany the social democrats. They are broadly committed to the welfare state and I think will remain so.
Would you include the Liberal Party in Canada amongst those?
I would include a substantial part of the Liberal Party in the United States. The Liberal Party in Canada, like the Democrats in the United States, have a double orientation, on one hand to the welfare state and on the other hand a more centrist attitude. Both parties have an internal problem to resolve.
Do you think they have lost interest in the welfare state?
To some extent I regret that. We must take some responsibility for human suffering and human well-being.
You don’t see that with the Democrat Party?
I prefer it to the Republicans.
Are some of these policies like welfare reform in the US making it harder for the poor?
I was not in favour of welfare reform.
I grew up in a very poor household but was able to go to the University of Toronto because of various government policies. In fact, they have kept me from destitution. You have written about a culture of contentment that prevents further social reforms. Will it whither?
Those of us who have been associated with the welfare state have made a lot of people comfortable, happy and conservative. We have undermined our own political influence by our success.
Do you think current levels of high unemployment and economic stagnation might erode that contentment?
No, if we suffer another recession there will be a desperate effort to have the government do something about it. The present conservatism is an aspect of good times. We had it in the 1980s under Reagan.
Are we still in good times?
We still have a lot of people who have a problem. We should have sympathy.
Do you see any political parties in Canada who defend the welfare state?
I’ve lived all my life in the the United States and I’ve always avoided coming back to give Canada advice. As I said in my lecture, anybody who does that should have stayed in Canada for his own lifetime. Let Canadians look after their affairs in Canada.
You said the socially concerned don’t seek income equality. I guess that is where you split with socialists?
I accept the inevitable, that people are going to be different in aspirations, ability and luck and probably different in parentage. All of this is going to mean differences in income.