I started selling Megaphone in 2009. For me, Megaphone is about building social capital. I attach a lot more importance to social and environmental capital than to the modern economy, which is self-serving and destructive in many regards. I try to correct this by building relationships.
I do a lot of different things that keep me happy, healthy and busy in life. Megaphone’s one of them. Selling the paper gets me out on my bicycle, doing deliveries to my regular customers, and it gets me to the farmers markets, where I sell to the public.
I often get asked if I’m homeless: That’s a common misconception. No, I’m not homeless, but I was virtually homeless for a long time. I moved out of a dingy, rat-infested SRO hotel into something decent in 2010. Before that, I didn’t have much choice. I got a back injury, while working hard being self-employed. Not being able to work and receiving no compensation, I ended up on the street for a while, until I finally received some help from social services. I could barely walk when I got to Vancouver and after three days without food, I was persuaded to stand in line for a food handout, and I learned how to access the social services system. That was an education all by itself.
I’m originally from the Netherlands. I moved to Canada when I was 19. The reason I came here is that I’m a pacifist. I didn’t want to be taught about how to kill people. The Dutch are a pretty peaceful and good peacekeeping nation. But because of the Second World War, and the help of Canadians and Americans who liberated us from occupation, I got drafted following a post-war NATO agreement. My cousin, who was visiting the Netherlands at the time, and who lives in Edmonton, said, “I can probably get you in a university in Canada.” So he went out of his way to get me accepted to the University of Alberta. The culture in Alberta was quite different from Europe, not quite what I was looking for. Then I heard about Vancouver being called the San Francisco of the North. This attracted me, so I went to UBC! I got my bachelor’s in zoology and ecology in ’74.
I worked in Northern BC for a while, but the oceans were my passion. I started building a boat in Delta, a 36-foot trimaran. I worked for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans full-time for four and a half years. I did a whole bunch of diving, organized charters all over the place to the West Coast, and eventually I decided to build a second, more seaworthy ocean-going vessel: a 39-foot trimaran.
I started up a pest control company with some buddies of mine, to make ends meet and worked in that sector for about eight years. Then it came time to move. The boatyard was being sold, so I decided to become a shellfish farmer. I lived in the wild among animals and hardly any people for 12 years. I started a family, raised two kids. Then, having passed 40 and working physically hard every day, my back gave out on me several times, and I knew I had to change my lifestyle. So I came back to Vancouver, and since then I’ve been doing social justice
Most people work for a mortgage. They’re just slaves to the bank. Then you’ve got us, who are free on the streets if you cannot get enslaved with drugs. The stories in Megaphone are written from the perspective of the other side of society that’s often despised and looked down upon. These are real people with real lives, and Megaphone helps to personalize them and gives them respect for their struggles.
We’ve got so much unrecognized talent here, if people really connected and got to know each other better and bridged those barriers, then we could have a truly mixed, wholesome society where people work together and create a common good. A good sense for the commons, like in nature, really helps.