Mortimore: Sharp practice on the market

One tiny piece of steel. That was the only shaving supply I needed, a blade for my Schick Injector razor.

One tiny piece of steel. That was the only shaving supply I needed, a blade for my Schick Injector razor. Ordinary bar-soap was my cheapskate shaving-soap.

A bunch of us Scouts bought a Schick as a going-away present for the scoutmaster, who was also the Anglican vicar. He was leaving town to become vicar of another parish. I encountered him again 10 years later. In those years he must have used enough blades to fill a tea-package, or a matchbox.

(Old-timers will remember matchboxes from the days when smoking was unrestricted, cigarettes were supposed to be good for you, and tobacco ads appeared in medical journals.)

I bought a Schick razor myself, taking it with me on my travels and using it at home until it disappeared – misplaced from the bathroom during a cleanup, and accidentally buried in a carton of letters and clippings. When the razor re-surfaced, I tried to buy blades for it. No luck. There were none for sale. More profitable merchandise had replaced them.

During the time that passed before household archeology brought my Injector back to light, Schick and other manufacturers had started selling a medley of fancy disposable plastic razors, some with two blades, some with tilting heads, each of them promising to be super-efficient and uniquely kind to the user’s face.

As for the tiny steel blades, they seemed to have gone forever, while the plastic razors multiplied in size, complexity and price.

My Schick Injector has disappeared again – thrown out, perhaps, by some misguided person who took it to be a disposable item.

I don’t experience magical effects from the  disposable razors. The magic is a razor-makers’ illusion. Maybe people enjoy being fooled by commercial fairy-tales. The 21st-century razors, sculpted in cunning shapes and colours, feel about the same as my Injector did.

And mountains of plastic razors are now accumulating in landfills, an indigestible mass that will lie there for 10,000 years.

So much for the imaginary “free market,” which is said by its devout believers to bring the greatest good to the greatest number.

I rummaged through the Internet and found that although you can now buy Injector blades made in China, the discontinued razor itself is available only as an antique.

One used razor and cassette in a case was offered by auction on e-Bay. The last time I looked, the bid on this classic shaving kit was U.S. $13. There still may be time to raise the bid and prune your whiskers in the efficient style of the mid-20th-century.

When I use a plastic razor, I think about Prime Minister Harper and his subordinates, who are quietly negotiating a Canada-Europe “free-trade” agreement – CETA – to match the North American agreement, NAFTA.

“Free trade” – arguably a misnamed charter for increasing corporate cash-flow, and a worse fake than plastic razors – contains an explosive charge that could smash Harper’s re-election hopes.

The dynamite is NAFTA’s Chapter 11, which licences corporations to sue governments across national borders for passing environmental-protection laws that might diminish corporate profits. Canada has already paid out millions in taxpayers’ money to a U.S. corporation for forbidding the export of a poisonous but profitable substance.

CEFTA – when we can winkle out some information about it – probably will prove to contain Chapter-11-type weasel words that allow foreign corporations to trash Canadian environmental laws.

Razor-blade conjuring-tricks don’t cause me serious worry, but Chapter 11 does nag at me. It needs to be cancelled in North America, not extended to Europe.

G.E. Mortimore is a longtime columnist with the Goldstream Gazette.

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