“Et c’est facile a dire”

Image result for men without hats

 

Suffering, as I have been, from an existential recurrence of that thing that my beloved, eloquent, super-groovy Papa Nez calls high lonesome (more on that at some point soon – check out his wickedsharp memoir Infinite Tuesday, in the meantime), I’ve been doing my best to actively seek out the good; those things that bring me joy, and help me to share what I can of that feeling with my little slice of the world.

I’m starting with this. Let’s call it CanCon is Awesome, Part 1.

Back in a simpler, more peaceful, less-IMPOTUS-ridden time …

1982. I was a young Canadian girl trying to sort out my own tastes and direction and way(s) of dealing with my Torontonian preteen existence. It was smack dab in the middle of the second Prime Minister-ship of the dad of the guy who’s leading us now.

In addition to providing us with pretty cool stuff like The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, PET was big on discussing just what it means to be a Canadian. This search for a national identity was a big part of my personal bildungsroman, as guided by a set of parents and grandparents that made sure to emphasize their interpretations of Canadian-ness.

Music, even then, was the primary focus of my life, and I was trying desperately to find a niche that I could call my own. It was part of the search for meaning and identity that seemingly plagued my every waking moment. From what I remember, being 12 in the 80’s involved a whole lot of sensory overload. Picking wheat from chaff took some doing (although, with perspective, those days have nothing on today’s ADHD-inducing bombardment of stimuli. Being 12 in 2017 seems nightmarish in comparison).

I had some positive musical influences in my life – and there were certainly bands and artists that spoke to the nascent singer-songwriter appreciation that I was cultivating even then. CanCon was a big thing – and, as a country, we were representing bigtime with songs that have weathered well. I loved, even then, The Band, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Saint-Marie and Gordon Lightfoot. Haven’t/won’t stop listening to them. Check out an older post or two, if you’re needing support for that assertion. My Canadian band (and Band-)-loyalty remains strong.

In 1982, there was a whole lot happening in the world of music. Our proximity to the States, and the fact that we yet clung (cling. Plus ça change, and all that) to our familial relationship with the UK, meant that we were hearing a number of bands offering up ever-innovating styles of music. Some of my favourite artists got their start in those early years, or changed up an older formula, incorporating new genres and instruments. Most of the material on my personal playlists was coming out of England, Ireland or Scotland.

Which was cool. Still is. I still listen to most of those go-to musicians. But where was the Canada in all that? I didn’t get Rush back then (still not 100% sure that I do now…) – even when the prog-rock became more synth-driven (but I LOVE that Torontonians voted to name the babies of our recently-fugitive High Park capybaras after the boys in the band). Loverboy was funny and all… but they weren’t resonating with my identity-search in any real way. A few local offerings – Boys Brigade, Blue Peter, Platinum Blonde, The Spoons, to name the most obvious – were striking some chords but weren’t quite it, for me.

Then this band out of Montreal released a full-length album as follow-up to their first EP.

Game. Changer.

I bought the tape (because, back in the day, cassettes were the thing – I had a brand spankin’ new Walkman and tapes were THE way of expressing the angst-y nonsense that was specific to 12-ish-year-olds at the time. You could pop on the headphones and problems such as doting involved intrusive parents fell by the wayside oh-so-quickly.

Rhythm of Youth. I played that thing endlessly (still have it, in fact). On so many family road trips in the station wagon – exploring this country of ours. I had such a terrible childhood – parents who thought it vital that we see our homeland whilst still giving us the world. A prisoner, with my little sisters, of both the car and Dad’s radio selection (I didn’t appreciate CBC then like I do now) as we drove everywhere – and were forced to learn a little something about ourselves, as Canadians, with every family vacation.

Ivan’s baritone led the soundtrack of my life for much of that year – and beyond. From the opening piano chords of Ban the Game, the entirety of the album retained its wonder and got better with each subsequent hearing.

If you have been anywhere around North America since 1982, you’ve heard The Safety Dance. Deny it and I’ll call you a liar. But, while that tune remains pretty iconic as a representation of a particular place and time in history, it’s not, actually, my favourite.

I remain partial to I Got the Message. And Where do the Boys Go? And I Like.

Bits of so many of their songs had lyrics in both langues officielles – truly representing our histoire et identité bilingue and my own, perhaps naive, idea of what Canada was about. The extra-added bonus was that all the years of French classes (in English Toronto) were finally having some tangible pay-off!

The reliance on keyboards alongside the driving drum machine and guitars, typical of the New Wave of synthpop that seemed to be everywhere, meant that after being forced to practice piano for as long as I could remember, there might actually be some cool associated with that particular skill set.

And while they were admittedly infectiously poppy, the songs also had an edge of social commentary that fed my preteen intellectual pretensions.

Men Without Hats remained a constant on my playlists. We took them with us on our high school trip to the USSR – introducing them to a whole bunch of East German soldiers there on weekend leave (who knew that Leningrad was party-central of the Eastern Bloc?). The bartender/manager of our hotel bar got a kick out of the Canadian kids, and let us control the music as long as we kept drinking his ‘screwdrivers’ (vodka and orange pop does NOT a screwdriver make). More than a few German- and/or Russian-speakers were able to sing along to Pop Goes the World by the end of the evening.

Unlike some other die-hard fans, I quite enjoyed their change of direction on 1991’s Sideways album. The electro-pop was replaced by more driving guitars, but the ever-apparent musicality (Ivan and Colin are both classically-trained) of the songs, and Ivan’s inimitable voice still struck chords of familiarity and appreciation.

A couple of weeks ago the latest iteration of the band – led by Ivan and Colin, as in the old days – came through Toronto. I wasn’t sure what I’d make of their show at the Phoenix (I’ve seen a couple too many retro bands make a truly unfortunate return to the stage – nonamesmentionedRationalYouth…), so I was a little concerned about whether or not the love would have lasted down through all these years.

Did it ever. Wow. That was a fun night. Me and my BFF went in without too many expectations and came out completely buzzing with the slice of joy the band shared with us so generously. Ivan’s voice remains a stalwart and much-loved aspect of my idea of Canada. The energy was infectious, and his stories – between all the songs I wanted to hear (although Sideways was, sadly, missing. But the cover of those timeless ‘prog-rockers’, Abba, was just. so. great.) – kept us grinning pretty madly.

In a world that is, currently, dominated by the infamy of the place to the south of our border, Men Without Hats reinforced the thankfulness I’ve been feeling about my Canadian-ness – as I investigate, yet again, exactly what that identity means to me.

We have work yet to do – as a country made up of individuals who have yet to concur on just what, exactly can be defined as a collective identity. I hope that I can contribute to that work in some realized way as I continue to explore and interpret my connection to our history and future.

Part of the take-away from that night at the Phoenix – with my re-introduction to wonderful old friends and the reminiscences the experience garnered, is that I remain a proud Canadian. And that is easy to say.

 

 

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A change in the weather

It’s raining here in TO. It’s also raining at Camden Yards, a reality that caused the cancellation of my plans for the evening. As much as I loved the last double-header my Jays played (suck it, Yankees)- and will enjoy watching two in a row tomorrow, I was looking forward, after a day that saw me quite comprehensively flattened by a migraine, to watching the wonder continue tonight.

This team. My favourite player changes daily- I’m not usually fickle- so I’m saving all the love for the squad in its entirety. Although the one-on-one with Joey Bautista they showed before the Royals’ game started had me leaning toward right field. I love how he has embraced Toronto as his hometown- and stuck it out through the lean years (oh-so-many lean years) to finally receive his just desserts for the loyalty- and the always-solid performance he, at least, has given us. The thought of his free-agency, still a year away, is more than a little concerning.

Anyway, since the weather- at least partially complicit for the on-going pain in my head- has further conspired to keep me from watching some ever-increasingly-engaging baseball, my thoughts have turned to the transfer of seasons that this particular front is bringing in its wake. Temperatures are set to fall- after warmer/more humid-than-usual days over the past little while.

For the first time in years, my annual September camp-buds cottage weekend did not require layer-upon-layer of winter-type clothing to prevent perishing from hypothermia- so that was nice.

The warmer temps served to extend a summer that was a mixed-bag of positive and negative. There’s the stellar entertainment and together-bringing energy that my next-door neighbours are providing- this is nothing but good.

But I had to make a hard decision a couple of weeks ago and say goodbye to one of my beloved cats. I miss him- and still wonder if I made the right call. He’d been through a lot- we’d been through a lot, together- and prognoses did not support recovery.

He was a good boy, my little Dude.

His name was Enki- after the Mesopotamian god of, among other things, wisdom- a vain attempt to counter-act some of the attributes of the self-fulfilling name I’d given his sister, Tiamat. If she was chaos embodied in the body of a princess (and she is), then he was supposed to balance the crazy, somewhat. But, instead, he was just silly. And loving. And with such a good nature tempered by just the smallest soupçon of wildness, that I adjusted his name somewhat. To Enkidu. The Wild Man. The beloved of Gilgamesh- that imperfect-yet-searching king-above-all-other-kings.

But even that adjustment didn’t seem quite right. So, in time, he became, simply, The Dude. Not necessarily in homage to that Lebowski guy, but not completely dissimilar in character, either. Laid back, goofy, and always in search of new friends.

Small things, perhaps – in the overall, larger chaos which the world, as a whole, seems determined to continue to suborn while permitting credulous, superstition- and fear-based insanity to flourish – but markers, like the rain outside my window, of change.

And change can be hard. Even when it’s reallyreally necessary.

Following the footsteps of a funeral pyre
You were paid not to listen now your house is on fire

Our house IS on fire- and a little September rain isn’t going to help significantly. Whether or not we want to be awake to that little fact. As mentioned, I’ve been, admittedly, distracted. So I haven’t weighed-in much – around here, at least – about the federal election race that has been going on now for what? Six months? Feels as if. It has been the longest in modern Canadian history. Thanks to our current-but-soon-to-be-former (if people are paying attention) PM, the mud-slinging has been going on for weeks upon weeks now.

No surprise we feel sleepy and disengaged after listening to the same ideological soundbites for the entire summer.

Harper’s latest tactic, now that the polls (useless, all things considered, as they may be) seem to indicate that he won’t be running away with anything, is to delve further into his dirty-tricks bag to expand upon the politics of division and hyperbolic rhetoric that have been the hallmarks of his too-long tenure as leader of this country.

He is sticking to ‘issues’ that emphasize our need to ‘protect’ ourselves from the Other– as he, and his speechwriters and lackeys, define that term. He is extremely concerned, for example, about the clothing that Canadian (or soon-to-be-Canadian) women choose to wear. CHOOSE to wear.

I won’t even attempt to illustrate the hypocritical and alarmist elements of his immigration policies and the complete and contemptuous disregard of the human tragedies playing out as refugees struggle for survival and escape in Europe. (Okay, so he’s not as bad as Trump – but I still can’t bring myself to believe that THAT guy is anything like a serious contender for political leadership).

The systematic deconstruction of those elements that have brought us, as a nation, global respect, continues unabated through the attack ads and inflammatory language he has employed over the course of the leaders’ debates and interviews with various news outlets. The damage he has done over the last decade or so has tarnished our image – and we are letting him get away with it.

For the price of some savings come tax time and an illusion of ‘national security’.

‘Paid not to listen’, indeed.

We are a little over two weeks away from a day of vital importance to all who call themselves ‘Canadian’.

I’ve seen an encouraging ramp-up of pleas pitched to those that are too-frequently under-represented in the voting booths. There are movements afoot pushing for voter presence from among our indigenous peoples (and what group, as a whole, have been treated as dismissively by this government?) and our young people (despite the fact that residency regulations make it difficult for those university students, away from their regular places of residence, to vote while at school).

A Canadian expat, unable (like Donald Sutherland– one of my favourite Canadians) to vote since he lives outside of Canada, has registered to run against Harper in his Calgary riding. While the ridiculous rule has been in place since 1993, Harper is the first to require that Elections Canada actually enforce it. Seems like even some from among his traditional power base aren’t completely happy about that particular policy…

Wake me up when things get started
When everything starts to happen

It’s happening. And we’re running out of time.

My features form with a change in the weather
Weekend, we can work it out
My features form with a change in the weather
Weekend, we can work it out

When the wind blows, when the mothers talk
When the wind blows
When the wind blows, when the mothers talk
When the wind blows, we can work it out

It’s not that you’re not good enough
It’s just that we can make you better
Given that you pay the price
We can keep you young and tender

Following the footsteps of a funeral pyre
You were paid not to listen now your house is on fire

Wake me up when things get started
When everything starts to happen

My features form with a change in the weather
Weekend, we can work it out
My features form with a change in the weather
Weekend, we can work it out

Some of us are horrified
Others never talk about it
But when the weather starts to burn
Then you’ll know that you’re in trouble

Following the footsteps of a soldier girl
It is time to put your clothes on and to face the world

Don’t you feel your luck is changing
When everything starts to happen
Put your head right next to my heart
The beat of the drum is the fear of the dark

My features form with a change in the weather
Weekend, we can work it out
My features form with a change in the weather
But in the weekend never, there’s a change in the weather
We can work it out

When the wind blows, when the mothers talk
When the wind blows
When the wind blows, when the mothers talk
When the wind blows, we can, only we can work it out 

Roland Orzabal said this about his lyric: “The song stems from two ideas. One is something that mothers say to their children about pulling faces. They say the child will stay like that when the wind changes. The other idea is inspired by the anti-nuclear cartoon book When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs.”

Mothers’ advice and a cautionary tale about the destruction that comes with war and war-mongering. Timeless themes, really. The song retains its status as a clarion call.

It’s October. Historically, not one of my favourite months. I’m looking for that, among other things, to change. We are post-season-bound for the first time in over two decades. We have a federal election in a few weeks that I have to believe will mark a shift in the direction that this country has been dragged.

Please. If there was ever a time to listen to the wind blowing, now, for Canadians, is that time. We have a decision to make- and a new direction to establish. In 18 days.

I saw a silly meme earlier today:

Some of us ARE horrified. So we’d best be putting on our grown-up clothes and make the effort to acknowledge the realities of the world- and those in whom we put our trust to lead us as a national and global community.

Unlike too many other places on our shared planet, we have choices. Please take the time to make sure you’re making one that best represents our shared vision of Canada.

Editorial note: the migraine I referenced waaaay up there ^^^ returned full force- rendering me unable to complete the post a couple of nights ago, and I spent last night well-engaged in the double-header that saw my Jays clinch the AL East (for the first time in over two decades) and then celebrate that reality (after a joke of a second game- Baltimore felt the need for some redemption, I’d guess, and the Boys in Blue were just eager to get to the party), so I wasn’t able to complete this little piece o’ something until tonight (after another Baltimore win- not that it really matters, now).

The evening has leant itself to writing- especially since I’m avoiding all media at the moment, not feeling capable of coping with the latest horror to stem from an American gun culture that is a nonsensical and it is repugnant.Especially since the last thing I saw about it seemed to indicate that the shooter was interested in the religious beliefs of those who were slaughtered. Politics of division+accessible weaponry? As that admirable POTUS said, ‘prayers’ ain’t gonna cut it (I’m paraphrasing).

The change in the weather has happened- I could have done with mittens this morning on my walk to work. Let’s hope it marks those political changes we NEED to see made manifest hereabouts over the next few weeks.

We can

Only we can work it out 

‘And if they send in the special police to deliver us from liberty and keep us from peace…’

What do the Prime Minister of Canada and Millenarian crazy-folk have in common?

Sounds like the lead-in to a complicated joke, doesn’t it?

There are a couple of things that have been reallyreally bugging me lately.

Interestingly, as is so often the way in my life (and my particular way of viewing the world), they are both connected.

Apocalyptic nutbags and Stephen Harper are making me want to bite something lately. It’s hard to focus on anything else. Seriously. The drafts folder just keeps growing and growing and yet I can’t manage to hit the ‘publish’ button.

From where comes all this recent angst? Well, in case you aren’t Canadian- or if you are Canadian and you’ve been living in a soundproof tunnel beside York University for the last little bit- Harper’s Conservative government has decided that we are at war with things like niqabs– necessitating daily wardrobe checks from our Sartorial Leader (check out the hashtag #DressCodePM if you want a good chuckle)- and, as a result, that we need further scrutiny of this great threat to our nation. In order to do so, CSIS (The Canadian Security Intelligence Service- fill in oxymoron jokes as you wish) needs to have the authority to keep a closer eye on all of us.

Or, more truly, on some of us.

As The Walrus noted recently, “CSIS was designed with a broad mandate but limited powers. Until now, it has been an intelligence service—which is to say that it collects and analyses information, and supplies threat assessments to the government. When it was created in 1984, parliament approved CSIS’s mandate as one that excluded “kinetic” powers—including the power to arrest or otherwise do things to people in the physical world (except when necessary, for example, to install a wiretap or listening device).”

Talking about Harper’s ‘anti-terrorism’ bill, last month a Globe and Mail editorial (February 5) noted that ‘one part of Bill C-51 creates a new definition of an “activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada” that includes “terrorism,” “interference with critical infrastructure” and “interference with the capability of the Government in relation to … the economic or financial stability of Canada.’ 

As a result, ‘if Bill C-51 passes, CSIS will be able to disrupt anything its political masters believe might be a threat. As the bill is currently written, that includes a lot more than terrorism.’

That’s pretty damn terrifying, if you ask me.

But this focus on ‘terrorism’ is alarming in itself. In the lead-up to an October election, our Fearful Leader has stated:

‘The fact of the matter is this, ladies and gentleman: The international jihadist movement has declared war. They have declared war on anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and act. They have declared war and are already executing it on a massive scale on a whole range of countries with which they are in contact, and they have declared war on any country like ourselves that values freedom, openness and tolerance. And we may not like this and wish it would go away, but it is not going to go away and the reality is we are going to have to confront it.’  (Globe and Mail, January 8, 2015).

This rhetoric sounds oddly familiar.

Today, we take an essential step in defeating terrorism, while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans. With my signature, this law will give intelligence and law enforcement officials important new tools to fight a present danger. This legislation is essential not only to pursuing and punishing terrorists, but also preventing more atrocities in the hands of the evil ones. This government will enforce this law with all the urgency of a nation at war.’

Recognize that? Anyone? Bueller?

George W. Bush said those words as he signed into the law a little thing called the Patriot Act. Almost 14 years ago.

For a PM who has coasted on the coattails of a song-and-dance performance about his role in ensuring economic recovery post-recession, he’s had a hard time lately, what with the drop in the dollar and the price of oil and the stubborn reticence of some people regarding the approval of certain pipelines… It’s hard to keep to the Party Line about economic prosperity when the Albertan-heart of your support-system is dealing with lay-offs and tar sand shut-downs.

So stirring up a little (un)healthy fear among the population might regain some of the votes- and also allow the Cons to take care of those muckrakers who want to talk about inequity regarding the treatment of First Nations, and those rabble-rousing science-types who just won’t shut up about things like global warming, even when their institutions are shut down or de-funded. Win-win-win.

If you’re not up to speed on recent politics-as-usual here in our once-great Nation, you might think I’m the one being alarmist regarding some of his current/recent policy change pushes. So, if you require further evidence, how’s about these apples? Credit checking and (potentially) fingerprinting public servants? Or this little gem that further closes the ideological divide between us and some of the more inexplicable things that our American neighbours consider to be standard operating procedures. I love how his comments- about protecting oneself with gun violence- ‘are being promoted by the Conservatives’ election campaign manager ,’ in spite of the reality that, legally, Canadians do not have the right to defend their homes with a gun- that this belief ‘is a common misperception that is much more true in the United States than it is here.’

Fortunately, a lot of people aren’t ignoring all this windbaggery. Despite Harper’s best efforts to pass things without parliamentary hearings or input from voters, Canadians let their voices be heard this past weekend. And the clarion call is still sounding for citizens to step up and weigh in on the matter of what it means to be Canadian. Not wanna-be-American-Fox-News-loving-far-right-reaching-fossil-fuel-pushing-Republican clones.

Especially since a lot of this is stuff and nonsense.

How can you say that, cole? Aren’t we under direct attack by the Islamic State?

Over the weekend I came across a fantastic article that seriously- and studiously, and in an informed and reasoned manner- looks into the origins and ideologies of ISIS/ISIL (the article was first posted by a former TA of mine- now a contract instructor at UofT, who is currently on strike- but that’s a tangent- important though it may be- for another day).

It’s long, but well-worth the read.

The most salient points for my discussion?

As I’ve noted before, here, historically and sociologically, apocalyptic thinking- and the literature and policies that support it- develops as a response to the perceived disparity between expectations and societal realities. When we are unhappy in our current situations, we project a better scenario that we expect to show up at some nebulous future date.

In historical literary and religious traditions, the better scenario generally comes after a cataclysmic and status changing event of some kind that trashes the social or cultural system that is causing the disconnect between expectations and reality. The new reality is posited to be one of justice- as perceived by the person who is unhappy with the current status quo- religious apocalypses promise salvation as the aftermath of the period of trial and unhappiness.

We still think in these terms in our secular environments- even if all religious underpinnings seem to be removed. We are the product of millennia of this approach to dealing with societal realities- and it has become part of our inherent way of approaching our world.

For all that I love the myths that have been created in accordance with this particular worldview (some of the best stories are apocalyptic in nature), from a philosophical and personal perspective, it’s my least favourite literary construct. Apocalypticism, by its very nature, negates the life we are living now, in favour of the life that might come along at some point in the future.

Graeme Wood points out in his article that the Islamic State is apocalyptic to the core.

‘The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. Bin Laden rarely mentioned the apocalypse, and when he did, he seemed to presume that he would be long dead when the glorious moment of divine comeuppance finally arrived. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri are from elite Sunni families who look down on this kind of speculation and think it’s something the masses engage in,” says Will McCants of the Brookings Institution, who is writing a book about the Islamic State’s apocalyptic thought.

During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers, by contrast, saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world. McCants says a prominent Islamist in Iraq approached bin Laden in 2008 to warn him that the group was being led by millenarians who were “talking all the time about the Mahdi and making strategic decisions” based on when they thought the Mahdi was going to arrive. “Al-Qaeda had to write to [these leaders] to say ‘Cut it out.’ ”

For certain true believers—the kind who long for epic good-versus-evil battles—visions of apocalyptic bloodbaths fulfill a deep psychological need.”

But N.B. These bloodbaths will take place on their own soil– not in foreign battles with Western infidels or apostates.

The thing about people who hold onto ridiculous, mythological constructs? They cling to the literal letter of those constructs to the very end (check out any given bible-thumper who appears as a pundit on Fox, if you doubt the veracity of that statement). The Islamic State’s apocalyptic worldview includes an engagement of the enemy only after the emergence of the anti-Messiah- at Dabiq- their version of Megiddo/Armageddon. The culmination of their propagandist vision of a return to medieval concepts of both morality and warfare will take place in Aleppo, in northern Syria.

“Only God knows” whether the Islamic State’s armies are the ones foretold, Cerantonio said. But he is hopeful. “The Prophet said that one sign of the imminent arrival of the End of Days is that people will for a long while stop talking about the End of Days,” he said. “If you go to the mosques now, you’ll find the preachers are silent about this subject.” On this theory, even setbacks dealt to the Islamic State mean nothing, since God has preordained the near-destruction of his people anyway. The Islamic State has its best and worst days ahead of it.’

The foreign fighters (and their wives and children) have been traveling to the caliphate on one-way tickets: they want to live under true Sharia, and many want martyrdom. Doctrine, recall, requires believers to reside in the caliphate if it is at all possible for them to do so. One of the Islamic State’s less bloody videos shows a group of jihadists burning their French, British, and Australian passports. This would be an eccentric act for someone intending to return to blow himself up in line at the Louvre or to hold another chocolate shop hostage in Sydney.

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems.’

This is key: ‘Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.’

Yet, some Western leaders, including Stephen Harper, would have us believe that the Islamic State, in particular, is at Canada’s very door- and will be kept at bay only if our intelligence-gathering agencies are given carte blanche to ensure that none of their apocalyptic poison infects our home and native land.

Which isn’t in keeping with actual scholarship/analysis regarding the realities of the situation as it lies- far from our shores. Wood notes that the solution to ridding ourselves of the perversion of reason that is the Islamic State isn’t likely to be simple or quick, but eroding our freedoms and values to the point of no return isn’t the best route to be taking.

There are, certainly, human rights concerns that require addressing. We remain citizens of a shared planet, and it sits unwell for us to watch as people are massacred and enslaved by illogical and morally- and philosophically- offensive ideologies.  But direct engagement needs to be carefully evaluated- as does continued involvement by government(s) who refuse to do their homework- by listening to people who know the sitch- sociologists, historians… those sorts of insurrectionists that threaten our national security.

The humanitarian cost of the Islamic State’s existence is high. But its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaeda would suggest. Al-Qaeda’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology… That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.’

It would be disingenuous- and hyperbolic- to equate Harper’s rhetoric with that of the Islamic State. I’m not suggesting that their particular forms of propaganda are comparable. But the underlying tools used to promote that propaganda are based in the same benighted vision of Us Vs. Them.

The Islamic State is engaged in an ideological struggle to justify their self-proclaimed caliphate. They are using opportunistic violence and medieval argumentation as a means of instilling fear in people who can’t be arsed to look any deeper into their origins or ‘party platform’.

Stephen Harper is engaging in politics of fear and division for reasons of all-too-obvious expediency as he attempts to cling to the power he was, for some inexplicable reason, granted by the citizens of Canada. Things aren’t going his way. So, carrying ever-forward with his vision to remake Canada into something unrecognizable, he’s resorting, more and more, to fear as his default modus operandi.

Terrorism can be defined as ‘the state of fear and submission produced by terrorization- which can be achieved through acts/words that dominate or coerce through intimidation.’

Gotta say. It’s working.

To be completely fair and as even-handed as possible, I have to note that Tom Mulcair’s federal NDP (the Official Opposition) will only vote for the Bill if amendments are made, but Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals are supporting Bill C-51. This is also inexplicable to me. I have yet to see a legitimate argument for them doing so. From everything I’ve read, the decision to support the unsupportable is almost as politically expedient as the Conservatives’ reason for creating it.

In a circular argument that is making my head freakin spin, Trudeau said something along the lines of ‘the Cons would be very happy to use a Liberal vote against C-51 to further their fear-mongering agenda and use it to shore up votes to the detriment of the Liberal voter support’ (keep in mind, I’m paraphrasing). He speaks of ‘improving’ the Bill- once he is PM- making it more palatable to Canadian tastes.

Here, I’m not paraphrasing. He actually said this:‘I am a Liberal. I believe that when a government asks its citizens to give up even a small portion of their liberty, it is that government’s highest responsibility to guarantee that its new powers will not be abused.’

I call bullshit.

So does Ben Franklin.

 

And that Matt Johnson guy I’ve talked about before

 

When you cast your eyes upon the skylines
Of this once proud nation
Can you sense the fear and the hatred
Growing in the hearts of its population And our youth, oh youth, are being seduced
by the greedy hands of politics and half truths The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Reared on a diet of prejudice and misinformation
The beaten generation, the beaten generation
Open your eyes, open your imagination We’re being sedated by the gasoline fumes
and hypnotised by the satellites
Into believing what is good and what is right You may be worshiping the temples of mammon
Or lost in the prisons of religion
But can you still walk back to happiness
When you’ve nowhere left to run? And if they send in the special police
To deliver us from liberty and keep us from peace Then won’t the words sit ill upon their tongues
when they tell us justice is being done
and that freedom lives in the barrels of a warm gun

If you’re Canadian, and you haven’t done so already, I urge you to make your voice heard about this Bill C-51 nonsense. We can not allow ourselves to be terrorized- by ideologically and morally backward enemies abroad or by those who seek to rule through intimidation and misinformation that leads to loss of the freedoms that define us in our own eyes and in the eyes of our fellow humans.

We are not (yet) beaten.

The response to the anomie that causes apocalyptic thinking lies in addressing the inequities that are found in our current social situations. Hiding behind inflammatory fear-mongering and visions of cataclysms yet-to-come as an impetus to the further degradation of Canadian mores isn’t an acceptable form of 21st century, rational, secular governance. If we don’t wish to become that which we are being told-constantly- to fear, that truth has to be dragged to the surface and inserted into the democratic dialectic that we cherish. Preferably before alarmist rhetoric becomes policy.

Happy Birthday Canada!

Well.  Between my little rant last night, the fact that I got to do my civic duty as a voter not once but TWICE this month (in addition to our provincial election earlier this month my riding had a federal by-election yesterday), the evidence that journalism might just have a redemptive future in the form of one of my former students who is now an intern with a major news organization and who is producing wonderful articles (as evidenced here: http://globalnews.ca/news/1425365/climbing-parliament-hill-on-wheels/), the fact that I’m not affected (directly, anyway) by the insanity of SCOTUS’ latest decision (seriously, SCOTUS?  WTF?), the end of a wonderful World Pride- lovingly hosted by my hometown, and the fact that THREE of my very favourite Canucks were awarded the Order of Canada, I’m back to being the shiny-happy Maple Leaf Forever cole of yore.

Chris Hadfield- our astronaut extraordinaire- was one of recipients.  While he was up there on the International Space Station, along with recording an awesome version of Space Oddity, he did an incredible job of educating our young folk about the importance of, well, education.  Since his return he continues to lead by example- talking about the beauty of this planet we call home and the need to majorly up our concern about its future.

Still brings a tear of pride to my eye.

Rick Mercer has long been my fave homegrown comedic relief to the ins and outs of the political realm.  His rants are things of glory and insight spoken with an honesty that is becoming all too rare.

He’s off for the summer, but his remarks about the ‘mayor’ are points well taken.  The problem isn’t all with the train wreck that is the person, it’s the fact that the politics still resonate with too many people.  Who don’t know better.  And don’t want to know better.  Wait.  That’s taking me back toward my rant of yesterday.  And today I’m shiny-happy cole.

Guy Gavriel Kay… Jebus.  What can I say about that guy?  I have a post that has been languishing in my drafts folder for almost a year now.  I just haven’t been able to bring myself to hit ‘publish’ as of yet.  Any words of mine seem to pale brutally in comparison to his mastery of character and history and plot.  Suffice it to say- for now, at least- that he is my favourite Canadian author.  Someday I will stop with the hyper-self-editing and offer up my fulsome praise of the novels that have impacted me so greatly.

A friend and I have this thing we do when a correspondence requires a complete response and we don’t have the time- or insight- to provide one immediately.  We send a ‘placeholder’ text or email which marks our intention to get back to the discussion asap.

Let’s call this a placeholder about Guy.

Anyhoo…

My Canadianess is a complicated thing.  I love our people, our diversity, our landscapes and lakefronts.  Our history of making important- if sometimes understated- marks on the world stage is something in which I take great and ever-growing pride.

But it’s summertime.  And in summer my thoughts turn, as they often do, to music.  OUR music- one of our enduring contributions to the record of humanity north of the 49th parallel.

So… the Shuffle Daemon has the wheel today.

When I first got up this morning- to cloudy skies and heavy rain (which have since cleared up), my pal Booksy had beat me to the punch with her literary/musical Canada Day tribute.  It’s awesome.  Go have a look: http://lostandfoundbooks.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/mixed-tape-canada-day-music-for-book-lovers/.  I second every single one of her choices (especially the Rheostatics, her Hip choice and, of course, Gordie Lightfoot) and won’t duplicate her selections in my list here.’

But… since we were just talking about the Hip…

‘Courage’ was my original choice- it is, as Booksy noted, based on Hugh MacLennan’s Governor General’s Award Winning The Watch That Ends the Night– and therefore Canadian times two.  But ‘Bobcaygeon’, like much of the Hip’s music, is infused with that same sense of completeness in its Canadianism.

Named for a small town in the Kawartha Lakes district of Ontario (and not far from where I spent my first cottage weekend of the season a couple of weeks ago), the song references the 1933 Christie Pits riot in Toronto (that I spoke about briefly in the post about my Grandad) started by a bunch of xenophobic anti-semites during the Great Depression.  The song evokes both the complicated history of our multicultural heritage and the wonder to be found as the ‘constellations reveal themselves’ in the sky over cottage country.  Love.

Arguably the best thing to come out of Hamilton (I’m from Toronto, I’m supposed to dis Hamilton).  I bought Teenage Head’s ‘Tornado’ on 45 at the ‘5 and Dime’ in Wiarton, Ontario (while on our annual family vacation to a Lodge on Lake Huron) more years ago than I care to acknowledge.  They were Canadian punk heroes and I love them.  Okay, so they caused a riot at my Horseshoe Tavern in 1978, and then again at Ontario Place in 1980, but for this I forgive them.  I was waaaaaay to young to have been there, anyway.

Wow, just realized I’ve been referencing a whole lot of riots in this post.  We’re not a riotous people, really we aren’t.

Back to the Daemon…

I’ve been thinking about this band a lot lately- started a post all about them, actually.  But, once again, haven’t had the time to devote to doing them justice.  There seems to be a renewal of chatter about them out there lately- that 80’s resurgence thing, I guess- and I’m following Ivan on the Facebook and the Twitter.

Back in the early 80’s they screamed Canada to me.  Not only were they offering up solid synth-based danceable and fun tunes, they incorporated both official languages in the songs on their Rhythm of Youth album.  I think I wore out the tape, playing it on my Walkman so often.  This will be another of those placeholders– the band was certainly part of my youthful exuberance.

One placeholder leads to another… The Band.  On the Wikipedia they are described as ‘American-Canadian’, but Robbie is ours.  They deserve their own post, and they’ll get it, eventually.

For now…

Okay, so it’s a song about American history, but it is so well-crafted and -researched that it deserves its place as one of the great Canadian tunes.  And Levon was pretty awesome, too.  Even if he wasn’t Canadian.

Broken Social Scene is the exemplar when it comes to the wonder that is our music industry up here in the North.  With its ever-changing line-up of contributors, the band is all about contribution and collaboration.  They reject the moniker ‘super-group’, but they’re pretty damn super, if you ask me.  Their impact on Canadian music- indie and otherwise- has been profound.

Strangely, I like Feist when she is with the band.  On her own, not so much.  Togetherness is better.

Speaking of indie bands- and liking the chick vocalists better with a band than on their own (same thing holds true with Neko, IMO)…

And, since I can’t stay away from these guys (and because I saw them a couple of weeks ago- touring with original member Pete Cash for the first time in years), a little number from my hometown guys to send me off out into the Canada Day/evening and its festivities.

Ah, so young.  Although Andy is surprisingly unchanged.  And his dancing has altered not at all.

Let me just say again, in case you might have missed it before.  I love my home and native land.  Our patriotism tends to be somewhat more self-effacing than that of some of our neighbours, but I am proud and privileged to call myself Canadian.  Our national birthday provides the perfect annual opportunity to sing that from the rooftop patios, balconies, lakeside beaches or city streets.

Happy Birthday Canada.  May you have many more.

Happy Earth Day, Mr. Prime Minister.

It has been my intent, of late, to be a kinder, gentler person.  I’m sort of feeling like I don’t have a choice.  All the edges around me seem a little jagged and jarring.  I’m more than a little hair-trigger and hyper-sensitive right now.

None of this is terribly surprising.  I still feel, pretty much every morning, as though I’m going to check my email (as one does) and find something in the inbox from Dad.  There won’t be, of course.  But the way in which I react to the world has a lot to do with the way in which he reacted to the world.

I have to wonder what he would be thinking about this latest move.

Dad spent much of his adult life involved in the oil industry- in one capacity or other.  This background brought dimensions and perspectives to our discussions of fossil fuels, sustainability and environmental concerns that I might not otherwise have entertained.

We rely on them ol’ bones- but this isn’t even really about whether or not we need to be doing more to foster the development of alternate sources of energy.  Take it as a given that we do.  Have to.  That the reality is that fossil fuels are limited in supply and increasingly hard to access- whether for reasons of scarcity or political lines on a map.

Dad isn’t here to temper my response.  And, to be honest, I’m not really convinced that he would have done.

Harper’s government went and did this.

And, as a result, he’s done it again.  Made me so freakin mad that all my good intentions about not commenting on the particular idiocies of particular political leaders has flown right out the window.

In an uncannily timed piece of true, poetic beauty that can only have come from the leader of Harper’s Canada, today, Earth Day, the government announced that they will be removing humpback whales from the protection of endangered species legislation.

“The government sent out 312 consultation letters and got 22 responses back.

Only five were in favour of the new designation — a total made up of two unidentified B.C. government ministries, one tourism organization, one environmental non-government organization, and one “unknown source.”

Of the other 17, six environmental groups, three academics, two tourism industry organizations, one First Nations organization and a single “unknown source” were opposed. Another four — two academics, one First Nations, and another “unknown” — were undecided. In several instances, the undecided said insufficient information was available.’

Why?

‘The decision removes a major legal hurdle that the environmental group Ecojustice said stood in the way of the $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project that would bring 550,000 barrels of diluted bitumen crude from Alberta to Kitimat.’

It seems that Harper and his bought-and-paid-for science folks missed the Star Trek Movie Marathon that was on cable this weekend.  Especially #4- The Voyage Home.  You know, the one where the crew have to journey back to 1984 to collect a couple of humpbacks in order to save humanity from its short-sighted drive for economic superiority and conspicuous consumption?

Jebus.  The irony.

He also seems to have missed this week’s installment of my new fave show, Cosmos, which happened to be largely about the ways in which corporations and/or governments deliberately mislead the public regarding scientifically demonstrable facts that impact the environment.

Here in the WordPress World, Donna Parker, over at yadadarcyyada.com, has some great insights about Earth Day- including this extremely distressing little nugget of info:

‘There are places in the world, including Alberta (Home of the OilSands), etc. where some people, including members of the Reform/Alliance/Conservative Coalition, celebrate the opposite of Earth Hour, Earth Day, Green Week. For example, during Earth Hour some Albertans actually run all their appliances, vehicles, etc. to burn as much energy and fuel as possible. Some do the same for Earth Day. Seriously. I know I live in the same country as them, but I really think we exist on different planes of dimension, at least, I hope so.’

Wha?

On top of that, Bill Moyers’ morning reads included links to stories about things like the majority of Americans not ‘buying’ the Big Bang, the fact that FOUR YEARS LATER the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico is as much as disaster as when it happened, and the largely ignored fact that concern for the environment and economic prosperity are NOT, actually, mutually exclusive.

The day before yesterday I started a post- that I intended to finish and publish tonight- about Hell.  As a place.  As the place of residence of our Devilish Friend.  A place I don’t believe exists (since I don’t believe in the Devil Dude).

But.

All this (imagine me waving my arms in the air in crazy despair and desperation)... I don’t even know what to call it… willful delusion and determined deceit makes discussions of imaginary lands devoted to the eternal punishment of wrongdoers seem at once inadequate and renders it a place I kinda wish DID exist.  In certain, very specific cases.  For certain, very specific people.

Today, all I can say is WHAT.  THE.  HELL?

Seriously.  WHAT is going on?!

‘Twenty-five years and my life is still
Trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination

I realized quickly when I knew I should
That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man
For whatever that means

And so I cry sometimes when I’m lying in bed
Just to get it all out what’s in my head
And I, I am feeling a little peculiar

And so I wake in the morning and I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream at the top of my lungs:
“What’s going on?”

Unlike the Grunge-y and complacently defeatist angst of the Non Blonde response to the question, we are long past the point where we can ‘pray every single day for a revolution.’

Prayers ain’t gonna cut it, folks.

‘And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep of the sea’

Weep not, whales.  There is a sea change in the air.  It’s moving slowly, but the voices are getting inexorably louder.  The desperation of those who seek to further- increasingly illicitly- the financial stability of the few to the exclusion of the many while exploiting both the environment and the inaction of those who remain ignorant (willfully or otherwise) of the danger in which they place us all, is reaching fever pitch as more and more nonsensical initiatives receive their due vilification in a growing number of public forums.

Let this be one of them.

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15350#sthash.7NdGCJaY.dpuf
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15350#sthash.7NdGCJaY.dpuf
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15350#sthash.7NdGCJaY.dpuf
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15350#sthash.7NdGCJaY.dpuf
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15350#sthash.7NdGCJaY.dpuf
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15350#sthash.7NdGCJaY.dpuf

Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça?!?!

Many MANY congratulations to the people of Quebec for using their voices and their votes to ensure that this nonsense that I wrote about a while back will not come to pass. Hope. It seems to be in the air today.

colemining

So yesterday I wrote a little rumination about what happens when bureaucracy- spurred by reactionary ‘necessity’ to quell a whole load of bad press- gets a little ridiculous in the ‘whole shebang’ application of rules and regs.

I was talking about music- which is important to me, personally, and which is also a representation of this country and the freedoms and culture that we are able to access.  Keeping the doors open for new local and international music is a good thing.  It keeps Canada looking shiny and welcoming and full of creative outlets on the map of the world.

Today I feel a little silly for speaking out about a surcharge for touring bands.

Why?  It goes back to that matter of proportion I mentioned.

Today’s idiocy is crazy big in comparison.

There’s been a lot of buzz around what that kooky PQ Premier Pauline Marois was going…

View original post 1,203 more words

Hype Hype Hooray?

I know, I’ve used this graphic before (this one is smaller and a different colour, though).  And I do admit to a little fatigue with the whole ‘keep calm and…’ thing, but hey, when something works…

Is anyone else having a whole lot of trouble getting remotely excited for these Olympic things that are about to start over there in Russia?

Is it just me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as card-carrying and flag-waving a Canadian as you’d ever want to find- and winter is kind of our milieu if you will.  Last time out?  All those Golds- and on home soil/snow/ice?  What was better than that?!  The day the gents won the hockey final turned into an impromptu party that ended with me and a friend up on Yonge Street yelling our fool heads off with the rest of the city.  It was a totally spontaneous expression of happiness and pride.

Even the summer games in London got me pretty psyched- although, in that case, I have to admit that most of my enthusiasm was for the spectacle that went along with the whole shebang.  The UK is the source and home of so very much of the music that I adore and count on to keep me sane and human- so the opening and closing ceremonies were something I am happy to have experienced.  I’m sure some sports events happened in between, but that honestly wasn’t high on my list of must-see television viewing.

This time out?

Seriously couldn’t care less.

Part of it has to do with the constant barrage of criticism (not that criticism isn’t warranted) about Russia- be it due to dangerous political policies and legislation regarding the LGBT community, the outrageous costs and demonstrated evidence of corruption, the fact that Sochi is a summertime resort area (palm trees, anyone?) and therefore not exactly appropriate for the winter games… the list goes on and on.

But really, my cynicism/indifference (the degree of my ennui about the Games depends on the day) stems from some things that I’ve spoken harped about here in the past.

I usually begin my days (weekdays, anyway) with CBC Newsworld’s morning show.  Lets me know what happened overnight, gives me an idea of what newest polar vortex/snow hell seasonally appropriate weather I can expect to experience over the course of the day.  Today I had to change the channel.  It was all Olympics, all the time.  It was more commercial than news program.

And.  I.  Just.  Don’t.  Care.

I appreciate that the athletes work reallyreally hard to take a stab at the podium in the international spectacle that is the Games.  I get that the Olympics has been used, historically, as a means of shoring up national enthusiasms in times when less-than-fun things are happening.  I totes understand that all of that requires a certain amount of money and marketing and such like things.

But the increasingly cynical/exasperated/discouraged me is really feeling like the spectacle and materiality and unbalanced (in every sense of the word) emphasis placed on events like this (with their hyper-emphasis on competition and us vs. them) have become less about ‘bringing the world together’ and more about aiding and abetting the collective numbing of the masses to the realities of our global/national/local situations.

Pessimism?  From me?  I know- not my usual way of approaching things.  But I’m really, well, FED UP is the first descriptor that springs to mind.

Too many things, lately, seem to be little more than constructs meant to distract us from issues of genuine import and things that emphatically need immediate attention.

I mentioned in my last post (which was oh-so-long-ago- and refuses to link.  That whole time thing is getting to me again) that I had a discussion (for want of a better word) with a close friend regarding the inherent and vital importance of education- and Humanities education in particular- that increases with each passing day.  We are increasingly exposed to TOO MUCH information- and SO much of that information is erroneous, biased or politicized to the extreme that it bears no resemblance to anything remotely like rational, examined truth.  (Please don’t let’s start about the relativity of truth right now.  I’m too tired to argue abstracts when I’m attempting to reiterate the point I made about dialectic vs. debate a little while ago).  Too many people don’t have the critical thinking skills to assess the bombardment of information that comes at them constantly.

That my friend seems to think that people are incapable of paying attention to anything long enough to see the value (let alone the necessity) in learning these skills, is quite out of keeping with my usual faith in humanity and our drive to do better and be better- just because it’s possible (and not because we’re looking for a big cash payout).  We have this discussion fairly frequently (he’s a science-type-dude) and he genuinely thinks people are too lazy- by nature- to want to put that much effort into anything that doesn’t have demonstrable and instant personal payback.  I’m unlikely to convince him otherwise, and, honestly, his perspective is frequently supported by the bulk of the evidence.

Distraction.  It’s everywhere.  If you don’t think that you are being actively distracted- at pretty much every single turn- I’d love to hear from you about exactly how you are managing to avoid such things (unless you’re living off the grid in the wilderness somewhere- which would make it unlikely that you’d be reading this to begin with.  And ‘off the grid in the wilderness’ is neither a practical nor attractive option for me at this point).

I admit that I was distracted earlier this week- in part by a brutal cold/flu thing that knocked me off my feet for a few days- but mainly by a couple of books that I picked up a few weeks back.   I used the opportunity of the dumping of snow and total disinterest in the Super Bowl, arrest(s) of Justin Beiber and comparable ‘happenings’ in the world to catch up on some reading.  I might talk about those books later, but in all honesty they still haven’t ‘settled’ enough for me to figure out if I enjoyed them or not.

Getting back to work- and to figuring out just what form my next classroom might take- I’ve been bombarded with reasons (as if more were required) why any classroom in which I choose to participate MUST be one in which the dialectic is permitted to reign.  I’m done with debates (did you see that whole ridiculous debacle between Bill Nye and the Creationist?  And the plethora of follow-up idiocy?  How was that even a thing?  How?!?  And the first ‘mayoral debate’ was held here in TO.  And he’s being talked about on Jon Stewart AGAIN tonight.  Plus ça change…. Sigh).  I will not seek to engage with those who are looking only to ‘win’ as a furtherance of agendas that benefit the very few.

And please don’t take that to mean that I’m agreeing to disagree.  A young woman, captured on the wonderful photoblog site, Humans of New York (look for them on the facebook, if you’re into such things- truly lovely photos and subjects), said something that resonated with my feelings of futility lately: fighting can be useless.  If people want to be stupid, let them stay stupid and move forward (I’m paraphrasing here).

Just as closed minds can’t be forced open, many of those people who are constantly and willingly distracted by the media and the commercial trappings of society are unlikely to be looking to actually learn anything that goes against their already-established beliefs.

Is this a terrifying reality?  Yep.

Is it irreversible?  I hope not.  I’ve lived my life trying to demonstrate that this needn’t be the case.  Laziness- physical or intellectual- is a learned, nurtured behaviour.  If we feel we don’t have to think for ourselves… this is very much to the benefit of those who hold power and control our economies.  This has always been the case, of course.  The institutionalized church is probably the most famous employer of this tactic to keep the masses doing what they oughta and keeping the status quo all status quo-ish.

We are told to pick a side and stick with it.  Moreover, we are told that the ideas behind the side we choose do not need constant re-evaluation or a deeper delve into the origins and the reasons for the perpetuation of these ideas.  Those that express a differing view are the enemy– and to be treated as such.  Polarization is the norm- and anything like a middle ground is seen as wishy-washy or non-committal.

It is a means of social control.  People choose to ignore the fact that they are being controlled by the information that is approved and meted out according to schedules.  We are content to absorb and repeat the information we are fed because thinking about it and coming to our own conclusions take more effort than many of us can handle expending.  The reasons for this are myriad- and some are almost excusable.

But we don’t have to listen- or engage with those who mindlessly spout the nonsense they heard on Fox News on any given day.  We can choose to ignore the rhetoric- and certainly the attempts to influence our actions and decision based in spurious arguments without basis in fact.  We can avoid subscribing to the insidious sleight of hand that politicians, lobbyists and business leaders employ (often through the use of popular media) to keep us distracted.

We also can try to keep from feeling frustrated with those who refuse to acknowledge the manipulation as we decide to change the paradigm.  As we decide to stop with the debates and approach our common issues using reasoned discussion and evaluations of all perspectives- objectively and sincerely- without concern about towing any party lines or protecting our personal assets (such as they may or may not be).

Instead of sitting glued to our television sets/mobile devices watching our athletes demonstrate the power of doing something, we can choose to actively participate in the decisions being made in our names by getting off our collective rumps and thinking for ourselves.  It’s a stretch- but I know we can do it.

Don’t want to be an American idiot
One nation controlled by the media
Information age of hysteria
It’s calling out to idiot America

Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay

Television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue

None of us need be idiots- American or otherwise.

Failing that, we can all decide to just keep on believing that sunsets happen because ‘their (sic) acts of god.’

PS- All that said- best of luck to all Canadian participants in Sochi (and those competing from across the world as well, but hey, I am CANADIAN) and thank you for the positive ways in which you always represent our home and native land.  And while I am on the topic- can someone please explain to me- once and for all- why professional hockey players are permitted to compete in amateur Games?  And also- why is curling a sport?  (ooh- that’ll cause some stir.  Almost as bad as admitting to not caring if the Leafs ever win the cup or holding firm to the opinion that Tim Horton’s coffee suuuuucks.  I’m sure they’ll arrive to revoke my citizenship/passport any day now).  Apparently it actually stipulates in the official rules of curling that the victors of the bonspiel HAVE to buy the vanquished beers post-competition.  IN.  THE.  RULES.  Not sure I get the ‘sport’ aspect of that particular game (although it’s not the only one that keeps me bemused.  Golf is a close second…)

Sing it, Neil

He’s one of our National Treasures.

I dare you to challenge that.  The man has a body of work that runs the gamut from inspirational and incredibly harmonic, to silly rockabilly, to political commentary that can strip paint with its caustic words.

The night before last he showed up in town to kick off a very important journey.  He’s putting the boots to our current federal government and defiantly and loudly– in that signature growly voice of his- taking them to task for their irresponsible governance and stewardship of this great land of ours.

He’s done this sort of thing before, of course.  Way back when, he wrote a couple of tunes about racism and its continuing evils that resulted in something of a ‘song battle’ with one of the stalwarts of Southern rock.

And then there was this one- critiquing the politics of George  H. W. Bush.

Seems Stephen Harper fancies himself something of a musician.  He’s serenaded those who follow his party line a number of times now.  You’d think he’d have some level of respect for someone who has conquered the musical world to a rarified degree while participating in raising awareness about things that impact or concern him greatly.

Evidently not.

I started this post yesterday on my lunch break and intended to finish it once at home and settled in after some dinner.  But while prepping said dinner I tuned in to Evan Solomon on the venerable CBC to hear him lead the convo about Power and Politics.  Topic?  Should Neil Young be talking about the tar sands?  So.  I listened intently- and with anger and frustration, per usual, as the Conservative ‘analyst’ worked her rhetoric into a full head of steam- and then thought about what was said over the course of the rest of the evening.

Do I like the tar sands?  Not so much.  I have a few close peeps who have been involved in natural resources industries- some of them for decades– and I have formed my opinions regarding things like fracking and the tar sands (interesting that they call them the ‘oil sands’ these days- new lingo for a new, positive spin.  We NEED oil– ‘tar’ has a much more ambiguous association, and the most accurate descriptor- ‘bituminous sands’- means nothing to anyone) based in discussions with them and my own readings about the ways in which we ‘withdraw’ our resources from our collective Canadian Bank.

My opinion about this stuff isn’t really the point of this post though.  Nor is Neil’s, if it comes to that.  It’s all about the ability to speak up and create awareness that a single perspective- in this case, that of Harper’s government- shouldn’t be accepted without reflection and analysis.

Do I concede the point that we live lifestyles that are reliant upon fossil fuels?  I do.  Do I also believe that this is an unfortunate and unsustainable reality?  Yes.  The production of new, cleaner forms of energy has to become a priority, but our current federal government is not on the same opinion page as I am, as far as that goes.  And that, for me, is at the heart of the issue that Neil has brought to the forefront for discussion.

His focus- which is being supported by his current tour- has to do with government violations of First Nations land treaties in the on-going quest for fossil fuels at any cost.  I respect that- and his dedication to a cause that he feels strongly about.  The issues- both environmental and cultural- are myriad and often-complex and all deserve a fair hearing and examination.

Harper’s Conservatives have a pretty singular line of defence/purpose in their approach to the extraction and production of natural resources: the economic bottom line.  They have to push for this straw as a means of maintaining a grasping hold on the idea that Canada has weathered the worldwide financial crisis and is doing just fine, thank you.  Despite a falling Canadian dollar and rise in unemployment numbers.

One of the commentators last evening made the point that the two things- the environment and the economy- needn’t be presented as an inescapable dichotomy- but this is exactly what Harper’s Conservatives are doing.  Oil-at whatever cost- or no economic growth.

Anyway- I didn’t intend for this post to become a political rant (you can find those all over the place today).  I was spurred to write this because I, unlike what’s-her-name-the-Conservative-pundit-from-Evan’s-show-last-night, think that Neil has done veryvery good- leading this charge and creating discussion.  While she would maintain that sure, debate should take place, she questions his methods and means of bringing the issue to the surface (his own version of ‘fracking’, if you will).

I maintain that someone who has earned a voice- through his decades of social commentary and activism- and who is inherently entitled to express that voice- by virtue of his Canadian-ness- has every right to use whatever means he can come up with to present his message to any and all among the electorate that might take the time to listen to him.

Anyone who can shake said electorate out of our apathy/complacency/laziness and make us pay even cursory attention to something important, has my full support.  If even a handful of people- who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered concerning themselves with anything going on out there in those Alberta tar sands- take even a small portion of Neil’s message as a starting point to learn more about the situation?

Bravo, Mr. Young.

It seems that something pretty substantial (read: catastrophic) has to happen these days to get people off their butts and invested in anything other than the Golden Globes or Game of Thrones.  I, personally, applaud anyone willing to do some homework and take a stand on something they believe in strongly- whether they are a scientist, a teacher, a student, a Parliamentary Page, or an enduring and important Canadian musical voice.

Neil Young is not claiming to have all the answers.  He is sounding an alarm asking those who might listen to him to wake the hell up and look into these things a trifle more deeply than they might otherwise be wont to do.  And THEN form an opinion regarding which perspective makes the most sense.  He certainly isn’t expecting- like the Conservatives seem to be- that Canadians will continue to ignore the systemic dismantling of scientific institutions and projects that maintain the environmental standards that allow for the protection of all our natural wonders and the violation of executed treaties with our First Nations all for the furtherance of a politically-expedient economic bottom lineAnd the votes of those in the petroleum industry that might help them retain their somewhat-tenuous hold on the federal government.

This is what we all need to be doing.  Whether our audience is in the millions- like Neil’s- the thousands, or, as in my case, the 398 followers of this here little blog, voicing our concerns about negligence, corruption or tunnel vision among those elected to determine the future of this incredible country of ours is a responsibility of citizenship.  Too many of us have abrogated that responsibility lately.  Neil has not.

That’s why, even if he had never recorded Harvest (a mandated musical staple for Canadian cottage weekends/camping trips) or hung around with those other guys and produced tunes like Helpless and albums like Déjà Vu, he is one of my  heroes.

Never more so than this week.

I’ll leave him with the last words (from his response to what the PMO spokesman had to say about his tour and its mandate):

“As a Canadian citizen, I am concerned that this government is not acting within the advice of science.  When people say one thing and do another, it is hypocrisy. Our Canadian environmental laws don’t  matter if they are broken.”

Tangents

A prompt by a friend of mine, having to do with some idiocy about how ‘god created social media and it says so in Genesis’ or the like, had me all prepped to return to the draft of a post regarding biblical ‘prophecy’ that I’ve had simmering for some time.

I had to shelve that there plan.  Once again I’m the victim of an uncontrollable tangent.

It happens a lot.  I don’t think I’m all that easily distracted, but at times it is definitely distressing how quickly my thoughts can become derailed.  Or sent off on another rail line entirely.

(In my defence, I’m not alone among my friends- many of whom frequently traverse out into the ether while recounting an event or a story- and I’m usually the one who brings them back around to topic.  It’s a gift.  My own occasional derailments can therefore be excused.)

Anyhoo.

While making dinner last night I had the news on in the background so I could get caught up on the weather and such (speaking of weather… did you catch Rick Mercer’s Rant about weather that’s been flying around the interworlds?  Classic.  And true.  Mea culpa.  But that damn polar vortex DID make it waaaaaay too freakin cold for a time.  9 degrees Celsius tomorrow, though.  This is a great tangent- Rick always puts things so succinctly…even if the link I’d attached was ‘removed by request’- check it out on YouTube- Rick Mercer- Weather Rant) and caught the tail end of the report about this latest example of bureaucracy (this time at a university, rather than the political bureaucracy) run completely amok.

And getting back on track…  First off, please note that Professor Grayson, a sociologist, has researched and written extensively about the experience of university students, including the ways in which factors such as race and immigration status affect performance and engagement.

Please also note that Professor Grayson stated that he spoke with the student early in the game saying that he could not accommodate the request, to which the student replied ‘okay.’  He also said- and this is the most important aspect of this whole crazy thing- that “the student is not the problem.”

Interestingly, politicians, of all stripes and at all levels of government, agree with Professor Grayson.  I’m not sure how, exactly, the university (which has an extremely diverse student population) will respond and whether or not any examinations of their Human Rights Policies will be undertaken as a result of this whole thing, but the situation has illustrated the trickiness of dealing with individual rights and freedoms in a system that is controlled by such an unthinking bureaucracy that rote decisions seem to be made favouring the rights and freedoms of one over the rights and freedoms of many.

Did the university make the wrong decision?  Yep.  And then they tried to cover this allowance for the perpetuation of institutionally-supported sexism by saying that allowances were made for those who were unable- due to geography/proximity- to attend the group sessions.

Not.  The.  Same.

The Huffington Post spelled out the whole thing nicely:  … accommodations had already been made for other students who were studying abroad — they were permitted to complete an alternative assignment, the Toronto Star reports.“I think Mr. X must be accommodated in exactly the same way as the distant student has been,” the newspaper reports, citing the vice dean’s letter to Grayson.  Grayson, however, sees it as a case of religious rights clashing with women’s rights — and the former coming out on top.  “In order to meet an instance of a religious requirement we have tacitly accepted a negative definition of females,” Grayson told the Star. “That’s not acceptable.”

Discussions of this situation are leading off on tangents that involve religion-bashing, that-as happens with most religion-bashing- is based in an extremely superficial understanding of the religion/culture that prompted the request.  I’ve already seen a headline- in one of the free newspapers you can find on the TTC- referencing the situation and suggesting that refusal to participate in ‘mixed’ classes is ‘a sign of things to come’ or some comparable nonsense.

Which leads me off on tangents about why universities- and not just the professors- need to be advocating the sharing of ideas between students of different genders, cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations and etc.- while than encouraging support for the worldview(s) outlined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Most notably, Section 15- the part that deals with equality rights.

If you don’t want to participate in classes/assignments/interactions with people who are somehow ‘other’ than you are, don’t freakin enroll in a public university or expect to be employed at a company that follows the guidelines laid out in the Charter.

Full stop.

Any type of generalized bigotry (and when you’re talking about roughly half of the population of the country, I’d say that’s pretty ‘general’) canNOT be suborned anywhere, but especially in our institutions of higher learning.

The blind application of policy- even well-meaning policy dealing with human rights and freedom of religion- sets a potentially dangerous precedent when to do so violates the rights and freedoms of other citizens.  That’s what happened here.  And it’s unacceptable.

Last weekend while I was out and about (tangential note:  I was not ‘oot and aboot’) I heard this song- for the first time in ages.

Way back when, our own M+M (or ‘Martha and the Muffins, the later incarnation’) wrote the song as a reaction to the slow-to-change mores of the day- and how radio stations could, and would, chose to play or not play songs with topics that were outside of their ‘comfort zone.’  Interracial relationships remained verboten on certain airwaves- and some radio stations refused, in turn, to play Black Stations White Stations because of its subject matter.  Seriously.  In 1984.

A voice inside of my car told me today
there was a song of a love they would not play
She was black, he was white
A voice inside of my car told me today…

Black stations, white stations
Break down the door
Stand up and face the music
This is nineteen eighty-four!

This is actually not a tangent.  Although the song deals with changing opinions and policies about racial prejudice, the theme remains the same.  Changing ideology doesn’t happen overnight.  But back-tracking away from the progressive ideologies that are protected under our systems of law?   That’s a BAD idea.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this situation.  It can- and perhaps, should- be used as a starting point for the development of better policies and procedures in educational and other public institutions.  Accommodations can be reasonably made when there is a legitimate case to be found.  Citing ‘religion’, without demonstrable support, can never be permitted.

Tangent comes from the Latin word tangere– meaning ‘to touch’.  In geometry, the tangent line ‘just touches’ a plane curve.  For us not-so-mathematical-types, a tangent is a sudden divergence or change of course.

Both senses of the word are valid in this situation.  The situation at York University touches on some of the issues that can arise in a multicultural society.  We are trying to work it all out, but there are continuing growing pains as we try to determine what being Canadian, and subject to our Charters and laws and policies, really means.  This process involves divergences in our collective course- and changes to both individual and societal attitudes.  Whether those changes are sudden or slow to manifest, they WILL happen and set us back on the right path as they demonstrate those things that we value most.

Equality needs to remain on top of that list.

PS- although this might be a slight tangent in some ways, in others it really isn’t.  My friend Susan posted a thoughtful piece today about the great and healing value of ‘touch’.  Go have a look, if you have a chance.  The more we are in touch- emotionally, intellectually and physically (when/where appropriate, of course) with those around us, the more smoothly we will be able to execute these changes.  For the betterment of us all. 

Take off, eh

Just in case there was any remaining doubt in your mind- which there shouldn’t be if you have read any of my posts (like this one Or this. Or this.)- I am very proud to be a Canadian.  I might get more than a little testy about our elected leaders- and their behaviours and systematic dissolution of some of the very policies and programs that have made us stand out, internationally, as an awesome place- one with welcoming arms and a social conscience to go with its gorgeous landscapes and world class cities, but I’d really rather live here than anywhere else in this wide world.  (At least permanently.  An extended holiday somewhere without winter wouldn’t be all that bad…)

I read this article without even a bit of surprise and with a heart full of pride.  I love it when we are recognized for our overall awesomeness.  For the most part, we deserve it.

Which is why I was distressed to have read this article yesterday which is, IMHO, bang on about our very real and very dire situation here in Canada’s biggest (and best) city.  We are in a state of crisis, evidenced yet again yesterday when the chair, Frances Nunziata (an ally of that buffoon I’ve spoken of at length), of city council was forced to shut down the session because of the un-parliamentary behaviour of said mayor-in-name-only and another of his cronies.

What’s a citizen to do?  Really.  I’m asking.  For reals.  Looking for a response that makes sense to me.  There is a crisis of strong, ethical leadership at all levels of government right now (although, as the article notes, Kathleen Wynne is doing her absolute damnedest to lead her chaotic party with something like a responsible example- it’s a majorly uphill battle, though) and that got me thinking about a number of things- none of them particularly comfortable.

At dinner with close friends a couple of weeks ago, the talk turned to politics (not something that is unusual).  One amongst our number- a high school principal in one of the RC boards in the GTA- will be throwing his hat into the ring of provincial politics sometime in the near future.  He took a run at it about a decade ago but decided that it was a bad idea- given the dysfunction of the political environment.  But things have now reached a state where he is feeling like not getting involved is a form of negligence or collusion.

As we spoke, and as I ranted about the municipal situation (as I’m inclined to do), he suggested that I should run for city council.  My initial reaction?  Yeah, right.  First of all, I do not have the personal wealth to get involved in politics (one of the many flaws in the system), and the reality of the situation here in TO means that I would be unlikely to garner any level of financial backing, since I’m not convinced that my view of things is in any way supported by others in this great town.  At least not those with the money to spend to back an untested candidate.

Plus, I would certainly be dismissed as an ‘elite’- given my educational and locational background (having always lived in affluent, ‘downtown’ neighbourhoods), so that would eradicate any possibility of support from ‘the Nation’ and others who might be disinclined to vote for a non-career politician.

I have no interest in having my life exposed to the constant scrutiny of the media- and to those in opposition of my views that might seek to ‘expose’ something unseemly.  Not because I have anything to hide- no skeletons in my closet that I’m aware of- but because the thought of becoming part of a system that is run that way is anathema to everything I believe in.  The behaviour of ridiculous groups like the ‘birthers’ in the US, or those who vilified Michael Ignatieff and Stéphane Dion- when they ran for federal leadership- solely because of academic background and perceived elitism… I just don’t get- and can’t, in any way, suborn that kind of thing.

So.  I dismissed the suggestion out of hand.

After reading the articles yesterday, and with my Canadian pride all lit up like the CN Tower at the recognition that we are pretty cool folks, now I’m feeling like making excuses for not participating on some level is far too close to complicity in the perpetuation of the complete lack of leadership that we are dealing with in my city.  And my country.

I’m not sure what to do with this feeling, or where it might lead me, but I’m thinking that the New Year is going to HAVE to see some action on my part.  Enough just writing and bitching about it.  My CV- widely dispersed in my ongoing search for a more meaningful line of work- claims ‘excellence in leadership’ as one of the attributes I could bring to a company or organization smart enough to hire me.  I’m thinking that it’s time I figured out how to put those skills into practice to effect some change.  How that will be done will require a whole lot of reflection and discussion with my loved ones.  I’m not sure I can sit idly by as my beloved city/province/country loses all those things that make us stand out- and stand tall- as Canadians.

That said, I’m not about to commit myself to a run for council.  I don’t think I’d last a day.  I am a pretty patient person (as classrooms of hundreds of undergrads can attest), but at the first sign of behaviours like those seen in the council session yesterday?  How do you fight idiocy?  I have no clue- and standing, daily, against that level of discourtesy, boorishness, ignorance and completely unjustified arrogance would render me completely ineffective in a matter of weeks.  I can’t fight on their level.  I won’t fight on their level.  But I am at a loss as to how to even begin to raise the standards.

The people seem to like their idiots-as-leaders/media personalities (did you see the latest Fox ‘News’ debacle about the definite ‘whiteness’ of Santa Freakin Claus?  And Jesus?  You can’t see me, but believe me, I’m shaking my head in exasperation).  I’m not an idiot, and I have no intention of playing one on tv.

I hate politics.  Not a big fan of politicians either.  They are single-mindedly focused on their own agendas- or those of the lobbies that support them.  The few ideologues who are brave enough to climb into the mire for the betterment of others too quickly become engulfed by the surrounding culture of self-serving impetus.  In the aftermath of the loss of the great statesman (NOT politician.  NEVER a politician), Nelson Mandela, it’s impossible not to make a comparison with those putative leaders that we can claim, these days.  How do we remove the ‘dirty word’ aspect of politics and politicians in favour of a more statesperson-like definition?

And then there are those ‘mayors’ who never even finished university or had a career other than ‘politician’ and ‘ part time football coach’… Those who cast unfounded and libellous aspersions upon the names and characters of those journalists who are called to hold him- and those who likewise claim to represent the best interests of the city- to account…

Food for thought.

PS- I have also decided that I am going to begin interspersing my regular conversation with all the stereotypical ‘Canadianisms’ that float around outside our borders.  Anything to keep up our image of ‘quaintness’ in the face of accusations of inbred idiocy, which, given the fact that so many people are still saying they would re-elect a certain someone, aren’t completely unfounded.   So… ‘take off, you hosers.  I’m off to pick up a two-four of Labatt’s Blue and then head oot and aboot in the snow of the Great White North. Eh.’  

PPS- I’m not, really.  Labatt’s Blue is TERRIBLE beer.  And I never been either oot or aboot- to my knowledge anyway.