No.

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Hey strangers. Been a long time. Crazy doings hereabouts as I get sorted to move house and rethink my career path, all while taking some token stabs at working on a number of neglected writing projects that need attention.

Even with all these distractions, I’ve been bearing witness to some of the insanity that continues the world over. It’s been hard to miss. Especially south of our border.

What is going on down there? Seriously. The inexplicability of it all has had me holding my tongue, somewhat, per advice like that found in that meme up there ^^^^

But I got up this morning with a head full of steam, heightened by a couple of factors: Trevor Noah on the Daily Show last night (I didn’t think I was over Jon Stewart’s departure, but last night I really began to acknowledge that this kid is something else. He could charm the bees from the trees – and is consistently showing some substantial comedy and commentary chops. Consider me won over in toto), and a ‘discussion’ on a group thread on one of the Facebook pages I visit upon occasion.

All prepared to write a rant of epic proportions, I realized that a lot of what was running through my head seemed eerily familiar. So, before putting figurative pen to figurative paper, I checked the drafts folder. And there it was. Three months old and languishing. A post on the topic that is overwhelming my thoughts and every news channel in clicking distance.

That this even needs addressing, still, boggles my mind. Like a whole lot of other people, a big part of me assumed that this insanity was going to max out at some point. I mean really.

So. I have a question:

How is it remotely acceptable that a person who is running for the highest office in a pretty big place (geographically and in a global political sense) can spew hate and fear and still be considered as a contender for that office?

I’m beyond sickened.Especially by the complicity of (much of) the media in the sickening quagmire that reflects the bigotry and xenophobia and dangerous ‘othering’ of specific populations of the world.

I have to say ‘much of’ the media, because I ran across this (in a friend’s fb feed). I didn’t know who Shaun King was (I do now- Google is helpful, sometimes. Seems like he’s made sense in the past, as well), since I don’t regularly read the New York Daily News (though they seem to be leading the charge in speaking out against things that other news groups seem to be addressing only speculative or in the abstract).

And Mr. King’s Op-Ed makes a whole lot of sense. So does this one. And this one.

Othering isn’t only an American phenomenon. Unfortunately. We dealt with more than our share of it under the previous federal government, to be fair.

But, in October, we stood up, as a country, and voted that sort of thinking out of office, heralding a new day that sets us back on the world stage as a country that is proud of its diversity. That choice for change is bearing fruit already. Our new PM is leading with a positive example that makes me proud, once again, to be Canadian. I admit that I had my hesitations about him, and there’s a long road ahead to bring us back to where we should be, but he’s taking us in the right direction, after a too-long period of regression, fueled by fear and the silencing of dissenting voices.

Those neighbours of ours down there… “A man that most Americans saw as a punchline and reality television star soon surged to the top of the polls and has remained there for nearly half a year. Soon he declared that he would “round up” over 400,000 undocumented Mexican immigrants per month for 24 months and drop them off at an undisclosed location in Mexico. With stadiums and crowds coming out to hear Trump all across America, he seemed to find his sweet spot in a new form of white supremacy that degraded Mexicans, stereotyped African Americans and banned Muslims.

And it’s gotten worse in the last three months. Way worse.

In the US, institutionalized racism is being allowed to flourish, while, here in Toronto, we continue to fight about things like taxi cabs. And remain ridiculously concerned about the PM’s childcare.

Priorities are all out of whack. Everywhere.

Today we woke to the news of another horrific attack on a European city at the hands of radical adherents of an ideological system that is medieval (at best) in its thinking and application. I can’t say anything new about the events in Belgium. I can’t do anything but weep for the lives lost in the name of fairy tales and power games and othering.

So, again, I avoided the ‘news’ as best I could and, instead, caught up on some stuff I’ve had bookmarked for later perusal for months.

I was dismayed and heartened, both, to hear a discussion about the borderline-propagandist media coverage of that pernicious racist down south on The Current.

I also saw a story in The Globe that echoed a thought I’ve had many times – that the US sitch is essentially Rob Ford idiocy writ larger- and more dangerously.

“… please, don’t imagine that Mr. Trump will just dry up and blow away. Even if, as seems likely, he fails to win his party’s nomination, he can do great damage. He already has. His remarks about Mexicans and now Muslims have stirred the muddy sediment at the bottom of the pond where hate lies.

It was the same way with Mr. Ford, who encouraged a certain kind of bottom dweller to come out in the open. If he could say it, why couldn’t they? When he boycotted the city’s gay pride parade, homophobes suddenly felt they had licence to say or post all those things they had been feeling. After all, they thought, Rob is on our side.

Looking back, Toronto took far too long to see Mr. Ford for what he was. Perhaps for fear of giving him another chance to say the elites were ganging up on him, leaders of the city’s establishment stood by aghast but mostly silent through much of the Ford era. They couldn’t see the breadth of his appeal. They failed to recognize the very real discontents that drove his rise.

Don’t make Toronto’s mistake. Don’t underestimate Donald Trump.”

Back when we were still in the thick of that four year stretch of self-imposed in(s)anity that was Ford’s tenure as our mayor, I wrote about evil (using the term with all my usual caveats) and the face of banality that it often wears. That little bit of a something was a bit too prophetic for my comfort. Change the names in the post – from Robbie F. to Donny T. – and I could have validly reposted the thing (I actually thought about it). The difference is one of scale – and scope. As the wannabe leader of the US, Donny T. (and that ‘unlikely’ prospect – winning his party’s nomination – draws closer to certainty) has clearly demonstrated that his ignorance and intolerance is something that needs checking. Now. Before it’s too late.

Hard on the heels of such thoughts, and wanting to find out some details about the federal Budget that was presented this afternoon (you know, the small stuff that might, actually, impact my life and the lives of those around me), I happened to catch a snippet that sucked me back to the media offerings. Robbie F. died this morning. While I’m sorry to hear of the passing of any young(ish) father, felled by a horrible disease at an age not far off my own, the mainstream media ’round these parts is demonstrating distressing lack of judgement and focusing all its attention in exactly the wrong places. Again.

On a day that saw horror and death in Europe and our new government’s plan for fiscal forward momentum, the 6:00 news spent most (and I really mean almost all) of its hour-long broadcast on the ‘story’ of the passing of a figure best left unheralded (Note that I don’t say ‘unacknowledged’ – he was a public figure and devoted at least part of his time to his version of public service). ‘Toronto Mourns’, they keep on headlining.

Like HELL it does.

Yet, once again, we the people are willingly drawn to a system of infotainment that persists in presenting the stories that they deem will garner the highest market-share – rather than those of greatest import and long-term impact.

Trevor spoke about it at length on the Daily Show last night – citing the president of one of the major network’s extreme glee that their excessive and unnecessary coverage of Donny T. is netting them a whole pile of cold, hard cash.

The bald admission turned my stomach. As did the sitch on the hometown network(s) – before I turned them off.

Instead of balanced examination, and critical analysis of things like policy and long-term plans, the media (once-upon-a-time the voice of – and for – us regular folks) is leaving such things up to other voices- like George Takei, in performance on Broadway with his own story of being on the receiving end of institutionalized racism (I’d love to see Allegiance – unfortunately I’ve issued a moratorium on all travel to the US until they deal with their racists and their gun nuts. In other words, I’ll be waiting for the touring show to come to town… ). These voices are speaking out against the insidiousness of levels of racism that are, somehow, accepted as some kind of inevitable status quo by media outlets (those that aren’t locked in denial that the racism exists), and supported by political leaders and wannabe political leaders alike.

The ‘Otherers’ are re-gaining momentum. I can see it – in comments sections of social media groups I follow, for example. One such group (a mommy blog, actually. Although I am not a mommy, the originator of the group is a successful blogging friend-of-a-friend, and, I have to admit, that the ‘Merican-ness of the group keeps me morbidly intrigued. TBH, I feel like an anthropologist at times – as the posts and comments are usually so far outside of my ken that I am frequently aghast by the discussions that go on) featured a post about Donny T. and his ‘ideas’.

At first I kept paying attention due to a Schadenfreude of which I’m not entirely proud. There has been some hope that we’ve, just lately, escaped our racist, anti-intellectual, sexist overlord(s) – so it was sort of perversely entertaining to witness the discussions about it happening somewhere other than my own backyard.

Most comments on the page, it should be said, expressed disgust/dismay/anger at the guy’s proposed ‘policies’, but there were more than a few ‘everyone is entitled to their opinions’ that set the conversations down paths of hostility and into unsupported ‘arguments’ that made me want to bite something.

Entitlement is a concept we need to get over. FFS. You can have an opinion. Sure. If that opinion happens to be ignorance, fear and hatred made manifest in ugliness, then I don’t have to sit by and let you express said ‘opinion’. I do not. I will not.

There is no justification – NONE – for supporting a misogynistic, racist, fear-and-violence-mongering reality television performer for POTUS.

Support of the guy is, as Ricky Jones noted, nothing more or less than an acknowledgment that issues of race and class remain an every-day reality in the United States. And, although Trump is a reprehensible human being, to be sure, it is the voting population that supports him that needs to draw our focus.

Supporters of the ideology that drives the inflammatory rhetoric of people like Trump (and most of the other GOP contenders, for that matter) are the both the products and symptoms of a system that discourages progressive development and critical thinking.

THIS is what happens when you cut funding to education programs (especially those in the Humanities), while advertising a faulty ‘dream’ predicated on the drive to acquire meaningless stuff, while squandering individual benefits, without thought to the larger community.

THIS is what happens when history is treated as little more than a footnote in a perspective that is, increasingly, deemed ‘academic’ and, therefore, unimportant.

I’ve seen a fair number of memes and GIFs and such that equate Trump with other despotic leaders from our recent history. While I appreciate that any sort of nod is being paid to the lessons of the past, the reality of the danger in ignoring such parallels is being lost in the superficiality of the media in which they are being transmitted.

The rage that Paul Krugman referenced in his post cannot be understated or misunderstood for what it is. The rage is exemplified by one word associated with Trump’s campaign – that insidious little ‘Again’ that follows ‘Make America Great’.

That one word advocates for a return to something that those of us who know anything about history know wasn’t, in fact, the best of times – as can be determined by any accurate measure. I’ve written about the fallacy of the ‘good ol’ days’ before. That sort of idiocy is being taken to the nth degree by the nutbar seeking to lead the country.

Leaders like Trump (and Hitler) are allowed to rise to power because they legitimize ideologies that are ugly – and promotional of a group psychology that encourages complicity to ever-larger atrocity – by beginning with a mandate that the ‘simple’ can get behind. Trump’s ‘uneducated’ masses want to hear that someone is willing to return them to a mythical time when they held some level of ascendancy over some ‘other’ type of person. The ‘social identity’ of Trump’s followers has been shaken by progressive movements advocating social justice and equity.

The reality is that people like Trump are not ‘making America racist again’ – America never stopped being racist.

If this trajectory of the legitimation of hatred continues I’m concerned that there mightn’t be a wall high enough to keep the infection of such thinking south of the border (regardless of who ends up paying for said wall). We’re seeing it here, writ smaller to be sure, in the outpouring of ‘grief’ for a man who embodied racist, homophobic and misogynistic ignorance – and who impeded the progress of this city that I love for too many years.

 Canadian politesse (and the values taught to me by my parents) warns against things like speaking ill of the dead and suggests that the better course is saying nothing at all if niceties can’t be expressed.

Sorry Mum and Dad. Sitting by while the ‘news’ media spins tales of validity out of ineptitude and supposed-plain-speaking is symptomatic of dangerous complacency that supports epidemics of ignorance and wrong-doing. I’m an historian. I know what that level of complacency, and othering, and the acceptance of banality can do.

Unchecked, it can bring down civilizations.

The discontent that permits the rise of supposed-leaders like Donny T. and Robbie F. needs to be addressed, yes. We need to do so by rewriting the systemic inequities and lack of education that permits the persistence of othering. Our collective NOs – voiced in concert against the self-serving politicians, corporations, and media organizations – need to out-shout the manufacturers of fear and hatred that have become a shameful stock-in-trade of those who purport to lead.

So.

No.

Just no.

Much Ado About Nothing

So this topic has shown up in the news again. People are fighting it, people are agreeing with it… not enough else to be worried about, I guess.

Meanwhile, our municipal train wreck has finally derailed and upped stakes for rehab in Chicago. But not before we made The Daily Show, again.  And not before the damage may be irrevocable.

Still… hoping this latest is something that will permit change in my hometown.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

colemining

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really find this illustration particularly helpful in explaining why it’s SO FREAKIN COLD OUTSIDE.  And the typo is making me nuts, but I’m too chilly to search for another image.

Well there I was all hunkered down against the c-c-c-cold of the polar vortex- or whatever they’re calling it- getting ready to kill an evening watching some tv or something equally mindless.

Decided to check the WP Reader before turning off the laptop for the night and, what’s there?  A wee little goad by my friend OM- over there at Harsh Reality.

It’s one of the fun things he does- he gets conversations started.  I actually saw the linkabout the Baphomet statue earlier today.  I read the article, smiled a little and then forgot about it.

Jeepers.  People really don’t have larger concerns?

The constant negative back-and-forth between the atheist and…

View original post 1,188 more words

By another name…

Banal.

If there is a current personification of that particular concept, I’d argue that it could well be the putative ‘mayor’ of my fair town.

The origin of the word lies in the system of feudalism- and pertains to those things associated with the ‘common people’- specifically the services they were compelled to carry out under the direction of an overlord from the ‘superior’ classes.  Its original meaning stems from the Latin word bannum– meaning ‘command’ or ‘proclamation’ and the later Middle French derivation, ban– and the associated connection with being pressed into compulsory feudal servitude.

In contemporary usage it is defined (according to Wiktionary) as ‘common in a boring way, to the point of being predictable containing nothing new or fresh.’   It is synonymous with hackneyed, vapid and trite.

I admit that this is frequently how I dismiss that Ford guy- as vapid, tedious and tiresome in his cliched attempts to win the support of the ‘common’ people.  He maintains that’s who he’s looking out for- the ‘little guy’, the ‘regular folk’, the ‘Joe Six-Pack’, if you will (and if the evocation of that term and its associations with that woman who tried to be VPOTUS don’t make you shiver in remembered horror).

Despite his own privileged upbringing and the fact that his CV doesn’t seem to contain much that suggests any actual and/or realized individual accomplishments.

He continues to exclaim his defence of those who fall outside the ‘urban elite’ that is, according to Ford and his cronies, determined to destroy this City.  He does so in such a predictable and repetitive fashion that, I admit, I have become somewhat dismissive of the guy- and of his chances of actually being re-elected to head up our Municipal government.

This week the head of Toronto Community Housing- hand-picked by Ford to ascend to the role- stepped down from the position following a scathing report delivered by the City Ombudsman.  Ford continues to support Gene Jones- and the job he has done since his appointment two years ago- claiming, instead, that it is the ombudsman who should be removed since she had the audacity to misuse her role by engaging in a ‘witch hunt’ while playing politics.

Business as usual with this guy.  That was my first, admittedly-jaded, thought.  Then this morning I read an editorial that made me reflect a little more deeply on the situation.

In the Toronto Star, Royson James argued that Ford is more than ‘an innocuous, pseudo-celebrity whose outrageous behaviour will live in infamy.’  James asserts that he is dangerous.  The article set some bigtime alarm bells a’ringing.

Some of us hereabouts have become complacent in our belief that there is no way that this guy will be re-elected.  Last night, while out celebrating my baby sister’s birthday, the dinner conversation turned to the sitch in our Municipal politics.

Although there was some dissent as to how the current realities might be changed for the better, consensus suggested that we do have one thing for which we should be grateful in the debacle that has been the last four years since his election.

Before October 2010, most of us were sort of oblivious to Municipal politics- giving them short shrift in the spectrum of importance in the overall political scheme of things.  We tend to pay attention to what is happening on the Provincial, Federal and Global political stages, but the City level was viewed as something that ticks along without much engagement or concern.

And then came Ford.

His tenure has opened our eyes to the truism that the bad crap in the upper sectors of the political heap has its origins in the foundational level.

A friend posted something on her fb timeline the other day about taking real, concrete action to ensure that he is not re-elected.  The conversational strand filled with comments from others who are similarly committed- including their personal plans of attack for involvement at the Municipal level that will forestall the continuance of the division and regression that the City has seen these past four years.

I know-  it seems as if I’m, yet again, completely straying from my best laid plans to discuss the Devil Dude and the externalization of evil.

But.

Banality and evil are closely linked.

Hannah Arendt was a political theorist (she rejected the label ‘philosopher’) who wrote pivotal works about the nature of power and politics.  In Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, she questioned the nature of evil, ascribing it to thoughtlessness and mindless acceptance of ‘general opinion’ without anything resembling critical evaluation of the consequences of action/inaction.

The Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

“Arendt’s book introduced the expression and concept “the banality of evil”.  Her thesis is that Eichmann was not a fanatic or sociopath, but an extremely stupid person who relied on cliche rather than thinking for himself and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology. Banality, in this sense, is not that Eichmann’s actions were ordinary, or that there is a potential Eichmann in all of us, but that his actions were motivated by a sort of stupidity which was wholly unexceptional.  She never denied that Eichmann was an anti-semite, nor that he was fully responsible for his actions, but argued that these characteristics were secondary to his stupidity.”

Before anyone leaps to suggest that I am equating Ford with the perpetrators of the greatest crime against humanity in recent history, let me state unequivocally that this is not my intention.  To do so would demonstrate an extremity of rhetoric that is both irresponsible and approaching the level that Ford and his puppet-masters regularly employ as a means to encourage divisiveness as he attempts to maintain his personal power.

There have been many challenges to Arendt’s perspective (again, from the Wikipedia)…

“This concept has been frequently misunderstood. In his 2010 history of the Second World War, ‘Moral Combat’, British historian Michael Burleigh calls the expression a “cliche” and gives many documented examples of gratuitous acts of cruelty by those involved in the Holocaust, including Eichmann.  Arendt certainly did not disagree about the fact of gratuitous cruelty, but “banality of evil” is unrelated to this question. Similarly, the first attempted rebuttal of Arendt’s thesis relied on a misreading of this phrase, claiming Arendt meant that there was nothing exceptional about the Holocaust.”

Arendt’s main thesis is applicable in this case- and is an important observation that requires further examination.   As concerned voices advocating change develop and continue dialogues that attempt to change this propensity to set ourselves in constant opposition to ‘the other’ as a means of moving through the world, we have to define our terms and acknowledge that which we are fighting.

The predilection for polarization is the ultimate target focus of my discussions of evil and its externalization.  Contrived division and the vilification of ‘ the enemy’ serves no other purpose than to continue to support those who benefit from the perpetuation of a status quo that serves the few rather than the many.

Ford likes his power and position.  He- and those who receive direct pay-off from his ‘patronage’- would love to maintain that power and position.

It’s up to us to make sure that he doesn’t get to do so.

This afternoon, while doing some chores, I had the tv on in the background.  Black Sheep, starring the late Chris Farley, was on.  I’ve never really been one for the Farley flicks- although I certainly enjoyed some of his sketches during his SNL tenure- but I have noticed, along with the rest of the Western world, the disturbing similarities between a number of his characters and the mayor-in-question.

In one scene, while stoned out of his tree, Farley’s character ends up onstage- in his brother’s time slot- during a ‘Rock the Vote’ performance.  He shouted slogans- pithy lines drawn from the speeches of great leaders that came before him- much to the delight and encouragement of the crowd.  That the sayings were misquoted or offered outside of their original context didn’t matter much to the audience.

Ford, too, is a sloganeer.  He is routinely provided with forums in which he continues shouting his taglines- loudly- to those who might listen.  It’s what Ford does.  It’s pretty much the only thing he does.

The comparison is amusing.  I admit that I’ve laughed at the various memes and montages that highlight the similarities.  Many of them are clever and silly in a funny-’cause-it’s true sort of way.

And then I remember that this guy is in charge of running my City.  And he wants to keep running it into the ground to promote his own agenda and ego.

It’s only funny until it isn’t.

Banality is dangerous.

And Rob Ford is its most recent poster-child.

‘It’s the same old story…’

Apologies in advance as this post is likely to be somewhat all over the place.  I’m a little medicated- I think I’m fighting a sinus infection.  This polar vortex/never-ending winter nonsense is kicking my ass.

Since I’ve already discussed the deeply-held conviction I have- the one which states that we are increasingly (and willingly) falling victim to organized and concerted attempts to keep us insulated from/ignorant of the important shit going down in the world- I won’t reiterate my discouragement yet again.  It’s clearly posted any number of times for those who choose to have a look.

But.  The Oscars.

I do appreciate finely crafted films- and the artistry that is involved with the entirety of the process.  The writing of the story, the vision behind the scenery and cinematography.  The costumes, the make-up.  And, of course, the performances that serve to bring the stories alive.

I like movies.  I do.

And they don’t have to be super-serious, story-heavy films to get my seal of approval.

I’m still reeling from the loss of Dr. Egon Spengler, earlier this week.  While I know that the great Harold Ramis left us a wonderful collection of time-tested comedic brilliance, Ghostbusters remains up near the top of my all-time favourites list.  I can quote that movie pretty much word-for-word.  I’ve used it in classes.  Every time I visit NYC and come across one of the landmark buildings from the film I am ridiculously happy.

Egon’s serious, scientific mien was the perfect foil for Ray’s innocence and Peter’s smarmy used-car salesman schtick.  Which is why his one-liners had so much impact.

I appreciate film-making as both an art form and as pure entertainment, and there is no doubt at all that each year some very important films are rightfully nominated for these awards as a representation and validation of their place in our cultural canon.

12 Years a Slave is my choice for must see viewing this particular year (and I say this despite the fact that Brad Pitt is in it- generally speaking you can’t pay me to see anything with that guy).  Solomon Northrup’s 1853 memoir remains one of the most affecting reads I’ve ever experienced.  It should be required reading- and now viewing- in schools everywhere.

I have to admit that none of the rest of the films piqued my interest enough to see them when they were in theatres, but I will check out Dallas Buyers Club, Philomena, and Captain Phillips, eventually.

Still, I just can’t bring myself to care about the pageantry that is the Academy Awards.

In addition to the ever-ostentatious red carpet and the tired jokes and digs at fellow celebrities (not that I don’t think Ellen will be a great host), the pomp and self-aggrandizing glad-handing and masturbatory back-patting kind of ruffles my feathers.

It’s a matter of priorities.  And I don’t think that we are able- or willing- to adequately prioritize our time, at all, anymore.

Especially not this year when the ‘local’ twist is that Mayor McCheese will be attending.  Jimmy Kimmel is involved, somehow.  I’m not sure if he invited RoFo to be his guest or what.  I don’t really care.  I’m sick to death of anything that serves to validate this guy in any way.  Or that gives him any sort of platform to further his self-serving re-election campaign.

If the fact of his presence at an event that is broadcast to the world isn’t a clear demonstration that the drawn-out awards season has become completely irrelevant as anything except personal glory-seeking and attention-whoring…

Sigh.

Especially during a week that saw the situation in Ukraine escalate, and the Russians making moves that might result in war, and American assertions that Putin’s actions might end with his nation’s removal from the G8.

These are world changing events.  We’re in a whole mighty-big-Twinkie load of trouble.

Yet many of us will be spending five or more hours witnessing and then talking about the outrageous fashions/jewellery/hairstyles of the Hollywood A-listers.  And the irresponsible and clueless elected leader of this city- as he attends the elite event (belying his claims to be against all things ‘elite’- here at home, anyway) seemingly oblivious to the fact that those who invited him are laughing at him, rather than with him.

So he will continue his posturing and campaigning.  Endearing himself to those who attracted to the bright and shiny things that lay outside their reach while yet applauding his ‘man-of-the-people-ness.’  Those same people who will never see the mutual-exclusivity of those two extremes and who will vote for him again come October.

We need to stop giving this guy a stage and an audience.  But, like awards season as a whole, it’s truly ‘the same old song and dance’.

‘Get yourself cooler, lay yourself low
coincidental murder, with nothing to show
with the judge, constipation will go to his head
and his wife’s aggravation, you’re soon enough dead

it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend
it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend

gotcha with the cocaine they found with your gun
no smoothy face laywer to getcha undone
say love ain’t the same on the south side of town
you could look, but you ain’t gonna find it around

it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend
it’s the same old story, same old story
same old song and dance

fate comes a-knockin’, doors start lockin’
your old time connection, change your direction
ain’t gonna change it, can’t rearrange it
can’t stand the pain when it’s all the same to you, my friend

when you’re low down and dirty, from walkin’ the street
with your old hurdy-gurdy, no one to meet
say love ain’t the same, on the south side of town’

Steven Tyler and Joe Perry could have been writing about RoFo.

‘I’m worried, Ray. It’s getting crowded in there and all my data points to something big on the horizon.’

And we’re down a Ghostbuster to help get us through.

Go gently, Mr. Ramis.  Thank you for the laughter.

PS.  On a FAR more optimistic note, a couple of wonderful bloggers have seen fit to nominate me for a couple more awards.  Kim, at Let me Reach with Kim Saeed, offers valuable insights and information for those dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Madeline, at Madeline Scribes, is a source for diverse discussions based in her experience as a professional social researcher.  They offer valuable perspectives on many of the things that I am wont to discuss hereabouts and are truly Voices of Inspiration.  Please do go and visit with them- I have no doubt you’ll learn something. 

Thank you both sincerely for the nominations!  I very much appreciate the recognition.


Songs that can change a life #4

This IS kind of funny.  Especially the part about the Leafs…

Haven’t done one of these in too long…

I love music (in case you weren’t aware) and I have to admit that I sometimes over-gravitate to the same old songs (emphasis on old). This isn’t to say that I don’t listen to and appreciate new music- but there are certain songs that truly are like old friends.

The beauty of the Shuffle Daemon is that it brings these old friends back into my life when it’s been a while since we last hung out. The other day, as I waited for the metaphysical enigma that is the King streetcar, the SD reminded me that I hadn’t visited this old buddy in far too long.

Once upon a time a week wouldn’t have passed by without me giving it a listen. Seriously, some of my friends still hear this tune and think of me. It’s another of those story songs that I so adore. It tells the story- based in a particular time and place- of a town in economic collapse and the social conundrums that result.

And it’s The Jam.  N.B. The ‘posters’ in the video: “Anti Complacency League! Baby!” and “If we aint getting through to you- you obviously aint listening!”  I concur.  3 wonderful, jam- (and Jam-) packed minutes.

While I waited for that most elusive of streetcars (seriously- where do they go? At least 10 passed by in the other direction in the 20 (!) minutes I stood waiting. They have to turn around sometime. Don’t they?!?!  And who, exactly, decides that they should be short turning during rush hours when there are dozens of people fighting for standing room on the ONE car that is actually permitted to complete its route in its entirety? Yeah, we don’t need a better-functioning public transportation system downtown at all, do we Mayor McCheese? Useless subways in Scarborough are far more important…), those opening notes (in a live version I picked up somewhere) came over the headphones.

Not only is it peppy and catchy and undeniably well-constructed, it’s also experience-based recollection and social commentary that still rings authentic and important. Once again, more than 30 years after the fact (stuck in the 80’s this week.  Mea culpa).

The Jam were representative of the melding of punk, new wave, and mod revival that came out of the UK in the late 70s-early 80s. Based out of Woking, Surrey, they combined the anger that fueled punk rock with the stylish R&B and tailored appearance of 60s mods, and, like the Kinks (as I’ve said repeatedly) emphasized their Britishness through the subject matter of their songs.  They focused on issues that affected their working class backgrounds- in the community from which they hailed- and the social problems they saw in their travels across the UK as they played the clubs.

Paul Weller has crafted some of my veryvery favourite songs, ever.  (My Ever Changing Moods from his Style Council days, not to mention You’re the Best Thing… listen to them.  Seriously.)

Town Called Malice recalls his teenage years in Woking, part of the Greater London Urban Area.  The title of the song is a play on the 1950 novel by Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice, although Paul had not read the book before writing the song.

The novel is, in part, about its heroine’s attempts to bring economic prosperity to a small town in the Australian outback, turning it into a ‘town like Alice (Springs)’.

Being an eminently talented wordsmith- and British to boot (the Brits are so wonderfully adept at word play- especially when it comes to ‘sounds like’ constructions and rhyming slang.  Sight tangent: I came up with the ‘subtitle’ of this little blog o’ mine- ‘Made of the Myth’- after having heard a news story about the ‘Maid of the Mist’- those tourist boats that take you up close and personal with the glory of Niagara Falls.  To this day, the ONE person who picked up on that is a British buddy of mine- who cottoned on immediately.  Such a way with the language, our British brothers and sisters…aaaaaand we’re back), Paul was more about connecting the rhythm of the book’s title with that of his creation- and the shared concept of towns facing hard economic times.

As a legal term, malice refers to intention- either expressed or implied- to do harm to another.  Now I’m no lawyer (understatement, that), but according to Wikipedia/Pythia: ‘In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken… as requiring either: 1) an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or 2) recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not (i.e. the accused has foreseen that the particular kind of harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk…).’

Recklessness.  Hmmm.

‘Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cause it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus
‘Cause those rosy days are few

And stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done
‘Cause time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change
This town called Malice…

…The atmosphere’s a fine blend of ice I’m almost stone cold dead

…A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef
Gets dashed against the Co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids’ new gear
It’s a big decision in a town called Malice.

The ghost of a steam train – echoes down my track
It’s at the moment bound for nowhere –
Just going round and round

Playground kids and creaking swings
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
But I’d sooner put some joy back in this town called Malice’

Standing on that street corner in the freezing cold, waiting for the public transportation- a ‘hot button’ election topic- to show up, those lyrics echoed in ways they have never done before (and, as I’ve said, I’ve know the song by heart for over three decades).

Reckless malice.

Since Ford is determined to continue playing the Media Star, at least he is admitting that the new YouTube programme is nothing more than a glory-seeking, extended campaign ad.  Okay, maybe he didn’t say that exactly… He is welcoming questions from ‘all around the world’- and most of them are concerned with the sideshow that he has become, internationally.

Gotta say, I’d really prefer a mayor who is more concerned with the state of our city and its citizens than with shoring up his image and reinforcing his narcissistic need to ensure that the spotlight remains focused on him and his own deluded self-image and -importance.

The rights to Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, by Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle (one of the three journalists to first view the ‘crack video’), have been sold and will likely be made into a film.  Setting aside what I may or may not think of Doolittle, I am outraged that it seems to be acceptable to be keeping this guy’s name and image in the media.

National ‘newspapers‘ are already casting the film.  We are continuing to reinforce his lack of judgement, self-serving and unsupported sound bites, and his knowingly reckless behaviour.  And I’m not just talking about the shit (yes, I said ‘shit’- I’m PISSED OFF) he pulls in his ‘private life’.  Believe me, waiting for the 504 streetcar on Sunday, I had a loooooong time to think about his ‘transit plan’ and the mess that he has made worse in the three years since he was elected to run the city.

He is at least as big a train wreck politically as he is personally.  THAT seems to be getting lost with the spotlight being continually shone upon his antics.  He is not a clown.  He is not a ‘celebrity’.  He is the elected leader of the largest city in Canada and he has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to uphold the responsibilities of that role.

If we are to be subjected to this buffoon on all varietals of media between now and October (and then, hopefully never again), how’s about we pay closer attention to the truth of the matter than the sensational circus of shame.

Expressed or implied intent to do harm.  Foreseeing that harm will be done, and recklessly charging ahead regardless.

Sounds like Malice to me.

We’re ‘at the moment bound for nowhere- just going round and round.’

‘It’s up to us to change this town called Malice.’

Listen up, fellow Torontonians.  Join the Anti-Complacency League.

Please.

PS-  From the ridiculous to the sublime… this is making headlines all over my news feeds- especially those that come from my beloved Royal Ontario Museum.  The discovery really has nothing to do with this post- nor with the stuff I usually talk about- except that it is demonstration (if further remains necessary) that destroying our natural wonders for the sake of economic expediency also leads to the destruction of all those things buried beneath the surface of this here world of ours- natural AND of human origin- that help to tell our stories.  Can’t wait to check out the previously unknown species!

The good, the bad and the really really bad.

A very mixed-kinda-weekend just passed me by, seemingly quicker than I could blink.  We got more snow, the colder than usual temps are still upon us, I picked up a couple of new books to read, mainly stayed inside and caught up on some stuff I’d let go for too long…

But I also woke up Saturday morning to find that the lovely Ursula at An Upturned Soul has nominated me for a blog award.  Her posts run an interesting and diverse gamut, writing about things such as narcissism and personal relationships/interactions that are always both informative and illustrative of her talent for communicating the intricacies of such complex subjects in well-reasoned and -researched, yet still approachable and understandable, articles.  A recent post, Personality Disordered, was especially resonant for me, given the fact that I am also inclined to run off on tangents.  More than a little.

This morning, wonder of wonders, I discovered that Kim over at Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed has also been so kind as to nominate me for an award.  She, too, writes about narcissism and surviving its abuses, and her insights regarding identification and recovery are enlightening and valuable resources for surviving the toxicity that such relationships create.

I greatly appreciate the respect for my own writing that spurred the nominations, and I value the reciprocal relationships we have developed through our mutual followings.  I encourage my readers to visit with them and explore the many valuable things they both have to contribute to our WordPress World.

I love this World.  As I’ve mentioned before, the most wonderful and surprising thing I have discovered since starting this blog a little less than a year ago is the community that is there to support, entertain and challenge me as I gain footing and change some things up in the development of my online presence.  Rather than restrict the pass-on nominations as suggested by both awards, please have a look through my blog roll- and click on the avatars of those friends who thoughtfully leave comments- and discover for yourselves the variety and engaging intelligence that I’ve been privileged to find in this neck o’ the woods.

Unfortunately, all this loveliness has been disrupted by the increasingly business-as-usual abuses of those who hold power and influence in the wider, outside world.

I referred to this the other day.  Harper’s conservatives are doing their best to ensure that this country becomes a democracy in name only.  Since a democracy can only be as strong as its weakest link, we MUST work to strengthen those links that are inclined to let this sort of thing fester and continue without notice or comment or attempt at rectification.

This is the primary reason behind my goal for 2014- to search out a new type of classroom that is based on the dialectic and exchange of information based in facts and experience, rather than rhetorical reliance upon emotion and belief.

Since my appearance (still reeling a wee bit from the experience- radio geek that I am) on The Current a couple of weeks ago, education and our educational system has been back on my personal radar bigtime.  I’ve joined/re-joined a number of discussion forums dealing specifically with post-secondary education and teaching and this popped up in one of them on Saturday.  I had comparable experiences, upon occasion, but I am extremely distressed that they seem to be growing in frequency, and extent of damage to the learning experience.  I’m not sure that I will ever comprehend the close-mindedness that drives people to enroll in a course in an institution of higher education solely in order to maintain the supremacy of their own unexamined beliefs.  Stories like this are among the things that make me miss the university classroom less and less.

My pal Booksy over at Lost and Found Books brought this back to my attention this morning.  Again with the gradual dissolution of democracy under our very freakin noses by this government and its agenda.

And in local news: this idiocy is about to air beginning today.

I have to admit to feeling a bit nostalgic today.  As such, this tune popped into my head while thinking through all this stuff and the Voices Carry movement that I’m encouraging of late.  And Mark King’s bass playing is always something to witness…

The spirit of the people
The spirit of the people
The spirit of the people
The rhythm has begun …

Old men with their protocol
Lead us off to war
Sometimes we don’t even know
What we’re fighting for
Marching to the beat of their drum

Leaders we no longer trust
Told too many lies
The promises they made to us
Were never realised
Hear me now the chant has begun

Nowhere left to turn
No-one left to turn to
Voices raised in anger
They don’t have the answer
Our whole world’s in danger

Oil slicks on the ebbing tide
Progress out of hand
Blind men choke on swallowed pride
Heads down in the sand
Don’t wanna see the damage they’ve done

Trees destroyed by acid rain
Falling from the skies
When our children place the blame
Who will tell them why
Hear me now the chant has begun

Why is love so rare
All this talk of warfare
Voices raised in anger
They don’t have an answer
Pass the word along
We can wait no longer
Too much blind destruction
Follow love’s instructions
Now the chant has begun

(chant)

Make your choice there’s no escape
Add your voice, the chant has begun

This song was written and recorded in 1984.  1984.

30 years.  And we still haven’t grown the chant into the roar it needs to become.

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…)

‘To everything there is a season’

Where to begin?  A little while ago I was feeling kind of frozen with the inability to come up with stuff worth writing about.  Oh, what change a couple of weeks can bring…

I’m still frozen- since this stoopid polar vortex (those are rapidly becoming my two least favourite words) thing refuses to release us from its icy grip- but the words, they are a’ flowin’.  New problem?  I just can’t keep up with them all.

So many directions and so very many events of significance.. and yet I’ll have to just let a few of them go without more than a passing nod.

There’s this guy, though.  And he deserves FAR more than a passing anything (except maybe an awed handshake or hug as I stand speechless at the greatness he embodied).

Pete Seeger.

Strange that he’s actually gone.  I can’t remember a world without his songs.  They are such a part of the soundtrack of my life, it’s hard to separate out separate out specific tunes for mention.  I’ve spent so very many summers by lakes here in Ontario, and every single one of them was accompanied by songs that Pete brought into our lives.  Songs we could sing- vocal abilities or lack thereof notwithstanding- and songs that MEANT something.

He’s been so ubiquitous that I honestly can’t even decide which of his songs I heard first, or, really, which one I love best.  Except… He adapted and then arranged words from one of my fave books from the OT, written by one of my fave characters from the OT.  So, even if the tune itself remains most associated with some other very cool cats, I have to say that Turn, Turn, Turn is right up there in the cole-appreciates-Pete department.

Since I have so much floating around in my head and attempting to escape through my fingertips, I am not going to be able to even approach doing justice to the memory of such a pivotal character in our (popular) culture.  There have been a lot of wonderful remembrances- in the mainstream media and here in the WP World- and I happened across this one at Shaunanagins yesterday.  Yep, yep, yep and yep (seven times over).  So well said.  Most resonant with me, right now in this head space I have going on, is the whole ‘music isn’t just about entertainment’ thing.  Pete taught us that.  People like Neil Young, who I wrote about here, reminded us of that reality recently.  It’s an easy thing to forget- when the throw-away pop that seems to be everywhere these days is the ‘music’ of first exposure for a whole lot of young people.

There are too few people, when you examine their lives, about whom you can honestly say that 94 (!) years wasn’t enough time here among us.  Pete was one of those ‘voices’ I spoke about.  And his is still out there carrying in ways that leave me entranced.

About that.  The whole ‘Voices Carry’ thing.  And my assertion, stemming from outrage, that we HAVE to be looking for dialectic rather than debate.  And about the whole synchronicity element- and winds of change seemingly headed in my general direction.

It’s been quite a week.  That radio show that I mentioned?  It happened, and people are talking.

#NotYourAdjunctSidekick is generating discussion all over the place in the Twitterverse, and groups of contract/part time/adjunct academic faulty are banding together to raise their voices as one.  Some of the stories are terrible- situations far more extreme and representative of the true systemic inequities than anything I ever experienced before I gave up on the system.  There are stories popping up everywhere Even if some of them- like the last speaker on The Current’s presentation of the issue- seem to be missing the point entirely, and using the discussion as yet another forum in which to bash the Humanities and deemphasize their importance in education (I’d like to continue to vehemently dispute that perspective by offering up an article, by Tom Nichols- a professor of national security affairs in the US- about the tendency to dismiss experts in the field due to the inability to use rationale and reason to examine all sides of an issue- and at least entertain the advice of those who know stuff about stuff before reacting emotionally and erroneously to any given topic).

All this talk of universities and teaching and communicating has my mind looping through all sorts of the topics that I’ve been thinking, and writing, about lately.  I’m finding myself missing the classroom.  This is an ever-present feeling- since I LOVED being a teacher- but talking about it over the last few days, and coming up with ideas and plans about affecting change have me realizing that it’s time to get back to the classroom.  But all this talk of the university system and its institutionalized problems has also reinforced the reality that I might have to come up with my own concept of ‘classroom’.

So this is leading to more talking and more sorting things out.  Some concepts are more appealing than others- so a few proposals/projects/blueprints need to be worked out in the next while.

I do know that the ‘classroom’ for me is not Toronto City Hall.  Not at this time, anyway.  The ‘how to be a candidate’ meeting was interesting and very informative.  The City employees who organized and ran the thing did so with professionalism and respect- something that is seemingly lacking in many of the politicians with whom they are required to work.  That is part of why it isn’t the venue for me.

As I sat in Karen Stintz’s seat in the council chamber, one of the organizers commented that the room was much more decorous and composed than is usually the case.  It was a joke, but it’s also all too much the truth.  There were a lot of people present at the meeting who were there in obvious search of change- and some of them spoke with passion and eloquence and without the narcissistic posturing of the people who usually sit in those seats.  It gave me some hope that positive change may be possible.  (There was at least one extremist crack-pot there (I’m not actually talking about ‘the mayor’, this time), of course, but the rest of those gathered chose to ignore his rantings and continue on with the business of actually learning something.  Hope indeed.)

There’s a great article in this month’s Toronto Life about those who maintain some level of faith that Ford is the guy to remove the City from its current quagmire.  They’re wrong, of course, but I now sort of understand why they might think that.  The article highlighted this systemic problem we have with polarizing our opinions to the extreme.

Us vs. Them.  It’s everywhere.  And that has to change.

As I walked to the subway this morning there was just the barest hint of warmth in the brutal wind that has been screaming around the buildings in the downtown core this past while.  Time for a change of season, paradigm, perspective and approach.

A time to build up, a time to break down

Or vice versa, as the case may be.

There it is again…

I’m not really the type of person who looks for signs or stuff like that.  But I do try to listen to what the universe seems to be telling me.  Since I believe that we, as people, are interconnected in numerous ways, I do subscribe to the idea that synchronicity exists and is at work in our lives.  I’ve written about that before.  When things aren’t going all that great, it’s easy forget that these connections exist so sometimes we need a kick in the butt to get us paying attention again…

January/February is not my favourite time of the year.  In addition to the polar vortices (anyone else getting completely sick of the overuse of that particular hysterical buzz term, or is it just me?) of biblical proportions (it’s freakin’ cold out there again today) and a distinct lack of sunlight, I find that my brain tends to slow into hibernation mode- and likewise isn’t up for much in the way of social interaction or, to be frank, productivity.

Winter blahs to the nth degree.

So, given the usual late-January ick factor, yesterday was an unusual day.  I was productive at work- despite the fact that I needed those fingerless gloves (think Bob Cratchit at work in any theatrical/filmed version of A Christmas Carol) to effectively type the regular daily correspondence (wearing them today, too.  Polar vortex, you suuuuuuck) and feeling like was I getting somewhere with a few things on the new job-search front, so the fact that I have been feeling a little less-than-myself, and not particularly inclined to write stuff lately, was less wearing and seasonal-affective-disorder-triggering than it has been.

Before I left work I got an email from a dear friend regarding an in-the-works CBC radio story on a topic close to my heart.  The one I wrote about here.  This friend gave the producer my name to possibly have a chat about my experience with and perspective on the whole thing.  Interesting, indeed.

I headed home on the TTC, grabbing the first bus that showed up so as to not have to stand in the cold for long.  Mistake there.  That first bus took me not to a nice, warm subway station where I could get on a nice, warm subway, but to a streetcar line.  Which would be fine.  In reasonable weather.  But it seems as though the streetcar lines don’t play nicely with polar vortices, so the connecting streetcar (which was there right when I got off the bus- THAT never happens) was going nowhere.  Which also meant that all the streetcars that showed up after it were also going nowhere (given that they all use the same tracks).  There were lots and lots and lots of people exiting streetcars with nowhere really to go.  Instead of waiting around for shuttle buses to start arriving, I started walking.

Toronto is a great town for walking.  Normally.  The downtown wind tunnels when the wind chill is making it feel like -30+ degrees Celsius?  Nope.  Not fun.  Not great at ALL.

But, once I was committed, I walked.  The rest of the way home.  After a few blocks I could have hopped a subway but I have this stupid stubborn streak that, MetroPass notwithstanding, makes me feel lazy or something if I take public transportation for a minimal distance.  One subway stop?  Silly.  In January with brutal wind chill?  That might have been the more prudent option, actually.

Point of all this?  I was walking past things I wouldn’t normally be walking past- if I’d taken a more sensible route from here to there/there to here.  I stopped in for a coffee partway- it warmed my hands, even if it burned my tongue- that helped make the last few long city blocks survivable.  Liquid warmth clutched in mittened hands, I cut through the courtyards between buildings and found myself beside the venerable CBC MotherShip itself. 

Just as this song came on the Shuffle Daemon:

Followed by:

and then:

Once home and (somewhat) thawed out, I got to thinking about the opportunity to share my two cents (which is what I do hereabouts, after all), having my voice heard by some who might not otherwise hear it, and the potential positive outcomes that such an opportunity might bring.  I’m certainly not counting chickens- opportunities aren’t always realized, after all- but there seem to be some things moving in my little section of the universe.  And even the barest hint of a whisper can sometimes, if properly nurtured, lead to the necessary volume required to affect change.

I also realized that it was six years ago this week that I defended the thesis that earned me the title of PhD.  Achieving that designation has taken me down a number of paths- and none of them are the one on which I thought I’d be traveling.  This, I realized, is okay.  Knowledge and experiences are never wasteful- and should never be wasted.

Even with the lassitude that winter always seems to instill in me, I’ve started 2014 with the intent to bring about change.  For myself in my own life, and in matters that will contribute to changes in my wider community and world.  I’m still working out strategies.

But….

I’m on my way to City Hall tonight to attend a ‘how to become a candidate’ meeting in the Council Chamber (yes, that famous site of so much of the recent press attention our ‘mayor’ has brought upon us.  I can’t even think about the latest escapade.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be ready to talk about it.  Although I’m sure it will be well-covered by Jon Stewart, so not sure I should bother).  Not because I’m thinking of running- at this time, anyway- but because I’m genuinely interested in learning about how the process works and the steps required to declare and then pursue candidacy for municipal office.

Basically, I’m doing things and looking forward.  Which, when it’s cold and dark and the News keeps getting on my nerves (there was that speech the PM gave in Israel too.  Was going to write about that… We’ll see.), is nothing to sneeze at (there is more than enough sneezing going around here, surrounded, as I am, by people who SHOULD be at home, in bed, with the flu).

Well, my soul checked out missing as I sat listening

To the hours and minutes tickin’ away

Yeah, just sittin’ around waitin’ for my life to begin

While it was all just slippin’ away

Well I’m tired of waitin’ for tomorrow to come

Or that train to come roarin’ ’round the bend…

There WILL be better days.  I’m doing what I can to expand the reach of my small voice.

Have to keep that in mind.

Voices Carry

Looking to my friend the Lorax for some perspective and wisdom right about now.

I don’t get angry- as in raging, yelling, screaming, po’d– all that often.  This is not to say that I don’t have my moments (ask my sibs.  Or let Fletch tell you the story about the night I threw the beer bottle at his head… it was empty.  And I meant to miss him.  And he agrees he deserved it- not so much for the practical joke that led to the toss, but for the goading that continued despite the fact that there was clearly steam of a forbidding sort exiting my ears as he just kept talking…).  But generally speaking I tend to be fairly even-tempered- often to a fault.

I can summon outrage at the inequities and stupidities and ethical lapses of the world at large, or defensive anger if you mess with any of my family or friends, but I find it far more difficult to get truly angry on my own behalf.

Not sure why this is.  Perhaps there’s something of a tendency to let things roll of my back a little too much.  To pick my battles- and to believe that I have attained at least enough wisdom and maturity to know that many of the battles that I could wage in my own defense are things that will likely pass- given enough time.

I’m not saying this hasn’t caused some problems in the past.  People who don’t know me well have made the assumption that I’m a push-over of some kind, when their baiting doesn’t achieve a desired result.  I’m nothing of the kind.

I tend to redirect the anger into positive things- activism, writing, incorporated and integrated lessons that have helped me develop and grow…

Today I’m just MAD.

This has started.  I wrote a bit about the idiocy in la belle province – the flipside of another kind of idiocy that I also I wrote about- when it first came to light.

It seems like reactionary opinions are popping up everywhere lately.  This morning a blogger I admire a great deal- her posts, whether fiction, poetry or editorial/non-fiction, are always extremely well-written, thoroughly researched and clearly examined- wrote a great piece about the worldwide epidemic of rape, in response to the latest report of a tourist who was viciously attacked while in India.

I commented that I especially appreciate the fact that she pointed out that rape- and a culture that sweeps it under the rug- is not something that is restricted to places outside of the Western world.  Although the media seems to repeatedly highlight cases like this most recent one in India, it’s all too easy to point fingers and put the spotlight back on those who are described as ‘other’.  That is, not North American/Western European.

And we have such a great record here of justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence in this neck o’ the woods.  Right.

I heard about the Danish tourist while watching the morning news as I prepared for work, but read the story online as well- since television news sound bites are generally not all that illuminating these days.  The posted story (on Yahoo Canada) was no more informative (and was so poorly edited that I shudder in remembered discomfort), but the most repugnant thing- aside from the crime itself, of course- were the comments.

There are endless and ongoing discussions about the comment sections and the trolls that haunt them.  I’ve seen a few that specifically talk about targeted misogyny and the threatening, stalker-like behaviours that some people seem to think is somehow acceptable.

There is a whole cadre of people who believe that the perceived anonymity of the internet (with its screen names and ‘creative’ avatars) makes racist, gender biased, homophobic, self-interested and/or completely uneducated commentary permissible- if not outright expected.  There seem to be a whole lot of people out there who have nothing better to do with their time and feel entitled to speak about things- usually without anything resembling background or insight- in short bursts of unsupported and irrational anger and/or hatred.

I wrote yesterday about the ways in which our current government is silencing not only those in the general population (or those with some measure of celebrity) but the scientists and scholars whose warnings regarding environmental and social outcomes, if current paths continue, are becoming increasingly dire.

I feel like I’m trapped in Bizarro World.  Any internet troll/ignorant racist can find a forum that will either garner followers of similar ilk or, rarely and in extreme cases, raise red flags of warning that will result in banishment from a community page, but those who have a sincere interest in speaking about injustice or mismanagement or just plain loss of common sense and decency, are gagged by the pundits and PR people who are paid to act in defence of our putative ‘leaders’.

Another blogger buddy of mine posted a true-to-form and lovely poem about optimism and winds of change yesterday.  I’m hoping that she is right.  Even that bit of brightness and optimism raised the ire of someone who took umbrage with a perceived lack of inclusion in the poetic language she used to express her hope so thoughtfully.  Jebus, people.  (check out scottishmomus’ response, as well- it’s classic!)

Why are the voices of those who shout about the extremes- polarizing the ‘sides’ that should be coming together in discourse for the benefit of all- the ones that are given the most air?

Way back in 1985, Aimee Mann wrote some lyrics about an incredibly dysfunctional and violent relationship with a narcissist.  The video illustrates this beautifully.

Before I started writing this post, the chorus kept on running through my head, and with every repetition I saw Aimee stand up from her seat at Carnegie Hall as she sang the line ‘he said shut up, oh god can’t you keep it down? Voices carry’.  Until I went looking for it to link to this post, I hadn’t seen the clip in years (okay, maybe decades) yet that image has stayed with me in a powerful way.  She decisively ceased to be in any way trapped by the bullying demands of that jerk’s ideals of conservative conformity.

I ‘ve called Harper a bully before.  He, and politicians like him (no names mentioned, Mayor McCheese) aren’t inclined to give their naysayers much latitude when it comes to debating their particular perspective on things that affect us all.  Whether they prorogue Parliament or shut down Council meetings through acts of ignorant obstinance and violations of procedure in order to avoid addressing those things they choose not to discuss, as the Lorax notes, if INFORMED, caring people don’t get off their asses and stand up to them, then those things that desperately need to get better WILL NOT.

You, my peeps here at the WordPress, are certainly those to whom the Lorax is referring.  From that perspective, I realize that I’m- once again- preaching to the choir (other than those trolls I mentioned earlier- not sure that I’d include them in this august congregation).  But all of you out there have readers and friends and family members across a much wider world than in my little piece of it here at colemining.

I’m trying to ignore those infuriating noise-makers who have nothing to contribute beyond vitriol, out-dated/ill-informed rhetoric or towing of party lines that are working to the detriment of all of us.  Focusing on the trolls (internet or otherwise) is doing nothing more than raising my blood pressure to dangerous levels. So I’m instead going to focus, today anyway, on rallying the cries of those who ‘care a whole awful lot’ and take the time to invest the thought and time in their actions and reactions to the world around them to contribute to a dialectic that will lead to positive change.

Dialectic is not synonymous with debate.  The latter involves a measure of persuasion- and, often, an emotional investment in the perspective- that is required in order to ‘win’.  Dialectical methods search for truth through reasoned argumentation.  They involve discourse between two or more people with differing points of view but who wish to use logic and rationality to work toward the common goal of gleaning the best possible truth of a matter.

It’s not about who  yells loudest or most persuasively.  Unlike debates, dialectics do not require an external judge to determine a ‘winner’.  Consensus is reached through discussion rather than hammering the other side with talking points and statistics.

Politicians use debate and rhetoric to inflame the emotions of those who bother to listen to them.  They appeal to the often-base desires of voters in order to motivate that electorate to continue to support them- since they suggest that in so doing ‘the people’ support themselves (and not necessarily the despised ‘others’).

Since, especially lately and hereabouts, many of our politicians seem completely disinclined to participate in any sort of reasoned discussion with those who hold opposing views, those of us who wish to approach this world of ours with reason and fairness have to wonder what it is they are trying to hide as they avoid discussions and favour more insidious forms of rhetoric.

‘I’m in the dark, I’d like to read his mind
But I’m frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he’s thinking of…
 
I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I’ll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
And something to fear
And I try so hard to keep it inside
So no one can hear’

Enough sitting quietly as a cowed reaction to the bullies that are stepping all over us and our futures.  Time to start a rumbling of discourse.

Voices carry.

PS- If you made it this far (thank you!), please know that I realize that this one was long and ranty- even for me (which is certainly saying something).  I noticed a lot of my fellow bloggers posted ‘year in review’ type posts as 2013 ended/2014 began.  Since I did not do so, I’ll justify this one as my look back at some of the things that have got me thinking and talking and writing and encouraging discourse- internally and out there in the world(s).  As long as something new doesn’t come along to rile me up all over again, next post will be back to something a little lighter and more positive.  Promise.