What’s it worth to you?

I am reallyreally angry that I’m having to write this. Really.

As of this afternoon I am officially on ‘staycation’- some time off work that was booked ages ago, before the Canadian dollar started its slide downdowndown and made us re-think a US holiday, at this time. Even though I’ll be taking some work home with me, it’s the first more-than-an-extra-long weekend I’ve had off since last years’ trip to the UK (which included my meet-up with the incomparable Anne-Marie, who lovingly and poetically remembered our pub night last week).

I’m okay with the ‘stay’ part. Especially since at 3:37 this afternoon my home team began its ‘Hunt for Blue October’ (whatever ad company came up with that little gem deserves a round of applause) and 3rd run at becoming World Series Champs. Some might think I’m jumping the gun, since they still have to win the AL, but if the atmosphere in this town has any effect on the Boys in Blue then they’re going all the way. All. The. Way.

It’s electric around here. You can feel it in the streets. And, apparently all across the country, as even those who purport to hate Toronto (obviously people who have never spent any time here. Obviously.) rally behind our one Canadian Major League ball team.

It was a rough and scary Game 1- Josh Donaldson (soon to be known as ‘MVP Josh Donaldson’) got knocked in the noggin on his way into second, and Joey B- after a lovely home run- left the game with a strained hamstring- but we will rally and come back in full force tomorrow (Josh WILL be medically cleared and good to go- keeping the faith).

Baseball angst notwithstanding, here I was, looking forward to a bit of a break from dealing with the day-to-day, serious stuff, while watching my Jays and getting some things done ’round the house and ’round the town. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, so there will be time with family, and one of my favourite musical dudes is paying us a visit on Sunday night at Lee’s (unfortunately conflicting with a Jays game, but I’ll miss that one to hang with Jesse – interesting that I first wrote about him in the context of some concerns I had with the federal bureaucracy), some spa time, a little wandering around and enjoying the change of the season (and storing up memories of relative warmth before the horrors of winter set in. I don’t like the cold, have I mentioned that before?).

I talked a bit about our federal election last week – and emphasized the importance of everyone getting out there to cast a vote. Preferably a vote against our incumbent government and its leader. I thought I was done with yelling about the dangers of maintaining this particular status quo.

Yeah no. Evidently not.

In the realm of dirty politics- a place that is a second home to our current PM- he is hitting new and ever-more egregious lows. I’m not being rhetorical or alarmist when I use that word- or any of its synonyms. Words like shocking, appalling, abhorrent, terrible… All of the above are applicable.

His always-borderline misogyny, racism and xenophobia has crossed the border. He is vocally demonstrating that he lives in the heartland of overt racism and elitism, now. He can’t even see the border any more. And I say that as someone who is pretty ‘old stock’ (4th generation Torontonian, on Dad‘s side).

I’m not even talking about C-51, or his unwillingness to investigate the disappearances and deaths of scores of indigenous women in this country (and I certainly won’t mention the former Tory MP who said that they had it coming), or his inexplicable hesitancy reevaluate his policies about refugees – even in light of the humanitarian crisis that is happening in Europe (that is a whole other rant in itself- one that sits, temporarily languishing, in the drafts folder until I can achieve some level of relative coherence about it all).

With indicators that his ‘popularity’ is sliding (hard to measure the true popular vote in our outrageously out-dated ‘first past the post’ electoral process- THAT’S something that needs to be overhauled by our next government… but I digress), Harper is looking to reiterate and maximize his politics of division- especially in parts of Quebec, which, as we have seen, has its own issues with xenophobic and racist policies.

He is focusing his attentions on an issue that affects such a small proportion of the population that I’m amazed (and, frankly, dismayed) that it is being given any airtime at all. Yet, for some reason, his ongoing emphasis on wearing the niqab is dominating discussions and has escalated to the extent that he has declared that, if he is re-elected (avert!), choosing to do so would not be permissible for federal employees. Even though it has never been raised as an issue in the public service. Ever.

Didn’t work so well in Quebec, but hey, I’m the last person to suggest that he not shoot himself in the foot by alienating more members of the public. His proposed ‘rat on your neighbours‘ policy? THAT should go over well…

As Justin Trudeau said in the preamble to the Current, women are being attacked in this country for wearing the hijab and niqab. ‘This is not Canada,’ he said. You know I’ve had my issues with Mr. Trudeau, at times, but that point is indisputable.

Especially since women don’t have to be wearing an outward manifestation of their faith in order to come under attack, apparently. This reality became personal to me this week, as my dear friend, Farah, was subjected to an Islamophobic verbal attack in our city’s main downtown mall. In, irony of ironies, that most-quintessential of Canadian stores, Roots.

In addition to being a brilliant and caring friend, Farah is an inspirational social activist with an impressive history of using her powerful voice in support and effective aid of those who are, often, voiceless. She also has a pretty big Twitter following. That social media presence- active since her quest to have the Iranian government release her friends from illegal captivity – and her fearlessness, shine a light on the disturbing effects of Harper’s policies and rhetoric- including the ‘uptick in anti-Islam sentiment since the niqab became an election buzzword.’

Ya’ll know I love Stevie Stills. I write about him a fair bit. Back when he was with a band called Buffalo Springfield he penned a little ditty.

The title is taken from an idiomatic statement that is, generally, used to moderate an opinion that may differ from the opinion of its audience, and to emphasize humility while prompting the audience to provide their judgement of worth against the statement being made (my thanks to Wikiwords for helping to parse the phrase and its origins).

A whole lot of people- myself included, once upon a time- thought that the song was sourced in anti-war sentiments. It was certainly adopted by those who protested American involvement in Vietnam, and it became inextricably linked with the events at Kent State in 1970 (odd, since the song was written and recorded in 1966. I’d be the last to argue that Stephen isn’t prescient, but I don’t think he’s quite that good).

It was about civil disobedience in the face of prejudicial lobbying and ordinances against a portion of the population. Young people, who regularly gathered on the Sunset Strip (where Buffalo Springfield were the house band at the Whisky a Go Go) protested the actions of local residents and business groups who successfully worked to have curfew laws imposed, in what began as a series of peaceful rallies. As is too often the case, the unrest became violent as clashes between the protesters and police escalated.

It’s an assessment of a lack of social justice.

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

Perhaps Stephen (Stills, not that other guy) is more prescient than I credited, earlier. His song transcends time and is as applicable now (sadly) as it was in 1966. Harper’s Conservatives are drawing battle lines, inciting paranoia and repeatedly telling us we need to beware. Of our fellow citizens.

None of that has a place in MY Canada.

So. In the midst of celebrating- Thanksgiving AND Blue Jay wins (I’ve got your backs, lads)- we need to take the time to stop, listen and look at what’s going down.

Rick Mercer came back from his summer holidays this week and, unsurprisingly, had a few things to say about this election campaign. The words of the immortal Sam Gamgee stand true, and, as Rick said, the main job we have, as Canadians, is to show up and vote for those good things we want to see enacted.

Which doesn’t include men coming to take us away if we step out of line. Especially since that line, as they draw it and cross it, is becoming increasingly un-Canadian, in the way in which I measure such things.

It certainly doesn’t include a PM whose leadership example encourages racist and xenophobic behaviours that destroy safe spaces for all Canadians. Instead, I will follow the example of one I’m privileged to call friend and use my voice to shout, without breaking for ‘vacation’ if necessary, in order to ensure that we preserve and enhance that which is good.

For what it’s worth.

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 

‘The falcon cannot hear the falconer’

So.

My blogging buddy, I call him CBC, made an insightful comment in response to my latest rants against the current actions- and lack of response to questions about those actions- of our elected government officials yesterday.

He hit the nail on the head. AND made me all glowy with the realization that there are people out there who still can- and will- quote Yeats.

I love Yeats. I’ve talked about that before (when speaking about a beloved band and in the context of my enduring love affair with a number of Irish poets.  No one writes like the Irish. No one).

I’ve always considered Easter 1916 my fave (although The Stolen Child comes close)- and, given what week it is, that little gem is an appropriate theme to recollect as people the world over wear the green.

Words. They can be so beautiful when they are strung together with finesse that their perfection physically hurts. I just re-read Easter for the first time in a long time. Ouch.

He has this other poem, though, that reallyreally speaks to a place to which my brain has been turning more often than not, of late. Its very title sooooo speaks to my wheelhouse, my heart’s home, the focus of my days… Thanks for bringing it back to the forefront of my head, CBC (as I keep writing, trying to make sense of my whirring thoughts, I can’t stop remembering a paper I wrote about the poem, oh so very many years ago. Wish I knew where that was…).

The Second Coming was written, with all its wondrous apocalyptic imagery, as an allegory for post-WWI Europe. Such was the confusion and societal flux after the war that the anxieties seemed to be spinning out of control in a world in which the centre, the foundation, had been completely lost- or, perhaps, just forgotten.

Yeats spoke in terms of ‘the gyre’- which begins at a point and spirals ever-outward from its origin. The image represents an historical cycle- one of about 2000 years, beginning with the birth of the Xian era. He believed that all history is cyclical, and that his time, the beginning of the 20th century, marked the end of the Xian cycle. The new era- of industrialization and materialism and warfare (enacted on a global scale)- slouches from its cradle in response to the anarchy that has been loosed upon the world.

 

Chills. You see, the gyre has spun so far distant that it can’t remember its origins.

Part of this separation from our foundation?

‘The falcon cannot hear the falconer’.

I’m sort of thinking that the real problem- the one in the here and now, the one that I was railing against yesterday and the day before, heck, the one I’ve been railing against in most of the posts I’ve ever written on this here blog- the one that’s leading us inexorably to things falling apart completely? It’s more about the fact that the falcons are actively no longer listening to the falconers.

Indulge me as I extend a metaphor, for a second, won’t you?

Falconry, the hunting of wild game in its natural habitat using a trained bird of prey, has been around for a really long time. Like, since my friends in Mesopotamia were setting the stage for civilization and writing the foundational myths that would contribute to the development of that Big Book O’Stories that certain people, still, like to quote oh-so-very-much.

The falconers train and direct the falcons. They guide their development. There is a close relationship of respect between the trainer and the bird- and the bird is meant to hear and respond to the directives of its trainer as part of the give-and-take of this relationship.

Sort of like how things are meant to work in the relationship between political leaders and the citizens who elected them.

Canada is a representative democracy.

Representative democracies are founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people.

The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, whose members (MPs) are elected according to simple-plurality (‘first-past-the-post’) in each of the country’s ridings or electoral districts. Like all members of parliament, prime ministers are elected to represent their electoral constituents first and foremost. If they lose their support then, consequently, they are no longer entitled to be prime minister. Like all members of parliament, prime ministers (and leaders of the other parties, and cabinet ministers) are subject to the direction of their constituents- the people who elected them, as their representatives, to act according to the direction of the electorate. (synopsized from the Wikipedia)

That’d be us. Each and every citizen of this country that I love, who took the time to fulfill our civic responsibility to cast a vote for the best-possible representation in our houses of political power.

Our falcons aren’t listening to us. They have spun so far from the central foundation that its hold is becoming increasingly tenuous.

They aren’t listening to the letters they are sent, or the protests that are organized, or the challenges put to them by the media and the scientists and the academics and the lawyers…

Our falcons- especially the falcon-in-chief- are off hunting in Mespotamia (quite literally), regardless of whether or not the falconers agree with what they are doing. The falcons want to give themselves more power- to both fly further afield and for a longer period of time and to remove the jesses that allow the falconers to maintain their say in what the falcons might do.

I’m not usually all that attached to the minute-by-minute minutia that makes up most of social media. I play the game, now and again, since some of it can be pretty good for keeping contact with people and catching up on stuff that you might otherwise forget about (especially since I seem to be having more and more senior moments with each passing day), and videos of cats doing cute things are always welcome. But I’m not tied to my computer or a smart phone (the one I have is decidedly un-smart. Like Homer Simpson SMRT) to any great extent.

What with the non-response I received from one of our political parties yesterday, I’ve been following a few people on the social media a little more closely than is my usual wont. I feel like I need to keep an eye on just what’s happening as this whole thing- now both Bill C-51 AND the PM’s insane and unsubstantiated  proposition to parliament that the Canadian ‘mission’ in Iraq should be extended- and expanded to include Syria- plays out.

I’ve signed petitions, checked in with human rights and social justice groups, watched news feeds for the hashtags #C51 and #rejectfear. And you know what? I’ve seen some actual, honest-to-goodness progress…

Like this indication that public support for the Bill is decreasing, significantly, as citizens take the time to actually pay attention to the thing. Or this article, based on findings straight out of CSIS (you remember, that intelligence-gathering agency that the PM wants to provide with more power under the terms of the Bill) that states that ‘lone wolf’ attacks- like the admittedly-horrible recent events in Ottawa and Quebec- ‘more often come from white supremacists and extreme right-wing ideologies than from Islamic radicalism.’

Hmm. Interesting.

The CSIS documents ‘explicitly warn that the notion the Western world is at war with Islam plays into terrorist recruitment strategies. “International terrorist groups place a high priority on radicalizing Westerners who can be used to carry out terrorist attacks in their home countries,” the documents read. “The narrative that the West is at war with Islam continues to exert a very powerful influence in radicalizing individuals and spreads quickly through social media and online fora.”’

There was evidence enough of some level of positive progress out there in the interworld that I’m renewed in my determination to hold our leaders to account for their actions- and proposed legislation- while reminding them who, really, is boss.

I encourage you all to do the same.

Let them know that, while they might be birds of prey and play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our ecosystem, our political leaders remain answerable to the electorate that permits them to fly on their behalf.

Listen up, raptors. We determine where you get to fly- and when it might be time to cage you. Permanently. Keep that mind. It may well be that a lot of things may, in fact, ‘change, change utterly‘ in the coming months.

If we work together, the revelation at hand just might herald the birth of beauty, rather than a misshapen, rough beast born out of the fires of fear and the empty words of political expediency.

Hoping and hoping
As if by my weak faith
The spirit of this world
Would heal and rise
Vast are the shadows
That straddle and strafe
And struggle in the darkness
Troubling my eyes

Dear Mr. Trudeau

As a follow-up to my admittedly-extensive rant of yesterday, late last night I decided that the next course of action I’d undertake should include a letter to leader of the federal Liberal Party, asking him just what the freakin HELL he might be thinking, opting to support Bill C-51.

Full disclosure: I’m not a Liberal. I’m not a card-carrying NDP-er, either. (I’m definitely not a supporter of Harper’s Cons- but that should surprise no one. Seriously. Not if you’ve spent any time hanging about these parts…).

I’m Old School, when it comes to political affiliation. I vote for the candidate who will best represent his/her constituents in Ottawa/at Queen’s Park/City Hall. Regardless of Party Line. That’s getting harder to do, as, increasingly, Canadian politics (at all levels) are more about what the Party Brass decide to say/do, than responsible representation of the interests of anyone’s home riding. But, difficult or not, it’s still how I decide to mark my ballot in any given election.

It’s how I was taught. By some teachers of pretty significant import and impact.

Today marks one year since we lost Dad. Hard to believe it’s been 12 months. I miss him. All the time. But especially when something like the current political machinations of Harper’s Conservatives raises my ire to the degree it has done recently.

Dad was incredibly involved, you see. And he was a great letter-writer. We have, literally, VOLUMES of missives and responses that he sent and received over the years- mainly (although not exclusively) to politicians and religious leaders/thinkers.

We used to tease him about it- all his letters. Tell him, in jest, that he was likely on a lot of no-fly lists. I’m finding that last cheeky response less-and-less amusing, in light of that little anti-terrorism Bill and all its potentiality for abuse, but I digress.

He wasn’t afraid to make his feelings known.

I’m not sure he was all that concerned whether he received adequate responses- it was extremely important to him to express his concerns, and know that someone- even if it was only an administrative functionary- took the time to read what he had to say.

He was exercising his civic right to demand accountability from our elected leaders- but he also saw the letters as an expression of the requirements for responsible citizenship that go along with the Rights and Freedoms that are mandated under the terms of our Constitution.

In getting through this day, remembering Dad and the lessons he taught and the example he set, that sense of responsibility started weighing a wee bit heavily on my shoulders.

See, I’ve been somewhat complacent, lately. Discouraged and disengaged. For reasons that would never stand up in the Court of Dad, were he around to listen to me whine about the state of the world and the futility of trying to do anything about any of it.

That wouldn’t fly with him. Boy, do I know that for truth.

But… since he’s been gone I’ve lost a big part of my impetus- my push toward the knowledge that I am responsible for seeking social justice and working to right wrongs when I find them. His frequent reminders that we HAVE to be agents of change drove me, often unconsciously, to speak up and speak out. He made it pretty clear that resting on laurels and expecting others to solve the issues of the world ain’t gonna cut it.

So I wrote a letter (okay, an email):

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

Over the course of researching the rhetoric behind the Harper’s Conservative’s proposed institution of the ‘anti-terrorism’ Bill C-51, it has come to my attention that you intend to support the Bill as it is currently written.
 
To say that I find this dismaying is to understate my reaction significantly. I have been unable to find a legitimate justification for this support, outside of one that speaks only to political expediency, rather than the upholding of Canadian freedoms and liberties, so I am writing to you, directly, with the hope that you will be able to provide me with some understanding of your position.
 
Your website features a speech you gave about ‘Canadian Liberty and the Politics of Fear,’  in which, you accuse Harper’s Conservatives of “blurring the lines between ‘genuine’ threats that terrorism poses to national security and simple prejudice.” You accuse the Prime Minister, quite rightly, in my opinion, of playing upon fear and fostering prejudice.
 
I don’t think there can be any counter to the argument that Mr. Harper continues to use the rhetoric of imminent threat to build further anxiety and divisiveness as a means of maintaining ever-decreasing control of a changed political environment. His political practices are deplorable. His policies are unsupportable by actual evidence, given, as he has continually demonstrated, his lack of interest in the input of scientists, sociologists and other scholars who employ experiential, observational and empirical methodologies to discover the truths and cause/effect that underlie issues and require progressive action.
 
Please don’t misunderstand. I agree with all you had to say in your speech. Every point you made represents my own vision of this country I love. 
 
The Toronto Star quotes you as saying, “fear is a dangerous thing. Once it is sanctioned by the state there is no telling where it might lead. It is always a short path to walk from being suspicious of our fellow citizens to taking actions to restrict their liberty.’’
 
I could not possibly agree more wholeheartedly.
 
I am a little confused as to why, in a speech about liberty and freedoms- as supported by that most important of our ideological bills of rights, The Charter of Rights and Freedoms- you would avoid talking about the myriad ways in which a fear-based Bill, that you are politically set on supporting, will impact and significantly diminish those very things.
 
I’m sure you will understand my complete and utter confusion at the fact that you have stated that you will support Bill C-51. Despite the reality that it contradicts everything you said in your speech, and everything that I have come to understand, in years of watching you develop into a worthy leader and usually-astute statesman, that you claim to stand for.
 
Hoping to be able to ‘amend’ something that should never see the light of day after it is passed is counter to anything remotely like a reasonable response to a seriously wrong-footed and anti-Canadian piece of proposed legislation.
 
The potential for short-term political advantage (not that I’m convinced that support of this Bill would provide anything of the sort) does not negate the ethical issues involved in temporizing to any extent around the issue of the revocation of civil liberties.
 
Particularly when the Conservatives’ latest form of fear-mongering isn’t sourced in any real knowledge of the mandates, motivations and medieval mindset of groups like the Islamic State. Further thoughts on that specific aspect of the faultiness of the reasoning behind the Bill can be found here:
 

In your published remarks about Bill C-51 (February 4, 2015) you have also said: “What I am reminded of, each day, is that keeping Canadians safe – in a way that is consistent with Canadian values – is one of our highest responsibilities as leaders and elected officials. In order to do that, we must ensure both the security of Canadians and the protection of their rights and freedoms.”

As an engaged, invested and concerned Canadian citizen, I respectfully request a response that outlines how supporting the institution of Bill C-51 can, in any way, remain consistent with our values and the protection of our rights and freedoms.

I look forward to hearing from you. I seek only to understand.

Respectfully yours,

cole davidson, PhD, Religion and Culture

Toronto, ON

 

I received this (stock) response (although I have to give ’em props for the rapidity of the reply):

Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion on Bill C-51, the government’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

Bill C-51 includes significant measures that will help keep Canadians safe, and, for this reason, the Liberal Party of Canada will support this legislation. We welcome the measures that build on the existing powers of preventative arrest, make better use of no-fly lists, and allow for immediate and more coordinated information sharing by government departments and agencies. The individual freedoms we cherish as Canadians cannot exist without collective security.

However, we hear the concerns of you and other Canadians about Bill C-51 and will propose amendments on oversight, review, and narrowing the overly broad definition of national security.

Responsible government requires an understanding of balance. 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.

Canada is the only nation of its kind without national security oversight being carried out by parliamentarians and our amendments will address this issue. Specifically, the Liberal Party of Canada will bring forward amendments to (1) focus and clarify the overly broad scope of the new powers which has concerned so many Canadians; (2) create a national security oversight body of parliamentarians, as have every one of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes alliance (US, UK, NZ, and Australia); and (3) require a mandatory review of Bill C-51, in its entirety, after three years.

If the Conservative government is serious in its approach, it must set aside partisanship in order to keep Canadians safe while protecting our rights and values. The government can either act with the understanding that Canadians want both greater oversight and greater accountability—or they will give us the opportunity to offer that in our election platform.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your opinion. It is through dialogue with Canadians like you that we can continue to ensure that the policies we support and create are representative of the values and needs of Canadians.

Kind regards,

Jon
Liberal Party of Canada

 

Yeah, sorry Jon. That, like all those citizens who might end up on a list under Bill C-51, ain’t gonna fly. Especially since it quotes back at me bits that I quoted in the original blog post that caused me to look askance at the whole thing.

You’ve disappointed me, Liberal Party of Canada.

What would Dad do now?

That’ll require a little thought, and perhaps a dram raised in love, and in memory of his always-positive example. Hard as it might be to live up to.

 

But here’s a start…

 

If you haven’t done so already, please sign one of the many petitions to stop Bill C-51.

 

Like this one:

http://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/reject-fear-stop-stephen-harper-s-secret-police-bill

 

And/or this one:

https://stopc51.ca/

 

‘Now you’re standing there tongue tied
You’d better learn your lesson well
Hide what you have to hide
And tell what you have to tell
You’ll see your problems multiplied
If you continually decide
To faithfully pursue
The policy of truth
Never again
Is what you swore
The time before’

‘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.

The Straw

I had such good intentions…

I was going to come home and work on a post that has been percolating in my brain over the past couple of days (while hoping that my laptop cooperates and hangs in there long enough to permit the composition/posting process). And then I made the mistake of turning on the news.

The top story was all about how we need to be looking at the root causes of radicalization.

I’m not- generally- one for the whole ‘I told you so’ sort of thing. I’m making an exception here. I wrote this post quite some time ago, in response to something idiotic that our Prime Minister had to say.

It would seem that some of the chickens I spoke about are coming home to roost, a fact that is leading to the changing of a tune or two up there on Parliament Hill. Unfortunate that this little ditty is coming on the heels of an attack on two members of our CAF- and attack that left one of those members dead and the other seriously injured.

But then, our PM is nothing if not speedy with expedience. If there’s a political benefit to be found, of course.

colemining

My intention in creating this blog was mainly to start conversations about great stories, the myths that shape our realities and celebrate all it means to be human, with human failings, triumphs, loves, losses, questions and answers.  It is supposed to focus on the positivity of humanity- there is far too much evidence of the opposite in the media on any given day.  Despite such good intentions, I do have a tendency- partly nature, partly habit- to sit back and observe, offering occasional commentaries on the ways of the world and the politics of the day, without being stirred into action to affect change.

I am not a politician.  I have little respect for most of the people who call themselves ‘career politicians,’ but I have never really been motivated enough to speak publicly and directly against any one political party or person (dinner or cocktail party discussions are a different kettle of cod).  To do…

View original post 1,369 more words

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

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.

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.

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.”