Monthly Archives: November 2015

Common enemies beg common allies

The pace of change and confrontation in politics is ramping up exponentially since I began this blog.

Women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, climate change and missing and murdered aboriginal women fueled a lot of my writing, with the occasional lighter social comment mixed in. I actually had a blog that was a bit lighter written and scheduled, but after what happened in Paris I pulled it back.

We can now add terrorism and the issue of refugees to the list of required radical cultural shifts polarizing our societies and communities. I know that’s probably been a front burner issue for Europeans for some time, but it has been back burner here in Canada. I was aware, but it hadn’t yet disrupted my life so I kept on with my own causes.

I am so very glad that I am on firm political footing where I live. Alberta did well in our last election and our government is full steam ahead addressing many of the issues I mentioned in my second paragraph. Canada also turned away from the dark side in our last federal election, and so far the brand new government seems to be heading in the right, and righteous, direction on most of those issues as well. It looks like Canada is doing the right thing.

new appWhich is why maybe I am so heartily dismayed at some of the reaction I see on social media after Paris. I have seen extended family posting bigoted memes. Sadly I’ve have also heard that my husband and two of my son’s have this sort of hateful, ignorant rhetoric in their circles. I don’t and neither does the oldest boy, but I suppose that only attests to how narrowly we have selected for our social groups. I could continue to live in my comfy bubble of people that are rational and compassionate, but then who will work to oppose the hatred?

I can only think of one way to stem the tide of racism and hateful rhetoric. It is to look around you and really think. We are surrounded by reasons not to be so hate-filled. Just read the story below…

My husband stopped for a badly needed trim at a barber shop in Stony Plain (pretty sure it was there).

As my husband sat in the chair, the barber talked of nothing but Paris and how ISIS isn’t really Muslim and how he disagrees with them and how wrong violence is. The barber was Muslim.

Think about it.

Imagine being that barber right now. His ability to continue living in peace and harmony with his neighbours is being eroded by terrorists. Is he afraid his wife or children will be attacked – verbally or physically? Is he afraid he will be attacked? Is he afraid his business will suffer and he will lose his ability to support his family? Is he afraid that nothing he has done to this point matters, and all that counts now is what people who claim to be like him have done?

Does he lay awake at night wondering how he can protect himself from an enemy who claims to be his ally against an ally who claims he is the enemy?

Think of that. Then realise what you and this barber have in common is that both of you are victims of the extremist terrorists who are using Islam as a false shield for their evil.

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Global game theory

It’s been an overwhelming few days. When I think I’ve finally got the pieces sorted out, I read the news and again find nothing makes sense. This has been hard to write. It has been hard to focus on one story line in light of the many irrational directions in which the game is playing out around me. Be sure, it is a game, and the way we play is being manipulated.

I don’t stand with Paris. I don’t stand with Beirut. I don’t stand with Bagdad. Asking me to state where I stand is a cruel game that I’ve no hope of winning. It’s a game that keeps us trapped in a cycle of destruction and keeps us prisioner to violent outcomes. How do I know? It’s the prisioner’s dilemma.

In 1950 Melvin Dresher and Merrill Flood conducted the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma experiment, a two person illustration of a game in which two seemingly rational people are unable/unwilling to cooperate for their own best interest – elaborated by A W Tucker. It is too complex to get into here, but an adequate summary is that player assumptions result in otherwise rational people not cooperating and losing the game for them both.

This game of choosing one side, taking a stand, leaves us prisoners to assumptions about the other player’s next move. Instead of acting we are always reacting, and never take advantage of the fullscope of possibilities.  We assume the other player will bargain in bad faith, so we bargain in bad faith. The other player assumes we will bargain in bad faith, so they bargain in bad faith. The first round of bad faith is not attributable to either player, it is attribuable to the universally adopted assumption of that our only option is to act to counter a move the other player has not yet made. Violence becomes the only game strategy we acknowledge. We don’t even consider acting for a result five moves from now, we are always trapped in our first move.

We will never win the game with violence. Think about it. We react to violence with violence because we assume the other player will react with violence. They react to our violence based on the assumption that we will act violently. It feeds on itself.

One of us has to change our actions before the assumptions we hold will be proven wrong.

We have to end the cycle unilaterally, and hold fast. We have to end the cycle unilaterally, and do what is right regardless of how we assume the other player will act. Then slowly, over time, the assumption will be that we are playing in good faith. Why do we want the other players to assume we will act towards them in good faith? Because terrorists recruit based on this cycle of violence. They recruit based on a safe assumption that since we will play in bad faith they can play in bad faith and call it justice. Which is exactly what we are doing. They count on that. They force our hand, and use it as a weapon against us.

We must play in good faith toward a strategic end game – peace.

We must not use one victim as an excuse to create victims on the other side. We must not stand with one victim against another victim. The only side that is in the right is the side that refuses to create more victims.

It is vital that Muslims align themselves as with peace, or violence will continue to hijack their religion. It is vital that the west align itself with peace, or violence will continue to hijack our international relationships.  All victims of violence must be stop being used as pawns to misguided ideologies.

And make no mistake, dangerous ideas exists within every ideology, dangerous people exist within every community. There is no validity to the claim that Islam is inherently violent. Our society’s ideology contains as much violence, and it is currently being twisted as much for violent ends. Playing in bad faith based on the claim that the other ideology leaves us no choice is simply fallacious. Our cultures have as much in common, and as many options avaiable to us that are constructive as there are destructive.

Most importantly, our common ground is that all of us suffer and none of us benefit from the violence that is hapening right now.

The only way to break out of this prisioner’s dilemma and reach the best outcome is to keep our  promises and commitments, and to (peacefully) hold other nations accountable for their commitments. If we do not condone violence we can not wage violence overtly, or passively, or by proxy. We need to non-violently remove all support for terroists. That means removing they support gain by using our actions as an excuse. That means removing the financial support they gain when we do business with those who do business with them. That means working to remove all camoflauge in our communities that shields their recruitment and misinformation from sight. We need to interupt their narrative.

This is all one game. We bargain in bad faith against ourselves. Revenge is never the answer, because it never leads to a cessation of the cycle of violence, which is the only answer. History, literature, and mythology are all full of tales that show us this.

No Muslim, no Christian, no athiest, no Jew, is responsible for the bad faith of yesterday, but we are all responsible for what we do today. Refusing help to refugees makes them twice victims, once victim of the terrorists, and second victim to us stupidly playing into the terrorist’s hands. We need to realise they suffer with us, and can be either brought in as allies or lost to the violence, potentially being recruited out of despair to act against us.

I understand the motivation to lower our flags, to light up the night sky with the French colours. But standing with France obscures the reality that there are victims everywhere we look, and we should stand with all of them. If we stand with all victims, the people who commit violence will be fractured and disenfranchised. If we all choose to bargain in good faith, bad faith will cease to be our primary motivation for continued violence.

This is what Gandhi and Martin Luther King got right.  We can never, never win by retaliation, we only become prisioners to our assumptions and a poorly played game. We don’t gain support that way. They understood the long game.

We won’t ever eliminate ISIS by bombing them, that will simply feed on that hatred and use it against us. But in ten years we could have starve ISIS by good diplomacy, and by cutting off the money and the narratives that sustains them.

We need to change the game.

Canadian crisis averted

I wrote a blog a few months ago about Trump running for leadership of the GOP. Near the end of my rant I wrote my take on what differentiates Canadians from Americans:

“On a local note, I personally think this is where Alberta and Canada was/is heading but for our inherent tendency to be skeptical of the kind of tomfoolery and corruption that gives fodder to extreme thinking or behavior. We are a nation of moderates that can be roused from our political apathy when our moderation is threatened.”

To be honest with you, for a little while during #elxn42 I was worried that I had suffered from a delusional assessment of Canadian personality for my whole life. I feared I would be proven wrong about my fellow Canadians, and end up being betrayed by the only culture I have ever known.

My fear was unfounded. Enough of us are of sound mind to have seen the path the Harper Conservatives were leading us down was a scary road with no reason, no compassion and no future. Now, I personally supported the NDP because they suited me, but the Liberal and NDP parties ran platforms that were insignificantly different. In fact, all the other parties clustered together on the political spectrum, only the Harper Cons were outside the Canadian comfort zone. I take that as fair reinforcement of my opinion that Canada under Harper was heading away from the true Canadian character.

I am pleased that Justin Trudeau is our new Prime Minister.

I see hope already in Trudeau’s decisions in his first few days in office:

  1. He did a bang up job naming a cabinet, with gender parity and cabinet ministers who are actually qualified to oversee the departments they will lead, and some changing ministry names to demonstrate a better understanding of reality.
  2. He restored the long-form census for 2016.
  3. He unmuzzled scientists and made it clear that he respected the public service.
  4. He brought compassion and decency back to the way we treat our fellow huamn beings in need.
  5. He made a commitment to return Canada’s foreign policy to that of internationally respected peace broker.

Each of these changes sends a message, and each of them brings reassurance and hope to progressive Canadians.

canadianparliamentParliament sits on December 3rd. I am eager to see what Trudeau’s new government will use this sitting to accomplish. There are tax changes to be discussed, but the one item I am most eager to see brought forward is electoral reform. I encourage Trudeau to, as soon as possible, begin to look the kind of electoral reform that will prevent future right wing outliers like the Harper Cons from stealing power and wielding it in a way that the majority of Canadians are uncomfortable with.

The sooner that goes before parliament, the sooner all Canadians can feel that the Harper era is truly behind them.

Meritocracy and hegemony

Canada's new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (bottom row C) poses with his cabinet after their swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie - RTX1URF7
Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (bottom row C) poses with his cabinet after their swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie – RTX1URF7

HUZZAH! We have achieved gender parity in both our provincial cabinet in Alberta, and our federal cabinet in Canada, and in both cases it was done by purposeful design. This is worth celebrating.

I’ve had this conversation with my boys, and they don’t all completely get it. The 20 year old seems to understand in principle, but he has had the benefit of two girlfriends – one of which was a brilliant, feisty feminist. The 18 year old just shrugs it all off. The 16 year old seems to resent the mention that anything needs to be done when it come to gender  parity. I probably don’t articulate my arguments well as I am rarely really clear when I speak. Speaking is not my thing, writing is.

So, here goes and attempt to articulate my thoughts on why we need gender quotas in all fields to make the world a better place.

Creating hiring policies that enforce equality isn’t about refusing to hire men, it is about the centuries of human history in which we refused to hire women. We refused to allow women the opportunity to build up the street cred that gets them a front row seat in business, in the arts, in STEM subjects, in religion, in politics … in pretty well everything but gestating and lactating.

Highlighting and outlining hiring policies to create parity between old, straight, white men and all the other groups traditionally not given access to power is important. Specifically for my gender, it’s about giving women a chance; about looking at them with a fair admission of this historical handicap, and recognition of their untapped potential.

We’ve tapped, and tapped, and tapped the potential of men. Of white men. Of straight, white men. Of straight, european and neo-european, white men. Done, done, and done.

I think there is consensus that the status quo is not living up to our requirements. We have climate problems, pollution problems, financial crises, ideologically fueled wars and global populations that no longer can afford take the borders we drew on the map seriously. We need to change.

I know you know the falsely attributed Einstein quote, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” Isn’t that we are doing when we don’t purposely begin to bring new minds into our politics?

It is time to look over the shoulder of that straight, white man in the front row, directly at a woman, an aboriginal, and LGBT person or other power minority. It’s time to take what they have to offer seriously enough to call them up to the front row – not because they’ve been there before and we know they are up to the job, but because they haven’t been there before and the job we’re faced with today begs for an infusion of hands and minds who don’t default to the staus quo.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. Saturday. Left to right are: James Richardson, minister without portfolio, D.C. Jamieson, (partly hidden), minister without portfolio, Trudeau, Justice Minister John Turner, Jean Marchand, Forestry Minister, and Gerard Pelletier, State Secretary. Ten years after his death, and more than four decades after it was taken, the photo of Pierre Trudeau striding up the drive at Rideau Hall - flanked by his dark-suited cabinet-to-be - still packs a blast of movie-star, hipster cool. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ball
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. Saturday. Left to right are: James Richardson, minister without portfolio, D.C. Jamieson, (partly hidden), minister without portfolio, Trudeau, Justice Minister John Turner, Jean Marchand, Forestry Minister, and Gerard Pelletier, State Secretary. Ten years after his death, and more than four decades after it was taken, the photo of Pierre Trudeau striding up the drive at Rideau Hall – flanked by his dark-suited cabinet-to-be – still packs a blast of movie-star, hipster cool. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ball

White men holding onto the balance of power is not a meritocracy, it’s hegemony. The problem with this idea of meritocracy in our status quo is inherent to how we have traditionally qualified merit. When all we know is the way that old, straight, white men operate, we can’t even begin to measure the merits of any other way of thinking. How can we say we hire on merit when we don’t consider every possiblity? Isn’t that leaving variables out of the merit equation? That’s like saying the fastest animal in the world is a horse, because we’ve never bothered to clock the speed of a cheetah. Or saying the largest mammal is an elephant because we think whales are not like us, so while we know they’re technically mammals we don’t really consider them in the same category.

New could be better. New could be vastly better for all of us. It may be what takes us in new and improved directions, but we’ll never know that because until we change the ranking system.

If change pisses off some old, straight white guys, then so be it. They aren’t losing their relevence, they’re just losing their preferential status. If they cannot contribute in a world where they have to consider points of view other than their own and look across the table at faces they never had to sit face-to-face with before, then they are within their rights to move to the back row in protest.

May their self demotion and our adept promotions give us all a better world.