Tag Archives: canada

2015 was a very good year…

So, 2015 was a heck of a year, huh?

On the provincial front, somehow our tired (no, that’s not a typo) and true conservative ruling class managed to squander the plunder of yet another boom cycle, and had no plan for the inevitable bust cycle. Our first female premier took the fall for her entire party’s entitlement and corruption, soprentice hot collar we were assigned a new leader from the federal conservative realm (which in hindsight may have been a federal election omen). Our new leader from the east then proceeded to blame Albertans for his party’s squanderousness and the fiscal frailty of the treasury that Albertans had hired them to manage. notley hands upAlbertans looked in the mirror and repeated bloody tories, bloody tories, bloody tories – three times – and the image of a petite blonde woman mathishardappeared, revealing our future. Once the votes were duly and properly added up it was clear that the reign of the conservative dynasty, was over and Alberta began the era of the philosopher queen.

notley laugh 3x

harper angryIn national politics, the end of the Alberta conservative dynasty so enraged our federal conservative overlords that they called an election out of spite and vanity, just so they could hit the road and tell all Canadians that Albertans we were idiots. But for some reason the politics of ‘my way or the highway’ failed, and the conservatives soon needed help: please fearmongerStephen Harper needed a courage, Chris Alexander needed a heart, Jason Kenney needed a brain and Rona Ambrose tagged along as the token female. The cons set down the road of no return to seek out the help of the Wizard of Oz. Turns out the wizard’s act was a hate and headscarves disappearing act, and all that mattered on election day Canadians was that as fast as you can say dial-a-racist our old leader was ousted. Although everyone thought he heir2canadawas too young and handsome to be a serious contender, a young prince strode in and pulled the poll from the conservative party‘s ass and the log from Jason Kenney’s eye to prove he alone was rightful heir to Canadian democracy.

trudeauswearingin CROP

Yes, 2015 was a banner year; a very Canadian year of very Canadian revolution and Canadians progress. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

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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.

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.

 

#elxn42

canada_voting

This is the big day, Canada. The end of election fatigue. The end of attack ads. The end of being told what to think.

Today is the day you will stand alone and think for yourself. Just you, a pencil and an unmarked ballot.

This has been, for me, the most exciting and the most stressful election I can recall in my 29 years of voting. I can’t imagine what it has been like for the people actually doing the legwork – all those earnest candidates. Hats off to them.

Part of my exhaustion could be simply because I went through this provincially so recently. Democracy is a good thing, but you can have too much of a good thing.

Part of it definately is that I am so optimistic, and it scares me. Alberta’s election was so amazing. I am almost afraid that it was a one-off; a once in a lifetime chance for me to feel truly represented by a truly progressive government.

Part of it is my overall sense that we live in interesting times. Canada, the west, and the world are all on the verge of a huge culture shift. Voices formerly silent are being heard; women, aboriginal people, LGBT people. Power minorities are rising up and being heard and counted more than ever before in modern history. It makes me hopeful, it makes me anxious and it makes me hope as I have never hoped before.

Canada, this is not your average election. This one is a game changer, I can feel it. This past decade has to have been political bottom, and now we have to rise up.

We can get ourselves proportional representation and make sure that more voices are routinely heard and a plurality of views are always represented.

We can categorically and emphatically reject corruption, we can reject racism, we can reject lies, we can reject greed, we can reject ignorance.

We can embrace transparency and accountability, inclusiveness and tolerance, compassion and a sense of common purpose for a common good, we can choose to govern ourselves by knowledge and truth.

All very lofty. I know. But we can do it, Canada.

peace-tower-20141003

Planning for preferable politics, in baby steps

 

This federal election seems to me to be a culmination of  all the dissatisfaction felt by progressive Canadians with our electoral system. The system, after all, dictates how well we are able to exercise our democratic rights. It dictates how responsive our government must be to the will of the majority of the people they govern.

There is more to Canadian democracy than electing a member of parliament. In fact, I would argue that the health and efficacy of a democracy should be measured not by the simple freedom to cast a ballot, but by how well those ballots cast inform the government and the plurality of views that government must represent.

And I ask you, how can either of those two requirements be met when our range of choices is restricted to two? A or B. Good or bad. Black of white. For nearly a century and half. It’s been ‘my way’, or the ‘highway’.

The system is not serving our better interest, that’s true. However, right now the first past the post system is the symptom, and our voting behavior is the disease. Our voting behavior can change the system and get us more of what we need from our government.

best doc crop

I don’t understand why we don’t intuitively realise that our system does not offer actual choice when we only ever give two parties power to form government. We praise capitalism, choice and competition, and by in large we regard it as the superior economic model. We boo and hiss at the mention of monopolies, or oligopolies that collude to restrict our perfectly capitalist range of options as consumers.

Yet, we don’t follow the same logic in our politics. Ours is a political oligopoly in which two parties collude to only work hard enough to appear to offer an alternative product, while actually churning out the same sense of entitlement to govern.

ice cream choice crop

We need democracy and choice, and we need the political innovation that comes only from collaboration. We should balk at having one party in power too long, or two parties sharing access to power unchallenged because these arrangements restrict our range of political options as voters.

Canada has swung between the Liberal and Conservative parties since Canada was Canada. We swing between centre right and centre left and feel as if we are experiencing the full range of political options available.  The Liberals make us mad, so we turf them and elect the Conservatives. The Conservatives make us mad so we turf them and replace them with the people who made us mad last time. What we have is revolving door politics and short term change for long term pain.

revolving door politics

It’s like the freakin’ hokey pokey. That’s not what it’s all about, trust me. It’s supposed to be all about real options and real political progress.

What does progress look like to you? Like what we had yesterday? Like what we have today? Personally, when I think of progress I think of what we could have tomorrow.

You need to think for yourself when you cast your vote.

Don’t fall for the fear of the unknown. Penicillin was once unknown, polio vaccine was once unknown, the sequence of the human DNA was once unknown. The unknown is just unknown. A party that is an unknown might also have new ideas. They might have more incentive to cater to us than to just try and look better than their only opponent. Right now the parties aren’t fighting for us, they are fighting each other for power. Elect three; two to wrestle, one to referee.

It will be no shock to those who know me that I voted NDP at the advance polls. One of the primary reasons is that I believe the NDP will bring in proportional representation because as a current political outsider they have a vested interest in new ideas and in breaking down the status quo. The Liberal platform was similar and current polls tell me they have the best chance of defeating Harper – AND THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT – but as a current political insider party they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. I am not confident that they will bring in proportional representation. The Green Party – god love ’em – simply don’t have a chance at enough power to create the momentum for change. I am hopeful that change will allow them to become the political force they deserve to be.

My ultimate goal is long term change. You may have very different reasons to vote, but do vote. Vote for what you hope to have and not just against what you’re afraid of getting. Vote to make your voice heard now and tomorrow.

murrow quote

 

Eine Klein-era not good example

Canadians are obsessed with budgets, deficits, surpluses and financially irresponsible quibbling over all things federally fiscal. Alberta, though, has a particularly fascinating idiosyncratic tic that comes out whenever fiscally responsible government is discussed. Talk about economics in Alberta and you will hear a wistful “Where’s Ralph Klein when you need him?”

It amazes me that anyone anywhere still holds Ralph Klein up as a model of political (insert anything positive here). It especially irks me when people wax poetic about his fiscal prowess. Some of us get it, but for those that don’t let me challenge you to think just a wee bit harder. klein ideas

Yes, Ralph Klein balanced the budget. But it is important to ask HOW he did that.

You know how? He taxed Albertans enough to cover his bills until 1999, and balanced the budget. Plain and simple. Then he brought in a regressive and costly flat tax, stopped maintaining Alberta’s infrastructure, and hastily left office in 2006 before the shit hit the fan.

Why then do so many of us get stuck in a fog of fiscal fisticuffs and fallacious financial fabrications when we talk about taxation and the ‘Alberta Advantage’?

Because Alberta you’re shamefully naive. Or lacking common sense. Or something. This glorifying a balanced budget, demonizing taxation and neglect of budgetary realities has to stop. We by some stroke of luck, timing and strategic voting have a provincial government that understands that you gotta make money to spend money, yet many of us are falling for the sucker ‘low taxes’ line in the federal election.

So folks, here’s a parable to explain how Ralph pulled off that balanced budget you so fondly remember, and the consequences it has had in the years since…

Ralph decided he was growed up enough to own his own house. So he got a job, and went to the bank to convince them to trust him with a mortgage. He went to the bank and demonstrated a certain income based on working a certain way. He worked regular hours at the regular rate when times were slow, and extra hours at a higher rate when times were busier. He had two rates of income coming in. That gave him enough income to buy that house.

And folks, we all know there’s more than mortgage payments to owning a house. There’s furnaces to repair, ducts that need cleaning, shingles that wear out with time and hot water heaters that burst and flood the basement. You have to bring enough income to cover that, over and above the mortgage payments.

Ralph worked hard and put all his income toward paying off that mortgage.

And he did it. He paid off the mortgage.

Then instead of instead of counting his blessings and looking around at what he had built, then planning in order to maintain the lifestyle he had achieved, he decided he was done the work.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein declares the Alberta debt paid off, in Calgary on July 12, 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

 

 

Look Ma, I sold Alberta’s future for short term political gain!

 

 

He decided all that income that came from those extra hours, the pay at the higher rate when times were busy, was superfluous to his personal happiness. He cut back his hours and all his income was suddenly at the lower regular rate. He lost a lot of income.

Ralph coasted that way for a couple years. Eventually though, evenly the most willfully blind can see the corners of the shingles curling up, and Ralph realised his 20 year old roof would need replacing soon.

So, what did Ralph do? Did he prudently work more so he could do the necessary maintenance on his cherished home?

Not Ralph.  He sold that house, and walked away with the profits.

RALPH KLEIN AFTER WINNING ELECTION.*Calgary Herald Merlin Archive* SOLD! to the biggest sucker.

Did you buy that house from Ralph? Did you get in thinking you had enough money only to to discover that the shingles were so bad that the roof was leaking? Did the furnace die on a chilly Sunday evening in February? Did you argue with yourself, saying that the problem wasn’t that you didn’t have enough money, but that you’d been tricked into buying premium shingles and high end furnaces because your family had come to feel entitled to having a roof over their heads and heat in the winter?

I know you did at first. But eventually it was pretty obvious that the only way to survive was to find a way to make a little more money. Now maybe you can work 37 instead of 35 hours. Maybe you can invest in some education that diversifies your skill set to get you that higher paying gig. Either way, the problem won’t go away. You need to make money to spend money, and you need to spend money to live a decent life.

That’s how it really happened, folks.

The flat tax died and is buried in Alberta. We’re going to be okay once we catch up on fixing the issues that accumulated while we didn’t have the cash flow.

Right now Canada needs the same surge in pragmatic thinking in government. Refusing to admit that we must pay taxes to pay for the lifestyle we expect is willful ignorance. Don’t vote for the lowest taxes, vote for the best bang for your buck over the long term.

 

Does that make sense? I hope it does, folks.

 

 

Missing & murdered …

 

six of one, half dozen of another

I have been so proud to witness the (overdue) change in attitude toward aboriginal peoples in Canada in the last couple of years.

The Truth and Reconciliation commission‘s efforts were so well done and so positive. I am not aboriginal, but I felt like I was bettered and healed by it. Certainly my society was. It’s a first step, anyway. Truth is a lifelong goal, and at least we are pursuing it now.

That Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson was so solidly and unflinchingly in support of the pursuit made me proud to be an Edmontonian. That our new Premier Rachel Notley consistently references aboriginal people and the fact that we are on Treaty 6 land made me proud that Alberta had grown up, finally.  Top that with hearing my local federal NDP candidate Heather MacKenzie reference the inequality in resources provided to aboriginal children in their education and point out that we are all on Treaty 6 land, and the NDP party leader Thomas Mulcair  talk about taking aboriginal issues seriously makes me hope that our federal landscape is on the threshold of a constructive cultural shift.

Today was the REDdress campaign to lend visibility to the issue of a crisis of violence against aboriginal and indigenous women in our nation. On social media, women were encouraged to hang a red dress on their homes to show they understand the issue is real and protest our current Conservative government’s refusal to take real action.

This is one of the issues that will define us a nation as we go forward. There are too many truly terrifying issues being lobbed around in this election, that this one flies just under the radar is shameful.

Vote better. Act better. Be better, Canada.

mmiv do better

This is the way we all lose #elxn42

A friend just sent me this article in a direct message. Probably because they know I am all over politics. Openly. I am choosing to be open in my reply to this article because I think we all need to be more open and vocal about politics, and stop misinterpreting political discourse as impolite.

READ THIS

My sense is that Stephen Harper is, to some degree, xenophobic. I say this based on statements he has made in the past and the people he has chosen to align himself with. I can only imagine how much worse his inner monologue is, because I also think he is keenly intelligent and knows what not to say out loud.

HOWEVER, my strongest sense about Stephen Harper is that he is very much a man who want power for himself. He is less concerned with how he gets that power than with any ideology. Which is not to say that when he is successful in securing his power that he will not then act upon his ideology.

We should be asking ourselves whether he is the master of manipulation because that is what he excels at. He manipulates people who, for reasons I do not comprehend and have lost the willingness to accommodate, seek simple, superficial and easy answers to the complex questions in life.

Those people vote in knee-jerk reaction to Harper’s masterful dog-whistle politics. Those people hand him the power, which he then uses to undermine each and every one of us. He undermines our access to information (which I guess most people don’t mind because clearly very few of us bother to access information before forming opinions), he undermines our public goods, he undermines our social fabric, he undermines our institutions. He incrementally takes power away from the electorate and puts more power in the hands for the few. And his own hands as Prime Minister.

So, does he believe that it is un-Canadian to cover your face when you take participate in a non binding ceremony? No. But he does believe those women should be able to do and not do as they wish as his whim. And that is terrifying. He believes he should have the right to define what is Canadian. Does he believe that stripping citizenship will survive a Charter challenge, or go unchallenged under international law? No. But he does believe he should have the right to rank Canadians according to his personal whim. And that is terrifying. Does he think he has evidence that the Alberta NDP government is a disaster? No. But he does think he has the right to declare any organization that has ideas contrary to his own to be wrong, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The scandals that he is suppressing with his dog-whistle and showboating xenophobic assertions are beautiful. They tell me that somewhere in this wounded democratic machine someone is still working for the public good and bringing the corruption to light. For every corruption you see I have no doubt there are ten of which we are not yet aware.

Harper’s ideology is control. He sees that tolerance and sharing of wealth undermine the extent of his control.

He wants us to re-elect him so he can tell us what is good for us. He wants us to re-elect him so that he can continue to do things on our behalf without our knowledge or consent.

He knows that a huge proportion of the electorate that bother to vote then immediately disengage. (Never mind those who simply don’t even care enough to vote)

Canadians want a government they can trust to do what is right, and so they trust without remaining vigilant or questioning.

 

I want YOU to re-elect a government that allows facts and evidence, and yes public preferences that are based in evidence, to tell them what is good for us.

 

Is Harper a racist? Probably. A little. But it isn’t his worst flaw. And that isn’t the important question. The important question is are you? Because if you aren’t you need to wake up and pay attention to the shell game we are calling #elxn42.

 

 

PLEASE challenge me on this. I do change my opinions if I hear good reason. What I don’t change is my world view or my sense of what is, and what is not moral.

Deja-vu,you-too?

My oh my, Mr. Harper dropped the writ. As an Albertan I am having deja vu. Calling an election as an attempt to capitalize on unfair advantage before the truth of a budget reveals itself and before the taxpayers figure out what is actually going on seems pretty familiar to me. I am certainly angry in a very familiar way and being led politically in a familiar direction.

It is so patently obvious that the timing is a ploy to increase his party’s financial advantage. Who can blame him, he has no other real advantage.

He can’t run on his economic record.

He can’t run on the quality of his leadership.

He can run on his accountability or claim a lack of corruption during his time in office.

He can’t run on his policy record for research or science or his ability to create good laws that respect the Canadian constitution and align with Canadian values.

He can’t run on his record on environment.

Watch his speech announcing the election (or read what all the leaders said).

Stephen Harper thinks it is appropriate that Canadians have the opportunity to consider their options. He says elections are not popularity contests but about serious choices. All this I agree on.

It’s not all agreement from me though. Far from it. I completely disagree in an awful lot of what he is trying to sell.

Note when he says now is not the time for the kind of risky economic schemes that are doing so much damage in the rest of the world? Harper has in the past and continues to support the type of flawed economic policies that created the current global economic problems. Austerity is killing the world, and we have austerity because we didn’t have enough regulation of capital markets to prevent the current global collapse from happening. Cuts to the most vulnerable, tax breaks at the top, trickle down economic fairy tales and a short run race to environmental destruction? Therein lies the real risk.

He balanced the spring current budget using a slight of hand and on the backs of regular Canadians and our economic future.  I wouldn’t count on it being solid fact; it may magically not even be true.

Harper claims his party is the only party that is fiscally responsible, but does his record support that? No it does not.

The significant new benefits to Canadians are a short term illusion, for most Canadians. Plus, is he really trying to benefit all Canadians, or just those Canadians that make choices he approves of because? He seems to have his own narrow definition of what makes a Canadian.

Harper goes on about security and being tough on crime. What exactly is secure about constant constitutional challenges to dodgy laws and public fights with the supreme court? How is his approach to crime constructive? It’s really a war on what defines Canada. That doesn’t make me feel very secure.

It takes some real balls to thank to the brave members of our military for their service to our country, afterall, what has he done for the armed forces?

In terms of your election advantages I think Stephen Harper might be a bit over confident.

Harper is a deeply prejudiced, deceitful, secretive, controlling man, and his party marches in step with him. His ideology is out of step with Canada, and a poor long term political strategy.

I hope he enjoys the next 77 days while they lasts. I hope they are his last. I hope that the lesson Alberta taught the arrogant, irresponsible right is a lesson that Canada embraces and will dole out on a Canadian scale.

Let the games begin and let the best man win. I know I’ll be voting for the best man.

 

 

Violence is infection

I intended to publish a lighter blog this week as a break from my planned four-part series on women against feminism. (Some pedanthood trivia -> I learned this from Shakespeare; break up the serious scenes with a little comedic relief.)

However, in light of current events, I have shelved the lighter piece for future.

A Canadian soldier was murdered as he stood guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier, and his murderer then made his way through the halls of parliament in Ottawa.

I am not going to address how it happened, logistically.

However, as I am a pedant and therefore prone to fixation on details and rules, I am fixated on how this can happen on a human level. I can’t stop thinking about why and what and how.

I can, on some level, understand how a person who lives in a culture of violence can be habituated to acting violently. As humans, we conform to the norms of our society. When violence is the norm, then you conform to it unconsciously.

I also understand mental illness. I understand that some of us do not have the capacity to separate fact from fiction, and right action from wrong action, or to comprehend the full consequences of our behavior.

I find it personally challenging to understand how someone who comes from a place where violence is not the norm is recruited to violence. When you come from a peaceful nation where the norm is tolerance and agreeing to disagree how do you come to the point that you can actually see violence as a path?

Violence is a disease and doesn’t affect a healthy mind in a healthy environment. Violence is antithetical to the optimal conditions for cultural and individual existence. Acting out in violence is contrary to our natural impulses for self-preservation and cultural perpetuation.

One of my favourite Ted Talks is by Dr. Larry Slutkin, in which he talks about how he found success treating violence like a disease. He talks about interrupting transmission and shifting norms. Watch it here.

What are the rules and parameters of transmission of violence? How do we identify, inoculate and immunize against the transmission of violent behavior and indoctrination into violent ideologies? How do we identify those living in a healthy society who are individually less healthy and unable to fight indoctrination? How do we identify unhealthy cultures and build them up so that a healthy norm becomes strong enough to fend off the infection with violence?

Right now Canada is poised to join an armed fight against ISIS. Many people I know are completely opposed. I agree that violence begets violence, but I am also at a loss because I think it is obvious something needs to be done.

There’s this fellow named Marshall Rosenberg, I don’t know much about him or his Centre for Non-Violent Communication, but one thing he says resonates with me. He draws a line for responding to violence. His assertion is that we can respond with force OR with violence. We can use force to end a conflict and restrain the participants without becoming violent ourselves. He talks about it here.

I feel completely capable of this as an individual but I have no idea how we would accomplish this on a large scale. We do need to change the way we act and react to global issues. We need to treat the illness and stop the violence from spreading, and we need to act in a way that doesn’t mean we become violent ourselves in response.

We need to build a better world, not just burn and hope that the fire kills the virus.

Big task. I like to believe we’re up to it.