don't touch. jpg

Can’t Touch This!


adam and eve.jpgOne of mankind’s greatest truths is one of the first things we’re told about ourselves in all of our Holy Books … if you tell us we can’t have something … we want it. We want it so badly that we’ll tear our whole world apart to get it.

We might not want it once we have it, but we want to have it anyway. Sex, riches, information  ..  gimme gimme!

And even with that truth and knowledge, we still love to tell people what they’re not allowed to do. Can’t do this, can’t do that .. and you most assuredly cannot touch THIS!

The whole concept of morality, prohibition, censorship and public censure is a movable feast. What is considered perverse in one time phase is the norm in another. History is littered with examples of faulty logic and twisted ideas held by the powerful or influential that managed to mould societies into ways of living that made sense only to them. They had the power, through brute strength, religious fervour, or political might, to force others to think and behave as they dictated.

table skirtPuritan men found table legs so damned sexy – getting a woody over wood, if you will – that they invented table skirts to hide those naughty legs from view. And yet – sixty percent of Puritan women were pregnant when they got married. So the skirts didn’t stop anyone from getting frisky, any more than hijabs or burkas do. No one seems to have asked just how or why the men of Victorian times found table legs to be too sexually arousing for public sight. Maybe I’m just missing something here. Or maybe my own turn-ons would be considered just as outré.

In 2001, a suicide bomber tried to blow up a plane with a bomb hidden in his shoe. He failed. But now hundreds of millions of us have had to take off our shoes before boarding a plane. The rules of aviation changed forever. Flying used to be fun and exciting. Now it’s all about terror and strip searches.

He FAILED. But we still have to take off our shoes, because …

monkeys might fly out of my butt.jpgThat’s it. I’m cancelling my policy with Acme’s Monkeys Might Fly Out Of My Butt Insurance Company.  It’s not as though any amount of payout would make my butt hurt less. And I have it on the best of authority .. i.e. Wayne’s World … that it’s not likely to happen. And the premiums cost far too much … I’m not prepared to trade an illusion of safety for my faith in humanity.

The rest of you can keep buying into the ‘one and done’ theory if you like, that the one crazy or pervert or fanatic is just waiting for you to slip up so that he can rob/molest/maim you, regardless of the fact that that is one possible weirdo in literally millions of perfectly sane humans.

But if it gives you comfort to believe the world is so dangerous and immoral that we must all be wrapped in cotton wool and kept away from even the whiff of danger, I’ve got to be a differ begger.

born in the 50s.jpgWe’ve all watched as modern societal norms have squeezed the joy out of childhood, making kids exterior lives so safe that they’ve given up on being kids, and prefer to sit in darkened rooms with their parentally controlled televisions and computer games. Has that generation grown up unscathed? Why no! In fact, they are likely to be oversleeping rather than facing problems, or entering their college years so dependent on feeling safe as houses that they need trigger warnings before attempting to read a Shakespearean play. And when they graduate, they want mum to accompany them on their job interviews.

Ok, not all of them .. but in that exaggeration lies some truth; children have to experience life to survive adulthood. Constantly being sheltered from potential danger only results in a child incapable of recognizing danger when it’s actually encountered.

Take sex education, for instance. The parents screaming the loudest about not wanting their children to know the reality of modern dating are dragging their own past insecurities and fears behind them. They are living in a world where tiny baby girls wear onesies that say , in girly pink lettering, “Sorry boys. Dad says I’m not allowed to date EVER!” while little baby boys of the same age are parading around in macho t-shirts that proclaim they are ‘studs’ and ‘cougar bait.’

baby t wife checkingme outWhat part of institutionalized sexual hypocrisy do these parents not get? Explain to me why it’s cute to pretend that your little darling is too precious to be touched .. EVER … while your robust 10 month old baby boy should be perceived as too sexy for his diapers? As an adult, you think you get the joke, and it’s all good and cute. But all you’re doing is continuing to encourage a time-worn sexual fantasy no longer applicable. Sex WILL happen. It’s why you’re taking up space on this planet right now.

These parents don’t want their kids to even have a hint of what they’ll be encountering, personally and up close, as early as the fourth or fifth grade, whether the parents know or approve or don’t. They think they’re protecting their offspring; instead, they’re sending lambs in to the slaughter.

Our need to protect our children and ourselves is evolutionary. It’s how we dragged ourselves out of the sea and onto the ground, and from there, into the monkey business that eventually evolved into modern man.  Now, here we are, upright, civilized for the most part, and still trying to protect our human bits from danger.  We’ve just so overloaded from all the hysterical information the media broadcasts that we can no longer think through how to react to the over-reaction that seems to be expected of us.

kids google sexBut avoiding reality, not allowing kids to hear sanitized, but at least truthful, facts on sex from actual instructors, can lead to many worse problems, not the least of which is a fear and mistrust of their own maturing bodies. And they’ll still find out everything they did or did not want to know about sex. They’ll just google it, watch porn on the ‘net, or hear about it from some misinformed classmate.

Fear, fear, fear!!!  .. of what might happen. A child might accidentally see a naughty picture .. burn all the books! There are terrorists out there and they want to get us! Quickly, take off your shoes and throw away your shampoo!

obey.jpgNext thing you know, we’re twisting ourselves into spirals, attempting to protect ourselves and our children from things we can neither anticipate nor prevent. And we justify blind obedience to stupid rules and present day morality because we can’t argue for why not following those rules makes more sense. Because .. what if there’s another guy with a shoe bomb? Hasn’t happened in 15 years, but then again, who expected those flying monkeys?

It’s a recipe for disaster. It didn’t work in the past, and it doesn’t work now.

But it does leave us all ripe for manipulation by those who are the real bad guys, those who capitalize on our fear for their own gain. Whether they are selling you insurance policies against flying monkeys (some conditions may apply,) selling you provisions for your bug out bag or bomb shelter, or subverting your civil rights and liberties while claiming they and they alone have the solution to your fears if you’ll just give them more power, these nasty people don’t really care about your fear as much as they do about their own profit off that fear.

They’re just as scared as you. But it’s of you realizing that what you’ve been buying hasn’t fixed anything. It’s only made it worse.

 

this is my tribe

Musical Friends Are Making Me Happy


No matter how you’ve lived your life … saintly, and with a whiff of heaven in your aura, Dora, or a little naughtily, with a more checkered past than you’d care to admit … you want to be rounding third base and heading into home plate with a fine group of worthy team mates, and a cheering section that still likes you, whether because of, or despite, your resume and reputation.

I must have done something right, because I’m blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my corner. And so many of us share a musical background.

I’m writing this on Friday night, because the weekend kicks off in about an hour, with the arrival of my old friend and band mate, Sharon (Kaid) Kaczmarczyk. We go waaaay back, to the days of Lady, before Lady morphed into Performer with my addition, when she was the haughty, sexy, blonde drummer, and I was the shy and mostly innocent new ‘chick singer’ the group reluctantly admitted to their midst. Where it not for Sharon and Helen Dreyer (on keys,) both far more seasoned and experienced than I was at the time, I’d likely still be wearing my Peter Pan getaway boots with a tie-dyed tunic, and sporting a Cleo Laine ‘fro. Hey, it had worked for me in my pop/jazz quartet, Tangents!😉

Performer 81Sharon and Helen taught me how to make up, ‘zizzed’ my hair so that it stood up in a jaunty rock helmet, maintained with a zillion cans of heavy duty hair spray, and encouraged me to experience the joys of spandex, glitter, and six inch spiked heels.

Through my connections with this group, I went on to meet so very many wonderful players, and devotees of the music we created. Sure, some were jerks, but you weed out the losers, and if you’re lucky, you get to know and love a lot of funny, talented, professionals who are experiencing life slightly differently than the average citizen. Not necessarily better lives – but usually a great deal more challenging, and thus, great candidates for long, convoluted, and very interesting tales around the campfire.

So yeah .. Sharon. She didn’t know what to make of me at the beginning. I was Little Suzy Sunshine, the Pollyanna of the group, always chipper, up with the dawn, busily scouring the thrift stores for stage clothes and shoes, doing my daily 500 leg lifts, endlessly practicing scales. I was not rock n roll at all!

(before and after shots of the first Performer band shoot. At some point, our manager said, “Say, I wonder what would happen if we got the girls high enough to take off their tops?” The topless shot went on to be banned at most of the high schools we’d been booked to play.)

Before:    Performer original poster 001

After:    Performer nude top poster 001

 

But at some point, I must have worn down her resistance to my infernal cheerfulness. Or maybe it was because in most hotels that had band accommodation, there was a minimum of band rooms, and with 2 guys and 3 girls in the band, we had to double up at times. Helen was a Tequila drinker; Sharon and I were fond of the cheap white wine,   Colli Albani .. or as we renamed it .. New York Dog. Sharon and I teamed up in many a room to kill a litre or two of the dog, gulped down between sets and daytime drug store forays. Long days and nights on the road turned into long weeks and months of bonding.

Beyond being a powerful drummer and vocalist, Sharon was also a terrific songwriter. I’d know – I vocalised and demoed a lot of her songs. “Blue Eyed Boys,” “Show Me,” “Girls on Top” .. it was the 80’s and the messages were short, sweet and to the point.

While a lot of our Toronto contemporaries were getting media exposure and getting signed to record deals, Performer spent far too much time out of town, and as far out of town and up north as you could go. Kirkland Lake, Kap, Timmins, Chapleau, Thunder Bay … for months at a time we’d be enduring Northern tours that would have crushed the spirits of younger bands. On one famous “Moose Tour,” we narrowly escaped death by Bull Moose three times in three weeks. Bullwinkle was not our friend.

But we were young, enthusiastic, hardy, and possessed – thankfully! – of a good sense of humour. Even our road crew knew enough to temper their grumblings with a heavy dose of levity.

Now, here’s the thing about just about every single female musician I’ve ever known in the last fifty years … none of us ever thought of ourselves as much more than pretty ok looking, and marginally talented. Which is odd, because of nearly every male musician I’ve met in those same five decades, the reverse is true. The guys would generally overestimate their own attractiveness, and were convinced that they were natural born leaders and stars, possessed of legendary talent and ability.

And they had the groupies to prove it. While most female musicians had an entirely different crop of stalkers and weirdos to ward off.

Helen, Sharon and I spent months at a time on the road with nary a beau in sight. It’s an odd thing, being desired while on stage, but being either ignored or feared as being untouchable, off stage. Road time is tough enough; filling the hours between waking up and playing, while living on very little money and with few resources, is challenging. Moreover, it was lonely.  And rockers are generally pretty sexualized people – seems to go with the territory – so it wasn’t the best place to be companionless. That’s why you’d see so many hook-ups within bands and crews … a lot of times it was just proximity, a release from the coming down after whipping up the audience, and ourselves in the process. We’d have much preferred to be on home turf, where our own, pre-qualified letches lurked, but when in Collingwood

kaid foreign affairs great head shotSharon had it worse than Helen or I. Blonde, statuesque, with laser focused blue eyes that could burn a hole into a wannabe suitor at 20 paces, she worked her Amazonic magic from atop a drum riser.  On stage or off, she had presence. Although single and looking, few males could see through her powerful appearance to the warm, caring woman within.

And those that did have the guts to approach her tended to either be fuelled by liquid courage, or to be in possession of egos far larger than the sum of their intelligence …  I’ll never forgot one road trip that had left us exhausted and fit for nothing more than 48 hours in our own beds. At a truck stop, at about 4 a.m., and about two hours out of Toronto, the band, running on depleted adrenaline and road coffee, and still dressed in our spandex, glitter, and rock and roll hair we’d rocked hours before, ran into another band also heading home from a gig.  The male lead singer of the other band went into full peacock mode and approached Sharon. “Hey, blonde,” he said, “You need a lift?”

Sharon kept her cool, but the rest of us were falling about at the very idea that this fellow could actually think that his mere presence (and perhaps the promise of candy,) would lure a blonde rock goddess into his stinky van in the wee hours. Never happen. Trust me. We weren’t that lonely.

Performer live shot 001.jpgBut we did live in rarefied air. The images we presented of ourselves took time, money, and considerable energy. Women in rock, especially in the eighties, were expected to look a certain way, and to emphasize their sexuality. When you’re getting up on stage in front of live audiences, night after night, you can never let the mask slip. Your attention is on taking whatever raw material you’ve been given, and shaping it into something worthy of posters and album covers.

Guys in rock, on the other hand, usually had it easier .. and damned if they didn’t often look better in makeup than the women did! Depending on the musical genre they represented, they could get away with a lot less primping. And people rarely commented on them wearing the same outfit, night after night.

Despite our constant vigilance, and belief that we had to keep fine tuning how we looked, Sharon and I were both good eaters and reluctant dieters. Nothing made us happier than a Sunday night on the road that featured an all you can eat pasta buffet! We’d get out the fat pants and have at ‘er. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we diet!

If only we were as fat today as we thought we were then! We were so very hard on ourselves, firm in our beliefs that it was only by reaching an elusive physical perfection that we could catch life’s brass ring. But sometimes, the ring is elusive, and the grasp just a trick of fate.

Just as the band entity “Lady” had morphed into “Performer”, Performer eventually fell victim to road fatigue and cynicism. A reformed quartet, of Shawn O’Shea, Al Corbeil, Sharon and myself had a brief stint as Foreign Affairs, before taking one last kick at the can, showcasing at the El Mocambo as Ice Age, with the late, and very much missed, Phil Parmentier on bass.

Thirty five years later, Sharon and I remain good friends. We still giggle like teenagers, rejoice at each other’s good news, and mourn each other’s losses.  The base of friendship that was formed in proximity and happenstance has widened to include a deep love and commitment to each other that I can’t see ever ending while we can still draw breath. Perhaps for even longer than that.

Addendum:  Bilan BBQ Aug 2016On Saturday we were invited to a BBQ hosted by yet another long-time friend and his family, and attended by still more of our musical comrades-in-arms. Some of us have known each for nearly fifty years. We marveled at how we’ve navigated our lives and careers, celebrated our successes, and commiserated on our war wounds. Pictures of past glories were produced and admired, greeted with gusts of laughter at how dated our band pics, head shots, and press clippings seem today.  We’re older and wiser, and there might be a little more of us to love than there was in our heyday, but damn! We’ve made it this far and haven’t lost our sense of humour or our commitment to creating and enjoying music. I’d call that a legacy worth celebrating.

 

(first published in  bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/roxanne-tellier-musical-friends-are-making-me-happy/)

under-construction

Under Construction


We are all ‘works in progress.’  Or should be.

work in progressPeople are not meant to be static entities. It’s human nature to constantly grow and change, to take in new ideas and incorporate them into a whirling dervish of a world. We watch nature’s cycles, the patterns of waxing and waning, and STILL we want our own dealings with other actual people to remain constant. Our highest praise to an old friend is that they haven’t changed.

And yet, everyone responds to a continuum of change in different ways. We may begin every one of our interactions with other humans with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes, but not being attuned to each others progress through life can only end in stagnation or regret.

One day, the world is our oyster … the next, it all seems very challenging. Sometimes we love everyone; sometimes the people in our closest circles are growing and changing in ways that no longer meet our needs, or match our core values. To be human is to recognize and respect not just our own need to evolve, but the evolution of each other.

dolly parton quoteI will never understand how some couples can hold strong, solid, passionate political leanings that are in complete opposition to their partner’s. I can admire those couples, but I just can’t imagine that they can be truly mentally intimate. Having to compromise in a relationship is to be expected, but having to suppress words and feelings to avoid pressing a partner’s hot buttons would wear me down to a nub.  Eventually, conversation would become so controlled that you’d be down to hoping that ‘pass the butter’ didn’t unleash a torrent of fury. We are drawn to the politics that mesh with our core beliefs, and that reflect our attitudes on every interaction we have with the world and each other. ‘Politics’ is just another way of defining who we are, and of displaying our team colours to those we have yet to know.

Camus quoteWe can try to alter ourselves to meet the wishes and expectations of others, but that way lies madness. The controller inevitably becomes the controllee, a slave to enforcing a status quo that’s no longer applicable, or even much fun, to either party.

Which is not to say that all of life has to be fun, or perfect, even though that is what we all think we want. A life without obstacles might seem desirable, but stumbling blocks are what strengthens our essence, and makes meaning of our existence. A month of intense heat makes us long for the chill of winter snows. Intense sadness, leavened by moments of great joy, allow us to appreciate the highs, the lows, and the calms in between.

When we try to halt that progress, try to capture a moment in time and make it our only reality, we are doomed to tainting that wonder. You can’t pin a butterfly to a board and expect it to retain its colours and movement … even if you try just to hold it for a time, you’ll likely damage it. Admire the beauty of its flight; a butterfly must be free to enjoy its brief dance in the sun.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder,” he said, “live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that,” he said, “shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.”  ― Ray Bradbury     

walk away from drama meme.jpgThroughout our lives, we will enter into relationships with many people. Some will last for as little as a conversation, others, for decades. All of our experiences, all of our past encounters, combine with who we are when we present ourselves, and how the other person presents to us, and will determine how loosely or tightly we connect in that first meeting.  The longevity will depend on mutual respect, not just for what we think we want, but for who we become in the process.

I often think that life is a dance. The choreography depends on our own internal music, and the steps we’ve invented with our needs and wants. The tempo changes with our reality and perceptions – sometimes life is a tango, other times a waltz.

If you are very lucky, your life may be a Pogo, formed of joy and enthusiasm and the sheer giddiness of really feeling alive and in the moment. And the beauty of joy is that it is always available .. you only have to choose to see it and seek it. No one can give it to you – you have to reach out and take it. From cradle to grave, joy is always just a grasp away.

The dance can be frenetic, like riding in bumper cars, crashing head to head or bouncing off of each other, all great fun in the moment. Some see the dance as a long game, like chess, and carefully plan each move far in advance. The trouble with planning those moves is that we can never assume what the other dancer might do.  All is subject to change. They are dancing their own pas de deux.

Life’s dance can be a solo turn or a chorus line; pas de deuxa Balanchine ballet, a polka or a frenetic Frug. The dancers weave in and out, entering our line of vision, participating in the exercise, enriching or detracting from the show. We can ask the other dancers to accompany us in our dance, and it is a lovely thing when we dance together in perfect harmony.

What we mustn’t do, however, is hobble the other dancers. Each one’s dance is their own, and subject to change. Each of us has a time to lead and a time when we must follow. Every dance has its own beauty and dignity. Every dance and every life is a work in progress.

 

 

(first published July 2016 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/roxanne-tellier-under-construction/)

 

privilege

Privilege …. is Such a Lonely Word


I already had a column drafted and ready for editing this morning, but my muse took a hard left turn and demanded a re-write.

I wanted to talk about how important it is to be true to yourself; in your own life, in the way you present to your loved ones, and the realities of pursuing the path by which you pay your bills. But all of that sounds rather pretentious, in the face of current events.

What I came to realize is that the only reason that old, white women like me can spend any time at all dreaming of improving themselves and their surroundings – never mind assuming that anyone else would be interested in reading those thoughts –  is that we have ‘privilege.

privilegeI know that’s a dirty word to many. “If I’m so privileged, why can’t I get a decent job? Why do I struggle just to make ends meet? Tell ME about privilege, when I grew up poor, with an abusive family, and no chance at a decent education!?”

And all of that is valid. You probably DID and ARE getting a raw deal on some aspects of your life. We live in troubled times of massive fiscal inequality. That you were able to fight your way through the obstacles, and are currently reading this on your cellphone/laptop/desktop/magic mirror, shows that you drew on all of your resources, and triumphed.

But what you didn’t do, if you were born white, was wake up every day, look into the mirror, and see visible proof that you were a minority, with all of the attendant prejudices that an accident of birth conferred upon you.

privilege types.pngJust by being born white, in Canada or the U.S., you won a lottery you never knew you’d entered. If you were also born male, able-bodied, straight, and into a family that was financially stable, you lucked into a super bonus.  Something you had no say in, no choice, granted certain privileges on you from the day you entered this world.

Not all privilege is exactly the same. Where we are in terms of ‘class,’ as an economic indicator, also affects what we can expect to access in higher education, and with whom we can expect to interact. justice fishcartoon.jpgOne kind of privilege doesn’t add or subtract from another – being discriminated against for having non-white skin doesn’t negate being discriminated against for being female, or non-straight, old, or disabled … all of these factors have bearing, and cannot be minimalized.

But if you woke up this morning, and a white face looked back at you from the mirror, you faced one less challenge than those who saw a face of another colour in their reflection. As rich and famous as Oprah Winfrey is, she still encounters those who think her unworthy of holding corporate power, and is not immune from discrimination in a luxury Zurich handbag store.

And you can just get off your high horse of pretending that systemic racism is only a problem in the U.S. Yes, their problem is more visible, and more violent, and yes, the spectacle of an openly racist presidential candidate whipping up the basest of armed citizens, potentially leading to Civil War II, is horrific.

But Canada’s treatment of First Nations people is despicable. Denying that it isn’t our own flavour of racism doesn’t address the very real injustices perpetrated against the people who were here before us.

Consider this commonplace incident that occurred yesterday, in Calgary. RCMP, making an arrest, entered a home on the Siksika First Nation around 6 a.m. The RCMP are alleged to have battered an Alberta First Nation man, hauling him naked from his home and bringing him to a detachment before realizing he needed an ambulance.

christian-duck-chief.jpg“Christian Duck Chief, 23, is recovering from a broken eye socket, fractured cheek bone, fracture to the back of his head and a broken nose.

Duck Chief and his wife say they were sleeping in their home on the Siksika First Nation southeast of Calgary Friday when RCMP from the Gleichen detachment entered their home around 6 a.m. to arrest him.

They acknowledge Duck Chief struggled at first, saying he was on his stomach when woken and didn’t know it was police. But they allege an RCMP officer hit him at least 20 times after he stopped struggling and shouted that he wasn’t resisting, even as he lay handcuffed on the floor.

Duck Chief — who has been charged in connection with the incident — and his lawyer said the force used by the officer was excessive.
….
(The couple) suspect the arrest occurred either because a friend had visited them the night before in a stolen vehicle or that RCMP wrongly believed Duck Chief was still under a bail condition that he not be in the home with his wife.

Duck Chief said he struggled at first because he thought someone had broken into their home and was attacking them, and initially bit the officer’s finger. He has been charged in connection to the incident.” (cbc.ca)

That scenario is almost as Kafkaesque as the spectacle of Philando Castile’s girlfriend talking calmly and calling the officer ‘Sir’, as he forced her out of the car and onto her knees after he shot her boyfriend dead in front of her and her four-year-old daughter during a routine traffic stop.

who police killed in 2015Do either of those scenarios, of the First Nations man in Alberta, or the man in Minnesota who died from a broken taillight, strike you as something that would happen to a white citizen? That this would be the subject of a discussion heavily loaded with justifications to decide if the victims deserved what happened to them? No. Privilege.

The people of colour in the U.S., and the First Nations people in Canada, are both being told that their very real fear of the police and authorities must be addressed in calm, respectful, and reverent tones.  While those who beat and kill them are not held to anywhere near the same standards.

blm-torontoThe us-against-them-against-who now?  arguments that broke out last week over the actions of BLM-TO (Black Lives Matter – Toronto) at the Pride parade exemplifies how divided even minorities have become, and how quick we are to pick a side. As emotions subside, speakers from both the BLM community and the LGBTQ community have moved to a middle ground of understanding. There have been talks, apologies, and re-commitments to values.

Except for white people. White people are still using real and imagined information about the actions of two beleaguered minorities, adding in the public attitudes on policing, finally declaring one side or the other a villain. It’s not even their battle! But that’s how privilege works … you still expect to not only have a right to an opinion on something you have not personally experienced, you believe your opinion should be heard and agreed upon.

Privilege.

Earlier this week, the executives in charge of Toronto’s CNE events made a disastrous faux pas, and announced that disabled patrons would no longer receive complimentary entry, citing a need for ‘equality.’

CNE.jpgThe CNE has posted the policy change on its website, saying it strives to respect “the dignity and independence of all of our guests, including those with disabilities.” Caregivers can still get in free.

Am I reading that right? The disabled will pay, but their (presumably non-disabled) caretakers will get in free? What an odd definition of equality!

Their publicity department insisted, self-righteously, that their decision was solely based on allowing all fair-goers equal entry, despite the reality of the thousands of free passes that are given to city councillors, employees of other attractions, anyone famous enough to be recognized at the Gates, and, ultimately, their own friends.

While the City weaseled out of the fight by fobbing off critique while they ‘discussed’ the situation, it fell to disability advocate and former Lieutenant Governor David Onley to lead a charge of harsh criticism, which forced the CNE to reverse their decision. They caved, as bullies will, when their petty actions are shown to be discriminatory, and potentially illegal. Public opinion, bolstered by social media, brought too much negative attention to the parsimony.

“The CNE had argued it simply wanted to treat people with disabilities the same as everyone else. But Onley said the decision was purely economic and if the CNE was truly concerned with equality, it should look at the number of people with disabilities it employs — a figure general manager Virginia Ludy didn’t know when asked on Wednesday.

Onley also said some 1.8 million Ontarians have some kind of disability and, of those, more than 400,000 live on Ontario Disability Support Program payments. That amounts to about $14,000 a year plus medical benefits, “meaning that you live in a state of virtual poverty … it’s not a good state,” Onley said.“

Privilege puts money above compassion and empathy. It bandies the word ‘equality’  about, while ignoring the reality of those who are physically or economically challenged.

Canada Post.pngNothing is too low for those who use blunt force to achieve their ends. Look to the actions of Canada Post CEO, Deepak Chopra, who has forced his will upon postal workers by refusing to continue talks. He’ll lock out the workers, and impose a stoppage of mail, eventually forcing the workers to take whatever he’ll decide to give them.

Some of the issues? Equal pay. In 2016, the same 2016 that Trudeau used as a banner and a reason to have a gender-even counsel, we’re dithering on whether men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. But for Canada Post, apparently equal pay is just not ‘this year’ enough.

“”Our rural and suburban mail carrier unit, which is predominately made up of women, get paid 28 per cent less than their predominantly male counterparts in the urban operations unit for doing the exact same work.””

Pensions are also on the table. “a two-tier pension system might become the reality for postal workers. Canada Post wants the union to accept a defined contribution plan for new employees. “The proposed change would alter the plan such that the contributions made by each worker would be set, but there would be no guarantee of the benefits they would receive in retirement,” wrote rabble labour reporter Teuila Fautai”

No guarantees in retirement. Well …  isn’t that comforting. Tell me how this can be justified by CEOs and government officials whose handsome pensions are locked down and guaranteed, ensuring they’ll live out their golden years in comfort.

Privilege.

Check-Your-PrivilegeIt’s all around you, and tied up in bows that dissolve in your hands, leaving those of visible and invisible minorities with nothing but slime to show for the strident claims of equality and justice for all.  Those with privilege point to laws and regulations designed to create a level playing field, and dismiss the cries of those who note that those fields are often studded with landmines, and protected from access by the high cost of pursuing justice in the courts.

No one is saying that it’s a crime to be straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied or male. There’s no need to don hair shirts or self-flagellate for the circumstances of your birth, no need to feel guilty for enjoying those privileges. In fact … please DO enjoy them! They are your birthright!

What those who have been denied access to the same privileges simply ask for is an acknowledgment of those differences. They ask that we be aware of how much more difficult it can be to compete in a world where others will never comprehend what it’s like to have to work twice as hard, just to be considered almost equal to a peer who has never known the same adversities or discriminations.

tolerating-intoleranceb.jpgUntil then, it seems we’ll live in a world where ‘tolerance’ is defined as not immediately killing those who don’t look like you.

 

(first published July 10/16 … bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/roxanne-tellier-privilege-is-such-a-lonely-word/)

 

procrastinator

Time Loves a Hero


Every now and then, we have to lift our eyes from the path we’ve trod, and reassess. You can’t have perspective on where you’re going if you never looked at where you’ve been.  Taking a good, long, eyes-wide-open look at not just what you’ve done, but why,   can be terrifically painful, but so is living an unexamined and millennial-tkounfulfilled life.

It’s a truism that life seems to speed up as we age. It does, but my grandson will tell you that he feels like his life has been flashing before his eyes since he started high school. Yep, even the millennials are feeling the time crunch. And that ain’t good.

It has a lot to do with the constant bombardment of information we receive – even when we leave our homes, we’re still shackled to our cell phones. We are always accessible, always as ‘on call’ as a brain surgeon, even if we’re just fast food wranglers at the local MickeyD’s. We can only squeeze a little solitude out of the tube by becoming signal free, literally out of range.

We feel under ‘time pressure’ when there’s too much to do or be done, and not enough time or ability to juggle it all. That’s consistent right across the civilized world, and in all age groups, but I suspect a little less wearying to those with the financial ability to spread some of the stress around.

There’s always a price to be paid for deferring – on purpose or with genuine remorse – the things we want to do, and the people we want to see, because time gets away from us. When you are young, missing a party or failing to meet up with a visiting friend has little impact. As you age, the special moments missed can quickly become sources of deep regret.

(There’s a reason why this song has more than 16 million hits, 43 years after its debut.)

This constant ‘running to keep in place’ can also conceal something far more sinister … all that ‘busyness’ often conceals truths we can’t bear to face. That job you hate, but keep reporting to every miserable day,  dreaming of, but never getting more education or training that might free you, until one day you wake up and realize it’s time to retire. That face you make as you try on clothes and vow once again to exercise regularly and rein in the calories; the disgust you feel as you light up another ciggy and watch your money and health smoulder into ashes; those brilliant ideas, that plan to try a different lifestyle, or to revive or leave a stale relationship  … all back-burnered with what seems to be logical reasons on the surface, but are really a mental resistance to facing what our minds know is the reality of our lives, and changing those circumstances.

alarm clock_.GIFThe snooze button on your alarm clock is a perfect metaphor for the putting off of what we desire. With all good intentions, you set the alarm for half an hour earlier; today you’ll start that exercise program/clean your room/start that novel you’ve been mentally outlining.

The next morning, you hear the bzz bzz bzz, but reach out a sleepy arm and hit ‘pause’ on what you’d planned to do.  Just a few minutes more, you mumble, and then, when the alarm goes off again, you grumble a bit as you stop the annoying sound that’s harshing the mellow of your dreams. By the third sound of the alarm, you’re angry and resentful, and you SLAM that snooze button down; how dare this world demand so much of me? Can’t I get just a little bit of peace, a few moments more of this hypnotic dreamland in which I’ve already conquered all my demons and can just live happily ever after?

And that’s how your day starts. Rather than being filled with determination, energy and positivity, you now have a culprit on which to blame your cranky mood, and inability to actually begin to change what you dislike about your situation. Your bedhead, all the wrongs of the world, all the things left undone … all the fault of that bloody alarm clock!

And in a sense, that’s true. Because in smacking down the snooze button, you’ve surrendered your power to an inanimate object, your every bright hope defeated by an innocuous plastic square.

When we’re unsure if we have it in us to do something new or different, no matter how humble the goal, we surrender to the fear of being rejected, or mocked or humiliated. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” turns to “better safe than sorry.”

We’ll defend our paralysis to the death, citing a myriad of reasons why we can’t possibly be expected to break out of our self-imposed prisons. Being clever is no hindrance; the smarter we are, the more convoluted and seemingly reasonable our exFrustrationcuses will be. The mere thought of change is so frightening that we freeze in place, scrambling to justify our stasis to ourselves and others.  It’s a trap we set and spring, usually off our own bat, but sometimes with the collusion of others who might be affected by change – our families, our bosses, and our friends can not only impede change, but bolster our own insecurities by adding their own needs and fears to the mix.

Why is that a problem, you ask? If we’re doing it to ourselves, who’s the victim? Well, society for one. Each of us impacts many others in our lifetime. The frustration and inner rage felt by those who can’t achieve their goals touches us all in both violent and non-violent ways.

Eventually our inertia leads to learned helplessness …. “in psychology, a mental state in which an organism forced to bear aversive stimuli, or stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are “escapable,” presumably because it has learned that it cannot control the situation….

learned-helplessnessThis may explain why individuals may accept and remain passive in negative situations despite their clear ability to change them. In his book Helplessness (1975), Martin E.P. Seligman argued that, as a result of these negative expectations, other consequences may accompany the inability or unwillingness to act, including low self-esteem, chronic failure, sadness, and physical illness. The theory of learned helplessness also has been applied to many conditions and behaviours, including clinical depression, aging, domestic violence, poverty, discrimination, parenting, academic achievement, drug abuse, and alcoholism.” (Wikipedia)

rat raceBut in the end, the true enemy is time. There’s only so much of it, and none of us know when our clock will run out, or even when the gears will wear so badly that physical limitations will make decisions for us. We’re fragile creatures, we humans, both physically and mentally. We spend our time searching for happiness and fulfillment, believing it is our right, believing that life is fair, and that our own good intentions are a moral authority that will make us winners – or at least, respectable ‘also-rans.’

In reality – life isn’t fair, and spending all of our short time on the planet hitting the snooze button, and indulging in wishful thinking without actually working towards our betterment is a terrible waste. Better to have tried and failed, scraped knees and bruised feelings be damned, than to get to the end of our brief  lives unscathed, unchallenged, and unchanged from the raw material we were handed at birth.

 

kentobias-themagicsinthemusic

DBAWIS – Fly Me High, Ken Tobias


Ken Tobias 2016 pic.jpg“I remember being asked when I was very young what did I want to be when I grow up. I remember saying ” I want to be an artist, a singer, and a scientist.” ….well it turned out that I am a professional singer, an avid science fan, and yes an artist…painting in acrylics for 30 years.”   Ken Tobias.

 

Many years ago I was in a roots rock/new country quintet called Delta Tango.  A bunch of us, music lifers, recorded, tinkered with sounds, and recorded some more. When we had something that we thought might be marketable, we debuted and toured the CD around Ontario.

I can’t remember exactly when we met Tony Tobias – it may have been at a CMW gig, or perhaps at a showcase , but he was a lovely man, and, as we (the band) and he (Tony) showed each other our credentials, he revealed that he was the President/Executive Producer at Pangaea Media & Music Inc. – and manager and brother of the venerable Ken Tobias.

I make no attempt to conceal my folkie roots. Ken Tobias was an icon for me in the 70s. You may remember the song he wrote that put him .. and The Bells .. on the map … “Stay Awhile.”

Born and raised in New Brunswick seventy-one years ago this July 25th , Ken showed early promise as a draftsman AND a musician. In 1965, he left NB for  Halifax, Nova Scotia,  was part of CBC’s local Music Hop,Frank’s Bandstand,’ and then went on to become a regular on  Singalong Jubilee, often dueting with Anne Murray, and playing alongside of  Gene MacLellan and John Allan Cameron.

In 1968 Tobias met Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers who invited him to Los Angeles to record and write as a salaried songwriter. Under the management of Medley’s company, Tobias recorded his first single “You’re Not Even Going to the Fair” on Bell Records; like many of his early releases it was credited just to “Tobias”. The song won him his first Canadian BMI award for airplay. This was the first of many BMI, Procan and SOCAN awards.” (Wikipedia)

Ken was just getting started. In 1972 he established Glooscap Music with his brother, Tony, settling in Toronto for the next few decades, and releasing a string of hits including “Fly Me High“, and “Lady Luck“, and eventually receiving FIVE Socan Classics Awards for 100,000 airplays of the songs,  “Stay Awhile”, “I Just Want To Make Music,” “Every Bit Of Love”, “Give A Little Love” and “Dreamken tobias beauty fly #2”.

His beautifully written songs speak of love, and the joy of making and listening to music. They dare  the listener to believe in what might be. They also draw upon his artistic background, painting a mental picture that the listener can translate to their own imaginings. “I drew a picture of a pair of wings .. because I want to fly.“

 

Looking back at all that Ken Tobias has accomplished is like peering through a kaleidoscope … so many wonders to be seen! So many aspects to a lengthy and accomplished life!

His writing and producing credits are impressive, and include forays into television and film. From having his song “Good To Be Alive in the Country” in the hit TV series The Bionic Woman, to collaborating in the writing of the soundtrack for the Italian movie A Silver Saddle; writing, “Here You Are Today“, for Saint John, New Brunswick’s bicentennial as well as nabbing a CLIO Award for his Tourism New Brunswick commercial; to having his song “Friends” featured in the 2004 feature movie Chicks with Sticks; to being commissioned by Ballet Jorgen to create “Dreams of A Subtle World” for a feature segment in their ballet…

… to having several pages in Dave Bidini’s 1998 book, On A Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock  dedicated to his music … and  then add to that his self-taught creative artistry that has seen over two hundred of his paintings sold throughout North America…

I don’t know how he’s done it. I’m exhausted just researching and writing about all of his accomplishments!

Casino Nova Scotia Music Hall of FameBut there’s one more honour on its way, and a very worthy one indeed. Ken Tobias is about to be inducted into the 2016 Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame, representing the province of New Brunswick.

From Tony’s recent press release:  “KEN TOBIAS joins three other celebrated Atlantic Canadian music artists being inducted: Natalie MacMaster (Nova Scotia); Harry Hibbs (Newfoundland); Gene MacLellan (Prince Edward Island). Last year’s inaugural music inductees were: Rita MacNeil, John Allen Cameron, Portia White and Anne Murray. Ken comments about the news of his induction: “I am honoured and humbled to be inducted into the Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame and representing my province of New Brunswick. I am especially moved to be in the company of my old friend Gene MacLellan. Gene and I were fellow cast members on the CBC show Singalong Jubilee and we both wrote songs for Anne Murray. And it is a great honour to be sharing the spotlight with the wonderful Natalie MacMaster and Harry Hibbs. Many thanks to Casino Nova Scotia, Music Nova Scotia, Music New Brunswick and all those who cKen Tobias painting far off worlds.jpgontinue to support my music and art.””

Ken Tobias’ story continues to unfold in front of us, as unending as the galaxies he captures in his paintings.

Cheers, Ken Tobias! And thanks for inspiring so many Canadian writers, players, and artists to pursue their dreams.

Here’s a catchy summer tune from his latest CD, “From a Distance.”

 

 

 

think-of-the-children

Think of the Children!


I ‘get away’ so rarely that I hadn’t realized how proscribed most lives have become –  when you only leave your house for short jaunts into civilization,  interact with a select few, and then hurry back home on the last bus, people-watching changes from being a relaxing pastime to a zoological behavioral study.

Musselman-Lake.jpgIt was fun to leave our stuffy bungalow for a jaunt up to Musselman’s Lake, in the Stouffville area.  Our daughter recently bought a trailer, which is parked in the Cedar Beach resort.

The resort has been run by the same family since 1929, and generations of holidaying campers have enjoyed the lake and beach, along with other amenities. It’s a great place to bring a precocious 7 year old like my granddaughter, as the resort is like a small village, with 520 long-term trailer sites, most of which are as cared for as primary residences.

little-girl-with-stroller.jpgThe casual atmosphere, highly regulated, and self-policed by the families themselves, allows kids to run freely, to play in the many playgrounds, and simply behave like kids did before the last twenty or thirty years of increasing parental paranoia.

You don’t realize just how controlled kids’ lives have become until you find yourself, as my husband did, panicking over the sight of a pair of 4 and 5 year old girls calmly walking a doll stroller on a one-way lane. “Anyone could snatch up those two, throw them in the back of a van, and speed away!” he said.

Good lord – is that what we’ve come to? That, even in a small space where entry is carefully controlled, where the speed limit is 10 kph, and most of those present are long-standing renters, in a space that is rife with parents, aunts, siblings and grandparents …   even in a space this sheltered, we have to live in constant fear that our most vulnerable and precious could be snatched away at any time?

How has life become so seemingly perilous, even to we who have never known armed combat on our land? Are we now to live under constant fear, and the feeling that we could be attacked at any moment –  by our neighbours, by a stranger, by a predator, always potentially lurking in the shadows? Are we now to live in constant dread of ‘what could happen?’ No wonder people in America are so protective of their right to own guns.

illegal in U.S.jpgBut the bigger question is – when did we develop this persistent fear, and why? In a civilization where anything can be deemed too harmful to be legal, (fireworks, lawn darts, unpasteurized cheese … even KinderEggs!) how have we gone from subconsciously knowing the possibility of a rare instance of unforeseen harm into a state of constant vigilance against possible marauders?

Certainly, there are now more people living on the planet than at any other time in history, and we feel that claustrophobia even in our suburbs and towns. But proportionately, rates of kidnaps, rapes and murders haven’t really risen. In fact, the instances of kidnapping of children in the U.S. by non-parental or family members intent on harming the child is about 115 per year … out of 340 million inhabitants.

To put that figure into perspective – during the Vietnam War, every American personally knew at least one of the 10,000 soldiers per year who had died in the conflict. But almost no one personally knows a child that was taken with criminal intent.

Jon Benet Ramsay People magSo who’s ramping up this fear? Well … it’s astounding how much of U.S. law enforcement is influenced not just by mass media coverage, but by the hysterics of tabloid media, who thrive on rehashing grisly incidents for as long as they can drag out the gory details. Police and politicians have their feet held to the fire to account for the panic brought on by those who profit from tragedy.

Statistics can be, and often are, manipulated by private interests and organizations, in an attempt to boost profits, be they donations to causes meant to comfort sufferers, or by the marketing of items meant to increase private citizens’ feeling of being protected.

A fearful society tends to prefer the status quo, allowing governments to stay in power for perhaps longer than they should be. They will look to the loud and the bombastic, because the posturings of the aggressive allow the frightened to shelter in place.

homeland security.jpgAnd it’s certainly no stretch of the imagination to realize that a country in a state of fear and panic is easily manipulated by governments with agendas that might have seemed too radical in times of peace.  Look to America’s overly militarized Homeland Security, or Canada’s Bill C-51, an over-reaching bill designed to capitalize on the fear instilled in us, that trumps our free speech with a plan to capture – and indefinitely retain – all of our private phone calls and internet data.

The ripple of fear that circled the globe after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers has never really subsided. Horrifying acts, including brutal torture and murders, were committed on suspects, whether innocent or guilty of crimes, and the attack on Iraq, which had long been a possibility for unrelated reasons, was used as an excuse to punish the masterminds wrongly believed to be behind the tragedy.

There must be a villain, there must be a reason, and so the net is cast further and further, vilifying those who are not exactly like us, the ‘others’ that we scapegoat to try and calm our jangled nerves.   Something must be done! we cry … and done now! Save us from the unknown, no matter if it is ultimately we that are harmed in the process.

A fearful society will often turn to religion, and a reliance on a supernatural power to ensure that, even should they themselves be injured or killed, there will be a reward, post-mortem, from the deity of their choice. They will blame and reject progressive ideas and ideology, preferring to trust the writings of the ancients over the possibility that a science they can’t quite understand could hold a solution to their terrors.

A fearful society wraps it’s most vulnerable in emotional cotton batting and bubble wrap, too frightened to allow children to explore their world and learn both the good and bad of their environment, and to experience the emotions and understandings inherent in living in their social order. A fearful society looks with suspicion on anyone who’s not in their personal tribe, and passes that crippling fear on to their children.

think-of-the-childrenWhenever changes meant to move our culture forward progressively are proposed, the rallying cry from those who are afraid of alterations to their reality is “Think of the children!  That plea, originally referring to children’s rights, and real dangers, such as child labour, has now become a plea for pity, and an appeal to emotion. It is a logical fallacy that substitutes emotion for reason, and indicates a culture in moral panic and relentless distress. It is, in fact, the antithesis of what children need – a feeling of security and of being protected.

And in believing that it is only by insulating children from all contact with ‘others’ and other ideas, it is a pious attempt to stop progress by effectively robbing children of their right to childhood. It seems a very high price to pay.

Our terror of the unknown, and our concern for the well-being of our children, must not be the justification of our need to inflict upon them a very real ‘nanny state’ created by our own neurotic anxiety.