Building Tiny Bomb Shelters for Fun and Profit


by Roxanne Tellier

wrong week to stop huffing glueEver have the feeling that you picked the wrong decade to try to get and stay healthy, focused, connected and relatively substance free? 

I’m telling you – I wish they’d narrow down the date of the Apocalypse, because I am totally prepared to return to smoking and drinking if it’s in the relatively near future. Heck, I’d probably be up for heroin or crack, if I knew I wouldn’t be around to pay the physical price for indulging.

grumpy cat RIP

Even Grumpy Cat couldn’t take this world any more. Oh, sure, they said the poor kitty had complications from an infection, but I’m gonna bet the tiny feline just couldn’t take another day of Trump.

And who could blame him?  Constant distractions, disruptions, lying, and a continual, unending chaos at the highest levels of government are what we wake up to every morning. Settled law has become unsettled. The relatively established ground of how our nearest and dearest will react to the next political landmine has turned to quicksand.

Just when you thought politics had hit rock bottom, you read that the sales of shovels and pick-axes continue to rise. And is that the sound of digging you hear?

These times are just too … interesting.

We read the gloomy predictions of climate catastrophe, follow the bouncing stock market ball, and wonder if there’s still time to build a tiny bomb shelter (because .. property rates are INSANE!) before a nuclear war erupts in a country near us.

When the rules by which you’ve been playing the game of Life are suddenly changed, for whatever reason, it can feel like a chasm has opened beneath your feet, exposing a yawning maw of emotional lava. And it can really mess you up. It’s exhausting, pretending to be a functioning adult.

types of depression

When I recently posted on Face book that I was too depressed to spend as much time on social media as I had in the past, I was surprised at how many people responded to the post, saying that they were feeling the same way.  Social media, which started as a nice way to pass the time with friends, has, in some cases, become a hive of pandemonium, where even the simplest statement can escalate in a heartbeat into a challenge to pistols at dawn.

some men just want to watch the world burnWe are angry and disillusioned with our fellow humans. We wonder how people whom we have known for decades could find it in themselves to vote for the Trumps and Fords of the world.

I have been in this place before, this dark corridor of tears and fear. I had a terrible, deep, and long lasting depression nearly two decades ago. It was soon after the events of 9/11 in the United States, and coincided with several personal events that caused within me a perfect storm of melancholy.

I spent months hiding in the basement, lying on a folding lounge chair, drinking myself into oblivion, trying to come to terms with a world that no longer made sense to me. I finally confessed my inability to cope to my doctor, and he sent me off to a psychiatrist, who was of very little help. The prevailing attitude was that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance, and thus should be easily curable if/when the right combination of chemicals were applied to the problem. In my case, his chemicals could not fix me – ultimately, I had to fix myself, unaided.

I am strong but tired fibroWe know now that a chemical imbalance is just one small segment of any study of depression disorder and mental illness; not every problem can be cured by pills. Some sufferers will need time, some will need counselling, and some will simply wake up one morning to discover that their pain has grown a hard callus over their broken heart.

What often drives a deep depression is a reaction to our present reality, and a feeling of being helpless to control our own lives in relation to that reality. It is, some say, a sense of loss, of grieving the person you once were, because you are now dealing with a very different present, and in so doing, have become a very different person, one whom you may occasionally find unrecognizable, or even unlovable.

Some, who live relatively unexamined lives, are better equipped than others to deal with extreme changes to their personal landscapes; with minor changes to their own belief systems, they can readily adjust to the ‘new rules’ that are imposed upon them by those who make and enforce the laws of their country.

one third will watch one third killHistory is filled with stories of people who stood by and watched horrific – but legal – acts be committed by those who created and enforced the laws of the land. It wasn’t that they were born to be bad people, per se .. it was that they were capable of ‘going along to get along’ … to watch without interfering, and to keep silent so that they themselves were not the next to be persecuted.

 

It is simply a truth that for many, self-preservation will overrule empathy if there’s anything at stake. Like those who cannot understand how others can be anything but regular, old heterosexual until they realize that someone close to them follows a different sexual lifestyle, it’s easiest to name and dismiss others as ‘not our sort’ when you’ve never known what it is that ‘their sort’ believe or practice.

abortion only protects fetusThe draconian new anti abortion laws emanating from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and even Ohio, this week, ripe with a stench tinged with the sulphurs of Hell, have left many of us shaken, angry, and defiant in a way I haven’t seen in many months. These almost comically villainous, and decidedly unconstitutional, attacks on the civil rights of 51.8% of the American population were purposely designed to attract a backlash by the ACLU and other groups, in order that the Religious Right might attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark court case allowing abortions to be performed in the United States.

chastity belts for menRepublicans feel that the time is right to take this battle to the Supreme Court, now that Trump has stacked the Court with his handpicked lackeys.

And in Ontario last week, a very young and barely post-pubescent Conservative member casually shook the same red cape in support of a pro life protest on the grounds of Queen’s Park, where he made the pronouncement that he hoped to make abortion unthinkable in his lifetime.  By so doing, this home schooled and very religious young man unleashed a storm of estrogen-fueled fury unlike anything he could ever have dreamed of provoking.

What most of us, in both the U.S. and Canada, have recently learned is that the right to abortion isn’t actually settled law in the U.S. And in Canada, with 7 out of 10 provinces now ruled by Conservatives, and with a federal election looming that might turn the entire country back to the Right (and somewhere around the 1950s) our own abortion rights might be on the table sooner rather than later.abortion dont' tell me what to do

It is an irony of Alanis Morissette sized proportions that Canada, that ruled in 1967 that ‘there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,‘ thereby decriminalizing homosexuality, would now appear to be saying, in 2019, that the state DOES have the right to assert dominance over the uteruses (uteri?) of it’s women.

I won’t lie .. I am pissed. I am really, really REALLY pissed that a battle that so many of us fought for – and won! – back in the 60s is being brought back to life like some stinking, rotting zombie, purely for the tiny percentage of North Americans who, like ISIS, believe that their religious beliefs trump those of the rest of the nation.

I take great comfort in how women and their allies are fighting back this time around. We are not about to be manipulated by guilt as we have been in the past, and we no longer believe that the burden of contraception is completely our responsibility- it takes two to tango, and a lot of not so woke men are about to learn how to dance.

 

Walking-Dead

My only hope is that this desperate attempt by the Religious Right to pull the world back into the Dark Ages only succeeds in demonstrating indelibly and for all time that religion must never, ever, be allowed to trump science and democracy. That way lies dragons.

trump separation of church and state

 

Don’t Call Me Stupid, Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

Waking up on a Sunday morning to a world without Facebook. Oh my, it must have been at least an hour before it was back on line … such a long … lonely … hour …. Where were all of my … argumentative strangers?

leave britney aloneMeh. I’ve had a bunch of minor, irritating problems with my ‘puter over the last few weeks, so it was really nothing more than just another annoyance. But a quick Google check showed that millions of people, living all around the world, were missing their Facebook and social media fix. And they were NOT happy.

Facebook is as addictive as any drug. Don’t believe me? Try walking away.

facebook-is-a-hell-of-a-drugFunny, I’d been thinking recently about leaving Facebook. If you have an addictive personality AND are political, it’s not a healthy place. Sure, I love the animal videos, it is great to see how friends and family in far flung places are doing, and I enjoy being able to quickly get in touch with my ‘connected’ friends, but I don’t know if I can take much more of the 24/7 news stream of our current divisive, angry, confrontational times. It’s all too much.

 

brazil president rain forest

Lately, what passes for ‘information’ on Facebook is a steady stream of accounts of venomous actions being perpetrated on vulnerable people by people who should never have been given access to power. Trump’s American war on refugees is just a wisp of smoke and a few barbed wire rolls short of being as horrific as the Holocaust. Across North America, the battle to extract the last of the oil, destined to enrich a smaller and smaller group of people, threatens the extinction of wild life and sea life, and tramples on the rights of the indigenous. In Brazil, a rabid right vows to eliminate the rain forests of the Amazon, and to roust the last of their native peoples.

In Canada, the machinations of people WITHIN the Liberal party are even more vile than those of their political opponents. In the 2019 budget for Ontario, our premier mentions ‘beer’ and ‘alcohol’ 46 times, in his zeal to re-brand Ontario as a hard drinking, hard gambling, land of the never closed casinos. And in England, there’s a shocking deficiency of intellect being used in the negotiation of the wrong-headed Brexit.

I read today about a new procedural policy suggested by the Trump administration, proposing to monitor the social media accounts of veterans. If the veterans appear “too happy,” their disability pensions for PTSD will be reduced. Or if their photos or videos appear to show them enjoying physical activities, that might be grounds for cutting their disability benefits. In other words, the policy would create an environment in which first veterans, and then, possibly other groups that include disabled people, would need to self-censor what they share on social media with friends and family, lest the government decide to cut vital financial aid or medical care.

Facebook is really starting to dig a little too close to the horrors of a Black Mirror episode. Vulnerable people, those that are easily led, those than believe what they see and hear, indiscriminately, and spread disinformation to their friends, are enabling a world where ‘truth’ carries less weight than ‘opinion.’

Let me tell you about something that happened to me, just this week, because it rather shook my faith, or perhaps my assumption,  in the intelligence of people. In the aftermath of that horrific massacre in New Zealand, in which an Australian far right, home-grown terrorist murdered 50 people and injured dozens more, I received a private message from a fellow that I only knew from Facebook, but with whom I’d exchanged birthday and seasonal greetings for about six years. It contained a video of a Canadian (!) right wing, anti-immigrant, FOX styled ‘journalist,’ who was filming her interactions with the refugees and immigrants who live in the small neighbourhood of Lakemba, near Sydney, Australia.

Lauren Southern kicked outHis message exhorted me to ‘share this everywhere!!!!!!”

Henry is a Canadian who immigrated to Australia about 10 years ago. His wife is of European descent, and I believe she immigrated there shortly before Henry. Since their marriage, they’ve had a son, who is an all Australian boy in temper and manner. Henry and family, who are extremely Caucasian, have gleefully adopted most of what we would consider ‘Australianisms.’

Henry has worked very, very hard to make a place in Australian society for himself, and to support his family. Australia, at 7,692,024 km, is the world’s largest island, with a population of just 24.6 million…. much less than Canada’s population of 37 million. Yet Henry believes that allowing Muslims the same opportunity that he had, of immigrating to Australia for a better life, will lead to widespread Shariah Law and a lack of bacon in his MacDonald burgers. Henry is an entitled, hypocritical prick, and he is no longer my Facebook friend, because he is a stone cold racist, and I do not tolerate racists or racism.

trump I'm with racistsSadly, for many like Henry, a large part of the role that Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media play in their lives is the propagation and dissemination of racism. They are delighted to find the like-minded, tend to be tolerant and accepting of trolls and bots, and are willfully blind to any attempt to separate the truth from the lies. That’s most certainly NOT the average Facebook user, but it is a large, and extremely argumentative and vocal segment, thus, very easy to find.

There is, in fact, such a shocking lack of knowledge, wisdom, common sense and humility involved in the shriekings of the bigoted, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, hoi polloi on social media that one can only sadly agree with British pundit, David Mitchell, who said of the willfully naif, that, “It would be a shame to trample on the fresh snow of your ignorance.”

Most of us are loathe to label the thinking of others as stupid or ignorant; it’s unkind, often misused, and certainly doesn’t lead to an equal sharing of information. However, years of austerity and tax cuts to education and health care, combined with poor diets, have actually begun to turn the clock backward on a common intelligence in first world countries. We are literally becoming dumber than our parents and grandparents.

When president John F. Kennedy decided in 1961 that America would put a man on the moon, it took them just eight years to figure out how. And that was in a time before email even existed. Humans excelled in the 20th century, achieving incredible breakthroughs in science and technology.

In Ontario, we’ve been trying to get a subway to the suburb of Scarborough for more than twenty years.

In previous decades, there was a steady climb in the average IQ scores in civilized countries, of about 3 IQ points per decade. This was called the Flynn effect — named after the work of New Zealand intelligence researcher James Flynn.

Yogi BearBut that increase topped out around 1975, with IQ’s steadily falling by an average of about seven points per generation since. The drop seems to be more about nurture than nature, and includes the impact of changes in how we teach math, science, and language.

“This establishes that the large changes in average cohort intelligence reflect environmental factors and not changing composition of parents, which in turn rules out several prominent hypotheses for retrograde Flynn effects.”

We WANT to believe that we, the citizens of strong, first world, nations are intelligent, thoughtful, free of ignorance, and that our country .. and Facebook … is filled with good people who reflect our own wholesome goodness and wisdom.

However in actual fact, we’re moving steadily, and very quickly, towards an Idiocracy. (This clip is from February 2016 – there has definitely been a further huge drop in our collective IQs in the last two years, from the drip, drip, drip of 24/7 mis and disinformation.)

 

So where to from here, folks?

 

 

Exit the Idiot Whisperer


Ever have, oh, I don’t know… about 6 or 700 of ‘those days,’ where you start to wonder if it’s actually possible that you just might have woken up on another, identical, but much stupider, planet?

thanks god none of you peole are realI have spent far too many hours attempting to reason with those who adamantly refuse to see logic or sense. The sad truth is that they are happy in their interpretation of the world. And I suppose I should be happy that they are happy. It’s all working out for them.

In the past .. well, up to about a week ago .. I would have spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to change someone’s mind. But the thing is, I’m not getting any younger, and the kind of gymnastics needed to argue with a firmly committed Trump cultist is something that no longer feels like fun.

It’s more akin to wrestling a pig. The pig likes it, but I just wind up feeling dirty.

10 commandments of logicThe few diehard Trumpists that get through my anti-Trump wall tend to be friends of friends. Again, in the past, I might have opted to be gracious, rather than potentially offend someone. Now, I’m more inclined to block the one, and unfriend the other. Tiptoeing around crazy people just feels too much like work, and baby.. I’m retired.

I’m tired of being the Idiot Whisperer. I quit. Research your own damn questions yourself. Use your Google fingers to do what every other inquiring mind has to do .. look it up. Find a decent source, and if what you’re reading actually agrees TOO much with what you personally feel about a subject, check with Snopes to ensure that you’re not buying into a hoax.

How hard can that be, people? Don’t repeat stuff that’s stupid. If you are unsure if it’s true, look for another source before you pass on that article, that meme, or that obituary. And if the only reason that you’re gonna forward something is because you know it’s going to rile up people – don’t share it. Life’s hard enough without people going out of their way to be ornery.

face tat failAnd for those people who might be job hunting, it’s best to keep in mind that those checking out your resume will probably also have a gander at what you share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with checking your references. You might want to go easy on the kind of uploads that get a person sent repeatedly to Facebook Jail. What you’re saying and sharing online is a pretty good measurement of how you’ll conduct yourself offline, on a social level, whether for business or pleasure. Social media is not the place to let it all ‘hang out,’ or to boast that you fooled that personnel interviewer by temporarily concealing your skin head and rad tats.

Here’s another thing we all have to stop doing ….. taking the bait of every professional AND non-professional journalist that hosts a webpage. Most stories, even those that are put up by highly reputable sources, still fall within the realm of ‘entertainment.’ It’s all about the clicks.

Yes, we agree with the 97% of climate change scientists who assure us that what we’re seeing is real. Yes, we agree with the majority of psychologists pointing out Trump’s massive mental issues and how difficult it is to deal with his deficiencies. Yes, his choices for important roles in his administration are tearing the fabric of America apart, and it may never be able to be repaired …

BUT…

Have any of our complaints and demands for change been heard or acted upon in a timely manner? Yes, Whitaker is likely an illegal, unconstitutional appointment to the role of United States Attorney General, but have any of our heated debates or stern warnings on the subject got him fired from the gig?

No, they have not. The U.S. is essentially an autocracy where things happen as decided by the autocrats, and no matter how cogent our carefully thought out arguments may sound, or of how angry we may become, our words and emotions have about as much chance of making a dent as a Nerf bat.

And our ruminations are about as important to the world as those of the Thirty Helens Who Agree on Coleslaw.

So, you may as well let a lot of those clickbait articles, and columns asking rhetorical questions, to just sail on by. The last thing any of us needs is to have a stroke over the very idea that raking up the over one million square feet of California forest would have prevented all that destruction.  (Spoiler alert: It wouldn’t have.)

Better to spend that time answering questions that may help you to figure out what historical figure you were in a past life, and if it’s true that you are a fire horse in Chinese astrology. .

Remember when going on Facebook used to be fun, and we’d connect with old friends and relatives and share cat videos and terrible jokes?

Yeah .. that all changed ’round about 2015. Now it’s more like negotiating an armistice or surviving a Civil War. No thanks, Zuckerberg. Most of us have one foot out the door, and we’re taking our advertising dollars with us when we find our next social media platform.

Now, I am not saying that I am going to turn over a new leaf, stop commenting and forwarding political columns and memes, and devote myself to some new hobby, like fly fishing. Far from it. I will definitely continue to attempt to make some sense of the political machinations exhibited daily, from both sides of the border. Someone has to keep an eye on these bastards.

novelty tea cut toiletI’m just saying that not all of us have to be on guard, all of the time. The holiday season is nearing, and a lot of the people whom we care about, really don’t care about politics. In fact, they would prefer it if your holiday gift to them this year would be a promise to not discuss politics at the dinner table. They’d rather have that than pretty much any of the novelty gifts you’ve been thinking of getting them this year … even more than that tea cup you thought would be a hoot.

I’m just saying that it might be time for us to do what the mass media and social media refuse to do – take a few days mental and physical break from the constant bombardment of stupidity, greed, corruption, whipped up paranoia, and hysteria that has become our daily diet.

idiot whispererI’m just saying that maybe it’s time to deny oxygen to the people and things that can’t survive without our steady attention. Maybe letting ‘the cheese stand alone,’ bereft of the attentiveness and arguments that are used to make him appear relevant, will help some of his most stalwart supporters to see what most of us already know – that the trump presidency and administration is a gasbag of noxious farts meant to keep us all looking in the other direction, so that the pickpockets can fleece us without our noticing.

Or maybe I really did wake up on an identical, but much stupider, planet. It’s as good a theory as any other out there.

 

Loving The Sharing Economy


Times are tough. Wages are stagnant, but costs keep rising. It’s getting harder and harder for the average Joe or Jane to get from one pay cheque to the next, and that’s assuming they’re even lucky enough to have a job. Students skip meals to buy books.  If you’re in the arts, making ends meet is nearly impossible … and that’s before you hit your Golden Years.

everyone's brokeYep, all ages are feeling the pinch. For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever felt the bite on their bucks this savagely, so they’re under equipped to take advantage of some of the newest survival techniques out there. Time to use every trick you can find.

But how?

UberAllMarket_MainWhen Uber came along, it seemed a great way to make a couple of bucks, if you had a halfway decent vehicle. But many cities put up a good fight against ‘ride sharing,’ worried that it would cut into the taxi business, a rich tax resource, and strictly regulated.

The same thinking applied to Air BnB, and the renting out of space. Once governments realized they were losing hotel tax dollars to those entrepreneurs, regulations increased, and tourism taxes were applied.

In both cases, what seemed like a good way to make a few extra bucks, turned out to be primarily profitable for the owners of Uber and Air BnB.  They reap the big bucks, while the entrepreneur incurs all the costs and risks.

There may not be many legit or  magical ways to make extra money.

charity-fashion-collageBut there are ways to pinch a penny, if you’re open to new concepts. Charity shops are a mixed bag these days. Value Village is no longer such a value, and the Salvation Army and Goodwill are slowly increasing prices.

I do like the Kind Exchange, though items vary from location to location. (oh, and you can sell your gently used clothing to them, as well!)

But why bother, when I can pick up brand new clothing for less, and usually do, at outlets like Ardene, where prices are generally 70% off on clothing, and ridiculously low on shoes, jewellery, and other girly delights.

ardene shoesThree pair of flats for $10? Three new summer tank tops or new leggings for $15? I’m in! You can pop into one of their outlet shops, (I like the one at Woodside Square,) or even shop for their deals online at  http://www.ardene.com/en/clothing.html .

That’s just one chain – there are many more that have crazy clearances and outlets. Google ‘outlet’ and you may be surprised at how easy it is to get your cut-price shopping on.

Or let’s say you want something that’s ‘new to you,’ but the only thing you’re rich in is dreams. You might want to try a Bunz group. My grandson told me about this barter group last year, but I finally found them on Facebook a few weeks ago. These are usually private groups that you’ll have to ask to join.

keurig-bunz-appToronto’s Emily Bitze started the Bunz Trading Zone (BTZ)  (originally called Bumz) in 2013. It’s a swap/trade group that operates on a no money basis. The ‘currency’ can be anything from TTC tokens to beer cans. You offer anything from clothes to furniture, advice or services, and negotiate your own deal.

Another intriguing way to stretch a buck is with the Toronto Tool Library , also on Facebook. For $50 a year, you have access to over 4,000 tools, ranging from electronics to carpentry and everything in between. They also have a Makerspace with 3D printers, lasercutter & full wood shop. It’s a great way to start or indulge in your hobbies without a fortune in outlay.

freecycleI’ve been an avid user of Freecycle (www.freecycle.org)  since it first appeared, about a decade ago. “The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,285 groups with 9,182,159 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.”

You give, and you get. As a member of several groups (you can join as many as make sense to your location) and the moderator of one, I’ve seen everything from food to clothing to furniture, professional equipment, and oddities be offered. I’ve even seen cars, trailers, and once – a boat! –  be recycled. It’s a terrific way to spring clean or downsize, while giving to those who have a need, and feeling great about keeping perfectly good items out of landfills.

There are no strings attached, which instills a sense of generosity of spirit. Similar groups have sprung up as well, usually specific to geographical areas, that operate in the same manner. Google FreeTOreuse, or Trash Nothing! for instructions on how to join those groups.  trashNothing

Most of the freecycling groups will offer some basic rules and cautions. I’ve had little problem with either the items I’ve offered, or the items I’ve collected, but you want to use some basic common sense when interacting with people you don’t know. The majority of freecyclers prefer to leave or pickup items from door steps or porches.

So now that you’ve got your basic material needs covered, you need somewhere to keep your stuff.

Community living is quickly becoming an affordable way to share space and costs. Once standard amongst students and musicians, the crazy price of real estate has brought back the practice for all who cannot or will not pay sky high rents.  It’scommunity also a great way to sample an area, without committing to long term leases.  You can find Facebook groups that list sublets and temporary living spaces  in your area, or somewhere you’d like to be.

For those with champagne tastes and beer budgets, sharing a living space can mean a major lifestyle upgrade – if you can handle your roommates’ personalities. A group of twenty-somethings  with like tastes can rent a great space, if they’re pooling their cash. Shared living opens up possibilities that might not have been in the budget for a single renter.

old-bikers-bike-nursing-homeI’ve been talking about a ‘rock and roll retirement home’ for years. It only makes sense for those in similar fields and with similar backgrounds to pool resources in a way that allows freer expression than that most commonly seen in retirement homes. I’m just hoping I can get it off the ground before it’s time to move in!

It’s possible to live fairly well on a limited budget, if you are open to changing hard-wired views and beliefs. The market has spent billions convincing buyers to spend. But you don’t have to buy what they’re selling. There’s a whole new world of possibilities within the sharing economy.

 

Peter Cottontail Has Left the Building


cute bunnyThis week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, has always been considered the Holiest of Holy weeks to Catholics. As a child, I looked forward to new shoes and a showy hat (women still had to wear them in church, back then) and a basketful of goodies – maybe even a chocolate bunny!

But that was then, and this is now, and it’s been a long time since anyone’s hunted for coloured eggs at my house. Peter Cottontail has left the building, and this week was a horror show all around, with bombings in Brussels, the ramping up of panic in America over both terrorism and Trump’s continued putsch to glory, interspersed with freezing rain, a dismal outcome (for many)  to the Jian Ghomeshi  trial, a Liberal budget that projects a $30 billion deficit, and a surprisingly negative response to the new Batman vs Superman movie. Oh, and the beer and liquor stores were closed for two days.

And you can add to that the shock accompanying hearing of the death of comedian Gary Shandling.  At 66, he was far too young, and we were not ready for his genius to leave us.

You will forgive me if this has been a week I’d prefer to forget.

The loss of another celebrity, former Mayor Rob Ford, also captured attention. I’ve written about him before, and my feelings about his tenure remain unchanged. So do the feelings of those who admired him. However, Torontonians who dared to pen anything more than a non-committal noting of his passing were soundly excoriated by their fellow citizens for not prostrating at his bier with enough respect.

rob ford dead headlinesThe world press had no such strictures.

Some people will try to convince you that their way to mourn is the only and correct way. I disagree. There is no ‘right way” to mourn, and demanding fealty at the point of a disapproving moral gun does not change the past. You would think that the unprecedented two day period of lying in state at City Hall (at the request of the family) would appease the bereaved, but apparently, that is not enough. Those who revered his blustering, bumbling ways would have us re-write history, in an effort to whitewash his misdeeds, and beatify him as Toronto’s savior.

MargaretThatcher 1992It’s all so very reminiscent of the post-death canonization of Margaret Thatcher. Reviled during her tenure for her hawkish policies, key role in bringing about the first Gulf War, and advocating  for the 2003 attack on Iraq, along with her ushering in of a period where the rich got richer at the expense of the poor, her influence negatively affected millions around the world. And yet, her canonization began just nanoseconds after word of her death hit the airwaves; she was lionized worldwide in the press, her state funeral cost Britain  £3.1 million pounds, and Iron Lady statues made of actual iron were erected in places as diverse as the Falkland Islands , despite Argentina’s fury.

Meanwhile, the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” raced to the top of the British charts.

There’s a price to be paid for assuming a position of power – the admission includes having your life and history scrutinized and deemed worthy or unworthy, both by those who liked you and by those who didn’t, who still had to live with the impact of political actions. It is ‘misapplied death etiquette,’ as journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, to be expected to apply the same moral high ground  we do to the deaths of private individuals as we do when considering the entirety of the life of an influential public figure.

There’s something distinctively creepy – in a Roman sort of way – about this mandated ritual that our political leaders must be heralded and consecrated as saints upon death. This is accomplished by this baseless moral precept that it is gauche or worse to balance the gushing praise for them upon death with valid criticisms. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn’t change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-death-etiquettefacebook judges and lawyers.jpg

Ah, but the self-anointed social media judges and lawyers would disagree.

A video capturing an incident involving a young woman, confronted with parking in a handicapped space, went viral this week. Shot here in Toronto, in front of a Tim Hortons, the video showed her reaction to being caught – privileged outrage, threats, and the throwing of two cups of coffee at the videographer.

Surprisingly, many were more incensed by the videographer’s capture and sharing of the incident, than at the belligerent aggression of the scofflaw. Despite assaulting the photographer, and driving off in a huff, aiming her vehicle at the cameraman before swerving away, these commentators believed  she should not have been confronted, but rather, that the photographer should have ‘minded his own business.’

As the video went viral, international viewers were stunned to see her rudeness … aren’t all Canadians pretty much nice and polite people, they asked?  No, some, with possibly the best of intentions, are bullies.

Bullying in an attempt to force your morality, or personal and world views, onto others, is still bullying. I have one ex-Facebook friend who blocked my posts because her nephews follow her page, and she censors what they can see. Another Facebooker resented my questioning the morality of the actions of Israel towards Palestine, despite my information having come from a Jewish peace activist living in Israel.

And the culmination of the trial of Jian Ghomeshi unleashed some of the vilest comments I’ve ever seen directed at alleged victims of assault. The women were ‘liars,’ ‘manipulative,’ ‘shameful fame seekers,’ ‘femitards,’ ‘toxic bitches,’ and worse. Despite the fact that a total of 21 women had originally come forward to complain, with identical accusations, about Ghomeshi’s weird ideas on sex play, only three were brave enough to appear in court, and all three were pummeled with relentless demands to answer questions about, not just the attack, but trivial events of a decade past – what lawyers like to call ‘whacking’ – while Ghomeshi sat silent.  (ghomeshi cosby.jpg)

The judge’s decision acquitted Ghomeshi, but also noted that his verdict did not mean these events ‘never happened.’ The judge simply didn’t believe the women’s testimony, flawed as it was by misremembered events, private messages between two of the accusers, and contact with the accused after the fact.

For women of every political stripe, the decision was flawed, and the system biased. At City Hall, one naked protester was unnecessarily and roughly tackled to the ground, her nipples scraping the pavement as she was dragged away by the police. Despite nudity being legal in Canada, the uptight citizens must not be discomfited by the sight of a woman’s breasts.

From a story released by the CBC: “While former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal has sparked protests, many within the legal community are praising the decision, agreeing with the judge that the complainants’ credibility issues raised reasonable doubt in the case.”

By implication, stating that “many within the legal community” support the decision, dismisses by extension those who found the decision as to be  ill-informed. In actual fact, many of those who have criticized the decision are academic and legal scholars.

Am I biased? Perhaps. Or is the system itself flawed? At the beginning of the month, a report filed by the Criminal Lawyer’s Association found that women were leaving the field of criminal law in dramatically high numbers, due to systemic discrimination.

 “It found low pay, lack of financial support for maternity leave and being treated differently than male peers by judges and court staff as some of the reasons so many women are leaving private practice of criminal law,” reported Maureen Brosnahan for the CBC. “Many women also reported a lack of respect and being treated differently than male lawyers by court officers, police, crown attorneys and judges. One reported being called “little lady” repeatedly. Others said they were chastised for asking judges for time to pick up children from school whereas their male counterparts who made similar requests were not rebuked.”

Whether or not it is possible to change how sensitive cases are handled in an atmosphere where women are routinely marginalized, it’s still time for an honest reappraisal of how sexual assault cases are conducted in Canada, especially in the face of the numbers.

“In Canada, the low rates of conviction for sexual assault are an indictment of the system itself. As a 2014 Toronto Star article revealed using Statscan data from 2004 and 2006, 460,000 women self-reported sexual assault: 15,200 reported to the police, 5,544 charges were laid, with 2,824 prosecutions and 1,519 convictions. Again, that’s almost a half million self-reported assaults, and 1,519 convictions. Something is deeply wrong.”

 Understandably – and not because we are stupid or legally naive, but because 1 in 4 women has experienced a sexual assault in her lifetime, and has a strong personal stake in how this case concluded – many women were incensed at the Ghomeshi decision.

Enter ‘mansplaining.’

Either unable or unwilling to see how angry and hurt many women are by the Ghomeshi decision, mansplainers flocked to the posts women made about their feelings on the ruling. “Read the decision,” they intoned, as though we were either too stupid to understand, or blind to the many gloatings of those who’d ‘called it’ from the beginning, and who were dancing in joy at both the decision and having been proved right.

Hey! Your side won! Now could you take your foot off my neck so that I can sympathize and empathize with women who feel as I do, stunned at the inevitability of once again, being re-victimized  post-assault?

Are you so utterly deaf to the agony of people in pain that your only recourse is to repeat incessantly that ‘justice has been done?’  willful blindness

Or as one woman keened in her blog, “How can you be so blind? How can you insert yourself into a woman pouring her grief out, to tell her that legally, she has no case? That what happened to her, didn’t factually happen. To throw a smothering blanket on the fire igniting in her. She has no reality. The law is the reality. It is the neutral, the official record. It is gas lighting on a massive scale.

So I know perhaps the evidence wasn’t there, or that the burden of proof wasn’t met. And I don’t fucking care. This isn’t about this one case. This case was inevitable, like watching a lemming marching to its doom.

It’s every fucking time. Every time. The mundanity of the oppression, the predictability of the reaction, the backlash that follows. “      (https://afateofpossibilities.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/this-isnt-about-the-ghomeshi-case/)

It is indeed gaslighting. It’s telling people that their emotions are invalid, that what they see and feel has no wegaslighting2ight. It’s a way to keep those who disagree with you off balance, wondering if perhaps what they perceive isn’t real, casting doubt on their mental stability, pointing to others that agree with YOUR beliefs as proof that THEY are in the wrong. It is psychological abuse. And it’s an ugly way to treat anyone.

The overwhelming miasma of this week – at least for me – has been one of outraged, self-righteous, phony, morality gone mad, and overwhelmingly imposed upon all in its path. Think as I think, believe as I believe, abandon your own truths and take on mine.

Whether it be Trump calling the beleaguered city of Brussels ‘a hellhole,’ or Cruz demanding strict policing of American Muslims in their own neighbourhoods; police manhandling protestors, or judges calling women deceitful and self-serving, it’s not been a good week to have a high Emotional I.Q., and a low tolerance for sanctimonious public principles forced upon the social order by the court of public opinion.

Speak-your-truth Ghandi

 

(first published  March  27/16 (bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/roxanne-tellier-peter-cottontail-has-left-the-building)

Living in the FaceBook Bubble


Dang! It always happens … I’m all gung ho about something I want to write about, and I get some of the research done, and then … life intervenes. Or, more accurately, social media. I’m looking at you, Facebook!

you're soaking in itOh, that Facebook. That sapper of time, that playground for those avoiding actual work, that stew of emotions so many of us find ourselves soaking in. I can give you a dozen reasons why being on Facebook is a good thing, with it’s ability to connect us to long lost friends and relatives around the world. But the honest truth is that most of us are just plain addicted to the rush of recognition we feel when someone out there ‘likes’ our posts.

And that’s part of the problem. We naturally tend to gather around ourselves those of like minds, and soon our interactions may be more about living in a bubble of agreement than actual dialogue. Any dissenting voice can be drowned out by a supporter, which neatly nips in the bud the chance to hear other sides to an argument. Facebook’s own algorhythms contribute to this bubble, since the sorting function places posts higher in your news feed if they’re from like-minded friends. Social_media_fearSoon, your view of the world can become distorted, leading you to believe that absolutely everyone, everywhere, feels exactly like you do. And then to be surprised when that does not turn out to actually be true.

The upcoming election has preoccupied me for some time – I truly feel that whoever is elected to steer Canada’s boat over the next four years will shape Canada’s future, for better or worse. Frankly, I cannot wait for it to be over. I intend to fight the good fight, right up until the last vote is counted, and then get a freakin’ life. Enough is too much, when it comes to politics. There are so many more enjoyable ways to spend my days.

What has been most surprising to me in the last few weeks is something I’ve seen coming, but have never seen so up-close and personal before. Divisiveness, knee jerking, vicious verbal assaults, and cruel name-calling have gone from being issues visible in the rear view mirror, to sitting right next to us in the passenger seat, breathing coffee and garlic in our faces. wwe tag teamsA seemingly innocuous remark can instantly transform your social media experience into a full-fledged WWE tag-team smack down presided over by Vince McMahon himself.

Yeah, it’s everywhere, I know. It’s in all politics, social media, and mass media. We can’t turn on our televisions or listen to our radios without hearing screaming hosts and responsive listeners blaring their opinionated and often misguided or misinformed thoughts, speaking over each other, and literally and figuratively giving each other the finger. Over the last few years, a lack of civility has gone from being politically incorrect to being highly rated entertainment, the more lurid and hyperventilated, the better.

political debateAnd so, with two highly significant elections approaching, our own Canadian one on October 19th, and the American race that will drag along to an illogical conclusion in 2016, we’re being bombarded with rhetoric, over-heated promises and denunciations, and the spectacle of grown men and women who believe they have what it takes to become the leaders of countries in the Free World, behaving like poorly informed members of a high school debate squad. On a losing team.

what's happend to politics bob raeAs Bob Rae said in his terrific book, What’s Happened to Politics, “The trouble with pursuing politics as a business is that it has helped to create a cynical, fractured electorate that doesn’t know whom to trust, or what to do.”  

Career politicians have mined social media and harnessed the power of polls to find their supporters, which they then use in an effort to get elected to positions that seem to be little more than spring boards for their next kick at the electoral can. career politicianLess and less actual work appears to be getting done once they’ve secured their spot in the legislature; they’ve actually built large chunks of time into their tenure when the priority is re-election, rather than service to the taxpayers who are paying for their supposed expertise. Incessant campaigning squashes the possibility of responsible governance. That’s not devoting your life to public office and service – that’s devoting your life to BEING serviced. And apparently, it pays very well.

Once the politician’s fan base is in place, it’s carefully nurtured, by which I mean, manipulated , in such a way that it becomes unthinkable to actually parse either the actual words or deeds being done in the politician’s name. Partisan politics, as played by supporters who believe that a louder voice, and denial of reality, and most assuredly a lack of ability to tell truth from lies, has seeped into every crevice of our social and mass media.

The name players in the game, those leaders of the political parties and those fighting to become leaders, snap and point fingers at each other, defending minuscule slurs over the larger picture of policy and national stewardship. angry old guyAnd their base, emulating their masters, surge to defend this silly display with ever increasing intensity and rabid vehemence.

The Emperor has no clothes. The pickin’s are slim in these upcoming elections. The distinctions between political parties are narrowing, as corporate dollars seduce the candidates. You can’t offend those who pay for you to play, so each candidate, no matter how invested in a cause, eventually finds themselves beholden to the money that put them into their seat. Consequently, debates revolve around safer issues, or promises clearly designed to sucker in the largest groups of emotionally driven voters.

votewolfWe’re being fed slogans and talking points, while meaningful dialogue, and listening before replying, is seen as dated and old fashioned.

Which brings me back again to those of us who can’t get enough of Facebook and social media, a phenomena so virulent that it’s gone from being a pastime to an actual condition listed in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) as Internet Addiction, judged to be more powerful and insidious than the physical addictions of nicotine or alcohol.

internet addictionWe addicts may partake of the real world, walking and talking amongst you, but it’s when we hit the ‘Net that our most intense thoughts and words are free to emerge. Safe behind our glowing monitors, we take our scalpels to those who don’t live inside the same bubbles that we do, and defend our beliefs and opinions, even if those opinions were formed mere minutes before and based solely on a click bait driven headline intended to attract us to a site that will grab our personal data and sell it to the highest bidder.

FBAddict3Just a few more minutes … I’ve gotta school this fool whom I have never met on what’s REALLY going on!

We can blame the media, we can blame a decay in political morals, we can blame a citizenry now more accustomed to a violent offense than a thoughtful defense. Yeah, let’s do that. Because it would be unthinkable to decide that how we conduct ourselves, in public or on the Internet, has more to do with allowing ourselves to descend into a caveman-like brutality, and less to do with “speaking our minds” and “brutal honesty.”

donald-trump and farleyJust look at how many ‘likes’ that gets for Donald Trump.

(originally published Sept. 20/2015, in Bob Segarini’s “Don’t Believe A Word I Say”

Learning Social Media Etiquette – Friends


facebook-friends2

A few years ago I met and befriended a fellow woman musician who was in her mid-50’s. We both went to jams around town, and seemed like-minded. She was divorced, with a teenaged daughter, and was only able to carve out small, usually daytime, opportunities to play and sing her own material or cover songs.

She was really friendly, in a new-agey way, smelled of patchouli oil, and yearned to be part of the inner circle that were regularly called on to perform at or attend gigs of a more professional calibre. She also painted, made lovely crafty items, and had self-published a romance novel. I felt I had found a kindred soul.

One late afternoon, under the influence of a few beers, she and I chatted with a fellow we’d never seen at the jams before. He was very tall, had a British accent and a lovely sense of humour. We three shared a drink, and then went our separate ways.

That night I was on Facebook, and thought I’d see if he was part of any of the musical circles I knew. I could only remember that his first name was David, so I combed through the likeliest suspects, and sent a friend request to one of the umpteen Davids. He accepted my friendship, at which time I discovered that he was not the fellow I had been looking for. But – a friend is a friend, and he did seem to be a good-hearted sort; comfortably married, retired, with a history of pleasant status updates.

A few days later, my girlfriend confronted me, clearly agitated. She asked why I’d befriended this David. I was puzzled, but explained, as above, that I thought he’d been the fellow at the jam, and that I’d made a mistake, but he seemed alright.

As it turned out, the David I’d chosen was a long time personal friend of her family. She accused me of cruising through her friend list, in an attempt to ‘steal’ her friends. I was surprised, but being new to Facebook, apologized. After all, she had more experience in social media, and I was fairly new to the scene.

Over the next year, as I got to know her better, I realized that she had a few issues that I couldn’t deal with, including a tendency to be very jealous of anyone I spoke to whom she’d known first. Still, we stayed friendly, until we had a serious misunderstanding which she responded to with a string of accusations and scathing contempt. I didn’t speak to her for several years after that.

Recently, a very dear old friend, who’d moved back to the States 40 years ago, joined Facebook. I was delighted to chat with her again, and we often spend hours messaging back and forth about our good old days on the road. As time went by, I’d see her name pop up in a friend’s Facebook postings, and think what a small world we lived in, that we had so many friends in common.

It wasn’t until I noticed that she’d gone from less than 100 friends four months earlier to almost 400 friends – 132 of them mutual – that I realized that she’d befriended a lot of my own friends while reading responses I’d posted on a status.

But here’s the thing – I’m glad she’s in the same loop as I am. We all have similar slightly off-kilter interests, we all spend a lot of time on social media, and life is easier when you don’t have to tell a story to multiple ears. I can reference people she might never have met, and introduce her to talented and fascinating people I’ve encountered in my journey through life. She’s encouraged me to befriend some of her own friends, and to join groups where we can discuss music amongst other professionals. To me, it’s a win-win situation, and the idealized reason I joined Facebook in the first place.

The ironic thing is that the first woman, who didn’t want to share her friends, is a highly vocal proponent of the Law of Attraction, where one is meant to put forward what one wants from the universe in order to receive its bounties. It would seem that the simple joy of like-minded acquaintances doesn’t rate high on her list of acceptable gifts.

friendship