The End of History?


I wrote this column just days after the election, but was so dispirited that I never published it on Frustrated Boomers. Two weeks into the Trump presidency, it bears repeating.

This morning, Neil Postman‘s son, Andrew, wrote something along the same lines. It is worth reading.

quote: “Our public discourse has become so trivialized, it’s astounding that we still cling to the word “debates” for what our presidential candidates do onstage when facing each other. Really? Who can be shocked by the rise of a reality TV star, a man given to loud, inflammatory statements, many of which are spectacularly untrue but virtually all of which make for what used to be called “good television”?

Who can be appalled when the coin of the realm in public discourse is not experience, thoughtfulness or diplomacy but the ability to amuse – no matter how maddening or revolting the amusement?

…. For all the ways one can define fascism (and there are many), one essential trait is its allegiance to no idea of right but its own: it is, in short, ideological narcissism. It creates a myth that is irrefutable (much in the way that an image’s “truth” cannot be disproved), in perpetuity, because of its authoritarian, unrestrained nature.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley?CMP=share_btn_fb

And here is my column, originally published on November 27th, on Bob Segarini‘s wonderful site, “Don’t Believe A Word I Say.”

.***********.

When we’re confused by where we are, it’s important to look at where we’ve been.

Confusion, uncertainty, masked as fear, pride, or hubris, reigns in all of us in these last days of 2016. What a year! I’m tempted to ride out the last bit hiding under my bed with my cats.

I don’t think Trump could have been elected in any other year but 2016. Not only has it been a year where we’ve lost so many of those whom we respected and loved, but a year where the horrific has become commonplace, whats-aleppowhere democracy is shoved aside as unfriendly to business,  where opinion (literally) trumped logic,  and the slaughter of millions of innocents barely raises an eyebrow.

“What is Aleppo?”  Gary Johnson asked “What is Aleppo,” while seeking the office of President of the United States. America … you have much to answer for.

We have to understand that we would never have come to this moment in history without a lot of groundwork being laid. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, amongst others, foretold days like these; it’s been in the works for quite some time. huxley-vs-orwellPerhaps Huxley, in Brave New World, understood our impressionability more than Orwell did in 1984 … it’s not that we are being denied books or access to information, it’s that we prefer entertainment to knowledge.

From the foreword to Neil Postman‘s Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1986, Penguin edition:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

It’s not being a conspiracy theorist to understand that there are market forces, globally, that need certain conditions to occur, in order to sustain capitalism, and that those forces will do whatever is necessary to create and sustain those conditions. However capitalism, of necessity, must eventually eat itself, since it is based on continual growth.

Before we move into the next era, post capitalism, we have to deal with the mess that capitalism has made, not just to the planet, but to our thinking. We have to understand that we have been willing lambs to the slaughter of intelligence and sober thought, distracted by shiny things that hold our limited attention for seconds before our constant craving for the next sensation propels us on to the next shiny thing.

north-korea-bomb“The world’s nuclear clock  sits at one second to midnight .. but first, a word from our sponsor.”    

We have to come to grips with a constant rage that bubbles beneath the surface of our collective consciousness, a rage that has no real focus, but seizes on whatever temporarily irritates or annoys us, that compels an acting out far beyond what the situation warrants.

We have to accept that we have been lied to, in the name of business, as our resources have been seized and ruined for future generations, as species become extinct due to their habitats being stolen from them. Human greed and human need have made the chances of your great-grandchildren ever seeing a real live elephant, slim.

politicians-before-and-afterAnd, in what I consider truly tragic, we still have to somehow find a sense of trust in those we elect to lead us into this uncertain future, and I don’t know if we can suspend that much disbelief any more.  There comes a point at which we simply can’t deny that each successive political  ‘saviour’ is just a new mask on an old face of treachery, bought and paid for by market forces.

Billions of our hard earned tax dollars have been frittered away on projects benefiting commerce, not the people. In Ontario alone, before privatization of Hydro One,  it was run by one president, one vice-president, one department head, and so on. The president’s annual salary was around $420,000. Today, in Ontario ‘s Hydro (between the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), Hydro One and the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) (all three Public Sector Agencies)), the president reportedly earns around $4million annually, and there are 11,879 employees who make more than $100,000/year. These top earners draw combined annual earnings of over 1.6 billion dollars. 626 in management positions are making more than $200,000/year…

… while many Ontarions are having to decide whether they can afford heating or eating this winter, because they can’t come up with the money for both.

And yet, this week we’ve heard that our Prime Minister has been making the rounds, intent on privatizing yet more of the country’s assets, despite economical and historical data proving that privatization of assets can add a minimum of a third of the costs to taxpayers, when internal positions are outsourced.

Canadians on a government pension of $12 to $14K a year can only pretend for so long that the enormous government wages and pensions of civil servants and politicians make any sort of logical or humane sense.

well-dressed-lobstersDespite no recent Prime Minister having been elected with a clear majority or mandate, sweeping changes that will affect Canadians for generations have been put into place over the last few decades, with barely a whimper.  Or, if a whimper was murmured, it was simply ignored. At best, we changed lobsters and continued the dance.

And we can only look on from afar and pray for American’s who are, like it or not, about to have their historical clock turned back to the ‘good ol’ days’ of segregation, back alley abortions, internment camps, and increasing civil unrest.

Many think we’re at a pivotal moment in time, although  the events of 2016 may pale in light of other ‘really terrible years,’ like 1347-50, when the Black Death took a third of Europe’s population;  1492, when the indigenous people of America invited the wrong people to dinner;  Ireland’s Potato Famine of 1845; or  Europe in 1943, when the Holocaust deaths were at their height. Certainly, Syrians will name 2016th as their country’s nadir.

franz-ferdinand-1914From History Today, ” If I was forced to name the worst year, it would probably be 1914. In July of that year, a European order that had brought peace, prosperity and extraordinary artistic and scientific progress, began to unravel. The vast conflict that followed led directly to the Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the Cold War and the mess that is the modern Middle East. Only in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, did we enter a relatively stable period – the ‘End of History’ – before it came crashing down on September 11th, 2001. ”

So – we’ve been here before. However I don’t think there’s precedent for this year of Syria and Iraq; unparalleled devastation creating a flood of refugees fleeing for their lives; Europe’s epidemic of terrorism, Brexit,  the Zika outbreak, horrific civil unrest in Turkey, growing racial tension in the United States; famine in northern Nigeria,  American peaceful protests being met with aggressive military engagement; and possibly worst of all, the unholy alliance of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin … these are this year’s trials. homeless-world-cup-2016

What comes after the “End of History?” Whatever happens next, it is certainly a time when the decisions and actions we – as a people – take now, will determine where we go from here, and will define not just North America’s future, but the entire planet’s.

 

 

Where is Mary Tyler Moore When We Need Her?


In 1970, Mary Richards and The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted to a changing world. Women like my mum, who had left school in grade 9 during the Great Depression, were watching the rise of feminism, and wondering how the heck they were supposed to react and behave.  Men, like my dad, felt incredibly threatened by this new role of women in the workforce – where would that leave them? Would women take all the jobs? And how were they supposed to treat this ‘new woman’ in the workplace?

I had already been in the workforce for a few years, and was standing by to see what the world would throw at me. I’d seen offices where only men had any power, and where women, and especially older women, were taken advantage of economically, regardless of ability or seniority. I’d applied for jobs where the only criteria was attractiveness, and the dress code required a specific model of push up bra.

I had been raised to believe I could do anything – as long as ‘anything’ involved being a nurse, teacher, secretary, stewardess, waitress, or housewife. And as long as my husband approved. But now a larger world was opening up, and the Mary character gave viewers a chance to  watch, from the comfort of their own homes, how this might play out for themselves.

My mum completely identified with Mary, the vulnerable, good girl, who wanted to appease everyone, even at the expense of her own feelings. Mary was single, female, over 30, professional, independent, smart, and funny. Mary faced issues an older generation had never before confronted, like equal pay, birth control, and sexual independence – sex without the blessing of marriage.

Mary’s superpower was her friendships, both those with other women, like Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper); Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman); Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel); and Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), and with the men she interacted with at the TV station where she worked.

At work,  Mary was a sisterly presence. She was smart, did her job well, and could laugh with the guys. Although she hated confrontation, she could still muster up the courage to talk back to the irascible Lou Grant, her boss and editor. Eventually, even he had to admit how good a co-worker she was, despite her ‘spunk.’

As the series grew more popular, repeated viewing made anxieties about women in the work force seem silly .. after all, Mary was an Every Woman. They could relai-hate-spunkte to Mary. The normalization calmed their fears, and made people realize that they could relate to a drastic social change.

When Mary Tyler Moore died last week, I thought a lot about the contrast between how we are dealing with the vast social and economic changes of today, as opposed to then.

It’s frightening to those who want to cling to the world as it was. And yet at the same time, we don’t want to give up our ability to access pretty much anything we want online, order it with a click, and have it delivered to our door within a few days.  What we don’t see is that we’ve stopped shopping in stores .. and so those jobs and stores no longer exist.

global-gdpWe want to pay as little as possible for any given thing.  Corporations heard us; they outsourced manual labour to countries where they could pay lower salaries. And so those jobs, which we used to do here, no longer exist.

The reality of climate change, and the shifting of energy resources are, of necessity, pulling focus away from oil and coal, and putting the spotlight on renewable energy. Sure, there are more jobs available now in renewables, but what do you do if you’re a career coal miner? The mine’s been shut down, and those jobs are never going to come back.

Widespread automation is in our future; Oxford University predicted that 47% of all jobs – of every kind – will disappear in the next 25 years.

“The Trump campaign ran on bringing jobs back to American shores, although mechanization has been the biggest reason for manufacturing jobs’ disappearance. Similar losses have led to populist movements in several other countries. But instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

Now, an expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells. According to Art Bilger, venture capitalist and board member at the business school, all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years, according to a recent Oxford study. “No government is prepared,” The Economist reports. These include blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing.

Robot ironing clothes

Unemployment today is significant in most developed nations and it’s only going to get worse. By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability. “   (http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/47-of-jobs-in-the-next-25-years-will-disappear-according-to-oxford-university)

Now, the thing is, good leadership would have been following up on this inevitable trend and coming class shake-up. And some countries have been following the curve, and are placing more emphasis on careers outside of the previous generation’s scope.

However, several countries have instead taken the opposite approach – the one known as sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes, and chanting ‘la la la la la’ in the hopes that this will all go back to the way it used to be, when you reopen your eyes.

Sadly – that’s not in the cards. The genie is not going back into the bottle. Long term solutions need to broached immediately, if we are not to find ourselves in a Soylent Green world.

The economy will expect middle aged, middle class, workers to retrain or be left behind. There will be resistance to that idea, especially amongst those who have laboured under student debt from their previous career.

self-driving-truckAnd what role will self-driving vehicles play in a future economy? Long haul truckers, cab drivers and couriers will find themselves out of work – not tomorrow, but within the next decade. And that’s a whole lot of drivers.

These are real, valid concerns that must be addressed. A guaranteed basic income might be the only solution possible for as many as half of all country’s populations. We could be on the verge of a complete societal breakdown – or a future Utopia, a world in which people are free to pursue their interests, instead of working at jobs that just pay the bills.

Be that as it may, one thing that will NOT help to move countries or the economy forward is isolationism or pathetic jingoism. Time and again, this type of “America First” pseudo patriotism has proved a failure.

donald-trump-america-firstWhen Trump said,  “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries” while depleting our own. And,: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world, ” he was outlining ” a world in which foreign relations are collapsed into a zero-sum game. They gain, we lose. ” (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444321/trump-foreign-policy-isolationsim-america-first-allies-nato-trans-pacific-partnership)

He is wrong. He is appealing to the petty, the un/ and under-educated, the greedy,  and the small minded who can’t understand why they can’t have all of the goodies of 2017, while living in a rosy coloured Disneyland complete with talking animals, and perfectly behaved women and children. A world where America does whatever the hell it wants, any time and anywhere.

A perfect example of that kind of mentality was shown on the weekend as Trump’s knee-jerk executive order targeted citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, forbidding them entry to U.S. soil – AND also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries — green-card holders — who were abroad when it was signed.

trump-protest-noban-jan-2017The order was signed as many were on planes, en route to America.

When those enforcing these bans, as dictated by the Department of Homeland Security, were asked by citizens or their lawyers to whom they must address their concerns, they were sneeringly told to  “Speak to President Trump.”

This should make Americans frightened. These actions throw out not only the Constitution, but democracy itself, with Trump as the ultimate arbiter for all charged with any offence he makes up on the spot.

The thing is … it’s not just Trump’s fault. It’s the fault of all of the governments and political parties all over the civilized world that have ignored the economic reality that has been creeping up on us for decades. Political parties that stirred up fear, painting a picture of a dystopic land, as Trump did when he described America as akin to a Hieronymus Bosch painting of ” American carnage,” with “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

That is not a true picture of America, though it may well be the carnage he leaves behind after his time as President is over.

Americans were not being told, “you’re gonna make it after all.” Instead, they were being told that the only way to make it is to take it from others.

passing-the-buckPolitical parties that relied upon cutting taxes rather than shoring up their infrastructures and their citizens needs, just to get re-elected, are to be blamed. Every party, every country, big and small, passed that big buck along to their successors, enriching corporations and themselves in the process, while ignoring and angering their constituents, who had trusted them to explain what they needed to know and understand about their future.

They COULD have worked with the education system to update what is offered in order to live in a modern, automated society. They COULD have worked with scientists warning of the dangerous effects of climate change, and put into place safeguards that would have saved lives. They COULD have told corporations that they would not be allowed to hold consumers or governments hostage in order to raise corporate profit, but instead would be taxed at a rate that allowed the country to replace what was being taken from them.

But that would not have gotten them re-elected.

walking-dead-castAnd so, there were no television series like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, that allowed citizens to normalize a changing present and a very different future. Instead, there was a rise in conspiratorial, dystopic, dramas, and a rush to fairytale land, that deified cartoon superheroes, and fantasy characters. Reality shows, that weren’t really reality, appealed to the minority and the niche groups. And an entire genre of television catered to the needs of ‘preppers,‘ those that would stand alone and defend what little they had when the inevitable (to them) collapse of society occurred.

This is a tearing apart of society, a sorting process that places each individual into smaller and smaller groups, separating and dividing. Rather than a coming together of people to work with, rather than against, change, to accept globalization and automation as a positive advance, ‘disrupters‘ have chosen to tear nations apart, to pit citizen against citizen, for power, for wealth, and for their own self-aggrandizement.

I don’t miss the past; I’ve been there, and it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But I will miss the days when politicians worked with and for the people, rather than for their own self-interests, and on the backs of the people they have forgotten, to whom they owe their jobs.

 

 

(originally published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/roxanne-tellier-where-is-mary-tyler-moore-when-we-need-her/)

 

That Was Sixteen. Going on Seventeen


2016 is gone. Moving on isn’t the slightest bit difficult. 2017 is going to be … interesting, oh yes it will. Doesn’t seem any other option than to muddle our way through whatever’s this way coming. Fingers crossed it’s not too wicked.

supermoon-imageFor me, this year has begun differently than many I’ve experienced in the past. Selling the house and moving into the city has brought a lot more freedom into my life. That light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be not an oncoming train, but rather a beautiful fat moon, always just out of reach, but wonderful to see.

Happiness doesn’t require that you have a lot of anything. In fact, I think if you have too much, you’re more concerned with keeping what you’ve got or of striving to get more, than enjoying what you have. No. “Enough” is what you want. Enough for freedom from want, enough to bMicrosoft Word - n2342-recycling.doce able to relax into your life and appreciate what you’ve got. Enough to be in control of your own life, but not so much that you seek to control others.

So in the first two weeks of this new year, I’ve seen more bands than I did in all of 2016, had several lovely brunches with good friends, and discovered that quitting smoking was the best gift I’d ever given myself. There’s been more laughter, and less tears. More singing and less coughing.

As much as I fear for what is in store for our neighbours to the South in the coming months, I also have relinquished the belief that anything I say or do will make the slightest bit of difference. It won’t. I can’t. So, although I’ll keep passing along jabs at the Orange Jayzus,  I’m handing over the burden of fear to those poor benighted Americans.

dead mans switch Outer Limits.jpgBut I do have a sneaking suspicion that many in government are not who or what they seem. Remember that Outer Limits episode, Dead Man’s Switch, where a lowly soldier mans the button  that controls activation of a final revenge weapon that will wipe out the earth should invading aliens turn out to be hostile? The final scene reveals that aliens are indeed parasites controlling the actions of those in charge, while the earth lies in ruin.

I’m not saying that TeeRump has an alien tucked under those oversized jackets, but there’s no denying that that makeup and spray tan can be seen from space.

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Here in Toronto, it would seem that Mayor Tory’s vision of a Music City‘ is more of a pipe dream. You can’t ask the venues to supercharge the city’s revenues, while simultaneously squeezing them for more taxes, charges and rents. Petty limitations and fines will not inspire club owners to new heights.

The venerable Hugh’s Room was the most recent victim of circumstance, abruptly closing it’s doors in the midst of financial struggle.  It does seem like there’s hope for the venue re-opening though, as a committee has been formed to focus on restructuring and reopening, and changing the club’s ownership structure to a non-profit, board-run model. I do hope so .. this is a prime venue, with so much well deserved good will and respect, that it would be a pity to just let it die on the vine.

One of the acts that was displaced due to the closure is Jan Kudelka‘s one woman tribute to Janis Joplin. She is bringing her celebration of Joplin’s 74th Birthday Bash to the Tranzac instead, this Wednesday the 18th, at 8:30.

“The Queen of Psychedelic Soul is back for one night only! After smashing sold-out shows in 2015 and 2016, singer and performer Jan Kudelka conjures and celebrates the beloved blues/rock trailblazer Janis Joplin with a 74th birthday bash on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at the TRANZAC CLUB backed by her stellar band! Do not miss this intimate journey into the epic voice and tender heart of the Janis Joplin legend.”

jan-kudelka-janis-joplin-tranzac-poster

The Tranzac is a fascinating place. There’s the big room, where Jan will have her show, and then a smaller lounge, just as you enter, where the music never seems to end. The range of sound and ideas is astonishing, and you’re as likely to find yourself listening to jazz as alternative, or rock, or folk, or an evening of ukulele appreciation.  Seriously. Check out their calendar of events to have your mind boggled.

http://www.tranzac.org/simplecalendar/

I like the idea of venues offering music at earlier hours, especially as the weekend nears. My days of starting the night at ten p.m. are long gone –  my cats are cruel masters who demand feeding at 6 a.m., so I’m usually tucked up and snoring just as most bands karang their first chord. And so are a lot of my contemporaries, and those who have to go to work or school the next day. happyhourIt seems odd to me that bars and restaurants are content to open around eight p.m. ish, or be open during the day, but empty, until some mythical magic time when bands appear out of the mist. There’s money to be made in the feeding and entertaining of people who start the day early, and are ready to rock by dinner time.

And with the plethora of talented, experienced players who are available for gigs, it would certainly be easy for many venues to fill in the gap, and keep musicians and music lovers alike happy.

This past Friday, for example, I enjoyed Don Naduriak‘s extraordinary quintet at a little restaurant on the Danforth called Hirut. This is a regular gig for them. On the second Friday of each month, beginning at 8 p.m., E = and Don Naduriak Music “explore compositions by Don Naduriak with various of Toronto’s best musicians. The compositions draw on Jazz, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influences. don-naduriak-band-hirut-jan-2017

This month the band features Bill McBirnie/Flute, Russ Little/ Trombone, George Koller/Bass and Joaquin Hidalgo/Drums-Percussion, as well as Don Naduriak on Keyboard.”

If you’re a long-time music fan, you’ll know that Don’s group contains some of Toronto’s musical cream. The room was packed with jazz lovers, drinking and eating and making money for both the venue and the band. Which is the way it used to be, and still should be, but somewhere along the line, the train went off the rails.

There’s something going on nearly every night at Hirut, everything from comedy nights to Ernest Lee‘s classic blues,  as well as a folkie style jam on Sunday afternoons run by Nicola Vaughan, starting at 3 p.m.

Rooms that are taking advantage of earlier gig start times, and of expanding their offerings to include more than music, are reaping the benefits all over the city. As with any industry, those who give the customers what they want will always be respected and rewarded.

feed-meThere’s a lot of room at the table, and a place for everyone, regardless of what time they want to listen, or what flavour they want to feast upon. Toronto’s got the musical munchies .. feed it!

2017 can be the year we come together, despite those who’d profit from a people divided. There’s no better time to listen .. or to be heard!

 

Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights


The Canadian relationship with winter and snow is a lot like marriage; some love it, and look forward to their time together. Others tolerate winter, but spend a lot of time apart during cold spells. Still others grumble, but it’s a loving martyrdom that takes the good (skiing) right along with the bad (shovelling.)

winter bench no snowBut one thing is certain – this winter, so mild and light on snow, is having an effect on the Canadian psyche. It’s as though we’re all a little off-kilter, a little crankier, testier, because we know something’s missing, but we’re not sure what it is.

The media’s always more than happy to give us something to talk about, but this year, even the media is freezing over. After Postmedia gobbled up all but four of the daily papers across Canada, it found it had actually bitten off more than it could chew. Godfrey looking like House of CardsWith advertising and circulation plummeting, there was only time to quickly give CEO Paul Godfrey his salary of $1.6 million (which included a special $400,000 bonus for being so … special?) before it started hacking away at those menial, blood suckers (like journalists) who were destroying the company. Still, Postmedia’s annual net loss for the financial year more than doubled to $263.4 million. Who knew journalists got paid so much!

Journalism is one of our primary democratic institutions, playing a major role in how Canadians learn about each other, and how to do stuff … like vote. During the Harper years, Godfrey worked a sweetheart deal that allowed him to bend regulations and sell 35% of Postmedia to the New York hedge fund , Golden Tree Asset Management.

“For generations, Canadian law has forbidden foreign ownership or control of Canadian cultural assets. But after permitting the sale to non-Canadians of practically the entire Canadian-owned steel and mining industries, then PM Stephen Harper’s government signed off on Postmedia’s creation as well. The Americans put a Canadian face on the deal by selecting Paul Godfrey, 77, as Postmedia’s CEO. Not by coincidence, Harper and Godfrey, a diehard Tory, are kindred spirits.

Though it was a thinly disguised foreign takeover, Ottawa didn’t object that Postmedia’s advent showed no sign of complying with Investment Canada’s one basic demand of foreign takeovers — that they be of “net benefit” to Canada.

Five years later, no one can credibly argue that Postmedia has been of net benefit to Canada. The most Godfrey can do, as he did recently, is insist that Canada is lucky that someone plucked the National Post, the Edmonton Journal and the Regina Leader-Post from the Canwest ruins, since no Canadian bidders stepped forward to do so.

That is a lie. There were at least two credible bids by Canadian interests, as Godfrey well knows. And the Canwest papers would not have perished in any case. They would have been auctioned, individually and as regional groups. That would have served readers better than the monstrosity of Postmedia. It’s Postmedia that is in financial extremis, not Postmedia’s papers…..

Postmedia is said to be lobbying Ottawa for a relaxation of Canadian ownership rules on cultural assets, since some of the deepest-pocketed bidders on a bankrupt Postmedia’s assets are likely to be foreigners.”

(http://www.thestar.com/business/2016/01/30/the-problem-with-postmedia-olive.html)

As it stands, industry insiders say that it looks like Postmedia will be forced to seek creditor protection, which means the company could be broken up and sold off to U.S. hedge fund creditors in a debt- for- equity swap. That would open bidding to the U.S. and other foreign interests.

canada-v-usAnd that move would put all but four of Canada`s daily newspapers, the supposed cultural and democratic voice of Canada, under foreign ownership. Writers, get ready to jettison your keyboard’s ‘u’ key, and learn the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Just to give you some idea of how damaging losing control over our daily papers would be, think back to October 2015, when Godfrey imposed support for Stephen Harper on all of the major papers in the chain. Wasn’t the first time … Postmedia did the same thing during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories.

Sun 2015 Harper supportBut this time they also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers. The ads were designed to appear as official electoral information, and gave ranting warnings about the folly of voting Liberal.

While not technically illegal, the endorsement was a shocking insight into who really controls a newspaper’s editorial voice, as staff across the country hurried to distance their own views from the ‘yellow journalism.’

Godfrey’s support of the Conservatives has been unwavering since before his days at the Toronto Sun, where he allowed only favourable stories or photos about then mayoral candidate, Mel Lastman to be printed. Reporter Don Wanagas was removed as a municipal columnist for the sin of writing unflattering pieces about Lastman.

godfrey lastman rogers.jpgNewly minted Mayor Lastman went on to preside over one of the most corrupt regimes in Toronto’s history. And as David Miller, elected mayor in 2003 on a platform of cleaning up Toronto’s city hall after Lastman, has said “There’s no question he was very influential with Mayor Lastman. I certainly knew as a city councillor that Lastman’s office was in touch with Mr. Godfrey all the time.”

Godfrey’s political machinations aside, his business reputation was cemented on iron-fist management and slash-and-burn job cutting practices. newspapers-dyingPrior to the purchase of Sun Media, Postmedia’s workforce had shrunk to 2,500 employees – from 5,400 five years before. Today, 2,826 people do all the heavy lifting cross Canada, from sales, to writing, to printing.

“NDP industry critic Brian Masse noted that the easing of ownership rules designed to guard cultural industries is a “fair discussion to have” in light of the emergence of digital news alternatives, but warned that foreign control could lead to an infiltration of offshore biases into Canadian editorial content.” 

No shit, Sherlock.

online-journalism-then-versus-nowGodfrey’s control of the press is by no means novel in these times of corporate greed gone mad. In the United States, 94% of the media is controlled by just 5 companies; Disney, ViaCom, CBS, News Corp, Time-Warner and Comcast. And that’s what they call the ‘liberal’ media; 94% of all your information and entertainment, owned and controlled by the 1%.

Can someone tell me when and how the voice of the people will be heard? It certainly has been, and will continue to be, drowned out by the voices of those with the money and power to impose their own visions onto an unsuspecting nation.

Democracy begins with freedom of speech in and of the press. It ends with corporate monopoly, and foreign ownership.

Bits and Pieces ….

lemeowI’ve mentioned this soul-jazz duo from Ottawa before. leMeow, comprised of Gin Bourgeois and James Rooke, and filled out with Jansen Richard on drums, Brent Hultquist on keys and Karolyne LaFortune on fiddle. released this YouTube delight recently. That’s My Man is the debut single from leMeow’s upcoming album, due in June 2016.

leMeow new single ….

sam taylor the sound cdSam Taylor has the musical honesty and enthusiasm of a young Jeff Healey, with a band (The East End Love ) that kicks out a bottom end reminiscent of Cream and the stop-on-a- dime dynamics of early Who. These up and comers are not to be missed.
And so it was that on Friday night, I found myself at the Only Café with Pat Blythe, meeting Sam and enjoying some hot blues on a cold night. Pat’s written at length about the band, which consists of drummer Jace Traz, bass player David MacMichael, and rhythm guitarist Will Meadows.

I found this fan video on YouTube that captures some of their ‘live’ excitement. From last spring, at a gig at Relish, on the Danforth.

Funny … back in the 80’s, Jeff Healey would occasionally play a Sunday night gig at Quinns, the old bar on the Danforth bar, where I then bartended. He’d often ask me up to join him for a tune or two. History repeated itself on Friday, when I got to share the stage with Sam and the band. Thanks, guys!

 

(first published Feb/2016-https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/roxanne-tellier-last-one-out-turn-off-the-lights/)

 

Defining Down


no meat on FridaysI grew up in a time when single mothers were scorned, when people who ate meat on Friday went to purgatory, when interracial marriage was illegal in many parts of the United States … My husband’s mother married a black Bermudian, and most of her family refused to speak to her for years. There were few visible minorities.

Gays did not only have no option to marry, they were closeted and lucky if they kept their sexuality hidden, tormented by local bullies, or prosecuted under archaic laws against homosexuality if found in compromising positions.

But times have changed. Change happens because you care enough to make a difference, when enough like-minded people decide that the guiding principles they’ve been following either no longer make sense, or are plainly unjust.

It’s frustrating to watch how slowly organizations and governments move to make change. The people speak, and when their voices shake society’s pillars, those who control power acknowledge a possible problem. In order to defer action until it’s decided if the issue is good or bad for those in power, comObamaSignsBillprehensive studies are done, dragging out the questioning still longer. When finally a solution is presented, it’s inevitably a compromise that makes no one completely happy, but which we all hail as a step forward.

There are downsides and upsides to expediting change. While it’s frustrating to wait for the wheels of progress to turn, lore tells us that slow change would be of a “sober second thought.” But in a world that regularly examines and attempts advancements based on new ideas and technological advancements, a less cumbersome process allows opportunities for change that really matters. And if the change is not completely positive, swift movement to curb or perfect that change should occur.

defining deviancyFunny how we absorb change. In 1993, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote an insightful paper on how American society has coped with massive social change. When deviant behaviours – from births to unmarried women, to violent crime, to a simple rejiggering of our attitudes towards pornography – reach a certain level, we soothe ourselves by “defining deviancy down.” By declaring these behaviours normal, we take the stigma and the sting out of the action.

iatrogenic govtHe had another theory, of “iatrogenic government.” This proposes that some social problems may have been inadvertently caused by government; for instance, the conservative contention that liberal policies produce a culture of dependency. (In the medical field, an iatrogenic ailment is one inadvertently induced by a physician or medicine.)

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Politics is an argument about the future.

By defining deviancy down, those who prefer to live peacefully are kept lulled by what they are told by authority figures. While they may sense a problem, they are easily soothed when a mainstream media assures them that this is the ‘new normal.’

When it comes to social mores, they can safely quote authorities who tell them not to worry about the stuffy old ways of thinking they learned from their parents and grandparents; that’s ‘fuddy-duddy thinking now. All the cool people know what’s really happening, and it’s all just fine.

storming the castleHowever, there are bigger issues at stake. There’s a surprising lack of dismay over economic numbers that would have given our recent ancestors cause to storm the Capital with pitchforks. Those numbers get massaged until the public can be assured that all is well, despite what they’re seeing with their own eyes.

In the United States, the passing of Citizens United completely changed any sense of a level playing field in a democratic government.

“The Citizen United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads andcitizensunited other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.

In a nutshell, the high court’s 5-4 decision said that it is OK for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate.” (http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/18/11527/citizens-united-decision-and-why-it-matters)

Flash forward just five years, and we have the Koch Brothers, the 7th and 8th richest men in the world, vowing to spend nearly a billion dollars on whomever they’ve decided to back in the next Presidential election. citizensunited 2

Welcome to the oligarchy. Most democratic governments currently in power already appear to be hamstrung by those who have exchanged campaign funding for a say in government policies. Citizens United simply made the manipulation more visible.

(As Katty Kay, journalist and lead anchor of BBC World News America, recently  said, “The Democrats would do it too, if they could. She added, “It is only going to get worse… If I invested $10 million in an election, I would want a return on my investment. I would want to make sure there were votes on the floor.”)

Our cultural instinct is to find those who think like us, a society where we are safe from having to be responsible for caring for all around us, since it’s difficult enough to get through our busy lives. Exhausted at the end of the day, we don’t want to feel obliged to think very deeply about a myriad of issues, each more convoluted than the next.

Our media knows that, dutifully feeding us mere tidbits of real ‘news,’ and filling the rest of the air time with feel good stories and barely concealed infomercials for the products of advertisers who sponsor the show. choose responsibilityWe can choose from a variety of consumer goodies, but are given only a tiny menu of pre-approved opinions and positions on the things that really matter – like how our countries are being run.

Because if we choose, then we are responsible, are we not? Better to define deviance down, to live with a new normal we feel powerless against, than to choose to make changes that matter.