An Embarrassment of Riches


Money and power have one very similar trait – neither are destructive at face value, but both become toxic when an obsessive love of either or both overrules a person’s basic humanity.

when you're rich you can do anythingBoth can be hoarded, without much censure. Many look at the very wealthy or very powerful, and envy their hoards. Even if the hoards consist of ill-gotten, or at the very least, suspicious, gains, morality ceases to matter in the face of a society that has elevated the acquisition of wealth over all other talents or abilities.

The ability to acquire wealth, by shrewdness or stealth, does not automatically confer godliness or any other talents upon the wealthy. To believe that someone who is rich is thus inevitably able to excel in other fields is misguided at best, and heinous when peddled as truth to those who have neither wealth nor common sense, and consequently, will literally “buy anything.”

I actually remember a time when it was considered ill-mannered and rude to brag about your wealth, your possessions, or yourself. Now, it’s not only allowed, it seems to be required of anyone who wishes to appear as a valuable commodity, ripe for exposure. Today, everyone has to have and hone a ‘brand.’

making it rainMusic’s been tainted with this obsession. I can’t listen to most of the songs that extol mindless consumerism and waste of resources. And I can’t watch videos that equate the humiliation of others, professionally or sexually, with an enviable use of power. It is abuse, condoned and even applauded, by the easily entertained.

While it might not be politically correct, I also abhor the conceit that the portrayal of overly sexualized femininity makes the female artist more powerful. To the contrary, the music business is one of the most sexualized industries, and women artists have been routinely harassed and abused since they first entered the scene. You’re not ‘getting out front’ of being defined by your sexuality because you disrobed first – you’ve just made the task of undressing you easier for others to do. A woman is more than her sexual parts. In truth, we give away our power every time we need to look outside of ourselves to find acceptance, or a sense of our own worth.

An awful lot of what passes for popular music strikes me as the rantings of the terminally under-educated. There’s fourteen writers for some of the songs, and still they can’t avoid plagiarism and triteness. It’s not that the music of my era, or any other era, was that much ‘better,’ it’s that there seemed to have been more of an attempt to learn and grow, be it musically or spiritually, than there is now. Once, we built an art form from the bottom up. Now it’s deconstructed from the top down.

We are a confused society. First frightened by high tech, we’ve now embraced it with all the fervour of the newly converted. The very thought of being without the constant information available terrifies many; they challenge each other to undergo the horror of 24 hours offline. Or to eat a Tide pod. And the very idea of not having access to anything consumable we might fancy, at any time, seems something only the most disenfranchised would have to contend with.

media controls usYes, we are a confused society. And thus – ripe for those who would take advantage of this seesawing state of mind by using the disorder to mould and shape the thoughts and opinions of those who gag at the glut.

Historians will look back at these times and wonder at our lack of sophistication, our inability to tell reality from fiction, our willingness to be led by social media trolls that rely upon our innate prejudices and biases to warp how we assess and treat each other. And they will marvel at how easily we would shed the rules of law to rush to the court of public opinion.

Too much of anything is as bad as too little. Both extremes warp our personalities.

We are soaking in media. We like to think that we’re capable of floating through the cacophony of noise, dissent, fear, and paranoia, interspersed with the odd moment of joy, and carry on multitasking our busy lives with ease. The truth is that we cannot. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that doing several things concurrently means that not one of the tasks is actually getting all of our focus and care. Instead, all of our responsibilities are getting only as much of our distracted attention as we can spare, meaning none of them receive our very best efforts.

Self-Deception,jpgA few years back I realized how easily we fob off our inattention. When we stub our toes, or fail at a task, it’s human nature to seek a culprit to blame our error upon. Damn! we say, it’s not my fault! It was the stair’s fault for not being perfectly even, the bartender over served me, and that noise I heard made me lose focus! Once I had decided to take a mental step back whenever my knee-jerk excuses came into play, I realized that, almost inevitably, the misstep or blunder had to do with my own lack of attention and/or mental laziness.

If we’re honest with ourselves, there is really only one person to blame, and that is ourselves. But honesty, especially of and to ourselves, is something we learn to avoid at an early age, even before we become skilled at swearing that the dog ate our homework.

slow down and thinkSome days, our lives feel too short, while on other days, it feels like an endless slog. The reality is somewhere in the middle. But we do ourselves no favours when we try to game the system, excuse our own foibles while pillorying other people’s errors, and live a life of self-deception and lies.

Sometimes an embarrassment of riches is just a pretty billboard concealing a reeking garbage heap. Knowing which is which is the hard part.

Roxanne Tellier, wealth, money, power, self-deception, media, control, sexualization, Tide pod challenge, laziness.

Confronting the Higher Moral Ground


Rob Ford Funeral 20160328I’m taking a stand – against those who claim ethically superior principles based solely on their religious beliefs.  I’m sick of the mealy mouthed and the self-righteous who feel free to condemn everyone around them for not toeing some invisible moral line. Enough with placating the unplacatable; no one alive completely exemplifies what it is to be good in the eyes of all. Only the dead attain that status, and even then, usually only through memories conveniently fortified with whitewash, amnesia, and mawkish sentimentality.

sharia law anyoneSocial media and the ever slavering commercial media have been enjoying an all-you-can-eat outrage buffet this year, dining royally on the shock and awe of people actually daring to express and live their vaunted ‘freedoms.’ The last time I checked, neither Canada nor the U.S. were run by Sharia law, but there are days when you’d be hard-pressed to define what does make North America tick, from the hysteria of  the religious and sanctimonious morality squad.

Time and again the most publicly virtuous are exposed as privately lascivious, to our delight. What’s more fun than pointing out the hypocrisy of others, while we clutch our pearls in pretended disgust, and tsk tsk in clucking disapproval?

“Something tells me it’s all happening at the zoo. I do believe it, I do believe it’s true…”

We’re apparently still talking about the transgender bathroom controversy (and by controversy, I mean it’s been proven unconstitutional and condemned by the country, but a small group of people are still clinging to their mistaken and unproven belief that anyone with a different sexuality is evil and must be burned at the stake.)

The main proponents are self-styled experts with outsized holier-than-thou platforms, who have clearly neither understood nor even looked up the definition of transgender, which is; “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.”

trans-v-transRather, these morons prefer to double down on their ignorance,  terrified and terrorized by the bad cross-dressers who live in the imaginary closets of their minds, not even realizing that for transvestites, it’s the dressing up that’s the fetish –  sorry, bud, you they don’t find attractive at all.

This very human propensity for characterizing and demonizing others isn’t new, but social media has added new fuel to the fire, since we can now share our disapproval lickety-split quick, and globally, to other people who haven’t time to ‘look into’ the individual offense, but will gladly scan the headline, kneejerk an opinion, add their own stamp of disapproval, and send it out to all those who have the misfortune of knowing them. Ah, brave new world!

It makes me tired. Countering resentment, bitterness, self-righteousness, and the envy of those who would act in the same way, given the same scenario and ability, if they could get away with it, is wearing me out. We publicly condemn the exposed, corrupt, billionaires, crying, “hang ‘em high!” while privately thinking that conning the poor and unfortunate was a pretty clever business plan – until they got caught.

shallow poolWe have become the equivalent of the crawl at the bottom of the TV screen, constantly commentating on what we shoulda woulda coulda done, had that bad thing happened to us.

These analysts cling to their opinions like their thoughts are official flotation devices, when in reality, they’re out of their depths in the shallowest of wading pools.

The only way to rationalize our instincts to do what feels good and makes us happy, despite societal restrictions, is to frame our requests in ways that dance around Bible Belt mentality. Legalize cannabis, because it has health benefits, we say. How can you deny the cries of the ill and injured?  Only a monster would withhold medication from those in need! Meanwhile, we downplay that pot can sometimes just be fun to ingest. Because fun … no no no! Give me a reason why you need pot, you filthy drug addict! Force me to reluctantly concede to make legal an herb that has been unfairly and falsely maligned for a century! (And then, once it’s as legal as alcohol and tobacco, we’ll all get together and indulge ourselves to our hearts content … no hard feelings, eh?)

No, this kind of soft policing by gossip, innuendo, and lack of evidence has got to stop. We have access to more information via our cell phones than any other civilization in history has ever had, and yet so many are backpedalling at top speed into wilful ignorance and pretended stunned condemnation of other people’s actions.

Celeb-Sex-Offender-ScandalsOn the one hand, we recognize that a shocking number of North American women – 1 in 4 –are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, but when a beloved media icon is accused of assault, our immediate response is to reject the allegation, and find culpability in the actions of the victim, all the while spreading the word in hushed, salacious, tones.  For some twisted reason, we find it difficult to separate the creation and creators of art from the actions of abusers, even though history has shown us that celebrity does not guarantee innocence.

Here – I’ll prove it to you. These men have all been accused of, and either admitted publicly or in a court of law, that they were guilty, of abuse. I’ll bet at least one of these names will jump out at you, and propel you into a fit of injured defence: Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Sean Penn, Eminem, Chris Brown, Mike Tyson,  Anthony Kiedis, Tupac Shakur, R Kelly, Jimmy Page, Michael Fassbender, Roman Polanski, Sean Connery, Tommy Lee,  Johnny Depp, Mystikal,  PeeWee Herman, Jeffrey Jones, David O. Russell,  Jared Fogle, Jerry Sandusky, Charles Dickens,  J.D. Salinger, Pablo Picasso.

And that’s before we even get to the more onerous, highly contemptible, disgraced politicians, like Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank transactions  of $3.5 million to quash allegations of decades of sexual misconduct with students. Or the complete and utter hypocrisy of Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, the Alaskan Bible Spice, popping out two illegitimate children while pocketing $1 million for promoting abstinence to American high school students.

That old reprobate, Newt Gingrich, illustrated beautifully the convoluted logic of these right wing politicians, caught in a web of discovered ethical misconduct, which nimbly deflects personal criticisms of wrong doing by taking a moral swipe at the dreaded liberal bogeyman

wrapped in a flag Palin “If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values.”

Separation of church and state be damned! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, or the flag he’s wrapped around himself.

Don’t even get me started on how many children’s’ lives have been ruined by the actions of those in religious authority. The insistence of those who claim to uphold ‘family values,’ while simultaneously playing the  divine, ‘get out of jail free card’ to excuse their own depravities, past and present, is beneath contempt.

Point being, there’s not just one or two bad actors out there, assaulting the defenceless – there’s an army of abusers who take whatever modicum of fame and power –  no matter how insignificant the power –  they possess, and misuse their authority.  We have to acknowledge that sex is only serendipitously the reason that there are 7 billion people on the planet –  sexuality is a driving force  that ensures the continuation of human life. anti masturbation crossBut it’s also the dynamic that compels some warped individuals to take violent sexual gratification from anyone or anything in their path. Rather than receiving the message that sex can be fun and fulfilling for the parties involved, as well as essential to procreation, they’ve had their own sexuality condemned as immoral and beyond control, leading those poor souls  to act out in ways that are truly immoral.

But we cannot address the sickness without addressing the root causes. The insanity of enforcing puritanical principles in a twenty-first century technology based world has to be laid bare, even at the cost of some offended sensibilities.

Is it too much to ask that humans, living in an unprecedented time of accessible information,  education and enlightenment, live up to their potentials? The modern world, so contemptuous of the presumed backwardness of Third World nations, needs to tell the mealy mouthed, fundamentalist critics to back off. There’s no moving forward for humanity as long as society has to pander to anti-intellectualism, hostility to science, formless fears, grievances, and the perpetually self-victimized walking wounded in the chronically under informed brigade.

When Celebrities Attack


Ronan Farrow, son of film maker Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow, recently published a strongly worded defense of his sister, Dylan’s, accusations of juvenile sexual abuse, and re-stated his belief that Allen’s celebrity and wealth have effectively whitewashed the director.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/my-father-woody-allen-danger-892572

judge jury executionerHaving read a wealth of copy, pro and con, on the subject, I have my own opinion, as do most of those who dabble in the world of social media. There’s no lack of outrage from either side of the debate.  We will likely never know what really happened, so we tend to base our conclusion on our own ethical and moral biases, and, sadly, on which side recently presented the best defense for our review.

In a week in which Jian Ghomeshi, once a rising media star in Canada, now largely vilified despite a brilliant defense lawyer who shielded him from most of the consequences of his deeds, has once again skated ably and legally away from more dire penalties, it’s tempting to pick a side.

Throw in the sixty allegations of sexual abuse now pending against comedian Bill Cosby, the postmortem accusations against British radio and TV personality Sir Jimmy Savile, and decades of rumours and confessions from women who claim to have lain – whether in thrall or in fear – with famous musicians, actors, comedians, religious leaders of all faiths, politicians, and those with even a modicum of power, and it all starts to seem like   a world in which anyone – and I include males as well – can be blithely used as nothing more than an inanimate object fit only to be a sperm receptacle, for the pleasure of anyone who can afford the price.

Take away the celebrity angle, and it’s just another story of objectification and abuse.  Money and power can purchase, or simply take without compensation,any commodity, including the bodies of human beings. When challenged, money can certainly be used to cover up or play down criminal acts. Justice should not be blind, and especially should not be blinded by those who can intimidate, whether financially or through abuse of power.

Take away the celebrity angle, and our need to pedestalize the wealthy and powerful, and consider the reality of sexual abuse.

(all statistics have been obtained from this governmental report:  http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/ccs-ajc/rr06_vic2/p3_4.html)

sexual assaults in CanadaAccording to  Canada’s own Justice Department, sexual assault is the crime least likely to be reported to police. 78% of victims never come forward, either afraid of further repercussions from their attacker, or in the belief that, even as they confide intimate and embarrassing details to authorities, justice will not be served. In those who do ask for police assistance, the request often comes long after the offence has occurred.

Women account for 85% of all victims of sexual offences, with 69% of women who reported having been sexually assaulted in childhood, being far more likely to be assaulted again after the age of 16. The male victims were also more likely to be children.

“83% of women with disabilities will be assaulted, sexually assaulted, or abused in their lifetimes.”

Those most vulnerable to predatory assault are children, children and adults with disabilities, the unemployed or those with low incomes, the single, separated or divorced, those who have been institutionalized, and Aboriginal women. In other words, people who are already disenfranchised and largely defenceless are deemed of such little value that their assault is as seemingly inevitable as sunrise.

Over the course of their lives, victims of sexual assault are more likely to require therapeutic treatment after the assault, due to psychological and/or physical consequence of these crimes. ‘Nervous breakdowns,’ suicidal ideation and attempts (1/5th of rape victims have attempted suicide,) and post-traumatic stress disorders lead many individuals to seek professional treatment. And of course, once a diagnosis of psychiatric distress is on record, the victim’s recollections become less likely to be taken seriously by authorities.

There are so many disturbing factors in our interest in the misconduct of celebrities. Sex sells, so the media takes advantage of our desire to revel in prurient fascination with the sexuality of the rich and famous, secretly wondering how our own pedestrian genitals would compare. There’s a whiff of self-abasement and forelock tugging in our willingness to self-righteously defend the celebrity’s honour ,while dismissing allegations of misconduct as ‘preposterous,’  and the stench of envious defiance and schadenfreude in the opposite reaction,  of taking pleasure in their comeuppance. A breathless focus on the celebrity’s well-being, present or future, refuses to recognize the basic rights and dignity, much less truthfulness, of the apparent victim.

And all of these elements distort a larger, uglier fact – the systemic abuse of the vulnerable by those who believe themselves above the law when it comes to the pursuit of their own mindless pleasure.

When celebrities are exposed as base humans, capable of denying the humanity of their victims, our own true feelings about the rights of our fellow beings are laid bare, and the deficiencies of a legal system still rooted in laws largely forged in times when women were considered second class citizens is revealed. The tender underbelly of misogyny shows itself in comments that claim the victim ‘loved’ the abuse, or begged for more , implying that the superior penises of those with money or power carries with it delights beyond our wildest dreams. Very often, the victims are reproached as vile seekers of fame by association, or derided as greedy gold diggers, only out to strip the beleaguered celebrity of his hard earned wealth. Certainly, the large majority of those who come forward begging for legal recourse are generally dismissed out of hand as liars, eager for personal gain, until either the weight of multiple accusations or the approbation of a male interpreter of the details of the assault enters the mix.

Meanwhile, the after effect on the bodies and minds of those who have been abused is dismissed as irrelevant.

Dylan Farrow’s plight should be an opportunity for meaningful discourse on societal values, and should serve to focus attention on a justice system woefully in need of fine tuning in respect to the rights of all citizens, not simply those owners of property or of the male gender.

Instead, in Ms Farrow’s case, as in so many others in which the alleged victim has been left without a satisfactory conclusion, the healing never begins, and the pain never ends.