It Was 20 Years Ago Today


When you are smack dab in the middle of massive change, it’s nearly impossible to parse what is going on all around you.

hippies love not warBaby boomers have been there a few times. The chaos of the sixties, when the world suddenly went from belonging to your parents, to belonging to you and your like-minded friends – remember that?

That same sort of massive overturning of the status quo happened again around 1998, and most of us just rolled with it, not realizing how irrevocably our world was about to change. Once again, the world was being handed over to a new generation, and those who wanted to keep current, were about to be sent back to school or risk being considered a dinosaur.

tech change computers

A few weeks ago, a Facebook buddy, Walter Frith, posted something that I can’t stop mulling over in my mind … how is it that I lived in the middle of a complete technological upheaval, and never felt so much as a tremor?

Walter wrote, ” I’m watching the first season of The West Wing again for the zillionth time and having begun in the 20th century, it’s a hoot seeing the occasional typewriter, enormous video cameras, referencing the Encyclopedia Britannica with no mention of smartphones, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Twitter, all of which had not been invented yet. Watching a political drama series without ANY reference to social media seems almost absurd now but the times were what they were back then, 19 years to be exact.”

… mind … blown …..

I was actually working in tech back then – first at Oracle, then as a writer and sales person for the Canadian rags Toronto Computes, then The Computer Paper, and finally We Compute!

old cell phonesFrom Parade Magazine:
The Evolution of the Cell Phone
• 1973 – The first cell phone. The phone Martin Cooper designed for Motorola weighed 2.5 pounds and had a battery life of 20 minutes.
• 1983 – Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. …
• 1984 – The Nokia Mobira Talkman. …
• 1995 – The Motorola StarTAC. …
• 1996 – The Nokia 8110. …
• 1998 – The Nokia 5110. …
• 2004 – Motorola Razr. …
• 2007 – The iPhone.

I had a cell phone in the late eighties, early nineties, but it was enormous, and cost hundreds of dollars a month to service. Very few people, beyond those who could write it off as a business expense, bothered with cell phones back then.

We moved to Scarborough in 1998, and I found a new career selling collectibles on eBay (which had debuted in 1995.) Most of my transactions were done by cheque or money order, until PayPal launched in 1999, and forever changed international commerce.

There was no Wikipedia prior to 2001, and though it may feel like you’ve always been on Facebook, that site launched in 2004, eventually burying MySpace, which had launched in 2003.

Youtube came along in 2005, and Twitter arrived in 2006. Mixtapes were effectively put out to pasture when Spotify debuted in North America in 2011.

And the smartphones .. ohhhh the smartphones! It was 2007 before we began arguing over which iteration of LG, Samsung or iPhone was best. Can you imagine that? In only eleven years, trillions of dollars have been generated for an industry that didn’t even exist before 1973.

It’s hard to envisage how we lived prior to all of this tech. Cast your mind back to 9/11, for instance. At that point, with almost no one being on any form of social media, the North American phone network became impassable in hours, as we all tried to connect with people who might have been affected by the tragedy.

The cell phone changed our life. The smart phone put an incredibly powerful computer into our pockets and purses. And most of us can’t envision leaving the house without that lifeline.

You know what else didn’t exist, even ten years ago? The iPad (2010,) and tablets in general. Uber (2009) and Lyft (2012,) AirBnB (2007,) Pinterest (2010,) 4Square (2012,) Instagram (2010,) and KickStarter (2009.)

And that’s just a few of the apps we believe we can longer live without .. and we have no idea what leaps and bounds of thought and tech might be coming down the pipeline to blow our minds in the 2020s.

There’s only one way that this relentless tech explosion could feasibly be stopped – if someone, a powerful person, so out of touch, so narcissistic and so megalomaniac, believed that it was within his right to take over the heart of current tech – the cell phone – and bend it to his needs.

That would be a bridge too far, I believe, and might even cause those who rely on the convenience of this ‘computer in their pocket,’ to opt out … to reject the very instrument that has become their lifeline to the rest of the world.trump on cell

But that would never happen .. right?

 

oh oh ….

 

 

 

9/11/2001


Most of us remember exactly where we were, and what we were doing, on the morning of 9/11/2001.

I was sitting in my office, doing paperwork, as I geared up for the upcoming, busy, holiday season. There was a lot to get sorted, since my husband and I were also just two days away from leaving on a two week vacation.

Back then, I had a pretty successful eBay business, called RoxanneShops. I had five people working for me, and was doing quite well.

I was sitting at my desk, with Howard Stern’s radio show playing in the background, when I began to sense a change in the tone of the chatter. Like most people, I didn’t realize what I was hearing, at first. Something about a plane behaving oddly?

At 8:46 a.m., I turned on the office television, just in time to watch the first plane strike the World Trade Center,  in real time.

It was surreal. I watched, mouth agape, unable to process what I was seeing. After all, North America has mostly been spared acts of war and terrorism since the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. We have seen the boys and girls march off to war, even seen many of them return in body bags, but an actual physical attack on our soil? Unthinkable!

My husband was home, on sabbatical, and still sleeping, so I had no one with whom to share my shock at the attack. And I actually felt a little like I must be still abed myself, still dreaming, since what was happening was so incredibly surreal.

After the second plane struck, I had to wake my husband. I couldn’t handle this on my own. This was all so crazy, so unnatural, so out of the ordinary.  Together we watched the events unfolding, in shock.  The unthinkable had become not only thinkable, but a new reality.

In less than two hours, everything we thought we knew about war and terrorism had turned inside out. Because it had now happened on American soil.

I was gripped with a stomach churning fear and panic. We had no idea what horrors might still be awaiting us, and no idea how many more would die as we looked on, helpless to stop the deaths.

I remember that Howard Stern stayed on the air, long past his regular end time. I think we all sensed that this was a historic moment of time, and that what we felt and did in those moments needed to be memorialized.

Still, life was going on around us. Planes were still flying – I was going to have to steel myself to get on one in two days time, with this new fear added to my usual fear of flying. (And, bless their western hearts, the staff and crew on Westjet‘s flight to Alberta kept us all laughing and sane through that journey.)

All over North America, people were rising to the occasion, showing their true, and often heroic, colours. Firemen, completing a long shift and headed for bed, instead got back on the trucks and sped to the World Trade Center – and that is why there were so many first responders that perished that day.

The musical, Come From Away, tells the true story of the week following the attacks, and of how the 7,000 stranded travelers who had been on 38 planes that landed unexpected in Gander, Newfoundland, were housed and fed by the Gander residents in a wonderful show of Canadian human kindness.

There were many other heroes made that day, and many stories have been written. We all struggle to fully understand what circumstances came together to cause this horrible loss of lives, and, even worse, the depths of the sadness felt by those that were left behind, their loved ones vanished in a moment.

There are days you wish you could unlive, moments you wish you could unsee. When I started writing this, this morning, the memories came to me so bright, so clear.

May we never have to see another day like it. May we never forget the day that it was.

America 9 11 2001 Liberty

From CNN:         September 11, 2001 timeline

 8:46 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 11 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
– 9:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 175 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
– 9:37 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 77 (traveling from Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles) strikes the Pentagon Building in Washington.
– 9:59 a.m. ET – South tower of WTC collapses in approximately 10 seconds.
– 10:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 93 (traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco) crashes in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
– 10:28 a.m. ET – North tower of WTC collapses. The time between the first attack and the collapse of both World Trade Center towers is 102 minutes.

2,753 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were intentionally crashed into the north and south towers, or as a result of the crashes.
Of those who perished during the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the towers, 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were officers at the Port Authority.
The victims ranged in age from two to 85 years. Approximately 75-80% of the victims were men.
At the Pentagon in Washington, 184 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.
Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 40 passengers and crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93 died when the plane crashed into a field. It is believed that the hijackers crashed the plane in that location, rather than their unknown target, after the passengers and crew attempted to retake control of the flight deck.
As of July 2018, 1642 (or 60%) of 2,753 WTC victims’ remains have been positively identified, according to the medical examiner’s office.

 

 

Free The Weed! Lift & Co Expo 2018


status of cannabis in CanadaAs Canada slinks towards that moveable feast, the day when cannabis becomes legal and regulated, a couple of conference groups have seen the future – and it is pot friendly.

” TORONTO – Canada’s top cannabis policy bureaucrat says every time he travels outside of Canada, he is reminded anew of just what a novel enterprise this country has embarked upon.

“Canada is moving into a place that no country — other than Uruguay, the only other country that has made recreational marijuana legal at the federal level — has ventured to go,” Eric Costen, director general for the federal government’s cannabis legalization and regulation branch, told a conference Thursday.

The world is watching Canada’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana, Costen said at the cannabis business conference in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The federal government aims to have pot legal by this summer. The exact date is up in the air because senators now debating the Cannabis Act are expected to propose amendments.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2018)

I’ve put it out there before – I sincerely believe that the legalization and fair use of cannabis in Canada could save our country’s economic bacon. Oil is scarce, and costs billions to coax out of the earth. Pot plants grow and pay off year round. It’s crazy not to see the direction we could and should be heading. I am for dumping dilbit and bitumen oil … and picking up on medicinal oil.

Those who believe that this is about Cheech and Chong-ing the planet with smokeables have completely missed the boat on how much good full legalization can be for Canada, her people, and her financial future.

This weekend featured the Lift Expo, Canada’s premier cannabis event, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where more than 60 speakers, and the industry’s most exciting movers and shakers, gathered with over 250 exhibitors from around the world.

“The Lift Expo has become a nexus for the cannabis industry,” says Lift’s CEO Matei Olaru, “We offer an educational and interactive experience unmatched in North America, for the burgeoning and established cannabis business, as well as canna-curious consumers.”

To my surprise and delight, the Lift people were gracious and generous in offering media a complete carte blanche entry to the conference and exposition, and including a media lounge, where we could relax with free wi-fi, and complimentary beverages. The inclusion of an interview area expedited thoughtful one-on-one voice or video taping for future broadcasts.

After picking up my pass, I headed for the escalator, en route to the show floor. The size of the exhibition was impressive, with booths stretching endlessly to the left and right of the North Building. When faced with that much ground to cover, it’s best to choose a simple walking pattern and keep your eyes, ears – and swag bag – open.

The Lift’s hundreds of exhibitors include all major licensed producers, growing supply industries, accessory lines, artisans, specialty medical cannabis products, advocacy and awareness groups, and more. Sponsors include Green Relief and the Jamaican Medical Cannabis Collective.

On the main stage, there’s everything from live cannabis cooking demos to a start up pitch competition. There will also be discussions on female representation in the cannabis industry, how to help your pets heal with CBD oils, craft cannabis products and the new wave of ‘bespoke’ brands. The event also boasts an onsite vapor lounge for medical patients to explore the latest and greatest vaporizers.

There is even a Cannabis at Work Career Fair, which features lightning talks on cannabis career topics, such as the training and experience most attractive to prospective employees, and how to build a ‘cannacentric’ resume.

big bambuThere’ve been slim pickings at a lot of the musical fests and conferences I’ve attended over the past few years, but the Lift Conference is filled with people brimming with excitement, knowledge, and faith in the future, and that makes their companies generous. Within a few minutes of arrival I was already struggling with a big bag of freebies, of everything from pot plant fertilizer to multiple cell phone accessories, to bottled water and water bottles, magazines, rolling papers, pens, candles, hats, t-shirts, and samples of non-infused goodies.

The most plentiful supply of all, however, is the information on the formidable breadth and depth of the cannabis trade, when exploited properly. Get your head out of the smoke of the Big Bambu and into big business, because the possibilities of the herb span everything from medical research, to an entire industry devoted to controlling insects naturally, improving green house and solar powered growing. The worlds of accounting, finance, and banking converge as legalization hashes through what happens when the current illegality of banking funds made from selling a controlled substance ends.

There are training programs and certificates available from accredited colleges, including KPU (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) where you can find out about cannabis career training.

Some companies .. and provinces! … are more into the idea of legalization than others. New Brunswick, for instance, is aiming to be a major Canadian player in the pot world.

The province’s 2016 Economic Growth Plan named cannabis as a priority sector, and business development experts at Opportunities New Brunswick predict a growth of 3,000 cannabis-related jobs by 2022.

Edison Cannabis Co is so eager to introduce the rest of us to their product and province that they’ve a wonderful contest going on, that will net you a personal guided tour of the Edison growing facility in New Brunswick, including round trip airfare, three nights accommodation, $500 in spending money, and double guest passes to the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. I’m in! (get thee to EdisonCannabis.Co to enter.)

abi roach hotbox liftI discovered booth after booth, filled with upbeat, positive business people (including our own Kensington Market entrepreneur, Abi Roach of Hotbox) who can see and appreciate that there is a lot of money to be made in giving the people what they want.

After all, as our own Captain Cannabis, Verne Andru, said to me, we were promised legal marijuana forty years ago, by Trudeau Senior, and here we are, 40 years later, watching Trudeau Juniorcapt cannabis 40th

dragging his feet on bringing this product to market. (Verne’s a brilliant artist, whose career animation assignments include Hanna Barbera‘s Saturday morning line-up, and work on Nelvana’s ‘Rock & Rule animated feature. Verne continues producing comics; illustrating stories for Phantacea, ink and colour on Captain Canuck, cover art for Charleton Comics Group and inking for Marvel Comics Group in addition to his own titles.

With so many economic and psychological benefits to be had by investing into cannabis research, it’s difficult to understand why the governmental reins are being pulled in so hard – aren’t most Canadians anxious to get into legal pot?

Well, as it turns out, not as many Canadians as you would think are on the Cannabis Band Wagon. Prohibition in Canada hasn’t worked; 30 per cent of Canadians aged 20 to 24, and 21 per cent of those aged 15 to 19 said they used cannabis at least once in the previous year. At least seven per cent of Canadians already use weed on a daily basis. And while that is a big market, it’s not close to counting those who are willing to try something natural to manage their pain, and even, potentially to help with getting off opioids and other more dangerous pharmaceuticals.

So while some worry that it will be a free for all once marijuana is legalized, the facts based on the 2016 data study conducted by Deloitte, and featured in the ‘Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities’ report is that attitudes may not be so easy to change.

For those of us who grew up in the heady sixties, our ‘will I/won’t I” try pot or hash moment was a long time ago. For those who didn’t have an opportunity to try it out then, there’s a natural and understandable fear that there might be a danger in even a medicinal puff.

“You would expect that when the stigma is removed of a criminal offence you may have more people who that would otherwise not be willing to take that risk might be prepared to,” said Chris Lavier, a criminal defence lawyer in Saskatoon.

Meanwhile, an IPSOS poll shows that about 34 per cent of Canadians will at least try smoking marijuana once it’s legal, as opposed to the just 12 per cent of users who currently smoke pot recreationally now.

legalization support in canadaBut the big draw will be the 29 per cent of those surveyed who have said they will be buying edible marijuana products, up from seven per cent now.

Too bad, so sad, and incredibly foolish, then, that the LCBO, who will be our main pot purveyors in Ontario, have decided against edible offerings for at least the first year of sales. Foolish, especially since there will be a market of about 9.6 million recreational pot users after legalization, and for many of them, edibles will be how they experiment to find what works for their own conditions and needs.

Where Ontario falls down in the support of what should be a viable competitive industry, is that they are trying to walk a knife’s edge. On the one hand, they will tell you that the purpose of legalization is to improve public health by minimizing cannabis use harm. No stone, no matter how irrational, has been left unturned by those who, quite frankly, fear what they do not really comprehend.

reefer madnessOn the other hand, they know very well that there are trillions to be made from all the aspects of selling hemp and cannabis.

There are concerns about security and policing in a post-Reefer Madness world. Strangely, though, the police departments, tribal reserve security forces, and our own RCMP have been strangely lax to begin these discussions on how to deal with Canadians under the influence. I have to wonder if this reluctance has to do with a belief that the legalization will be pushed back, and back, until it becomes just another Charlie Brown football in the next federal elections.

The government is betting on a legal cannabis market that will restrict use amongst young people, and will work to squeeze out the black market. But that’s unlikely to happen under the restrictions the vendors will labour under, which they say will prevent companies from educating consumers.

The government has also proposed plain packaging with prominent warnings about addiction and other health problems associated with cannabis.

“People will be going into stores and will have no idea what they are looking at,” said Cameron Bishop from cannabis company Privateer Holdings.

So, not to put too fine a point on it – Canada already knows that, like a Trump Casino, they’re gonna be watching the house lose for at least a couple of years. Poor planning means they will be looking at several years of multi-million dollar loss before they ever see a profit.

OCS Ontario Cannabis Store“The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, an LCBO subsidiary created to manage sales and distribution of recreational pot in the province, is expecting an $8-million loss in 2017-2018, followed by a $40-million loss in 2018-19, largely due to initial startup costs to establish the retail network.” 

However, by 2019-20, the province is forecasting OCRC net income of $35 million, followed by $100 million in net income by 2020-21.”

So the tide will turn. Eventually legal cannabis will be as enshrined in Canadian society as those other monopolies, Labatts and Molson, and will feature many of the same players, and many soon to be millionaire pot dealers, most of whom are former and present members of the Liberal party, getting caught drooling over the profits they’ll be reaping in the very near future.

There are many groups that will help consumers who want to know more about the benefits of medical marijuana, or the recreational varieties that will be available. I’d also recommend an online magazine called BotaniQ, that has both industry and secular information on who exactly is on the cutting edge of pot technology and use. (http://botaniqmag.com/)

One of the products I was searching out at the Expo was edible CBD treats, and I was not disappointed. I am a huge proponent of CBD oil, since this is a product that walks the line on the benefits of hemp/pot; you won’t get high, but you’ll definitely get some physical relief. Used in everything from edible jelly babies to arthritis creams and body lotions, there is anecdotal evidence that the cannabidiol oil naturally helps with sleeplessness, depression, chronic pain, and PTSD.

” Thank you so much for telling me about this product. I can’t believe the change in me. Last night, I wasn’t that tired but decided I should go to bed at 11:30 anyway. I took a dropper of the tincture under my tongue and went to bed. I fell asleep almost instantly and slept for several hours before a bathroom break. Went back to sleep immediately too.

It has also helped with my depression. My depression was just getting worse and worse. I was beginning to think “not nice thoughts” even though I lied to my doctor. She has changed my meds several times and nothing has seemed to help. Today, I don’t feel depressed at all. Haven’t for several days, actually. I think this may be the answer. I am going to recommend it to my great nephew who suffers terribly from depression and his meds don’t’ seem to work either. One knows instinctively that medical doctors won’t recommend it as it is not part of the “big pharma lexicon”. What a shame.”

As I said last year after the first O’Cannabiz Expo, it used to be that, when I thought about legalization, my mind went back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs. Strolling down the aisle of the Lift Expo disabused me, once again, of those hippie limitations.

I’m encouraged by the existence of the Lift Expo, (and the Oh Cannabiz conference next month) and continue to have faith that this is, overall, the best and most sensible course Canada should be pursuing over the next few decades. More pot, please!

o canada cannabis

 

 

Power Corrupts


Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

Oh that’s right; Trump is still president. There’s your trouble. Or at least, one steaming pile of it.

It’s almost beyond comprehension that the orange shit gibbon continues to rampage thru the White House halls, especially considering how dangerous his demented ravings are to the planet. Not content with merely twitter goosing the perpetually paranoid North Korean dictator, he thought he’d start another pissing match with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Way to honour your presidential oath to protect and defend mushroom cloudthe constitution .. or the people. The Nuclear Clock edges closer to midnight, and what we’re hoping is dawn’s early light might just be the glare off a pyrocumulus mushroom shaped cloud.

This TrumpPlague is virulent, and it’s debilitating effects are immediate. You see it’s incapacitating effects most evident amongst those people that feel a strong empathy for people in need, regardless of their race, sex, creed, colour, or age. But even those who like to pick and choose just who gets to receive help and support are starting to notice a pattern in TrumpLand; there’s only one entity that is worthy and/or deserving, and that is the Hairy Sunburnt Marshmallow in control, he who manages to be simultaneously all powerful and yet the only victim in any situation or crisis.

the buck stops anywhere but hereIt is a stunning example of someone who could do so much good for the deluded populace who eagerly put he and the Republican Party into power, consistently managing to stop short of ever benefiting or enriching anyone but himself. His specialty is senseless destruction in the pursuit of profit, and the ripping away of any semblance of a social safety net or security that the people may have enjoyed. His belief is that the people he rules over – no matter how young, old, vulnerable or infirm – deserve nothing unearned.

Which is pretty rich, coming from someone who’s never wanted for anything since the day of his birth.

The plain truth is that any idiot can destroy – raise their foot and demolish what others worked so hard to build, or fire a gun and kill a human it took months and years to bring into existence. It’s easy. What’s not easy is creation, and the protection and nurturing of human beings and the good that they are capable of doing.

boot on a human faceWe’ve seen evil morons force their will upon the vulnerable before. Trump’s
abuse of absolute power is nothing new .. it’s just new to those who refuse to see a pattern of abuse of power in their society.

Abuse against people of colour; immigrants, and the DACA children who have never known any other home than America; mothers who were forced to give birth to children they cannot afford to raise; women and children who have had any sort of medical aid stripped from them in a fit of pique and carelessness; football players who dare to protest racial inequality; journalists who seek to provide information and truth while government agencies conspire to spread disinformation and outright lies, and conspire to conceal their plans to manipulate gullible citizens; Puerto Rican and US Virgin Islands citizens who have the nerve to expect to be treated with the same respect as other U.S. citizens in their time of need…. it’s a constant stream of abuse against anyone who is not HIM.

The TrumpPlague is nothing new. The current wannabe dictator is not an anomaly; he conforms to a pattern of political abuse of power that has been ignored or treated as a quotidian part of North American society since the first American elite signed off on the constitution.

“America, the Empire, … imagined itself as it wanted to be, as it had claimed to be in its infancy against a cruel and despotic king in the late eighteenth century.
It reshaped itself into the rebels, not the imperial overlords.
It shaped itself as oppressed, fighting for freedom.
But America, like every nation, has its ages of psychosis. It has fits of indecision and periods of self-delusion.
Consider how presidents spoke movingly of ‘freedom from tyranny’ while personally holding hundreds of men, women and children in slavery.
Or imagine Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, who was the father of half-Black children, at the same moment as he wrote, in his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” that Black people were essentially nonhuman, a species related to the orangutan. (Does this mean that he saw himself as being into bestiality? Or did this mean he really thought his children were, well, half monkey?)
Americans, like any people, are subject to delusions.        america vietnam
….
In the grisly aftermath of a war that tore millions from the face of Asia, all to cover for the corporate exploitation of Vietnam’s bauxite and other natural resources, the imperial shock trooper, the imperial metallic death’s hand, was father to the rebel.
The were, in fact, more than related.
In truth, they were one.”

(Star Wars and the American Imagination; Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2015.)

But here’s what’s interesting: while we are attempting to make some sense of this current overriding entitlement that abuses everyone who fails to bow down to the Trump throne and proclaim undying loyalty and fealty, our attentions have been caught by something we feel we CAN have a say on, something society likes to pretend that they DO care about and always HAVE cared about, but really only gave lip service to …
the abuse of power over women.

Although we may be powerless to remove Trump from the presidency, at least we can all get behind getting incensed and excited about those who’ve been accused and tried in the public eye for sexual abuse. Right?

Oh, you’ve always been against those with any kind of power forcing themselves on women and children? You mean, while 60 women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them, but were ignored and reviled until a male journalist actually had Cosby admit in print that he’d done so? Or when you cheered on the (female) lawyer who got Jian Ghomeshi off the rape hook with her clever manipulation of his weeping victims? Or maybe it’s when serial pedophiles, like former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert, served just 13 months for a bank fraud conviction linked to his effort to buy off the accusations of a former student he sexually abused during his days as a high school wrestling coach. Like Al Capone, they just couldn’t get him on his real crimes.

Jeffrey-Epstein-sex-offenderOr billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, the child molesting ringleader of a sexual human trafficking ring, who was allowed to freely leave jail during the day and only come back to overnight at his Palm Beach Country jail for the mere thirteen months he served of an eighteen month sentence in 2008. Two felony counts of soliciting underage victims for sex would get the average person twenty years in federal prison. But not if you have money and power.

These instances, and many others, are why I welcome those, who now call themselves allies, entering into the discussion. Sadly, though, I can already see the future, when the charges are downgraded, the sentence is a wrist slap or commuted, and it all goes back to where it was before this small moment of ‘enlightenment.’  What has gone before tells us that somehow there will always be some devious, quasi legal, way of placing the blame not on the monster that abuses power, but on the helpless victims of the predator.

Why is that?

Women and children do not hold some mysterious power over the male penis. The real power is not inherent in the one allowing or denying open and unasked access to his or her genitals .. it is in the one doing the hiring and the firing, making decisions, controlling our work environment, and deciding how much to pay women, or even whether to treat women like humans or adversaries. It is in those who would rather take what they want, by trick if possible, by force or coercion if necessary, and then deny any culpability in the abuse.

Where’s the power, once the predator has ejaculated into whatever tunnel of love or potted plant they’ve chosen to empty their sperm within, when all they need to do is turn over and sleep, a good sleep, despite now needing to spend the rest of their lives concealing what they’ve done, from those who would make them accountable?

Is it with the ‘powerful’ victims, who then get to clean up the mess, do the ‘walk of shame’ home afterwards, and try to live with the reality that they have been treated as no more than a convenient receptacle for the lust of a powerful person who has neither the need nor desire to control their own sexual drives?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m really glad that there are many powerful people, both men and women, who are now willing to stand by the victims. But hopefully you can forgive those of us who fail to believe that the uncloaking of predators like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and yes … the Dear Leader Trump … will change how society will go forth from their current days of reckonings. We know how this game is played – you will forget, and they will rise again, somehow, somewhere. They are merely the figureheads, the most powerful in their fields, the ones who got caught … this time. This abuse of power goes on every day, and in every sphere of human life, from the homes where children have to be wary of their own lust driven parents or step-parents, to your local MacDonalds. It’s happening in small and large business, and in places of government … anywhere where some creep with a modicum of power uses that power to take what they are not willingly offered.

trump grabs ivankas assAnd, lord help me, I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

“Incest and other forms of prolonged sexual abuse are such profound violations that they provoke a different form of disbelief than the kind that women often face when they talk about sexual violence they have experienced; when you tell your mother you’re being raped by your father, as the author of The Incest Diary does multiple times in her adolescence, you are disbelieved not because your mother is casually misogynistic, in keeping with her culture, but because she can’t believe you and uphold her understanding of the world. Incest is a violation so profound that it breaks knowledge. In these cases we disbelieve not because we’re so inured to a world where men take sexual advantage of women that such abuse seems normal, but because we can’t conceive of a world in which what we believe is normal could be so defiled.”
(https://electricliterature.com/who-gets-to-write-about-sexual-abuse-and-what-do-we-let-them-say-928dfbd184d6)

For many, the exposure of the Cosbys, the Weinsteins and the Ailes comes as a surprise. The knee jerk reaction is to disbelieve the victims, as if this sort of abuse is an aberration, a gross accusal of wrongdoing that is impossible to fathom, given the position, power and wealth of the accused. Such disbelief speaks to a naiveté and privilege that belies the reality of what we call first world civilization.

Power, fame and wealth do not bestow intelligence, empathy or humanity. In many cases, in fact, they are diametrically opposed.

We so often hear of those that can only believe an accusation of abuse from a women if it has happened to one of their own .. their daughter, their sister, their wife. Then, and only then, is sexual assault scary and disgusting. Consider how comforting that is to those of us whom you don’t consider your ‘own’ in some fashion.

I would like to think that this depressing interval in history can be a time of revelation, a time when the abused and oppressed can tell their stories and be believed, when the realization that women are people as valuable and respected as men – indeed as equal – is accepted as fact, even if just from this day forward.

But I’m not holding my breath.

” My friend was so ready to excuse the actions of this man as normal—he was a relatively new acquaintance, I might add—that he waved me off and acted as if my extreme discomfort was negligible.

Never mind the fact that he was already doing harm, by ignoring my wishes to be left alone and making me feel vaguely unsafe during an otherwise pleasant evening. Never mind that I wasn’t asking for my friend to beat his ass (a show of magnanimity, I thought!), or that I wasn’t going so far as to scream rape or otherwise suggest that I was in danger of him sexually assaulting me right then and there (even though my spidey senses told me he certainly might, if given the chance, since “no” clearly wasn’t in this guy’s vocabulary)..”

(https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/i-have-been-raped-by-far-nicer-men-than-you-1819412131)

i-did-try-and-f-ck-her-she-was-married-i-12715251One of the saddest things I’ve read in recent days was on my own Facebook page, in a thread where the discussion of Weinstein’s abuse of power was inevitably compared to Trump’s, with a meme that quoted Trump’s own words, spoken on that Hollywood Access tape, before … BEFORE .. the election that saw him crowned King of America.

The (American) woman who commented on the post was incensed. She could not believe that Trump had said those words – in public, on video tape, irrefutably – and had still been elected as President of the United States.

He did. He was. And he is.

Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

We’ve all got the TrumpPlague. And it may be the death of us.

 

Running On Empty


It’s minus -21C today – that’s 5 below zero in Fahrenheit – and it’s so cold my cats have cat I has a sadgone beyond being angry and have become despondent, either staring sadly into space or denying the existence of the world with their heads smacked up against a wall. I’m sitting at my desk, wrapped in a black flannel poncho, and wondering where I’ve left my fingerless gloves.

I sprang from my bed this morning, rested and brimming with ideas of ‘great social and political import,’ but instead of researching, I’m waiting for oatmeal to cook – this is not the sort of day you face on an empty stomach.

On days like this I am very grateful for the science and technology that allows me to stay warm. I’m over the moon that I can flip a switch and have light to see by, and flip another switch to start up my computer and read mail and messages from family and friends. I’m really pleased that I have warm clothing that just rests in my closet until I want to wear it, and I’m grateful for the closet being part of a house that has walls and a roof that keep out the worst of the cold.

Silly-HolidaysWe often take for granted what less fortunate people would consider luxuries. We set aside a day here and a day there to give lip service to the giving of thanks, the honouring of lovers, parents, veterans and a host of others to whom we see fit to throw a bone. “Here you go, secretaries. It’s not much, but we’re calling today National Secretary Day! As soon as you’ve read that card, I’ll have a coffee with two sugars. Thanks for being you!”

Our culture has moulded us into people that can never have enough. Everywhere we turn we’re told that we’re missing out on something – a new power drill, an iPhone6, a bigger or tidier home, a more luxurious car, vacations in the sun, and most importantly … money, money, money!

and then we'll get himEven though studies have definitively shown that those with heaps of money are not significantly happier than those with enough to comfortably cover their needs, we’re still told that it is only with the amassing of wealth that we can really be content.

In reality, rich people are not all tanning by their dollar-shaped pools while chatting casually with the men and women we’ve elevated to media stardom. They’re far more likely to be spending their time trying to get yet more money, in any way possible, and are probably more anxious and hostile than you are when trying to decide whether to go with a name brand tin of peas or the generic house brand.

Scrooge-PorpoiseBeing addicted to money is like being addicted to drugs; at first, a small amount gives you a buzz, but as time goes by, you need higher and higher doses to maintain the high. And if money is your drug, that upward spiral contains another component – a need to have more than anyone else, to have it all, regardless of whom it damages. Exorbitant, mindless wealth precludes empathy towards those who struggle to survive on minimum wage or government assistance.

“The peasants have no bread!” “Then let them eat cake,” tittered Queen Marie Antoinette. Her joke, rather than having them rolling in the aisles, soon had heads rolling from the guillotine instead.

That anecdote is likely only the fabrication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiographical, “Confessions,” but has been used ever since as a cautionary tale of the perils of great wealth and self-indulgence in the face of social unrest. One would think the lesson would be self-explanatory, but apparently the accumulation of wealth does not always translate to the accumulation of historical knowledge.

In Canada, we can point to arriviste Kevin O’Leary, who, with a net worth of US$300 million that the true 1% would consider pocket change, can’t seem to stop patting himself on the back. When he’s not crowing over his own wealth, he’s exhorting the poor of the world to pull themselves up by their socks – even if they don’t own any socks.

But of course, that’s the dream we’ve been sold since the Industrial Revolution. “Come, work for me, make me wealthy and I will share my largesse. You too can be like me, all you need do is work hard, save your money, and keep your nose to the grindstone.” And we bought it, for decades. We called it the Protestant work ethic, and called anyone who didn’t agree lazy and stupid.

scrooge silly pleasures“The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and diligence as a constant display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition.

The phrase was initially coined in 1904–5 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” (Wikipedia.org)

We forget that his essay was his observations on the Germany of his time, and not a ‘how-to’ manual. Weber considered himself agnostic. His argument was that Catholicism, with its emphasis on doing good works in the hope of eternal salvation, rather than pursuing wealth for its own sake, impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West.

Capitalism depends upon everyone in the society believing in the same goals. When the West had a booming middle class, there was room within the prosperity to dream of a country free of traditional constraints. We could reach out a hand to those who needed help, be they poor or infirm, or young or old. That sense of community resulted in government safety nets and a surge of infrastructure building that connected and included all of the people, regardless of their economic place.

North America looked at what they had wrought in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and found it good. Good enough to not make a priority again until it started to collapse around us.

glittering TorontoIt’s been decades since the roads and bridges and communities were put in place, decades in which the needs of the wealthy became more important in politics than the needs of the tax payer. In Toronto, once Canada’s most glittering city, our highways are clogged with commuters, while our transit system is woefully inadequate to shuttle workers from their homes to their jobs. The local politicians have been arguing about whether to tear down the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway since the 1990’s. And the majority of our subway system, which opened in 1954, is held together with patches and prayers.

business and politicsThere’s blame enough for everyone at this sorry state. Although we love to complain about ‘the system,’ every aspiring politician has to present a platform that will be seen to not only address community issues, but cost the tax payer less. Once in office, the newly elected official can point to budgetary concerns, and remind us all that there aren’t any funds since he’s cut taxes, just as we requested. Or that they are working on a solution, but we mustn’t hope to see real change until some year in the future where they will hopefully no longer be held accountable for the project and the additional costs incurred during the delay.

Politics on crosswordFor corporations, political concerns are less about the community, and more about expediting the accumulation of more wealth. Despite needing an infrastructure that allows workers to arrive at the work place on time, and roads and other delivery systems to get product to consumers, the emphasis is placed squarely on tax cuts that they have convinced politicians, and even many consumers, will result in a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Corporations spend billions on pushing forward measures that will deny workers fair wages and benefits, and will spend yet more on media essentially blackmailing consumers into giving them what they demand. Health care, no. More tax cuts, yes. Or we’ll take our ball (company, franchise) and go home. Many even believe that we have no other alternative but to agree.

The last several decades of austerity for the general public, but unheard of wealth for the few, is slowly shaping us into a timid, obedient mass, who are only valued as long as we are able to further enrich business through our labour and consumption of goods and services.

hedonic-treadmillThe pursuit of happiness has become a joyless pursuit of money, dooming its followers to an endless treadmill of greed and desperation. You’ll never catch up to the 1%, no matter how hard you try, but real happiness and satisfaction can be had in a life that encompasses empathy, generosity, and gratitude for what you’ve achieved.