You Get What You Give


neanderthalReally drastic times always have both positive and negative aspects. History is filled with major events that altered the path humans were on, and brought about new developments. The Black Plague. The Renaissance. Evolution itself, for that matter. We’re all happy homo sapiens now, but I’ll bet the Neanderthals weren’t too joyful when that branch of the family tree was sawed off.

We often bring on the catastrophes all by ourselves. I believe we’re bringing on some pretty serious alterations to our planet through climate change, and knowing that we did all of that environmental damage just by refusing to clean up after ourselves doesn’t make it any easier.

Sometimes the big bang that changes things illuminates how emotionally fragile humans really are, and how little they enjoy change of any kind. Oh, they say they want change, but actually dealing with alterations to the status quo gives them the heebie jeebies. They’ll second guess themselves into oblivion.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of hearing about how scared and confused American voters were, when they chose to elect a known – nay .. renowned! TV certified! … con man to run their country. How freakin’ delicate do you have to be to believe that someone, who has spent his entire life gleefully and repeatedly fleecing the rubes, really does have the answer to America’s problems? How emotionally unstable do you have to be to believe that a guy, who has nothing in the way of ideas or a proper platform, or experience in any form of politics, who has nothing but disdain for previous administration, will know how to deal with complex diplomacy? How incredibly naive are you to take the word of someone who promises to ‘repeal and replace’ the only health care insurance some have ever known, who claims that he, and he alone can ‘fix’ a broken America with a wave of his magic wand …. You wanted to be fooled, and you were.

What happened to that vaunted American Exceptionalism? When did it become more fashionable to play the victim than the victor?

Gimme that ol’ time religion ….

 

doug ford pussyDon’t get me wrong, I am well aware that it’s not just Americans who are that naive. There’s more than a few of these strongmen and wannabe or actual dictators scattered around the planet. Ontario may well be the next launching pad for another contemptible bozo who wears his racism, sexism and xenophobia proudly on his sleeve. Listen – I get it. You’re angry at Wynne, whom you feel has screwed up her time at the helm. So angry that you’ll throw away any progressive growth in the province in favour of a man who is the walking, talking embodiment of NIMBY?

You’ll get what you deserve, as the people always do. It’s not about electing the least offensive option, it’s about caring enough about your city, or province, or country to nurture safe, sane growth, while keeping those in charge accountable. You can’t wake up forty years down the road to ruin and ask, “wha’ happened?” We built this city and this country by turning a blind eye to suspect deals, cronyism and corruption, with each successive governance going further down the wrong path, and piling on more debt for our kids and grandkids. How many shady politicians have walked away from positions of power with full pockets and zero accountability for screwing over the electorate?

bullies on campusWhat you get instead of good candidates are guys like Trump and Ford, who are basically those asshat Big Men On Campus that you had to endure in senior high school or college. The big bullies who swagger down the corridors with their buddies, all of whom are both a little afraid and a little in awe of Biff’s cruelty, but who are far more afraid of getting on his bad side and having him lash out at them.

So they laugh when he shoves that kids with the glasses into a locker, or trips that nerd with a full tray in the cafeteria. They’ll guffaw when he spikes the punch, and talks smack about the cheerleaders, and leaves one or two of the girls pregnant. Because he’s got the power, they’ll go along for the ride, and reap what benefits they may from the scraps he leaves behind.

Of course, this kind of governance leaves behind damage far beyond Biff’s years on the football team, or Trump’s time in office. We’re still trying to get the science teacher’s Volkswagen down from the roof of the gym, and we may never get all that coal detritus out of America’s rivers.

new yorker quote Trump end daysAnd that’s assuming Biff leaves the building willingly …

We all must take responsibility for allowing the Biffs of the world to come to political power. We have to root out and trash the idea that the bullying, entitled, ‘big swinging dicks’ of the world have anything to offer the rest of us. They sneer at us, and view us with contempt. We are just the sheep they seek to fleece and lead to slaughter. They are the spoiled, the entitled, the corrupt, and they seek to profit from our naiveté. The tools that elect fools and criminals to office are our insecurities, fears, and prejudices, along with our willingness to let anyone else who’ll volunteer, to do the heavy lifting of keeping an eye on those who are supposedly running countries for the good of the people, and to make sure that they are not simply working for their own gain. These faults are what elect terrible people to the White House, or Parliament. Bad politicians are the reflections of our worst flaws.

bad choice worse choice. jpgIf we want better, we need to deserve better. And deserving better means actually caring about who is running your government. It means doing the research, understanding basic civics, having an opinion, and demanding that our elected officials listen to all of the electorate, not just the part that greases their palms. Elected officials need to be scrutinized as severely as any other public servant, because they ARE your servants, and they are well paid to do the will of the people. If we, as citizens, can’t be bothered to learn what it takes to run our cities or country, if we find it all too boring, and unimportant … then we’ll continue to be asked to choose between two or more terrible choices to lead.

Social media teems with trolls, rants, memes, and the lashing out of frustrated, angry people. It feeds the divisiveness and lack of empathy that will tear our worlds apart. Everyone has an opinion, but opinions are not facts. We now have solid proof that neither your drunk uncle nor your favourite armchair politician are actually the smartest, or the best qualified, to make the intellectual, diplomatic, decisions that enable countries to run smoothly.

We are not enabling our ‘better angels’ when we choose those who will control our governments by Facebook polls. If citizens truly want to have a say in how they are governed, they have to put in the work to be better citizens.

i love the poorly educatedAs George Carlin told us so very long ago, ” If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant leaders. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. “

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Empathy and a God in Our Own Image


The holiday season is a good time to think about our interactions with other people. We really want to make our loved ones smile, so we’ll do as much as we can to please them. We search out gifts for giving that we think will delight our friends and acquaintances, hoping to strike that balance between spending too much or not enough. And, in the best case scenario, we find it in our hearts and pocketbooks to donate a little to those who have less than we do; some of us will do that because we think it’s right to share what we have with others, while some will do so because donations can be written off on next year’s taxes. Either way – our donations and caring will have some impact on those in need.

For most of us, that is all that the holidays require; a little thought for others, an attempt to ease some of the stress and strain that we humans navigate most days. Our songs and stories commemorate how we feel when we come together, in peace and joy, ‘heart to heart and hand in hand,” and lift the winter’s darkness for a short time.

lincoln empathyWe are driven by kindness and care, and empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings and emotions of others. The quality is usually strongest in children, who can be almost clairvoyant in their ability to feel the pain of others, either human or animal.  From a very early age, we can sense goodness and meanness in the intent of others, and even as babies, we instinctively dislike those who are cruel to others. Little children have yet to learn that most grownups are oblivious and indifferent to the feelings of animals. And many children, sadly, will grow up into adults who will, very often, be just as oblivious to the feelings of those who are different from themselves.

Different by virtue of skin colour, or gender, or by an accident of birth that sticks a silver spoon in one child’s mouth, and bitter alms in another. Children are born all over the planet, every minute of every day, but not every child will be welcomed by it’s family, or it’s people, or by those who hold power over the powerless.

So, here we are, with Christmas 2017 behind us. The days will get shorter now, and for many, the snow will fall far more than we’d like. The young, the old, the sick and the well – all of us will cope with good and bad events, to varying degrees, and with varying success.

The poor will suffer the most, since winter is hardest on those who live in inadequate housing, with uncertain heat, and even more uncertain nutrition. The middle class will struggle along, carrying the largest burden, since it is the middle class that invariably bears the cost of keeping society afloat. And the wealthy  … ah, the wealthy will have their own special burden, that of hiding their untold riches in ever more clever niches.

Inequality, already a societally crushing issue in the United States, was exacerbated last week when a group of old, mostly white, and mostly male Republicans forced through a bill looting the Treasury coffers, while enriching themselves and their donors. There is no other way to look at the tax scam perpetrated by the Trump administration than as the brutal rape of the American taxpayer, for the benefit of the wealthy.

tax scam 2017Every tax payer in America will suffer, and I say ‘every taxpayer’ because the wealthy were already well ahead of most Americans in the non-paying of taxes. Even as the rhetoric on American taxation being ‘the highest in the world’ (it’s not) crescendoed, the wealthy and corporations snickered up their sleeves, knowing that their trusty accountants and willing elected officials had long ago resolved that little problem. Very rarely do the tax bills of the 1% exceed 1% – it’s more likely that they’ll be coasting on credits from past corporate ‘losses,’ government grants, and well established tax havens in other countries.

The Republicans gathered to celebrate these cuts that were given to those who are currently sitting on trillions of dollars that they cannot be bothered to invest in their own employees and companies, and the corporations responded by cutting staff and automating the lowest paid jobs. And buying back their own stock. And giving themselves massive, million dollar bonuses.  Oh – and bemoaning a rise to minimum wage, as it would impact their bottom line.

trump tax ripoff

Meanwhile, the American people can look forward to death by a thousand tax cuts. There are cuts to pretty much everything necessary to live, not the American Dream, but a life not lived on the streets.

No sector of society has been left untouched. Health costs will soar, children will die from the loss of medication and treatments. The young, the old, the poor, the sick, small businesses, students, home owners, veterans, ‘dreamers,’ refugees and immigrants … all will pay the price for the corporations’ champagne dreams.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” says the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, but now, she’s beckoning them closer so that she can mug them, and then sell their blood and organs to the highest bidder.

The astonishing lack of empathy or fellowship shown in this tax scam is frightening. How do you explain to someone what it means to care about their fellow man? To care for their neighbour, not just because there’s something in it for them, but because their own laws say that all men are created equal?

I don’t know how to open the eyes of those who cannot see the suffering in front of them, or who do see the suffering, but brush it away with impatience. The greed and detached cruelty of those who have the power to ease the misery of others, to elevate the standard of living for all, and yet fail to do so, is astounding.

The gleeful joy and unbelievable callousness exhibited by those who passed this bill is beyond me. I think it’s likely beyond even our fictional monsters. It took Scrooge three ghosts to understand his perfidy, but I think the Republicans cut back the ghost jobs last year, and replaced them with automation.

I’ve got mine, Jack,” they gloat. “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps,” they say, neglecting to mention that the bootstraps and ladders they used to climb to power were pulled up behind them, and the door closed to those who might use those means to succeed in the future.

There are practical, and even self-serving reasons, to make sure that all of your people have health care, public education or access to higher education, and better paying jobs that enable the masses to buy the junk that corporations have made in cheaper lands. But even that doesn’t penetrate the scaly skins of the elected officials.

minimum-wage-graphic Ontario 2017Years of recession, of belt tightening, of cutting staff to the bone, have weakened respect for workers, and tested our own belief in the value of what we do. After all, if we had any importance, surely our jobs and wages would not be treated with such disdain and indifference! When we are no longer valued for what we bring to a company, when corporations would prefer to pay as little as they can get away with, rather than pay a minimum wage that would allow their workers to have a decent life, the very idea of the dignity of work loses meaning.

When we see hundreds or thousands of jobs cut, and the CEO rewarded with multi million dollar bonuses for his/her skill at excising these workers, we begin to see our lowly place in the big picture. We see that minimum wage is, indeed, the lowest amount a company can legally pay a worker, but that they’d gladly drop that amount by even more, or welcome slavery, if only it would come back into fashion and usage.

Minimum wage today buys less than it did in 1950. That’s why some households have two, or even three, family members, all desperately working as hard as they can, just to bring in enough to cover their basic survival needs. That house of cards shivers every time something unexpected happens – an accident, an illness, an unanticipated expense … or the cost of an education that might allow a family member to dream of a better job.

min wage earnersWhen I see the memes of the self-righteous, those who sneer at those who fill these jobs that pay only a minimum wage, I cringe. It chills me, especially when those jeers come from someone who grew up in a time when there WAS a more level playing field, more opportunities for advancement, or who came from a middle class family able to pay for the speaker to get a leg up in life.

Those people are often under the false impression that it is only the young and incompetent that work for such a low salary. They are very wrong. And even when it is shown to them that they are wrong, they will defend their position, trotting out sexist, racist, or xenophobic tropes to bolster their words.

I don’t know if such an ugly and pitiless state of mind comes from the mindset of a political party, the real and imagined fears of the unknown or unknowable that plagues some as they age, or just a sheer bloodymindedness and complete lack of empathy for anyone other than oneself. I don’t know – because it is unimaginable to me.

Worst of all, those who propound these horrors, ‘for the good of the economy,‘ most often profess  to be good Christians, following the Bible, manipulating and misquoting it’s words to defend their deeds.

golden rule empathyIn all religions, there is one rule above all others, and the only one that must be followed. It is always some variation on the Golden Rule … “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Somehow, the importance of that must have gotten lost in the conservative/right wing/Republicans’ bibles.

These people worship riches, not a God. They deify those who have amassed assets beyond any conceivable use, and spit upon those who have not been ‘blessed’ with wealth. And yet, they simultaneously and methodically put into place barriers prohibiting the vast majority of others of ever attaining a similar goal. It is inexplicable. Somewhere along the line, our justified laughter at the silly crassness of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” morphed into an adulation at the altar of the Kardashians.  And it ain’t pretty, folks, it ain’t pretty at all. In fact – it’s nauseating.

Religions tell us that we were made in God’s image. That we are little God mini-me’s. It suits their purposes, because they can then mold our thinking to what works for the benefit of the religion, the church, and for those who profit from the preaching of the tenets of the faith. If we are just like God, we must be right and just. What we fear or hate is rational, as it is God’s own fear. We must love those that believe as we do, and hate those who believe differently. Carrot and stick – behave in the way we’ve outlined, and you get to go to Heaven. Misbehave, and it’s eternal damnation for you, buddy!

In reality, we create our Gods in our own image. We decide what a God should be, and it would seem that we’ve decided that’s he’s a pretty nasty creature, who demands absolute adoration, and will strike down all of ‘his’ children at the slightest indiscretion. He needs money, apparently, lots of money, to build fancy places of worship. This faux God insists that he is the arbiter of faiths, and that all who profess different beliefs are infidels, and must be converted, or murdered so that our religion is the only one worshiped.

What a vicious, reprehensible, ugly, vile, bugger some have chosen to represent the Almighty! Is this really how an all knowing, all seeing being, capable of creating the heavens and the earths would wish to be portrayed?

A benevolent God doesn’t hate poor people – in fact, they are his best beloved, along with children, the sick, the lame, the blind, and all of the others that elected governments prefer to throw under the bus, in order to curry favour with those who already have too much wealth and power.

rich need bigger needleGod DID hate those who wielded money and power like a weapon. Remember when he threw the money changers out of the Temple? Or that bit about the camel and the needle? Were you aware that the word “Gospel” literally means “Good News,” and that, at the time of this usage, had no religious feature, but instead meant ‘the forgiving of debt?’

An omniscient God doesn’t hate gay people, or refugees, or those with a different coloured skin or language. A compassionate God loves all mankind, not just a neat subsection of people exactly like Himself – or yourself.

A Vengeful God that spits out vindictive words and bile about ANY other human being is a false God, created in the image of the fallible and power hungry.  When the likes and dislikes of those imperfect humans are foisted onto a deity of your choice, the only religion that can be carved out is one that reflects our own prejudices and fears of ‘the other.”

empathy religion. JpgThe essence of empathy is an understanding that we are all equal, and all deserving of love and compassion. When empathy is removed from business and politics, we are on a slippery slope to the collapse of an Empire.

A nation is built upon the backs of ALL of it’s citizens, all of whom must have a place at the table. When the political administration in power only caters to the wealthy, they have forgotten that they serve at the pleasure of all of the people … and that their time in power is only temporary, and at the whim of those people.

This holiday season, the Republican party flaunted a lack of empathy and a slavish devotion to the upper class, all the while telling the middle class that they were giving them a ‘Christmas present.’  Those same smiling faces said that this year, you could once again say “Merry Christmas,” as though there had been some admonition against it while ‘the black man’ was president.  In truth, you could always say “Merry Christmas,” but after this tax scam, you just won’t be able to have one. strong people. jpg

The new year will reveal exactly how low they are willing to go in their abject fealty to these overlords. With luck, it will also open the eyes of those who’ve enabled their ugly, selfish, partisan goals, and lead us all to a world where fairness and democracy replace greed and apathy.

My wish is that 2018 be the year when we finally understand that ‘peace on earth, goodwill towards men’ was never meant to last for just a day, but rather, needs to be our goal, every day, every where, and for all people.

happy-new-year-quotes-2018

 

 

Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep


keep calm and gobble onHappy Thanksgiving weekend! Hopefully most of us will be lucky enough to be gathered together at some point with friends and family to share the bounty of the harvest – or at least the goodies we’ve bought from our local grocers — and that most precious of commodities …. our time.

It’s crazy how fast the days and years go by. That’s not an ‘old people’ thing anymore; even kids in grade school find it hard to accommodate all of the information and entertainment they need to constantly absorb in order to successfully process their world. Those of us with much to remember don’t stand a chance, post-retirement, of guessing the day with much accuracy. (Helpful hint: Write everything down!)

Although I’m not a religious person, I consider myself blessed. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and a husband, family, and friends that love me. I also have a keen awareness that I am more fortunate than a great many people, who often lack the things that a lot of us take for granted.

While I do try to do what I can to help others, this weekend I’m grateful to be enjoying the hospitality of two lovely friends, who asked us to share their respective feasts.

toronto-skyline-nightOn Saturday night, we joined long time friend and writer Ira Band for dinner at the Island Yacht Club, on Mugg’s Island. It was a beautiful night, with weather more like August’s than October’s. Earlier this summer, the island was horrendously flooded, but is now back to being it’s luxuriously landscaped self. After a delicious Thanksgiving buffet, we alternated between enjoying the fireplace inside, and the view of the Toronto skyline from the comfy lounges outside. A perfect evening!

Today, we’ll be joining fellow scribe/photographer/Energizer Bunny Pat Blythe for her amazing festive spread. That woman can cook most people under the table, and still sparkle as the hostess with the mostest. We will enjoy the company of friends, and Pat’s famous pies, and who could ask for anything more!

i-came-in-like-a-butterballMonday will be Bring On The Fat Pants Day and let it all hang out. I can live with that.

But let’s talk about Canadian Thanksgiving. I like when we celebrate the holiday. Let the Americans have theirs on the fourth Thursday of November; ours is just better positioned. We’ve got Halloween at the end of the month, which acts as a speed bump before we get on the tilt-a-whirl that is the countdown to Christmas, and that’s just fine by me.

So why aren’t our holidays celebrated simultaneously, you ask? It’s all about history.

According to wiki, “the first Canadian Thanksgiving is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, held his Thanksgiving celebration not for harvest but in thanks for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs. On his third and final voyage to the far north, Frobisher held a formal ceremony ifrobisher-thanksgivingn Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut) to give thanks to God and in a service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall they celebrated Communion.”

Over the years, succeeding waves of immigrants brought their own harvest traditions and delicacies to Canada, and we gratefully blended those new foods and tastes into what we now call Canadian cuisine.

And of course, we cannot forget how new Italian/Canadians brought their own tradition of the Spaghetti Harvest to our great land.

What we think of today as a traditional Thanksgiving feast owes a lot to what American film and TV has idealized as the proper fare… the groaning board that begins with pickles, olives, and hot dinner rolls (Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a favourite for me) and carries on with mashed potatoes , roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing and giblet gravy, all but the preliminaries to the guest of honour, the roast turkey.

And when you’ve had your fill, and have moved your belt buckle over a notch, lo and behold, the desserts arrive – pumpkin or cherry or raspberry pie, carrot cake, ice cream …. Ahhh … yep, sounds like Thanksgiving at Pat’s!

I’m happy to have a day designated for giving thanks. We’re an entitled bunch of gits, and having to stop and actually think about what’s good in our lives is rare; we’re far more likely to be complaining about what we don’t have. This is a day – or a long weekend – on which Canadians can all agree that they are blessed to live in a country which, because of or in spite of current leadership, allows us freedom in so many ways.

thanksgiving-gratitudeI try to have an “attitude of gratitude” as the platitude goes. No matter what life brings, I try to remember that there are people on this planet who would kill to be in my shoes. Which is not to say that I don’t occasionally complain, but I do value what I have, and I thank those who make my life better, just by their presence and love.

 

“When we neglect to require our children to say `thank you’ when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically. The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

grateful-for-everythingSo, what are you grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my husband, my children and grandchildren, and my family and friends, who continue to love me despite my many, many quirks and odd behaviour. I’m grateful for the food in our pantry and the roof over our heads. I’m grateful that I’m getting older, because the alternative sucks. I’m grateful that I get to write this column every Sunday, and some of you actually read it and even discuss ideas with me, whether you agree or disagree with my points. I’m grateful that I’ve never lived in a country ravaged by war or pestilence or famine, and probably never will.

Little girl asleep in bed.I’m grateful when I lay my head down on the pillow at night, and know that the odds are good I’ll be waking up in the morning to another day filled with possibilities. I’m grateful for every bit of my life so far, and the wonders that still await my discovery. For as long as I am on this planet, I want to be cognizant of the beauty that is all around me, and never take for granted the gift that is existence.

Even when the going gets rough and it seems like there’s nowhere to go but down, it’s best to consider the good you have in your life, and be thankful. That small shift in thinking can put things into perspective.

Never underestimate how important it is to have people in your life who are kind and loving and thoughtful. When all else fades away, love and kindness are the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

There’s a reason why this song has over 52 million hits … the simple lyrics, and the joyful delivery remind us of the things that are most important in our lives.

Have a wonderfilled Thanksgiving weekend, everyone, however you choose to celebrate.

 

 

Don’t Bogart That Joint My Friend – Monetize It.


The O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo held at the Sheraton Centre this past April 21-23 conveniently allowed those celebrating 4/20 to have their pot, and eat it too.  ocannabiz 2017

The history of hemp and cannabis, that mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves that comes from the hemp plant, has, so far, been written by the victors –  those who fought to prohibit use and access to the plant. That they did so for their own, often muddled, generally financially rapacious,  reasons, impacts us to this day.

from Vice: “ How did that (criminalization) happen?

When Harry Anslinger, who was leading a federal agency that would later become the Drug Enforcement Agency, was confronted with the end of prohibition in 1933, he panicked because he and his man were charged with enforcing prohibition… He was worried that he didn’t have a mission in life, that he and his men would be out of a job. That’s when he began to lead the crusade against marijuana. They very deliberately, systematically chose marijuana as their new whipping boy.

When Anslinger was participating in federal hearings that would eventually culminate in the passage of the Marijuana Stamp Act in 1937, which essentially made marijuana illegal, the arguments against marijuana use were not at all grounded in scientific evidence. They were grounded in hearsay and stereotypes: That this was a drug black men used to seduce white women. That it was a drug that led Mexicans to murder their white neighbors. ” reefer madness.gif

So dangerous was it deemed that even today, with a supposedly more enlightened people, and science as advanced as we’ve ever seen it, trained professionals continue to ignore current studies, preferring to rely on what they’ve been told. Only 8% of Canadian doctors are open to prescribing cannabis medically, regardless of new information. Clinical studies have been made even more difficult to conduct due to North American legislation that forbids study of prohibited substances. I kid you not. The legislators are like children with their fingers in their ears, going “nyah nyah nyah, I’m not listening,” while the people carry on toking.

Marijuana-FactsAs the tidal wave of inevitable legalization sweeps over North America, it’s illuminating to watch the different factions argue over how this potential cash crop can be best exploited. For sheer capitalistic greed, look to legislators who foresee that shaking this particular money tree will fill not just tax coffers, but their own pockets, and focus solely on how they`ll spend those yummy new tax dollars.

Shares in marijuana stocks have ballooned over the last few months, as high as 5000 times over first purchase price. And many of those who bought early, and at the lowest rates, were family members of politicians who saw which way the wind was blowing several years ago.

Pure activists tend to lean on the medical aspects of legalization, and that is a very good thing indeed. While further studies will allow researchers to help sufferers ease pain, I’m already watching friends soothe their nerves without toxic side effects, having happily dumped costly pharmaceutical antidepressants and sleeping pills, in favour of edibles.

Jodie-Emery-and-Bill-Blair.jpgTo my mind, appointing Bill Blair,  the ex-Toronto police chief who’s tasked with shaping the legislation  as the Chairman of the Committee, was a giant mistake. It’s inevitable that a man who spent his entire life and career policing drug offences is going to have a different spin on legalization. His mere presence at the table draws a pall of doom and gloom over the very idea. And his dour focus on law enforcement over potential benefits reinforces social and racial biases over who exactly gets to indulge, or profit commercially from sales and distribution.

His presence hearkens back to the days when pot was a cheap pacifier for slaves in the Caribbean and the cotton fields, and reflects current times, when prison populations boom with low end drug offenders, serving sentences that have a long term negative impact on the futures of those prisoners and their families.

But there are literally countless avenues of commerce about to open in Canada, based on this proposed legalization. At the Expo, I learned exactly how clueless most  Canadians, including myself, are about the economic possibilities and future of this upcoming advance.

If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, you likely remember the joy and awe of trying your first ‘reefer.’ That’s when $5.00 bought you a nickel bag – one ounce – of pot. Or a big bag of oregano, if you were a first timer and gullible. These days, it’s a lot more expensive, and my oh my how the hit has changed!

big bambu cheech chong.jpgResearch, mostly conducted at street  (grass roots) level, and over many years of advanced cultivation by dedicated growers, has not only produced more effective highs, but highs that can be calibrated as efficiently as high end pharmaceuticals. Not having kept up on my cannabis education, I had no idea that the both the homegrown  and imported versions now came in different grades and strengths.

When I thought about legalization, my mind threw back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs.  Edibles, peace, love and groovy. Strolling down the first aisle of the Expo disabused me of those hippie limitations.

Booth after booth of exhibitors offered brochures that explained and extolled their particular fields of interest, from medical research, to how to better cultivate strains to meet advanced criteria, to an entire industry devoted to improving green house and solar powered growing. Several companies offered natural insect control products to protect the quality of medical or recreational cannabis.

There were accounting, financial, and banking experts available – it is currently illegal to bank money made from selling a controlled substance. These experts will lead the way in changing those regulations.

cannabis-industry-jobs-599x435There were schools offering accredited course programs in Quality Assurance for Medical Marijuana,  and Management Quality and Laboratory Certificates.

There were high end research labs working on 21st Century scientific techniques meant to improve the ability to pinpoint specific illnesses and to create medical marijuana solutions to ease pain and diseases.

There were companies who’ve specialized in the distribution of, and means of ingesting, product, for both medical and recreational pot.

ancillarybusinesses cannabisAnd yes, there were a few exhibitors who rocked the old hippie spirit, focusing on rolling papers, hookahs, black lights and groovy accessories.

But it was the middle aged business person that was the focus and main attendee of this Expo, the former middle and upper management types that either were forced into redundancy during the recession of a decade ago, or who simply had the foresight and imagination to realize that this legalization could create the largest, across the board, economic boom Canada has seen in decades.

The conference and seminar aspect of O’Cannabiz brought in spokespeople as varied as Gold Medal Olympic snowboarding champion,  Ross Rebagliati, and music legend, Melissa Etheridge,  to expand on their personal experiences with cannabis, and how regular usage has improved their lives. The Green Chefs, Mike Morgan and Guy Kramer, specializing in culinary preparations of edible marijuana, had suggestions for those who would rather eat, than smoke, their meds.

pets and pot.pngAnd on the Sunday, seminars discussed everything from pet-proofing your stash and avoiding possible risks and hazards to household pets, to the growing essentials of good cannabis cultivation , and the medical effectiveness of cannabis in treating veterans for PTSD.

Ms Etheridge has often said, “I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally.” (Or as duo Fraser/Daley puts it .. “all marijuana, is medical marijuana.”)

I had my eyes opened to a brave new world in Canada, if the process of legalization is not hampered with outdated and prohibition type thinking as the process rolls out. The future is truly up to forward thinking Canadians, and literally anything is possible economically if we can leave the “Reefer Madness”  prejudices behind and embrace the possibilities of this beneficial plant.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can benefit and possibly profit from the legalization of cannabis in Canada, there’s another conference coming to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this month, May 25-27. Info on that can be found here … http://liftexpo.ca/

Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

The Luck of the Irish


If you didn’t get your chance to get your Irish on on Friday, March 17th, Torontonians will get another chance to do so today, when the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon. The route begins on the corner of Bloor and St George, heads east on Bloor, south on Yonge, and west on Queen St, before finishing up at the parade reviewing stand at Nathan Phillips Square.

The parade is still a big deal for many of Irish descent .. and there are a lot of us! As of 2006’s census, the Irish were the 4th largest ethnic group in Canada, with 4,354,000 Canadians (or 15% of us all,) have full or partial Irish descent. And more than two million Irish Canadians are in Ontario!

st patricks day queenI haven’t been to the parade in years, though I did get to be one of the rabbit stole wearing girls waving from the back seat of a convertible many years ago as the “Miss Irish St Augustines,’ in Montreal.

When I was a teen growing up in Montreal, St Paddy’s was always a big day. My grandfather, whom I’d never met as he’d died before I was born, was literally “a man without a country.” His own parents had fled Ireland’s economic woes, and he was born, mid Atlantic, before they docked in New York‘s harbour. They stayed briefly in the United States, before moving to Montreal.

My family loved their Irish heritage. A musical lot, they were the sort to gather ’round the piano to play and sing the songs of the ‘ould country.’ I was brought up listening to a mix of classic Irish tenors, as well as the rebel songs, and of course, the  lighter ‘stage Irish’ fun songs peddled in theatre and film.

There were two sides to the Irish connection, in my world. On the one hand, I loved the singalongs, the funny accents, and the camaraderie, especially on the holiday itself, when I could be guaranteed a fine old time. On the other hand, and always present, were the realities of a divided Ireland and ‘the Troubles.’

My mother’s family were not prone to arguing over politics, which was a good thing, considering that my grandmother was British, and my uncle Dennis had married a Dubliner.  Hard-line rebel songs were strongly discouraged, but we’d always be in for a‘cead mile failte.’

There are some that look down upon the ‘stage Irish’ of the Irish Rovers, or even der Bingle’s portrayals of kindly Irish priests, but it must be remembered that the Irish faced a great deal of discrimination on their first arrival in North America.  Early Irish entertainers and newcomers could rely on getting a rise from a hostile audience by sending up their own people as friendly, ginger, alcoholics, quick with a joke and a laugh.

“Irish men and women both had a hard time finding skilled work in the U.S. due to the stigmas of being both IrishNo Irish need apply sign as well as Catholic. Prejudices ran deep in the north and could be seen in newspaper cartoons depicting Irish men as drunkards and Irish women as prostitutes. Many businesses hung signs out front of their shops that read “No Irish Need Apply“, or “NINA” for short. The initial backlash the Irish received in America lead to their self-imposed seclusion, making assimilation into society a long and painful process.”  

But the Irish played a significant role in American society, especially in teaching and policing occupations. Eight of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Irish descent. Irish Catholics have served in all layers of American government, in every capacity, from mayors to Presidents.

Ontario is rife with towns named after the places and last names of Ireland, including Donnybrook, Dundalk and Dublin, Enniskillen and Galway. and Tara and Waterford.

Canada has had our share of notable Irish-Canadians, in every field, from the arts, to sports, and politics. Writers like Morley Callaghan and W.P. Kinsella have explored the many facets of Canadian lives, as have my cousins Rita Donovan and Michael Donovan, while Stompin’ Tom Connors and Denny Doherty have shaped how we sound. Add to that list my husband, musician Shawn O’Shea, also of Irish descent, who’s even born on March 17th! (In a bizarre coincidence, two other members of the heymacs, Kid Carson and Carlyle Walpola, were also born on March 17th.)

I can’t picture Canadian comedy without the stylings of Mary Walsh, our Amazon Warrior. And what would the world of show biz be without Mack Sennett,  producer, director, writer, actor and founder of Keystone Studios?

Politically, Irish Canadians have been integral to the country since the days of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation, while Louis St. Laurent, Sir John Thompson, Paul Martin and Brian Mulroney have all served as Prime Ministers.

In world entertainment, the Irish have always had a strong presence, and there’s no shortage of musical talent exported from the Emerald Isle, with memorable stylings and poetic imagery flowing from U2, Enya, Gilbert O`Sullivan, Sinead O`Connor, the Cranberries, Van Morrison  and Thin Lizzy.

The Irish in North America have come a long way from the days when thirish_blessing_cottageey stumbled off the boats, fleeing famine and political strife. Many of those marching in St Patrick`s Day Parades today have no interest or stake in the politics of modern day Ireland, but the urge to celebrate their heritage remains strong.

And the rest of us, in our green wigs, and drinking green beer, just wish we could have a little of that fabled Irish luck and good humour, if just for one day.

 

Weather or Not We’re Together


I don’t want to startle anyone … but there’s been quite a lot of blue in the sky lately, and there’s this big yellowy orange ‘ball’ up there as well ….  and it’s been getting kind of warmer, too. Should I worry?

Oh lawdy .. could Spring be nearing? It’s felt like years since looking out the window promised anything but snow and a hulking grey sky crouched like a monstrous beast over the rooftops. I have seen the hazy shade of winter, and I’m well  and truly over it.

Hey … it’s true … we had a mere 48.8 hours of sunlight in January. Even the seasonal average of 85 hours for the month of January sucks, but we got almost half of that! Now that we’re sneaking up to March, these warmer and sunnier days are feeling like a trailer for what’s to come.

The weather has always had an enormous affect on our psyches. It’s why we want to run away to somewhere tropical during the winter, or why some of us develop Seasonal Affective Disorder that is helped only by artificial sunlight. It’s a real thing.  The lizard brain craves sun and warmth.

Don’t take my word for it; Terry Jacks told us years ago that to have joy and fun, we needed seasons in the sun. Were you not paying attention? Did you not believe Terry Jacks?!?!?

human_fingerprints_450Now, I’m not gonna go off on a rant here, about global warming, and whether or not it’s caused by human activity. For one thing, it’s too nice a day to argue. It was 11 degrees yesterday, and it’s nearly 10 degrees today already; seriously, not wasting my time on deniers. Mama wants to gambol where flowers will soon be.

And anyone who’s still hanging on to their denial ..well, they’re probably too far gone to reach anyway.

But you do have to wonder if part of the refutation of climate change stems from our unconscious knowledge of weather’s effect on our psyches. The uncertainty, the rapid changes that have occurred to the planet as we heat it up – all this troubles our equilibrium, that has learned, by observation and over time, what to expect at given periods of the year. If it’s January in Toronto, there should be snow and cold. If, in February, some dude shows up to a bar looking comfortable in shorts and a wife-beater tee, you’re going to do a double take.

Remember the good old days, when 2014 was the hottest year on record? Then 2015 took first spot? Well, now 2016 has that distinction. And as we get closer to the summer of 2017, it might be prudent to be worried about what heights we’ll hit this year.

Australia‘s already in summer – and it is scary down there. The temps are way out of control, reaching highs in the mid 40s (mid 110s in Fahrenheit) in some places. Australia’s DailyTelegraph.com recently did an in-depth special news feature proving how much hotter the continent has gotten, and speculating on what further heights were in the future.  Will Canada have that to look forward to as well?

I can’t think about that now; life is short, and so am I. All I know is that spring is coming, which means I can finally ditch the thermal socks and long johns. I don’t care how cute and colourful they make flannel pyjamas, those pjs are never gonna inspire anything but sneezles and wheezles. A girl .. shoot, even an old lady! … wants to feel wild and free, not bound by heavy down-stuffed coats and sensible slippers.

Bring on the sun, and crank up the tunes, baby!

No matter our age, we need that good, good sunshine to make us feel alive. I could go into all the benefits of sensible sun-seeking, with multiple annotated reminders to wear sunscreen, but .. hell no. I want me some sun, and I want it now!

I am more than ready to pack away the sweaters and boots and let t-shirts and strappy sandals back into my life. I know, I have to wait a few months more before warm becomes norm … but I’m good with that, as long as dreamy summer nights and patios are in my future. I want to sip a smart cocktail in 75 degree weather, face gently kissed by the sun, as I sit and watch the world go by. Is that so much to ask? Would you deny me that?

Spring is around the corner, and those lazy, hazy days of summer will be upon us in good time. Here’s hoping that the promise of blue skies, and hot fun in the summertime, keeps us relatively unscathed through the next few turbulent months. I’m jonesing to morph my obsession with politics into a passion for maintaining good tan lines and the taking of long walks on the beach when the moon is in the seventh house …

But for now … let the sun shine in!

 

Monsters Under The Bed


“They’re bad people and they’re pouring in, and it’s ISIS and San Bernadino, and Chicago, I mean, look at Chicago .. it’s hell. There are bad dudes coming in here, bad hombres, bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do …”  (SNL, Feb 11/2017)

Do we laugh or cry over Trump’s first 100 days, which he’s cunningly sandwiched into three weeks? At least that’s how it feels, as every day seems to bring some new crisis to the fore, whether by tiny finger tweets, or CNN alerts, or hysterical ‘breaking news!’ posts on social media.

bannon-as-rasputinIt’s exhausting. It’s truly exhausting and it’s designed to keep the nation and the world off kilter. In the biz – the biz of demoralizing a nation prior to establishing a dictatorship, that is  – a shock event is an order that has been designed to throw society into chaos. Any student of war and destabilization knows that these events work very well ..too well, actually.

Unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game,” Heather Cox Richardson, a Boston College historian wrote on Facebook last Sunday, “It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like. Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. ”

twitlerIt’s too much, this daily bludgeoning. It’s like there is no escaping his grasp .. he’s here, he’s there, he’s bloody everywhere, attacking everything in sight, rushing through executive orders that tear at the fabric of society, as though he’s Santa Claus granting every nasty request on every nasty Republican politician’s wet dream wish list.

And it would seem that those who have been waiting for this overreaching power can find no axe too small to grind, no neck too thin to chop.

While the major executive orders, like the Muslim ban, have galvanized the nation, he’s slipped through all sorts of ‘minor’ cuts to American life, that not even those who are in the field can keep up with. Got a pet? Enjoy it while you can – the regulations around the welfare of animals and of pet food safety are going to be scrapped. pet-food-trump

While there were eleven cases last year where a pet food was pulled from the shelves in order to prevent poisoning pets, the cost to pet food companies was apparently too high. So, bye bye Fido food integrity, hello pet poisoning and soaring stock shares!

The reach is so extensive, the bad executive orders so intent on pummelling us from every direction, that it’s hard to focus on anything but the TrumpReich. Some say that this is a way of giving us “protest fatigue, ” which will not only give beleaguered Republican politicians a break from the nation berating them, but that will eventually cause us to lose our will to continue the fight, regardless of further negative actions.

trump-in-bathrobe-white-houseI can see that. It’s all too much. The thing is, people aren’t wired to process this much change on a daily basis. We don’t want to deal with disruptions day and night; we want to have a break from the onslaught, a chance to put up our feet and relax at the end of the day.

I think Trump himself needs a break from it too. He’s completely out of his depth, trying to make his puppet masters happy by signing off on their Machiavellian demands, unread and not understood,  with the grin of a four year old desperate to please mummy, but meanwhile, at least according to White House leaks, unable to sleep, and wandering through strange rooms in his bathrobe in the middle of the night.

go-away-monster-sprayAnd sadly, all of this chaos and disruption is having the exact opposite effect to what he intended to portray. Rather than appearing a strong man and in control, his raving paranoia makes him seem in need of some ‘nightmare control spray.”

Toxic, incompetent, and weak, according to Der Spiegel Online:  “His disdain for human rights, misogyny and religious bigotry stands as a barrier with America’s traditional allies. His incompetence, ignorance, and unwillingness to learn makes him untouchable for nations in the balance. His weakness, combined with belligerent, pigheaded stubbornness, makes him both easily controlled … and easily discarded.”

I mean, when a beleaguered country says, “thanks but no thanks” to assistance .. you’ve really got to reassess what you consider as your strengths.

“Angry at the civilian casualties incurred last month in the first commando raid authorized by President Trump, Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country, according to American officials.”  (nytimes.com, 02/07/2017)

We feel it here, in Canada, even as we are essentially helpless to prevent disastrous events. All we can do is protest, and signal our anger and disdain for this new definition of what America and Americans believe.

My cousin, Kieron Donovan, sent this clip around to members of my family this week, adding,  “When I saw this clip, it sent chills down my spine. The values and conviction of purpose our parents used in bringing us up were forged in poverty and war. We were the first ‘entitled’ generation who decided that they were all wrong and so we rebelled against everything that they stood for. But as I try to direct my son into becoming a compassionate and giving human being, it’s not the 60’s generation I look to for guidance. In the face of corrupted ideals and moral decay found all around us, I use words and concepts that are foreign to my son and his peers. Words like integrity, loyalty and discipline. Words that were rarely used but fully realized by those who had survived and sacrificed the best years of their lives. Strange, I always thought of myself as a left over hippy born 10 years too late, while coming of age in the chemically hung over 70’s. My ideals haven’t changed since I was 20 but the values I preach to my son belong to his grandparents. Judging by the way everything is today, maybe they had it right after all.”

elizabeth-warren-put-up-or-shut-upThis was the American stance in the fifties. I think, for the majority of Americans, it still is. Maybe they need to remember their own history, and discard the revisionist fantasies of Trump’s Rasputin, Steve Bannon. This is not an America made great – it’s an America brought low by greed and selfishness. Not fighting, as one might think, to serve the people, but rather racing to the bottom to suck corporate dollars, aggressively and maliciously pursuing a race to the bottom.

I take much encouragement from the pushback we’ve seen this week, as Trump has had the Muslim ban overturned by the saner judiciary (though I’ve doubt we’ve heard the last of this yet; today’s Washington Post says that he and Bannon are busily re-writing the order to squeak it past the courts.) The FEC‘s chairwoman also had harsh words concerning Trump’s repeated allegations of voter fraud, demanding evidence to prove his words.  At long last, we are not expected to accept, “I feel, ” “I hear,” or “people are saying” in lieu of hard evidence.

Reports of Trump’s cronies and Republican politicians being stood up to, by the media and citizens, is also heartening. We were all taken by surprise at the complete lack of civility or reality in the first two weeks of the TrumpReich, and that had many wondering if there was ever again going to be truth and reality in an ‘alternative facts’ world. We can only hope that Americans, whether in the media, politics, or the citizenry, continue to fight against  the dystopic world Trump’s advisors are trying so hard to put into place.

 

(first published Jan 12/2017 @bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/roxanne-tellier-monsters-under-the-bed/)