Up Up and Away


by Roxanne Tellier

There was an interesting article in the New York Times last week that talked about a phenomenon known as ‘collective effervescence.’ This term describes the sense of energy and harmony people feel when they come together in a group in a shared experience. That could be anything from a gathering of friends in a restaurant, to the frenzy of wedding guests doing a line dance in synchrony, to the sort of nationalistic madness seen in Little Italy or Little Portugal when their country’s team wins the World Cup.

“Research has found that people laugh five times as often when they’re with others as when they’re alone. Even exchanging pleasantries with a stranger on a train is enough to spark joy. That’s not to say you can’t find delight in watching a show on Netflix. The problem is that bingeing is an individual pastime. Peak happiness lies mostly in collective activity.

Collective effervescence happens when joie de vivre spreads through a group. Before Covid, research showed that more than three-quarters of people found collective effervescence at least once a week and almost a third experienced it at least once a day. They felt it when they sang in choruses and ran in races, and in quieter moments of connection at coffee shops and in yoga classes.  

But as lockdowns and social distancing became the norm, there were fewer and fewer of these moments. I started watching stand-up comedy specials, hoping to get a taste of collective effervescence while laughing along with the people in the room. It was fine, but it wasn’t the same.

Instead, many of us found ourselves drawn into a dark cloud.“ 

(Collective Effervescence, The New York Times, July 2021.)

This lack of opportunity for ‘group joy’ during the pandemic should have paved the way to a global euphoria over any number of happy moments as lockdowns and quarantines ease off.

And you’d certainly think that the spate of current and future billionaire ejaculations into near space and actual space would quality as such a bonding moment.

But it seems that one of the many side effects of having 18 long months to navel gaze actually changed the way we think about our planet, and how we look upon those who have the wherewithal to improve worldly conditions, but choose instead self-aggrandization and yet another revenue stream to compound their interests, guaranteed to turn their billions into trillions.  

Billionaires dabbling in being astronauts? Or would they be better called ‘astropreneurs’, since the entire exercise of their expensive playing at space travel centers around their intent to further feather their own financial nests?

In a way, it sort of seems inevitable that some bullish business people would bumble their way into the future of space travel. After all, there’s just no way that an arrogant, madly incompetent, divisive, selfish and bumbling group of doofuses like the current Congress could ever work together to get another space mission organized. It’s laughable to even think they’d be capable. Were entities like the postal office not already in place, they’d never exist under the capabilities and political correctness of today.  Nations can no longer build collectively because we’re too divided and it’s too expensive. The future really does now lie in the hands of the billionaires and their untaxed largesse.

And what more logical series of events could ensue than that Richard Branson, richer than Croesus and a famed daredevil, who, in 2006 played an engineer on the ACTUAL Space Shuttle in the film Superman Returns, would choose to launch himself as the hero the Me Generation didn’t know they needed …Super Billionaire.

None of this hoopla would be happening without the cooperation of several entities, both governmental and social. The media is falling all over itself, terribly grateful to have something to fill up all those hours previously devoted to the prior president, and they’ve always been on the side of the rich – they know from whence comes the butter for their bread.  

So they’re lionizing these billionaires like they’re real life Tony Starks. Lookie here! Branson, Bezos and Musk are singlehandedly building a new endeavour – space tourism! Something that only the very wealthy will ever enjoy, but hey hey my my! If I every get a spare $55 million, I’m on my way to the International Space Station! Just like that!

Questioning the value of this ‘space quest’ isn’t about belittling space; it’s pointing out that that quest comes at a very high cost: exploited workers, the avoidance of taxes by the superrich, and the governmental handouts available to the wealthy while 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Do we need space tourism? Not really. Those who are in the know and the most bullish on this new industry foresee revenues in the $8 billion range by 2030, so it’s not that big a deal for the economy. To put it into perspective – Americans already spend more than that, about $11 billion a year, on the carpet and area rug industry.

And that $8 billion is not pure profit. Remember, Bezos will still have to bring in about $5 billlion from his Blue Origin space venture just to recoup what he’s already spent.

By the way, how’d Musk, Bezos and Branson get all those billions to spend on this narcissistic ego splurge?  Well, first there was the tax fiddling, and avoidance of corporate or personal taxes, which, of course, is roundly and soundly encouraged by most right wing parties as the core of their “I got mine, Jack” mantra.

Then there was the $50 million bailout Branson received for Virgin Airline, that never did get spent on the airline. Thanks, taxpayers! (Branson’s VirginCare also grabbed several million from the NHS during the pandemic, for losing out on an $82 million pound contract. The reasoning seemed to be that, if they couldn’t provide children’s health care, then suing the pants off those who would be doing so was the next best thing.) 

And how on earth did the Billionaire Brain Trust manage to accomplish the takeover of a governmental space program? The same way those in the defense industry have always done it – by lobbying.

“Still, for a newbie industry, commercial space travel is quite well established. We know this because it already has its own lobby, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF). And that lobby is already more powerful than the U.S. Government.

Despite opposition from several quarters, the CSF has been successful in its special pleading with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and with Congress that it’s much too early to certify the airworthiness of commercial spacecraft or the competence of pilots.

The budding commercial space industry deserves the “learning period” — legi-speak for regulatory laxity — that Congress has granted it until 2023.

The CSF and its Republican allies argue that robust regulatory safeguards in this newish sector would weaken America’s technological prowess.

That is hardly the first time Americans have been asked to put their country ahead of niceties — niceties such as being quite sure, in this case, that your pilot knows how to fly this thing.“                

Toronto Star, July 2021.

That lobby convinced the American space program to effectively shut down, and let the new billionaires on the block take over. 

So, to recap: the planet’s Bright Young Things are now heading off into space (or near space, really, in Branson’s case; Branson’s flight only got up to 92 km above the Earth’s surface. The Moon is about 384,000 km away from Earth.

They got the money to get there by being the best at selling stuff, avoiding paying their fair share of taxes, lobbying (i.e., paying off) the right people to get to put together a commercial version of spacecraft without much oversight or control, and intend to sell their vision to very rich punters who have a spare $200 thousand or so lying around to celebrate Granny’s 100th, or their own 25th anniversary.

Once they’ve established themselves as relatively stable and safe, they will be able to sell their services to any government, including the United States’, as an option that will essentially undercut the costs of maintaining permanent stations in orbit and on the Moon.

There’s also the possibility that their services could be co-opted, or even simply ‘kidnapped’ by entities with a yen to attack satellites, or harness information and intelligence integral to reputable governmental agencies on Earth.

I guess it will be up to each of us to decide if all of these consequences add up to a positive or a negative impact upon the planet.

The costs involved certainly could have had an impact. Last I checked, there was still a global pandemic going on; epidemics of homelessness and addiction; millions of hungry children and adults; climate change burning up half the planet while it drowns the other half; and trolls controlling social media in an effort to subvert democracy. For starters.

Meanwhile, the net worth of Branson, Bezos and Musk is roughly $400 billion. Each of them has more money right now than anyone could reasonably spend in a hundred, overly privileged, extravagantly Marie Antoinette styled, lifetimes.

So how COULD the money they’ve spent on fulfilling their childhood fantasies actually have impacted the 8 billion of us living right now, today, on Planet Earth? 

A mere $8.6 billion would be enough to cover the shortfall of 1.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses that will be needed for the 90 lower-income economies by early 2022.

They could easily afford to build affordable housing for every single one of America’s estimated 500,000 homeless people, and then cut cheques to each of America’s 1500 food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries.

Or alternatively, they could solve world hunger. I’m gonna guess that would warrant a little more excitement on their Wikipedia pages than a listing of the cars and houses they spent their fortunes upon.

But the arrogance and selfishness of the wealthy didn’t begin, nor will it end, with this trio. It is, unfortunately, just the way the rich and powerful have always, and will always, roll – at the expense of the many, for the entertainment of the few. Capitalism rewards sociopathy and endless greed.

“Let me just say that (Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970) track, “Whitey on the Moon,” changed the way I thought about the space race forever. It anchored the flight into the heavens, tethering it to the persistence of racial inequality, and pulling it out of the abstract, universal realm in which we like to place our technical achievements. Though I still think the hunger for the technological sublime crosses racial boundaries, it destabilized the ease with which people could use “our” in that kind of sentence. To which America went the glory of the moon landing? And what did it cost our nation to put whitey on the moon?”   

Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, May 28, 2011.

Smile Damnit. Smile!


by Roxanne Tellier  

To be honest, I haven’t much enjoyed the last five years or so. I’m not just talking about politics, though, if there was ever a time in which it became apparent how much politics affects every aspect of our every day lives, this was that time. 

I’ll bet even your grandmother learned how to use the “block” function on her Facebook page.

Almost imperceptibly, the world sustained a seismic fracture, dividing families, communities and nations into camps. On one side, those who believe in equality, and that everyone has human and civil rights. On the other side, those that SAY they sort of agree with those precepts, in theory – but have their reasons for why they really don’t. And, like door-to-door proselytizers, they’d be happy to bend your ear for hours on end, to let you know exactly why they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In progressively louder sentences.

I think the last eighteen months of COVID just did me in. It was the final straw. Eighteen months of fear, uncertainty, deprivation, and doubt. Eighteen months of never being sure what day or month it is. Eighteen months of not being able to come together to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. No parties, no musical events, no theatre. And, perhaps the cruelest of all, no chance of gathering to bid a final goodbye to the loved ones we lost.

How could so many people that we love have died, and been buried, with so little recognition or fanfare? Some days, an old friend’s birthday circled on my calendar fills me with anxiety, as I wonder – did they make it through this year? Or were they one of the many who left our ranks with little to no fanfare?

Mustn’t grumble, we’re told. Yes, it’s all hard, but complaining won’t do any good. No, it won’t. Complaining won’t change a thing. It won’t bring back our dead, or our equilibrium.

But.

I’m sick of being expected to simply assimilate this decade’s horrors, compounded by all the crap that the Powers That Be rain down upon the masses, and just smile, smile, smile.

Smile as climate change burns one half of the planet to a cinder, while the other half drowns in torrential rains and melted ice caps.

Smile while our rich cities become unaffordable to the middle class, and smile as the city’s elected officials send hordes of police to evacuate and destroy the homeless camps that are filled with their fellow citizens, citizens who are financially unable to live in the cities they built with their toil and taxes.

Smile while the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, because only the wealthy can afford to run for leadership roles, get elected into power, and once in place, be relied upon to act to shore up laws and regulations that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the common people. 

Smile while federal and provincial leadership is so badly handled throughout a once in a lifetime global pandemic that, while half the city goes mad struggling to figure out how and where to get vaccinated, the other half holds anti-mask, anti-vax, super spreader rallies in the downtown core, unimpeded.

Smile as an orange madman’s most important legacy seems to have been his ability to teach his followers (in the US and Canada) two new commandments:

  1. call anything you don’t like or want to believe ‘fake news’, and,
  2. should anyone expect any accountability or ‘adulting’ from you, double and triple down on your ‘rights’ while denying any responsibility for your acts.  

It feels like there’s no one and no thing making much effort any more. Thanks to the internet, we live in a world where we’ve never been so aware of evil people and deeds, of corruption, of fraud, of social media voyeurs with a sadistic bent, of sickness, death and horror – present or impending – occurring on a global scale.

And yet, for the bulk of the population, rather than act, it’s a time to double down on escaping into the soothing waters of social media, where one can bathe in an uninterrupted stream of whatever turns your crank, until the day the grid topples.    

Apparently, it’s never the time to fight to change what seems an inevitable slide into the abyss. There’s something good on television, it’s too hot/cold/rainy out there, and what does it matter anyway? It’s not like anything I do can change the world, right? No, I’ll just stay home. And maybe sign this petition. It’ll be fine.

There is little to no response to any suggestion that our actions might have brought about the mess we are leaving to our heirs. The ability to feel remorse and/or shame seems to have been genetically modified out of our systems. Or have we just passed the buck for so long that we no longer remember what happens when we’re the last one’s holding it?

Our legacy of little horrors only begins with the hoards of useless and unrecyclable junk that broods in our basements and attics. Our children will live with their memories of a better planet. Our grandchildren will never know the world that baby boomers took for granted.

And I say to myself …. Where’s THEIR Wonderful World?

I will be honest; I don’t know where we go from here. The bus is on fire, and we may have missed our last chance to turn it around.

But I’m tired of smiling, and pretending that what we see happening around us, isn’t happening. That way madness lies.

All that’s left is to prepare in the way Maya Angelou advised, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

What a Difference a Year Makes


by Roxanne Tellier

On January 25th, 2020, a Toronto man returning from Wuhan, China was the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Canada. By March, with the disease raging across Canada, the World Health Organization had declared COVID a pandemic, the NBA, NHL and most other sport leagues had suspended their seasons, while the Olympics were officially postponed to 2021, the Juno Awards were cancelled, Parliament went on break, and schools began to close from coast to coast.  

We went from zero to 60 in a matter of weeks, and many, many mistakes were made as countries and organizations began to try to manage this novel, and extremely frightening, attack on our health and ways of life. 

We began a global journey through a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which had much in common with the blindfolded fumblings of Sandra Bullock in the film Bird Box;   it’s a miracle either saga finally found a respite in which to take a deep breath, and you just know there’s still a further twist to the tale, which will involve yet more monsters.    

Mistakes were made. Many, many dumb and well-meant mistakes were made, by many very smart and well-meaning people. Remember when Dr Fauci told Americans that they didn’t need to wear face masks? As it turns out, that was because there were severe shortages of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep healthcare workers on the front line of hospitals safe. Some nurses and doctors had to resort to wearing plastic bags instead of proper gear, to try and protect themselves, and many died while trying to save the sick.

Sadly, experts like Fauci and the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams knew that the same Americans emptying stores and hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer were likely to put masks on the ‘must have’ list, further endangering those health care workers. Were Fauci’s words a lie? A mistake? A true reading of the selfishness, greed, and lack of empathy they knew Americans were capable of exhibiting in a crisis?

16 months later there are anti-maskers pointing to Fauci’s words as justification for disobeying public health regulations currently in place, so I’m not sure that his impulse was his best career decision. It’s not right up there with injecting bleach into your veins, or shoving light sticks up where the sun don’t shine, but Fauci’s probably justifiably low opinion of his fellow citizens had a pretty serious rebound effect.

On March 30th, our PM Justin Trudeau announced a new wage subsidy program that would cover all businesses whose revenues had dropped by at least 30% because of COVID, and on April 14th, that aid was extended to nearly 5.4 million Canadians as CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit)  Some received as much as $2000 a month, which, along with other pandemic discounts, like a reduction of primetime Hydro costs, allowed singles and families to limp along as stores were shuttered, and restaurants and bars closed their doors – some, forever.

For a very long time I kept a tally of the rising numbers of the dead, even as I noted in my calendar the passing of friends, whose lives were never officially celebrated, because of limitations on gatherings.  

Throughout the summer of 2020, families struggled to keep themselves and their kids occupied, as teachers frantically worked to put together some sort of curriculum that they still did not know if they would be presenting in person, or by ZOOM. Most teachers had to do double duty, and prepare prospectuses for both aspects.

At the beginning of October, as America neared the critical November presidential election, it was suddenly announced that then president Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was whisked away for treatment, where a battery of specialists laboured to save his life. We now know that it was touch and go for him, and that he would not have survived had he been an ordinary patient without access to emergency and experimental medications. Still, insouciant and ungrateful, he was released from hospital within a few days, and triumphantly removed his face mask for the camera in a carefully posed for posterity, ridiculous, photo op. 

(And is it just me, or does that pic not scream it’s resemblance to the imagery and vibes of The Man In The High Castle?) 

Had he died, or had he finally told his followers how severe the disease was, and had he told them that simply masking themselves could help with slowing the spread, he might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But he did not, and the death toll in America soon hit a landmark figure – half a million American souls had died from this horrible disease.

Trump received 74 million votes, but there is no indication of how many of those were ‘mercy’ votes. Regardless, the tally was still lower than Biden’s, who received more than 81 million requests to take over before the ship of state went down for a third and final time.

The development of a vaccine was on the horizon. Although it normally takes about 10 to 15 years to produce a new vaccine, scientists had been working on something along the lines of COVID for a decade, since the SARS epidemic of 2009. Between that headstart, and the liberal application of government funding, at least three workable vaccines were produced in record time.   

On December 8th, the first Pfizer vaccine was injected into the arm of 91 year old Margaret Keenan, of Britain, and on December 14th, both Canada and the U.S. began administering vaccines to their citizens.  

But there’s a difference between having a vaccine available, and getting that vaccine out and into the arms of those who need it, and in this case, about 7 billion people needed two doses of it, and STAT. Many, many more mistakes were made.

While governments struggled to put schedules into place for the procuring and administering of the vaccine, the toll of the sick and the dead continued to rise around the world. Quebec and Ontario were hard hit, and curfews and stay-at-home orders took effect, restricting our movements.   

Winter dragged listlessly into spring. Time became amorphous, and most days, I didn’t know if it was a Monday or a Thursday. Nor did I care. I applauded those that took creative control of the lockdown and produced work, but refused to beat myself up for not being industrious in traumatic times.

On April 7, 2021, a much more vigorous third province wide lockdown went into effect in Ontario, and Ontarians learned a new term – ‘non-essential goods.’  We discovered that this covered children’s toys, books, underwear, shoes and sandals, hobby supplies, and non-garden centre gardening items.

Everyone had their high and low points; I’ll never forget the day I nearly burst into tears in a Dollarama because the foam mannequin head I needed for a craft project was deemed ‘non-essential.’  It wasn’t the foam head I was mourning, so much as the very idea of simply entering a store, choosing an item, and being allowed to freely purchase said item. That’s what I’ve done all of my life. Having that ‘right’ denied cut like a knife. I had had enough. I did not want to play pandemic any more. 

On the day that Ontario’s shopping lockdown was lifted, consumers headed out in droves to satisfy their itch to buy-buy-buy. There were lineups at every store, including the dollar shops and charity outlets. One morning I wanted to shop at a local charity store. About twenty minutes before the store was to open, there were 17 people in line ahead of me. When I asked some of the waiting if they had a specific purchase in mind, they told me that just being able to get into a store, to see what was available, and to freely touch the items was all they wanted.  

We are not just human-touch starved, it seems. We are also starved of the everyday, ordinary tactile experiences that we used to take for granted.

Because I have certain health issues, I made it a priority to get vaccinated as early as possible. Shawn and I had our first jab April 6th, and our second on June 7th. We’re now covered and eager to get back to some semblance of a social life in the near future.

well, not quite THIS social … 😉

But sixteen months after our COVID-19 journey began, the world has actually had more COVID deaths in 2021 to date than it did in all of 2020.  It’s NOT over. We, the lucky and the vaccinated in the West, can’t afford to rest on our jabbed laurels; the ill and the dying in less wealthy countries are producing variants that may be able to sneak past our vaccine defenses.

Where are we now? The Delta variant of the virus still poses a danger for the unvaccinated, and it’s apparently more contagious and deadlier than the previous version. The fully vaccinated are probably protected. This variant represents a phase of the pandemic that focuses on the unvaccinated.  

Even as the number of Canadian hospitalizations and deaths fall, people around the world are reimposing mask requirements and death tolls are rising. In Africa, a third wave is surging, and threatening to be it’s most devastating and worst wave yet. India has recorded over 30 million cases, and nearly 400,000 deaths. In Sydney, Australia this week, at least half a million residents have been forced into lockdown for yet another week.

And still there are no plans to shelve the Tokyo Olympics, which open officially in just four weeks. One option in play is a ‘no-spectator games,’ but the situation changes from day to day, and organizers need to remain flexible to changes. Since there’s already signs of a resurgence of infections (1% in the last week) athletes have to roll the dice to decide whether or not participation is a wise choice for their health and their careers. 

Last week, two members of the Ugandan team tested positive for the Delta variant upon entry to Japan. No matter how extensive the testing may be, there are 11,000 Olympian athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Tokyo, along with the tens of thousands of additional participants amongst the coaches, judges, and federation officials. That’s a lot of testing. And a lot of room for error and mistakes.

Covid-zero nations are working diligently to eliminate the virus through isolation and mass vaccinations. Biden’s White House has said that it will provide Afghanistan with 3 million doses of the J&J vaccine, of which only one dose is needed, along with oxygen and other supplies, in an effort to help with an outbreak of the delta variant.

Overall, the United States is donating 55 million doses to the world. Canada has plans to donate 100 million doses as part of the G7 effort to provide a billion doses to low- and middle-income countries, but for now, we are donating 13 million ‘surplus’ doses, which are mainly comprised of brands which we are either having difficulty bringing into Canada, or which haven’t been authorized for Canadian distribution.

It’s been a devastating sixteen months, and it’s not over yet. We’ve seen the best in people, and we’ve certainly seen the worst come from the words and deeds of the selfish and the ignorant. Many of us seem determined not to give those who got us here their due; again, there have been mistakes made, but we’re still standing, and in Canada, we’re closing in on the finish line, with reasonable numbers to show for this unexpected and overwhelming calamity.

We’ve learned that being elected can’t turn a bad politician into a leader, and that leadership doesn’t come naturally to all contenders. And we’ve learned that we, as a nation, are strong enough to make it through a crisis that brought other countries to their knees.

And for that, at least, we can be justly proud.

Up With Pride!


by Roxanne Tellier

In the 50s and 60s, most of the gendered role models for kids were caricatures, physical and psychological distortions of what a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’ should look like, and how they should behave.  

There were manly men and voluptuous women, who conformed to rigid bodily descriptions. Then there was the supporting cast, the rebels and the roues, who could also be considered acceptable gender models.

Early television played a large part in what we came to view as acceptable romantic and sexual behavior of the very strictly defined genders. Strangely, there are still huge swaths of North Americans who retain the same parameters on how we should behave, even as fewer and fewer of us can actually live up to those physical or mental objectives.

And into that morass, we, who would become the Baby Boomers, waded, without so much as an armband floatie.

We’d like to think that we’ve changed since then, become more liberal and less rigid, but in truth, we’re still playing gender games, right from birth, when we begin to naturalize our newborn’s sexual orientation. With the right onesie, even a three-month-old can be a misogynist!

We oversexualize our kids, allowing little girls as young as four to climb on to the sexual bandwagon, caked in makeup and hairspray as they toddle down beauty pageant runways, styled like mini hookers. Their mothers cheer on the tiny sex objects from the sidelines, whispering to each other about how they despise the criminals who sex traffic minors.   

By grade school, most kids have already absorbed a definition of physical ‘perfection’ based on what they’ve seen on TV and social media. What they wish they could look like may well be unobtainable for their body types, but that perceived ideal, through societal pressure, will set some on a path that will have them trying to reach unrealistic goals for the rest of their lives.

Males and females alike develop eating disorders. Some children feel so objectified that they simply give up trying to be accepted, and self-harm to take themselves out of the ‘game.’  

Sex sells everything, from candy to cars. Good looking people who meet current standards of beauty dominate our screens, begging us to join them for a coffee, a date, or a cruise.  

We may not like it, but we take all of this for granted as being simply part of our heterosexual culture. And we almost never wonder what it might be like if we weren’t oriented that way. 

Our straight kids never have to worry about coming out to their parents or their school mates – it’s just expected that sexually compatible mates will be available when the time is right.  

Kids who don’t gender conform have to spend a great deal of their lives explaining and justifying their needs and why they feel the way they do, first to their parents, then to the world.

Straight people are not asked, over and over, if maybe they’ve just never found the right person to change their sexual orientation, or if the attraction they feel to a partner might just be a ‘phase they’re going through.’  

And when a straight person is asked about their weekend or vacation plans, they rarely have to police their speech to ensure that they don’t let slip that their spouse is their same-sex partner.

Remember The Imitation Game, the film about cryptologist and father of the modern computer, Alan Turing? Despite his work helping to win the war for Great Britain, his homosexuality lead to his being convicted of gross indecency, and being sentenced to chemical castration. (After a year of government- mandated hormonal therapy, Turing committed suicide.)             

Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries. In 13 countries of the world, including six nations that are members of the United Nations, being gay is punishable by death. In 26 other countries, the maximum penalty for being gay is prison, with terms varying from a few years to life imprisonment.

Same sex marriage is legal in 29 countries in the world, including the United States. However, individual American state laws have interfered in some celebrations when those opposing the unions have refused to make wedding cakes, or to process their marriage licences. 

You can’t lose your job for being gay in Canada. But in the United States, LGBTQ workplace protections depend a lot upon where you live. Since a Supreme Court ruling on June 15, 2020, it has been unlawful under federal law for employers to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But that didn’t stop then President trump from slapping a blanket ban on all transgender people from serving and enlisting in the United States military. (A reversal of this policy was one of the first executive orders President Biden signed in January 2021, post-inauguration.)

Straight couples can do all the public displays of affection they want. Gay couples have to fear scrutiny, ridicule, retaliation, or even death, often for just holding their loved one’s hand.

We’ve known for decades that the lack of media representation of positive aspects of people of colour has had a numbing effect on the psychological and economical progress of that group.  

Recently there has been a movement towards a more accurate media representation of North American families.  I’ve been noticing a lot more advertisements, especially during the daytime hours of television, that feature a better kaleidoscope of the colour and flavour of our nations. I’ve even already heard a few complaints from people about how there’s not a lot of straight, white couples hawking laundry soap anymore. Deal with it, sistah.

But one stain removal commercial featuring a lesbian married couple does not a societal sea change make. There is far to go before it is equally acceptable for LGBTQ people to exhibit the same sort of sexuality that heterosexuals ‘shove down our throats’ day in, year out.

We happily cheer on straight people who, whether on screen or on the street, flirt, have awkward coming of age stories, who romance, marry, and stay together or divorce. We recognize the humanity of our straight brethren, but often attempt to minimize or deny the right of the LGBTQ community to enjoy the same pleasures.  

There’s a lot of decent straight people out there who like and support differently gendered people, but who continue to have a problem with what they view as inappropriate public displays of affection. You’ll often hear them say that they have no problem with the LGBTQ community, as long as their sexuality is not “shoved down people’s throats.”

But that’s such a strange thing to say, because of the questions it begs. Who’s doing the shoving? Do you mean you are literally being forced, against your will, to engage in sex or romance with someone of the same gender? Are you being forced to watch gay porn? Attend a gay wedding? Is someone forcing you to marry someone of your own gender?

And of course, none of that is what you mean. What you mean is that you don’t want to have to see gay couples doing the things that straight couples do – like hold hands. Like grocery shop. Like sleep in the same bed and even (gasp!) kiss. 

Can you tell me where you get to see those couples doing those things? Because it’s not on the tv channels I’m aware of. Although Netflix sure does have a lot of rom coms and dramas showing straight couples partnering up to their heart’s content.

Our culture, our society, allows heterosexual couples to indulge in all sorts of bizarre couple activity, with little more than a tsk tsk, if that. For North Americans, ‘opposite sex’ sexuality is the norm – we’re soaking in it, to the point were we hardly even notice it any more, unless the offense is so overt and grievous that we cannot ignore the sight.

There’d be a lot more truth in it if we were saying that it’s heterosexuality that is being crammed down our throats, since that is our cultural norm, our societal default, and literally inescapable.

No one is forcing anything down your throat at all. All we’re doing is beginning to treat the people of the LGBTQ community like the human beings they are, because they’re just as human as the rest of us.

Other people’s private lives are none of anyone else’s business. Happy Pride Month!

Straight Outta Facebook Jail


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m happy to report that the rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated.  I’ve only been dead to the social media world for the last 30 days. 

But, let me tell you – if you’ve ever wondered if people would miss you after you’re gone, take a long Facebook break. The majority will most certainly not even notice your absence. It’s a fast-paced world, and either you’re in the fast lane, or you’re eating everyone else’s dust.

this is great – never knew there were two versions of this Canadian Classic!

Facebook has really been cracking down on its users over every little thing since the last time Zuckerberg had to explain Facebook’s ways to Congress.  Zuck’s been able to rely on Section 230, which allows social media companies to self-regulate. It shields the platforms from liability, shunting any blame to individual users, who can be sued for posted content, while granting legal immunity for good faith efforts to remove content that violates their policies.

The key part of the provision reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

While there have been small inroads into Section 230 protections, lawmakers have only been able to do so much. In 2018, a law was passed making it easier to sue internet platforms that knowingly aid sex trafficking, but there’s the rub again … define and prove ‘knowingly’ when a cadre of well-paid lawyers are claiming ignorance. Federal crimes and intellectual property claims are further exceptions, but again, there’s a rallying cry of ‘prove it!’ whenever the platform is charged.

Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter claim that their platforms could not exist without the protections provided under Section 230, but at the end of the day, what stays or goes on these platforms remains solely under their jurisdiction.

Which is perhaps why we’re hearing more and more horror stories from Facebook users who are being penalized unfairly, without recourse, and lately, even for offences committed four to seven years ago.

Musician/radio personality Bill King noted today that there doesn’t seem to be an actual court of appeal for unfair charges.

“I was there (FB jail) recently for a humorous post of which I challenged, won, and still got a week. I’m serving a 60-day sentence for something from 2020. This is crazy.”

The most famous North American repeat offender is, of course, Donald Trump. The former president was banned ‘indefinitely’ from all Facebook platforms after the Capitol riot of January 6th, when his supporters ransacked the hallowed halls in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.

The ban was a disaster for Trump, since social media played a huge part in his campaign and subsequent presidential term. He appealed, which resulted in his claim being kicked upstairs to Facebook’s Oversight Board. There, the suspension was upheld, but the board chastised the company for not having a clear policy, and for imposing an indefinite time period.

Facebook’s principals responded by creating new enforcement penalties that deemed Trump’s ‘severe violation of our rules’ to merit the highest penalty available – a two-year suspension, effective from January 7th. This would keep his account suspended until January 7th 2023, when it was determined that he would only get his accounts back if “the risk to public safety has receded.”

Naturally, Trump’s furious over being held accountable for his sins. Although he was a supporter in the good times, now, like a belligerent husband furious that the wife is refusing to iron his underpants, he’s determined to break Facebook and Twitter, by any means possible.

Trump’s response:  “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”

And then, in a separate statement, Trump again claimed fraud in the 2020 election, because of course he did.

Meanwhile, there’s a pretty solid front of both Dems and Republicans who believe that all of social media’s big companies have become too powerful, and need tougher regulations to hold them more accountable for policing content.

Democrats, led by Biden, want Congress to revise Section 230, considering the lack of liability a big gift to Big Tech. They want social media to be compelled to remove hate speech, proven falsehoods, extremism, and election interference.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans, led by Trump, are more concerned about the Orange One being banned, conservatives being censored, and a limit to political reach on social media platforms. Florida’s Ron DeSantis recently passed a law that cracks down on the Big Tech platforms, claiming that they are conspiring against conservatives, and their free speech.

This law would make it illegal for Big Tech to remove political candidates from their platforms in the runup to an election, while also making it easier for Florida’s attorney general and individuals to sue these companies if they felt discriminated against.

(But DeSantis DID exempt ‘companies that own a theme park’ – such as Walt Disney Co, which runs Disney+, a streaming service. He knows which side of the Floridian bread is buttered by the Mouse.)

There are so many holes in this law that I imagine there are ACL lawyers across America wetting their pants over who will be the first to challenge this snowflake fest. Firstly, it’s unconstitutional. The bill is a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government controlling the free speech of private companies.

Corbin Barthold, internet policy counsel for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit group TechFreedom, wrote, “The bill is extreme. It’s a brazen assault on the First Amendment. DeSantis wants to compel websites to speak. He can’t. He wants consumer-protection law to erase free-speech rights. It won’t. DeSantis is attacking the very constitutional principles Republicans just spent four years putting conservatives on the courts to protect.”  

Beyond that, it would seem yet one more example of DeSantis currying favour with Trump and his acolytes, by standing by his man. The snowflakes are thick on the ground down in Florida, it would seem.

There’s a lot of other factors going on here as well, since, no matter how you look at it, Facebook is near to keeling over from ‘death by demographics.’ 10% of Facebook’s advertising audience are 55 and older, while Facebook remains the most popular social network for seniors. 62% of Americans 65 and older use Facebook. And – fun fact! Guess who shares the most fake news on ANY social platform? Seniors! We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!

As is the case in Japan, people over 65 make up the brunt of Facebook’s population, and that number is rising. Meanwhile, the ‘kool kids’ bolted years ago, to the hipper pastures of TikTok and Instagram.

So why do so many stay on Facebook, despite the arbitrary updates of it’s interface, unreasonable banning, lack of customer support, or recourse for common errors? Basically, it’s all about sunk costs.

It’s a lot like changing jobs or moving house; when you’re younger, there’s always a greener pasture to be found. But the older you get, the less you want to gather up all the energy you’ll need to get up and out of that comfy chair. So we stay, year after year, and simply take whatever the social media platform gods dish out.

There aren’t a lot of platforms that ring the same bells as Facebook. The current ‘next best option’ is Liker.com, which bills itself as the ‘kinder, smarter, social network’. Liker has recently gone through a serious overhaul and revamp, further to being hacked in March of 2021 by ‘politically motivated trumpers’, and allegedly in retaliation for the Gab data breach and scraping of data from Parler.  

I have re-upped with Liker, and hope to be setting up a new home over there as soon as it’s back up and running. With Facebook now so hair-triggered, it can’t hurt to have somewhere else to go, especially for those days when you get kicked off the platform for the despicable crime of quoting Shakespeare.

So, a month without Facebook. It was fine, really. After the first few days of withdrawal, I started to realize how much free time I had, when I wasn’t constantly monitoring the freeform thoughts of the masses. In a way, it was sort of like those first few days after Trump was originally banned from Facebook – at first, you can’t put your finger on what’s not bothering you anymore. Then you realize – it’s the absence of the white noise that was constantly permeating your environment, keeping you slightly off balance at all times.

I’ve been reading all the books on tech and social media and current social issues that I can carry home from the library. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube, scarfing down educational programs, TedTalks, documentaries, music specials, and watching the antics of The Sorry Girls. I’ve redecorated the front porch, started working on sorting out the back deck and the shed, and have a couple of document files I’m about to rework into eBooks to see if I can make a few bucks off that tech writing certificate I aced decades ago.

And the funniest thing is, once you get off the Facebook treadmill, you soon start to realize how little ‘new’ there’s been for the average person to marvel over, since around 2015. It’s as though the world was so fixated on trump and politics that actual societal progress halted, while the right gloated over the one bill they passed in four years, that being the one that made the rich even richer, while doing nothing for the other 99.9%.

We’re still fighting old wars. We’ve gone through a global pandemic, serious incursions upon our democracy, and we are making tentative forays into re-entering this post-pandemic world, without many people even noticing that nearly six years have passed, but very little has changed.

Thirty days away also gave me perspective on how seriously too many people take their Facebook presence. For the average user, any social media platform should be either an escape, or a legitimate business outlet.  But many people get so addicted to the place that they have to share every minor moment and experience of their lives, along with what they ate for lunch. It’s almost as though they believe that nothing is real unless it’s seen by an audience.  

Then there’s the huge segment of people who seem to think that the expression of their thoughts and opinions is tantamount to a ‘job.’ Facebook isn’t paying anyone I know to tell them ‘What’s on your mind?’ No one pays me to curate news items, or to be first with a link to the latest Randy Rainbow video. The water cooler we gather around is virtual, as are most of our friends, and if there was a break room, your sandwich would already have been stolen by a troll.

And, let’s face it – Facebook is also where you go to ask random strangers whether or not you should bring a baby to a ‘no kids allowed’ wedding. Or to seek the seal of approval on your not wanting to get vaccinated before getting on an airplane and going to said wedding.

So, yeah, back again, sadder and wiser. Thinking I’ll use Facebook for my business social media purposes, maybe keep another account for private convos.

But there are still reasons – which have nothing to do with how FB is run – to be on Facebook.

One, is finding the little precious nuggets hidden on the internet … I’d never have found this video, or seen these incredible, sensual contortions, had I not been pointed in their direction by photographer Anne J Gibson ….

(The 13th Floor Elevators – Roller Coaster – Footage by exotic dancers Janik and Arnaut, 1954.)

And of course, I’ve got a lot of people I really enjoy seeing and interacting with on Facebook.

But let’s face it, the odds of me being a recidivist are pretty high. I’m a terror, you know, a wild one, a granny with a grudge, a troublemaker that just doesn’t learn. Odds are good it won’t be long until they’ve sent me back to the pokey.

It’s just the way I roll. Unrepentant. A Facebook Felon. You’ll never take me alive, copper!

Aging and Changing


by Roxanne Tellier

Teenaged me wasn’t very smart.  “Hope I die before I get old.”Never trust anyone over 30.” I’d not yet heard of the 27 Club, but if I had, I might have aspired to joining it, thus avoiding becoming untrustworthy.   

I was an idiot, as we all are when we are young, dumb, and believe we are the first creatures to experience the banquet of life. I was certain that no one had ever understood fashion, been in love, or known the glories of sex, before my existence.

Yet, by 30 I was having the time of my life! When I think about how much I’ve learned, and how much I’ve accomplished since the days of my ignorant youth, I am so very glad that I survived long enough to find out how very wrong I was about just about everything I thought I knew when I was legit dumber than a box of rocks.  

The fifties and sixties were very different times from present day. Older people got older faster – my grandmother seemed much older than her years when she was in her mid 50s, and bowed down by grief and loss. Older women were expected to be very fragile, and older men were best left to their spooky lairs. (Come to think of it, why did I live amongst all these very odd people?)

But in reality, the seniors of the 50s and 60s were often true survivors. They had lived through the Spanish Flu, two world wars and a bunch of smaller skirmishes, and the Great Depression. They’d seen the world change from being largely agricultural to a more technological economy, might themselves have been child labourers, had seen the onset of unions and labour laws, and had had to change how they worked right along with it. They’d paid some heavy dues, and it showed, especially in their health.

Today’s seniors, on the other hand, are very different. We’ve had a lot of advantages, and few of us were involved in any wars except peripherally. In Canada, we’ve had access to pretty good health care across the board since 1984, when the Canada Health Act was passed. In the heady days when every halfway decent job came with ‘benefits,’ we could count on our teeth being cared for, and often even other small mercies were covered, like massages and rehab.   

Many of us segued from mullets to middleclass, and worked decent jobs with the possibility of retiring with a little financial cushion to enjoy in our ‘golden years.’ And many, many of us bought houses, which exploded in value over the decades, and provided us with either a roof over our heads, or a nice nest egg, post-sale.

Whether we invested wisely or not, we are still guaranteed a small pension on which we can live, if not like kings, then not like paupers either. Before 1965, that didn’t exist. The Canada Pension Plan was passed to replace the original old age pensions for those who lacked pension plans from their pre-retirement days. Older, single, women often suffered the most on those plans, since they generally were paid significantly less than men during their prime working years. While I believe there needs to be a rethinking of how the Plan is currently administered, I am aware of how many are blessed to have this financial security in their lives.

As a rule, boomers have much better educations than their parents had. My parents both left school around the 8th or 9th grade, to help support their families.

Beyond the benefits of having more education, money, and security than our grandparents could have dreamt of, boomers were also a generation that could let their minds fly free in dreams of a progressive future. In the late 50s, the sci fi magazines and even the kiddie cartoons promised us a future in the stars. Flying cars! Robot maids!

Radical ideas were being approved at government levels, and marvels like underground trains, the wonders of Expo 67 and it’s manmade islands, McLuhan’s Geodesic Dome, and Ontario Place rose around us, in a brave new world.

The world, including what we could watch on our new tv sets, themselves a huge jump from the world of radio, went from black and white to colour, almost overnight.

Our world got much smaller, even as we got bigger. Our trips overseas went from being week long journeys on steamers, to eight-hour plane rides, to a zippy 2 hours, 53 minute jaunt, New York to London, via the Concorde.

Our reach got longer, as we began to embrace the foods, customs, and musics of far away places.

So much progress, of unimaginable proportions, happened between 1940 and 1980. There’s a meme going around that says, “2020 is now as far from 1980 as 1980 was from 1940″ and I just can’t stop thinking about that. I mean, the 60s made the 40’s unthinkable. Just a few decades later, the North American world we lived in was virtually unrecognizable.

(What happened from the 80s to today, I cannot explain. We seem to have entered a  cultural void reeking of political correctness that prevents forward movement. I’m hoping we’ll eventually emerge from this costly stasis.)    

While there are stories of sadness, despair and deprivation from those who lived then, as there are in nearly every other time in history, I would still love to be able to spend a few days back then, when we all seemed to be younger, fitter, healthier and sexier. Those were good times for most of us, on many levels.

Nevertheless, life can only be lived forward; looking back might occasionally be pleasant, but living in the past would impoverish my present.

If you have the luxury of aging, there is an opportunity for mental and emotional growth. Personalities don’t really change with the years, but our traits tend to become more pronounced and entrenched. If you were a miserable middle-aged person, you may not ever be happy. But assuming no drastic and/or damaging mental or physical changes come along, you’ll really be pretty much the same person you always were, only more so.   

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks; studies have shown that older people tend to be more responsible overall, more empathic, and more caring of their work and the people around them. Those prone to social fears tend to become less willing to socialize, but more engaged in others when they choose to do so. Quality over quantity becomes the rule.

In some cases, getting older means getting better. Most research shows that as people get older, they are not more agreeable — they just don’t care as much what others think. We develop a higher sense of personal identity as we age, a better understanding of who we are, and what we stand for.

Our personalities are always changing, right along with the calendar, but the change is very subtle, and unlikely to be noticed in the short term. Our reactions to emotional situations tend to become calmer over the years, as we develop self-confidence, leadership abilities, and social sensitivity.

The internet and social media have had a lot of impact on those who are easily persuaded by those they admire. Especially politically, sadly. But there’s also a real positive aspect to social media, when it’s used to connect with friends and loved ones, allowing those that have less physical interaction with others to become engaged in constructive activities and self education. The Internet – it giveth and it taketh away.

Getting older is not for sissies. There’s a lot of entropy involved, for one thing, and most of us swear that we’d have taken better care of our teeth and backs, had we known we were going to have to use them for so long.

But aging is a luxury not all will enjoy. Aging gracefully means accepting your age, living your best life, and hopefully, having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. It means loving yourself enough to be kind to your body and mind, in hopes of having many enjoyable years to spend with family and friends.

Aging well means keeping your mind sharp, and your attitude positive. It’s time to do the things that bring you joy, and to spend time with people of like minds. Mindfulness, and living in the moment by focusing on the present has many proven health benefits that will lower stress and increase immune functions.

For myself, I hope to continue being creative, and to never stop learning. The world is full of wonders, if we are open to seeing them.

Because, as they say, getting older is inevitable. But aging poorly is optional.

What Do You Miss the Most?


by Roxanne Tellier

A couple of weeks into the start of the COVID pandemic, I asked my husband if he’d have done anything differently before we entered lockdown, now that we had a little experience with this way of life. We kicked around a few thoughts, but it all being so new, he couldn’t really think of much he could have done to prepare.

We’re pretty low maintenance. We’re retired, have a very small place stuffed with the goods of a lifetime of (my) conspicuous consumption, and really don’t need much to get by. But need is not want, and want is what drives our capitalistic society, which we are all a part of, whether we want to be or not. 

The pandemic made me realize that what I missed most about my pre-COVID life was the ability to do the things I had taken for granted – the ability to move through my city freely, meet with friends and family when I wished, stop for a coffee or lunch break without having to check that the location was open, and shopping leisurely without worrying about having to line up for entry first.

Oh, and to find an open public washroom when nature called. That turned out to be one of the little amenities most of us had never had to consider in the past.

I’ve lived in Canada all of my life, and I’ve seen things come and go, as times and society changes. I remember ashtrays affixed to supermarket carts, and when you only had to look up and around to find a clock attached to a wall, or a building, ticking away the hours of our lives. But for all the changes, both good and bad, that I’ve seen, what I’ve never seen is a curtailing of the basic things that keep Canada in the top or near top of “Best Places to Live” in the world.

We take our freedoms and rights for granted, rarely acknowledging how much work has gone into making Canada the free country others envy. Our ancestors mostly chose to leave the evils of their places of birth behind, and instead, to work together to create the society we enjoy today. Decade by decade, election by election, those who came before us made the health and well-being of citizens a priority, and they did it with the politeness that Canadians have always been famous for. 

What is the difference Why is Canada considered a Cultural Mosaic and not a Melting Pot Why is this important to our country’s population

We became a nation of shopkeepers, not a company of merchants. We were the vertical mosaic of different ethnic, language, regional and religious groupings, rather than the melting pot of America, where immigrants are expected to adopt and follow the American way, however it is currently defined. We retained our cultures and beliefs, and in a crisis, Canadians pulled together.

After one year of a global pandemic, the veneer of that civility is wearing thin. Oh sure, we appreciated those who sacrificed to keep us going, in the beginning, but as the months wore on, and as the information meted out to us morphed and changed as new knowledge about the virus was obtained, a lot of us started to show our fangs.

The constraints put upon us, to stay inside, wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and get the vaccine when it is available, those strictures that once would have been the only responsible adult choice, have become just too ‘demanding’ for many of us to bear.

After a little more than a year of living under Covid, important lessons have been learned by some countries, and have been completely ignored in others.

A successful response to Covid-19 turned out to depend on more than a country’s wealth, scientific prowess and history of public health successes. The U.S. enjoys all of these advantages but mounted one of the worst responses to the pandemic: 1 in every 990 Americans has died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began. Bad politics, quite simply, can trump good public health.

Other developed countries that did well initially, such as Canada and some European nations, have faltered during the second or third surge of infections, because their governments and people grew tired of implementing effective strategies. In many Asian countries, it has long been common for people to wear masks when feeling ill, so they adopted masks early and widely. “ 

The Wall Street Journal, January 2021  

Taiwan profited from early action, and the provision of intensive financial support to the ill, and to contact tracing, which kept Taiwan to less than 800 cases by the end of 2020.

American Samoa never saw a single case or death from the virus, due to the territory calling a complete halt to all incoming passenger flights. While the 55,000 inhabitants have been isolated from the rest of the world, they have not had to implement any sort of closures, distancing, testing, or strain on their health care.  

New Zealand crushed the curve early, first, by being an island better able to enforce travel bans, and secondly, by an aggressive pandemic influenza plan that began in February of 2020. Implementing a country wide lockdown in late March of 2020 essentially eliminated the virus entirely. By June, New Zealand was pandemic free, with only a few cases coming from international travelers, who were kept in quarantine for two weeks post-arrival. Jacinda Arden, the NZ Prime Minister, must be congratulated for her use of clear communication that worked to increase her people’s willingness to cooperate for the betterment of the nation.

Finland, South Africa, and Germany fared well by relying on clear, concise communication, that allowed people to understand their risks, and shoved aside any acceptance of the concept of ‘fake news’ that would confuse their people. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for her citizens to have “patience, discipline and solidarity,” the three essentials to an effective pandemic response.  

“The European Dream” prize winning photo … Andrei Stenin

Many other countries, like Brazil, Moldova, India, Czechia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria, have suffered far worse, with thousands of deaths, all while suffering with little modern conveniences or health care to give any comfort.  

In Canada, a very large segment of Canadians, a very large and VOCAL segment, did not take much of a financial hit. Those who had a decent job, with benefits, were generally in position to simply move their office into their home, thru the miracle of the internet and ZOOM. In fact, that group is said to have accrued quite a lot of extra money they didn’t expect to have, due to the lack of restaurants to visit, vacations allowed to be taken, and a focus on shopping by mail, rather than in person.

Scotiabank polled over 1,500 Canadians to learn more about their saving and spending habits since the pandemic began and found that one in four Canadians (25%) have been able to save more because of reduced spending in other areas of their lives. Canadians who are saving more say they are spending less on: eating out (75%), entertainment (81%), clothing and apparel (58%), and commuting costs (41%).  Also, more than a third (37%) who are putting more money aside have made saving a priority since COVID-19.” 

(Scotiabank Newsletter, November 2020)

For the first time in 50 years, I stopped spending about $50 every four weeks to get my hair coloured, and discovered that my ‘real’ hair colour made me look like a cross between a Shih Tzu and Blanche from Golden Girls.  

Lots of other people – those whom we call ‘essential’ but pay as if they aren’t – were the human tinder we threw on COVID’s fire. In March of 2020, people all over the world were urged to ‘make some noise’ to honour healthcare workers, by going onto our porches or balconies, or throwing open our windows to cheer, applaud, and bang pots. That lasted a few months, but as time wore on, I guess we just decided we didn’t really care how many of those in the healthcare field were exhausted or dying from having to care for hundreds, then thousands, and eventually, millions, of sick people.

Hazard pay” for those low on the totem pole, but highly likely to become infected, was discontinued by the fall. We stopped being grateful for those minimum wage earners who staffed the groceries, pharmacies, and Big Box stores, and started demanding that they serve us as though we were management, and they were grovelling for a raise in salary.

We cared about the seniors and sick who were dying by the hundreds, until it meant that the day when we had planned to get a haircut was pushed forward, again and again, until many of us just took the clippers to our manes and had at it, because, really, who would see it when you hadn’t anywhere you were allowed to go?

The herd immunity that initially shocked people by it’s callous cruelty, started to sound good to those who didn’t care how many had to die to get there, as long as it wasn’t themselves, and it meant that they could get out to see a band or a sports match. 

For a very short time, some businesses cared about those who were chafing under the pressure, those who made their living doing jobs that barely covered their needs during normal times, now having their hours drastically cut, while still being ineligible for supplements like CERB.

Ontario Hydro lowered their rates, but decided, in the fall, that they’d done enough to help, and that profits over people were more important.

““Last fall, our government introduced customer choice for all Ontario customers; we encourage customers who continue to work from home who are still paying time-of-use electricity rates to consider switching to the tiered rate option, offering a flat rate at all hours of the day,” the spokesperson from the Ministry of Health told Daily Hive. 

They added that customers who are unable to pay their electricity bills due to COVID-19 can apply to the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) through their local utility. We have recently expanded eligibility for the CEAP program and residential customers can now receive up to $750 in direct electricity-bill relief.” 

The Daily Hive

Rents and mortgage rates, controlled provincially, have been entangled in regulations that have left many wondering if that roof over their head would be there in the near future, and at what cost. Banks upped their rates, eagerly collecting all those one-dollar-a-transaction fees from those being asked to make their purchases with bank debit cards rather than cash.

As the new year dawned, many companies, large and small, raised their prices and rates to reflect that they’d suffered financial losses in 2020, while ignoring the corollary, that their users and buyers had suffered just as much, if not more, in a turbulent economy.

This week, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford added even more severe restrictions on Ontarians, some of which make little sense, from the standpoint of those in the medical field already coping with a flood of sick patients. Social scientists and medical professionals have called his latest declarations “an abandonment of science and common sense,” and warn that we will see “a completely foreseeable and preventable tragedy play out in this province.” 

Like a bad parent, unable to control a wayward child, Ford’s reliance on the ‘grounding’ of citizens is backfiring. Continually backing people into a corner only works for so long, before even the meekest amongst us will come out fighting.

Tippy toeing around the necessity for masking, and waiving fines for the scofflaws not only not masking, but organizing large super spreader events, has made even the most compliant of good citizens show their teeth.

And here’s the problem – we don’t have any answers, any other options. All the things we shoulda coulda done from the onset, including school, business, and airport closings, were off the table from the start in an attempt to appease Big Business, and keep the economy chugging along. 13 months in, the virus has dug deep into the soft under belly of its victims, and thrown off new, even more contagious and dangerous variants. Now, all we can do is hold on tight til the end of the ride.

At this point, there’s little we can do to stop this third wave beyond shutting down non-essential businesses and services, enforcing the necessary health mandates of masking and distancing, and getting ourselves vaccinated as soon as possible.

But I’m growing concerned that our leaders are oblivious to the roiling anger simmering underneath our lip service to containment that prioritized business over people, and the lack of policing of those who openly and publicly advocate and display civil disobedience that may prevent our country from ever completely eradicating this plague.

That, along with the pandemic fatigue that has left so many in pursuit of unrequited self-determination, and the sister pandemic of selfishness, may well be the death of many more of us.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that what COVID stole from me, what I miss more than anything else, is the belief that, in a crisis, Canadians would always pull together for the good of their country, and of their fellow Canadians. That’s something that I never thought I’d have to question. But it seems it only took a year of belt-tightening and restrictions to bring out the worst in too many of us.

Denial Is Not Just a River in Egypt


by Roxanne Tellier

People are utterly fascinating, if you have the luxury of standing back and simply observing the way they think. Mesmerising, but oftentimes, head-shakingly and misguidedly, arrogant. Best to avoid them in groups.

Take this week’s Supreme Court decision on carbon taxes; in his decision, Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote that “Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities, and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future.” 

He added,”The evidence clearly shows that establishing minimum national standards of GHG price stringency to reduce GHG emissions is of concern for Canada as a whole. This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life.” 

Supreme Court or Santas in training? Your mileage may vary.

Under the Constitution’s “peace, order and good government” clause, aka, POGG the federal government has the authority to enact laws to deal with issues that concern the entire country.

Despite complaints from the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, who argued that natural resources are the provinces’ jurisdictions, he ruled that it’s constitutionally permissible for the Feds to impose minimum pricing standards, based on the reality of climate change crossing provincial boundaries, and of being so great a threat that it demands a co-ordinated national approach. 

(I’m left wondering if he couldn’t have appended, “just like controlling this pandemic should be.” But that didn’t happen.)

Three of the Court’s Justices dissented, but not on the subject of climate change – that is simply accepted as fact. Rather, their concern was that the decision opened the door to further matters moving out from under provincial control, and into federalist control. In other words, the destruction of the planet by willful, but corporately profitable abuse, was, to their minds, of lesser concern than the provinces being allowed to maintain an exploitative control of power.

Flippin’ pancakes, hangin’ with the guys …

Minutes after his decision, the backlash began, not just from the provincial premiers who had launched the appeal, but from climate change deniers across the land. Although 97% of scientists believe that climate change is real and human-caused, one of our friends, who is on the side of the 3% who don’t, expressed outrage at the Court’s acceptance of human activities being responsible for the changes we’re seeing in our climate. He said he could produce at least ten articles from ‘learned professionals’ that disproved that fact. Hey – tell it to the Judge.

Well, tell it to the CANADIAN Supreme Court judges. In the States, newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett isn’t sold – she called climate change ‘politically controversial,’ at her confirmation hearing. She then added, “You know, I’m certainly not a scientist. I’ve read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”   

In 2020, The majority of Canadians believe in climate change, but still debate how much of the damage has been created by humans.73 percent of Americans say that global warming is happening, and 62 percent of Americans accept that it is human caused.  

A lot of the blame for scepticism about the role humans play in environmental damage comes from people listening to politicians and thought leaders who downplay or outright deny eco-friendly issues. In 2019, after the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, expressed doubts about the legitimacy of climate change, Elections Canada warned that discussing climate change during the upcoming federal election could be deemed partisan activity.

And of course, in the U.S. – trump. He believed climate change was a “Chinese hoax” and pulled the U.S from the Paris Climate Agreement. Getting America back in to it was literally one of the first things Biden did post inauguration.

Sure, Bernier and trump are not exactly MENSA members, but beyond that, it’s best to ‘follow the money, honey,’ because politicians tend to take environmental stances based on what the big donors to the party want done. In both Canada and the U.S., the corporations that most depend on producing carbon pollution for their profits never stop lobbying in their own interests. Damn the environment – full speed ahead!

Horrific natural events that were once limited to once a century frequency, are now yearly events. Whether it’s fires, flooding, or drought, the reality and impact of climate change cannot be denied if you’re impacted by the consequences.  

If the current situation at the U.S. southern border appears to be serious now, get ready for things to get a lot worse – and soon.

According to The Brookings Blum Roundtable of 2020, “the world is looking towards a future where these “unprecedented” storms are commonplace. This global challenge has and will continue to create a multitude of critical issues that the international community must confront, including:

Large-scale human migration due to resource scarcity, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and other factors, particularly in the developing countries in the earth’s low latitudinal band

Intensifying intra- and inter-state competition for food, water, and other resources, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa

Increased frequency and severity of disease outbreaks

Increased U.S. border stress due to the severe effects of climate change in parts of Central America

Climate change deniers will find the waters closing over their heads, like it or not, and whether they believe in it or not.  And if they’re Canadian, they might want to heed a recent scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada that reported that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world and that this warming is “effectively irreversible.”   (climate change deniers underwater.jpg)

The only hope left for deniers is to print out their ‘evidence’ and stand on it. Maybe that will keep their heads above water for a little longer.

After the last decade of arguing with those who will gladly buy what conmen are selling, there are still times when I reel at how gullible even ‘book smart’ people can be at times.

Take the latest ‘former guy’ trump appearance on FOX on Thursday night. Trump had an interesting revision of the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Despite every channel, including FOX, having aired live, unedited footage on that day, trump assured Laura Ingraham that his people posed ‘zero threat,’ even as he basically admitted to having sent them there, all hyped up from his speech earlier in the day. 

“Right from the start, it was zero threat,” he said. “Look, they went in — they shouldn’t have done it — some of them went in, and they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know? They had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in, and they walked out.”

140 injured police officers would beg to differ. One died after being assaulted, two others suicided days later, and yet another officer had an eye literally gouged out of his face. One officer suffered two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs after being beaten by flagpoles. Others suffered concussions, were punched, trampled, and sprayed with bear spray.

“I’ve talked to officers who have done two tours in Iraq who said this was scarier to them than their time in combat.”  Acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III

No, trump, and Sen. Ron Johnson. These people were not cuddly patriots. They were seditionist rioters, intent on mayhem, and possibly murder, who could be heard chanting death threats against Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several lawmakers as they rampaged. Had they been able to use the gallows they’d set up in the Mall to hang Pence, they’d have done so. And if they’d caught Ron Johnson instead, they’d likely have hung him in Pence’s place without a qualm. But whatever it takes for ol’ Johnson to sleep at night, I guess. 

“my life for you!”

Little lies and deceptions. Little twists in truth, the whispering of conspiracies about political enemies leading to bigger lies, and eventually the Big Lie, that simmers beneath Biden’s presidency.  America is on the brink of a Civil War, all because one man’s ego was unable to handle the loss of an election. Potential chaos is being catapulted forward by his cultist hordes who, like TrashCan Man in The Stand, whisper, ‘My life for you,’ as they torch their own families, jobs, and lives.

The Canadian Supreme Court’s decision on carbon taxes should be the definitive and final world on our country’s acceptance of the reality of mankind’s impact on the survival of this beautiful planet. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how democracy works; we appoint people who are deemed to be wise enough, and intelligent enough, to decide definitively what the country will stand for. Just as the information America received post-election should have put the stamp of respectability upon the Biden election win. But apparently there are still those who prefer their own interpretation of current events, no matter how skewed.

What scares me more than anything else about those that deny truth and reality, who refuse to take responsibility for the physical, emotional, or political future of their planet, is that I am just not capable of understanding that level of arrogant egoism. That kind of self-love is just so far beyond common narcissism, so mind-blowingly selfish and entitled, that it verges on an almost apocalyptic abuse of power. There is no defense.

When there are those that would condemn their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to the possibility of a planet dying by their own hands, or a future in which their children are stripped of all rights, simply to prevent their own inconvenience in the present, I fear that it will take something even more dire than a once in a century global pandemic to put humanity back on the right side of history.   

The Great Reset


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m still marvelling at how much more relaxed the world has become since January 20th. Feels like a luxury, not being on high alert every minute of every day, and I’m loving it.

As the fog of negativity lifts, there’s time to look around and marvel at how much our lives have changed, and will be forever changed, by our experiences. There’s no discounting that the very framework of our lives has been reworked by the ravages of COVID-19. Nearly everyone has lost someone dear to them to the virus, and many who became ill with the disease may have healthcare issues impacting them for the rest of their lives.  

We’ve often felt scared and alone, dealing with our concerns. Studies have shown that feeling happy and enjoying life have been associated with longer lifespans, and a reduced incidence of serious illness. Our attitudes define how we treat ourselves and others. COVID-19 greatly impacted our quality of life, and shut a lot of the doors that allowed nearly everyone, regardless of mental or physical health, to seek out healthy encounters and to be part of the cultural mosaic.  

The isolation can literally kill us. While some of us are missing our coffees at Starbucks, or our lunches with friends, others are suffering alone in silence, contemplating their own mortality. I worry about those at both ends of the age spectrum, since the very young and the very old are often at the mercy of caretakers who are under great strain themselves.   

The times, they are a changing, and more than just our lives have been upheaved; our economy has taken a brutal beating. Many have not been able to work. Tens of thousands of stores have closed. Our major cities will be reshaped as the bone structure created by small business and entrepreneurs fractures due to the loss of investments and opportunity, and is replaced with franchises. Our hospitality industry has been decimated. People in the arts, or those who work in fields that support the arts, have been either unemployed, or underemployed, for nearly a year.     

And strangely, the majority of people that continue to work during this time, often against their own better judgment, our ‘essential workers’ who toil in menial jobs that allow the rest of us to continue in relative comfort, are some of the lowest paid workers in the country. Meanwhile, their bosses, some enjoying six and seven figure salaries and bonuses, haven’t left the house in 12 months, and never missed a single paycheck.

Is it time for The Great Reset? That term came from the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, held in June 2020.  They were originally more focused on initiating entrepreneurial solutions to handle the problems of climate change and achieve sustainable global development, but as the pandemic has dragged on, and dragged down global economy, the more imperative question has become how to move forward in sectors that have been devastated by the pandemic’s effects. 

“The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems –from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties.

As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.” (weforum.org/great-reset/)

This has a lot of people quite concerned, especially those with a vested interest in squashing the idea of a better, brighter, more sustainable future. Within 72 hours of the announcement, a petition to stop it gained 80,000 signatures. A lot of people are very much afraid of not having the status quo to kick around any more – even if that status wasn’t all that quo to begin with.

Those who rail against Big Government, Big Pharma, and the Big Corporations are certain that these ideas are being put into place to either take away people’s money, guns and freedom, or, even more bizarrely, some conspiracy theorists believe that this would signal the beginning of humanity’s enslavement to the Lizard People. (Hard to believe they’d be any worse than trump and his cultists)

So, what does the Great Reset propose we do? Is this the best way forward for the planet, and all of the people who inhabit it? And who are the people that want to design and control the implementation of the plan?

Those that deny that a global pandemic is a cause for alarm are the same cadre who were the climate change deniers of the last decade, who subscribe to the age-old idea that we should just keep on talking about inequality, climate change, and the pandemic, without ever actually doing anything about these problems.

The Great Reset has been championed by global celebrities, like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, cellist Yo Yo Ma,  andmodel Lily Cole, leading some to believe that these idealists are more interested in their own wish lists of progressive ideas, including a return to an independent media, support for the arts, sustainable architecture and demilitarisation.   

But at the core of the Great Reset is the request that every recovery stimulus, fiscal and monetary, ensures an inclusion of Green conditions. The reasoning behind that thinking is that any money tossed at the economy will likely help, at least a little, but why not invest in the planet’s future, rather than simply patch up its current wounds?   

If there are to be economic recoveries, the key lies in joining the need to create jobs with the need of most countries to sink more dollars into infrastructure, education, and health care. Creating jobs to further those endeavours puts money into the hands of the workers, who in turn, spend that money on their community and country’s businesses, ultimately making the economy stronger. Everyone’s quality of life thus improves.

The key is ensuring that the jobs being created contribute to the long-term health of the planet, rather than the depletion of scarcening resources.

It’s not surprising that some of the wealthiest people fear losing their ability to plunder the planet, and  are calling this agenda, “another example of wealthy, powerful elites salving their consciences with faux efforts to help the masses, and in the process make themselves even wealthier and more powerful.” (Forbes.com)

In Canada, Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre described his idea of what he believes is Justin Trudeau’s approval of the plan.   

“Last week, the presumptive finance minister in Erin O’Toole‘s “government-in-waiting” warned that “global financial elites” are attempting to “re-engineer economies and societies” in order to “empower the elites at the expense of the people.” Canadians, he said, “must fight back against global elites” and “their power grab.” He invited those who share his concerns to sign a petition calling on the government to “protect our freedom” and “end plans to impose the ‘Great Reset’.”

That certainly does sound like a frightening scenario. But there are some holes in the plot.

The item that so alarmed the Conservative frontbencher was a clip that circulated online last week of the prime minister speaking at a United Nations conference in September. “This pandemic has provided an opportunity for a reset,” Justin Trudeau told the conference. “This is our chance to accelerate our pre-pandemic efforts, to re-imagine economic systems that actually address global challenges like extreme poverty, inequality and climate change.”  (CBC.ca/politics/ Nov 27, 2020, Aaron Wherry, CBC News)

 Oh my yes! How very terrifying it would be to actually address such challenges! There are profits to be made, and profiteers to feed!

Those unable to contemplate change have seized upon a rallying cry attributed to Davos attendees. “You will own nothing, and you will be happy.” Were that the end of the quote, I might find it disturbing as well. But what it actually refers to are changes that are already upon us, and to come, based on actual changes to our needs and priorities. 

And the quote came from a series of predictions for what the world might look like in 2030, that was published in November 2016. It accurately noted that for many, especially in cities that ‘work’, there is no need to own a car, a house, or any appliances. All of these are rented, and you can leave them behind when you move on to another location. Products thus become services, not something to own, but to use and discard when their use is no longer necessary.

The other eight predictions include global carbon pricing, a lessening of U.S. dominance, a change in how we interact with health care providers, a move to a diet less reliant on meat, the testing of Western values, and the opening up of practical applications for space technology in order to move humans off Earth, and onto other planets. Much of this has indeed come to pass, just in the five years since the predictions were written.

(https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/8-predictions-for-the-world-in-2030/)

We often falsely believe that those who have become wealthy through commerce have society’s best interests at heart. But then again, we also used to believe that of our politicians, and certainly we can agree that that is no longer always true.

The Great Reset is merely a proposal; however, it seems more in keeping with the progressive direction that the planet needs to take, post pandemic, in order to ensure not just humanity’s survival, but the survival of our planet. We could do worse than listen to what is in the proposal. We already have.

Cogito, ergo sum I think


by Roxanne Tellier

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over. A new one just begun.”  (John Lennon/Yoko Ono)  

In 18 days, this year – this miserable, disappointing, painful, ugly, disquieting, frustrating and lonely year – will finally end. Good riddance to it; it’s broken far too many of us.

It was a year when being an introvert might have saved your psyche, if it weren’t for the people you were locking down with. Really, the pandemic opened our eyes to how socially distant we already were, in our own minds. For many, not having to be around other people was wonderful. The world, as a rule, is built for extroverts, who enjoy and thrive on the energy generated by gatherings, their brain’s ‘reward’ centre activated. But if you’re an introvert, dealing with others is overstimulating, akin to being drained by a vampire; it takes a while to recover from the contact, no matter how pleasurable. 

This year, we learned to fear others, since there is no way to know if that kid on his scooter, the crazy lady in the supermarket, or that guy walking on your side of the street, is carrying the virus. We are less quick to remember the niceties of civilization, like holding open the door for others, or asking a confused looking person if they’re all right. In our misperception, we are more likely to push the automatic door opening button rather than touch the door’s handle, without realizing how many others, potentially infected, did the same thing.

But it’s also the year in which we came together, within our ‘bubble,’ and, perhaps naively, assumed that people we knew, or those who looked the most like us, could not possibly be the carriers of the plague. It was a little like the bad old days of herpes and HIV/AIDS, when many threw the sexual dice based on how ‘clean’ the potential partner appeared. I wonder how many people, grateful to interact, joyfully greeted the instrument of their demise with hugs and handshakes.  

2020 was when we learned who the real ‘essential workers’ are, and it’s not the 1%, or the CEOs; it’s the guy or gal on the front line, making your coffee, wiping down tables with antiseptic cleanser, or processing your order. It’s the drivers of the delivery trucks that deliver an unending stream of necessities and baubles to keep our brains and hands occupied. It’s the hospital staff who keep working during the worse time of their careers. It’s the construction worker who is fixing the sidewalk, or the plumber that comes to your house to fix that leak. Now we need to learn that these people who keep the world turning deserve to be paid accordingly.

We also discovered what an enormous role, emotionally and financially, the arts play in our lives. When the world of entertainment shut down, a big part of our leisure lives went with it. The entertainment industry were already calculating at least a $160 billion hit, over the next few years, just a couple of months into the pandemic. The many industries that exist to support theatres, concert halls, and other places that offer music, theatre, and dance are also struggling to survive.

With so many people unable to use the pressure-relieving valve of gathering, be it at work or play, a lot of things we took for granted as being ‘just the way it is,’ were revealed to be illusory. The important things – food on the table, a roof over you head – shone a light on how foolish we had been in equating the skyrocketing stock market with the economy. In actual fact, inequality has never been as sharp. We are a nation of haves and have nots, with one end of society able to ply their trade from home, while the other may be losing their homes and contemplating life in a tent in a city park.

In the United States, more than eleven million people remain unemployed, while 614 American billionaires grew their wealth by nearly a trillion dollars. And in Canada ….

“A report released on June 17 by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) reveals staggering levels of social inequality in Canada. Often portrayed in the corporate media and official politics as a “kinder,” more “progressive” society than the United States, Canadian capitalism is exposed in the study as an oligarchic social order.

According to the PBO, the share of wealth held by the top one percent of Canadians is 25.6 percent. This is almost double the estimate of 13.7 percent given by Statistics Canada.  

According to the new PBO estimates, the top one percent in Canada owns about as much as the poorest 80 percent. The upper middle class and petty bourgeoisie, the 9 per cent immediately following the top one per cent, own 30.8 per cent of the wealth.

The millionaires and billionaires in the richest 10 per cent of the population own a staggering $5.829 trillion. “

There’s an ever-widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor, in Canada, as in the rest of the world. The richest one percent of the globe’s population possesses twice as much wealth as the poorest 6.9 billion. And that has had devastating consequences on those struggling to survive. The poor are more likely to have less access to higher education, to suffer from health problems, and to die many years earlier than the wealthy.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our personal and financial circumstances, even before you take into account the emotional toll it’s had on us. As humans experiencing the trauma of the pandemic, many are experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks, grief at what has been lost, and suicidal ideations. Worse, whole communities are being impacted, so that the pandemic is about to leave a societal scar. Beyond the struggle each of us are dealing with, we are experiencing a collective or communal trauma. Psychologists say this can impact the psyche and culture of our communities, sometimes spanning generations.

2020 has been a horrible year for so many reasons. But it’s also had a few bright spots. There’s been a number of scientific breakthroughs that may help curb the effects of climate change. A drop in pollution caused by commuting has brightened our skies, and even made the Himalayas visible for the first time in thirty years.

In Europe, an app developed in Denmark called “Too Good To Go” has kept over 30 million meals out of the trash by connecting businesses with excess food to consumers who can buy that food at reduced prices.

A Brazilian and U.S. non-profit initiative is paying farmers and ranchers to keep the Amazon forest standing.  The pandemic also shone a light on the ‘wet markets’ where poorly handled animals being consumed contribute to about 75% of recently emerged infectious diseases affecting humans, with cities finally willing to work towards shuttering these places.

The wave of kindness and community that blossomed at the beginning of the pandemic is waning, but in its place are new and often renewed charitable agencies helping people to get through these tough times. Volunteerism is up.  Animal adoptions are at an all time high, as people connect with a furry friend and companion.  

In the States, Joe Biden is the president elect, and Kamala Harris is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian American to be elected to the vice presidency. In just over a month, the reign of error that was trump will hopefully be in our rear-view mirrors.

Not one, but several vaccines have been created at breathtaking speed, and are being distributed around the world, leading to hope that within about a year, we can look forward to returning to some kind of normal. And the pandemic itself has taught us some important lessons about responsible health care that is already having an impact on the rate of colds and flus that regularly take us down when our bodies are stressed. Turns out, washing your hands, wearing a mask, and staying home when we’re sick has a positive outcome on lots of more common illnesses.  

So it’s been a year that closer resembled a Chinese curse than a gift, but it’s almost over, and many of us survived. We’re all a little older, wiser, and greyer. Some of us have less money than before this trial, while others learned that money really can’t buy happiness, but a CERB cheque can buy a lot of cool junk on Amazon. And they deliver.

What a ride, eh?

Wishing that your holidays be merry, and your new year a blessing. Love to you all.