The Dogs of Dumbarton


by Roxanne Tellier

There is a century-old bridge in Scotland, just northwest of Glasgow, called Overtoun. For many years, dogs have felt compelled to leap from the bridge to their death on the rocks below. More than 300 canines have leaped from the ‘dog suicide bridge, ‘ with 50 or more dogs said to have died from their injuries.

dumbarton bridgeThe people of Dumbarton are very superstitious, as befits those who live near this place which the pagan Celts would have called a ‘thin place’ – a place where heaven and earth overlap. While some believe that the dogs’ lemming-like plunges are due to a limited visual perspective, others believe that the dogs are mesmerized by the appearance of a White Lady, which only the canines can see.

I see a similarity in the voting habits of many humans in the last several years. Like the dogs, they have lost all perspective, and now follow conmen whose merits are only visible to themselves. And in the choosing of those transparently bad and corrupt leaders, they plunge themselves  – and the rest of us – off a cliff, where we land, battered and bruised, without decent healthcare.

reaction to carbon tax canadaTake the carbon tax policy that went into effect this week. Premier Ford opted Ontario out of the federal government’s Canada wide restrictions. Stern Conservative leaders had themselves photographed on the last day of March, pumping into their gas guzzling SUVs what they claimed to be the last of the ‘cheap’ fuel Ontario had enjoyed under Ford.

Meanwhile, Ford’s team were putting together an almost identical program, with almost identical fees, which is currently on hold. Instead of working with the feds, Ford wants Ontario to use his own plan, and thereby keep control of the funds that will accrue.

In order to have his way, he’ll have to drag a multi million dollar lawsuit against Canada thru the courts. (I don’t think we can afford this guy – every plan he has to make the province money, costs twice the amount the province could possibly make from his flighty schemes.)

Predictably, social media went mad when the media and trolls flooded them with information, disinformation, and photos of smug politicians on both sides of the board. Also predictably, most of the unqualified and uneducated Facebook opiners had to foist their own takes on the situation into every conversation, and trumpet the virtues of Team Ford vs Team Canada. Both teams like to think that they have all of the answers, despite the question being far beyond their pay grade.

In the face of the nearly unanimous global agreement of economists and environmentalists that a price has to be set onto pollution of all kinds, to combat climate change damage some believe would be more damaging than the impact of an actual world war, Team Ford not only rejected a carbon tax, they insinuated, without any proof,  that the taxes would be fraudulently appropriated by the federal government, and never used to combat climate change.

nobel 2018 carbon taxAnd while our keyboard warriors decried Canada’s plan as being just another useless and toothless tax,  William Nordhaus and Paul Romer were accepting the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics, for their work that proves that carbon pricing is an effective solution.

QUOTE: ” Nordhaus argues that the most sensible response to climate externalities is also straightforward: price carbon pollution.

In his recent Climate Casino  book, Nordhaus argues the pricing of carbon achieves four objectives: it sends signals to consumers about which goods and services are more carbon-intensive; it sends signals to producers about which activities are most carbon-intensive (such as coal burning) and which are less carbon-intensive (like solar or wind); it sends signals to propel innovation to find new, affordable alternatives; and finally, pricing is the best means to convey these signals within well-functioning markets.”  (International Institute for Sustainable Development, April 2019)

Now … COME ON, guys. We have got to stop being Debbie Downer about every possible attempt made at combating the most serious problem of our time, and of your children’s and grandchildren’s future – climate change.

arguing with the immature mindWe must ask ourselves why?, when we cannot see our own selfishness in refusing to help alleviate the myriad of problems we face globally, from homelessness, to inequality, and the plight of immigrants and refugees.  We need to stop giving in to a negative desire to prevent the placement of even so much as a Band-Aid on the gaping, oozing wounds of the planet’s most vulnerable.

“Help feed the refugees of Syria!”

“Oh no, you don’t! We have our own hungry and homeless to worry about!”

This sort of rebuttal sounds reasonable on the surface – after all, we DO have vulnerable people in Canada! The argument seems to be that if there are two groups of people suffering, we are only capable of saving one, and we’re ok with letting the other group die.

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, that should not be our response. Nor should the person requesting help for one segment of the population be made to feel that it is down to her, personally, to tend to ALL segments of the population before being allowed to brighten the corner where she lives. Her contribution, no matter how small, should be acknowledged and lauded.

climate change how concernedWhat actually happens when we demand perfection before we will attempt to aid, is that we shut down ALL aid being given. And by demanding that we wait until there is a free, politically correct, universal remedy for climate change and the control of carbon, we doom our country and our planet to doing absolutely nothing to help ourselves, leaving our kids and grandkids to a future with neither clean air nor water.

I can’t watch that and not protest inaction.

The average human attention span has declined from about 12 seconds, in the year 2000, to the average span of a mere eight seconds in 2018.  That’s one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

We are not concentrating. We are distracted, by loud noises, by bright lights, by the person who plays on our darkest fears, and feeds us with gluten free bread and circuses.

We are so very easily swayed.

jussie smollettRemember when we were all livid over the attack on actor Jussie Smollette, a few weeks ago? Remember how we all leapt to his defence, instantly believing his version of the story, and how we were furious that the police were not taking it as seriously as we thought they should because … well  … this looked very like a racist attack, triggered by Trump supporters?

Remember how it felt when it turned out it was all an act, a lie? Remember how some of us didn’t want to believe that it was a lie, and how some insisted that Smollette was telling the truth, and that the police were just racist? Remember  seeing the actual props that the attackers, who turned out to be his athletic advisors, purchased with the money he had given them? And remember how many people refused to give up on Smollette’s lie, despite all of the verifiable evidence proving his guilt?

Yeah, We’re doing that again with our national over-reaction to Jody Wilson-Rayboult, and the SNC-Lavalin ‘scandal.’

All is not as white or black – or red, as some have declared.

I’m not going to get into my opinion on this tempest in a Philpot – it’s my opinion, and you probably have your own. And each of us has the right to that opinion. But neither of our opinions are hard fact – they are just our reactions and interpretations of the stimuli we’ve chosen to embrace and accept as OUR truth.

As humans pretending to be socialized and civilized, we should be horrified at how we now react to those who disagree with what we ourselves believe.

fake news how to stopOnce upon a time, people would read a newspaper, or watch a news program on television, and then discuss the events of the day. Not everyone would agree, but that just meant that each side would attempt to sway the other side by showing facts, statistics, photographs, or charts from reputable sources, to support their beliefs.

Now, it is rare that we even reach a consensus upon which newspaper is the most honest, or which news station actually shows us what is really going on in our towns, cities, or nations. When two sides disagree, neither side has a lot of faith in the other side’s argument. If side one’s reliable source is not accepted by side two as reputable, and the same is true from the other side, how do you reach an equitable conclusion?

The definition of ‘fake news’ cannot be simply any thing, photo, or fact that disagrees with the opinions you hold dear. That way lies madness. That way can only create a Tower of Babel, where nothing can progress, because no one can communicate clearly the things that need to be done to ensure that all people have a future, be it ever so humble.

We have to understand, as we carve our families, societies, and nations into smaller and smaller warring factions unable to hear each other’s cries, that our inability to concentrate, communicate, and work together for progress, has left us as helpless and suicidal as the dogs of Dumbarton.

we borrow the earth from our children

 

 

The Butterfly Effect


I’m not sure if I’m blessed or cursed to have a fairly large amount of time in my life in which I can spend hours down the rabbit hole of the Internet, researching and following any thread that interests me.

meeting of the mindsI can spend days, even weeks, deep diving into all things esoteric and non. In an ideal world, I would live in a salon, where others of like minds would join me in this intellectual pursuit, and we would solve all of the mysteries of the universe.

Until that day arrives, the world and it’s distractions will continue to impede my potential band of mystery solving superheroes.

The imminent destruction of a small butterfly sanctuary on the American/Mexican border caught my attention recently. While this is by no means as horrific as the sadistic practices trump’s Homeland Security goons wage against refugees and immigrants, it is, nonetheless, notable. 

butterly effectCan small things, matters almost imperceptible in a larger picture, change the world? Can a tiny event, hardly noticeable on the day it happens, serve as a catalyst for a planet’s future?

“some systems … are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behavior.John Gribbin, Deep Simplicity

People are funny; some are hypersensitive to changes in systems, while others simply cannot understand long term consequences. For some, it’s willful blindness, but for others, it covers up a truth that might irreparably damage their psyche if faced. Better to not believe one’s own eyes than to have to admit that some small, likely unimportant act – or lack of acting! – might have long term, and horribly dangerous consequences.

for the want of a nail

If we are to believe that our actions have consequences, how do we live with ourselves when we fail to act in proactive and logical ways? if we know that eating certain foods will make us ill, how do we rationalize our actions when our food and beverage intake is reflected in damage to our bodies? If we are made aware that smoking cigarettes damages the lungs of both the smokers and the non-smokers that breathe in those fumes, how do we come to grips with the illness or death of a loved one who passively inhaled what we exhaled?

climate change is not just politicalIf we are told that 97% of climate scientists believe that our disrespect for the planet will cause untold harm to not just those living on this earth, but on the generations to come, how can we not look at the havoc we continue to inflict on the globe, and not feel sick at what our greed and selfishness has wrought?

Many of us vehemently DON’T want to believe that something tiny and barely noticeable could affect our lives … psychologically, that’s called proportionality bias: the inclination to believe that big events must have big causes.

That’s what leads so many to become conspiracy theorists. In any given year, roughly half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, according to the University of Chicago‘s political science professors Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood. Without the slightest trace of evidence, 19% of Americans believe the U.S. government planned the 9/11 attacks to start a war in the Middle East, while 24% believed in Trump’s ‘birtherism‘ theory that claimed former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.9 11 files

Today, 61% of Americans remain convinced that the official Warren Commission report on Lee Harvey Oswald’s part in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, is incorrect – they believe that he could not have acted on his own. And since the 1963 tragedy, the number of disbelievers has never dropped below 50%; proportionality bias tells them that one man, with one bullet, could not have so dramatically changed the course of history all on his own.

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

In 1961, chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, was brought to prominence in a work written by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. While running a numerical computer model to redo a weather prediction concerning the details of a tornado, he entered the initial condition 0.506 from the printout instead of entering the full precision 0.506127 value.

The tiny change brought about a completely different weather scenario result, and highlighted the sensitive interdependence on conditions that could result in very large differences in expectations, with just a small change in calculation.

The term, ‘butterfly effect‘ was actually the second name given to this phenomena. Lorenz originally used a sea gull’s wings to describe the theory.

” One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls”

butterfly killerColleagues suggested that changing ‘sea gull’ to ‘butterfly’ would be more poetic, but it was not until 1972, when he was wondering how to title a talk he was giving on the subject, that colleague Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?  as a title.

I can’t help but wonder if those scientists might have been influenced by the 1952 story, The Sound of Thunder, written by Ray Bradbury, in which a time travelling hunter changes the future, by stepping on a butterfly, 65 million years in the past.

In the short story, set in 2055, a man named Eckels travels back in time to shoot and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But he panics at the sight of the beast, and accidentally steps off the path that he has been warned that he must follow. When his hunting party returns to their present, everything has changed, right down to the language that people are speaking, and it is apparent that an evil dictator is now in control of the nation.

 

Bradbury writes: “Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it cannot be. Not a little thing like that. No!”

Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.

It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”

Ford as Dear LeaderAh, to speculate on all of the apparently insignificant moments that shape destinies and alter our times and history! While we may not recognize them, when they happen, or for what they portend, threads of cause and effect are created.

And in time, those moments can change the course of a human life or of a peoples’, eventually impacting  everything from our fashion to our emotions and our health, from our politics, to our economies and our very planet.

Best to have a little humility in the knowledge that our fates and futures can be sidetracked by something as fragile as a butterfly’s wings, in a time of chaos.

tags: Roxanne Tellier, Butterfly Effect, Internet, Homeland Security, John Gribbin, Barack Obama , Warren Commission , John F. Kennedy, Good Omens, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, chaos theory, Edward Lorenz., The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury

A Sunday Pot Luck


You ready, Canada?

Legal weed can go on sale at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2018. Cue the screaming and yelling from those who have never seen a Reefer Madness poster that didn’t give them a semi-erotic frisson of fear.

reefer madness man.gif

I’ve talked about this over and over .. I’ve researched what’s gonna happen until I’m blue in the face. Nothing I say is gonna move a real pot hater to change their opinion by Wednesday. And I know that. I’m not even gonna try.

But, this is my prediction; those people who fear pot and of the possibility of losing control after ingestion, will one night be talked into trying an edible. Or someone they like will dare them to take a toke, and they’ll feel kind of cool and cutting edge. Then they’ll find that an edible, or maybe some CBD  or THC oil, will help with a health issue, or send them off to a lovely sleep, and within a few years, we will be wondering what all the freaking out was about.

Patch-Smoke-EmBecause, whether you knew it or not, whether you liked it or not, a very large percentage of Canadians have been quietly enjoying pot in one form or another for decades. World didn’t end. Won’t from this either. That’s not how we’ll go.

It’s not that big a deal.

Just wait until we inevitably decriminalize personal possession of all drugs.. like they did in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, and the Netherlands.

Then you’ll realize that freaking out over this tiny loosening of our cannabis laws just shows that a small group of Canadians have never really gotten over their fear of the unknown, or of any kind of intoxicant, be it alcohol or cannabis.

Bill Hicks talking about pot

There’s just so many more, far more, important things to worry about. Like, Why are the United States and Canada suddenly turning back the clock on the civil rights of Native  Americans?

voting right PO Box Oct 2018 N DakotaOn October 10, the American Supreme Court ruled to uphold a decision by the state’s courts that requires a residential street address in order to vote in North Dakota’s elections. Since much of the state’s Native American population, which lives largely on tribal land and whose IDs typically feature P.O. boxes, cannot comply, the decision is expected to steal away the right to vote of thousands of Indigenous North Dakotans, along with those who share their residences.

“While North Dakota claims that tribal IDs qualify under its law, most tribal IDs do not have a residential address printed on them. This is due, in part, to the fact that the U.S. postal service does not provide residential delivery in these rural Indian communities. Thus, most tribal members use a PO Box. If a tribal ID has an address, it is typically the PO Box address, which does not satisfy North Dakota’s restrictive voter ID law.” (Rewire.news)

We have ways of legally stopping a fair vote.N Dakota new tactical vehicle

This is an utterly unacceptable ruling. It should be noted that new Justice, Kavanaugh, did not participate in the decision, and that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan dissented.

As America turns back the clock on progress for it’s most vulnerable citizens, the larger concern to America’s Native Americans becomes – how long will it take until other states follow suit?

no vote no taxesIf that’s not enough to make you howl in frustration, Canada actually one-upped that stance, when our own Canadian Supreme Court ruled that politicians do not need to consult First Nations when drafting new legislation that may affect Indigenous rights.

“One judge wrote such a duty would be “highly disruptive” to the lawmaking process.

The decision came just over a month after a federal court reversed Canada’s approval of Kinder Morgan‘s Trans Mountain pipeline over a lack of meaningful First Nations consultation. In response, the feds have appointed a former Supreme Court judge to redo the project’s consultations.

… Canada’s commitments to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supersedes today’s ruling. Canada signed onto the UN declaration in 2016, and in doing so committed to obtaining free, prior and informed consent on all matters impacting Indigenous rights. “That’s the principle piece,” Clogg told VICE. “We would be expecting Canada to live up to its obligations, particularly around obtaining consent.”” (Vice.com)

trudeau on native rightsNow .. is it just me, or does that not sound an awful lot like the democracy and the civil rights are being drained out of Canada’s interaction with First Nations people?

It started with Harper; in two omnibus bills, he jiggered water and fishery protection laws so that he could ram through whatever measures energy companies needed to start digging and drilling.

But with this new, egregious disrespect for the rights of the people to determine what happens ON THEIR OWN LAND, we’re starting a descent very like that of America’s, where wealthy corporations can push forward whatever process benefits the corporation, at the expense of the people living on the land being exploited.

And the government is complicit.

I think most Canadians thought that rejecting a decade of Harper’s hard right, capitalist/corporation friendly government would lead to a kinder, gentler form of governance. After all, that is what we were promised on the campaign trail.

But that’s the thing about campaign promises – they often disappear when the cold reality of day to day management of a country is involved.

Remember this, from 2015? ” As part of his 32-point plan to “restore democracy,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that if elected, he would create a special, all-party parliamentary committee to study alternatives to the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, including ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting and online voting.” (CBC.ca)

Trudeau FPTP memeAnd in Febuary, 2017: ” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned his promise to reform Canada’s electoral system on Wednesday, claiming no consensus has been found on an alternative system.

… Trudeau’s decision shelves months of work by a special House of Commons committee, two separate public engagement and consultation exercises, numerous MP town hall meetings and one cross-country ministerial tour.

The move was called a “betrayal” by the opposition New Democrats, who accused Trudeau of lying to progressive voters when he made electoral reform a central promise in the 2015 election.”   (TheStar.com)

And then there’s the recent reveal, via The Guardian, that exposed a disgusting bit of information; “The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), which manages $366.6bn in pension funds on behalf of some 20 million Canadian retirees, holds US$5.9m of stock in Geo Group and CoreCivic, immigration detention firms profiting from Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ Mexico border policy.

The move to increase holdings comes despite criticisms from Canadian politicians about US detention policies and following international outcry over the US “zero-tolerance” crackdown this summer on the US-Mexico border that led to children being separated from families.”

Most Canadians would not agree to an investment into the incarceration of children in Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, and the separation of families. But most Canadians also have a real problem with how the government is dealing with our energy resources. Sure feels like we’re not being listened to much, between elections.

Prior to the purchase of the pipeline, the majority of Canadians were onside. After the purchase, and the follow-up reports that proved we’d just invested $4.5 billion into a proverbial white elephant, the majority shrank quickly to a minority.

And that’s without taking into account the protests of environmentalists, scientists, and the people of BC who just couldn’t reconcile profit over losing their clean air and water.

I just find it sad, now. When the UN released it’s report this week, saying that we have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe, that would include extreme heat, drought, floods, forest fires and poverty, I wondered which country would blink first.

We knew it wouldn’t be the United States; Trump has always contended that global warming is a Chinese hoax, put into place to trip up any possible manufacturing competition. Trump’s cancellation of climate policies that might have cut U.S. carbon emissions by about half of what was necessary, mean that they have NO plans in place.

mountie-on-a-bearBut we in Canada seemed to be talking a better game; our image involves mountains, lakes, lumber jacks and mounties, for pete’s sake!

In reality, we are little better than America. Canadian Petroleum Producers say oil production will surge 33 per cent by 2035.

” New exploratory drilling permits for fossil fuels, publicly owned pipelines for oilsands bitumen, and the endorsement of highly questionable mega-projects like British Columbia’s Site C dam. And now LNG Canada.

Just this week, Canada’s environment minister appeared on Vancouver CBC. As bright, articulate and telegenic as she is, Catherine McKenna came off more like the minister of finance or fossil fuels than the person leading the war against global warming.”

…. The reason that politicians like McKenna, and her counterparts around the world, don’t get it, is that getting it means taking serious hits to the gross domestic product and employment.

Trudeau Notley Climate Change

The PM talked about 10,000 jobs, even though, when the construction phase is done, the real number will be tiny. 

In making the announcement, Trudeau sounded more like former B.C. premier Christy Clark than the man who told the world in Paris that Canada was back on the environmental file.

Government decisions marketed by big jobs numbers can sometimes be a path to policy hell.

In the 1990s, the Mulroney government wouldn’t reduce quotas or close the cod fishery off Newfoundland because 100,000 regional jobs depended on it. The overfishing continued until the northern cod collapsed and disappeared as a commercial fishery.

The jobs carrot can also leave a government stranded on the moral low ground. After the disappearance and suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a group of bipartisan U.S. senators lobbied to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Trump opposes that idea, saying it would hurt American jobs. “(Michael Harris, ipolitics.ca)

existenceeconomySo here we are, then. A stalemate where our self-interests outweigh what would seem to be our possible demise.

It’s like that old joke, where the robber says to the victim, “Your money or your life!” and the victim says, “Take my life. I’m saving my money for my old age!

It really is that insane. We can do nothing without the politicians being far braver than they have shown themselves to be. On the campaign trail, politicians come on strong, promising to save the world, but once in power, the focus moves from changing the world to keeping power via re-election.

Doing the right thing is hard. And it’s rarely rewarded come election time. So those in power, the ones we need to make the power moves, fear strong moves will get them booted out of their cushy jobs.

Better, they think, to keep the focus on bringing money in to the country’s coffers, by hook or by crook. We can think about the future .. .in the future.

child internment campsAnd, c’mon … be honest … no matter how virtuous and outwardly concerned we are about the planet, or about the morality of investing in Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, or about the ethos of denying Indigenous people a voice on the discussions on how best to destroy their land …

at the end of the day, we tend to turn a blind eye to what goes on around us. We don’t want to see the blood on the diamond. We don’t want to know how the hamburgers are made. We’re saving our money for our old age.

Not a one of us is individually capable of doing the sacrificing necessary to save the planet, and no one person or country can do it alone.

Which means – it’s over. You can give up now. Once a full blown climate catastrophe hits, there will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. According to the UN’s scientists, that could be as soon as twelve years from now. We will also see more and more extreme climate events, like the recent disaster in Florida, as we build up to the real weather horrors that await.

Make your peace with whatever deity you subscribe to, and be glad you’re not gonna have to worry about outliving your money…

And be grateful for small mercies, like the legal cannabis you can enjoy starting Wednesday,  ‘anywhere cigarettes can be smoked‘, in Ontario.

Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. You’re gonna need it.

You Get What You Give


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

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

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

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

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

Gimme that ol’ time religion ….

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

t

Thoughts on a Wintry Day


It’s Sunday. Column day. And I’ve got …nothing. i hate writing

 

It’s not that I’m ‘blocked.’ No, I can think of a million things to say, and even good ways to say them.

No, the problem is that there’s just too much to think about, in a world gone mad, in a world that’s mutating at warp speed, that requires not only the time and sense to read a good portion of the information and opinions and news and interesting tidbits, but to put it together in some sort of reasonable and understandable form.

There’s just so much going on, so much coming at us from all directions, too many unthinkable actions and angry words, too many people we once looked up to, dying, or worse still, living, but being found to have acted in ways that taint our respect for their life’s work.

We’re living in a time when we not only have to deal with the sins of bad actions and reprehensible people, we also have to juggle the idea of impending death by climate or nuclear war. And we are powerless. We cannot stop this runaway train.

dear diaryLuckily, it is not up to me or to you to figure out the answer to every trouble that lies before us. But I firmly contend that there are solutions for every problem. If we cannot find the answer, it’s not that there is no answer, it’s that the right person has not happened along with the missing piece of the puzzle. I believe that, because I have seen far too many people give up on a struggle without understanding that they are not always the owner of the solution. In fact, that sort of stance inevitably leads to bruised egos, and nothing of any substance being done about the dilemma.

It’s like we used to say when I worked in offices, “when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember your original intent was to drain the swamp.” (Damn! and I wasn’t gonna talk about politics this week!)

lizard brainToo much news, too many words, too many ideas. And too many people willing to tell us how we should interpret each of them. And when your brain hurts from trying to process everything going on around you, too easy to make decisions and take actions that stem from that part of our brain that never evolved past the lizard stage.

There are a couple of reasons why I, and so many others, are sometimes troubled by all of the concepts we’re asked to parse on any given day. One is our confirmation bias;  that’s “the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses.” (thanks, wiki)

That’s one of the reasons we so often pass on memes that are untrue, but that tickle our funnybone, or inflame our angry elbow, or some such nonsense. In fact, if you see a meme that resonates so strongly that your immediate impulse is to ‘share’ it with everyone you know … it’s more than likely ‘fake news,’ and the work of paid trolls.

fake news

These memes, often rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, reach into our psyches and pull out the gnarled racist, misogynistic, and biased bits that people normally tend to hide from others.

But as soon as you share that meme … we know what and who you are.

 

The other reason why we can sometimes shy away from news that bothers us is our tendency to have a blind loyalty to those we admire. Whether those people are famous, or powerful, or our relatives, we find it hard to believe that news of their committing crimes could possibly be true, not just because we feel a bond with them, but because .. what does that say about us?

With the #MeToo campaign in full swing, and the accusations of horrible sexual harassment and assaults buzzing around, not just Hollywood and Washington, but every work place imaginable, half of the planet has to look at the other half of the planet and ask:

“How did this go on for so long? Why do so many people with even the most miniscule amounts of power think it’s okay to take what they want, sexually and emotionally, from those who cannot protect themselves, physically, mentally, or financially? And why do I still love/worship/respect the perpetrator of acts that morally sicken me?”

Is this mindshift something we can work forward from, or a distraction from the ‘business as usual’ mode that has pervaded all workplaces for eons? Do we speak the truth and shame the devil(s), or will we have a spate of accusations and reprisals, and then ignore the next wave of voices that ask for retribution?

rapepreventionI don’t know. I would like to think that society has evolved  enough to realize that there is nothing equitable about having half of the planet essentially living in a chronic state of fear that their bodies will be used by anyone who wants to take it. But then again, I’d think that Americans would be smart enough to realize that gun control would protect them from being killed by mentally ill mass murderers.

But what do I know, eh?

I’d also like to believe that it is possible for men to believe women when they speak, not because they have an army of people willing to confirm that they’re speaking the truth, but because they easily swallow the most moronic bullshit that flows out of the mouths of male politicians, preachers, and right wing newscasters.

Seems like the only way a woman is believed, no matter how impeccable her character and credentials may be, is if a male corroborates her statements. And that’s just heartbreaking.

So yeah, it’s column day, and I’ve got nothing. Nothing but a stew of thoughts and sadness at the state of our world, where there’s always a war going on somewhere, but our response is to lay wreaths at the cenotaphs honouring those who died in them, while we hold our breaths as a senile old man taunts a demented young man with a twitchy bombing finger on Twitter, and at least 2300 Canadian veterans are homeless and living on the street. This world, where babies in Yemen starve to death so that trillionaires in Saudi Arabia can amass more wealth and power, and where an  accused pedophile can take a seat in the U.S. Senate. A world where some of the wealthiest people in North America are about to enact new taxation to enrich themselves and their buddies to even more obscene levels, while they cut funds to women, children, the helpless and vulnerable, and veterans.

north-korea-bomb

I got nothing.

 

 

 

To Boldly Go …


Thintelligence: “The state of mind where a person does something without considering the consequences. The idea may seem brilliant at first, but the after-affects usually prove to be deadly. This phrase was invented by Michael Crichton in his 1990 book Jurassic Park.

JurassicPark glasses

“They don’t have intelligence. They have what I call ‘thintelligence.’ They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and call it ‘being focused.’ They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences.”

While it might be possible to reanimate a dinosaur from it’s DNA, what real purpose would that serve in a world where a dinosaur would be just another endangered species?

Most of us are eager to jump on hot new technologies that promise to improve how we experience our lives, while rarely considering what the lasting effect might be on current technologies. The invention of the car put an end to all of the industries previously surrounding the care and comfort of horse drawn carriages. obsolete techDigital photography killed most of the industries that provided material to those who preferred film. Cassettes replaced vinyl, and then were themselves replaced by CDs.

If it’s new, it’s cool, and we can afford it … we want it. Now.

This is the world we have created, bit by bit, as we embrace what science and technology have helped to provide for our entertainment.

Without realizing it, and without ever technically agreeing to these changes, we have slowly awoken to a world that greatly differs from the world in which we once lived. Most of us just buy into whatever becomes the new standard. How we live within our world subtly alters, and we barely notice.

When I was a young woman, social contact with other people was my primary focus. When I couldn’t be with friends, I had a slew of hobbies to keep me busy. Now, I can’t remember when I last pursued any of those crafty pastimes.

And I honestly can’t remember ever being ‘bored.’ Oh, I’m sure there might have been an instance or two before I discovered boys and booze, but overall .. nope.

I don’t see friends nearly as often as I used to, these days, even though I probably have more free time now than I ever did then. It’s just so much easier and more convenient to keep in touch through social media.

That loss of face to face, hand to hand, contact has had an affect on how we see and treat others. We are quicker to make judgements about other people, for good or ill, and less empathetic to those outside of our social bubbles.

Those tiny steps from there to here were imperceptible. Those of us who now rely on a tablet sized phone to corral all of our communication and computing needs hardly remember the consumer uncertainty and fear that surrounded the advent of the first personal computers.

first pcEarly adapters eagerly coughed up the cost of a new car to have one of the ungainly machines in their home. But for the average consumer, it would be a good twenty years before a home computer became commonplace.

Today’s teens can’t remember a time when they weren’t tethered to their phones. They barely spare a thought for their ability to be in constant contact with anyone, anywhere in the world, and to the informational capability of their device.

UN human rightsIn fact, this access to knowledge has become so universally accepted that the United Nations have now decreed internet access human right, up there beside food, water, and freedom of speech.

Knowledge is Power.” At one time, only the educated and the rich had access to the amount of knowledge now available to every one of us with the desire to be taught, and an internet connection. From the most obscure bit of trivia to schematics for the creation of nearly every machine known to man, any one of us can be experts in as many fields as we wish to conquer.

Or we can watch funny videos of pets being shamed; it’s our choice.

The flip side of the process that lets us do price comparisons online is that it is the same means that allows terrorists, criminals, or sexual deviants, to find online communities filled with like minded, twisted, individuals, and gives them the freedom to access instructions for how to make bombs and other destructive weapons.

pros and consAnd the computer language that allows us to do our banking online is always under attack by those who would use computer made trojans and viruses as a way to steal our money and personal information.

This is the place where the future can be held hostage, in a struggle between the thintelligent and those who rightly wonder what horrors could potentially be unleashed by new technology.

Even the smallest of changes can impact directly on what our future will look like. You do, however, have to have an understanding of how fragile civilization can be, to see what devastation can occur when we fail to take into consideration the impermanence of our past achievements.

Those who would rather argue over who is responsible for climate change, rather than deal with the effects of that change, will suffer the consequences as horribly as those who can see that we have to alter how we treat the planet, or risk not surviving. Those who believe it’s better to put government and corporate resources into sucking out the last of the oil, wherever it can be found, and at a frightening cost to the planet’s ecology, are arch princes of thintelligence, unable to see the consequences of NOT buying into less aggressive and sustainable energy sources.

We are in a time of flux, just as we were when the first cars began to appear on the dirt roads, that would, in good time, become the highways we drive upon today. The biggest difference between the past and present is that we now communicate our words and thoughts much more rapidly. For some, this onslaught of possibilities is exciting; for others, a nightmare.

But we cannot halt the future. Those who vilify a good old daysworld that doesn’t resemble what they believe to have been better times, and who would tear down all that has gone before that doesn’t fit into their memories, be it governance or infrastructure, are naive, and dangerous.

Demolition may be exciting to watch, but the slow and back breaking labour necessary to rebuild can throw up roadblocks that may stymie future generations for decades.

And it takes a great deal more than bravado to create the future. Most of us simply don’t have the intelligence or ability to transform thoughts and words into architecture or proven science.

There’s a middle ground to be found and walked, one in which we honour what we have created, and look to the possibilities some visionaries have proposed. But always with a nod to the unforeseen consequences all change brings to the planet and it’s inhabitants.

Wild and Wacky Weathering


In June 2012, Amazon picked The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker as one of the month’s best reads. A combination coming-of-age story and apocalyptic page turner, the novel focused on how people would react to a changed world, where “the Earth’s rotation slows, gradually stretching out days and nights and subtly affecting the planet’s gravity. ”     
age of miracles
The book outlines how a young girl, along with her family and friends, cope with this adjustment, as the planet wobbles off to it’s slow demise.  Meanwhile, the best laid plans and schemes from governments fail to make much difference in how the Earth’s denizens cope with the disaster.

And that’s kind of where we’re at these days, isn’t it? We’re in a vague malaise, unable to confidently say what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, while hapless governments, even if they agree that there is a problem, struggle to find bandaid solutions to  the earths’ sores that have been left to fester for too long.
trump alone at G20

Except this guy .. this guy thinks he knows better than anyone on the planet, be they incredibly educated scientists or those who have spent their lives dedicated to studying the effect of climate change on people. This guy is an asshat.

It must really be pointed out how completely insanely and selfishly Trump and his band of reverse Robin Hood Merry Men are behaving. They’re hooting and hollering like ignorant hillbillies as they seal the environmental fate of those fools who voted for them to make life altering decisions, in the name of ‘economic change.’ These corporate raiders of the environment are convinced that money and power will save them from dying from a lack of clean air and water. But just them. The rest of us? Dream on. We’re all going down with this ship.

Remember when the first rumblings about a change in the planet’s clime began to hit the middle class consciousness? Those who could see the bigger picture were worried about how even a slight shift in warming could damage our environment, the least of our worries being an increase in natural disasters, as melting polar ice caps brought about flooding, and extreme weather swings were tempered with more frequent and deadlier droughts.

Others smiled at the thought of palm trees growing down the main streets of large northern cities. With a thorough lack of understanding of the fragility and interweaving of climate and landmass, some hoped this warming would bring about new tropical beaches in heretofore frigid areas. These foolish humans thought they could somehow control where and when climate change would happen, and bend it to their wishes.

All of their fantasies depended upon where they were located, and hinged upon a lack of empathy for those who would see the opposite of these desires. In order to have the tropics brought to your front yard, many countries would have to be completely displaced or disappear from their current sites. In order to have Floridian temperatures in Boston, New York or Toronto, you first have to lose Florida.

But, of course, they were attempting to take a world problem, and make it into a personal triumph.  Still, Man proposes, god and the environment disposes. You’ve only to look locally, to the disastrous flooding on the Toronto Islands and the economic battering Toronto is taking on this matter alone, to see that we have no control whatsoever when Mother Nature gets pissed off. Instead of a tropical beach, you have land masses swept away, along with coastal areas being eroded, possibly never to be returned in our lifetimes.

I wonder what Trump will think when his precious Mar-a-Lago is swallowed up by the sea? It will happen, and I can only hope it will happen sooner than predicted. Right about now works for me.

elephant left to rotAnd when I think about those who continue to claim that our actions are too miniscule to have any sort of immediate impact upon the planet, I’m struck dumb by the hubris, and the inability of some to look at the damage we all regularly inflict upon the planet, and not see how integral each and every living creature’s actions are to maintaining this delicate balance.  Where once we knew, instinctively and intuitively, that the lowliest butterfly snatched from our timeline could have an impact upon the food chain, we now struggle to throw off responsibility for the most damaging of indignities and raping of natural resources ever seen in human history.

But don’t we love to talk about the weather! Talking about it, singing about it, trying to forecast what might be on the horizon, and molding our protective coatings around what we hold precious … this is what we have always done, since caveman days. Through the centuries we learned more about how the planet moved through it’s cycles, and how the sun and moon determined how best we could use the land and waters around us.

We learned to measure how precipitation complicated the times when seeds could be planted, in order to feed our populations. We began to understand that chemicals, seeded into the lifeblood of the planet, the very earth and air, could and would damage the reproductive cycles of all living creatures. We learned how to forecast what the weather might be in coming days, and when we would need to protect our bodies with clothing that would keep us warm, or sunscreen that would fend off the increasingly irradiating rays of the sun, which were no longer impeded by the thick coating of ozone we had taken for granted.

All of these things we learned over time, through observation of the repetition of the seasons, we now blithely toss aside in favour of commercializing and exploitation of resources, an exploitation that seems less inclined to profit humanity, but certainly enriches corporations with no concern for the actual ‘owners’ of the lands they rape.

We looked to the seasons as metaphor for our lives. The cycles of the seasons echoed the natural order of life. Spring reflected our callow youth, and Summer mirrored the fullness of being an adult. We understood that the fall indicated a slowing of days, and winter … dark, cold, unforgiving winter … symbolized a time of aging, and eventual death. The days have the same length, but there are fewer of them.

When the natural order of the seasons is displaced, when you can no longer count on April showers bringing May flowers, our human minds have difficulty grasping that which we’ve always taken for granted – the flow of time reflected in our environment.

The impact of climate change doesn’t end with the physical damage that’s being inflicted on the world. Now, those who study our psyches are beginning to see a change in how humans respond emotionally to the trauma and shock of weather events. Even if we try to avoid focusing on the earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and landslides which now occur more frequently, our minds are aware of these catastrophes, and our ability to absorb these disasters is lessened. Our empathy is impacted, leading to a rationalization of isolation, and of a need to protect what we have from those displaced by events beyond their control.

We are, in effect, living in a state of post traumatic stress and shock. Some might feel a low grade sense of depression and anxiety, while others, perhaps more sensitive to this imbalance, may have behavioural issues, ranging from substance abuse, to interpersonal and job-related difficulties. Other symptoms can include a heightening of violence and aggression towards others. It is no accident that the rate of suicide has risen in the last decade, as some decide that there’s simply no reason to carry on, in a world so out of balance.

Climate change on our planet will eventually impact every one of us, wherever we live. In recent studies (Bryant et al., 2014,) (Simpson et al., 2011,) it was noted that,
Changes in climate affect agriculture, infrastructure and liveability, which in turn affect occupations and quality of life and can force people to migrate. These effects may lead to loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear  and fatalism.

Extreme temperatures in their own right have a unique influence on behavior and wellbeing. As research by Craig Anderson (2001) and Simister & Cooper (2005) has shown, aggression increases as temperatures rise. Thus as summers get hotter, so might our tempers — likely due, the researchers explain, “to the impacts of heat on arousal, which results in decreases in attention and self-regulation, as well as an increase in the availability of negative and hostile thoughts.” Heat can also impact our ability to think clearly, they add, “which may reduce the ability to resolve a conflict without violence (Pilcher, Nadler, & Busch, 2002).” Higher temperatures have also been found in other research to increase the risk of suicide (Lee et al., 2006).

ecoanxiety
Add to this mounting fear and anxiety derived from watching the world around us change in irreversible ways — coupled with the helplessness of feeling as if we cannot stop or reverse global warming— and you have another effect of climate change on mental health:

“Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010),” the authors write. “Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).”

While it may be expedient and profitable for climate change deniers to continue on the path to ecological destruction, those who deny what is happening to their own psyches are impeding any kind of healing for the rest of us.  Seasons change, and we must change with them. But more gently.