Whose Rights Are They Anyway?


by Roxanne Tellier

The east end of Toronto has always been an interesting mix of peoples. Heavily treed and with many well tended parks, it’s a beautiful area, diverse and dynamic. 

As real estate mania crested, beginning in the ‘80s, the traditional division of what was considered the highly priced Beach kept moving northward from the original Queen Street East designator. I’ve seen homes above Gerrard and just below the Danforth being called “Upper Beach” housing. Madness. Big Money.

The homes, be they bungalows, duplexes, or single dwelling two- and three-story homes, have soared in value. Finding anything for sale for less than $1 million and a half is pretty much like a unicorn sighting. A tiny bungalow across the street from our rental bungalow was listed last year for about $699,000. It was snapped up within a week for a million more than list price.

The tenants of these homes are now a mixture of the original owners, and the new owners, those who can afford to buy into these lovely streets. And that can cause some interesting problems, depending on how the residents, both new and old, react to neighbourhood incidents.

Long term EastEnders tend to be old school, a little bit lefty, but very property proud. The newer residents are generally younger, and upwardly mobile. They have to be, in order to afford these prices.

A couple of years ago I noticed a torrent of messages in a page on Facebook that is populated by people living in the Woodbine and Danforth area. It was a lovely summer night. As the sun began to set, someone posted that a man and his son had erected a tent in the center of East Lynn Park, and were blasting tunes quite loudly.  

The poster’s concern was that they had just put their kids to bed, and that the noise was keeping the little ones awake. They also wondered what would prompt someone to treat a city park as a camp ground.

Within moments the chain of messages headed for AbsurdiaLand, as far left proponents speculated on the circumstances, and began a campaign to politicize the event. This was around the time when people were beginning to ‘occupy’ Toronto parks, in protest, and several people assumed that this was the case here.

The sign someone put up on Victoria Park Avenue didn’t last long

Others presumed that this incursion had to do with the man and his son being homeless and indigent; several proposed gathering up food, water, blankets, and other welcoming items for the two.   

Many respondents were angry with those who agreed with the first poster, that this was noise pollution. It soon became apparent that noise was the least of their worries, as comments soon appeared that noted that the boy, and the dog they had with them, were using the kiddie wading pool as a toilet.

And then there was the drink and drugs that were being used – hey, it’s legal now, said some. Others thought that the presence of a child, in a children’s park, indicated that this was not the right place in which to indulge such habits.

Hundreds of belligerent, and of escalating emotional messages later, the Battle of East Lynn Park concluded when it was discovered that the man and his son had rolled up their tent and left. The war of words had been fought in a flurry of suppositions and assumptions, because, as it turned out, the man and his son were simply nearby residents who had decided to play camp that night.

But following that evening’s arguments, many long-time neighbours began a cold war of resentment against each other’s political views.  

During the pandemic, something similar happened with the arrival of ‘porch pirates.’ While most people who had their deliveries of groceries or Amazon goodies pinched were justifiably angry and disturbed when things they ordered were stolen,  there was a very loud faction of residents in the East End who felt that exceptions must be made for people who might be stealing those items due to financial misfortune, or psychological impairment.  

One woman wailed that her delivery of groceries had been stolen off her porch in the time between when she’d received a phone call announcing it’s delivery, and her walk from her kitchen to her porch. No sympathy was extended to her, however, by those who felt that the groceries might have been righteously purloined by people financially inconvenienced, who might need that food more than she, a resident in a well-to-do neighbourhood, could ever be expected to understand.

No matter how egregious the actions, there was always a noisy faction that could find every conceivable excuse for the thieves, excuses that absolved the crimes, and placed the onus on the innocents who merely expected to receive the things they’d bought and paid for, in a time when many were afraid to leave their homes and mingle with the great unmasked.

As we near Halloween and the holiday season, people are starting to worry about teens looking to pull pranks on neighbours. Some pranks are relatively harmless, while others can be considered vandalism and malicious. We can’t write off the fears and damage done to residents and property by kids enjoying themselves by absolving the perpetrators, and blaming the victims for having the temerity to own homes in a desirable neighbourhood.

There have been incidents along Queen Street East, and into the Beach area, throughout the pandemic. There have been unsupervised bonfires, dogs being sicced on baby foxes, and reports of roving gangs of teens damaging property along the main street. In one well publicized incident, a rave up devolved into horror when a partygoer began running through the Leslie Spit, threatening people with a chainsaw.

Toronto police have not been very responsive, and can rarely be bothered to respond in a timely manner to residents requests for help. Add to that the far-left voices that seek to absolve the kids of their crimes, and who, remembering their own halcyon days of the toilet papering of neighbours and other minor acts of vandalism, chuckle that ‘it’s just kids!” and ‘boys will be boys!

Small comfort when it’s your porch that’s been trashed, your garden that reeks of urine, and your job to clean up the mess left behind by the youthful marauders.    

Now, here’s the thing. The demographics of the vocal minority of the left are surprisingly similar to that of the right; as a rule, those speaking in defense of minorities, the poor, and the disenfranchised are actually the better educated, wealthier people, in two-parent households. Couples who wait to have kids and buy homes tend to have higher incomes and better social mobility, and that can make them more attuned to the real or perceived lack of funds and rights of people struggling with less.

But that attunement can pitch them into a battle against the people on the right who feel no such empathy towards those who have, for financial, physical, or emotional reasons, eschewed the traditional paths of a family friendly agenda.

And it’s definitely causing huge divides, even between the centre left and the left, and that’s a battle that can lead to some pretty severe consequences politically, in time. While it’s currently more visible in the States, where the centre left leaning Democrats are battling with their own party’s far-left leaning members, to the detriment of the nation, we’re daily creating our own smaller divisions that are sending milder, less vocal, small and capital L liberals to the ‘other side.’

When people act in extreme ways, when we see the hysterics of the far right or the far left, we can easily see how off-putting this is to those whose beliefs and needs lie straight down the middle. What we often fail to see is that this can lead to the actual, less vocal, majority moving towards the conservative right, which has traditionally been the home of the politically conservative, veering towards regressive, voters.

That’s what’s happening to the Democratic party in the States right now. On the far left, the vocal majority is imperilling the good that could come from the Build Back Better Act by emphasizing tactics and ideology that repel the centre left. Centrists in the party believe that some of the demands of the younger, more progressive members leave them open to attacks from the Republicans, who will use the more ‘out there’ demands to paint the entire Democratic party as radical socialists, all of whom want nothing more than to enact far-left positions like late term abortions and defunding the police.

Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema, far to the right of centrism at the best of times, are able to ride that position in their own states to justify denying important infrastructure projects, on the grounds that their conservative viewpoints can’t accept using funds to help with college tuitions, childcare, senior care, and major action on climate change. Their decisions to deny funding anything they disagree with, will effectively kill any likelihood that all Americans will be able to profit from the use of their own tax dollars to improve their lives, when the Act has been ripped to shreds to satisfy the outliers, both on the left and the right of centre.

That’s what happens when we give extremism too much free reign. Many of us have solid opinions, and have strongly held views about our society and our neighbours, and that’s our right. What we don’t have the right to do is to quash other people’s opinions and views. In a civilized society, in a democracy, we all have rights, and the key to keeping things moving forward is balancing the right and the left, so that neither side is given too much sway in how we live our daily lives.

The place to start, where we begin to work together rather than to tear each other apart, is right in our own neighbourhoods.   

Having empathy and understanding means being able to hold two thoughts in one’s mind simultaneously. We need to be able to look at acts that threaten our values and rights in a balanced fashion. This means that those who commit crimes, regardless of the motivation, need to be held responsible for their actions. If their actions were compelled by socio-economic or psychological problems, their actions still endangered, or damaged property owned by another person, and there needs to be some justice done to mitigate that crime. We can talk about how we can help that bad actor to change their life path AFTER we address the damage that they have done to our society through their bad actions. No one is entitled to ‘more justice’ than the next person. Justice demands balance.

Can we really be living in a time when we’re addressing issues like the #MeToo movement, but simultaneously saying “Kids will be Kids… Boys will be Boys” and allowing them to engage in destructive and bullying patterns that will transition with them from childhood to adulthood?

Children who are indulged when they engage in pranking, bullying neighbours, or hurting animals are just kids in training for a future where they believe that bullying women, children, minorities and animals are fair game.   

It may be difficult to look at the young, shining face of a child or teen and find them guilty of harming others by what seems to be mere childish pranks, but for every kid that gleefully ran up to a door and rang the bell at midnight, there’s an adult who has spent hours finally getting a child to sleep; a senior suffering from a painful illness who just found a comfy spot in their bed; a beloved pet jolted from rest and into defensive mode at a sound in the night.

We shape our future society by what we teach our kids, and how we encourage them to engage with others. If we teach them to respect the needs, values and rights of others, we get a society we all enjoy. But if we allow our children and each other to selfishly demand that our rights and needs be given precedence over that of others, we choose a path of anger and chaos, and a society where we run the chance of people in positions of power taking away our rights, since we clearly aren’t able to handle them for ourselves.

The Long Strange Trip Continues


by Roxanne Tellier

If you had told me, twenty years ago, that this last decade would be one of the most terrifying/interesting/instructive/growth inducing periods of my entire life to date, I’d have laughed uproariously, and then kicked you out of the room. 

And yet – here we are. Whether you have been glued to media – either social or terrestrial – or have simply been putting one foot in front of the other for the last ten years, you’ve been buffeted by the winds of change like never before.  Or perhaps, like we’ve not seen since the sixties.

If you were around when the ‘youthquake’ hit in 1964, you’ll remember the ripples that spread mere hours after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night television show. Overnight, what had come before was overturned, and those that weren’t ‘hip’ to what they’d seen took out their shovels and began digging the Generation Gap that would divide the world into those that ‘got it’ and those who would try and hold back the tsunami of change.  

The Generation Gap

As Michael Nesmith put it in his terrific autobiography, Infinite Tuesday:

“It was unthinkable to everyone who had just fought World War II that the music, the fashions, the designs, the whole cultural imperative of the victorious warriors would be torn down by their kids as if it were ugly curtains in the den. Armed with originality and intention, the youth of America would take off their clothes, ties them in knots, and toss them into vats of dye with all the colours of the rainbow, then got skinny-dipping and make love while high on grass and LSD. Put any four in a room and they would start bands like the Grateful Dead. The generation gap was deep enough that one could die from falling into it.

The early rock and roll of the 1950s was subsumed and transformed by the rock and roll of the 1960s. How could this be? I asked a friend of mine at the time why he thought the Beatles had affected such a profound changed. He answered in one word: hair. It was a flip remark, but probably truer than either of us know. It shows how little anyone understood what had taken over.

Many said it was the music.  Many said it was the new drugs. Many said it was the new art. Many said it was television. Most said it was all of the above. Certainly, these forces all came together to create The Monkees.”

Something similar, though not nearly as edifying, happened in the mid 2010s. While the catalyst may have been Trump, the move towards a more militaristic society with autocratic governance in the United States had been creeping forward since Americans had had the audacity to elect a black man to the presidency, not once, but twice.

Someone was going to have to pay for that overturning of American history. Trump just came along at exactly the right time to push the already ripe for discontent, economically frustrated, closeted racists into joining a new cult revolving around his personality, that he would attempt to turn into a dictatorship within four years.

In 2016, Robert Kagan of the Washington Post, wrote:

What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger.

….              What he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the ‘mobocracy.”

Where the Beatles had had magnificent hair, trump had an orange swirled haystack, but his trademark MAGA hats would hide his, and his aging supporters, lack of hirsute elegance. The Beatles brought laughter and intelligence to their interviews; from the beginning, trump’s interviews were laden with malapropisms, garbled slogans, and word salad. The Beatles wanted everyone to love everyone; trump brought the hate, channelling all of his supporters economic and political anxiety into a burning hatred of anyone that didn’t look and think exactly like he and his fan club did.

A broken mirror image, but with nearly the same outcome. Trump had a huge effect on society, but other factors were in play as well.

Prior to 2010, cell phones were gaining in importance, but by 2019, only about 4% of the population did not own a phone.  

Cell phones changed more than how we communicated with each other; they changed how people dated, as online dating became the primary way to meet a new partner. Apps that automated your cell phone made the remote control of your home’s lighting, media and security became common place.

The improvements made to those phones also allowed other societal changes; while MTV had first launched new musical acts, now it was YouTube and Vine that propelled the viral videos that made new stars overnight. YouTube and a profusion of specialty channels, also viewable on your phone, led many to ‘cut the cord’ and abandon their terrestrial TV and cable usage.

So much has changed, and yet we’ve barely noticed, as we have become more dependent on our social media, “Pictures, or it didn’t happen;” our new reliance on rebooted dramas or cartoon superheroes to populate our movie screens; a wide acceptance of the once verboten, but now legalized pot in our homes, and the growth of services like Uber Eats to call on when the munchies attack.  

Canada legalized same sex marriage in 2005, and the United States finally did the same in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that statewide bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. That lead to members of the LGBTQ+ community, along with those that identified as pansexual, transgender, and non-binary to be more comfortable and visible in society.

The rise of the gig economy, along with a relaxing of work constrictions in the white-collar world, lead to a confusing place where would be entrepreneurs learned that working from home or as a contractor for Lyft or Uber meant never actually being ‘off the clock.’ With wi fi, telecommuting, or a ‘side hustle,’ people could work after hours, on weekends, and on their holidays, at least until they finally collapsed from overwork.

And, of course, Facebook morphed into an arm of the right wing, choosing to align with the most contentious of messaging, rewarding all those treasonous ‘likes’ with more exposure, and allowing gangs advocating hate and violence to be exposed to the most viewers possible within the network.

But, saddest of all, we broke politics. Where once it was possible to hope for hands across the aisle on important, national issues, partisan divide on basic issues like race, immigration, social services, and democracy are deeper than ever before. The right thinks the left is insane; the left thinks the right are nuts. You can’t successfully run a country with that kind of animosity.

For every bit of progress gained, there’s been enormous steps back, particularly in the U.S., but also here in Canada, where so many aspire to the same sort of politicking.

To add even more angst to the trump years, the pandemic came into play in 2020 and had a chilling effect on society and the economy. There will be long term consequences to the planet from the ‘pause’, and not just in terms of overall health.

Outbreaks are like black holes; all resources and all expertises are drawn into its maw. While we deal with the problem at hand, other agendas, like education, child survival, and even basic primary healthcare services are interrupted. Kids due for their measles and mumps jabs might fall between the cracks, as might seniors, who typically see their doctors more often as diseases of the elderly progress.

How we work has been forever changed. It’s unlikely big companies will return to leasing large office spaces for their employees to do the things they can do as well, if not better, at home. That will change those large business buildings in the heart of the city; will they remain empty, or be converted to more necessary uses?

Schooling from home has been a double-edged sword. Kids thrive on communicating and getting to know other people. Many kids flee to school for some of their basic needs, like food, and sometimes psychological aid. But for many kids, working from home, at their own speed, has actually enhanced their connections with their families, and allowed the student to learn at their own pace.  

Dealing with a deadly pandemic, while trying to right the economic vehicle is tricky, and not a job for the faint of heart. Watching Biden attempt to deal with all of the current societal ‘fires’ in his nation, while also respecting that ignoring COVID and its impact could destroy all they have worked for, has been a spectacle, rather like watching a world class juggler. The more items he’s given to juggle, the likelier that some will fall. But eventually, all the agendas will be back in his hands and moving smoothly.

I contend this last decade has been the most significant since the 60s. We’ve been forcibly required to acknowledge that inequality is rampant in our societies. It has become clear that those with wealth are the most likely to survive, assuming they take advantage of the healthcare and vaccines available.

We have learned that our essential workers are those most likely to make the least money, and to be the most likely to be exposed to the virus. It’s the people who had to keep working, relying on a daily wage, or those who live in crowded housing, that paid the highest price.

A lot of those minimum wage workers have learned that the small amount of pay they received for doing a necessary work was just not enough to warrant their continued labour or loyalty. Many of those workers used the pandemic down time to gear up for a change of career. It will take a few years for there to be people needy enough to queue up for low paying jobs with little future.

Around the globe, people in third world countries often are without access to clean water and soap, or able to enforce social distancing, and those countries are even less likely to be receiving the vaccines, or care when ill. In the case of forcibly displaced populations, like the Haitians fleeing their politics, or the highly vulnerable East Africans, the pandemic is just on more incredible challenge, which they will experience in overcrowded and under-resourced refugee camps, if they’re lucky enough to find themselves there.  

We have learned that we don’t need to buy so much ‘stuff’, but that it’s often fun to do so anyway. We’ve made trillionaires out of billionaires. We’ve seen some of the world’s wealthiest people push to the head of the vaccine line, and then use their largely untaxed dollars to build rockets meant for joyriding millionaires, but ultimately turned into machinery for the delivery of arms to other nations around the world.

Some parts of the economy were killed, and will never return, just as the once ubiquitous buggy whip companies saw their day come and go.

Now, in September 2021, Kagan returns to the subject of trump, his cult, and fascism, and makes these predictions:

“The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial…

The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests?  Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have…

Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate.”

Trump Rally, Perry, Georgia. September 25, 2021

It’s been an interesting decade … and it ain’t over yet ….

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

ANOTHER 30 Days in the Hole


By Roxanne Tellier

Apparently I learned nothing from my last thirty-day time out from Facebook, since it only took a few months for me to land up in solitary yet again.

I’m Facebook’s Cool Hand Luke, defiant and unrepentant.  

After my first 30 days in Zuckerberg’s version of Nuremburg, I felt a little reluctant to return to my usual activities of curating and opining on the site. After all, like Pavlov’s dogs, I’d learned that there was a sociopath running the place, who claimed to love us, but liked to ‘train’ us by burning our paws whenever we stepped out of line.

Facebook might have kept on ringing that bell, but I no longer salivated on cue.

So, what offense did I commit this time?

In a reply to a Facebook post in the first week of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, I said that it seemed that Russian and Chinese interests were rushing in to fill a political void, sensing a chink in America’s armor. And BOOM!   Facebook’s algorithm kicked in, and decided that I was being politically incorrect, and thus must be ejected from the platform.  (The previous time I was incarcerated was for the sin of quoting Shakespeare during the impeachment trials – “first, kill all the lawyers“.)

(Apparently there was a kerfuffle in 2012 when the sports channel ESPN used the phrase “a chink in the armour,” to refer to a basketball game loss which they blamed on Jeremy Lin, an Asian player for the Knicks. Although the phrase had been used on the channel 3000 times previously, one of the employees responsible for writing the offensive headline was fired in a fluster of political correctness gone mad.)

The expression has been used idiomatically since around 1400 AD to mean ‘a crack or gap,’ but now, PC scholars have rushed to deem the term racist. And Facebook, bless its pointy little head, has decided that their site is too pure a place for racists, since they need all the elbow room they can find to accommodate their domestic terrorists and anti-vaxxers.  

There’s no appeal process on the site. You can say that you disagree with their decision, but all you’ll get in return is a sad face and a request that you honour their unhappy inability to hire enough staff to both censor AND arbitrate, due to COVID-19.  

Desolee, cheri – smell you around. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

A lot of Facebook’s glitter and gloss has rubbed off over the last five or six years. It started with the news that Zuckerberg played footsie with Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that Trump’s 2016 campaign used. Zuckerberg allowed CA, and thus the Donald, to use the private information of about 87 million Facebook profiles without the owners’ permission. Some believe that social media, and most especially Facebook, was the secret to trump’s success in 2016.

Once in power, it seems that Zuck liked trump’s politics, because FB continued to allow his administration and his followers to have free reign on the platform, even as dissenting views were hidden from view, or squashed completely.

Things have gone from bad to worse on the platform. Zuck throws his hands in the air and pretends that the people that he hires to police the site are just not capable of finding every little terrorist, anti-vaxxers, or seditionists looking to hook up with other seditionists to overthrow governments, but they’re right on top of anyone using a politically incorrect word or phrase.

Strangely, that’s not how others see the problem.

“(President) Joe Biden said social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” because of (the spread of COVID disinformation.) The White House has also zeroed in on a clutch of accounts dubbed the “disinformation dozen” – Facebook accounts that have been shown to be responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.

Thursday’s developments came as the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint in federal court to continue pursuing its claims against Facebook, saying the online platform maintains monopoly power. The complaint filed is a partially redacted version, which the FTC has requested must be under seal for 10 days.” 

(The Guardian, August 2021)

It would seem that everyone in any position of social media authority and/or the government knows exactly which people and groups are spreading disinformation, calls for violence against dissenters, and calls to overthrow the government – they just somehow can’t stop them from doing what they wish on social media.

Meanwhile, people like myself, my buddy Michael Scrivener, the American culture writer Jef Rouner, and even long-time social activist Michael Moore, continually find ourselves being sanctioned and banned for less and less worthy reasons.

Gotcha. We’re on “the List.” Just check out my permanent record. 

After spending the last couple of months biting my tongue and looking over my shoulder, commiserating with friends who’ve been banned for days, weeks, or months, I’ve had enough of this nonsense. I am not going to sit in the corner wearing a dunce hat. I’m not a bad person because I’m intelligent, well-read, and can write in full sentences and paragraphs. And I’m sick of fearing Big Brother, or his collaborators, who are always watching and waiting for one’s guard to drop. I can’t keep on hoping that my next comment on someone’s status or comment won’t find me once again condemned to another 30 days of modern-day shunning.

While I’m grateful for the ability to interact with my family and some interesting people I’ve connected with over the years, I’ve finally realized something that Facebook’s executive have not – their version of the site encourages a narrower and narrower segment of the population, and coincidentally, that’s a segment I generally try to avoid having to have contact with. FB doesn’t want smart people or intellectuals .. they want the (m)asses.

And the (m)asses are the people that Facebook loves, because, just like regular media loved trump and his band of cuckoos, the crazies are the drivers of the controversy and anger that makes people come back for more. Rile ‘em up, head ‘em out.

In truth, there’s something kind of creepy and Twilight Zone-ish about frequenting a place “where everybody knows your name,” and where everything you say and do is judged and talked about by other people, many of whom you may not know, nor want to know.

I don’t WANT to spend all of my time angry at the posts put up by people who are, if not clinically insane, certainly chemically adjacent. I don’t want to argue about politics, religion, or today’s news with the sort of loon that is addicted to the dopamine hit they get from the chaos that their misspelt and badly worded opinions cause. I have learned the hard way that there are crazy people out there, and I don’t want them in my home, nor do I want their rantings on my computer monitor.   

It does seem that nearly every Devil’s Advocate and wannabe intellectual on the planet has recently decided that their own versions of reality trump fact and/or science, and I’m done arguing with them. I am OVER it. Unlike Graham Chapman, I didn’t ‘come here for an argument”

Speaking of Monty Python, John Cleese is currently working on a television series that will explore “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said.”

John Cleese: Cancel Me will see the British comedian and actor meet various subjects who claim to have been “cancelled” for their actions or statements, and activists who have led opposition to various public figures.

In a statement, Cleese said: “I’m delighted to have a chance to find out, on camera, about all the aspects of so-called political correctness. There’s so much I really don’t understand, like: how the impeccable idea of ‘Let’s all be kind to people’ has been developed in some cases ad absurdum.”

“[Political correctness] stuff started out as a good idea, which is, ‘Let’s not be mean to people’, and I’m in favour of that despite my age. The main thing is to try to be kind. But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset … I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.

“From the point of creativity, if you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity. The main thing is to realise that words depend on their context. Very literal-minded people think a word is a word but it isn’t.”

 “I want to bring the various reasonings right out in the open so that people can be clearer in their minds what they agree with, what they don’t agree with, and what they still can’t make their mind up about.”  

(The Guardian, August 2021.)

It’ll be another two weeks before Facebook lets me back on to it’s whited sepulchre, but I’m not so sure I’m gonna return. I don’t mind having access to Messenger, to be able to quickly contact the few people left on the site that I actually like, but overall, living in the 1984/Big Brother version of Facebook in 2021 is just not to my taste.

Here’s the thing; Facebook has been around for nearly two decades, since 2004, and that’s forever in social media time. With more than a billion users since February 2012, when Facebook filed to become a public company, Zuckerberg is a billionaire many times over, and he doesn’t need my two cents.

I think it ‘s safe to say that the guy who dropped out of Harvard in his sophomore year is doing more than alright for himself these days

Sooner than later, Facebook will go the way of MySpace and all such fads. The kids left for sexier venues long ago. Most FB users are the middle-aged, and boomers happy to have a free way of keeping in touch with their friends and family.      

Time for a little break, and a step right off that social media treadmill. There’s a whole other world out there, but you’ll only see it if you lift your eyes off the screen.

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.”

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!

Freebies and Freecycles


by Roxanne Tellier

The hardest part of starting something – is starting something.

In 2003, Deron Beal was 39 years old, and working in Tucson, Arizona for a non-profit group that combined recycling with job training. Beal couldn’t stand to see good, usable items in his neighbourhood being thrown away on garbage day, and he began rescuing things that would have otherwise only added to the mass in the ever-growing city dumps and landfills. 

But soon he’d accumulated a warehouse of furniture, computer parts, and other items that, while not recyclable, were still useable, and were often items in demand by other non-profits. He’d drive around to drop off donations, but the pile was getting higher, and the work became too much for one person.

That’s when Beal got the idea of setting up a group on the Yahoo network, dedicated to the sharing of items that might otherwise be scrapped.  He began by emailing a few of the Tucson non-profits and about 30 of his friends, and overnight, The Freecycle Network was launched. Memberships soared from 60 to 800 members within days.

The name came from the idea of ‘free recycling’ – a ‘free cycle’ of giving, with no strings attached.

The beauty of Freecycle is it empowers each of us to make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.”  Deron Beal.

Beal soon set up a national website, bringing in city after city, and it wasn’t very long before the organization stretched world-wide, spreading to over 110 countries, with thousands of local groups within over 5,100 local chapters, and millions of members, to ultimately become a huge philanthropic system, almost entirely staffed by like-minded volunteers.

Membership is completely free. The only rule is that everything posted on the website must be completely free, legal, and appropriate for everyone, regardless of their age.  

Joining the global system couldn’t be easier; simply visit www.freecycle.org, find your local group, and click ‘join.’ One of the worldwide volunteers will then send you instructions on how to use the network.

On any given day, about 32,000 items are offered or requested, and there is no telling exactly what you might find on the list. Textbooks, furniture, plants, cat trees – in the years that I’ve been a member, I’ve seen everything from a broken kettle to a limousine and a house boat being offered.  

Picked up in April 2021

I’ve been an avid freecycler since March of 2006. One of the first items I received was a bar fridge, and I kept that until just a few years ago, when I passed it on to a friend whose fridge had broken.

Wandering thru my Freecycle email folder is like a trip down memory lane, as I note all the items, big and small, I’ve received or donated in the last 15 years.

When we lived in Scarborough, I usually ttc’ed to wherever I needed to be to pick up the goodies. I’ll never forget struggling home from Woodbine and Queen with an enormous, queen sized magnet mattress pad. Took me hours, by bus, subway, and GO train. Thankfully it was in November; I’d never have survived the trip in the summer.

I once ttc’ed all the way to Jane and Steeles to pick up some used medical supplies that we needed as props for a film we worked on. In 2016, Shawn and I somehow wrestled a treadmill into our van, and we’ve been wrestling with it ever since. It’s living in the shed these days.

A new treasure – just freecycled this week!

In 2018 I needed a cane after sustaining a back injury. I’d hardly typed in the request before a senior care group was organizing to bring one to my home that very evening, and asking if there were any other items I might need, or help they could give.

I’ve been gifted so many items, and I’ve donated just as many through the years. Early on, I was happy to clear out excess plants and gardening utensils, outgrown clothing, unused cosmetics and hair products, and out of date computer parts. After breaking my ankle twice, I decided it was time to dispose of my stage stilettos – it just broke my heart to see them go. Particularly when one of the people who’d requested his pick of the fancy shoes and boots arrived in a Mercedes Benz, wearing a $600 business suit, and announced he wanted something pretty for his wife. I just hoped my used footwear wasn’t earmarked for her Mother’s Day present.

More recently, I saw how hard the city has been hit by the pandemic. I offered up a couple of bags of ‘gently’ expired food items after purging my pantry, and was flooded with requests for the food. I finally wound up splitting the goodies (and adding a bunch more, freshly purchased treats) between two families who were happy to have the foodstuff.  

I’ve always had an intimate awareness of economic inequality. I came from a family that, by today’s standards, would be considered extremely poor. We were often ‘food insecure,’ but my mother made sure we were never short of love. 

I grew up hypervigilant, ever aware of how close to the bone we were, financially. It made me determinedly, even doggedly, self-sufficient. I knew, from a very young age, that some people had a lot of good things, while others had less, and that, for the unfortunate few, having food and shelter at the end of the day could revolve around having the luck of finding a chair at the table when the music stopped.

Our city, like so many others, has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has only highlighted the extreme economic inequity we’re soaking in. Our ‘essential workers’ are lucky if they make minimum wage, yet many have either had their hours drastically cut, or lost their jobs completely. The skyrocketing real estate values have exacerbated the already out of control shortage of affordable housing. And while those businesses that were allowed to stay open have raked in billions, by January 2021, more than 200,000 small businesses in Canada had closed their doors forever, and will never reopen.

In the long-term, even band aid solutions to these issues will have to come from governments, but unfortunately, we’re not exactly blessed with capital L Leaders or Leadership at the moment.

And that means that all we can do to help those who need our help is to be aware of the resources, big and small, that concerned people have provided that we can access. 

There’s Freecycle, of course, and also a bunch of similar groups that have sprung up on the internet, including Toronto-ReUseIt (GoogleGroups.com,) FreeTOReuse (yahoo,) TrashNothing.com, and many more that you can find on Google or Facebook.

Toronto has always been a city with a big heart. There are many charitable groups that feed and clothe our homeless and vulnerable, and there are some great social media groups, including Caremongering-TO, that sidestep the usual bureaucracy to get funds and food directly into the hands of the needy.  

There’s also something called the Really Really Free Market that has been on hold during COVID, but is apparently going to be revived soon. They gather on the first Saturday of every month at Campbell Park (Dupont/Lansdowne) and usually attract a good crowd. As they say on their Facebook page:

Basically, it’s a community-space for sharing – where people bring what they have to give, take what they need, and leave the rest. It’s kind of like a potluck, but for goods and services!

How it works:

You can drop stuff off, pick something up, or stick around! This could include both items and services, such as:

-clothes, books, music, furniture, household and kitchen wares, pet supplies

-homemade goods, such as crafts, art, artisan goods, and baked goods (don’t forget to list the ingredients!)

-services, such as haircuts, yoga classes, music/dance lessons, massage, or gardening help.

All unclaimed items will be donated at the end of the day.”

Really Really Free Market, Toronto

Every little bit that we do to help others counts. I found out recently that there are a few people who are still making face (COVID) masks, and leaving them outside to be taken by anyone who needs or wants a face covering.

I just love the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up in cities and towns across North America in the last few years. There’s about a dozen within crawling distance of me, and they get my full support.  (LittleFreeLibrary.org)

Many have diversified as needed, now carrying CDs, DVDs, and the odd video or audio tape for sharing. A few also allow little luxuries like perfume and hand creams to be shared.     

Some of those Little Libraries have morphed into Little Free Pantries during the pandemic. There’s at least two near me, one just above Kingston Road, on Hunt Club, and another just north of Danforth Avenue, at Woodbine. There people can share non-perishables, and get information on how to get help with their food and shelter needs. Every little bit helps.

There are eight places to leave books and other items in my immediate area, including a small box for food donations at a local church. Yesterday I headed out for my afternoon walkabout with a can of Spam, a can of corned beef, three tins of Mandarin oranges, 6 DVDs, an expensive shampoo and conditioner set I hadn’t liked, a small container of Estee Lauder’s “Pleasure’ body lotion, a couple of still sealed lipsticks, some hair clips, and of course, a half dozen books, and made the rounds of these drop off points. While on the way, I twice spotted boxes of books on the curb, and added those to my stash for distribution. Sharing these items is a great way to do a little something for others, without feeling any kind of deprivation of one’s own.

Just as with the spirit of Freecycling,  “each of us can make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.”

All we have to do is the hardest part … and start. 

30 Days in the Hole


by Roxanne Tellier

 A little over a week ago, I was browsing through some posts on a Facebook group page. Some of the comments were interesting, but there was one peculiar troll who was obviously looking for a fight, strewing crazy conspiracy theories along the thread like poisoned bread crumbs.

He was adamant that the planet is just 5000 years old, that masks are murder, and that there is no virus. I should have simply let him rave, but I took the bait, and foolishly put a few site links in the post. The barrage of insults began. “You need to get your old crust ass moving alone down your pathetic life and go suck your buttons dick maybe he will give you a cabinet job.” “You’re a diaper wearing stupid idiot.” And then … “You seem to be the one reporting me like the crybaby you are.”

I said that I wondered what it felt like to walk around with a big L on one’s forehead – and then the penny dropped. He’d reported me for bullying.

And I was about to get … 30 days in the hole.

Thirty days, because suspension days are compounded by multiple offenses. Two months ago, in a conversation with a friend about trump lawyer, Sidney Powell, who had defended her seditious remarks about the ‘stolen’ election by saying that no reasonable person would believe her lies, I quoted Shakespeare’s “First, kill all the lawyers.”

And got a week in solitary for the offense of not following community standards.

There IS an appeal process, but Facebook also explains, ad nauseum, that their moderators are far too busy, because of the pandemic, to handle all the requests for justice. Also, regardless of whether your appeal is granted or even acknowledged, and the offense pardoned or not, your Facebook history is still stained by the charge. Each successive charge escalates the amount of time the user is suspended from the services of Facebook.

Collect ’em all!

At some point, and I honestly don’t know when, but it was definitely after Mark Zuckerberg snowed – sorry, I mean ‘spoke’ to Congress last year, and defended Facebook’s business practices concerning the spread of false information, the call went out to the site’s internal censors and security guards already in place; it was time to get tough.

Well, not with their advertisers, or the people they wanted to see re-elected. Those people were sacrosanct.

But the average user, those who may have snickered at some anti-establishment cartoons, or ‘shared’ a photo of a nursing mother … those people were now firmly in Facebook’s crosshairs.

And just like with the ‘real’ police, or the IRS, there would be a tightening of restrictions, and hundreds of charges and sanctions imposed – on the lowest hanging fruit. Facebook would not be going after the trolls, the rabble rousers, the political parties, or the criminals. They were after your mother and grandmother. By not targeting the protected Big Fish, and instead scooping up all the little fishies in their net, the site censors could soon point, with truth, to large numbers of people and offenses that had been tagged, suspended, or deleted, with almost no blowback on themselves.

Nearly every one I know has a story of getting sidelined for 24 hours or more for silly offenses, even for sharing a photo they posted as far back as nine years previous. The fallout from Zuck’s Congressional appearance included instituting new filters that searched back, apparently through the entire history of the site, for certain key words or triggers to purge.  

(Filters have been around since the early days of bulletin board systems – it’s Internet 101 stuff that could have, and should have, been woven into the fabric of Facebook’s social messaging from its debut.)

If you notice the three little dots to the right of posts on Facebook, you’ll find, way down at the bottom of the options, this choice.  

“Find support or report post.”  

By adding this option, the site also added the ability for internal policing of it’s users by other users. Anyone with a grudge against another user, or a wish to silence others, could simply report a message as harassment or bullying. Since the definition of bullying is pretty loosie goosy, the mere act of reporting immediately defines the words as being aggressive in the reporter’s opinion. And if someone decided that everything you said offended them, they could bombard you with accusations that would keep you off the platform for months on end.

Very Big Brother of them.

Back in 2015, Jon Ronson published So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, a book that explained what to do if you got ‘caught’ doing something frowned upon in polite society. At the time, the odds of being someone caught in an international scandal seemed about as likely as winning a lottery.

But in truth, as we’ve seen in the last several years, ‘the internet is forever,’ and things we say or do under current circumstances, or in our past, may find re-entry into our future, by chance or by malice.

Magazines like Forbes, that focus on career mobility, have been warning for ages about how easy it is to get tripped up by our past posts.  Your online presence can be a negative, and wreak havoc on your professional life. Online posts can flare up into huge news, Twitter feuds can call attention to faux pas moments, and corporations can find themselves in the middle of a social media disaster, brought about by those with a talent for internet deep diving.

If you happen to be in the middle of a life change, job searching, or just looking to move on with your life, you may want to take a sandblaster to your social media, to get your profiles squeaky clean.

Luckily, there are some apps out there to do just that. You can find info on SimpleWash right on Facebook. SimpleWash purports to be able to scrub your Facebook and/or Twitter content squeaky clean, by scanning all of the content on your Facebook profile – including comments by other people on photos or posts – to locate key words you may want removed. The app will flag things like allusions to drugs, alcohol, profanities, even negative comments you may have made about a company you’re targeting for a job interview.   

I’m sure there are similar apps available for every computer platform – keeping your social media profile bland and clean is necessary to secure employment in many professions.

So what exactly can you do, if you need to do a little damage control on your social media brand?

First off, you might want to check on just who can see your posts, tweets or photos. If you wake up the morning after the night before to discover photographic proof of your indiscretions, you’ll want to get an idea of exactly how viral that message or tweet has become. What pops up in our news feeds is largely determined by those with whom we engage the most. If you haven’t interacted with many of your work friends in the last few months, it’s unlikely they’d come across your post. However, you may never know who all saw the ‘evidence’ unless it’s been liked, shared or has been commented upon.

While the Internet IS forever, delete the offending post or photo as soon as possible. If you are social media friends with others who were in on the ‘crime,’ check their accounts for incriminating posts or photos, and ask them to delete or untag your presence. If what you’ve done is really egregious, you may want to delete your entire account, and start over anew. But if someone has taken a screen shot of your offense, even account deletion may not really scrub off the stain.

If that’s the case, and you’re found out, there’s only one thing left to do. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for any office gossip that might allude to your errors, and then apologize to anyone who is offended by your post. Take full responsibility for your actions (WITHOUT using the expression, “If I offended someone … “) and assure your friends and/or work superiors that you intend to use better judgment in the future.   

Life will go on, even though it might be uncomfortable for a while. You’ll be looking over your shoulder for a bit, and you’ll find yourself self-censoring more than you might have in the past, but life will go on, and you’ll soon find yourself back in your normal swing of posting your thoughts to your friends and followers, sadder but wiser for the experience.

Personal security experts always advise that it’s best to be aware of your privacy settings on your social media accounts, and monitor what’s posted on your pages to prevent unwanted retweets or shares.

If you’re intent on turning over a new social leaf, it might also be wise to comb through your past posts to monitor for things that could smudge your social brand. Delete those duck-faced selfies, along with any nasty comments you may have made about others, after a couple of bevvies. Nobody needs to be reminded that they can go all Mean Girl after a hard day and a few adult beverages.

 And lastly – and this may seem weird, but you just never know – Google yourself on a regular basis. Even if you’ve never been the subject of a newspaper article, or had a Wiki page dedicated to you, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for false or unflattering comments you might find attached to your name.

We are all works in process. Our society is a work in progress. Social Media is both a blessing and a curse, allowing us to connect to each other for good – or for ill.

Post wisely. All the Big Brothers are watching.

Nighttime in America


The American Dream is OVER. It’s nighttime in America.

If Biden was running for the ‘soul of America,’ he was too late. It had already been sold to the Devil. And its apprentice, trump, along with his squad of overweight, wannabe SS, has now emerged, crueler, more sadistic, and more vengeful than ever, whether, in the end, he wins or loses. 

I write this, around noon on November 4th, trump and Biden are basically neck and neck in terms of votes. The Senate is about the same, so no clear winner there either. Biden has been sitting at 223 Electoral College points, and trump at 213, since I first checked in, around 5 a.m. At this point, either man could be declared the winner. But whomever wins, whether with 50.1% or 51% of the votes, it is America that is the loser. Because a country that split, that cleaved so cleanly, cannot hold. And a Senate that split, cannot pass any measures to help a country that is hurting badly.

In 2016, the world was shocked at what America chose, but we could still pretend that this was somehow a mistake. Good people looked at those who struggled economically, and, based on the violence, racism and inequity of American society,  said, “well, maybe they had to do it, had to pray there could be a different way. They put their trust in a con man, but, really — how bad could it get?”  

And then, for four years, we found out. Boy, could it be bad. So bad, that parts of the nation now look like a third world nation, as tens of millions have been plunged into poverty and homelessness; immigrants, refugees … children! … have been treated with a sadistic cruelty not seen since Hitler’s camps;  230,000 Americans are dead from what should have been a preventable public health crisis; the environmental clock has been turned back to before anyone cared about clear air or water; peaceful protestors are routinely met with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and there’s no hope in petitioning the court, because McConnell and co. loaded up every court, right up to the Supreme one, and it’s all tilted in their favour, and their favour means you are going to lose the last of your health care AND your social security.

And yet half of America, knowing this, decided they want four more .. no, it being trump… forever more years of this. And worse.

We now know the truth about that half of America; they not only chose that all of that evil continue; they ran towards it with open arms and embraced it, with all of the strength in their bodies.

It’s a travesty. Even before mail-in votes are counted, trump has racked up two million MORE votes than he got in 2016. There were more votes cast for Joe Biden as president than in any other election in American history. And yet – there still isn’t a clear winner.

The Dems wanted and needed a landslide, a total repudiation of the evil that the trump administration has perpetrated, but that didn’t happen.

But the polls! The polls! I mean, most of us were suffering from PTSD from believing the 2016 polls, but come on! How could the polls have been THIS wrong again, in 2020 …? All the experts swore that they’d gotten all the bugs out, and that this time – FOR SURE Were the polls that wrong? Were people lying to pollsters? How did the Democrat message get so garbled.

And here we are.

Trump will not concede; he will never concede. Predictably, at 2:21 a.m., in the wee hours of November 4. trump attempted to falsely claim victory, saying that it was a “fraud on the American public,” and “an embarrassment to our country” that he hasn’t been able to fully celebrate his win properly. 

Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said, while also suggesting he would take legal action to keep further ballots from being counted, insinuating that Democrats were committing fraud as key states continued to count hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots.

“Millions and millions of people voted for us today,” he said, “and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won’t stand for it.”

As expected, trump will be petitioning the Supreme Court for a stop to the counting of the remaining ballots, again insisting that the remaining ballots, which number about 25 million from mail ins and the military, are somehow illegal.   

“We’ll be going to the US Supreme Court; we want all voting to stop, we don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”

So how to explain this mess? Racism? But Obama won twice, and with a majority, so racism might not quite be the issue. Could it be misogyny? A vote for Biden, at 78, almost guarantees that at some point, you might have a black FEMALE president. Trump spent a lot of time hinting that Biden was too fragile to survive, even claiming that Joe Biden would be “shot” within three weeks of taking office.  (While he meant ‘shot’ in the sense of exhaustion, he had no problem with the more violent connotation so many of his supporters hoped he was insinuating.) 

Trump also told his supporters that they would never have to see Kamala Harris as president in Biden’s place.  

“People don’t like her,” the president said at a rally in North Carolina, recounting her falling poll numbers on the Democratic primary trail. “Nobody likes her. She could never be the first woman president. She could never be. That would be an insult to our country.” (ABC News)

And recently, he went even further, when he told his supporters at the retirement community, The Villages, in Florida, “We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially a female socialist president.”

And here we are.

In the Senate, despite the $100 million spent in South Carolina on Jaime Harrison’s campaign against Lindsey Graham, Graham won 55% to 43.7%. Mitch McConnell beat Amy McGrath, 58.2% to 37.8%. Even Joni Ernst won her race, which no one could have envisioned. And Maine’s Susan Collins, believe it or not, will hang around to continue playing her Lucy to the Democrats Charlie Brown for another six long and dithering years.   

I’m numb. My head is splitting, and my ears are ringing. The TV is blaring CNN updates, while MSNBC keeps me informed on the computer. But the numbers are unchanging, no matter how much attention I pay to them.

Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele reminds us that, “Democratic Americans still don’t understand what Donald Trump represents, and that it’s what 50% of Americans want.”

Joy Reid (MSNBC’s AM Joy): “I just wonder what all of this says about us. I think it raises real questions about what America is, at the end of the day, and whether what trump is, is more like what the American character is, than people ever wanted to admit.”

Randy Rainbow tweeted, “Woke up with a hangover in a stranger’s bed. But the stranger was America. “

And the comments pour in. On Facebook,I feel like I was lied to my whole childhood. I was so proud to be an American, that we are the greatest country in the world. Now I see America for what it is – a bunch of horrible, selfish, stupid people who are unAmerican run the country. And the rest of us are screwed pawns.”

From Richard Kay,To all the people I talked to previously about the extent of Trump-supporting rednecks, Christian fundamentalists, gun-crazy yahoos in the USA, and those people I was talking to, who replied, “oh, they’re only a small % of the country; the majority of citizens are good people.”  Well, here’s proof you were wrong.”

From Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station, “It’s not over, of course, and Biden may indeed yet win. But even if that happens, it’s pretty obvious that at least half of our country would have been those Germans who embraced the Nazis. It’s about what I figured.”

Gary LeDrew:It is looking like about 4 years before we can open the border. Not much hope for the world and mega deaths for USA “

From Daniel C. Castellano: “After all that has happened. After all that they have seen. Still, they say, “Yup, that’s my guy.” 67 MILLION people. They are despicable. Every last one of them. If one of them is a friend or relative of yours, I’m sorry. But they are awful, awful people. Every. One. Of. Them.

Wayne Baggs: “Many believe one gets what they deserve. The beginning of the end. Goodbye health care, social security, public schools, right to choose, balanced courts. I love watching train wrecks. They wanted the GOP; they got the GOP. Let the shit show begin. The cowards were only getting started.”

David Corn, (Mother Jones): “Close to half of the American electorate voted for a man who just declared he would try to block election results and undermine American democracy to remain in power.”

Annie G. Robinson:It’s like a family in our neighbourhood was accused of committing murder. We then determined that only a few family members were guilty, and the rest were innocent. Now we’ve discovered that the guilty family members are actually serial killers, and are acting proud of it, sticking their middle fingers in our faces. And a few that we thought were innocent are guilty also. The truly innocent ones are shocked and heartbroken, and now they, too, are under threat. That’s the way I feel about the US this morning.”

Glenn Morgan: What I DON’T look forward to … is the DOUBLING DOWN of HERR TRUMP’s denigration of the Free Press… he will now try to CRUSH DISSENT of journalists such as CNN & MSNBC, and truly try to DOMINATE the airwaves and Social Media with his insane blather.”

Peter Winholt: “Whoever wins, the loser is America. They have chosen, by close to the same margin as last election, to embrace the values that Trump has shamelessly flaunted in the campaign. The only difference now will be in which direction the U.S. is facing going forward. Where they are standing is in the middle of an Idiocracy, having chosen Q-Anon over science, lies over truth, and sociopathy over empathy.”

Michael Moore: “Sadly, as to why our fellow Americans did not repudiate Trump yesterday in a massive way, as to why nearly 70 million Americans still embrace a bigot and a psychopath — well, we must have that discussion soon as to who we REALLY are. Shameful. Apologies to our Black brothers and sisters, and apologies to the rest of the world.”

Shameful indeed.

But here we are ….

To be continued ….

Surviving a Plague


Hey! Did you ‘fall back’ this morning? Remind me why we’re still doing this antiquated clock juggling in 2020. It makes no sense to me. The wild critters milling about on my lawn, without a manufactured care in the world, still wanted to be fed when the sun came up, no matter what time you wanna call it.

Germany’s Madame Tussaud Dumps Trump

I’m as full of election hysteria as a goose pre-pate – I’m about ready to burst.  We’re now three days before “the most important election of our time!” as it’s being called.

Get a grip, says I; all that’s on the line is democracy, human rights, and the fate of the planet, for pete’s sake.  

Since I was a very lone dissenter in 2016 (I actually DID foresee trump winning) I hesitate to share my gut sense of what will happen with the 2020 election. While it looks like trump and his supporters are panicking over Biden’s lead in the polls, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as the proverb says. I won’t release this breath I’m holding until I see Biden taking the presidential oath on the Bible in January.

So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the global pandemic that has been our faithful companion since (depending on your country and inclination) February or March of 2020.  

Toronto’s Dundas Square, April 2020

What lessons have we learned, having lived through these ‘interesting times’ with which we have been cursed?

Like a divorce or a bankruptcy, it started out slow, and then happened all at once. One day you were going about your business like always – the next you were living under COVID, lining up for everything, and wondering where your next roll of toilet paper was gonna come from.

I think history will show that one of the biggest mistakes our governments made in handling the COVID-19 crisis was in making it political. Politics should never have had anything to do with how governments dealt with citizens; it is and has always been a universal public health care issue. Care and prevention have to be non-partisan, since this virus disregards our voting patterns, and is only manageable by health care experts.

With that in mind, it should never have become a left- or right-wing talking point, or something that the average citizen, bereft of scientific credentials, should have been attempting to deal with on a personal basis. A virus is not personal – it’s only purpose and goal are to infect humans. Like every other infectious disease, there are scientific ways to protect against infections, and then there are pseudo scientific, con man, weasel ways to pretend that we can magic them away.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett/Shutterstock (10410768a) Spanish Flu Epidemic 1918-1919 in America. TO PREVENT INFLUENZA, a Red Cross nurse is pictured with a gauze mask over her nose and mouth. Text next to the image provides tips to prevent influenza. Oct. 18, 1918. From Illustrated Current News, New Haven. Photo by Paul Thompson, NY

In truth, the few real preventative measures remain the same:  

Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face.  Stay home if you can, but if you can’t, keep your distance from others. And wear a mask.

That’s it, that’s all.

America, led by the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius,’ has been pretending that COVID-19 never happened. Or that, if it did, it’s certainly not an issue any longer. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr even told trumpCultists that “the number (of deaths) is almost nothing.

The number of deaths for just that day alone was 1004.

And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.” (Cnn.com)

Trump’s new pet non-expert, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist, has had the president’s ear on how to deal with the Coronavirus issue. He has also usurped the place of actual experts and scientists with years of specific training and expertise of infectious diseases.   

“As a White House advisor, Dr Atlas actually appeared on Russian state media on Saturday and criticized lockdown measures aimed at tackling the virus, saying they were “killing” Americans.

Atlas, a radiologist, spoke to RT, formerly Russia Today, which is funded by the Kremlin and has been accused of being part of organized Russian propaganda, according to the Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.”  (Newsweek.com)

Some might call Dr Atlas’ unprecedented foray into Russian propaganda treason. Nonetheless, he remains one of trump’s (and presumably, Putin‘s) most trusted agents.

Dr Atlas has also been a strong proponent of Sweden’s position on Coronavirus policy.

Sweden decided to go its own way, with so called ‘herd immunity,’ and they are now, and will continue for years, to pay for that decision in Swedish deaths.

As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic progressed.” Time Magazine, October 2020

Based on a fair amount of research I’ve done on the concept of herd immunity; most people don’t have a clear understanding of how it works – and that includes actual scientific researchers. It seems that herd immunity is something that can be clinically observed only in hindsight; analysing the data after the fact, maybe from a historical distance of as long as ten years afterwards. That’s really the only way to see what happened, where, and to whom.

Herd immunity is not ‘magic.’  It happens when a virus can’t spread, because people are protected against infection, usually, but not always, by a vaccine. You don’t need everyone to be immune, but you need enough immune people, or people avoiding new infections, to allow the virus to peter out. The term should actually be ‘herd protection,’ because it’s not really about immunity to the virus, it’s about reducing risk to the vulnerable who might come into contact with those who have been infected.

And even in the case of high vaccination pockets, it’s still possible to have local outbreaks, despite having already sacrificed the most vulnerable in a society to the disease.

According to network scientist, Samuel Scarpino, Most of the herd-immunity calculations don’t have anything to say about behaviour at all. They assume there’s no interventions, no behavioural changes or anything like that,” This means that if a transient change in people’s behaviour (such as physical distancing) drives the Rt down, then “as soon as that behaviour goes back to normal, the herd-immunity threshold will change.”

If we accept that there’s no magic pill, no ‘herd immunity’ that will save us, sans maintaining the precautions we’ve been chafing under for the last eight months, then we must somehow learn to make peace with our anxiety. Despite the difficulties of dealing with COVID, worrying about the election, and generally trying to cope with all the chaos of winter nearing, uncertainties, even our own place in the universe, we are only in control when we accept that we are out of control, and experiencing anxiety overload. We’re not going crazy, we’re human. We need to self-soothe – no one else can do that for us.

That really is the size of it. Anxiety overload stresses out our adrenals. We want fight or flight, but who do we fight? and where can we go? When the stress builds up, we are prone to falling into a depression, or to lashing out blindly. Anti maskers, although they know logically that the virus is not to blame, will still strike out blindly, mourning the loss of their usual soft places to fall.

When fight or flight kicks in, the first thing to go is civilization. Kindness and patience become luxuries. Those gentle ministrations that help us through hard times fly out of the window, and may never return.

Another major mistake that governments made, which also plays into our anxiety and feeling of helplessness, was in downplaying the health issues that COVID sufferers went thru from the infection, as well as in not making the population aware of the horrible and lonely death that was in store for those who did not survive. 

A woman named Sonja Mally, a Torontonian tattoo artist, wrote a long description of her nearly eight-month battle with the disease on Facebook. Hundreds have now read about the hell she has gone through. The disease affects everyone differently. Her experience began mildly, and then torturously cycled through nearly every inch of her body.

The first round attacked my respiratory system. From there it worked its way into my vascular system and spread through my entire body.

This is what it the following half-year looked like….

In between relentless coughing fits I struggled to breathe as every inhalation felt like I was drawing in fluid. I was in and out of consciousness. When I was awake I studied the internal structure and function of the lungs and airways. I slept in prone position and used the postural drainage and chest PT techniques meant for coping with cystic fibrosis. I did breathing exercises. I ordered a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter so I would know if I needed to call an ambulance. I followed a strict anti inflammatory diet and adjusted my supplements and fluid/electrolyte intake. My doctor ordered bloodwork and told me to continue to rest. I tried to make sure any messages from friends or clients I responded to were left off on a nice note, just in case. I waited for recovery but it didn’t come.“

She ends her long chronicle with this,

The local Canadian group I most frequent for Covid Long-Haulers had a handful of members when I first joined. Today they are over 7.6 thousand with new members pouring in daily. The focus is on sharing information to help others navigate this nightmare and conducting interviews with the media to help spread the word, so we can educate the public while we wait for the CDC and government to catch up. Like me, many of these “Covid long-haulers” were young, very active, fit and healthy with no pre-existing or underlying conditions. A notable number of them were athletes before they fell ill. As this is a virus that can travel through your entire body and affect any organ, no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. But we all share overlapping symptoms with one another. I documented 80 symptoms, from terrifying to extremely bizarre, and each one of those symptoms were reported by a significant number of other people in these groups.

Around this time last year I was running around the woods, climbing trees and making art. Now I’m trying to retrain my body to walk. I don’t know when I’ll be able to make art again. One step at a time. This is a “mild” case. I’m still one of the lucky ones.”

So many of us have had no physical interaction with anyone who has had the infection, so it’s not possible for us to imagine what it would be like, should we be one of those who are infected. Ms Mally cautions us to remember that, “There are hundreds of thousands more just like me. When I first got sick in March, nurses were already talking about having to prepare for the upcoming fall/winter/spring when the bad wave hits. We’re heading into it now. I am begging people to please be safe and do the right thing. I may lose “friends” for speaking up, but if this post manages to reach one person, helps to influence one decision, that in turn spares one life, it’s well worth it.”

The lessons are coming hard and fast now. Wear your masks, people. It’s our first, and maybe our last, best defense, in our hopes of surviving these times of plague.

I Me My Narcissism


by Roxanne Tellier

Richard Nixon gave a defiant concession speech in 1962 that ended with …. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

The incredible narcissism and entitlement in that statement, coming from a man that was lucky not to have been tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail, still sends a frisson up my spine.

Had Nixon not heeded the potentates of his own party who advised him to resign, he would surely have been impeached by the House and removed from office by a trial in the Senate for his complicity in the Watergate burglary and ensuing coverup. As it was, 69 of his cronies were indicted, and 48 of those people were convicted and penalized.

Watergate came to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration, including bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious; ordering investigations of activist groups and political figures; and using the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency,  and the Internal Revenue Service as political weapons.”  (Wikipedia)

Man – trump’s reign of terror is not just history rhyming, that’s a whole poetry slam right there.

The common denominator? An overwhelming self-entitlement, a belief that their acts and place in history should be above the law, a willingness to use the most powerful position in America like Negan used Lucille in The Walking Dead … and malignant narcissism.

To a narcissist, the absolute worst thing that they can threaten you with is their absence. They can’t imagine the horror your life would be without them in it. Their message is “How will you cope without me in your world? I am the sun of your universe, I cannot conceive of a world without me in it, and neither should you!”

The world is filled with narcissists, not just in politics, but in big business, the sciences, the entertainment world, and in our homes.

(“Although the cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t known, some researchers think that in biologically vulnerable children, parenting styles that are overprotective or neglectful may have an impact. Genetics and neurobiology also may play a role in development of narcissistic personality disorder.”  Mayo Clinic, 2017.)

No one can definitively say what causes someone to believe that they are more important than everyone else that they know. Nonetheless, the disorder seems to be growing exponentially.

While full-bodied narcissistic personality disorder is still a fairly unusual diagnosis, the rise of reality tv, social media, and the glorification of this type of personality has upped the ante. Modern narcissism isn’t so much about the disorder as it is about the rise in narcissistic traits.

It’s been a slippery slope for those with the tendency to self-promote. Remember when we used to laugh at those people who never saw a meal they couldn’t find a way to photograph, glorify and show their friends and followers on Facebook? When Instagram came along, narcissists were in their glory, showing off their clothing, homes, and vacations, all so that those with less would feel envious.  

The more we abandoned any pretence of humility, the more the spotlight shone on our deficiencies and perceived imperfections. By 2015 the waiting lists for cosmetic dentistry, plastic surgery, and alternative ‘enhancements’ were stretching around the block and two streets over.

Like needy children, we wanted everyone to ‘watch me, mommy!’ as we posed, sang, danced, and twirled before our imagined audiences. But that was just the beginning.

Many narcissists in the public eye choose to display a lack of caring for others, and a disdain for empathy, which neatly coexists with a glorification of one’s own talents and popularity.  Even the relevance of celebrity deaths, for instance, can only be understood in the context of their own loss.

When these people are informed of terrible tragedies – babies in cages at the border, the Charlie Hebdo attack, millions starving and dying from thirst and bombs in far flung countries – their concern is not for those in misery, but rather, in how to best spin their public reactions to switch the focus from those suffering, to themselves, as the ‘real victims.’ No matter how tragic an event, the narcissist only sees the calamity in the context of their own reactive wretchedness.

We used to be able to shrug off most garden variety narcissists as laughable, childish, needy creatures. But the tendency to believe that one is extraordinary (along with the obvious problem, which is that most people are simply and resoundingly NOT special) is increasing by the day.

The narcissist’s beliefs are unrealistic, but in a world where a financially and morally bankrupt ‘celebrity’ malignant narcissist can become president of the United States, how exactly do you define ‘unrealistic’?

I can’t swear that the rise of trump is tied to a rise in narcissism in North America, though I do see a through line in the rise of populist leaders, who tend to speak to the basest of our individual appetites. Three recent studies would seem to agree with that premise.

“A team of psychologists and political scientists from the universities of Kent (UK), Warsaw (Poland) and Maryland (USA) found in three studies that national collective narcissism was linked to support for populism. In the UK, collective narcissism predicted support for Brexit, in the US it predicted support for Donald Trump, and in Poland it predicted support for the populist Law and Justice party.

The study found that collective narcissism, i.e. an unrealistic belief in the greatness of the nation, increased in response to group feelings of being disadvantaged, especially when this was long lasting.

The researchers suggest that the narrative of relative disadvantage, fuelled by populist leaders, might reinforce a ‘defensive and destructive’ national perspective. Narcissistic beliefs about the in-group greatness are a way to compensate for feelings of being worse off than other groups.” (Science Daily.com)

I don’t even play a political scientist on TV. But what I DO know, is that, in the age of COVID-19, narcissists can be extremely dangerous to your health.  

During this pandemic, people have been asked to observe a few simple health precautions, to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay about 2 metres away from others.

That shouldn’t be that big a deal, or terribly hard to do. After all, all the wearing of a mask says is that the wearer recognizes their membership in their community.

But for some, covering their mouth and nose with cloth or other semipermeable material when near strangers in public settings inspires fear of an over-reaching government, and a denial of their ‘rights.’

Yes, this whole pandemic thing is a major pain in the butt. Yes, the mask can feel hot and itchy, and make your glasses fog up, while making those of us with lung issues feel claustrophobic and shorter of breath than usual.

But for many of us, there’s no real issue there. If wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and keeping surfaces sanitized to prevent a viral infection is necessary, then that’s what we’ll do. It’s not 1865, and we’re not Dr Joseph Lister trying to sell his discovery that washing hands could allow mothers to survive childbirth; this is 2020, and we should all be intelligent and mature enough to follow simple precepts that have been the norm for cleanliness and safety for over a century and a half.

But those pesky narcissists don’t think in terms of what is best for all, because they are emotionally immature. They believe that their ‘rights’ make them exempt from social norms, even during a pandemic, and they lack empathy, which leads them to believe that no one’s health but their own is of any concern.

Being a narcissist is to live inside a bubble of need and entitlement. Without the slightest concept of altruism, the life and death worries of others are just not a concern. Even when they are told that they will have to continue to live in a ‘new normal’ that means that they can’t get out to have fun with their friends, even as the European Union and other countries put the USA on a no entry list, and even as people continue to become infected .. and die … from a virus that other countries are able to control through sane public health regulations, they continue to believe that their own personal rights and freedoms supersede the personal rights and freedoms of others.

Entitlement. My rights over yours.  My needs being more needy and important than yours. My rights to be the victim superseding the actual hospitalization and death of the more vulnerable.  And if granny or mummy dies, it’s all about my loss, not her death, cuz poor little me is now an orphan!

It’s emotional bullying, and in many cases, physical bullying.  The armed militia groups dressed in army fatigues that stormed government offices to demand their rights were trampling ALL over the rights of everyone in their path. But narcissism … it’s a hell of a drug.

People who enjoy the rights, freedoms and privileges of our society do not have the right to refuse to acknowledge that other people have those same rights, freedoms and privileges. 

And there’s really nothing sadder than an over privileged narcissist finally discovering the very hard way that their personal world is not the centre of the universe.

PS… NEW Randy Rainbow! 😉

BONUS ROUND:

Are YOU a narcissist? Why not take this simple test and see!?

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/NPI/