My City Was Gone


“Living just enough, just enough, for the city.”

The Big Cities of the past weren’t for everyone. In the hardscrabble days when I was growing up in Montreal or in Toronto, a city rat could always make ends meet, somehow, some way. There was always that neighbourhood where you could find a deal, that part of town where, while it might not be pretty, but, be it ever so humble, you could find a place to crash if you were short of dough. Or a place to score if you wanted to get high. You might not have a Rolex, but you could find a knockoff for a couple of bucks. k market 1976

When you’re really hungry, a bag of smelts tastes like caviar. And back then, the smaller, inner city groceries, run mostly by the children of immigrants, could always be counted on as somewhere to find something cheap and cheerful to feed the belly of the hungry.

 

 

But getting older often means learning the hard way that the city you once knew is gone forever, for good or for ill. Cities change, landmarks disappear, and the people’s needs change. Progress seeks to whitewash the reality of the poverty and the needy that always lurk in a big city’s depths. Your need to find a little corner of the metropolis to call your own won’t necessarily be fulfilled when you most need it, even if you’re willing to bend to nearly breaking point, just to stay where you’ve lived most of your life.

Life in the big city was never gonna be easy for everybody, but for those of us who came here chasing a dream, there was a time when it was easier to make it work. These days, the city rats have to give way to the up and coming high tech mice, who have the wherewithal to pay the big rents, the big mortgages, and who have enough of the ready to enjoy the best of the city that wants to be world class.

for sale signsWhen we sold our home in 2016, we didn’t worry about where we’d land up next. Surely we’d come up roses on a nice, new place to rent, someplace where we could keep our ‘stuff’ and exist comfortably for the foreseeable future.

But our search was far more difficult that we’d thought, and we didn’t find a cubby hole to curl up in straight away – there were a lot of twists and turns on the journey. And once here, the drawbacks of this particular rental surfaced, meaning that this isn’t where we’ll be staying long-term either.

But where we were lucky was in having a good credit rating, reasonably good health, and a couple of bucks in the bank. Not that any of that guarantees you’ll find a decent living space, but when you put them all together, it will help make the search just a little less frustrating.

There are several reasons why living in the bigger cities of North America has become harder for the lower to middle class. We’ve lived through decades of foolish governments who hung on to power by failing to increase taxes enough to keep the city running. Our infrastructure has been strained to it’s limits without the injections of cash needed to keep the trains going, or the hospitals able to handle an aging society.

Those same governments, as a rule, also tended to side with commercial leasing entities over renters, allowing businesses to take huge tax write offs on over priced properties that could stand vacant for months and even years, until a lessee with big dollars took occupation.

Real estate prices have soared in the last decade, until even the tiniest, most rundown, residential property in the city starts at a million dollars, and goes up into the stratosphere from there. Real estate agents are becoming the nouveau riche. Who can afford to buy those properties?

And yet the ‘for sale’ signs go up, and in days, come down, with the replacement sign reading, ‘sold over asking.’ How many of these buyers are house poor, I wonder? And how will they pay the overblown mortgage should one half of a couple lose their jobs or become ill?

straight outta scarboroughGentrification has been excising the more interesting parts of the city for at least the last thirty years. Within another three to five years, Yonge Street south of Bloor will be as nondescript as a Scarborough mall, packed with chain stores, fast food franchises, Starbucks, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on every corner.

If I wanted Scarborough drab .. I’d go to Scarborough. “Cleaning up” Yonge street really means erasing our sense of history and place, and of sanding down the grit of People City, leaving behind the sort of bland, generic playground that is fit only for the children of the very wealthy.

dying from exposureI know that this is no longer the city that I came to conquer back in 1976; there are new generations coming up behind me, young and hungry, and eager to prove themselves in their fields.

But how are they to survive, when those with the ability to raise them up, choose instead to shackle these young spirits with internships and exposure? Where exactly are they to find the bootstraps these strugglers are supposed to pull up?

And most importantly… where are these young tyros supposed to live? And how are they to eat? When living is reduced to just surviving, there’s little time or will to create.

Once upon a time, those who yearned to enjoy and participate in Canada’s culture flocked to Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver, and took their chances, clawing their way to success, or falling by the wayside. But international big money has taken that option out of the equation.

If you didn’t buy real estate twenty years ago, you’re going to have to be in rarefied company to be able to afford to buy today. Even your ability to rent in a ‘better area’ of the metropolises is an iffy proposition.

Globalization, gentrification … we’re moving from the end of the industrial age into the fullness of the digital, high tech world. And our cities reflect that change, just as at one point they reflected the scions who traveled in horse and buggy.

The cities have begun to depend upon video, cellular communications, artificial intelligence, and eventually, a robotics industry that will force countries to accept a basic income that will keep the lower and middle class in just enough financial stability to stay alive … though that life may not be what many would have considered livable even a decade or two ago. The digital elite will own the residences; the rest of us will vie for the privilege of renting.

tent cities 2018And those who fall between the cracks will live in the tent cities that are now springing up to house the homeless.

The cities, as we knew them, are changing. Some cities, like San Francisco and New York, are already gone. and it could be argued that Vancouver is next, with Toronto not far behind.

As much as we may yearn to keep this from happening, globalization is inevitable, and as unstoppable as a tidal wave.

And, for many, that wave is washing away the possibility of aging in place in the Big City.

 

Exit the Idiot Whisperer


Ever have, oh, I don’t know… about 6 or 700 of ‘those days,’ where you start to wonder if it’s actually possible that you just might have woken up on another, identical, but much stupider, planet?

thanks god none of you peole are realI have spent far too many hours attempting to reason with those who adamantly refuse to see logic or sense. The sad truth is that they are happy in their interpretation of the world. And I suppose I should be happy that they are happy. It’s all working out for them.

In the past .. well, up to about a week ago .. I would have spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to change someone’s mind. But the thing is, I’m not getting any younger, and the kind of gymnastics needed to argue with a firmly committed Trump cultist is something that no longer feels like fun.

It’s more akin to wrestling a pig. The pig likes it, but I just wind up feeling dirty.

10 commandments of logicThe few diehard Trumpists that get through my anti-Trump wall tend to be friends of friends. Again, in the past, I might have opted to be gracious, rather than potentially offend someone. Now, I’m more inclined to block the one, and unfriend the other. Tiptoeing around crazy people just feels too much like work, and baby.. I’m retired.

I’m tired of being the Idiot Whisperer. I quit. Research your own damn questions yourself. Use your Google fingers to do what every other inquiring mind has to do .. look it up. Find a decent source, and if what you’re reading actually agrees TOO much with what you personally feel about a subject, check with Snopes to ensure that you’re not buying into a hoax.

How hard can that be, people? Don’t repeat stuff that’s stupid. If you are unsure if it’s true, look for another source before you pass on that article, that meme, or that obituary. And if the only reason that you’re gonna forward something is because you know it’s going to rile up people – don’t share it. Life’s hard enough without people going out of their way to be ornery.

face tat failAnd for those people who might be job hunting, it’s best to keep in mind that those checking out your resume will probably also have a gander at what you share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with checking your references. You might want to go easy on the kind of uploads that get a person sent repeatedly to Facebook Jail. What you’re saying and sharing online is a pretty good measurement of how you’ll conduct yourself offline, on a social level, whether for business or pleasure. Social media is not the place to let it all ‘hang out,’ or to boast that you fooled that personnel interviewer by temporarily concealing your skin head and rad tats.

Here’s another thing we all have to stop doing ….. taking the bait of every professional AND non-professional journalist that hosts a webpage. Most stories, even those that are put up by highly reputable sources, still fall within the realm of ‘entertainment.’ It’s all about the clicks.

Yes, we agree with the 97% of climate change scientists who assure us that what we’re seeing is real. Yes, we agree with the majority of psychologists pointing out Trump’s massive mental issues and how difficult it is to deal with his deficiencies. Yes, his choices for important roles in his administration are tearing the fabric of America apart, and it may never be able to be repaired …

BUT…

Have any of our complaints and demands for change been heard or acted upon in a timely manner? Yes, Whitaker is likely an illegal, unconstitutional appointment to the role of United States Attorney General, but have any of our heated debates or stern warnings on the subject got him fired from the gig?

No, they have not. The U.S. is essentially an autocracy where things happen as decided by the autocrats, and no matter how cogent our carefully thought out arguments may sound, or of how angry we may become, our words and emotions have about as much chance of making a dent as a Nerf bat.

And our ruminations are about as important to the world as those of the Thirty Helens Who Agree on Coleslaw.

So, you may as well let a lot of those clickbait articles, and columns asking rhetorical questions, to just sail on by. The last thing any of us needs is to have a stroke over the very idea that raking up the over one million square feet of California forest would have prevented all that destruction.  (Spoiler alert: It wouldn’t have.)

Better to spend that time answering questions that may help you to figure out what historical figure you were in a past life, and if it’s true that you are a fire horse in Chinese astrology. .

Remember when going on Facebook used to be fun, and we’d connect with old friends and relatives and share cat videos and terrible jokes?

Yeah .. that all changed ’round about 2015. Now it’s more like negotiating an armistice or surviving a Civil War. No thanks, Zuckerberg. Most of us have one foot out the door, and we’re taking our advertising dollars with us when we find our next social media platform.

Now, I am not saying that I am going to turn over a new leaf, stop commenting and forwarding political columns and memes, and devote myself to some new hobby, like fly fishing. Far from it. I will definitely continue to attempt to make some sense of the political machinations exhibited daily, from both sides of the border. Someone has to keep an eye on these bastards.

novelty tea cut toiletI’m just saying that not all of us have to be on guard, all of the time. The holiday season is nearing, and a lot of the people whom we care about, really don’t care about politics. In fact, they would prefer it if your holiday gift to them this year would be a promise to not discuss politics at the dinner table. They’d rather have that than pretty much any of the novelty gifts you’ve been thinking of getting them this year … even more than that tea cup you thought would be a hoot.

I’m just saying that it might be time for us to do what the mass media and social media refuse to do – take a few days mental and physical break from the constant bombardment of stupidity, greed, corruption, whipped up paranoia, and hysteria that has become our daily diet.

idiot whispererI’m just saying that maybe it’s time to deny oxygen to the people and things that can’t survive without our steady attention. Maybe letting ‘the cheese stand alone,’ bereft of the attentiveness and arguments that are used to make him appear relevant, will help some of his most stalwart supporters to see what most of us already know – that the trump presidency and administration is a gasbag of noxious farts meant to keep us all looking in the other direction, so that the pickpockets can fleece us without our noticing.

Or maybe I really did wake up on an identical, but much stupider, planet. It’s as good a theory as any other out there.

 

Politically Incorrect


In the mid nineties, my husband and I decided to do a West Coast trip. We were looking forward to reconnecting with a special family, and enjoying the beauty of California.

But there was one special stopover I was determined to make, one that I had pre-planned and booked as soon as we had decided on the holiday.

I wanted to watch a taping of an episode of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect.

 

 

In Los Angeles, people beg you to come and be a ‘live audience‘ for the shows being taped. But I’ve been on a ton of game shows, a reality show, and some comedy shows, so none of that appealed. Bill Maher, on the other hand …

I’d never missed an episode. Every week I waited anxiously for Friday night to come around, and was sure to be planted in front of the telly the moment it began.

yikes political correctnessThat series, Politically Incorrect, ran from 1993 to 2002, first on Comedy Central, and then on ABC. Ironically, the show was cancelled due to … political incorrectness.

Is that not the most delicious irony?

“In the aftermath of the (9/11) attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush said that the terrorists responsible were cowards. In the September 17, 2001, episode, Maher’s guest Dinesh D’Souza disputed Bush’s label, saying the terrorists were warriors. Maher agreed, and replied: “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, [it’s] not cowardly.”

Despite similar comments having been made in other media, advertisers withdrew their support and some ABC affiliates stopped airing the show temporarily. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer denounced Maher, warning that “people have to watch what they say and watch what they do.” Maher apologized, and explained that he had been criticizing U.S. military policy, not American soldiers.” (wikipedia)

Maher bounced back, with a new hour-long program on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher, which premiered on February 21, 2003. Bill recently celebrated his 25th anniversary of on air political correctness, with a gaggle of celebrity friends. And I still watch the show religiously, every week that it’s on, and even when I disagree with Bill and/or his guests – which is quite often.

The term political correctness (adjectivally: politically correct; commonly abbreviated PC) is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” (also wiki)

political correctnessIn the wild, as a concept … political correctness is a wonderful idea. It is an effort to put the spotlight on those unconscious biases that many of us grew up with, and sometimes find ourselves blurting out at awkward moments. It is an exercise in trying to dig out those prejudices at the root, and kill them forever. Many of the things we say without thinking betray unconscious biases, because we are the products of not only our society, but of the thoughts and opinions of our parents and grandparents, who lived in a much less permissive time, and who imprinted their preconceived judgments on our little psyches when we were at our most impressionable.

And the truth is, we allow those people whom we like or generally respect, to say all sorts of terrible stuff, not normally said in ‘polite society‘ … our ‘tribe’ gets a pass. Especially if our ‘tribe’ is a beloved parent or grandparent. We may shush them in public, but we know where their prejudice comes from, whether it is warranted or unwarranted.

how woke it isBut here’s the thing – some very well-meaning people have taken that lovely, Christian, politically correct, desire to make everything and every one equal, and run it into the ditch. And while those very well-meaning people may consider themselves pretty ‘woke’ … they are actually in a clear minority.

In fact, it’s getting to the point where they’re no fun anymore (to paraphrase Crosby, Stills & Nash.)

According to recent studies, “25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”

Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24.

On social media, the country seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resentful. Team Resentment is manned—pun very much intended—by people who are predominantly old and almost exclusively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and predominantly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their dutiful part). These teams are roughly equal in number, and they disagree most vehemently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as political correctness.

Reality is nothing like this. As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest—including a general aversion to PC culture.

If you look at what Americans have to say on issues such as immigration, the extent of white privilege, and the prevalence of sexual harassment, the authors argue, seven distinct clusters emerge: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives.

According to the report, On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.”  (The Atlantic, October 2018)

 

 

 

It seems that 79 percent of white Americans, 82 percent of Asians, 87 percent of Hispanics, and 88 percent of American Indians believe that political correctness is a real problem in America.

If you happen to be a huge proponent of PC culture, that’s gotta come as a shock. But again… irony! … not everyone thinks the same way you do! Even those people whom you believe your well-intentioned political correctness is protecting – might be just as happy if you’d back the hell off, pardner.

I don’t think a lot of people can see just how extreme they’ve become in the pursuit of ‘social justice.’ It’s getting harder and harder to justify the micro-aggression of someone who attacks another person on social media over their lack of political correctness, without seeing that the criticism itself is a lack of political correctness.

Their virtue signalling becomes very like the thinking of the critters of George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, who started with the pledge of “Four Legs Good; Two Legs Bad, ” but soon find that motto a meaningless sound bleated by the sheep (“two legs baa-d”), and meant only to drown out any dissenters. “By the end of the novel, as the propagandistic needs of the leadership change, the pigs, who have learned to walk on their back legs, alter the chant to the similar-sounding but completely antithetical “Four legs good, two legs better.” (SparkNotes)

The propaganda of what is politically correct, or incorrect, is massaged into place to suit those to whom we’ve handed the power of cultural judgment.

(Don’t believe me? Google Scott Kelly/Winston Churchill.)

There is a danger in this deification of virtue signalling, the scouring and nitpicking of the words of allies, issuing ‘trigger warnings,’ and the compulsive polishing of a turd of correctness while ignoring giant piles of far more real and horrific shit going on everywhere else. All of that desire to be perfectly and pristinely correct places too much emphasis on protecting special interests, rather than the larger issues now effectively, and often literally, hobbled. (“I’d like to protest those babies in the Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, but someone on Facebook just called someone else fat!”)

This need to be more morally righteous than the rest of the world will be the death of the liberal movement. It’s not only the opponents of a PC agenda that find the mining of politically correct navel lint both contemptible and jejeune .. it is those possible allies being driven away by non-stop micro-aggressions targeting their every non-policed, casual word.

Last word goes.. as it should .. to Mr Bill Maher, and his thoughts on Halloween.

 

 

 

 

It Was 20 Years Ago Today


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

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

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

tech change computers

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

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

… mind … blown …..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that would never happen .. right?

 

oh oh ….

 

 

 

Perspective


underneath a catGet to a certain age, or a certain stage, and you’d really have to make an effort not to see that everyone approaches their lives from different angles.

Our formative years often shape how we’ll see our world, but I know people who survived horrific childhoods, yet still managed to live happy and peaceful lives. Their experiences in their youths shaped how they approached and nurtured the relationships they cultivated as they aged.

Other people grew up in the lap of luxury, but suffer through their days feeling that the entire world is against them, conspiring to refuse them the respect and goodies they deserve for merely existing. They can think of hundreds of little ways that life has just not treated them as well as they believed they deserved.

And then there are some who sail through their life without really knowing or caring that other people even exist.

perspective island

It’s all perspective.

In a recent conversation with my husband, I was stunned to realize how events in our shared lives, be they major or minor in scope, can be remembered in such drastically disparate ways that it seems like the antics of two different people living in two different worlds. Maybe that’s partly the difference in how men and women think, or maybe it has to do with how we’ve personally conducted ourselves during our long relationship.  Or maybe it’s a little of both, and a lot about how actions and words can be perceived in multiple ways, depending upon how the person receiving the actions or words receives, and interprets those interactions.

When we ascribe intent to words and actions, we alter how those words and actions are perceived.

When we attempt to interact in society, what we bring to the table varies wildly, depending on our own backgrounds, and the state of mind we were in when we approached a moment in our time. Were we tired? dyspeptic? broke? stressed?  Because all of those things will have a huge bearing on how we perceive what others say, write, or do.

perspectives good badYou really see perspective and interpretation at work when reading threads on social media. Because it is difficult to convey emotions verbally, spats and name-calling can suddenly erupt based on a simple misunderstanding, a failed attempt at humour or sarcasm, or a word used incorrectly.

But conversely, that’s one of the reasons that the arts we are able to enjoy on the internet can resonate so strongly within us; we are surprised and delighted when an image or a video or a song accurately reflects how we feel about a particular moment, or captures an emotion..  For a brief instant in time, we are completely in synch with another person’s gut take, and yet it is a shared experience, and all the more heady when many of us feel that same recognition simultaneously, and gather to share that experience, even if it’s only on the internet.

alice no going backWhile we might like to think that we are all, down deep, the same, it’s both true but not really true at all. We share the human experience, but each of us carries the history our parents bequeathed to us, and over time, we add our own experiences. Eventually we pass that on to our kids, who add their own experiences. And every bit of that combined familial and cultural mosaic makes our perspectives unique. At any given moment, how we approach any event – from how we choose our meals, to how we choose our elected officials – is a result of the lifetime of baggage we’ve brought along for the ride.

As we age and grow, we sift in the essences of the people, events, and emotions that we experience, and let those simmer in our soul stew. In time, we become a person very different from the person we were at birth. Life experiences are the fire that tempers our metal, as drastically as the fabled Philosopher’s Stone was said to turn brass into gold.

dylan quotePerspective allows us to understand that it is as painful for a poor man to lose a dollar, as it is for a billionaire to lose a billion, because for both, the loss is fear-provoking.

When I was a little kid, I was very, very near-sighted. However, I didn’t know that, since I had nothing to compare it to, and my family had no idea that I had such poor vision, until a teacher in my grade one class noticed that I couldn’t see what she was writing on the board. The day I got my first pair of glasses, my entire world changed, because now, I could see what went on around me like other people did.

My world changed, because my vision changed. And my perspective – quite literally the way I saw the world – was altered.

I wish that finding a little bit of insight into how others perceive what happens around them, was as simple as getting a new prescription for eyeglasses – what a better place that sort of world might be!   footprints

But instead, achieving perspective requires that we step back from our own values, attitudes and needs, and mentally and emotionally put ourselves into the shoes of someone unlike ourselves. Those shoes may be too tight, or far too roomy, but until we’ve walked a while in them, we cannot ever know the journey that other person is on.

Perspective.

tags:  Roxanne Tellier, perspective

WhatAboutery and the Innocents of Bowling Green


It’s become ubiquitous, since January 2017. Every time another horror is unleashed upon the American nation, in the name of the president of little brain and less compassion, his faithful attendants dutifully beat history’s bushes to find something similar that they can throw out as a stumbling block to sanity.

“You dare to say it’s wrong to separate children from their parents at the border? Well, what about when American citizens break the law? They don’t get to see their kids either!”

And then they poke each other in the arm and giggle, thinking that they are terribly clever, and have stopped all further discussion in it’s tracks.

Tu-Quoque WhatAboutProblem is – the explanation they are using – the ‘what about’ – is a variant of something called the tu quoque, a well known logical fallacy. It is the proverbial ‘red herring,’ the ‘pot calling the kettle black, ‘ a strategy of false moral equivalences”. It is the defending of the indefensible. This tactic is meant to discredit an opponent and an argument, by basically saying that their complaint is hypocritical. It is used to derail a point while making it appear that the one defending the atrocity is the more knowledgeable, and the one purer of heart.

illegal whataboutismAnother tactic of ‘whataboutery‘ is to defend doing nothing whatsoever, and maintain the status quo, is by implying that there’s no point in – say, strengthening environmental protections, because some other country has no regulations at all in regards to polluting the environment.

Whataboutism says a wrong can’t be a wrong, because somewhere, at some time, another wrong occurred, and that, therefore, the two wrongs combined, make a right. If nothing can be deemed wrong, as long as we can think of examples of things that are worse, then there is no point in ever correcting any negative actions or impulses

So where did this type of argumentative defence come from? Well, it is actually used primarily for propaganda purposes, and was honed and perfected by Russian operatives during the Cold War, in order to confuse and ‘turn’ American operatives.

russian propaganda 101“When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Soviet response would be “What about…” followed by an event in the Western World. … The tactic saw a resurgence in post-Soviet Russia, relating to human rights violations committed by, and criticisms of, the Russian government. The technique received new attention during Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine. Usage of the tactic extended to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. (wikipedia)

It’s by no means that recent of a development. As long as you’ve had people with power harming people, you’ve had apologists defending those people’s actions.

It’s just rather alarming that the Trump administration has made it such an integral part of rationalizing actions that would be clearly considered human rights violations and treasonous actions under any other president.

This need for the Trump administration to defend the indefensible has lead many a pseudo intellectual to follow the same path, essentially tearing the fabric of reality apart in an attempt to make it fit within the parameters they have now been given.

KellyAnne Conway is probably the best example of someone who has so mastered this concept and defence that she almost … ALMOST … sounds like she has a rational and verifiable point every now and again. The trouble is, a picking apart of her sped up excuses and misdirection generally exposes the myriad of holes in her argument.

bowling green massacreConsider one of the earliest examples of her flim flamming baffle gab, the famous “Bowling Green Massacre” allusion, said with a straight face in February of 2017, with the full power of the government behind her.

When Conway defended the president’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, she told MSNBC that two Iraqis who came to the US and had been radicalized “were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green Massacre.”

While she eventually admitted that she ‘misspoke’ in alluding to a non-existent event, on two more occasions she alluded again to a massacre that never actually happened. Her intent was to stir up fear and paranoia, with the end goal being an attempt to scare American citizens into an acceptance of a Muslim travel ban.

 

” On 29 January, speaking to Cosmopolitan.com, she was even more specific about the non-existent event: “[T]wo Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined Isis, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills, and come back here, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”

And on the same day, Conway was captured on video telling TMZThere were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined Isis, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.”

Conway and Trump stragegist Stephen Miller are most likely the masterminds behind the promulgation of this typically Soviet response to criticism. it is hardly likely that the entire House, Congress, and president suddenly and spontaneously seized upon this very Russian form of talking point without having been carefully coached in how to use it to their best (Republican) advantage.

The ‘what about-ers’ are sneaky; they want to take the spotlight off the problem at hand, and change the obvious villain in the piece to someone other than the one they are championing, and in the process, make themselves look not only terribly clever for connecting some little known or potentially false dots, but also to appear virtuous and pious for directing your attention to some lesser known atrocity.

That the massacre/slavery/explosion may have happened a hundred years ago, and under entirely different circumstances is immaterial, because they’ve resurrected that moment and are demanding you defend it now, today – or give up your criticism of their actions .. now, today..

Acting like dealing with a current problem just adds to the enormous stack of problems needing to be dealt with is, at the core, just a way of saying that one is too busy to get involved in this new problem being addressed. It’s an attempt to find a way to avoid getting involved, due to already being overloaded with too many other philosophical problems.

moral failure of AmericaSadly, the end result of whataboutery as a tactic highlighting the misdeeds of others, is, in the end, an admission of complete moral failure, or as Cardinal Cahal Daly noted, “one of the commonest forms of evasion of personal moral responsibility.” It’s a highlighting of the truth that only people who know themselves to be guilty of something “can find comfort in finding others to be just as bad or worse. ” (Merold Westphal, philosopher)

It also has to be noted that there can be a terrible backlash for those who can always find a way to defend the offences of others, as those excuses may actually be used to discredit one’s own actions.

“No American politician in living memory has advanced the idea that the entire world, including the United States, was rotten to the core.” Masha Gessen, The New York Times.

In one of the most shocking moments of the U.S. presidential campaign in 2016, then candidate Trump responded to a question about his feelings on the treatment of journalists, teachers and dissidents by Turkish President Erdogan by saying that the United States had a lot of problems dealing with it’s own civil liberties, and so, had little right to be a ‘good messenger’ to other countries. And in one of his many defences of Russia’s Putin, Trump said,

For Trump and his minions … America is just another shit hole in a world of shit holes where everyone is potentially a murdering criminal to be feared.

I’m not really sure how that belief or attitude is supposed to make America that ‘great’ of a country, now or ever.

whataboutism poster

 

 

Father’s Day 2018


american family brunchAll over America, happy families are waking up to a warm and fuzzy Father’s Day 2018. Little boys and girls are presenting their sleepy daddies with home made offerings made from bits of pasta, lashings of glitter and scraps of wood,  while they all look forward to a yummy family brunch, a good American style feed of  eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit and more, all washed down with buckets of freshly squeezed juice and pots of good, strong coffee.

But in the tent cities ordered by president Trump, there are babies and children, ripped from the arms of their mothers, and in one case literally ripped from the breast of the mother feeding them, the mother then handcuffed for resisting … waking up to another day of forced incarceration and prison food.

2 year old immigrantAlong America’s border, thousands of kids are waking up in migrant detention centers, that operate as de facto federal prisons with similar restrictions. In Texas, about 1500 young boys, aged from 10 to 17 years old, are padlocked behind the concrete blocks of a former Wal-Mart, spending 22 of 24 hours a day inside, wrapped in Mylar blankets and sleeping five to a room in rooms meant to hold no more than four. The prison has received a variance from the state because of overcrowding, because that’s how a totalitarian state deals with the reality of the horror of housing children they’ve kidnapped from their parents – by making ‘variances’.

Nationwide, there are detention facilities operating at 95% capacity, overflowing with the 11,000 children being held.

In some of these camps, babies and children, separated from their parents, and even from their siblings, are treated like prisoners. Can you possibly imagine adding that denial of comfort, a stunningly cruel addition to already brutal rules that must have been thought up by the American version of Ilsa the She Witch of the SS? These children are even denied – again, with rules put into place by their vicious caretakers –  the comfort of a touch or a hug.

american gestapoThe human consequences of Trump’s earlier executive orders have become increasingly clear.

I’m not gonna pull punches on this incredible abuse of human rights. If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done had you been alive and aware during the rise of Nazi Germany,  you’re actually doing it right now.  That’s how serious this situation is, for not only immigrants and refugees, but America itself.

What the Trump administration has wrought, what they’re doing to systematically separate parents and children who enter the country illegally, has been done in America before. It happened to African slaves, and to Native Americans. America is no innocent, no stranger to gross cruelty. That callous disdain is, in some ways, the very definition of America, a country that can always find a group of people to dehumanize and brutalize.

immigrant detainees 2014You may have seen a photo, taken in 2014, of two young unaccompanied minors sleeping on the floor in a detention centre during the Obama administration. The photo was first presented as being a consequence of the new policy, but in fact, was later used to claim that the former administration was just as bad on how immigrant children were being handled. This worked really well for the ‘what about-ers‘ who claimed that same policy is the one now being enforced under the Trump administration.

They are lying. Trump is lying when he blames the Dems for family separation at the southern border. The actual culprit and impetus for all of this ugliness is a Department of Justice memorandum issued on April 6, 2018. At that time, Jeff Sessions announced that, from that day on, all ‘improper entry by an alien’ would be prosecuted with zero tolerance.

“This zero-tolerance policy shall supersede any existing policies” puts the onus squarely on the current administration.

keep waving that fucking flagA simple phone call from Trump to the Department of Homeland Security could change the situation. But that’s not gonna happen. Because … here’s the thing .. Trump, Sessions, and their base LOVE this new policy. They are wetting themselves in glee over this punishment of the vulnerable, and finding Bible verses to shore up their ‘right’ to do so. They LOVE it. They just don’t want to take responsibility for it.

Jeff Sessions unleashed his murderous shock and awe attack on immigrants in furtherance of the vile policies that whipped up the Trump base during the election. Their appetite for inflicting pain on those seeking refuge is voracious, seemingly limitless.

In the last few months, Session has been trying to curb even legal immigration: lowering refugee admissions, targeting H1-B visas for skilled foreign workers; introducing more restrictions and red tape for other classes of entry permits  and now, cracking down on the accepted rules of asylum – THAT AMERICANS HELPED TO WRITE AFTER THE ATROCITIES OF THE HOLOCAUST -potentially reducing claims by the thousands by deciding that victims of domestic and gang violence are not eligible for protection.

In May, nearly 90,000 Hondurans lost their protected status, when the Department of Homeland Security decreed that they’d had a long enough respite, and were now expected to return to their own war torn country.

border kids are they legalIn recent days, the Justice Department said that it would not defend the DACA program in a Texas lawsuit.

And people, who would normally consider themselves good, faithful loving Christians, are justifying all of this zenophobia on the grounds that the refugees and immigrants are entering the USA illegally.

Meanwhile, the House is frantically trying to pull together an immigration bill that will please and eventually will be passed by Emperor Trump, who has already said that he will not sign the bill into law. It’s really kind of moot, either way, since provisions of the new bill would not reunify families – in fact, it would make it even harder for children and families to be together, never mind find a path to legal citizenship. Trump wants just one thing, and he doesn’t care who has to suffer tor him to get that one thing. He will have his way, and dissenters will pay.

trump wall kidnapped childrenMeanwhile, the atrocities continue, and the real human price is being paid by those who prayed for a safe haven in the Promised Land of America – Home of the Free and the Brave.

Sessions claims that this ripping apart of families will be a deterrent to the refugees fleeing violence and crime. However, these immigrants have been walking from war torn nations for up to two months, and strangely, the means to receive that message is denied to them.

So they arrive in America, praying for sanctuary, and are instead punished.  

Sophies Choice 2018“When Muñoz and his family arrived at the border, they were taken by border patrol agents to a processing station, where they were informed they would be separated. Muñoz resisted, fiercely. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands,” one agent told the Washington Post. Muñoz lost his three-year-old boy to the agents and was himself taken to the Starr County Jail.

The last time anyone saw Marco Antonio Muñoz alive, he was praying in the corner of his cell. A short time later, he was found in a pool of his own blood. Authorities ruled it a suicide. No one knows what has become of his three-year-old son. His father is gone forever.”

This is America. This is the America where kid’s trying to protect themselves from being killed in school shootings have to fight for themselves, because the adults have not only abdicated responsibility, they want to punish the children for protesting. People with the power to protect children, have instead chosen to protect guns.

This is America. This is where the right to force women to have babies whether they want them or can support them are not, is  upheld, while their legal right to have an abortion is not.  (all lives matter except yours little child.jpg)

I have to ask you, pro lifers, why do you care so much about an unborn child, an unfeeling fetus, but somehow can’t see the tears and pain being visited upon these living immigrants and refugees? Is there some reason that you need to ensure a multitude of babies and children upon whom you can vent your rage? Do you, like your president, feel a deep need to use innocent children as pawns, so that you can force your own beliefs upon other people? This is a Christian Taliban, engorged on their own religious rights, and unable to see any other humans’ rights.

Because let’s get one thing straight, once and for all. … The Republicans control every single branch of government, it is within their grasp to fix this .. they have chosen not to. Since none of the Republicans have the guts to speak up, and tell Trump that they will not stand for this horror, all of the repulsion the world is feeling at this atrocity lies firmly on Republicans shoulders.

trumplerTo it’s shame, the base of the Republican Party is now intrinsically entwined with every other regime that trampled human rights.

They are now represented by the likes of Ivanka Trump, who countered the release of photos of sobbing, terrified immigrant children with the release of a completely tone deaf romantic photo of herself with her own, pampered child, or Paul Ryan, who took the time to claim a happy Father’s Days for himself, while ignoring the reality of grieving, terrorized fathers killing themselves over the loss of their child. There is one America for the Republican party .. and nothing but pain and humiliation for everyone else.

Saddest of all, most Americans are not going to pay much attention to any atrocity aimed at people unlike themselves until the economy starts to tank. And that’s an incredibly sad and cynical truth the rest of the world needs to absorb.

Once there was an America that was the envy of the world. That America no longer exists.