Parsing What Comes Between the Thanks and the Giving


by Roxanne Tellier

Americans celebrated their Thanksgiving this past week. Many families endured long journeys, traveling across the country, to spend time with the people they love. The lucky ones gathered around tables that groaned with heaps of delicious, fresh, and sometimes even healthy, food.

Norman Rockwell; Freedom from Want

Following in the tradition of the giving of thanks, families and friends joined hands and expressed their gratitude for those they love, for all that they have, and for all they hoped to amass during the capitalistic human centipede orgy known as Black Friday shopping.

Amen.

For the fortunate, it was a warm, loving, pre-holiday feast. Some families went to bed feeling loved, with full bellies, and visions of the sugar plums they’d enjoy next month.

Other families – not so much. Beyond worrying about how to pay for that groaning board, they had to deal with the ‘difficult’ relative – the aunt, or uncle, or son or daughter or in-law who, instead of bringing a sweet potato and marshmallow pie, brought their anger, fear, and their disdain for the political party that the rest of the gathering espoused.

All In the Family; Archie, Edith, Michael and Gloria

And that could be to either party. While I have my own bias, I’m well aware that a family that has an altar to trump is gonna have trouble with the family member who is a ‘never trumper’ – and vice versa. Think Archie Bunker, wrangling with son in law Michael Stivic, while Edith and Gloria tried to calm the troubled waters. Oh yes, it was ever thus. As then, so today, but oh my living lights and liver! It’s so much worse now.

Tell me,  how’d we ever get this way.

Not everyone experiences these unpleasant interactions. Maybe you are blessed with a Hallmark card family that never disagrees. And many people use social media sparingly, as a place to connect with loved ones, and to enjoy funny gifs and Youtube videos. That’s a perfectly valid – probably the most sensible! – way to enjoy the internet. What I’m talking about here is those of us who compulsively follow the news, with a fetish for politics. That’s a whole other experience. For us ….

” These are the days of miracle and wonder. This is the long distance call. The way the camera follows us in slo-mo. The way we look to us all, oh yeah”

Paul Simon – The Boy in the Bubble

Maybe we can blame it on social media, on our ability to reach out and touch every other person on the planet who enthusiastically agrees with our theories and preferences, but the truth is, a huge segment of society has somehow devolved into something primal and tribal. It’s no longer a disagreement or a difference in opinion; it’s outright war against anyone who doesn’t toe exactly the same political lines we hold dear.

And no matter how ridiculous. 

The level of insanity exhibited by the Mad King installed in the White House is only matched by his sycophantic court, who gladly traipse along behind him, carrying his water, and informing the people that his most insane pronouncements are only misunderstood by his subjects because the hoi polloi can never dream of attaining the level of ‘genius’ trump was born with. Sigh.

You know – the way North Koreans are taught from birth that their holy family in the Kim Dynasty are beyond human understanding, and must be worshipped as gods. Like that. 

The sad truth is that the rules of modern civilized engagement have been fundamentally changed, and many people have decided that they prefer these new rules. Why tell the truth, when the president, all of his administration, and apparently almost all those of wealth and power, no longer feel the need to do so? What kind of sucker tells the truth and takes accountability for their misdeeds, when there’s dirty money to be made, and a seemingly infinite number of lawyers prepared to argue that your fake truth is just as valid as someone else’s declaration?

The people in charge are making it up as they go. Reality is now whatever the 1% say it is, and the rest of you better ‘get over it.’

75% of Americans don’t trust their government and politicians, while 64% don’t even trust each other. And the response from their governmental spokesperson?

“This is the way it works. Get over it.”

Nick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff, October 17, 2019

And why bother being civil to each other, when accusations, personal sniping, and the flinging of links to sites that trumpet your truth, is the new way to communicate? The loudest voice seems to rule the day, as those with softer voices and gentle demeanours fall by the wayside.  Even many of those that we may think of as friends and colleagues seem unable to stop themselves from snapping at our heels, unmoored from a frontal cortex that might stop their lips from voicing what might, in better times, have never been uttered, like so many stroke victims who have lost their verbal filters. 

The atmosphere seems to favour the conceit that we are the most important and most knowledgeable person in the room, while simultaneously being the biggest, and most ignored victim, in history. Schrödinger’s Narcissist, demanding to be heard, no matter how inane and mundane our input may be. The shining lead in a reality show in which it truly is all about us, and the ‘little people’ are on their own.   

The trouble is, when everyone’s the boss, when everyone is too important to be of help, things get really dicey when you actually need help yourself. And we’re all so short of time. When we want something, we want it now, and the not getting of something we want the minute we want it leads to tantrums and tears over stuff that we might have brushed away as no big deal, just a few years ago.

Maybe our narcissism and self-focus is a by-product of the things we cannot control or change. Spending our time on self-soothing leaves little time for thinking about how the rest of the world lives. While we complain about how hard it is to get rid of stuff so that we can buy more stuff, there are millions of Canadians and Americans who are homeless. In truth, the average person is just two or three pay cheques away from being in the same boat. Maybe even just one.

” Millions of middle-class Americans are just one missed paycheck away from poverty, with 4 of 10 considered “liquid-asset poor,” or without enough money socked away to cope with even a sudden disruption in income. “

Despite the lowest unemployment rate in decades and solid economic growth, many Americans are on thin financial ice, Prosperity Now found. Minority households are particularly lagging on key measures such as income and wealth, the study found. Across the board, more than 1 in 10 American households fell behind in their bills in the last year, a signal that many are struggling with rising costs and stagnant incomes.  “ cbsnews.com

While blowhards rant about how ‘welfare queens’ pump out more mouths for taxpayers to feed, and claim with no evidence that the poor use their food stamps for steak and booze, the sad truth is that America can be a harsh and unforgiving place for those born to anything less than middle class. Many resent giving the poor and vulnerable ‘hand outs,’ but have no solutions as to how we should go about helping those less fortunate than themselves.  

This epidemic of poverty and homelessness is not new; society was ever thus. What is so startling about today’s wave of needy citizens is the glaring contrast between the haves and the have nots.

Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has 10 yachts, 12 private jets, 4 helicopters, a government job replete with perks and benefits, and pays no taxes.  She also has 24/7 security, at a cost to the taxpayers of $20 million to date, because she ‘fears for her life’ due to some teacher-led protests.

At 10:30 a.m., this Black Friday, I walked along Yonge Street near Bloor, picking my way through the hands held out for change, while avoiding the prone bodies in sleeping bags that hugged the curb. Across the street, the glittering shops of Yorkville were swamped with fur coated shoppers proffering their black AmEx credit cards to take advantage of sales.

Toronto‘s libraries don’t talk about it much, but they are often the only place able to provide a safe haven for those with no homes, and nowhere to go during the day. On any given day, it’s not unusual to see a bundle buggy heaped high with all of a person’s worldly possessions parked in a library foyer or washroom. And while it may be tempting to sniff that you are opposed to paying for this with your tax dollars, the question then must be what you are prepared to do to help with the situation instead. And that takes a great deal more money, courage and empathy, than kicking in a few pennies per year in your taxes.

Looking beyond our cities and nations, people all around the globe are dying by the millions, from war and neglect. In Yemen, 85,000 children under the age of five have died from starvation, along with countless adult civilians. In Syria, the Kurdish people, who just a month ago were American allies, are being slaughtered as the Turkish militia go door to door in search of ex-fighters. Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and is at war with the Ukraine.

Southwest Bangladesh

The nation of Bangladesh is frantically trying to bail out the waters that are threatening to sink this South Asian country, due to climate change. And it is not even an island nation. It’s population of over 163 million will soon need somewhere to live. Like the other countries facing imminent disaster, they will become climate refugees, searching for new homes, along with Comoros, Tonga, the Seychelles, Palau, Nauru, Kirbati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu, and the Maldives.

Last week, koalas became functionally extinct, joining the more than nearly 500 species that have gone extinct in the last century due to continued human degradation and destruction of natural habitats.. Your grandchildren may never see a koala, polar bear, rhinoceros, lion or tiger other than in a picture book.

And yet .. and yet .. and yet ….

The wealthiest people on earth increased their combined personal fortunes by about $1 trillion dollars last year. The poorest person on Forbes Richest People List, at number 20, is Jack Ma, who has a personal net worth of over $41 billion dollars. Mr Ma, alone, if he wished, could end world hunger. 

I know that it is difficult to cope mentally with all of these issues, of climate change, man’s inhumanity to man and animals, wars, populist politicians, societal division, a lack of civility and decency, inequality, and the disparity of income and the ill treatment of our most vulnerable that we see around us. How do you justify these things, when so many of these problems could potentially be ameliorated by the very people who compound the issues in their quest to amass and hoard more wealth than most of us can envision?

If you allowed yourself to really feel the despair of all of those who are afraid, hungry, cold, or in pain – how would you be able to get up every morning and go to school, or work? How do you keep the wheels of the world turning, if you are grieving for people you don’t know, and are unlikely to ever encounter?

I don’t see a lot of happy people these days, on the streets, in the stores, in their vehicles or on transit. I see a lot of angry people, a lot of frustrated faces, and people rushing to be somewhere that doesn’t seem like a place they want to be. I see beggars on the streets of a wealthy city.

“How can you tell me that you’re lonely? And say for you that the sun don’t shine.”

Ralph McTell, Streets of London

Maybe we need to re-examine how we engage with each other. These days I hear so many more raised voices, and so much less laughter. Maybe it’s time to encourage and reward civility and good humour, rather than making heroes and celebrities of those who delight in disrespecting and brutalizing their fellow human beings.

And with the holiday season nearly here, and the cold of winter encroaching, maybe we can all just take a minute to be truly grateful for what we have, and to help those in need. Not a single one of us can save the earth – but all of us together could make a start.

Nostalgia, Russian Assets, and Canada Votes


by Roxanne Tellier

If this column doesn’t actually get written, edited and/or published until February or March of 2020 …. don’t blame me.

NO ONE can resist the call of nineties arcade games! Remember Commander Keen,  Bio Menace, Mr Blobby, Duke Nukem and the rest of the Apogee Games? They’re back, baby! and as addictive as ever. I can’t believe this DOS dump of 2500 hot titles of the nineties .. the list is endless .. well, at least until you look for game 2501 ….

Here’s the link. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that America’s POTUS is, in truth, a Russian asset. I know – now you’re laughing and want to throw me a tinfoil hat.

But bear with me for a bit. Take a look at everything that has been accomplished in Trump’s first 1000 days – does America look any better than it did before he was inaugurated? Are America’s lower and middle class wealthier, or indeed even happier, than they were before he arrived? Is the country more secure, better positioned, now that most of her allies have been driven away, and her strategic alliances have been irreparably damaged?

Is America’s farmland protected from the devastation of Trump’s trade war that has seen family farms go bankrupt, only to be snapped up by Russian and Chinese investment companies?

For that matter, with the flood of rollbacks of regulations and legislation that once protected America’s parks, wildlife and water … are you happy with the devastation that’s been allowed to happen throughout the nation?   

Or are most Americans sick to death of the constant flood of criminal nonsense flowing from this White House?

It begs credulity to not see the strong link between Russia and Trump; he’s repeatedly  insisted that all of the Intelligence Agencies, venerable pillars in American governance, are against him, and are wrong in their conclusion that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. He’s insisted over and over again that Russia needs to be back in the G7, since he believes that it was only Obama’s prejudice against Putin that resulted in the sanctions against Russia, that he’s tried repeatedly to remove.  And at this very moment, Trump has his puppet, Attorney General Bill Barr, traveling the world, in a totally bizarre attempt to prove those intelligence agencies wrong about Russia’s part in the election.  

Putin’s long term plan to bring down America as a world power has always been to destroy it from the inside, and that seems to have been what has happened. The nation is divided, there’s no progress being made although trillions of dollars are being spent on nonsense, this president may well be the first to be not just impeached, but imprisoned, and his supporters are threatening a civil war should anyone be mean to their fair haired, orange faced, tweetheart.

And then there’s this ….

Gee. That’s not suspicious AT ALL.

And is it just a coincidence that Trump gave Turkey the go ahead to besiege Syria, and to begin a genocide against the Kurdish fighters who’d saved America’s bacon against the rebels … on Putin’s birthday?

Here’s a portion of what the Kurds’ commander in chief says about America’s betrayal of Syrian Kurds.  

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters evacuate a wounded comrade

” We lost 11,000 soldiers, some of our best fighters and commanders, to rescue our people from this grave danger. I have also always instructed our forces that the Americans and other allied forces are our partners, and so we should always make sure that they are not harmed.

Amid the lawlessness of war, we always stuck with our ethics and discipline, unlike many other nonstate actors. We defeated al Qaeda, we eradicated the Islamic State, and, at the same time, we built a system of good governance based on small government, pluralism, and diversity. We provided services through local governing authorities for Arabs, Kurds, and Syriac Christians. We called on a pluralistic Syrian national identity that is inclusive for all. This is our vision for Syria’s political future: decentralized federalism, with religious freedom and respect for mutual differences.

The forces that I command are now dedicated to protecting one-third of Syria against an invasion by Turkey and its jihadi mercenaries. The area of Syria we defend has been a safe refuge for people who survived genocides and ethnic cleansings committed by Turkey against the Kurds, Syriacs, Assyrians, and Armenians during the last two centuries.

We guard more than 12,000 Islamic State terrorist prisoners and bear the burden of their radicalized wives and children. We also protect this part of Syria from Iranian militias.

When the whole world failed to support us, the United States extended its hands. We shook hands and appreciated its generous support.

At Washington’s request, we agreed to withdraw our heavy weapons from the border area with Turkey, destroy our defensive fortifications, and pull back our most seasoned fighters. Turkey would never attack us so long as the U.S. government was true to its word with us.

We are now standing with our chests bare to face the Turkish knives”  (ForeignPolicy.com)

By every measure, Trump’s treachery has resulted in the deaths of thousands more innocents, and his botched attempt at stopping the horrific wave of genocidal murders only gave Turkey’s leader everything he wanted .. and more .. since the validation of Turkey’s annexation of Kurdish land came with the stamp of approval of the American government.

 “The cease-fire agreement reached with Turkey by Vice President Mike Pence amounts to a near-total victory for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who gains territory, pays little in penalties and appears to have outmanoeuvred President Trump.” (The New York Times)

“This is essentially the US validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population,’ the senior US official said. ‘This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green lighted.’(CNN)

America’s president gave Russia quite the present for it’s leader’s birthday. It would seem that Putin’s work here is done.

Some Trump followers are lauding the withdrawal of American troops from Syria as honouring a campaign promise to ‘end endless wars.’ However, the troops that are currently abandoning the Kurds to a bloody fate are not going home – they are being deployed to Saudi Arabia to be a PAID military for the Saud’s own war. 

Trump has remade the United States military in his own image… now .. they’ll murder for pay. Once proud soldiers are now mercenaries. You have to wonder if that is what all of them signed up for.

************************************************************************

So .. is Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential contender, also a Russian asset, as Hillary Clinton claimed? All things considered.. she’s certainly not much of a Democratic asset . I’m hearing so much back and forth on this today; on the one hand, people are scoffing at the very idea. On the other, well, Clinton has been right many times before. Can you really afford to just pooh pooh the idea?

The funny thing is – Hillary didn’t name Gabbard. Gabbard just immediately grabbed the quote and ran with it.

If we look at Gabbard’s voting record, it’s pretty easy to see a not so Democratic bent to many of her decisions.

From 2014 onward, Gabbard appeared regularly on Fox News to lambast the Obama administration for avoiding the phrase (“radical Islam.”) In one interview, she told the host that “the vast majority of terrorist attacks conducted around the world for over the last decade have been conducted by groups who are fueled by this radical Islamic ideology,” a statement that may be technically true due to the violence and instability plaguing Middle Eastern countries, but is wildly misleading considering that non-Muslims make up the vast, vast majority of terrorist perpetrators in both Europe and the United States.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January 2015, Gabbard complained on Fox News that by “not using this term ‘Islamic extremism’ and clearly identifying our enemies,” the administration couldn’t “come up with a very effective strategy to defeat that enemy.” She told Neil Cavuto that “this isn’t about one specific group,” but about “this radical Islamic ideology that is fueling this,” and that it needed to be defeated “militarily and ideologically.” She characterized Obama’s refusal to “recognize” the enemy as “mind-boggling” and “troubling.”

Gabbard flirted with joining the Trump administration, taking an interview, and she also refused to denounce the appointment of Steve Bannon in the Trump administration. Breitbart, Bannon, and others quickly praised her. ” (The Daily Kos)

While Gabbard is basically a non-issue this election, I’d keep an eye on her performance over the next few years. It would be a shame for America to find itself with yet another Russian asset, next time around.

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Canada, you will have a chance to make a difference to your nation tomorrow.

On October 21 – VOTE to elect members of the House of Commons to the 43rd Canadian Parliament.  

And remember ……

The End of History?


I wrote this column just days after the election, but was so dispirited that I never published it on Frustrated Boomers. Two weeks into the Trump presidency, it bears repeating.

This morning, Neil Postman‘s son, Andrew, wrote something along the same lines. It is worth reading.

quote: “Our public discourse has become so trivialized, it’s astounding that we still cling to the word “debates” for what our presidential candidates do onstage when facing each other. Really? Who can be shocked by the rise of a reality TV star, a man given to loud, inflammatory statements, many of which are spectacularly untrue but virtually all of which make for what used to be called “good television”?

Who can be appalled when the coin of the realm in public discourse is not experience, thoughtfulness or diplomacy but the ability to amuse – no matter how maddening or revolting the amusement?

…. For all the ways one can define fascism (and there are many), one essential trait is its allegiance to no idea of right but its own: it is, in short, ideological narcissism. It creates a myth that is irrefutable (much in the way that an image’s “truth” cannot be disproved), in perpetuity, because of its authoritarian, unrestrained nature.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley?CMP=share_btn_fb

And here is my column, originally published on November 27th, on Bob Segarini‘s wonderful site, “Don’t Believe A Word I Say.”

.***********.

When we’re confused by where we are, it’s important to look at where we’ve been.

Confusion, uncertainty, masked as fear, pride, or hubris, reigns in all of us in these last days of 2016. What a year! I’m tempted to ride out the last bit hiding under my bed with my cats.

I don’t think Trump could have been elected in any other year but 2016. Not only has it been a year where we’ve lost so many of those whom we respected and loved, but a year where the horrific has become commonplace, whats-aleppowhere democracy is shoved aside as unfriendly to business,  where opinion (literally) trumped logic,  and the slaughter of millions of innocents barely raises an eyebrow.

“What is Aleppo?”  Gary Johnson asked “What is Aleppo,” while seeking the office of President of the United States. America … you have much to answer for.

We have to understand that we would never have come to this moment in history without a lot of groundwork being laid. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, amongst others, foretold days like these; it’s been in the works for quite some time. huxley-vs-orwellPerhaps Huxley, in Brave New World, understood our impressionability more than Orwell did in 1984 … it’s not that we are being denied books or access to information, it’s that we prefer entertainment to knowledge.

From the foreword to Neil Postman‘s Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1986, Penguin edition:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

It’s not being a conspiracy theorist to understand that there are market forces, globally, that need certain conditions to occur, in order to sustain capitalism, and that those forces will do whatever is necessary to create and sustain those conditions. However capitalism, of necessity, must eventually eat itself, since it is based on continual growth.

Before we move into the next era, post capitalism, we have to deal with the mess that capitalism has made, not just to the planet, but to our thinking. We have to understand that we have been willing lambs to the slaughter of intelligence and sober thought, distracted by shiny things that hold our limited attention for seconds before our constant craving for the next sensation propels us on to the next shiny thing.

north-korea-bomb“The world’s nuclear clock  sits at one second to midnight .. but first, a word from our sponsor.”    

We have to come to grips with a constant rage that bubbles beneath the surface of our collective consciousness, a rage that has no real focus, but seizes on whatever temporarily irritates or annoys us, that compels an acting out far beyond what the situation warrants.

We have to accept that we have been lied to, in the name of business, as our resources have been seized and ruined for future generations, as species become extinct due to their habitats being stolen from them. Human greed and human need have made the chances of your great-grandchildren ever seeing a real live elephant, slim.

politicians-before-and-afterAnd, in what I consider truly tragic, we still have to somehow find a sense of trust in those we elect to lead us into this uncertain future, and I don’t know if we can suspend that much disbelief any more.  There comes a point at which we simply can’t deny that each successive political  ‘saviour’ is just a new mask on an old face of treachery, bought and paid for by market forces.

Billions of our hard earned tax dollars have been frittered away on projects benefiting commerce, not the people. In Ontario alone, before privatization of Hydro One,  it was run by one president, one vice-president, one department head, and so on. The president’s annual salary was around $420,000. Today, in Ontario ‘s Hydro (between the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), Hydro One and the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) (all three Public Sector Agencies)), the president reportedly earns around $4million annually, and there are 11,879 employees who make more than $100,000/year. These top earners draw combined annual earnings of over 1.6 billion dollars. 626 in management positions are making more than $200,000/year…

… while many Ontarions are having to decide whether they can afford heating or eating this winter, because they can’t come up with the money for both.

And yet, this week we’ve heard that our Prime Minister has been making the rounds, intent on privatizing yet more of the country’s assets, despite economical and historical data proving that privatization of assets can add a minimum of a third of the costs to taxpayers, when internal positions are outsourced.

Canadians on a government pension of $12 to $14K a year can only pretend for so long that the enormous government wages and pensions of civil servants and politicians make any sort of logical or humane sense.

well-dressed-lobstersDespite no recent Prime Minister having been elected with a clear majority or mandate, sweeping changes that will affect Canadians for generations have been put into place over the last few decades, with barely a whimper.  Or, if a whimper was murmured, it was simply ignored. At best, we changed lobsters and continued the dance.

And we can only look on from afar and pray for American’s who are, like it or not, about to have their historical clock turned back to the ‘good ol’ days’ of segregation, back alley abortions, internment camps, and increasing civil unrest.

Many think we’re at a pivotal moment in time, although  the events of 2016 may pale in light of other ‘really terrible years,’ like 1347-50, when the Black Death took a third of Europe’s population;  1492, when the indigenous people of America invited the wrong people to dinner;  Ireland’s Potato Famine of 1845; or  Europe in 1943, when the Holocaust deaths were at their height. Certainly, Syrians will name 2016th as their country’s nadir.

franz-ferdinand-1914From History Today, ” If I was forced to name the worst year, it would probably be 1914. In July of that year, a European order that had brought peace, prosperity and extraordinary artistic and scientific progress, began to unravel. The vast conflict that followed led directly to the Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the Cold War and the mess that is the modern Middle East. Only in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, did we enter a relatively stable period – the ‘End of History’ – before it came crashing down on September 11th, 2001. ”

So – we’ve been here before. However I don’t think there’s precedent for this year of Syria and Iraq; unparalleled devastation creating a flood of refugees fleeing for their lives; Europe’s epidemic of terrorism, Brexit,  the Zika outbreak, horrific civil unrest in Turkey, growing racial tension in the United States; famine in northern Nigeria,  American peaceful protests being met with aggressive military engagement; and possibly worst of all, the unholy alliance of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin … these are this year’s trials. homeless-world-cup-2016

What comes after the “End of History?” Whatever happens next, it is certainly a time when the decisions and actions we – as a people – take now, will determine where we go from here, and will define not just North America’s future, but the entire planet’s.

 

 

Climate Change? What Climate Change? Part One


Wouldn’t it be great if we knew what our regrets will someday be, before the fact, and when we still had time to do something about preventing them?

what me worryThe single biggest issue facing the planet right now is climate change. Inequality would be second, but without a globalized approach to climate change, inequality is moot. As is war, reproductive rights, trophy hunting and gay marriage. Everything – no matter how deeply you care about it – is nothing but condiments to this picnic, issues to keep the population squabbling amongst themselves, and oblivious to the coming storm.

The wars in the Middle East are braided into the reality of climate change; Climate change drove the Syrian uprising, as drought and rising temperatures hurt agriculture, and pushed desperate people into conflict and exodus. With the cities already suffering from poverty, refugees from Iraq poured in and open conflict was inevitable. As was the migration of refugees pouring into Europe, fleeing war and starvation.

climate_change_inequality_mapIn every South American country, concern over climate change is above the 90% mark, with this level of worry shared by Mexico, India, Tanzania and Morocco. Japan is one of the few highly advanced economies in the world to have a population as concerned about the risks of climate change.” (The Guardian, July 2015.)

francis_climate_two
The Eastern Mediterranean countries are drying out; East Africa, Somalia and Sudan are nearing crisis, and, closer to home, parts of Central America, especially Mexico, are short of water in countries reliant on agriculture.

If you still don’t believe in climate change, and mankind’s place in accelerating it, then you are not only uninformed, you are part of the problem. The people who mock the idea of their own personal impact on the planet, who brush aside 98% of established scientific fact as ‘junk science,’ are the same people who leave their litter behind in public parks; who carve tGlobal-Warming-bushheir initials into bridges and railings; and who graffiti monuments. These people are incredibly selfish, and believe that the world revolves only around them, right this minute. In a childish fit of pique, they deny what’s happening globally, because it’s not currently affecting their well-being. They are, in a word, greedy. They not only want it all, they want yours as well, and see no problem with taking what they desire from others. What happens elsewhere is of no concern .  If they can’t see it, if it doesn’t impact on their personal satisfaction, then they just don’t care.

Their numbers are dwindling, but they are a vocal group. They are the fools who toss a winter’s snowball on the floor of the Senate to prove their ignorance. They are the politicians who strip away environmental protections from their country’s resources, and pocket the blood money corporations funnel into their party’s war chest. They are the brainless citizens who look at all of the research and data showing irrefutable proof of ecological damage, and choose to ignore what they see.

In large part, this is because they either lack the imagination to imagine a world where water replaces gold as a standard, or because they understand just enough about what’s coming for their minds to simply shut down, unable to process such a scenario.

hurricane-sandy-hits-new-jerseyIt is not until their trailer parks are swept into the ocean, or their crops dwindle to nothing that they finally see what bull-headed opposition to reality has wrought. . And then they blame everyone else for the destruction, and expect the government to pick up the tab.

Many will say there is no point in just one country tightening it’s belt on carbon emissions. After all, they’ll say, it’s China that’s really doing all the polluting, so why should we suffer while they profit?

GlobalGHGEmissionsByCountryLast year President Obama signed a pact with President Xi Jinping of China. China leads the world in overall carbon dioxide emissions, but Americans per head are the greatest generators of greenhouse gases.

This doesn’t guarantee that these two nations will keep their promise to reduce fossil-fuel use within a realistic timetable, but it does mean that corporations and free market capitalism, which look to make the most money in the shortest time, will find legal stumbling blocks to continued fracking and pumping crude oil. Investors will look to the next profitable venture, hopefully in renewable energy and green technology.

kiribati-630x420_edit2The world’s best scientists have tried to tell us for years that we are at a tipping point. It may already be too late to turn this situation around. Those countries around the world that we don’t think or care about – they are already suffering. Temperatures are soaring in India, small island countries are being assailed by sea-level rise and tropical cyclones. Droughts are no longer rare – and in America, California is entering it’s fourth year of drought, it’s deepest ground water almost completely depleted.

Some will tell you that what we’re seeing is the tail end of the Ice Age, which began somewhere between 18,000 and 80,000 years ago. The climate is always changing, it’s cyclical.

cat climate changeThe climate has changed before; fossils and archaeology tell us that there have been previous periods that appear to have been warmer than the present despite CO2 (greenhouse gasses, but mainly CO2 and methane) levels being lower than they are today.

But what’s happening now is accelerated. When CO2 levels jumped rapidly in the past, the global warming that resulted was often the cause of mass extinctions.

CO2 levels, rising global temperatures, ocean acidification, and rapid carbon emissions are generally known to decimate life on Earth.

climate change apathyToday we are emitting prodigious quantities of CO2, at a rate faster than even the most destructive climate changes in earth’s past. The Rain Forests, nature’s lungs, which have played a huge part in clearing our air, are being decimated. Thanks to human activity, we seem to be on the verge of another mass extinction, and sooner rather than later.

I’ve stopped arguing with those who deny climate change. Life is too short. But I have to wonder … who profits from encouraging disbelief in scientific fact? exxon-mobil climate change

See Part Two.

https://frustratedboomers.com/2015/08/13/climate-change-what-climate-change-part-two/

and Part Three

https://frustratedboomers.com/2015/08/20/climate-change-what-climate-change-the-aftermath/

Apocalypse Now?


Apocalypse Now?

So, apparently we’re on the verge of another mass extinction – the last one killed off the dinosaurs. We’ve exploited the planet through hunting, fishing, and the degrading of wild habitats, and the planet is fighting back. Couldn’t happen to a nicer species, judging by our behaviour of late. I thought the advent of ‘promposals’ would have pushed us over the edge.

On the plus side, we may have until about the year 2200, the end is nearso put away the ‘end is near’ signs for now. On the negative side, there are a whole lot of people who not only think we’re living in end times, but who are actively praying to be in the first wave hitting Heaven.

Baby Boomers grew up with apocryphal thinking. We cowered under our little school desks during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and sang along to Barry Maguire’s depressing dirge.

(Fun fact: The Turtles recorded “Eve of Destruction” on their first album in 1965, but wisely did not release it as a single until 1970. The writer, P.F. Sloan, felt the song was essentially channeled to him in one long song writing session in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn. He claimed he heard an “inner voice that is inside of each and every one of us but is drowned out by the roar of our minds! “)

The Spokesmen, a folk group that were actually John Madara and David White, a Philadelphia song writing team whose hits include “At The Hop” and “You Don’t Own Me,” recorded an answer song called “The Dawn Of Correction” that made it all the way to #36 on Billboard. “When we wrote the song, we were never for the war, we were just for America, and we felt that ‘The Eve of Destruction’ was a slap against America. Because of the anti-war sentiment, ‘The Dawn of Correction’ was obviously taken the wrong way.”

And of course, “In the Year 2525” predicted the human race’s eventual demise in 9595, but I can’t even listen to the song long enough to get you the url … it was that bad. Save yourself! Don’t Google “Zager and Evans ‘In The Year 2525!”

Certainly there’s no shortage of music available that warns of, or pleads for, mass destruction. Everyone from Johnny Cash to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and from The Strokes to Nine Inch Nails are included for your listening pleasure in this playlist for your Final Days.

No shortage of literature, either. Heck, the Bible told us to start packing for the afterlife centuries ago! And I’ll bet there were cavemen who etched cautionary tales into the walls even before that. But why? Why do we alternately fear and embrace an end to our lives and world?

Some say that our tendency to romanticize a post-apocalyptic world is a response to today’s uncertainties, threats of terroriszombiesm, war, fiscal cliffs and climate change. We secretly believe that we will be one of the few ‘left behind,’ post disaster, in a world cleansed of the Bad Guys. Children, especially, think that life would be much simpler if all they had to deal with were well-known and predictable boogie men like Zombies.

Some mentally cast themselves as the heroes of a new world they can leave their own mark upon, imagining that they can thrive and get back to nature, oblivious to the very real hardships of a life without antibiotics and electricity, amidst crumbling infrastructure. These are the preppers, who build bunkers and compulsively store food and water. Their response to fear is goal oriented. Simple tasks are therapy.

Others are survivors of traumatic experiences, fatalists happiest when amongst other fatalists. It’s not suicidetimeenough if the world kills you first. An apocalypse is just another event in a life of negativity, and if doom can be ascribed to some larger, external event – a rogue comet, an ancient prophecy – well then, whatever happens is certainly not going to be blamed on them.

fear-allure“Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable.” And fear is something so primal, it’s etched into our DNA. “Over evolutionary history, organisms with a better-safe-than-sorry approach survive. This mechanism has had consequences for both the body and brain, where the fast-acting amygdala can activate a fearful stress response before “higher” cortical areas have a chance to assess the situation and respond more rationally.” (Shmuel Lissek, neuroscientist)

A scarier group, and one with an even more frightening ability to move the planet closer to oblivion, are the religion based groups who are anticipating a glorious afterlife with their chosen deity. No, not just Muslims in the Middle East – you can count mescalator to heavenany politicians in both Canada and the United States as being amongst those who are salivating at the prospect of a stairway to heaven.

Or better still, an escalator.

One third of Americans believe that the conflict in Syria is a sign predicted in the Bible that the end is nigh. Rep Michele Bachman , who has often hinted that she believes President Obama is the Anti-Christ, claims that the rapture is coming, thanks to President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran’s nuclear program and marriage equality.

“We in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church,” Bachmann said. “We see the destruction, but this was a destruction that was foretold. Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hanHalloweenTwilightZoned.”

Three out of four evangelicals believe Christ will return soon. They believe they’re seeing the end of the world because that’s what they want to see. They pooh pooh the idea of dealing with hellfire and brimstone, because they figure they won’t be around. They’ve ticked the “Rapture” option, which says that true believers get first dibs on heaven, while the sinners deal with the mess they’ve left behind.

left behind(Fun fact: The Rapture is not in the Bible. It was invented in the 19th century by John Nelson Darby, an Irish evangelist, and then made popular by a preacher named William Eugene Blackstone in his 1908 book, Jesus is Coming, which sold more than a million copies. It’s a pop construct. An “escapist fantasy” that neatly avoids killing off the ‘good’ Christians.)

Whatever their religion, religious fanatics want to see non-believers punished, even if it means destroying the planet, as long as they themselves are finally instated as the rightful rulers of all mankind.They are so eager for that day to come that preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame every current disaster upon those they conceive of as sinners; feminists, gays, pagans, and every other religion that isn’t their own.

What they’re really drooling over are apocalyptic revenge fantasies.

Although Canadians are pretty tolerant, we have Evangelicals in Canada as well, and one of them is our Prime Minister. In Marci McDonald’s 2010 book, The Armageddon Factor, she warned about the “theo-cons” (Stephen Harper’s word), who view “science and environmentalism as hostile to the Bible.”

armageddon factor“Regarding the church that Harper has belonged to for nearly three decades — the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church — McDonald noted that its “adherents believe that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ and the Second Coming is ‘imminent’.”

That would place Harper’s church squarely in the Evangelical tradition called dominionism, those who believe in the so-called “dominion mandate” spelled out in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.”

Many (although not all) dominionists take that passage as a divine trump card against any thoughts about environmental protection or regulation.”

This is an interesting read, though not really the sort of book you want to take to the beach with you on a sunny day. It’s the sort of book that makes you think, whether you believe the work or not.

We are fascinated by tales of an apocalypse, especially if said apocalypse finds us alive and having wonderful adventures in a new world of our own shaping. But what those stories should be teaching us is what we can do to stop moving towards an end caused by human interference, and how to make the necessary changes in our lives in order to avoid leaving our children and grandchildren a barren world, ripe for annihilation.

(originally published June 21/2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)

Canadians Mustn’t Die to Protect Harper’s Ego


Whenever I watch anything about war, be it fiction or non-fiction, featuring North Americans, or any other soldiers on the planet, I am struck by one horrible, indefensible truth.

I am long past romanticizing war. The young men … the young and the foolish and brave men, barely past their teens or just into their twenties … believe with all of their hearts that they are acting in the best interests of their tribes. quote-young-men-go-to-war-sometimes-because-they-are-have-to-sometimes-because-they-want-to-always-mitch-albom-206250

Young men, whose hearts are in the right place, but who have yet to achieve total mental maturity, take up arms against others, others that they have been told either have something their country needs, or others who have a predetermined antipathy against their country.

cheneyOld men, men that could not be drafted into service, send these babes out in to the world, armed with little knowledge, but strong prejudices, drilled into them through military exercises, and constant reminders that the most honourable thing they can do is to die for their country.

Those who survive the horror of war, at least since Vietnam, come home not to respect and a grateful nation, but to a country set on denying them timely help in recovering from physical or emotional trauma. Canada and the United States are unable to cope with the wounded from the last several skirmishes. There are veterans of foreign wars living on the streets in North America, while others battle endless bureaucracy to simply get the care they were promised would be available at the end of their military tours. Some of these veterans will kill themselves in despair, willingly or through drug usage meant to dull the pain, before they finally get to the top of the treatment line.

political hypocrisyAnd yet, come Remembrance Day, every politician will be piously doffing their metaphorical hats in respect, a respect in lip service only.

And now, this Easter weekend, Prime unseat harperMinister Stephen Harper, so terrified of losing his seat in Parliament that he will inflate one drug addled, mentally ill man’s assault on the Parliament into terrorist activity, has decided to plunge Canada into what is essentially an illegal war, unsanctioned by the United Nations, and unasked of by the Canadian citizens who will be paying the bill for yet another foreign war, and sending their sons and daughters to be slaughtered to his monumental hubris, and need for power at any cost – even that of the Canadians he was elected to serve.

“”Our last war, in Afghanistan, lasted 12 years. The kill count was 158 Canadian service men and women, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors. There are some 2,100 Afghanistan veterans trying to recover from combat and other non-battle injuries. In terms of treasure, the total bill to the country is $12 billion. This includes $8.4 billion for the mission itself and $447-million to take care of our veterans.”  http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/why-is-canada-at-war-the-politics-of-fear-listener-mail-school-of-gospel-the-sinking-of-the-lusitania-1.3018334/why-is-canada-at-war-michael-s-essay-1.3018363

He has no right, and no mandate, to take Canada into a war slipped through on the eve of Easter and Passover weekend. His cadre of supporters, more cowed supplicants than devoted fellow party members, voted 142 to 129 to pass this war resolution. It is a shameful, vile moment in Canada’s long history of peace keeping.

“War is the ultimate acknowledgement of collective failure. War means that we don’t know how to confront evil by any means other than killing and dying.” Michael Enright.

In generations to come, Stephen Harper’s legacy will include this decision to side with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose family has been slaughtering Syrians for decades and continues to do so. His reputation in the rest of the civilized world may never recover. But it is we, the Canadians, who will have to live with the shame and our shattered world image.

war is failure