Saturday, July 31

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

I was talking with a friend today about how we ingest media these days, and specifically, how critically we take in the feeds that we receive from fourth and fifth estates. We both agreed that our suspicion of the 'party line' had increased exponentially over the last while with the effect for both of us that we ask very specific questions whenever we hear 'news', and pretty much regardless of the source. We now wonder what it is we're not supposed to be looking at when we see the disingenuous stories that seem to dominate the headlines, or at least the biases that dominate the way those headlines are reported.

We grow up (or perhaps grew up – my smart, young friends seem to be suspicious far more naturally these days) thinking that the news we receive through the mainstream sources are credible and unbiased by default. These are, after all, the professionals – the epitome of journalism and, ostensibly journalistic integrity. I grew up in the then-present mythos of Woodward and Bernstein, the Pentagon-Papers, war-journalists embedded in Viet-Nam, before the movies but just after the breaking news, when journalism was held up as the last great defense against corruption.

I don't feel that way now. Maybe (probably) I just grew up a bit. I've grown to believe that cynicism is a natural response to seeing the world the way it is. Psychologists routinely report that depression is statistically linked to a more accurate perception of the world around us, the world as it truly is. Being hopeful, resisting an unadulterated strain of that disillusioned perspective, requires either denial of the truth or a stubborn choice; a refusal to give up on what could be. Denial shouldn't be a viable option anymore, so that leaves making daily choices. Hard ones.

This isn't even about which side we take. I'm a firm believer in passionate disagreement and debate. I entertain dreams of that kind of respectful yet strong discussion occurring here one day, comments from honest and open people on both sides of an argument. I wouldn't for a second suggest that I'm detached or completely objective in the perspectives that I hold, but I hope that my opinions (because that's all they are) at least show that I've taken the time to investigate and think through both sides of an argument. My conclusions usually end up in relatively the same place: perhaps an inevitable destination because of my biases, or perhaps because of the logical result of the investigation – most likely (hopefully) at least a bit of both.

But we shouldn't be afraid to ask the questions. I've used the Descartes quote before: 'If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt all things.' This should be - has to be - the attitude that we take when looking at the world around us. So much of the world that we are presented with through the media, by our politicians and social leaders, is presented through a biased and manipulative lens, that we have to doubt what we see. Have to.

To not do so is to deny the simple truth that we all create our perceptions of the world through our own, auto-biographical narratives – that we are constantly being tempted to see the world only through the lens that we find most comfortable; the one that feels safest. We seek others that think like us, talk like us, are passionate about topics like us. It's so comforting to surround ourselves in group-think cocoons so that we never have to face the possibility that our perspective is wrong. Being committed (and continually renewing that commitment) to questioning what we see and how we choose to see it is part of our responsibility as citizens.

It's not easy, especially when we find ourselves in a comfortable place, that place where we feel at home and accepted and amongst friends. Ironically, that's when a questioning, self-cynical perspective is the most important. It's at the exact moment when we feel safe and included that we need to ask ourselves the hardest questions: What are my prejudices here and now? What is this place of apparent comfort encouraging me to not see? What biases are my deeply held beliefs fostering in me? How is my perspective encouraging me to dehumanize people who don't agree with me? Am I in danger of becoming that which I hate?

That kind of soul-searching and the constant state of imbalance it can create can be very disorienting, but it's honest. When we think that we're standing on concrete is when we should be most concerned. The world is made of sand, constantly shifting and never stable. Simply recognizing our inclination to try to delude ourselves into thinking it's solid when it isn't is an enormous challenge.

Our responsibility as citizens, if we care about ever evolving past war and greed and the creation of arbitrary differentiations between 'us' and 'the other', is to get comfortable with being off balance; with choosing to stay off balance in so much as we are constantly re-evaluating our beliefs and assumptions, constantly trying to see past ourselves.

It's a hard place to live, but nobody ever said that anything worth while was easy.

Tuesday, July 20

‘Capable, generous men do not make victims, they nurture them.’ Julian Assange

Life is about making mistakes. Well, maybe not about making them, but they happen. I've made peace with that. Occasionally, I have really good days when I make good decisions in anticipation of the mistake it would be if I made another choice, hard decisions that are not efficient in terms of short term gain or ease, but rather work only when I measure in terms of how I want to look back on my life when I get to the end of it.

I was thinking about this concept on Saturday, both in personal and in societal terms, when I drove to Vancouver to participate in the CAPP solidarity march and protest demanding a full public inquiry in into the recent G8/G20 summit in Toronto. It was my own little thematic idea-track providing a context and mood to the day. I create these thematic playlists most days and, when the 'theme music' is good, when I can feel the kick drum, move with the syncopation, and lean into the melody and harmonies, I find myself edging into a sense of serendipity that I can only compare to good days in front of the keyboard clicking out the imaginary lives of the characters in my novel. It's a feeling of connectedness, something that approaches Epiphanical ecstasy at times, a dance of endorphins that makes everything feel just alright, if you know what I mean.

On these days, whether the insights feel optimistic or the clarity only provides confirmation for my pessimism, I feel like I'm in touch with something bigger. I don't attribute it to god or the universe. I know it's just a trick of biochemistry and psychological alignment, but I also don't care how or why. It's a powerful sensation and I'll take it any way I can get it.

I spent the morning walking through the Woodlands Memorial Garden. Woodlands Provincial Asylum for the Insane was an institution that operated between 1913 and 1996. At its peak it housed over 1250 people, many of whom died while incarcerated at the facility. Ideas regarding the developmentally challenged evolved a great deal through those years, but they were never really enlightened, even through the '80's and '90's when Woodlands was winding down and hundreds of patients were released without placement or support into the community. The impact on Vancouver's homeless population was enormous.

A plaque in the memorial states: “The memorial sculpture, Window Too High, represents the barred windows of the original Woodlands building that were set so high that the residents could not see out of them.” Over 300 people died while residing at Woodlands between 1920 and 1958, and were buried on the grounds. Later renovations actually desecrated these graves by using granite marker stones for patio and BBQ installations. In '99 the Memorial Garden was created and over 200 stones, only a portion of those removed, were reclaimed. Missing stones have been replaced with new plaques to commemorate and respect those that were once buried here. Only nine original graves survived the desecration. They are described as “silent sentinels” over this place that has been, in some small measure, reclaimed.

I was immediately struck, in light of that thematic sub-beat that was running through my head, by the dissonant irony that we seem to place so much emphasis on making things right in retrospect when we were (and are) so eager to participate in the desecration in the first place. I wondered how it was, in the '70's, that anyone thought it would be okay to use those stones to build patios? I wondered what failure of foresight could have justified such insensitivity.

Today, I wonder what can justify the failure of foresight we continue to practice, as individuals and as a culture, every day of our present. How do we not learn, when we are so often faced with the social and political necessity of reparation and reconciliation, to avoid the kind of callous disregard for each other that spawns the need for such campaigns of atonement?

I carried this feeling of intense species-shame into the afternoon and the protest. It seems like such a small thing to join with a couple hundred other people to walk three blocks chanting and shouting, sharing our communal outrage over the suspension of civil liberties that took place in Toronto during the weeks leading up to and through the G8/G20. A friend asked, very legitimately, “Does this really do anything?”

I found myself pondering again and again how it was that so many ISU officers thought it was okay to kick and beat people? How could McQuinty's cabinet enact the Public Protection Act with such cavalier disregard for the people they were elected to serve and then participate in the lies regarding its scope? How can Harper so consistently snub his arrogant nose at the Charter that his government is sworn to uphold? These are human beings, after all, whether that fact is always easy to remember or not in the midst of my frustration. They should be driven by the same basic understanding of respect and empathy as I am. We should all share a desire to see all people living with dignity. Is that such a radical concept?

How is it that, as a species, whether in the realm of politics, industry, finance, consumption, renewability, health care, or any of the other spheres in which we act with such short-sightedness, we seem to continue to make the same mistakes? How do we still justify decisions made in the interest of short-term profit or ease when the the obvious consequences loom at us over the horizon of tomorrow? Is our sense of duty to the future still so myopic that we think, “Oh well, fuck tomorrow. Our kids can put up a memorial one day. Let's make money and accumulate stuff while the sun shines”?

Yes, it is. That's exactly what's wrong. In our apathy or our sociopathic greed, we let these things happen. We have to own this, all of us. Getting past the self-inflicted denial is the first step.

In answer to my friend's question I had to admit that, in and of itself, the impact of the march on Saturday is marginal (especially when the mainstream media has admitted that they no longer desire to cover the G20 story and didn't even deign to send a single reporter to cover it).

But it does make a difference. After all, she came even though she hadn't heard about the march until I asked her to keep me company. We listened and learned together, shouted “shame” again and again as the three witnesses to the Toronto actions told their stories, listened to the social and NGO leaders and politicians, chanted our affirmations that, yes, this was what democracy looked like. We participated, as did the others, and the weight of our angst filled the street and Victory Park in its small way. Better that we were witness and remembered than that no-one did. Better to light a single candle, and all that, not giving into the apathy that seems to typify our culture. It is a big thing. And we were part of that.

We were part of saying that we will weigh our actions and their consequences in advance and with foresight. We will act in such a way as to not require memorial gardens one day to ease our shame. We will own it now, today, and make choices in hope of a better world and a kinder way of living. We will do this for ourselves and for our children and for theirs.

One day, maybe, our children's children will have better things to do than make up for our mistakes...

Monday, July 12

Unfuck the Gulf

Had to share this... It combines profanity with a good cause, two of my favourite things.

Oil Spill Charity "F-Bomb-A-Thon" from on Vimeo.

Friday, July 9

For Gaza

Let me state this plainly:

I am not anti-Israel. I believe that Israel has a right to exist as valid as any other nation state. I don't know if I would have made the same choices that were made in the late 1940's, but that's water under the bridge. Israel exists and has a right to continue to exist.

I am not pro-Palestine. I believe that the nation state is one of the poorer inventions of the human species. Show me a nation-state and I will show you an institution that will want something that someone else possesses, and will fight and kill for it if they get the opportunity.

I am not anti-Israeli. The Israeli people are a vibrant and dynamic culture with much to offer the world.

I am not pro-Hamas. Hamas, as much as the nation-state of Israel, has many crimes to answer for. I do not condone or approve of terrorism or violence no matter how much I might understand the frustration and anger that spawns it.

What I am is anti-Israeli government and policy in so much as that government and policy considers it justifiable to marginalize 1.5 million people and dictate their quality of life so that it is, at best, an existence of bare subsistence.

I am pro-Palestinian. Palestinians are a people. Like the Israelis, they have a vibrant and dynamic culture to share with the world. Like the Israelis, they deserve the opportunity to exist and flourish.

I am pro-Gaza. It is for the 1.5 million citizens of Gaza that my heart aches, that my teeth grind, that my fists clench.

They are impoverished for no reason other than an arrogant belief that one people are more worthy than another; denied the rights that we consider most basic because one culture has decreed they are less worthy; refused the basic goods required to build their homes and feed their children because a group of developed nations have decided that it is justifiable to punish an entire people for what they consider to be the sin of  poor democratic choice.

The international community of nations tout themselves as wise statesmen acting in the best interest of humanity, but they are not. Rather, they are bullies, the largest and most immature children in the playground vying for control of a global sandbox. They do not speak for me. They do not speak for you. They speak for themselves and those economic concerns that promise them fame, power and fortune.

I am anti-bully. Bullies steal from others so that they can grow fatter and bigger. They beat up those that they can to feel powerful in a vain attempt to prove their arrogance justifiable. They say that they are protecting us, but really it's more like a protection racket, an organized crime. All this can be yours,, they say, if you will just shut up and follow the program.

We cannot shut up. In the name of all of those values that our rulers give lip service to but never honor, in the name of true morals like empathy and justice and equality, in the name of simple dignity, we cannot shut up.

Instead we must remember the weak, embrace those who have been cast out and called unclean, stand up for those who cannot, dissent from the lie of the status quo. If we will not stand now for those who are beaten down, who will stand for us when we are the slaves, the marginalized, the disenfranchised?

There must be a better way, and if our 'leaders' will not seek it, then we are the ones that must demand it with more conviction, more peace, more resolve. Our leaders must be made to remember. And for that to happen, we cannot forget.

Gaza, we remember you. And we will not forget. Or rest.

Thursday, July 8

"A cult is a religion with no political power." Tom Wolfe - "All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole." Ramakrishna

A couple months ago I read a book by the Christian author, Brian McClaren, called A New Kind of Christianity. If you were here around Easter then you already know how I feel about organized religion . If you weren't we'll cover it again below, or you can check out past posts. Let's just say that, uh, I'm, uh, less than supportive and slightly more than critical. But just a bit... 

I stay sort of up to date on stuff because I have a vested interest. You see, both of my parents actually still believe hard. My Mom, who is slipping very steadily into an as-yet quaint stage of Alzheimer’s where she remembers everyone but doesn’t make many new memories, was raised in a very strict evangelical church and taught to feel guilty for everything very thoroughly. My Dad is a more serious Christian. Not a ‘check Christian because I went to Sunday school’ kind of Christian, but a real, post-denominational, quasi-fundamentalist, ‘new’ version Christian. 

Still as mentally spry as ever and a retired teacher, my Dad spends part of his time teaching at his church and has been actively involved in leadership. So as much as I'm glad I escaped the black hole, I'm still invested through them. 

Dad and I end up talking about Christianity a lot because, well, I was once one too, one of those zealous Christians that now, like a former drug addict that volunteers as an advocate for rehab and clean needle programs, likes to keep up on the latest lingo and thoughts. The friendly and mostly civil debate can be both vigorous and stimulating, and when a new perspective comes along that aspires to boil Christianity down to the stuff that the bible character Jesus was trying to promote (say, as opposed to the neo-old testament hellfire and brimstone funda-wingnut crap that passes for modern Christianity), I perk up. McLaren's book represents the possibility of that kind of re-imagining.

I don’t hold Christians' beliefs against them. People have a right to believe in whatever they believe in. As much as I’ve grown to despise organized religion in all its forms those who succumb to it are, in my opinion, victims not monsters, even the pastors and priests, all victims of a manipulative belief system on steroids. Organized religion is a form of meta-generational abuse that has been inflicted on all of us whether we count ourselves as believers or not. The permutations and implications of religion are scattered throughout our culture everywhere like impurities that weaken steel and concrete: Where they are, the foundations are cracking and the girders are sagging. 

Those who do believe, whichever religion of the book they believe in, generally find this perspective insulting. I get that. What they usually don't stop to think about upon a close reading is that I respect honest spirituality when I see it. I'm a Ramakrishna guy, and I don't give a crap which staircase you want to use as long as the sincere intent is to get to the roof. The problem I see with most religions is that they get all caught up in decorating the living room and kitchen instead of helping people get to the fucking roof.

Jesus was, if you read the NT and Apocrypha right, a very progressive, radical guy for his time. He was a peace-nik, an activist, and in many ways a sort of antecedent syndico-anarchist. The Jesus I read about would not have liked the thought of having his social movement turned into the very kind if institution he was rebelling against. If there was a historical Jesus, he was the social leader and socio-theological rebel rather than the ‘guy most likely to posthumously lead a cult’ that the modern church makes him out to be. 

But that’s an opinion, shared by others, also backed by some substantial proofs to support the logic behind the opinion, but still an opinion. I happily own it.

McClaren’s written his book well, in a very easy to read voice (which made getting through it much less of a chore for me). In places it was an actual pleasure. To be fair, I’m no trained theologian, so offering a detailed academic perspective on McClaren’s non-academic book is not something I’d try. That’s my disclaimer. But he is trying to view things from a different perspective and I’ll give credit where credit is due. His perspective sees Christianity clearly for at least most of the obvious evils that it has perpetrated and perpetuated over the last 1800 years or so. I say 1800 years because pre-Constantine, Christianity was not a catch-all phrase. Before Constantine leveraged that ‘new’ new belief system as a way to try to hold the Roman Empire together, Christianity was essentially a bunch of fairly organic and separate sects, considered by many a cult, by others just a social movement. After Constantine though... then it became an institution.

McLaren tries to re-imagine the Christian faith as a narrative that extends forward as a promise from Genesis instead of a history seen through the philosophical duality of the Greco-Roman tradition. He suggests that the narrative and themes change from this perspective, and he thinks that the change of perspective also changes the ‘nature’ of the god we’ve been exposed to, one that is loving and kind and redeeming in spite of the massive carnage evident in the Old Testament storyline and in the blood on the hands of all ‘people of the book’ in the AD part of the time line. I buy it to a degree, but only to a degree. I think that his line of thought still makes some egregious mistakes about whether religious institutions can be redeemed in any way, or whether there’s an actual, ‘new’ anything in Christianity (as opposed to a new veneer glued on over some very old mythologies that repeat and repeat down through the ages and cultures).

More than anything, I appreciate that he’s trying. He seems very earnest and sincere, just as I though Obama was in The Audacity of Hope (that is a back-handed compliment in case you had any doubt). But fill one hand with intention and the other with horse shit… Well, you know how that goes. I appreciate what he’s done on one level because, from my perspective, I think he makes thinking for one’s self more permissible within an institution that worships group-think to the same astounding degree as, say, the other two ‘religions of the book’. I believe that kind of permission will allow more people to make it to a place where organized religion is no longer necessary.

You see, I have no quarrel with faith (whether I think it’s accurate or not). It’s the religion, the institution, that’s the problem. If somebody wants to believe in Jesus as god, or Allah, or Jevovah, or Gaia, or animal spirits, or Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or nothing, or Joe Pesci for crying out loud… I don’t care! Now, if you want to make that belief a rigid system and use it to control other people or impose your beliefs on them, to exclude others from your 'in' crowd - well, now we have a problem. I believe that, regardless of the faith, system, or whatever you want to call it, it’s the institution that is faulty. That institution makes a directed practice out of fostering that 'our way or the hell way' dichotomy. It pits people against other people intentionally when the truth is that we're all in this together. 

Whether that institution is a church, a government, a judiciary, academia, science… whatever; When any idea, even a good one, is allowed to become an institution that is exclusive of other institutions or ideas or people, then that institution unfailingly becomes more interested in self-preservation than maintaining integrity to the values that were its genesis. I’ve said that very thing before and I’ll say it again because it’s true.

So I read McLaren’s book in the pursuit of understanding what’s happening or what might happen for folks like my Dad who still believe hard. I consider McClaren's position and argument a half measure (at best), but it’s a half-measure in the right direction. For that reason, and for his sincerity, I applaud him. If people read it and develop a faith that is less controlled and more free; if it leads people into a dialog that questions the status quo (and it seems to be doing that), then that’s a good thing.

If people read, ask, find a new perspective and, from there see their way to real freedom… well that would be even better.

Tuesday, July 6

‘The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting.’ Charles Bukowski

I was reading the news and came across the following stories about an activist being tried for hanging a banner, a brave whistle blower from the US military being court-martialed, and another activist turning himself in to face charges relating to G20 activities that seem, on the surface of them, spurious at best. In each of these cases there seems to be an intent  on the part of authorities to prosecute to a level that is punitive simply for the sake of retaliation, simply because these people have questioned the status quo and are thereby considered threats worthy of harassment.

The case of Mr. Manning and the accusations of leaking military video footage to Wikileaks seems particularly hypocritical to me. In any other industry other than the US military or government, Manning would be protected under US whistleblower laws. Why is it that the government and military feel they should be held exempt? (Of course, corporations feel that they should be held exempt too, but that’s another blog). I would think that they should be held to higher standards than any business. After all, they are supposed to be serving the people of a given country rather than the government of said country, are they not?

And in the case of both activists we have individuals who work tirelessly not only to support worthwhile causes, but who do so while also upholding some of the cornerstone rights upon which our ‘free’ societies are based; the right to protest, to show dissent and to question the actions of our governments and institutions; to hold accountable those in whom we have entrusted our civil liberties (because the mainstream media isn’t going to be doing it any time soon). Yet they are specifically targeted as dangerous individuals. Remember when we were up in arms about how China curtails rights; how Tiananmen was an aberration and a prime example of how the West was better than the East, democracy so much more free than communism, ‘us’ so much better than ‘them’?

I no longer believe that our politicians have anything even approximating our best interests in mind. When one does come along that actually stands for anything, stands for the people they represent and for concepts and morals that are universal, they too are singled out and driven into the mud. Libby Davies should be held up as an example of a politician that still actually stands for something. The rest just seem to bend over for anyone. Instead she’s criticized, threatened, demonized. Frankly, I’d take one of her over the whole lot of the rest of them.

And that ‘rest of them’ are the ones that have co-opted the police, those supposedly sworn to serve and protect us, and turned them into a pseudo-military force enlisted to preserve the plutocracy’s hegemony at the cost of our rights and liberties. This just will not do.

It prompted me, in a thread earlier today, to ask this: “I wonder at what point individual police officers, who might be 'nice people' and all that (and I know several), become responsible for the fact that they choose to remain working for those politicos and in support of obviously compromised institutions? Where does their moral responsibility begin and their job end? "I was following orders" hasn't been a valid excuse for 65 years or so now...

That’s my question right now? At what point do people that are in positions to support our downhill slide ask, “Is what I’m doing wrong?”  When we look back twenty or fifty years from now, will we be looking at those who served on task forces like the ISU and be asking them “How could you?” in the same way that someone must have asked that guardsman at Trent State that question. How does a cop go to Toronto, beat up a bunch of unarmed protesters, and then go home to the wife and kiddies and look them in the eye? What has to take place in that mind to think that that’s an okay thing to do?

These are people after all, the politicians, the cops, the corrupt jurists and lawyers. Ostensibly they have the same DNA as us, the same propensity for humanism, for empathy, for decency. How do they ‘get there’, that place where threatening people with cameras is okay, and where threatening detainees with rape is appropriate? Hell, I know a few cops and, from what I’ve seen of them, they’re salt of the Earth, regular people that have to do an often incredibly difficult job going after real criminals, people that live with the nightmares of what they’ve had to bear witness to; of man’s inhumanity to man. The ones I know are great people doing a shitty job. And yet, they could very easily have been among those at the G20 smacking people with batons for no good reason, splitting their eyebrows open with shields just because, stomping seated protesters on the back with their boots in support of ‘leaders’ that don’t much care about us at all.

It tempts me to hate them for that. It takes an act of will to hate the system instead and realize that they are victims of it too, albeit willing ones. I’m just left wondering how much slack those individuals should get. When do they stop being unwilling employees or good soldiers and start being criminals themselves?

Friday, July 2

'I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.' Christopher Reeve

Like a lot of people here in Canada, I spent a fair bit of time keeping an eye on the G20 Summit in Toronto last weekend, and the road show that invariably follows it around. Occurring as it did over the days leading up to the anniversary of our national independence on July 1, the events that occurred in Toronto were cast in an especially ironic light. Anyone watching, listening or reading the news coming out of TO in the days leading up to and through the summit had to be struck by the grotesque largesse of the preparations and their associated costs. Anyone with a heart had to be dismayed by what they saw the police doing in the aftermath of the vandalism that took place on Saturday. Hopefully, we were looking close enough to notice more than just that vandalism and the 'reaction' to it, because there was certainly more to the story than the mainstream media was purporting, especially here in Canada. And while there were some good stories to come out of the weekend, a few reminders of what it is we hold dear and why we fight for our freedoms, it was a sad week for international diplomacy and a sadder one for Canadian civil liberties.

I'm not going to go into detail regarding what happened over the weekend. Suffice it to say that, as always, the mainstream media didn't cover the whole story. Frankly, I'm surprised that they covered as much as they did. No, to get to a closer semblance of the truth I spent time monitoring the alternative news sources online, looking for the stories that the infotainment industry doesn't cover, sharing little pieces with friends on the social networks, and I know that the truth is still something that you have to look for as much in between the lines as anywhere else. I'll also say this: While I don't support the Black Bloc tactic as a strategy (I think it misses the point, detracts from the primary messages, and provides too much of what the Security Forces are looking for as justification for their brutality), I don't blame them either. I believe that the Black Bloc provides the Police with their best opportunity to infiltrate and act as agent provocateurs. I think there's a better way, that when we adopt the piggish and brutal tactics of our enemies, then we become as bad as them. I think that's what Gandhi and King taught, and that works for me.

I was, in turns; profoundly moved by the courage of activists and discouraged by the actions of the police; frustrated by the Black Bloc tactics and nauseated by the actual violence perpetuated by the ISU; shocked by the callous brutality of too many of the security force and encouraged in small ways when I saw some of them obviously finding their duties distasteful; horrified by the suspension of civil liberties and enraged by the cavalier attitude with which the ISU went about flouting their disdain for those legal rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights; outraged at ISU lines charging a peaceful demonstration the moment they finished singing O Canada, and buoyed by video of two courageous demonstrators trying to stop the cruiser vandals or another making a looter drop the item he was about to steal. It was a weekend of ups and downs.

The vast majority of protesters were peaceful and loud yet the ISU rained down their violence primarily on these people. Over 900 arrested over the G8/G20 and over 700 released without charges – that says something. The conditions in the detention center were by many accounts horrible, and by some utterly horrifying, including threats of rape and cavity searches completed by ISU of the opposite sex and isolation of those 'identified' as members of the LBGT community. The 5-meter rule, a supposed amendment of the 1939 Public Works Protection Act that was secretly re-enacted by the Ontario cabinet, was touted by the police as a special temporary power granted them to tackle the extra security threat. That 5-meter law turned out to be a lie that the TPS Chief Blair chuckled about, but what it really means is that thousands of illegal search and seizures were completed over the weekend without probable cause.

The phrase 'Police State' was bandied about quite a bit, and if you read the stories, watch the videos, see the pictures, you might be inclined to agree. This was a disgusting display of arrogance and near-fascist hubris on the part of the Federal and Provincial governments and the ISU.

We should be ashamed. Lots of us are - of our country, our political 'leaders', our police forces. It was a very sad weekend for civil liberty in Canada.

It was also an amazingly empowering weekend to watch too. In spite of the brutality, the lies, the suspension of rights and the illegal detentions, there were still thousands of people willing to continue the fight. And the numbers grew as the weekend went on when regular folk saw what was happening and joined the protest. It carried over into the new week too with thousands more participating in solidarity marches in Hamilton, Quebec, Montreal, Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver.

This is the way it works. Even when the politicians and police think they've tricked us into looking bad, they forget their own ability to make themselves look worse. Their abuse doesn't make people cower in fear; it makes more people stand up. Just like fighting un-winable wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, their hubris creates more enemies than it oppresses. And a tipping point will come in time.

I like to hope that the tipping point will occur peacefully when enough people open their eyes and see the world for what it actually is and decide, goddammit, that there must be a better way. Sometimes, though, I despair that the odds of a peaceful resolution to all of this will remain slim. And then I see someone stand when it would be easier to stay down, choose peace when violence would be expected, be courageous when it would be easy to run away, and I remember why people fight for these things: because they matter and because we know they do.

I'd like to think that we can aspire to something better than the world we live in because I see individuals doing it all the time. But I wonder if we'll hit that tipping point in time. Mostly we seem bent of self-destruction, like in the parable of the scorpion and the frog – it seems to be our nature. But I see the good too and think; maybe we can hold on long enough, yell loud enough, stand firm enough to get us through to that magic point where the sane outnumber the insane and we can actually start in a better direction.

Anyway, links are below if you missed it. It's not a comprehensive list, but it'll get'cha started if you're so inclined...é-journalists-attacked-police-g20-protests