Monday, August 30

“Everybody's scared for their ass. There aren't too many people ready to die for racism. They'll kill for racism but they won't die for racism.” Florynce R. Kennedy

I’m having a really hard time editing the novel today, and I absolutely have to be getting that shit done, so I thought I’d just rant a bit and get what’s on my mind off of it.

…no jokes about how little there is on my mind on the best of days. You’d be preaching to the converted right now anyway.

Why am I distracted and pissed? The news. I know - huge fucking surprise. This time though I’m not even at my mother’s, and I’m not paying attention to CNN or Fox. Yes, Virginia, there really is a dearth of objectivity in media even in alternative, independent land.

I suppose that the Beck/Palin revival in Washington had something to do with it. The Park51/Cordoba House/Ground Zero Mosque bullshit also added to my angst. So did all of the alternative responses to both. Seems to me like everything just keeps getting more and more polarized, and the people that, according to my bias, should be enlightened and know better just, apparently, aren’t and don’t. I have seen the enemy…, and all that. And so the voices get louder, screaming across the growing divide. There aren’t any solutions out there, in that place where we yell epithets at each other. It’s tempting to give in sometimes and contribute to the erudite insult combat, but the results are generally discouraging, and I always feel a little dirty afterwards.

Wars of words aren’t really any better than wars with weapons. The body count appears lower, but we just don’t count it right if we think so. If we counted in terms of wasted brain cells and lost time and the new barriers of ill-intent we erect the attrition rate would be horrific.

This is not, of course, to say that debate and disagreement, even passionate disagreement, are bad things. But when we lose grasp of reason and self-control there is no upside. We’re supposed to be aspiring to something better, aren’t we?

All this openly racist banter that’s going on makes me wonder what it is our elders and parents fought for back in the not-so-long-ago. We won some new laws, but apparently didn’t win that many hearts or minds. MLK (oh man, you are so missed) must be rolling over like a motherfucker.

I openly pondered on FB the other day that this might all be a sign that the military/industrial/political complex has just figured out that a domestic conflict might be more profitable – put the war closer to the combat, so to speak, and save all that expensive shipping costs.

I know; how dark and depressing a thought is that, only because it seems to fit with a profitability mindset. It’s almost believable.

I also found myself wondering whether all the craziness was just the final frantic gasps of organized fanaticism, er, I mean religion as it kicked and spasmed its way into the grave.

See? I am an optimist sometimes!

Okay, I feel better. Back to making my make-believe world marketable.

Thursday, August 26

Bloggers Unite - Women's Equality Day

It was about ten years ago that I had a sudden and, in hindsight, long-overdue realization: The world I lived in as a white, middle-classed male was dramatically different than the world my female friends lived in.

A friend described to me what it was like to walk in a parking lot at night; how she had to be careful to park in the light and as close to a door as possible; how every van parked beside her car made the world seem a less secure place; how she walked with her keys protruding from her fists just in case.

It was such a simple description of how our worlds were different. I never thought about cars or vans or where I parked my car, never considered where the lights were or how far I was from a door. Once the blinders were lifted by grace of her gentle clarification I found myself in a different reality.

It was a profound moment of empathy, and one I am ashamed to say I had to be led to. I've never looked at a parking lot, among many other things, the same way again.

Bloggers Unite recognizes this day, August 26, as Women's Equality Day, in honour of the United States of America's adoption of its 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920. It was in that year that the US provided their female citizens the right to vote, 57 years after Sweden started the ball rolling, 51 after England, 27 after New Zealand provided full voting rights to all women. The domino affect would require most of the twentieth century to work itself out. Switzerland, for the record, was a notable hold out, waiting until 1971 to grant women full voting rights under their law.

To me, the timeline and my friend's story both highlight how great a gulf there is between the laws we make and the ethics and morality we practice. In Canada, where I live, women have been considered full 'persons' and equal under the law since 1950 when full sufferage was granted.

Only sixty years ago... My mother was ten when her mother finally became a full person under the law.

I find that fact hard to process.

The international recognition of suffrage is a great accomplishment, without a doubt. But the equality our laws provide is not always mirrored in the real world. Suffrage, as huge a step as it was, is only one part of creating any real equality.

Women, on average, are still paid less than men, are still threatened and abused, are still mistreated or ignored by courts.

Women still have to be aware of vans parked beside their cars where men probably don't even notice them.

We've come a long way, but the road is only half traveled. We're nowhere near 'there' yet.

So, by all means, we should take a moment and recognize where we've come from and how much has been accomplished. But when we've caught our breath and shared a toast, perhaps remembered the brave women who have paid enormous prices to get us this far, when we've done these things it will be time to make sure our boots are tied tightly so we can start the walk again.

There's a long way to go yet.

August 26th is Bloggers Unite's Women's Equality Day.

Wednesday, August 18

There is no ‘them’. There is only ‘us’.

This is the bad news:

We are violent, bigoted, racist, exclusive, divisionary, biased, cynical and greedy. We just need to fucking own that.

That politician that is so slimy that he is defending himself after trying to sell a senatorial seat? He’s part of us. So is that Prime Minister that seems to think it’s okay to suspend democracy when things aren’t going his way. So is that Imam that manipulates people into suicide bombings. So is that minister who is so ashamed of his own homosexuality that he demonizes every other gay and queer. So is that CEO that is willing to sell out an entire ecology to make a quick buck. And the list could go on and on.

These people are all part of us. They aren’t part of some magical ‘them’, the existence of which will allow us to be different than them and therefore, by some twisted acrobatics of denial, the ‘good guys’. They. Are. Us.

We live in a world that’s in trouble. We live in a horribly divided and manipulated culture. We live in an age where profit is more important than the good of the species. We live in a society where many of us think that it’s justified and acceptable to divide us based on race, or religion, or culture, or how much money we have. We live on a planet where it’s somehow okay for two billion of us to live on less that two bucks a day. This place where these things are ignored so long as some of us can remain cloistered in our comfortable little enclaves is our world. We are the ones responsible.

But there’s good news too:

We are also peaceful, inclusive, tolerant, accepting, generous, courageous, altruistic, idealists, hopeful and empathic.

The good news is that that guy, the social leader that preached non-violence and led so many people in a protest against racism? He’s one of us too. So is the religious leader from Tibet that preaches love and inclusion and religious tolerance. So is that catholic nun that embraced poverty so she could reach out to the impoverished. So is that social leader that led thousands of Indians in non-violent protest for their right to self-determination. So is that politician that still is still idealistic and has integrity (I know of at least two, so don’t say it can’t happen).

These people are part of us too. We get to own the good part of us even as we have to, absolutely must, own the bad parts as part of us. It’s a package deal and we can’t forget it. Ever.

This is what I want to believe, what I choose to believe:

When we get past the binary of ‘us’ and ‘them’ there’s good to go with the bad, and bad to go with the good. Past the binary there’s a place where there’s only us. We don't get to pass the buck there. We get to try to pick up the pieces in that place. In that magical and daunting land we have to make peace, find a way to accept each other, embrace each other.

In spite of the differences. Because of the commonalities.

We are all us, and it’s all we’ve fucking got. Maybe it's time for us to quit wasting time. Maybe we could quit pointing fingers and just get to fucking work one of these days.

Wednesday, August 11

My Taglit-Birthright Israel Experience: Batmitzvah'd in Jerusalem |

My Taglit-Birthright Israel Experience: Batmitzvah'd in Jerusalem |

This is the fourth part in Ms. Marcuse's excellent series on her trip to Israel under the provisions of Israel's Taglit-Birthright program. She is a progressive, anti-partition Jew with a great voice and a unique persepctive to share.

How the Military Destroys the Lives of Soldiers Who Try to Tell the Truth | World | AlterNet

How the Military Destroys the Lives of Soldiers Who Try to Tell the Truth | World | AlterNet

Whether I agree with it on a moral level or not, I recognize that Manning, if he is actually guilty of leaking the video in question (technically, he's still only accused), broke the law. Personally I think he deserves a medal but I have low expectations for real justice in that sense. I also believe that, when regular people take matters into their own hands and don the whistle-blower or civil disobedient mantle, they have to know that there will be consequences. Hell, those consequences are part of the reason for civil disobedience; It's drawing that unjust fire that forces people to pay attention, isn't it?

That said, this kind of disproportionate prosecution is just one example of the ongoing popularity of the criminalization of dissent by supposedly 'democratic' governments. When people actually call the government, any government, to task and force some measure of honesty out of them the reaction is sadly predictable. The first instinct, it appears, is to try to silence the truth and then make it as dangerous and daunting as possible for anyone else to ever consider doing it again.

In all of these cases the sophomoric reaction reveals more about how afraid and insecure the authorities are in their power and justification. Their actions remind me of toddlers that react to a disappearing toy by grabbing the nearest flesh and biting as hard as they can. Which in turn reminds me of a poorly trained dog.

Manning, Wikileaks, the political arrestees from the Toronto G20, the Mavi Marmara, 1.5 million Palestinians; all of these are current examples of this kind of bully-thinking. When is enough going to be enough?

Sunday, August 8

“Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground.” Peacemaker, founder of the Iroquois Confederacy, (ca. 1000 AD)

(Like the For Gaza post on July 9, this post is in support of Bloggers Unite, a blogger cooperative in support of several blog-worthy subjects throughout the year. Today’s post is specifically in support of International Youth Day, August 12, 2010.)

I’m a 43-year old guy with no kids of my own. Raised as an adopted child in what ended up being a broken home, and with a somewhat less-than-mainstream perspective, I grew up a little sour on the idea of having kids. I saw an exploding global population that didn’t need any extra human units, was afraid of doing to children some of what I’d experienced, and just never felt that overwhelming urge to pass on my genes.

I have, however, tried to find my own ways to influence generations subsequent to my own over the years. I’ve coached hockey, worked with ‘at-risk’ children in foster care and their own broken homes, volunteered with youth and even now, while I’m admittedly self-focused on completing the novel that is at the foundation of my life-inversion, I volunteer at a local climbing gym working with birthday and school groups. I’m also fortunate to be friends with the son of a close friend, a 15-year old young man I met 4 years ago with whom I share a love of goaltending.

My close friend was courageous enough to send that young friend out for a few days visit last week. I was honored enough back in the day when she picked me to be a ‘positive influence’, more honored when he decided to gift me his friendship, and floored that the friendship is still of any interest to him. I consider it a responsibility, this opportunity to have even a small say into the life of an intelligent, caring, funny and talented 15-year old. That close friend has done a great job of parenting herself (leaving me wondering what there is for me to contribute), but I’ve appreciated the chance to be a friend, to help him with his goaltending (in whatever small way I can do that), to talk about his education and hopes and dreams, and even discuss something else we both seem to appreciate – writing fiction. We hung out, talked about all of the above and I spent an afternoon introducing him to another love of mine – climbing. There was no pressure, just being friends. I hope that he enjoyed it as much as I did.

Because my head works in a certain way, I was and am reminded in such moments that we live in a world that needs help and that he and his peers will the ones to whom falls most of the responsibility to try to fix things. There are things we can, should and must do now, today, but most of the real solutions are over my temporal horizon, somewhere wonderful beyond my allotted 80 to 100 or so years. Seeing a real solution to problems like inequality, racism, carbon emissions, ecological degradation, political corruption, corporate and social greed, war, etcetera, etcetera, won’t come in my lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong - we need to start actually taking the steps to start the change that needs to take place now, but it’s going to take our generation and the next, and probably the next after that for any fundamental change to truly happen.

So yeah, obviously, I think our youth are pretty important.

They are smarter than we are, more open to change, less aware of cultural and racial differences and more aware of the things that we have in common. They think our greed and bigotry are stupid and foolish. They have a healthy skepticism that will serve them well if they can also remain hopeful. They have a hatred of lies and love of truth that is inspiring.

The truth that they embrace imperils our generation’s commitment to greed and avarice. Their truth scares the shit out of us, and we’re far better at denial than change. They’re uneasy with the complacency and self-centeredness that typifies our generation. They’re interested in solutions and critical thought. For as long as our species has been passing wisdom from one generation to another, we’ve been encouraging the next generation to not make the same mistakes as we did, and to consider the generations that will come after them as they make choices. It’s a concept that, frankly, our species gives a lot of lip service to, but generally fails to honor. But I remain hopeful.

The other day a friend asked her Facebook universe how it is we might imagine raising our children so that they will think self-critically and be more empathic than our generation is proving to be and more than the one before us was. The conversation ended up in a place where the concept of generational solutions seemed more viable and rational than any unrealistic hope that we might affect profound change within our own generation. Not that anyone felt that abdicating responsibility to the next generation was appropriate, but that the job was too big for the few that see it, and that the change would have to be manifested in a new generation of empowered and educated humans. Our realization was that we have to do all that we can now, but that too many people are too invested in denial, in simply not seeing the truth, to ‘get there’ in one generation. So while we have to ‘do’ now, we need to pragmatically focus on the next generation and actually encourage a profound generation gap that creates a better species.

They have some advantages, the ‘next generation’: Our technological age of global connectedness has taught them, far better than we seem to have learned, that it’s a small planet. They know that the other side of the world is part of their world. Our social myopathy and ecological hubris seems ignorant and illogical to them. They have grown up with friends from around the world, from different religions and cultures and socio-economic circumstances, and they don’t recognize our small-mindedness as viable anymore.

My young friend is certainly this way. He’s still young, but his heart and mind are already miles ahead of where I was at his age. He understands the importance of an absence of borders; of equal opportunities for all; of the possibilities inherent in inclusion.

Honestly, I have a fear that we will fail them completely and leave them no further ahead in terms of vision than we are, and with a deeper hole to dig the species out of. I fight it, but it’s there. I have no fear of what they can do though. They’re the hope that keeps me young.

International Youth Day is August 12. Pass something positive forward.

(UPDATE: While writing this, I listened to an interview with economist and author Jeremy Rifkin on CBC 1. His latest book, The Empathic Civilization – the Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, recognizes the requirement for a generational shift. He suggests that the fundamental shift that has to occur will require a recognition that the age of enlightenment concepts of extreme individualism, competition and social Darwinism are leading us to economic and social bankruptcy; that only a society that embraces the need to cooperate and recognize our inter-connectedness – that embraces empathy – will be able to survive the challenges that currently face the global society. Just for reference…)