The New Normal: Piketty’s Apple

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With respect to the social and economic dysfunction arising out of the current level of wealth inequality, this is our situation in a nutshell:

Thomas Piketty’s Apple[i]

Thomas Piketty provides us with a brilliant exegesis on the mechanics of wealth disproportionality among and within nations in Capital in the 21st Century. Based upon my understanding, I expect that the disparity in wealth among Canadians will continue to increase, and over the long term; and that the Justin Trudeau Liberals, despite even the best of intentions, could prove powerless to effect an economically and socially healthy distribution of wealth in a significant and lasting way. [ii]

In the hopes of providing an easily digestible explanation, I’m going to be talking ‘apples’ (but not oranges!).  Piketty’s apple represents the total amount of income a nation generates in one year. The apple tends to grow larger each year, and the change in the apple’s size, from one year to the next , represents the change in national GDP.  Piketty found that wealth inequality is bound to attain the level of a socioeconomic  pathogen, given enough time and under the right conditions. The culprit he identified is not slow growth, or even negative growth; the problem is when  the rate of return on investment (the investors’ chunk) continues to be larger, even if only by a little, than the rate at which the nation’s economy is growing. Over time, as the size of the investors’ bite increases in proportion to the size of the apple, there will be too little of the apple leftover to adequately distribute in the form of wages, benefits, and social assistance. As the money supplied to the lower tier continues to shrink, we will observe a commensurate increase in the number of Canadians joining it.

The lower economic tier’s ability to pay into the national, provincial, and municipal tax pools will decrease. This phenomenon,  in combination with the favourable tax-environments that all governments provide to multinationals and individuals who can afford to invest,[iii] will seriously hamper governmental ability to gather tax revenue (go figure).

There will be less money for governments to redistribute in the form of benefits and other social programs. An increasing number of individuals will fall into the abyss of abject poverty through the widening gaps in Canada’s social security net. Fewer children will be properly provided and cared for. Right now, our provincial government is selling off public assets; forfeiting future revenues for a quick fix that is less in dollar value. Intense pressure will arise for government to find the money to keep pace with the demands of an increasingly impoverished citizenry. After they have sold off Ontario’s arms and legs, there will be no other option left to the government but to reduce the remuneration paid to public sector employees.

I am concerned that the next time our provincial government and public sector unions arrive at an impasse during  negotiations, public pressure may, by that time, weigh unfairly against the public service. Unfairly because it seems the government’s fiscal and economic policies created the dearth of tax revenue in the first place. It does not seem that this government understands the nature of Ontario’s ongoing socioeconomic problems.

It certainly is not because teachers and other unionized public service professionals are paid too much; rather it is because most of us are paid far too little-that is, if we even have a job.[iv] Notwithstanding the truth of the matter, the government will one day feel obliged to cut the remuneration paid to unionized public service pros, even as it continues to increase the demands placed upon them.

Most public servants, but for essential services, will eventually end up in the crosshairs of all governments. The police  might reasonably be construed as untouchable because they are certain to get busier as more people fall into poverty. At some point, police intervention will be the only means available to governments to provide social stability. The poor person’s social entitlement will often be a jail cell or berth under a bridge somewhere.

The general condition of the lower tier: the amount of money available to it is decreasing even as its ranks are growing. Contrast this with that of the upper economic tier: the amount of money(capital) is increasing even as its ranks are diminishing.

I don’t believe any of this is rocket-science. I do believe governments need to benchmark their actions and policies against the standards of justice and socioeconomic pragmatism with respect to the distribution of wealth. In addition, we need our elected people to focus exclusively on governing; never on getting re-elected, until the writ drops. If they honestly do their best, and do their best honestly, the only concern left to voters is whether or not they prefer a left-leaning values approach to governing, a more centred approach, or perhaps one that proceeds more from the right. That’s exactly how it should be in a democracy.

If a party, upon forming a government, works hard for everyone, and we, as citizens of Canada, work hard for our country, province, communities, and families, we will be both bastion and beneficiary of a true  democracy in action. There can be NO losers. But it requires all of us to take the time to become informed and engaged.

It also requires that truth, openness, and honest enquiry be our guiding principles.

[i] To be precise, Mr. Piketty does not use an apple to explain his economic theory. Nevertheless, I find the apple an easy way to demonstrate the process.

[ii] To help demonstrate the offending processes that Piketty has identified in his opus, I’ve elected to use an apple. I could have chosen an orange or a banana, but I like apples, and besides, apples have inherited such a bad rap, I feel sorry for them. With the eviction-from-the-Garden thing, I figure it’s time we offer the apple a chance to redeem itself; by helping us find our way back to the Garden!

[iii] Governments are rendered beholden to corporations because they play one nation’s desperation against the others, in order to acquire the best tax deal; thereby enhancing profitability for their investors. At the same time, taxation regimes remain less favourable to small business. I find this an odd direction for national governments to take, since small business is more likely to hire locally; pay and treat their employees better –in general, are motivated to form a good relationship with the community they are situated in. Now, think Alberta Oil Sands and low oil prices: our multinational corporate bosom-buddies shutdown and left town – without even bothering to clean up the mess they made while they were here.

[iv] This was not a problem after WWII. The paucity of skilled and unskilled labour in Europe, Asia, and the Americas during the rebuilding phase after the war meant that labour in these countries was as valuable as gold. The upper tier, inclusive of our ruling class, was doing well but wasn’t as wealthy as today. The lower tier was also doing well; so well in fact that a healthy bell-shaped distribution of incomes emerged within Canada, and Canadians existed somewhere on an uninterrupted continuum from the lowest income to the highest capital holdings. At that time,  Canada was, in essence, a society exhibiting a naturally healthy distribution of wealth. The curve I am describing is, of course, the normal distribution.

 

Election 2015 – The Issue: Canada’s Soul

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Update: This is a reposting of the article written while Stephen Harper was still Prime Minister and Justin Trudeau was Canada’s hope. Four years later, Canada finds its hopes and aspirations behind the proverbial eight-ball, thanks to JWR-SNC Lavalin and the ubiquitous conservative attack ads. Reposting this article is for me a prelude to writing a new one for 2019. Harper and Kenney will likely be mentioned in the new post, as they are herein. JWR has earned mention also with her dubious conduct and timing. More is the pity, because she has a compassionate face; the sort of matriarchal face which inclines you to believe her every word. She is only helping the conservative ‘thinkers’ in Canada to divide Canada, and even if everything she says about herself and her love for the Indigenous is true(and we can all find out what she says she thinks in her book, recently advertised to be coming out just in time for the 2019 election, and too late for anyone to diseminate a proper rebuttal to), she has almost singlehandedly and unwittingly made those aspirations for her people impossible. A united Canada is a united Canada. There can be no room for exclusion or inequality. Only folks who believe in a god who punishes folks with poverty, anxiety, misery can make themselves believe that there is, and that the needs, dreams, and aspirations of folks like the Palestinians and the Indigenous of the world are secondary to those of the adherents to the world’s major religions and cultures. Our PM is all about inclusion. Our PM is all about equality, tolerance, diversity. JWR’s tactics have too much of the odor of the neoconservative thinking about them. If the heart doesn’t discern between JT and JWR and favour the PM and his vision for our nation, then that heart deserves what is coming.

~ job 26 July 19

Preamble: I was motivated to write this after reading an article appearing in the 19 March 2015 issue of the Toronto Star, by Thomas Walkom, about Netanyahu’s victory in the Israeli election. In the article he describes the last minute surge in support for Netanyahu, overturning the poll predictions. He identifies Netanyahu’s claim that there was an Arab ‘fifth column” operating with the goal of high-jacking the democratic electoral process; this tactic, in essence, allowing his conservatives to come to power.[i]
I also urge you to start watching the CPAC channel, whatever your political ilk. Rather than relying solely on your favourite newspaper and television sources, you have the opportunity to see for yourselves what goes on in the House, and in committee, and to form your own opinions. Just now (26 March) I have listened to a comprehensive rebuttal of the Cons’ rationalizations for going to war in Syria by Don Davies, the NDP member for Vancouver-Kingsway. His presentation was absolutely outstanding. You can the text here:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&DocId=7900476#Int-8629771
The upshot is that, if we go into Syria, we will actually create the very situation that the Conservatives falsley claim already exists. ISIL was not involved in the two tragic attacks on our military personnel in Canada; but if we start bombing their homebase in Syria, they are sure to make a point of retaliating. The Assad regime would be the direct beneficiary of these bombings; not the Syrian people. Assad has killed many more of his own people than ISIL, and shown himself to be just as able to perpetrate the most horrible atrocities upon innocent people. One side beheads people for effect; the other side uses bombs and chemicals. Innocent men, women, and children are dying by the thousands. What would you do? MP Davies provides the answer to this question in his presentation. His logic is watertight; it point for point exposes the Cons’ plan for what truly is: ill-conceived, extremely short-sighted, and shamelessly imperilling our military’s young men and women in committing them to such a dubious venture.
Please read this most excellent letter to the editor (Toronto Start, 14 March 2015). Continue to read the very elucidating comments which follow. You can find it here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2015/03/14/more-voices-on-bill-c-51-and-politics-of-fear.html
Lastly, I implore the reader to consider that PM Harper sees Canada as a business, and he governs like a CEO; albeit with globalization, he is behaving more like a departmental manager. No country is a business; countries are, rather, societies of people. The distinction is critical. Society’s aspirations are supported, not determined, by business. If you apply the business rationale to Bill C-51, it is easy to understand how elements which have nothing whatsoever to do with our safety came to be included. Bill C-51 is only the latest Conservative manoeuver in the battle for Canada’s soul. Are we a democratic society, or are we a business? Are we citizens, or are we employees? Do you value your life, your dreams, your relationships with those you love, only to the extent to which you may materially profit from them, or are they such that no amount of money could ever replace them? Come Election 2015, you will have the opportunity to answer this question, and depending on your answer, determine just which kind of soul our Canada possesses. Is Canada a business, or is Canada a society? Think well upon it.

There is much being made in the news these days about the ascension to power of right-wing governments, not only here in Canada, but in other parts of the world. The key to the far-right’s success is to appeal to the emotions of the citizenry at the most basic level: fear, material satisfaction, mistrust of those who are different in some way; and, in order to sell all of the above, they seek to exploit the human weakness for hearing what one wants to hear, the facts be darned.[ii]
In previous articles, I made mention of the societal cancer known as movement conservatism. This is the label applied to a socio-political machine that achieved its first major victory in 1980 upon the election of Ronald Reagan.[iii] Movement conservatism grew out of a partnering of libertarians and anti-communists in the 1930s in reaction to President Roosevelt’s New Deal, which itself was a reaction to the pervasive human tragedy of the Great Depression.[iv] After 1950, this movement progressed in leaps and bounds…first developing a conceptual base, then a popular base, then a business base, and, by 1970, incorporating a network of think tanks. After 1970, they were joined by the religious right[v]. By the 2000s, movement conservatives had acquired substantial control over the U.S. Republican Party.[vi] I encourage you to read the Wikipedia article.
The articles appearing recently in the Toronto Star by Thomas Walkom and Tim Harper are,[vii] as always, well thought out, well-rendered, and informative. That being said, what stood out even more were the readers’ comments. A few quietly praised the writers for a job well done, a few were quietly critical, and more than a few were angry. What concerned me was the proportion of angrily venting comments seemed to be in the majority; much more prevalent than the other quietly and carefully considered responses.
Here’s my thing: When one is feeling angry, one cannot think as productively as when one is not. How can you? You are distracted. Your mind’s focus is divided between what you are feeling and what you are trying to think through. The mind, as powerful as it is, can only think one thought at a time; just as computers, powerful as they are, can only execute one instruction at a time; unless of course there is more than one CPU. Humans have only one of these.
When we are angry, or frightened, we think less and react more. We incline to a heavier reliance, therefore, on ‘canned’ arguments; we resort to our default patterns of thinking and behaviour, because those require less effort and less time. These patterns are hard-wired into our brains.[viii] Our brains are very powerful, however. We can create new circuits any time we choose; but that takes effort, time, repetition, and focus – the kinds of things which came easily to us when we were babies and young children because we had no constraints on our time( and more time to focus). Furthermore, rather than being belittled or chastised(which leads to resentment and entrenchment), or socially ostracized(which leads to anxiety and low self-esteem), for the odder things which we might come out with from time to time, we were cuddled, smiled at, told we were ‘cute,’ and/or provided with an explanation as to why we should not say or do this or that thing.
This, in an nutshell, describes what leads us to the mess we often find ourselves in as adults: as we progress in age, the opportunity to fully utilized the abilities with which we are born, lessens. As we get older, we have more responsibilities, and more to think about. Owing to the constraints on our time, to fatigue, and to stress, we are unable to consider anything as fully as we would like, and should. We are obliged to think and to act quickly; then move on to the next thing on our list. But this is not thinking so much as it is reacting. George Lakoff knows this; the movement Conservatives, among whom count the Harper Conservatives, also know this – what’s more, they are exploiting this situational response to maintain power and control over the social agenda. We become like pinballs in a pinball machine – being paddle-whacked this way and that, always moving, but with little time to consider where we are going.
Recalling the famous words of Descartes:
I think, therefore I am.
But in this context, we should wonder:
If I do not take the time to think, what am I?
As for leaders and political parties: I find nothing wrong with wanting to be in power per se; if you are a politician, how else would you manage to bring your vision of Canada into being? What I do find wrong is that any individual who so wants political power that they would present themselves to the electorate as something they are not; say or promise anything (but not necessarily do it), in order to appear good rather than to be good; invest more time in branding and marketing their product, than in developing a good one, so that the buyer gets what they believe they are buying. This is all too much like the proverbial used-car salesman. It is too little like the leaders of a democratic country, much less public servants. These Conservatives should by rights drop the ervatives portion of their moniker; then it would be a much truer reflection of what this group really is.

Common Conservative Strategies to Confuse and Divide the Electorate:[ix]
1. If you aren’t with us, you are against us…remember George W. Bush’s speech before bombing the heck out of Iraq? Now compare this to PM Harper’s taunting the Liberals and the NDP as being “soft on crime” in response to their objections to mega prisons, mandatory sentencing, the war against ISIL,[x] and, oh yes, the anti-terrorism legislation.
2. Mix desirable elements and undesirable elements together in the same policy: Bill C-51 is but the latest example. True, better communication among security services is necessary (I for one cannot see why people in these services even need to be told this since they are but different strata within the same institution), but do we also need to give them the power to hold people without warrants for extended periods simply because someone imagines the worst, without any real evidence in support? If they have reasonable grounds to be worried, fine, but that’s why we have the existing warrant applications and a judiciary – these guard all of us against false perceptions.
Do we need to give CSIS the ability to act with force, at home and abroad, with no sobering influence other than to apply to a judge who must then decide only on their say-so? Do we need to place so much trust in the integrity of specific individuals in the security services? By experience, and human nature being what it is, we know some individuals will inevitably betray their positions of trust. Our security services have already been given significant capability to monitor Canada’s citizens; this because a few of us are not always trustworthy. The denizens of our security services are drawn from among us; it follows, therefore, that a few of them are not always trustworthy. PM Harper wants to increase the capability of our security services to survey and summarily detain Canadian citizens who do not work in security services; he does not want to apply that same rule to Canadians who do.
The anti-terrorist bill could very easily have been broken down into several distinct bills; grouping related provisions together. Voters and MPs -this is all important – would have an easier time to study and critique them, because the provisions are not jumbled together.
The method the Conservatives often use in order to manipulate Canadians into acceptance is to present policies in such a way so as to put each voter at odds with him/herself. This how they present things to Canadians: if you vote for adequate oversight(not included in the bill, but nevertheless desirable), you are voting against increased communication(which is included in the bill, and is desirable). If you desire just treatment of individuals(not included in the bill), and oppose the bill on that basis; you oppose the bill’s implicit provisions to make your family safer(which you surely support). This is how the Harper Conservatives choose to do things in order to have us swallow things which no citizen in a democratic society would ever tolerate. If you support one element, you are obliged to support everything – even the rotten stuff. If you disagree with one element, you are obliged to disagree with everything – even the good stuff….heck of a dilemma these Cons are presenting to us, isn’t it?
Would you continue buying your groceries from the store which routinely repackages its rotting fruit along with the fresh, so that they do not have to throw the rotten stuff out? Please do not allow the Conservatives(or any other party that is disposed to using the same strategy) to get away with behaving like an unscrupulous grocer. If they insist on packaging what we really need together with what they really want us to accept (though it may be against our personal and democratic principles to do so), then shop somewhere else. Vote them out, and vote in a group of individuals who have good old-fashioned Canadian integrity.
3. Deny, deny, deny…Conservatives: ”Our job record is a success.” CIBC: ”Canada’s employment and job creation record is dismal.”
4. If your highly touted and expensively propagandized Economic Action Plan (sounds good though, doesn’t it?), create something else to grab the voter’s attention.[xi] Well, we now have the niqab, and the threat of terrorism to occupy our conversation while the economy, under the great master Con, is going to…well, somewhere south of here (and in more ways than one). On this point, I am profoundly saddened to observe that the tragic events at Parliament Hill and Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu were so shamelessly and opportunistically politicized; this to manipulate public opinion into support for a bill, which, in its current form, will do the public (and their children, and their children’s children) much more harm than good. It will further increase the risk to our police men and women and even encourage more violence, rather than diminish it.[xii] The government has yet to show, nor can they, how this bill would have prevented those tragedies.
5. Make people so afraid, they will not want to question anything you tell them. Fear is a powerful motivator. It is as powerful as opium in its ability to block sober reflection. The Conservatives understand this, and they choose to exploit it for their own ends.[xiii] Tell me which is stronger: a society full of courageous, rational individuals, or a society full of frightened, reactionary individuals?
6. Repeat the lie so often, it takes on the semblance of truth. It also helps if you remove all evidence which would contradict you…Long Form Census? Muzzling researchers? Underfunding institutions?

Sober reflection:
We must accept that the world is not perfect, and that our leaders need not be perfect for them to be, on the whole, good leaders. We are not perfect, we will not ever be perfect, nor need we be. We need only to be honest, and always strive to do good, for ourselves and for others; to learn from our mistakes, and be more tolerant and forgiving of others. Huey Lewis and the News:
…Nobody’s perfect, not even a perfect fool,
If you’ll have faith in me,
I’ll keep faith in you.
Ain’t no livin’ in a perfect world,
There ain’t no perfect world anyway…[xiv]
Perfection is not an attribute of existence. Everything is Yin and Yang. The Harper Conservatives’ electoral success depends on our buying their illusion of perfection. This depends on our belief in such a thing, which in turn relies on our not seeing, or seeing, but not accepting, all evidence to the contrary. We know, from our own experience, that we are not perfect. We wish others were more tolerant of our mistakes. We all agree that life is journey that is taken, not on the road of perfection, but rather on one which is heading in that direction. This road will be full of bumps and potholes; obliging us to learn as we burn. These things are a necessary part of life. To quote another song, this time by Supertramp:
…So your life’s become a catastrophe,
Oh, it has to be,
For you to grow, boy…[xv]
I remember a kids song by Rolfs Schulweg, entitled, Alle machen Fehler….everyone makes mistakes.[xvi]
Finally, I happened to read an article in the Opinion section of the Toronto Star (20 March 2015) concerning PM Harper’s comments regarding rural security and gun ownership.[xvii] My initial response to his comments was a qualified rejection – I had lived out in the country as a teenager. I say ‘qualified’ because my first thought was, “A good dog is way better than a gun.” But I also thought, okay, maybe you need more than a dog. After reading the opinion article, I have to admit there were things that I had not considered. Having learned something new, I was obliged to change my stance. I believe we should approach guns in the same way as we do nuclear weapons; rather than encourage more guns, we should strive for less. If you have one, the chance you will use it is no longer zero. As more and more people acquire guns, the chance of their being used inappropriately is proportionally that much closer to becoming a certainty. I strongly recommend that you read this opinion piece.[xviii] If afterwards, your opinion does not change as mine did, so be it; as for me, I’d rather keep a baseball bat handy. It serves its intended purpose – I’ll feel safer, and odds are astronomically against my ever having to use it, especially with the dog around; regardless of where I am living. If I did encounter a situation where I might instinctively reach for it, at least the intruder stands a far better chance of being merely incapacitated, and a lot lower chance a being dead. There is never any just cause for using lethal force, unless it happens in self-defence, and even then, only if it is accidental. Guns permit the possessor little latitude in this regard.

The 2015 federal election is about much more than the economy, the niqab, or income-splitting; it is about our Canada’s Soul. Will we Canadians elect a government which cares about power, not democracy, about marketing, not truth, about dollars, not people, about appearance not reality,[xix] or will we send a clear NO to anyone who thinks they can get away with governing our country in this way?

The challenges present in the domestic and global status quo are a serious impediment to Canada’s reconciliation with the national spirit which motivated the great sacrifices made by the Canadians of WWI and WWII. Those Canadians never looked away from injustice, and always used violence as an absolute last resort. They were not acting in their own interest, but rather in defence of the vulnerable. Being Canadian, they felt compelled to do these things out of their sense of right-action. Many of them never lived to enjoy the opportunity which they so bravely won for others.
I remember a WWII veteran, in his late 80s – early 90s, who began to share with me an anecdote about the war, over tea. After only a few minutes, he started to cry and could not continue. The horror he experienced, he had carried with him his entire life. He could not forget it; he could only try to get on with his life and try not to think about the deep wound he would forever carry in his heart. He could not forget. We should not forget.
We are a free country with a tradition of looking out for our neighbours and for each other, even if it costs us – and we never do it for gain. That’s who we are. If the Cons remain in power, it may fast become who we were.
We must never forget.

A final word:
The Conservatives are proving to be their own worst enemy. Their shameless antics will be the very think that is going to awaken and engage us. Democracy is an ongoing process of renewal; if we do not attend to it fully, if we only do so when things break, then our democracy will inevitably degrade and die, like the body does. We cannot afford to remain asleep; we must continue to be aware of what our governments are doing and provide them with feedback through our MPs, emails, newspapers and internet media articles….and don’t forget to engage your family, friends, and neighbours, in discussion of these issues. That is the only way democracy can work. If the modus operandi of our government does not wholly support this , it is not democracy, no matter what they say.
Don’t let this government Con you.

[i] You can read Thomas Walkom’s article here: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/03/18/benjamin-netanyahu-win-a-good-omen-for-stephen-harper-walkom.html
[ii] Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer. “Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest…”
[iii] You can read all about the evolution of the Conservative movement in the U.S, and Ronald Reagan’s part, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatism_in_the_United_States I briefly scanned the article; and I am going to make it a point to read it. I believe I will be quite surprised; in particular at how easily and how often people can believe they are doing “God’s Will,” and the right thing for their country, while they create and perpetuate the very misery that their religions deplore (all religions- no exceptions). None of us are immune to the self-righteous fantasy which ego is able to concoct. This applies to the adherents of all Faiths, all over the world. Thankfully, there are many who are not fooled by their egos in this respect; but it seems there are many more who are. But this is something we must each of us deal with on our own. That is why our Creator gave us Freewill and in support of this gift, the ability to think, and not only react, according to behavioural patterns which are substantially determined by things other than the rational mind. Michael Jackson, God bless him, said, or rather sang it best: If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.
[iv] You can read about the Great Depression and the New Deal here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal
If you need to be further reminded of the terrible conditions many regular people were having to raise their families in, and with what callousness many of those fortunate enough to have money were given to treating those who did not (the sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of whom would, nevertheless, soon join with their wealthier compatriots and offer up their lives of in defense against Hitler’s war machine and ‘final solution,’ read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. You can get the book through your library or purchase it online. The movie version, starring Henry Fonda, is excellent. You can get this from the library too.
[v] Remember Jerry Falwell? Read an informative article on his life here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movement_conservatismhttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/obituaries/16falwell.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[vi] Taken directly from the Wikipedia article, Movement Conservatism. Their source is Paul Krugman’s, The Conscience of a Liberal. You can read the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movement_conservatism
[vii] Reference the articles: Benjamin Netanyahu win a good omen for Stephen Harper, by Thomas Walkom, and Could Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau ever join to oust Harper? by Tim Harper. You can read Tim’s article here: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/03/18/could-tom-mulcair-and-justin-trudeau-ever-join-to-oust-harper-tim-harper.html
[viii] An interesting read on how this happens is presented by George Lakoff in an article appearing at www.salon.com called, This is why conservatives win: George Lakoff explains the importance of framing – and what Democrats need to learn. November 22, 2014.
[ix] If you care to, read this article describing some of the malfeasances of members of the U.S. Republican party: 10 insane, fear-mongering G.O.P. lies, this election cycle. See if you can find any parallels, in spirit, with the modus operandi of our current government. You can find it here: http://www.salon.com/2014/11/01/10_insane_fear_mongering_gop_lies_this_election_cycle_partner/
[x] Today (March 24, 2015), on CPAC, PM Harper announced his intention to extend the mission by 12 months, and to extend its reach into Syria. What he said, on the surface, made sense; but then he usually does. It is only upon further reflection, that you perceive the cracks. Messrs. Mulcair and Trudeau provided some of that further reflection. I found Mr. Mulcair to be true to form, and quite eloquent. I listened to Mr. Trudeau and I came away feeling this promising young leader has found his mojo. I was gratefully impressed. There is more to Canada’s involvement in this affair than PM Harper has, or is, telling us. I trust him. I trust him to be the type of CEO who feels no obligation whatsoever to tell his employees (sadly, these are euphemisms for Canada’s Prime Minister and citizens), anything other than what he wants them to know, and to believe.
[xi] I read an interesting comment to an article about Harper’s extension of Canada’s extension of the Iraq mission by 12 months, and into Syria, where the reader describes the Harper manoeuver as the Conservatives “Economic Distraction Plan.”
[xii] Please read the article by Jim Bronskill of the Canadian Press, to understand how. Here’s a link to the French version: http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/national/201503/24/01-4855093-c-51-donnerait-gain-de-cause-aux-extremistes-selon-une-avocate-autochtone.php
[xiii] Remember that it was Netanyahu’s evoking fear of the so-called “Arab fifth-column,” and Reagan’s evoking fear of communism which helped them get elected. The use of fear is not limited to those of movement conservatism ilk either; it is something that unscrupulous leaders across cultures and time have resorted to, in order to have their people swallow the bitter pills which they are feeding them. In any democratic society, majority public support is a requirement, else…well, you know…
[xiv] I obtained these lyrics from: www.azlyrics.com/
[xv] This is from memory, not the Internet. The song is, Take the Long-way Home, from the album, Breakfast In America.
[xvi] If you google ‘alle machen Fehler,’ the song should come up. In the Suggestions section, there are many other outstanding kids’ songs by this composer. My favourite is Rot und Grün. This guy is truly amazing. I probably enjoyed listening to his tape on car trips more than my kids did.
[xvii] This is in reference to an engaging opinion piece appearing in the Toronto Star. You can read it here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/03/19/harpers-dangerous-advice-on-guns-for-rural-security.html
[xviii] You can read about Harper’s comments on guns and rural security, in this fine article appearing in the Globe and Mail, here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/in-rural-canada-harpers-gun-ownership-comments-ring-true/article23569748/
[xix]Defence Minister Jason Kenney’s tweeting fabricated photos of black-draped Muslim girls and women being led of in chains, along with the words, …”thank-you to the [Canadian Forces] for joining the fight against [ISIL’s] campaign to enslave women & girls.” Kenney’s ‘slaves’ were actually part of an Islamic pageant celebrating the heroism of that Faith’s early martyrs. The honourable minister tweeted on International Women’s Day 8 March 2015. The misinformation the Cons have heaped upon the public must by now be piled higher than old rubber tires in a Toronto junkyard; but seriously, do you need further proof that this government is over-the-top immorally imbecilic than the tweet by Jason Kenney? You can read the article about the tweet here, in the Ottawa Citizen: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/the-gargoyle-kenney-tweets-misleading-photos-of-muslim-women-in-chains

On Community

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Community – The essence of community is collaboration in pursuit of the common good. The opposite of community is the pursuit of self-interest to the detriment of the common good. In community, no one should worry if some folks do better than others materially -so long as everyone in the community has their basic needs covered. The disparity in means of support cannot be so great as to suborn slavery or serfdom (an archaic term – today we call this class of people the ‘working-poor’). Poverty and enslavement, whether physical or economic, exist only as a perversion of Nature. Any constellation of individuals exhibiting such phenomena cannot be a community; no matter which species or how they organize, the arrangement will be lacking in the tools necessary for building vital, sustainable communities. These tools are innate to every species born under the sun. The disparity between what one individual gives/receives in the context of their community association will vary naturally – according to their engagement with their community and their ability to contribute on the one hand; according to their community’s engagement with its members and ability to contribute to their welfare on the other.
There is, however, a minimum support obligation belonging to the state-community. Should the state be remiss here, then all bets are off in terms of building vibrant and lasting communities to support it- and the state-community will fall. The Middle East, Africa, Syria, Myanmar – after millennia, they are still killing one another with gusto – thousands, hundreds of thousands of human souls, many of them children being left to die by their state-communities. It is tempting to call leaders like Bassad an ‘animal,’ but no animal belonging to a community of animals is capable of doing to its own kind what Bassad has no reservations about doing to his. There is no word spoken among humans adequate to describe Bassad – though his name closely resembles an English language slang – no words to express the profound misery and sadness he is responsible for.[i] While he is shooting, bombing and gassing the bejesus out of the ‘enemies’ of the Syrian state-community he presides over, he is destroying the blocks he needs to build and maintain Syria’s vitality and social cohesion. How long do you suppose his regime is going to last? I can’t say for certain; but it is inevitable his regime will fall. It is certain that, between now and that day, a lot more Syrian men, women and children are going to suffer, live out their days in fear, then die.
All of which is as unnecessary and self-defeating as it is criminal. Any society that relies on coercion rather than on a just social contract with its citizens for cohesion is on a spiraling downward to chaos and catastrophe. There can be no other outcome –a coercive society is as likely to be successful engendering engagement and collaboration among its citizens as pharaoh was in making good bricks without straw.
What the Family has to teach us about community
Think of the relation between mother and infant. At that stage of development, the infant is wholly reliant on the mother for its needs; and unbeknownst to the infant, he/she is supplying the mother with the best possible returns – hopes and dreams for their future. And every good mother knows that the selfless dedication they accorded their infant children will someday be returned to them: as they see it being paid forward to their grandchildren, they will remember their own experiences and be filled with joy for both their children and their grandchildren.
That describes how love is transferred from generation to generation in the family, and hints at something equally important and mostly ignored by modern social engineering – that family provides the developmental model for viable, progressive and sustainable societies. Although modern social engineering has decided that the individual, not the family, is the atomic building block of society; the family is no less significant than before; it is only that the ignorance of modern social engineering is greater than before and we are actually buying it – not deliberately; but rather passively as we stand by and watch the family institution being enervated.
That society’s focus should be upon the individual at the expense of the family, is, how can I best say it? – INSANE. Whether anyone likes it or not, the family is properly atomic in its relation to Canadian society. The individual is properly atomic to the family. Until the child-individuals in a family leave their family to begin ones of their own, the parents must function as the interface between the home and the community at large. Parents are the buffer between child and society; one that gradually disappears over time, when the children are ready to be independent; NOT when the child is 3 or 4 years old; not until the child has had the opportunity to learn the skills that will ensure their value both as parents and citizens of the community, when their generation takes over the reins from ours. Continuing to short-circuit child development by taking kids away from the home nest too soon is, by all accounts, socially counter-productive.
Here’s the rub: how can we expect to build cohesive societies of individuals whose first formative experiences were acquired in the context of loosely-knit families? How cohesive do you suppose the Canada of tomorrow, the world of tomorrow, is going to be?
The highest social condition is one where the state and the individual are in full symbiotic cooperation. The lowest condition of the social contract is one where one class or group regards the other class or group as a commodity rather than as members of their community. In that case, the social contract will look something like that between the Morlocks and the Eloi in H.G. Wells’ Time Machine.
What people need, and in what order, Maslow’s Pyramid clearly shows. What the state needs, Maslow’s Pyramid clearly maps to. As Maslow’s levels apply to the state, ‘physiological needs, security, community, self-esteem and self-actualization’ are economic means, internal relations, external relations, sense of self (the national vision), and sense of realization (‘We are Canadians – eh?’). As applied to individuals, I understand Maslow’s levels to mean food/shelter/clothing, a safe environment, a sense of community(mutual acceptance, acknowledgement, support), generally feeling good about oneself and one’s prospects (the general absence of worry) and some sense of accomplishment and gratitude for having had the opportunity to make it so.
Poverty and Community
There is no allowance for poverty in Maslow’s Pyramid; people born into and living in poverty began life at a serious disadvantage with respect to their opportunity for enjoying a safe, healthy and happy life. The conditions which attend upon poverty provide poor mould for citizens to set in. Are we not remiss in our tolerance of poverty? What we need do is to see poverty for the social, democratic and human anathema that it is. Poverty is a cancer upon society. Were our societies to behave in a fashion more reconciled with Nature, money would flow from where it is to where it isn’t. It doesn’t.
Poverty’s existence in Canada means that we are a society afflicted. Poverty’s ubiquity in the world means that we are a species afflicted. Its expansion warns that we are losing containment. If that happens, we are in serious trouble: social cohesion, if not derived naturally from the condition of being a citizen, would need to be imposed by society’s institutions.
The more Canadians that live in poverty, the fewer Canadians enjoy the conditions evocative of cohesion/sense of community and the closer we are to becoming a police state. God bless our police, but their operative is ‘to serve and to protect.’ They are not meant to be zoo-keepers any more than animals are meant to live in cages. If the police end up being all we have left holding us together, we’re lost. Given the consequences, it is far better for wealthy and poor alike, if no one is poor.
Poverty is a Symptom
But poverty is not the only challenge we face; it is a symptom of a deeper problem. The derangement of DNA responsible for making cancer cells out of healthy cells is comparable to the human behavioral pathology that gives rise to poverty. It is the notion of continuous growth/expansion without a counterbalancing retractionary phase. When the context is wealth, individual or national, the inevitable result is the concentration of wealth; implying the bereavement of means for many citizens. When the context is population, ours v. other species, the result is the collapse of the species we rely on followed by our own collapse. Our demands upon Nature have long ago exceeded Nature’s ability to answer in the way we need.
Cancer is a pathology that will grow, grow, grow until it kills its host – trouble is, the cancer dies right along with it. If there is no species above us ion the food chain to keep our numbers in check, we might fool ourselves into believing we are above Nature’s predator-prey cycle. We aren’t – but we’re stupid enough to believe we are. We do not seem to realize that the Earth Mother can handle only so many of us; that she is obliged to regulate our numbers should we become too many – and she will, with or without our cooperation. Should we just keep on expanding foot-loose and fancy-free, we will experience a catastrophic resolution to our over-presence.

Our major cities are tantamount to cancer tumours in the body of the Earth Mother: as we cut, clear, and pave her over, we neuter her ability to provide for us. Each time we replace Nature’s constructions with one of our own, we effectively insert a barrier along the boundary where earth meets sky -compromising the exchange processes in continual operation across that boundary. It is no different than the activities that occur across a cell membrane. We are blocking these exchange processes: the reception of nutrients-the expulsion of waste. The Earth Mother is becoming very sick; but it will not die. It will recover its vitality. It will once again become the ‘life-factory’ it was before it got the cancer – when life, with all of its diversity, burst out forth from everywhere and in waves to meet the sunlight. For us to do right by posterity and by all of the other species the Earth’s spirit engenders, we need only change our perspective; our way of viewing the world/Earth Mother and our place within the larger scheme. We are a species; but we are not the only species. We have become too many, while other species now number too few. If we do not take this simple observation into serious account; if we just keep on doing what we have been doing, we will end up just as surprised (and just as dead) as cancer cells. But we don’t have to behave like cancer cells. We have the capacity to change direction, just as we did when we opted to leave the Garden – only then, we chose poorly.

What to do? What to do…

Essentially, any advance in the quality of human-fashioned communities, whether local or global, will be retrograde with respect to the size of our footprint. Our numbers and behaviors have pushed Mother Nature to the breaking point. We simply cannot continue to expand our footprint. We must engage a counterbalancing, phase of retraction over the next decades if we want to keep going and give the next generation a fighting chance, just as the war generations fought to give our generation a chance.
A few of the changes we might consider and expect to pursue, as humanity reconciles with its own and with Nature:

1. We are the only species I am aware of which actively preys upon and subjugates its own kind – extending this grievously unnatural treatment even to our children. A species capable of predatory behaviour upon its own? How does any living thing come to prey upon itself? What can be more unnatural and out of character? What can be more cancer-like? Hmm? Wilful violence(as opposed to the self-defence sort), economic and social marginalization, the modern phenomenon of the ‘working-poor,’ wealth inequality – none of things are features of sustainable, vibrant communities. None of these disparities exist in Nature – they are as much a human concoction as the cities and societies we build.
Hey folks, as much as it pains me to point out the obvious -but doesn’t the fact that we are the only species under the sun to exhibit such behaviour tell you we are likely missing the boat somewhere? Because we are no longer acting according to our own natures, the survival tools we get from Nature are rendered ineffective. The game is changed. We are no longer dealing with the ‘routine, day-to-day’ challenges presented by Nature as we go about the business of living, but rather with Nature’s response specifically to our over-presence.
2. We distinguish ourselves, each of us, one from the other, in any way imaginable. Our differences are not antisocial – but our fixation upon them is.
What we have done in in the name of humanity to promote inclusiveness and to protect minorities from oppression, systemic and otherwise, has resulted in precisely the opposite: in these days, people are getting put through the ringer and losing their careers -because they happen to use a word that someone, somewhere, somehow –takes offense to. Good leaders, good public servants, good police officers, good military folks, good teachers and good ministers – good folks working in positions of public trust –are regular casualties these days. Our politicians are afraid to say how they really think and feel in answer to even the simplest and most direct of questions. It does not help that personality politics is in vogue. Political opponents in their legislative assemblies are not at all interested in helping one another, as Canadians, to find solutions to problems, but rather looking for opportunities to spin everything the other side says into a negative sound-bite. And we voters listen to the politicians…no wonder we are divided. There has never been a human born who has not, at one time or another, said something they know was wrong for them to say –wrong because it was false or not the whole story. Whether to your kid, your parent, your best friend – no matter how meaningful these people are in your life, you have at one time or another said something that had a negative sign in front of its value. You spoke in anger, you got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, you were stressed about something else, thinking about something else, in physical pain – in short, you were likely venting the negatives that you had been accumulating and internalizing. You were not speaking your truth, and you know it. We ‘consume’ negatives along with the positives as a matter of course during our daily routines; but we need to expel the negatives coming in from the outside along with the toxins generated by the mind’s ‘metabolic’ processes. What you say in anger is no more representative of your mind’s ‘home’ state than your excrement is of how you generally smell – at least, let’s hope so. The point is, when you vent, you are really only flushing the toilet. Same when someone vents at you. They are only flushing their toilet. In either case, is it not better to turn your back on it and shut the door behind you? ps – don’t forget to turn on the fan!
3. Our fixation upon differences is in part due to the misapplication of the Human Rights Code.
Non-conformity is diversity. Diversity adds to community’s toolset and therefore its value. Diversity is an operative of Nature. The imposition of uniformity is a feature of human societies only. Other species are as uniform as nature requires; but one class does not cultivate it in another class in order to better rule that other class. As Robert Ardrey would attest, diversity is the best hedge a species can make against its own extinction. We need do nothing for human societies to gain from diversity in the way Nature’s society does, except live it.

What sidewalk ants can teach us – if we could only stop stepping on them:

1. Community Opportunity – when you dump an ice cream cone on the sidewalk, you will soon see the nearest anthill erupt with ants dedicated to one purpose: scooping up the loot. There is no indication that any of the ants remain idle, content to let other ants do it; all ants do it. There isn’t one thought of organizing things in such a way that any of the ants might miss out. That would be most unnatural and anti-antish. What is natural is the behaviour of a community of ants who happen upon a dumped ice cream cone. They’ll all show up to take advantage of an opportunity for a treat. None of the ants appear to think it necessary to set up barriers to keep certain ants away.
2 . The ONLY reason we do not behave as naturally, as true to ourselves, as ants do is that we choose not to. We wish to cultivate a self-image different from how we truly are, as if what we truly are is somehow wrong; that what we think to replace it with is much better. But we cannot change Nature or how Nature has contrived us. We can only change appearances. But appearances are insubstantial – they are mental images existing only between peoples’ ears; they are the fodder and the product of ego. I’m trying to be nice here; the truth is, we are the only species in existence that does not act according to our natures –we are acting according to our ego; and ego represents a small fraction of our natures, representing no larger a portion than the root does of the tree. It is our fixation upon ego that makes all of our problems gain substance and take on lives of their own. Ego invites us to hide behind it; in extreme cases shutting the mind’s door to the world and occupying itself with a world entirely of its own making – therefore the persistence in the ‘deification’ of appearance over reality among human individuals and the societies they build.
Ego is the root of the individual, community, nation, world. All things existing separately have an ego. Ego is what differentiates one thing with a soul from all other things with souls. The modern human preoccupation with individual rights has morphed into preoccupation with the rights of ego, and has hijacked our notion of human rights. With our self-absorption, we do not see that the direction our societies are evolving in is the wrong one – we are effectively driving the wrong way up a one-way street; wondering about the increasing frequency of the problems we run into all the while. Mr. Magoo must have felt the same way. Our preoccupation with the rights of the individual has left no one with rights – in particular those of the lower class, since they will not have the money to defend themselves properly in court.
3. The only opportunity that can come of poverty is the institutionalized absence of opportunity –toss in marginalization, both economic and social, for good measure. When’s the last time any of us sat and had a beer with a homeless person?

[i] I tear up every time I recall the image of the young Jordanian soldier carrying the limp body of a 4 year old Syrian boy away from the beach where the bodies of many Syrian refugees appeared after their boat capsized.

On Freedom of Expression

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A U.S. court had ruled that the South Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SPTA) must post ads from a group called the American Freedom Defence Initiative in its vehicles, including one with a picture of Hitler with an Arab leader al-Hussein, and the slogan, “The hatred of Jews – it’s in the Koran.” The judge ruled that SPTA violated freedom of expression.
It broke my heart to see this. It is not “freedom of expression” when what is being said is a direct and deliberate attack on another religious community, promoting hatred toward it. I believe the judge veered off to the right on his ruling.
The ad is wrong on so many levels, I hardly no where to begin. But I will point out that the people cited in the ad are no longer among us.
Did any of you see the movie, Kingdom of Heaven? Do you recall when Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, and Saladin, played by Ghassan Massoud, were discussing the terms of Jerusalem’s surrender? Saladin offered safe passage to Christian lands for every man, woman, and child. Balian, unsure of the conqueror’s sincerity, reminds him that when the crusaders had taken the Holy City , they had slaughtered every Muslim. Saladin’s reply?
I am not those men. I am Saladin.
Did his answer not feel complete? Did it not resonate within you to your very core?
The message is clear: for us to break a cycle of violence which has no beginning and offers no way out, the past can be allowed no role in the present. After six millennia of violent tit-for-tat, this should now be clear to all of us.
If we are selective in our determinations as to what constitutes “Freedom of Expression,” then this core societal tenet is rendered meaningless. The freedom to project and promote hatred toward other groups in society is contrary to every other force that functions to hold societies together. It is for this reason that yesterday’s sages provided us with the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They acknowledged that no society’s majority has ever showed itself to be beyond capable of perpetrating injustice and malice upon its minorities, and that, if these processes are not constrained by law, society will quickly devolve into an interminable cycle of action-reaction. One group is given offense, and its “war-hawks” respond in-kind by attacking the offenders. It has always been the innocent, “moderates” that get hurt along the way.
Whether you are Muslim or Christian, Palestinian or Jew, Francophone, First Peoples, or Anglophone, male or female – you want, more than anything else in the world, to be happy; to have a comfortable home, food on the table, and to live in peace while you raise your children and watch them realize their dreams –very probably, the same dreams you had as a child. Continuing the egoic cycle of action-reaction makes certain that your children will not have these things.
The real anathema to a just and happy society is hatred in all of its forms. But there are some who are addicted to hatred. They feel it gives them power. This is a big mistake; the ‘power’ invested in hatred is purely pathological: it enfeebles homes, communities, countries. It is easily spread. Its only fruit is a society wherein no one is truly happy, and where most live in fear and misery.
For those who are the targets of hatred, my heart is deeply sorrowed. Hard as it is, the only way to react is to not react. You are the target, not the reason. The reason, and the responsibility, wholly belong to those who are attacking you. You cannot change them. It is for these people to change themselves, and for society to constrain them. You must show leadership, by example, if you want to help society to move closer to being that which you want to live in; the one you want your children to live in. There really is only one choice left to us:
Be part of the problem, or become part of the solution.

Of Millipedes and Centipedes – a short story

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Once upon a time, there was a millipede named  Mut. Early each morning, while the children slept soundly, he ventured forth into the world above the ground to look for his children’s breakfast. On this morning, Mut was feeling particularly antsy. The source of his worry was the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. That meant he not only had to find breakfast for the children this morning; he  had to look for pollen for to buy them new honeycomb shoes from the shoemaker bees.

As you can imagine, it takes a lot of honeycombs to shoe a millipede; even if it’s a child. In the past, try as he may, he could never find enough pollen. As the school years came and went, he’d watch his children go into the school excited but barely shod. Seeing that his kids were just as excited about their first day of school in their bare feet as the kids with shoes were,  made him watery-eyed every time. With many years of practice, he had cultivated the ability to hold back the tears until the last of his children disappeared down the hallway of the school; then he’d allow the tears to run their course as he made for the pollen field.

But on that first day, he was met by one of the centipede parents. The centipede wanted to make him a “business proposition.” The centipede would help him gather pollen in exchange for “a small commission.”

“That way, your children won’t have to  go to school in their bare feet” said the centipede,” and…you will be done much sooner.”

“I will help you gather enough pollen for shoes the week before school starts,” the centipede continued. “In return you will give me half of what you gather every day throughout the school year.” The millipede thought about this, but only for a moment. He did not want to think anything but that his kids would never be shoeless again; especially for their first day of school. He was so happy. On that very day, the centipede helped him gather so much pollen that for the very first time, his children had shoes on every one of their feet, and life was good again.

After dropping the kids  at school the next morning, Mut got busy gathering pollen. He worked with an enthusiasm as never before. When it came nearly time to bring the kids home from school, the centipede showed up to divide the day’s bounty into two piles of nearly equal size; one for the centipede, the other for the millipede.

“Thank you,” said the centipede. “Here’s your share.” The centipede pointed to the lesser of the two piles. Seeing the two piles were different in size did not bother the millipede because now his children would all have shoes – and maybe a toy or two to boot! He was feeling happy, like never before.

But as the school year progressed, the centipede took a larger share of the pollen for himself.

“It is what all the millipedes are getting,” he explained.

The millipede, meanwhile, was obliged to spend even more time gathering pollen to make up for his shrinking portion. By the halfway point in the school year, the millipede was working right on up until dark so that his pile was large enough to provide for the children’s supper. He had to hire a sitter to pick up his children after school and look after them, until he got home.

But after he started paying a babysitter, there was not enough pollen leftover  for exercise books and, God-help-him, toys. He was obliged to work later and later. He heard that most of the other millipedes were involved in similar arrangements with centipedes. At the end of the school year, the pollen stores of the millipede families had grown considerably smaller, even as those of the centipedes grew larger.

At summer’s end, the millipede was both work and worry-weary. He hardly saw his children. There was no longer time to play monopoly with them, to tell them bedtime stories, or for drawing crayon pictures with them on Sunday afternoons because  he was always working. He hoped the sitter was doing all of these things. When he did see them, he was obliged to reach deep down just to keep from being cranky with them.

When he brought the kids to school for the start of the new year, he noticed there weren’t  any centipede children. He was told they’d all enrolled in that brand new school a way over yonder, atop the anthill.

Very few of the millipede children were wearing a full set of shoes on that first day of school. Some had no shoes at all. A part of him was relieved that his children were not the only ones. He felt that he didn’t need to worry about the centipedes, or their children, since they had pollen aplenty to shoe and supply their children; and for their children he was happy.

And each night he would fall asleep wondering what his children did that day.

 

Insanity and Ego

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If life becomes intolerable—perhaps you are an old person who has run out of money, obliged to pass the day wandering the downtown of your city, the nights in shelters among strangers. How  does one avoid unhappiness to the core of one’s being? Having to ‘live’ a reality like the one you thought as a child only existed in storybooks and always had a Prince Charming to set everything right and proper at the end, how is it possible for anyone to keep from climbing right back into their heads, shutting the door hard behind them?

It is our ego that is beckoning for us to enter in and shut the door. The ego is not representative of our entire person, any more than the head is the entire human body. Ego does occupy a special place in our anatomy: east of the left ear, west of the right; longitudinally centred between  the upper and lower boundaries of the cranial cavity.

Ego comes to our defense against the sub-optimal conditions we encounter as we go about our daily business. This is not complicated: when we  look outside on Saturday morning and see that it is raining, we will choose to do something inside and put off the camping until the next weekend. When we encounter ‘bad weather’ socially, we will withdraw into the ego while we search for better climes. What if we never find ‘better climes?’ Why, we will end up living almost exclusively behind the closed door, and we fall further into insanity the more we do. I define insanity as,  the degree to which we live inside out heads and accept its ‘outputs’ as ‘inputs’ from the external world, when in fact they have less to do with the outside world than stick men do with real people.

We have not gone ‘insane’ in the sense that we have a pathology of the mind, but may express ourselves in ‘insane ways’ because we are processing the mental equivalent of ‘fake news.’ Our behaviourisms are motivated by our mind’s mode of perception. We are dealing with the ‘garbage in-garbage out’ paradigm. If the mind’s door is always closed, you keep new garbage from getting in, to be sure; but  the mind, driven by your ego, continues working and garbage continues to pile up inside the head. The mind has no way to release the garbage ego itself is generating, if the mind’s door remains shut rather than wide open. Soon after you will find yourself reacting to things your ego has created, but attributes to the egos and actions of other people. When you (the mind) can no longer tell the miasma of ego from the real thing, guess what, bub? You appear to be crackers!

Societies of all kinds, human or otherwise, have egos too. Societies are systems that organize elements with the capacity for independent action (free will) into a cohesive whole, all predicated upon dimensions of substantive commonality. In Nature, societies react to disparities by eliminating them. A ‘healthy’ mental system will react to disparities by mobilizing processes designed to return the system to a ‘zero-energy’ state—a state where there is no stress-the here and the now. A society gone ‘insane’ would exhibit gross economic inequality, lack of opportunity, lack of proper support for the poor and the vulnerable—and do nothing about it except to invest more in protecting the interests of the ‘haves.’

Of the processes exhibited by healthy societies, the most critical is the circulation of money. Money is to national society what blood is to the human body. If human societies choose to restrict the flow of money throughout society, the regions where the ‘blood’ is allowed to pool will fester and rot. It will make people behave insanely. The surplus of money is as damaging to the human soul and psyche as the lack of money is.

In these days, the distribution and flow of money in any of today’s human societies is as symmetrical as a 9-headed hydra. You can see this plainly on a walkabout in downtown Toronto. The term ‘social,’ implies the existence of processes that actively promote social cohesion, collaboration,  and sustainability. In plain language: wherever a deficiency exists, resources are supplied from wherever there is surplus. A graphical representation of the distribution of resources across populations of ‘healthy’ societies is a bell-shaped curve, to wit: the Normal Distribution. Very nearly all the members of healthy societies exist somewhere within two sigma of the mean value of the entire population.

Money is power, so the saying goes. I’d like to expand its breadth of application  a wee bit: Money is opportunity.

Were we to acquire the political will to tackle the woeful disparity in opportunity confronting poor folks all over the world—those who cannot progress beyond Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs base level because their whole day is spent on fighting a losing battle against malnutrition—we would dismantle a wall which today’s populists want to build even higher. We would clear the way for individuals and societies to focus on Maslow’s second hurdle— the provision of safety and security. Folks require only SUFFICIENCY of food, clothing, and the safety of a comfortable nest they can call their own, for folks to progress. We would relieve the obligation ego puts upon itself to provide the mind with a more palatable world to ‘live in.’

Were we to achieve a reduction in economic disparity, the stress upon the good folks working in mental care, the health system and in law enforcement, would be substantively reduced. If the person is feeling ‘safe,’ they cannot be feeling ‘anxious.’ You cannot feel both ways at the same time. Where one’s mental focus is—that’s the determinant. It truly is a matter of seeing the glass as either half-full or half-empty. Anxiety, comes of being afraid all of the time (this ‘intro’ to Social Engineering 101 is provided to you free, courtesy of the good folks from Buffalo Springfield: ‘paranoia strikes deep/into your life it will creep‘) [i]. Governments’ leveraging fear as a tool of social control keeps an ever increasing portion of Canadian and global citizens from getting past safety and security issues to allow them to focus on—Hello? – love and belonging—community. Maslow’s third hurdle.

Love and belonging—now, here’s where things really start to rock: people are feeling good about themselves, about one another, about their environment…when you are feeling this way, it’s pretty tough to want to stay ‘in doors;’ you’ll  WANT to go out and ‘play,’ all the time, like when you were little (and completely sane). You’ll want to leave the ‘inside stuff’ for when you are just too tired to have any more fun and you need to go to bed. It becomes eminently unimaginable, if most folks are going around feeling like this, that the police folks will have much to do. Instead, they would have the opportunity to enjoy their jobs more and not having to spend so much of their off-time just trying to recover from the workday [ii]. Same goes for everyone and anyone having anything to do with public service. The media folks would be happier too—can you imagine if they didn’t have to report on all of that misery? Imagine how much better they would have felt writing about the marriage of Jamal Khashoggi and Hatice Cengiz?

Wow- we’ve already come to Maslow’s level 4: Esteem. Recapping the journey so far: we are unafraid of today (level 1 and 2), or of any tomorrow (level 3) because we are surrounded by friends and our NOW is the only spot we ever want to be in. We aren’t anxious around strangers; we trust them because we are them and they are us. We live in the exact same society, so go figure! In fact, we run around admiring one another’s differences and look to them for ideas—that’s what my mom always did. When we esteem one another, both sides on any issue will seek first to understand how the other side comes to feel the way that they do, à la the Prayer of St. Francis and the life of Mother Teresa. This in itself will greatly shorten up all negotiations, whether they are between sovereign nations or among neighbours. This guarantees ‘win-win’ on both sides EACH AND EVERY TIME. And guess what? Without ever struggling, we’ve arrived! Where? Why at,

Self-actualization-the top of the pyramid. For me the level is as uncomplicated as the process for getting there. We think it is complicated because we think too much….the apple tree spends little effort worrying about how to grow its apples. It just does it; without struggling, it has made it’s way all the way to Maslow 5. How is it so many of us humans do not?

It is because we are preoccupied with judging the fruits of others and in so doing, become anxious about how we are doing with growing our own fruit. Strip away all of the pretenses of ego, and guess what, you are knowable just as you are; you know others just as they are. Trust, respect and understanding should and must be as natural to human relationships as breathing. There is no ‘Me-Too’ among animal species—individuals operate according to the rule of Nature (‘rule of law’ in human societies) and any departure from it is dealt with proportionately and immediately. Without having to worry how others may esteem our fruits, we will be entirely focused upon growing them and doing our very best—naturally. With all of us being ‘just as we are’ we cannot help it but to build equitable and sustainable societies. How could we produce anything less, with such folks as these?

Maslow knew this. Everyone who has any sense at all beyond their ego’s nose, knows this too. If we are not living like this right now, it is because of ego; ours and other peoples’. If governments are content to preside over so much misery it is because of how their ego is blinding them to both the truth and to the way out of our mess.

The way out is obvious. We are ‘missing’ the turnoff only because ego is looking alt-right when Maslow’s road is on the left.

 

Endnotes:

[i] Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth 1967

[ii] I read recently that Ontario’s Coroner is going to look into the number of suicides among the police. Godspeed.

Addendum: Today, 23 July 2019, I read about the hero who was first responder on the scene of the Turcotte child-murders, Officer Patrick Bigras, of the Sûreté du Québec. He was 45 years-old. You can read about it here: https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/sûreté-du-québec-officer-who-arrested-guy-turcotte-dies-at-45/ar-AAEJ49L?ocid=spartanntp

The Alt-Right and Why It Is All-Wrong

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I have one point to bring up – if the emigrating ancestors of the ALT-Right people had met with a similar welcome to that which their kin are prepared to offer new arrivals, then Canada would be coast-to-coast Aboriginal, as would the U.S.A. and Mexico; as well as Central and South America, right on down to the tip of Patagonia. The Jews would have been barred from entering Canaan by the Canaanites (and several other *.ites). Sapiens, with all of its colours, cultures and convictions, might have remained crammed into the fertile deltas of the Tigris-Euphrates and the Indus.

But it did not turn out that way. Instead, adventurous humans, Abram-and-the-Gang, out of Ur, struck off in search of a better life for themselves, to wit: to live without fear and without want of the basic necessities of Life. Of course, none of them saw what they were doing as ‘evil.’ Most of them hadn’t a thought or care as to how their setting up shop in a new place was going to affect the species for whom that place was already home; how their search for a better life placed them in direct competition with the indigenous peoples/species who were naturally just as motivated to live as the newcomers….and so things often came down to ‘the survival of the fittest.’

The processes of expansion and home-building have been ongoing since the very beginnings of Life. All living things are driven BY THEIR NATURE to satisfy Life’s basic requirements for food, shelter, and security – these provisions being the definitive attributes of a home, regardless of the species that builds it.

Now, invariably, the eternal search sets one species in direct conflict with at least one other, or, in the case of us humans, with all other species, and even with one another.

When there are no new frontiers left to inhabit, as is the case today, societal expansion ends, or war begins, and the trend is for societies to turn inward upon themselves. The human body lacking nutrition will begin to consume itself; so too the social unit, once all external sources (such as those gained from expansion into new territories) are used up. With respect to humans, the progress of ‘turning inward’ reveals itself by the degree of their society’s fractionation into ‘us’ and ‘them’ – ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ This applies to community, national, and global society.

Societies tend to fractionate along the dimension of homebuilding – food, shelter, and security – since we are programmed, first and foremost, to be about building homes for ourselves. All species in Nature are programmed to behave the same way. Even the fetus in the womb follows this principle; attempting to exit via the birth canal when it runs out of room, to continue building itself (growing) elsewhere – if given the opportunity.

Once an economy fails to provide returns on a level to which the strong in a particular society are accustomed, this demographic will look to the weak within their societies for ‘growth’ opportunities. Given that what a region provides is in its measure finite, the expansion of the slice available to one group implies a commensurate reduction in what remains to be shared among all of the other groups.
Bad enough, but it gets worse: what accompanies and compounds the effect of a skewed wealth distribution is the skewing of opportunity in the same direction. Worse still:
It is natural process.

The skewing of opportunity to generate wealth will eventually concretize Canada into a splintered society of haves and have-nots -with very nearly all of the wealth concentrated among the haves. This will happen each and every time because it is natural process.

Given that wealth is society’s lifeblood, it must flow without impediment or disruption. We know what happens to our bodies if the flow of blood becomes disrupted, sporadic; or if blood is allowed to pool in spots, leaving other spots bloodless. Neither the pooling of blood or of wealth can be called immoral; but it is sure to result in society’s collapse, as surely as the individual whose blood inventory is largely in their legs is bound to collapse.

Canadians might by now be wondering if Canada’s best days are already in the past, if that is true, it is patently not because of immigration. It would be due to the pervasiveness of self-interest in today’s society. That is how we are able to turn a blind-eye to wealth inequality and poverty even when it has exceeded the most conservative notion of what is socially deleterious. This is what permits us to take a do-nothing stance even when it may have reached levels not seen since WWI.

Because the impetus to search for food, shelter, and safety is a feature of all species, these things must be satisfied before human individual and social fulfillment can be substantively realized. No society with a skewed wealth distribution can provide any of these at the necessary level. The greater the skew, the more society will turn upon itself, the more it fractionates, and the nearer the society is to collapse. The greater the tragedy -Canada is to me the front runner for becoming the world’s first truly multicultural society. And that is setting the world’s folks up for a wonderful future.

The rise of the Alt-Right is a warning to all of us that societies in which these movements exist could have progressed well into decline. Immigration is fingered by populists as the source of a national society’s malaise. It is not the immigrants. It is how the wealthier folks have exploited immigration, and because the returns on investment combined with extended low GDP growth and have already so skewed the distribution of national wealth that there are few opportunities left for citizens of the labour-class to replace or expand their income. See Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century for a thorough elucidation of this process. The loss of even one of those opportunities to a new-comer, because there are so few opportunities, becomes amplified exponentially.

In their search for cheaper labour, employers discredit the real advantages of immigration by using it to lower every labour-class Canadian’s expectations with respect to pay and working conditions. Nowadays, the ideal employee is too often someone who is prepared to work more hours for less money, for little to no benefits, tolerate horrendous working conditions and toxic exposure, and already trained to boot! This is done in the name of global competitiveness…but when every employer/investor in the world is doing it, it becomes a case of more money for investors, less money for everyone else.

Immigrants, for their part, are being true to human nature (given to them by god, not other people, don’t forget) in emigrating from a place where there is no opportunity for their families, to a place where there is. It is what brought every single human soul to this land. Immigration/migration is, after all, a Canadian tradition.

The world’s immigrants are being bamboozled just like Alt-Right subscribers are, by their own ruling classes. The ruling class of one nation obliges their citizens to emigrate by creating untenable conditions for them; the ruling class of the receiving nation obliges their own citizens to be happy with less, by hiring workers from outside and putting domestic and foreign workers in direct competition for too few job opportunities. If you are a global investor/employer, can you imagine a more perfect setup?

It is natural for anyone looking for a job to be resentful of the situation, but we must be careful where we lay the blame -if we do not properly identify the root causes, we cannot fix the problem. The problem is not immigration, it’s how wealth is distributed and how those among the wealthier group are exploiting immigration in order to become even wealthier.

Postscript – the end of the story

The root cause of social revolution: the labour-class’s inevitable response to being mined by their own kind.
The forces of scarcity become so strong that the weak become motivated out of their ‘comfort zones’ to action upon the ruling group. We’ve seen this over and over again. The trouble is, the group that takes over, to wit: the new ruling class, ends up behaving as antisocially as the group that was just ousted -only the names and faces have changed. The ruling group still exists. The ‘changing of the guard,’ normally accomplished at the price of unimaginable misery – ‘unimaginable’ unless you live in such times and aren’t born a generation later- simply and inevitably results in the same old – same old.
The ruled, or, as I prefer to call us, the labour class, having so little of the nation’s resources available for nurture, eventually collapses into anarchy and infighting…

…and as Canadian society tries to preserve whatever semblance of cohesion remains to it, it morphs into an oligarchic police state right under our noses.
All of this due to natural process – the existence and effects of which have been thoroughly explained to us, over and over, by the likes of Charles Darwin, Robert Ardrey,[i] and many other brilliant minds, throughout humanity’s sojourn. Trouble is, none of these truly brilliant minds ever seem to get into politics.
We have seen this over and over again, but we have not done what it would take for humankind to move beyond its ego and embrace a future of sustainable human social progress. Such a world, if humans are to be a part of it at all, would be one where humankind accepts the mandate which god has handed to us; a world in which we – Alt-Right people, immigrants and migrants included- accept the responsibility and joy of being the stewards of god’s Garden. As Edmund Burke observed, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Will we? Learn?

[i] Check out Robert Ardrey’s Social Contract – a must read – also available on Kindle.

A Question of Balance

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One of the key indicators of a functional system is motion. The Universe is a system – a rather large one, to boot – and one that never stops moving![i] Energy potentials created by the gravitational fields of objects in a particular system are what keep the system going. Energy potential is the difference between the current state and the ‘at-rest’ state of an object or a relation of objects. All objects seek their ‘at rest’ energy states; but as each object dutifully seeks fulfilment of its own purpose according to its own particular programming, it coincidentally forms relationships with other objects; bringing new energy potentials and gradients into existence. Now, consider that when one object forms a relationship with a second object, both of the newly associated objects automatically inherit the partnering object’s pre-existing relationships. Because all objects desire equilibrium with the objects in their immediate vicinity, and because the formation  of new relationships precipitates corollary changes in energy states among objects in existing relationships; everything is in constant flux with respect to everything else.

Equilibrium, or balance-seeking, is a universal motif. Motion is a quality of all living systems; but not all moving systems are alive: moving systems acquire their energy through relationships (potentials) they form with other objects, or from collisions (reactions) with other objects. In either case, objects could be alive – capable of receiving, retaining, converting and generating energy – or not; in which case they simply absorb energy from external sources without doing anything on their own. ‘Dead’ objects retain borrowed energy for a short while – and react. The universal system model of living objects, non-living objects and the balancing motif maps perfectly with the system of human (and non-human) consciousness, non-ego (alive), ego (reactive), and the balancing motif.

Consciousness is an attribute of living systems. Consciousness is that which defines a system as ‘alive,’ since motion, in and of itself, does not. A living system is sentient. Within the system of Consciousness, the mind functions as gatekeeper – directing an individual’s focus and mode of consciousness.[ii] The mind’s work as gatekeeper is underpinned by its election of consciousness. One can be either egoic or non-egoic – that is the difference between seeing the world in terms of what it can do for you, or yourself in terms of what you can do for the world- at any point. Since the Mind is itself a system, its health is characterized by the degree to which it is able to strike a balance between the egoic and non-egoic modes. The extreme of egoic consciousness is utter insanity; whereas the extreme of non-egoic consciousness is the free Mind. It is therefore essential to the individual, their community, and their world, to always pursue this balance by seeking the ideal, while acknowledging the ego as something that will always follow along and scream for attention. The trick is to not pay too much attention to it. When we do, ego is doing everything the mind is responsible for; including making decisions. That is tantamount to the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

Were we to cultivate a balanced perspective, between self-interest and neighbourly interest, between what the world is doing for us and what we are doing for the world, we will see things in an entirely new light. We will behave, as individuals, as communities, as nations, as peoples, and as one species of animal among countless animal species, in an entirely new and (from the perspective of all living things), wonderful way. We would be the Stewards of the Earth, which the Creator and our apparent position at the top of the evolutionary scale, cognitive-wise at least, obliges and equips us to be.

Equality describes the energy state of a relationship system at the point of inflection, as it transitions from a ‘positive imbalance’ to a ‘negative imbalance,’ and vice versa. It describes the tendency of Nature’s processes to facilitate healthy, viable populations by regulating population swings. Consider the world around you from a perspective of balance, and how outside the boundaries of  natural variance the world is currently: the prevalence of humans compared with that of non-humans, the distribution of wealth and opportunity, within and among nations and communities, or sundry other dimensions. The way I see it, things today are so out of balance because of human ego that Nature’s balancing act appears stuck moving in one direction, and deepening. A population exhibiting none of the periodicity of Nature is a population on the way out.

Imbalances of note:

We are too many. As we humans increase in number, so does the size of our footprint. We industriously reinvent Nature with the goal of facilitating more favourable conditions for ourselves and ‘creating’ wealth. Today, there are many more of us living than ever before; but there are also fewer animals, plants, and trees. Those who respond with a shrug of their shoulders need reminding that we rely on the health and activities of the Earth’s other species for OUR survival. Our unrestrained expansion over the last few centuries into the last remaining vestiges of the Garden, during which we exploded from less than 1 billion to more than 7 billion souls, has put the viability of our species in jeopardy. Cancers behave identically. The culmination of cancerous activity in the body is death of both the body and the cancer. The cancer may be forgiven because it lacks the freedom to choose anything but ego and its own destruction. But what is our excuse?

Diversity and balanced interaction within and among all living species are qualities of a viable Earth. Only the Creator can get its mind wrapped around the process of interaction among and within all things. All’s we need to know is that Life is an ongoing, unending choreography of interactions among souls, human and non-human; and that the underlying moment is repeating and circular, like the orbiting of the Earth around the Sun. Though we ourselves may think the existence of another species is not essential to our existence, we likely aren’t aware of the ‘Big Picture’ to the extent our Creator is. We may run ourselves into a heap of trouble should we allow our legs and our egos to carry us faster than our eyes can see and our minds can process. When we find ourselves in a favourable position, we want to freeze things, to ‘institutionalize’ the processes that support our being there. We would want this kind of imbalance to continue indefinitely. But if we were able to see the ‘Big Picture’ we would know our penchant for stasis, even of prima facie value, is at cross-purposes with our seeking the most good for ourselves. The river I step in is not the river I stand in. Heraclitus’ meaning is that in Life, nothing stays the same. Change is a universal constant (Hmm). We should know that static imbalance is not a fixed point on a circle, but rather a point on a downward spiral. The culmination of the spiral is the end of the system; whereas the ‘culmination’ of the circle is renewal – over and over.

Social and economic inequality is nearing ‘critical mass.’ If the feet and legs are diseased and fail, everything above them will fail too. Piketty fully characterizes the process. Extreme wealth inequality among nations, communities, and individuals naturally results in the destruction of opportunity among the lower economic tier. Under the right economic conditions (conditions we have now, btw), the exacerbation of wealth inequality to beyond the breaking point is inevitable, and natural processes will be triggered to restore the balance. Nature always works to restore the balance and its response will be commensurate with the existing degree of imbalance. The offsetting population highs and lows of Nature’s predator-prey cycle is an example.

We are extracting resources faster than Nature can furnish them while we provide Her with waste faster than She can dispose of it. This bears no further explanation. Just share a garden with your neighbour. Take whatever you want, without wasting any time or effort putting anything into it, or in consideration of what is left for your neighbour, or what you allow to lie fallow. Watch what happens…

All things in existence, exist within Nature. The Creator is Nature. The body of the Creator is the Universe. The consciousness of the Creator is the I AM. Natural processes will continue to move toward balance. If in Nature a critical mass is exceeded, the next event may be catastrophic as the Universe reacts to the status quo, seeking balance.

How is it we are not smart enough to acknowledge that the imbalances our behavior has created has put our societies and the environment so near to their critical mass thresholds that a catastrophic denouement will likely occur in our children’s lifetime; perhaps even in our own? Each of us needs to ask ourselves this. Each of us needs to consider what sort of world our egoic priorities are preparing for our children. Each of us needs to reopen our connection with Nature, God, one another, and our non-egoic portion. We must all participate in making things proper for the families our children will have, and for their futures.

 

 

[i] Save for that momentous, infinitesimally small pause before the Big Bang; and also between the expansion phase and the retraction phase . Hey, is that all the Creator gets for a coffee break? I’ll never complain about my 15 minutes again J.

[ii] In the Bonanza episode entitled, Any Friend of Walters, Hoss asks the owner of the cabin, over a game of checkers no less, how he can just sit there and do nothing when they are being besieged by three outlaws? The gentleman’s emphatic answer: I’m doing two things: (1)I’m keeping my mind on this game, and (2)keeping it off everything else.

To Be or Not to Be – It Depends on Who You Ask

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When the bard’s most famous character asks the mother of all questions, Hamlet is enquiring after the value of his own life. You either choose to  endure the ‘slings and arrows’ or you do not. In Hamlet’s case, the question being asked, the intervening deliberations, and the answer, are all being accomplished by Hamlet himself. Hamlet would have no idea how lucky he was – despite the gravity of the question and the life-challenges he was facing, he could have been presented with a situation exponentially more difficult to resolve:  he  could have been forced to decide the fate of someone else, someone completely innocent, vulnerable, and for a short time at least, living exclusively on the whim of Hamlet’s ability and  inclination to provide shelter, nutrition, and support. Lucky for Hamlet, he never had to make such a choice. Hamlet never had to consciously decide someone else’s fate in the process of deciding his own, as is the situation abortion presents to Canadians.

Here is the abortion issue in a nutshell: God has bestowed upon human individuals two inalienable rights: the right to freewill, and the right to life. No government, social institution, friend, relative, or any  other human individual, has the right to take from someone that which God has given them.  With respect to abortion, these two rights are set in direct opposition: the woman’s right to choose v. the child’s right to live.

The just society is obliged to uphold the inalienable rights of the individual, or it cannot be considered just; however with abortion, we cannot uphold the mother’s right to choose without denying the child’s right to live, and vice-versa. Two rights, being self-evident truths, and held in common among all human individuals, are, in the abortion context, mutually exclusive.

The solution, as we have traditionally imagined it, invites us to forfeit values which happen to be so fundamental, as to serve to qualify and define us as human. We must be true to ourselves; therefore, taking away the woman’s right to choose cannot ever become an option – the just society is obliged to protect the woman’s inalienable right to choose at any cost.

The failure to uphold the individual’s right to live is as egregious as taking woman’s choice away. This Canadians previously acknowledged by withdrawing support for the death penalty through parliamentary referendum. In fact it is worse, since the womb-resident child  has not  developed the capacity for speech and cannot yet advocate for itself. Silence permits the continuance of all kinds of oppression and abuse. We all know silence predisposes us to overlook extremely serious cases that we would not have otherwise, had the victims made some noise.

Despite the serious repercussions for mother and unborn, we will never move past the destruction of the unborn, the oppression  of women, or the acrimony which the abortion issue is causing, until we accurately define the challenge. Awareness must  form the first step in the  discovery of a viable and permanent solution for any problem.

With abortion, the challenge is not to find a socially popular way to compel women to grant the unborn the time they need to prepare for life on their own. Neither is the challenge to convince mothers, by leveraging arbitrary legal definitions, that they are not really ending the life of a young and innocent child. The challenge lay in recognizing that our initial, albeit natural desire to find a middle ground is sorely misplaced in the context of abortion. We simply cannot persist in seeing this as one issue with two sides – but rather as two separate issues involving two separate people.

No one may tell the woman what to do with the body God has given her. Therefore politicians who see abortion as a personal, rather than political, issue are spot on. My body, my decision. Done.

No one may tell an individual that they should return the gift of life God has given them; not for any reason. My life, my decision. Done.

Anyone with a brain cell to think with can see there is no middle ground on the abortion debate, only a wide, gaping chasm between two opposing points of view through which every aborted child and emotionally traumatized mother has fallen, and any attempt to find middle ground is as misguided as the attempts to finesse, legislatively or in some other manner, the capitulation of either side. Declaring the debate a non-issue is not the solution – burying your head in the sand does not make the problem go away.  Neither is whipping the parliamentary vote acceptable on such matters. Since human rights trumps party politics every time, the MP is obliged to vote according to their conscience, as they did in the 1987 parliamentary referendum on capital punishment.

Nevertheless, our political leaders continue to dictate to their respective caucuses the stance they must take. Politicians should instead commit to developing a means of sustaining the unborn, after being aborted, through the remainder of his/her gestation period. It is a tragic irony   if a country that obliges itself to protect the lives of all individuals, even perpetrators of violence and murder upon children, does not resolve to do everything within its power to extend those protections to the unborn – individuals who through no fault of their own are unable to advocate for themselves.

On other matters relating to abortion, say, whether the state should pay for it, or whether the mother is obliged to participate in counselling before having the abortion, etc.  – these considerations are within the purview of the House.

I have not, as of the writing of this article, learned how we ended up with such a twisted definition of humanity as it is presented in our country’s Criminal Code, which states the child must exist completely separate from the mother or it is not human. I find this utterly specious: from the moment of conception, the little guy is devoting all of his time and resources to develop  so that he may, in nine months’ time, live independently of his mother. He takes care of the body building; the mother need only  provide the gymnasium and snacks to keep him going. True, when the child emerges from the womb he will be somewhat different from when he first appeared there, but to say there is a stage in his life when he is not human is simply nonsense.

When there is no middle ground, what does one do? The answer is remarkably simple; the implementation, equally complex.  Placing us in good stead to overcome these challenges is that the pro-choice movement is as full of quality, well-meaning, and socially conscious individuals as the anti-abortion movement. The two sides will never agree, because one focuses on the rights of the mother (obliging them  to ignore the rights of the child inside of her) while the other focuses on the rights of the child (obliging them to ignore the rights of the mother who carries it). Despite the enormous amount of resources, time, and energy which both sides have selflessly dedicated to their respective causes, we have come no nearer to a viable solution. It is not possible for either side to be satisfied with the position of the other. The casualties of our needlessly protracted  debate: countless young mothers and unborn children.

The status quo is clearly unacceptable. I believe if we jettison our original approach to abortion and see it as two separate rights issues involving two people, a solution just may present itself.  To that end:

The woman’s right to choose. This is given woman by God and is inviolate. No one but God is allowed to take it away from her. When God gave woman the job of supporting the child’s prenatal activities, He/ She knew things could go terribly wrong and that situations will occur where either the child, the mother, or both, might not survive. This is not all what God intended, but which happens nevertheless, because there can be no perfection in Nature; Nature does not always get it right. Still, human societies will find themselves sorely remiss in taking back whatever it was that God has given woman.

The unborn individual’s right to live. This is given by God and is inviolate. Barring outside interference, the unborn individual is going to be out and on its own in a very short time. What some are currently doing to “support” the rights of these individuals is lobbying to take woman’s freewill away or ascribing to arbitrary and vain determinations of what does, and does not, constitute a human.

If the child’s first act following conception was to develop the capability to speak, there would never be an aborted child – the child itself will clear up any misconception on whether it desires to go on living. And there isn’t a single mother, who, upon hearing that voice, would continue with the abortion. What we should be doing is collaborating over the issue, not  trying to beat the other side. We should be devoting all the resources we can muster to develop mechanisms for the transfer of the unborn individual from one womb to another. I am no scientist, nor am I aware of the medical and technical challenges involved.  The people who know about these things may deem the challenges insurmountable. This solution might also open the door to some significant ethical issues. Whatever the side effects of our action, they will be of much less consequence than our inaction, and we must find a way to safeguard against them. Whatever we do,  we cannot cease working  for the voiceless unborn.

We have no  choice as a society but to protect choice (ironic, isn’t it?) if we really want to permanently and fairly resolve the abortion issue. The issues converging upon abortion are the mother’s choice to carry the baby to term, and the yet- to- be- born individual’s choice to live. Canadian society’s role in protecting the mother’s right is straightforward: we simply cannot be telling her what to do with her own body. Our role in protecting the unborn is more challenging, because we must develop an effective means of transferring the unborn out of the original womb to an environment that replicates the functionality of the placental sac and the support mother is providing.

Let the two sides of the abortion debate pursue a common cause: to preserve the lives of the aborted, and to protect the rights of woman. Let us dedicate ourselves tirelessly to this end. I cannot know when we will get there, but I am certain we will get there, the Canadian Spirit being what it is.

 

 

19 May 2014

 

Thermodynamics and the Art of the Quid Pro Quo

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Every student of thermodynamics learns about the laws of entropy and enthalpy; how these two fundamental energy processes must operate in balance for any system to properly function. For those of us who have managed to sidestep the study of thermodynamics at university: if we take more out of a system than we put into it, eventually that system stops working.

When we are talking about cars, we know if we drive and never fill the gas tank, it will stop running. The same goes for your bank account after you’ve withdrawn the last dollar, and the same goes for the human body: if we do not feed ourselves, we sicken and die. We would no longer produce anything of value, for ourselves and for others. All things are systems; all systems engage in transactions with proximal systems. The output of one system is often an input for another system. All systems must receive as inputs at least as much or more usable material-energy than they consume or they will eventually stop consuming and providing—and they will die.

When a system dies, any neighbouring systems reliant on its outputs to drive their own internal processes begin to weaken and die…and the process cascades.

We should at least agree on this: if we do not put in as much or more than we take out, we will eventually be left with nothing. Think non-renewable resources-their stores function just like bank accounts, except there is no overdraft protection or interest added for just leaving it where it is.

Now, think oil.

Oil is nothing but the residual material of ancient vegetative life. [i] It is, for all intents and purposes, non-renewable. Once we use it up, it’s gone for us. There is no way for us to put oil back into the ground to restock in a hurry—we must allow Nature millions of years to accomplish it for us. Heck, we can’t even manage with the by-products of our oil use: in fact, we’re killing ourselves with it.

The world’s dependence on oil, given what we now know, is going to kill us. It has already placed us on a downwards spiral into a climate-change black hole which we might not be able to climb out of. Our addiction to oil, as with any addiction, is not based upon common sense: we want it, now; and like all addictions, we will continue to want it long after we learn that it is hurting us. Our ‘doctors’ dutifully remind us to quit, but we say, ‘Yes, I know,’ and then walk away -for us, it remains business as usual. Our ‘doctors,’ in the environmental context, are the Suzukis and Piketty’s and Trudeaus[ii] and McKennas of the world—not the Trumps, Harpers, Scheers, or the JWR-Phil-potted-Mays. But because we don’t like what the doctor is telling us, we react by looking for a ‘second opinion;’ one that will tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear for our own good.
Whatever will we do next?

The practitioners of Fallun Dafa have been persecuted by the Chinese government for their beliefs; so too the Uighur Muslims. Fallun Dafa describes all of Creation as existing in a state of constant motion, with a circular motif. The circular motif always finds its way into talk about systems of any sort and forms the basis of Kate Raworth’s new global economic paradigm in her book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist The circular motif implies that all things in Existence exist in a configuration of balanced give-and-take with other systems. When a system is out of balance, given enough time, there is catastrophic upheaval and death to the system and the systems that rely upon its outputs for their input.

Nature’s uber-system, as we know it, is bound to crash and soon. Nature can no longer sustain us; neither our numbers or our level of activity. We have been harvesting trees willy-nilly without sufficiently replacing them, for generations. Our rainforests are disappearing with the boreal forests following hard upon. Desertification is expanding into formerly vibrant, productive territories: trees purify and rejuvenate the air and aquifers upon which human and all other species rely for survival. We humans consume air and water even as we pollute them into uselessness, so that now, what was once freely available and in excess, we buy in plastic bottles.

Plastic bottles. We all know about the effects of plastic waste; our solution to water pollution is  compounding the pollution problem; it is delaying the crash of the environmental system. We know one can keep applying bandages, but until the injury is sutured, it will not heal; it will become infected and we will bleed out. The crash of the environmental system will soon acquire inevitability if we do not act.

An inevitability that our children are going to have to struggle with; a struggle they may lose. I doubt, when they grow into adults and have inherited from us responsibility for the welfare of their nations and communities, that they will be thanking our generation…

…unless we change our attitude—right now.

The anti-Trudeau angst which the right is spewing is simply a money – power grab. The cons of today, unlike the progressive conservatives of the Diefenbaker era and earlier on,[v] cannot envisage their communities and nations in any other terms. If life on Earth is sub-dividable into predators and prey, then it is today’s cons, wherever they are in the world, who are spirited as predators. They lack any imagination with respect to creating a viable future; they can only pluck the low hanging fruit.

Conversely, the Liberals of today are imagining ways for all of humankind to harvest higher up the tree, so that all can eat and thrive and not just the tall folks. Liberals seems to entertain the sentiment that their neighbours count for as much as their friends. Trudeau is only pointing out we have a problem; the Cons want us to think he is the problem for pointing it out.

We will find out how wrong the cons are but only after it’s too late to do anything about it, should we vote the current Trudeau-led government out. Conservatives are confused. They think you can create truth, but in fact you can only choose to respect or to ignore it. Truth is what truth is, and stupid is as stupid does. Trudeau is not stupid. Trudeau did not create the environmental catastrophe that will soon besiege us. As leader of our nation, he is identifying an existential threat to our nation and world. Any responsible leader or community member must do the exact same thing. They would not stick their heads in the sand, Alberta’s or any other’s à la Jason Kenney; leaving the problem to their kids.

They would act. Perhaps to their political peril, but they would act if they were truly leaders. If the direction they need to take their nations in happens to be upstream of them (or seem like taxes to the voter), they would struggle against the current, or they are not a leader.

They would be cons. Justin Trudeau is no con.

 

[i] Please read the book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Revised and Updated Third Edition: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late by Thom Hartmann.

[ii] Thomas Piketty’s opus, Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a serious must-read.

[iii] To my joy, the practitioners of Fallun Dafa marched in our city of Welland’s Canada Day parade.

[iv] I refer you to the book Donut Economics by Kate Raworth

[v] Joe Clark is included among that fine group of Canadians; it was just his bad fortune to come on the scene when Pierre Trudeau was around. I would much rather have had him than Mulroney, and Mulroney destroyed the Progressive Conservative Party, creating a vacuum into which the Western Alliance/Reform inserted itself, in virus-like fashion inserting its rna into the shell of the PC Party in order to look like the sort of political party Canada would produce (and voters would vote for), incorporating them into the body politik and making the body politik sick. There is only one cure for any virus. Get plenty of rest (from their misinformation) and drink plenty of fluids (for us, Molsons or Labatt’s or a cottage brewery offering) to purge them from our consciousness-ps, I’d rather not have to suffer through their attack ads while I’m watching my favourite tv shows..