Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Reverberation: power from the personal to the global

Whatever we value most in life is more than just a cause for celebration, it can lead us to the tools of our collective power, as long as that power is life affirming. But using any tool requires some skill and the more we use it the more skilled we will become.

The Toolbox

Interrogation – who benefits?

Every issue, change, policy, initiative, ideology must interrogate its own value by asking who benefits by this? And if it doesn't those who are affected by it must.

Naming, Unmasking, Engaging:

In his column published in the Guardian, George Monbiot quotes Walter Wink ... "challenging a dominant system requires a three-part process: naming the powers, unmasking the powers, engaging the powers."

I would extend this exercise to all social interactions from family to neighbourhood to community to national. To assume that social relationships do not use power can lead us blithely into relationships where power is abused. Domestic violence certainly puts a strain on challenging…

Ethnic Cleansing - the Prelude

In the beginning there were guns and germs, then there were residential schools, then the highway of tears and missing women on the downtown east side of Vancouver.  Now there is Attawapiskat, and other under-reported reservations.

For the last hundred and sixty years what we have seen is a spiralling down of living conditions for First Nations' people, mainly as a result of the Indian Act.  Forcibly removing children from their families and placing them in warehouses where they were physically, mentally and sexually abused, then tossed back out having only learned from their 'education' that they are useless savages.

But somewhere between the sixties and nineties Canadians developed a conscience and the information about government policies and living conditions were made available. Looking at how badly our European ancestors behaved made us look more like savages than the ones we labelled. The knowledge of our past treatment of non-whites sent some into complete denial,…

The Power of People for a Healthy Community

The bulleted information below is lifted directly from the 2011 Report from People for a Healthy Community, of Gabriola Island, BC, to make note of and to promote how much can be achieved when people come together out of compassion.

While individuals may feel disconnected from the big national and global issues, those who work for healthy communities everywhere are making change where it counts.  For example, People for a Healthy Community in the last year:
provided more than 4,000 lunches to hungry Gabriolansdistributed 3,940 bags of food, 25% of which went to feed children on the island provided a holiday feast for nearly 125 people  December 25, 2010distributed Christmas Bureau vouchers to 98 Gabriola families nurtured community gardens that provided fresh, nutritious food for hungry people as well as gardening opportunities for children, seniors, and PHC clientsexpanded storage capabilities of their food bank so that efficient food purchases can be madelaunched a monthly lunch an…

Occupy Power

The defenders of the status quo who have abandoned humanity for the sake of keeping their positions, are maintaining their denial and ignorance of our current crisis by claiming that the Occupy Movement doesn't know what it is about.

Sarah Pond who travelled from the Sunshine Coast to participate in Occupy Vancouver, and who is quoted in The Tyee, says  "In my home and in my community, income has been going down while the costs of everything else keeps going up. Meanwhile, social programs are being cut and the largest corporations are posting unprecedented profits".

"There isn't just one problem," says Tina Mohns, in the same article "There are many ... [it's] about people showing that they have a voice ... [t]his will be a success if it initiates more momentum, gets people to take even small initiatives, and gives those in power the sense that there is a rumbling out here."

People have known for a long time about the abuse of power as food ba…

Everyone Needs Affordable Housing

We all need a home, a shelter from harm, a place to return to, cupboards for the archive of our lives, tables to prepare and eat food, a bed to sleep in, and a toilet. If we are lucky we hope for beautiful views and good neighbours. Regardless of whether you earn $10,000 a year or $100,000, whether you need five hundred or five thousand square feet, whether you own or rent, you need a home you can afford.

Affordable means more than money. It means the ability to sustain the place, to maintain it as a shelter from chaos or threat. It means the capacity to nurture those other beings who share it with us. This is a basic need we worked out centuries ago. No civilized society believes it’s okay for some to be left to live in the forest or storefront doorways because they can’t afford a home, so why would anyone think we don’t need affordable housing?

What cleavage in our common sense would lead anyone to be against affordable housing? Who benefits from the lack of it?

In the publi…

Bullied to Death

Rick Mercer was interviewed today on The Current about his rant on Tuesday after the suicidal death of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley, earlier this month.

Why would kids bully those they think are gay?  How does it threaten them?

And why do we have so many reports of school aged children committing suicide because of bullying, or if not because of bullying, bullying was a factor in their lives?

What has happened to our places of learning that children are violated in this way, and the school,  teachers, principals, boards, seem to be unable or unwilling to intervene effectively?

What happened to that social factor of teaching fairness?

Society and all its cultural knowledge was sacked in the early eighties, by the people and institutions who are paid to govern, who set upon a course of dismantling civil society in order to appease the power of transnational corporations.  So all we need do is look at the systems running our world.  There is no bigger bully than big business, who have consis…

Jean Crowder defends funding for the CBC

Below is a message from Jean Crowder, sent in response to my letter regarding the funding of CBC. Re-printed here with permission:
Good Morning,
Thank you for your recent correspondence concerning the future of CBC/Radio-Canada, and for your continued advocacy on behalf of a vigorous public broadcasting system. Heritage Minister James Moore’s recent musings about a 5% cut to CBC/Radio-Canada’s total budget represent the latest in a series of statements and actions which confirm his government’s ambivalence to public broadcasting.

In contrast, my New Democrat colleagues and I believe strongly in the importance of public broadcasting to help promote Canada's cultural identity and linguistic and regional diversity, both at home and abroad. Today’s unprecedented deficit may not permit immediate large-scale funding increases, but my colleagues and I are committed to provide stable, long-term funding for CBC/Radio-Canada, and to depoliticize the funding process by making …

Self-Esteem

I remember hearing something on CBC radio a couple of weeks ago, about or from a teacher, who said that marking students' work is fraught with conflict and difficulty because they feel entitled to get good marks from the institution their parents support with their dollars. The school, in an unregulated capitalist society is a commodity, and the teacher is a servant. Following this idea another comment claimed that self-esteem is something to be earned - that it was not a right or an entitlement.

So in this brief discussion where I cannot remember the program or cite the source, and for which I apologize, it seemed that entitlement and high self-esteem were linked. Maybe just by me, but the thought has remained even though the source has been forgotten.

Does high self-esteem threaten the quality of education and other social institutions? Certainly billions of dollars are spent in entertainment and advertising that tell us we are special and we deserve the best. And we are …

Challenging the Looming Threat of Fascism

In the alternative press there are many thoughtful articles and essays on the current state of this planet. Mostly, they target specific issues: democracy, health care, justice, poverty, homelessness, crime and the environment.

It's as though these issues stem from different sources, but when you read them day after day, you can't help but feel they are connected, leading to a vague feeling of dread. A disturbing sense that something much deeper and bigger is going horribly wrong, and that shadow, perhaps, belongs to the looming threat of fascism.

So what if we took on the big picture - the supposed cause, instead of the symptoms? 

Using a commonly posted list of fourteen defining signs of fascism (listed in black text), attributed to a Dr. Lawrence Britt, (whose bio is hard to locate and who may even be a fictitious character) I  suggest corresponding actions we can take to challenge them (in blue text). 

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: <creation and documenta…

What has become clear to me since 9/11

9/11 mostly consolidated what I had suspected as I witnessed changes in media, politics and behaviour patterns since arriving in Canada in the sixties.

In the years since that day I have come to see two parallel operating systems and all that is reported in the public domain fits into one or the other of those two. Power-over and power-from-within. These systems govern our feelings and emanate out towards our thoughts, actions, and relationships. So it could be said that 9/11 has either clarified my beliefs or that I have become a victim of my own ideology.
Watching the evolution of leadership in North America, Canada and Europe, the wars and crises in the Middle East and Asia, I perceive that those who organized 9/11, those who organized the war in Iraq, the rise of the Taliban, the rise of the Nazi's, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, and the illicit drug trade - are the same tribe. They may have different names and different ancestors and believe they have a …

Hope and Optimism

Hope and optimism requires our attention to the current state of affairs. The dark side of power.  That is, we need to look at the events that normally disturb the comfortable and lead the disturbed to despair and pessimism.  We need to address this relationship to our world, our place within it and find a way of being that challenges injustice.

Ish Teilheimer of Straight Goods,  reporting on a study that reveals a psychological difference between rich and poor (indicating that the rich don't see a need to help others, whereas the poor understand that they depend on mutual support) goes on to say "It's good to be loving, hopeful, and optimistic, but it's also important to point out that many of the bad things happening to people today are happening because some very wealthy people wanted things that way."

Wealth is power, and those who have power-over sometimes feel more secure by creating systems that make it very difficult or impossible for the masses to gain …

Power Without Responsibility is War Against Humanity

The UK riots being the current media focus right now, I happened to hear a taped conversation between two self-acclaimed rioters on the CBC radio. 

Many people may have lost their livelihoods because of the destruction and looting of small businesses in the cities where the riots were held.  In today's economy they may not get much back on their insurance policies, never recover their losses, and be forced out of business.  The large companies of course will survive and may fill the vacancies, which means less choice for shoppers and more influence for big business to pressure government for further tax cuts. This, as well as those whose houses were burned down, is a crime against the people of this nation.

The two rioters, drinking a bottle of stolen wine at 9:30 am, said they were 18 years old. They felt really good about their role in the looting.  One of them claimed, to the agreement of the other, that this proves they can do what they want.

Well, no dear, you can't.  Be…

The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh

"To me a civilised society is one where people have the time to live their daily lives deeply, to love and take care of their family and community" writes Thich Nhat Hanh in his book The Art of Power.

The cover slip says "Power is good for one thing only: to increase our happiness and the happiness of others. Being peaceful and happy is the most important thing in our lives and yet most of the time we suffer, we run after our cravings, we look to the past or the future for our happiness".

The world renowned Vietnamese monk lays out five spiritual powers: faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and insight. Under each of these he explains how they work as powers. However, none of these tools are like new apps that you can purchase and install for your hand held device. They are gained by practice, by constant mindfulness. And after the discipline we must learn how to handle power skillfully through cutting off our cravings, offering love and cultivating insight…

How Power Eats Life

It begins with its own energy and offers people a way out, a new hope to believe in. A new ideology that links all that is wrong in the world to one final cause – this one thing that humanity or society is unable to see until the ideology points it out. It creates new structures and agendas, new laws, new trends, new fashions and gadgets. It proposes new ways of seeing ourselves as men, women, parents, children, workers, managers. Ideologies such as those that serve capitalism, communism, socialism, conservatism, are the first that come to mind.

They begin with serious study, interrogation of the current model, academic discipline and then public distribution – through sophisticated broadcasting. Resources are invested and people are rewarded by learning the skills advocated within perimeters of this new truth. Those that resist are punished by being marginalised and isolated from the resources they need to survive.

As long as the majority are comfortable working within the gover…

The End of Hierarchy?

Is it possible that we will find another way of organizing ourselves, when it has become clear  our ruling elites are not capable of leading us to a sustainable future?

Now that we can easily read so many different perspectives, can we invest a little hope in the organic power of good will for the greater good? Surely the competitive, isolating ideologies around economic success now seem as believable as the existence of Santa Claus.

This is one crisis that may lead to our opportunity.  The majority of comment on the net, in the news, indicates that people have dismissed the authority of those experts invested in big institutions.  We no longer see leadership, we see a ritualized power play with the fall of intelligence and the rise of brutality. 

Our future looks like an abandoned battle field of pollution, drought, famine and guns. Who needs education or health when the resources of the whole world are saved for so few?

It's against the many bleak examples that I look to the c…

Power Bubble

A housing bubble, according to Investopedia is "A run-up in housing prices fueled by demand, speculation and the belief that recent history is an infallible forecast of the future."

A power bubble is a written or unwritten contract on a system that we invest in psychologically, socially, physically and spiritually.  We allow ourselves to be controlled by it insofar as the system offers us something in return, for example, the ideology that our quality of life depends upon a good economy.

We spend our lives learning skills and habits to participate in this system so we can, at the very least, eat and find shelter, and at the most, buy influence over others such as retail staff, servants, employees etc. Although we contribute to this system in essential ways the operating rules are written by others in a place where we have no influence, as though people without an economy cannot survive, yet the economy without people will do just fine.

So we are slaves to this god to whom…

Bullocracy

Recent conversations with thoughtful caring people about the state of modern democracy has caused me to think about how we are represented in the commons, and whether we have much influence in what happens in our country, our city, our planet.  There is an implication that we are held responsible.

For example, the question of Vancouver since the post Stanley Cup riots. The people of this city, through main stream media, express feelings of shame as though they are somehow associated with the people who burned cars and smashed windows.

It must be obvious to anyone above the age of ten that a hundred goons do not represent the majority of anyone anywhere, so why are the masses tarred with that brush? Sure there were many who stood and watched, but there were many who came out after the riots to clean up the mess in whatever way they could. We know that some put their own safety at risk to try and and stop the destruction.

Since then the air waves have been flooded with interviews and e…

The Field Mouse

Continuing on the theme of the new class system described in an earlier post, and subsequent descriptions of the anthro-hyena and the gate-beaver, this is a look at that faceless, nameless group known as the masses, which I call field mice. 

Field Mice are focused on survival. Caring for and protecting our families we barely have time to look at the big picture. We are running as fast as we can to keep up with trends, pay our bills, forage for food, and most importantly - keep away from predators.

The resilient field mouse has learned how to cope with different landscapes in different climates and different economic systems. The field mouse, driven to provide for his or her family, has learned how to be a good soldier, a skilled welder, or a gentle nurse. 

Profiling the field mouse as integral is counter-productive in a system built on exploitation and so their value is undermined through myth and story, where they are shown as  confused, stupid, shallow, undisciplined and self-in…

You don't need a Ph.D to save the world

You just have to believe that doing the right thing at the right time, even though you may have to sacrifice something, is all that is required.  However we know that it takes more than one person and one generation, and that justice rises and declines continually. We watch the stone roll back down the hill and must roll it up again, forever.

Brigitte DePape spoke clearly and succinctly and the only weapon she carried was her conscience and a placard. Still she was classified as a security risk by a member of government.

Here is her message posted by Janice Williamson on The Pomegranate:

Harper’s agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation. …We have to stop him from wasting billions on fighter jets, military bases, and corporate tax cuts while cutting social programs and destroying the climate. Most people in this country know what we need are green jobs, better medicare, and a healthy environment for future generations.

Contrary to Harper’s rhetoric, Conservative value…

Money is power but power is not limited to money

What if we created a system where we handed out power units (called a Pu, pronounced pyoo) for those who can't access money? Would we develop a currency based on relationship to one another instead of a system that has become so complex and remote from social needs, even the experts no longer understand it? The world of finance seems to have been taken over by tricksters and magicians and their theories work like spells over banks. But the gap between haves and have-nots is getting so wide that the fissure in our future puts even the haves at risk.

Please feel free to download this image and print as many times as you like. Hand it out to your friends and family, the local baker, the grocer. The point is you exchange it for what you want - a carrot, a paper clip, tomato seedling, oatmeal cookie. You will have to negotiate with the vendor as you both decide how many Pu's a carrot is worth - but at least this exercise will bring currency out of the locked boardrooms and into th…

The Gate-Beaver

This post is a continuation of the series on the new class system, and bears no relation to the slang usage referring to a part of female anatomy or to Canada’s national emblem. Nor will this post make any reference to any imagined connection between the slang meaning and Canada’s foreign policy.

The gate-beaver is the defender of the status quo. The wild beaver has his or her own reasons for eating trees and building dams, but the gate-beaver is a cunning creature who has built a career in service to centralizing wealth and power.

Gate-beaver has established a tradition of building stuff on other stuff, and is a clever engineer of converting natural systems into profit-making industry. It is the gate-beaver who invented advertising, promotion and spin. It is the gate-beaver who is responsible for turning art (music, film, fashion, interior design, literature) into a huge money-making market.

The gate-beaver will not be the folk singer or story teller, but will be the manager who cr…

The Anthro-Hyena

In an earlier post I proposed a  new class system consisting of Anthro-Hyenas, Gate-Beavers and Field Mice.  This post is a closer look at the Anthro-Hyena.

The anthro-hyena is a hyena in character with human intelligence. A creature not confined by capacity or ability but by narrow vision.  He/She seems unable to connect his/her actions with outcomes unless the outcome benefits the self. The anthro-hyena is capable of creating tools, weapons, machines, systems and alliances that may destroy millions of people or hectares of land, but lacks feelings of remorse or reflection on the harmful results. The anthro-hyena is not a person with a personality disorder, or incapable of feeling empathy - but exhibits a reverse of empathy, in that he/she gets a greater sense of power and accomplishment based on the numbers of those harmed or the area of control.

It's important to point out, that the anthro-hyena is not defined by a particular religion, gender or socio-economic class, but by th…

Is Pro-Life Life-Revering?

In the Guardian today we are informed that an anti-abortion group has been drafted in as a sexual health adviser to the UK government.  This surprised me because I believed that the social sciences in Europe had not yet been dismissed in government - you know those stats that say there is less unplanned pregnancy when kids get good sex education. But I do sense a trend here, that Western democratic nations are closing the doors to science and nature, choosing power strategies that seem eerily familiar to the Victorian age.

In Victorian England women were reviled for having sex outside of marriage or raising a child alone, and imprisoned or hung for having an abortion, but the other half of that equation - the man - was seen as simply sowing his wild oats. A foetus then was a wild oat.

Is this what conservatism is?  A denial of the knowledge that disturbs us in favour of simplistic illusions that morality is a family value where father knows best, mother is the domestic servant, and c…

The New Class System

I remember being cornered at a party, back in the sixties when I was a new immigrant to Canada, by a young man telling me why the UK is going down hill.  The nation was mired in a class system, he thought, that kept them from reaching their economic potential, whereas Canada was free of any such out-dated confinements. 

Back then the familiar terms were upper, middle and working class, and although Canadians didn't often allude to class, there was a vast gap between the wealthiest Canadians and the poorest.

The notion of a working, middle and aristocratic class has a genteel ring to it, but we know the reality was more brutal than was ever talked about.  Therefore I propose that the class system should be renamed - either because it has changed, or because it's more in line with reality.

I would call the three classes "anthro-hyenas", "gate-beavers" and "field mice".

Anthro-hyenas very much in the minority, are the ruling elite. Fiercely carnivor…

Oppressive Power Needs Enemies - People Don't

As soon as the death of Osama bin Laden found its way to the media, 'experts' were interviewed to identify the next in line. A new book by James A. Baker (who served under Reagan and George H. W. Bush) was published about a week later, titled Beyond Bin Laden: America and the future of terror.

In Uganda there is a bill threatening to make homosexuality punishable by death. Recently, John Cummins, running for leadership of the Conservative party in BC, said he believes that homosexuality is a personal choice and does not need protection under the Human Rights Act, as if to appeal to socially conservative religious groups who have openly identified as being anti-homosexual.

The treatment of women in Afghanistan, and other middle-eastern nations, makes them public enemies by requiring garments that cover their face and bodies, thereby making the feminine illegal in public. 

Terrorists, homosexuals and women are all enemies created by authoritarian interests. Of course there is a…