Saturday, September 04, 2010

Moving On... (Pun Intended)

Upon further reflection, my problem (see previous entry) isn't so much what Avaaz is doing, rather the way in which they are doing it.

Of course agencies based in other countries have a right to comment on Canadian issues, as Canadians have a right to speak to events outside Canada.

This is something else; I do not believe that Avaaz portrayed their petition initiative for what it really is. I believe they have their own agenda and are trying to manipulate Canadians to achieve it.

This is what the petition would read like if portrayed honestly:

 Greetings, Canadian voters,

We are a global advocacy group based in New York City, born from the roots of Moveon.org (itself generously funded by George Soros) and Res Publica.  We feel that you should be upset with your Prime Minister because our prime objective is to defeat him in the next election.

To that end, we attempted to meddle in your last election two years ago. Yes, we stayed within the letter, if not the spirit, of your election law  but our basic message clearly came from outside the country. We ran an initiative to urge Canadians to "vote strategically" by voting for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservative Party candidate in their riding (voting area), rather than the candidate of the voter's choice.

Our agenda may be benign: fighting all sorts of evil such as poverty and climate change and Neo-Conservatism but our methods leave something to be desired.

For instance, we hear that a new Cable News Channel is in the works for Canada. The former top aide to PM Harper has quit that job to become VP of Development for Quebecor Media and so could have his hand (and by implication, the PM's hand) in their programming.

We feel that this is the wrong message for Canadians to receive and so we are trying to frighten you into protesting this channel by calling it "Fox News North" and by providing links to all the idiocy going on in the US with Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and the Tea Party.

And since we can't actually TELL you to try to block the channel (that would infringe upon free speech) we further frighten you with unproven allegations of influence peddling on the part of the Prime Minister. Protest that, protest the channel itself, we don't care. Just protest.

For those who object claiming that we are "foreign", we insist that our co-founder is Canadian-born (although he has lived out of the country for years.. sound familiar?), we have hundreds of thousands of Canadian members, an office in Ottawa, and a web address with a .ca extension.

Of course, if you actually try to go to avaaz.ca, you get redirected to this address http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_cbc (note, no more .ca) which urges Canadians to sign a petition... TO SAVE THE CBC.

It claims the big bad government "refused loans" to the CBC which will cause it to cut jobs and programming.

So: we want your tax dollars to go to the liberal-leaning network in the form of  loans to cover their "shortfall" but not the conservative-leaning one, even if that would only be for three years and might just provide a little balance, unlike its American counterpart, because we just don't know yet what its programming would be like and since you would be footing part of the bill (for three years, not in perpetuity as with the CBC) you could then muster up a protest movement if we (I mean you) don't like it. Not that it would do any good, because of that pesky "free speech" thing.
The point is: just because I happen to agree with most of their politics, does not make what they are doing ethical.

If a Canadian organization had done the same thing I'd be protesting just as loudly but to think that moveon.org and George Soros are behind this is beyond scary because they have resources far beyond that of any home grown organization, and motives that may or may not be in Canada's best interests.

Will they even get Sun News Network in New York City? The certainly don't "get" the nuances of Canadian politics. Like how people don't trust Michael Ignatieff (Liberal Party Leader) because of his days of defending the Iraq war and his opinion on torture. Like how Canada will probably dwell in minority parliament limbo for some time to come, until a dynamic Liberal leader comes along. Maybe Bob Rae, more likely Justin Trudeau.

One more thing, as for our elections law, Avaaz isn't alone in running afoul of Provision 331. Michael Moore did so twice, in 2004 and 2008.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Free Speech?

I don't like being played with.

I especially don't like being manipulated by fear mongering and hyperbole complete with bold font and exclamation points.

And I especially especially don't like it when the manipulator has no business sticking their nose into my business!

What this is about is something that fell into my email inbox this morning:
Subject: Canada: stop "Fox News North"


Prime Minister Harper is pressuring the Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve plans for a 'Fox News North'. If successful, this would bring American-style hate media to Canadian airwaves, and be funded by our license fees!


I've just signed a petition to the CRTC urging them to stand strong and resist the PM's calls for a conservative propaganda news network. Please join me in signing:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_fox_news_canada/98.php?cl_taf_sign=sNJEyP8v

I already know that this refers to Sun TV News, a proposed channel to be run by Kory Teneycke, a former aide to Prime Minister Harper, which would present a more conservative viewpoint than that presented by the CBC, our public network.

But "American style hate media"? "Conservative propaganda news network"?
This kind of overkill makes me nervous, so I follow the link, whereupon I find:
Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it. His plan is to create a "Fox News North" to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics. The channel will be run by Harper’s former top aide and will be funded with money from our cable TV fees!

I already have a few problems with this, and the hysterical tone is just the beginning.

Doesn't this make it sound as if the actual channel will be actually run by the actual US Fox News?

It won't.. it's owned by Sun Media, the Newspaper arm of Quebecor, a company that trades publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Fox News has poisoned US politics?

I think that gives them way too much credit. US politics is poisoned all right but hardly by one channel that is only accessible by cable. I think talk radio had a bigger hand in influencing the public; also town meetings, word of mouth, emails, newspapers and anything else you can think of. Yes some of the hosts of the most vile talk radio shows also have a home on Fox News but everything that station does is under microscopic scrutiny from the left and is rebutted to death as it should be.

Hate media?

How do they know what the station will be like? If indeed it does broadcast "hate media" then there is a legal process to follow. Shutting it down before it begins sounds more like censorship to me.

Funded by taxpayer money?

Not so far as I can tell. Certainly not in the same way as the CBC is funded by taxpayer money. Many taxpayers don't agree with the orientation of the CBC but nobody is trying to save their delicate sensibilities.

Finally, Harper is trying to push it?

Perhaps he'd like to but it's out of his hands. If he is exerting inappropriate influence over the CRTC then that's what laws and reporters are for. Does anyone think the media will give this a pass when they've been all over prorogation, the G20 protests, the census debacle and most recently the long gun registry debate?

It continues,
One man stands in the way of this nightmare -- the Chairman of Canada's Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Konrad von Finckenstein. And now, Harper is trying to get him out of his job. Sign the petition below to send a wave of support to von Finckenstein and forward this campaign to everyone -- we'll publish full page ads in Canadian papers when we reach 100,000:


To CRTC Chair von Finckenstein and PM Harper:
As concerned Canadians who deeply oppose American-style hate media on our airwaves, we applaud the CRTC's refusal to allow a new "Fox News North" channel to be funded from our cable fees. We urge Mr. von Finckenstein to stay in his job and continue to stand up for Canada's democratic traditions, and call on Prime Minister Harper to immediately stop all pressure on the CRTC on this matter.
So what exactly am I supposed to be signing?

A petition to stop the Sun TV News Channel from ever existing?
That would infringe upon freedom of speech.

A petition to allow it to exist but not be funded by taxpayers? I'm not convinced that it would be, and where does that leave the CBC, anyway?

A petition to protest perceived inappropriate influence by the Prime Minister? Even Ricken Patel, the Executive Director of the group behind this petition, had to admit to Evan Solomon on CBC TV that there was no proof of this.

The petition's wording is very unclear. What is clear is that I'm supposed to be very afraid. Words like "hate", "propaganda" and of course the ! tell me that.

All of which makes me wonder who the heck is behind this. 
Avaaz.org claims to be
...a new global online advocacy community that brings people-powered politics to global decision-making...


Avaaz—meaning "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—was launched in January 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want...


Avaaz.org was co-founded by Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and Moveon.org, an online community that has pioneered internet advocacy in the United States.
Their website claims activism in the following arenas, among others:
  • save the oceans
  • protection for elephants
  • save the Brazilian rainforests
  • Haitian earthquake relief
  • Lots of stuff on climate change
  • Human rights in Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the US (torture, y'know).
  • And of course Middle East peace. 
In this context, how does the prospect of an alternative Canadian news channel even fall under their radar?
And yes I say "they" because this group is not Canadian. It may have a Canadian-born cofounder and Canadian members but its mailing address is in New York and its funding comes from sources outside of Canada.

So a non-Canadian organization whose name means "voice" wants to save our fragile Canadian ears from hearing the voices of those with opinions this organization doesn't like?

For some reason they want to scare Canadians into wanting to censor an alternative viewpoint. A viewpoint that I personally don't agree with but that is the magic of free speech.

And a little more context here: recently Canadian cable channels began carrying the English version of Al Jazeera. I do not remember seeing any petitions protesting this assault on what we are supposed to think. If Canadians are to be protected from speech that might be offensive to some, then we need to be protected from all speech. 

Nobody will be forced to watch "Fox News North". Nobody will be forced to behave like Tea Party Activists in the US. The biggest danger to democracy is not "propaganda", but censorship. Stick that in your Res Publica, Ricken Patel.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Freak-Out du Jour

It started, as most things do, with me innocently surfing the web.

More specifically, skimming tweets, among which was a link to a recall notice for baby pacifiers.

Since my first grandchild is on the way, my alert system went into high gear.

Never mind that the recall was for a pacifier sold in Texas and California (we live in Canada), never mind that with the baby due in November pacifiers are likely not on the shopping list anytime soon, it's the idea that we must watch out for danger lurking around every corner when it comes to my precious grandchild!

Oy.

What we need here is a grandma pacifier and this is it, my blog.

As with every other time this sort of thing has happened, I resisted the urge to email my son and daughter-in-law. I trust them to be good, responsible and loving parents. I especially trust my daughter-in-law to research anything that has to do with being a parent very thoroughly and to call on her older sister, who has two young children, her friends, her doctor, her prenatal group and perhaps me after that, if she needs advice.

As hard as I'm trying not to be a meddling grandma, I tried even harder  to not be an overprotective parent. My own mother was way ahead of her time - she'd have fit in wonderfully with the class of parents who don't let their kids out of their sight, strap a cell phone on them from the time they can burp, and whose mantra is "better safe than sorry".

I really really detest that expression especially when used as an excuse to smother.

So what's wrong with a little excess caution? Only that it tends to create an emotional cripple, a fearful neurotic person who sees only life's evils and is afraid to experience and grow. Or perhaps someone who rebels in the opposite direction. Either way, nothing good comes of it.

I refused to do that to my children when they were growing up and I refuse to do that to them as adults, or to my grandchildren.

As it turns out, I'd written about this sort of thing before: ten years ago in my personal journal. My then 15 year old son was off on a bus trip to a rock concert in the dead of winter and I was sitting up worrying. Of course he came home ok and life went on.

Being the nudnik that I am, I called to ask if he remembered it. He did indeed, but quickly sensed that I was "interviewing" him for a blog entry. What I managed to get out of him was that he does not feel that I was overprotective and that he was not just saying that because it was what I wanted to hear because "men don't do that".

I had to give him that one.

Oh and the band that they went to see in January 2000? Simple Plan, who now have their own Wikipedia page not to mention a stack of awards and nominations. Definitely worth the trip.

I guess what bothers me about my initial reaction to hearing about a pacifier recall is that I've let my guard down. For one thankfully short moment I became my mother or even worse, became one of those people who votes Republican because only George Bush can keep us safe. 

And now in conclusion, I cannot resist an over-the-top metaphor:

We live in a world full of warnings and cautions. Most are appropriate and useful - it's good to know when a thunderstorm is approaching, if only to keep your laundry dry. The problems arise when you never hang out your sheets in the first place because some day it might rain.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Refudiate This!

Contrary to popular opinion, Sarah Palin did NOT invent the word "refudiate"



Poor Sarah Palin. She can hardly utter a sentence without it being picked apart by the liberal elite intelligensia, by which I mean anyone possessing a dictionary.

Her latest gaffe: repeated use of the non-word "refudiate" in both oral and written language.

Well if "refudiate" wasn't a word before, it is now. I kind of like it - a perhaps accidentally clever, even elegant combination of the words "repudiate", "refute" and "refuse".

Many words start out in life this way, for instance, "brunch", "smog", and "humongous". In fact there is even a term for a "word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings": portmanteau, as explained in Wikipedia - which is itself such a word combination.

Betcha didn't know that, Sarah.

And while "refudiate" is not in the regular dictionary - yet - it has turned up in the Urban Dictionary, a great resource for anyone wondering "what the heck does that mean" while browsing online or eavesdropping on the kids.

The Urban Dictionary lists three entries for the word, the first two referring to our Sarah, but the third predates her gaffe - by a whole three weeks - referencing an article in the New York Times in which the word was reportedly used by:








wait for it...








"pot sellers"

We are not talking Food Network here. Pot, as in weed, marijuana.

The article is in the Business Section, discussing the adventures of legally selling medical marijuana:

With a couple of exceptions ...  interviewing pot sellers is unlike interviewing anyone else in business. Simple yes-or-no questions yield 10-minute soliloquies. Words are coined on the spot, like “refudiate,” and regular words are used in ways that make sense only in context.


Sarah Palin, using a term borrowed from the drug subculture, putting lipstick on the pig to make it look like Shakespeare.

Sarah, why do you hate America?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An American Triumvirate

Well now it's official.

The US political hidden agenda is now exposed, thanks to one unassuming little headline, probably intended to be drowned out by the World Cup vuvuzelas and the happy noise of North American Father's Day.

The headline, courtesy of CNN, also reported by Fox:

Louisiana lawmakers propose prayer to stop oil disaster

Yeah.

Politicians whose integrity has been bought out by corporate interests, yet again pushing religion on the public as a means of diverting attention from science and education, and empowering people to enjoy that nice warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment that prayer provides.

Politics, Corporate Power, Religion: the trinity is complete.

I have ranted about this before but never expected to be proven right in such blatant fashion.

The complete text of Louisiana Senate Resolution No. 145 is here.

They passed it unanimously.

CNN quotes Louisiana State Senator Robert Adley as follows:

"Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail,"...
"It is clearly time for a miracle for us."

Clearly.

Gee I kind of had the feeling that maybe the efforts made by mortals so far were somewhat inadequate and that perhaps improving that aspect of the response would take priority over voodoo chants sorry *prayer*.

Like maybe giving Billy Nungesser everything he's asking for, NOW.

Then, if you like, pray.

Like maybe getting Tony Hayward off his yacht in England and have him hip deep in waders in the marshland, catching oily birds.

Then pray. For the birds.

Actually, when you think about it, if "God" is all-knowing and all-powerful, why would he wait for mortals to pray for something before arranging it? Is it like some kind of dog-training thing?

Beg!
Gooood boy here's your treat.

I'd rather have a God that gives people the ability to fix their own problems, especially the man-made ones. It's bad enough we have to work around "acts of God".
In fact, people do have brains and the deep desire to explore, discover and innovate. Unfortunately, too much of this resource is wasted. Sick people can't learn, and proper health care is unavailable to millions in the United States.  Any alternatives to dysfunctional schools are equally expensive and out of reach for those of limited means.

These problems have not been solved and are far from being solved because to do so would undermine corporate interests.

The Louisiana Senators are right: there is nothing left to do but pray.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taking Stock

CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
--from The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, American journalist and satirist, 1911.



Whenever I hear people complain that the Evil Corporation du Jour (at the moment, BP) doesn't have a heart/soul/conscience, I think of the Scorpion and Frog parable:

The scorpion stings the frog even after it said it wouldn't, and even though it leads to both their deaths, because it's a scorpion and that's what a scorpion does.
The tragedy could have been prevented if the frog had understood the nature of the scorpion before trusting the scorpion with his life.

Preventing tragedies like oil spills is a little more complicated but the basic concept is the same.

Corporations have been around for centuries for both business and nonprofit ventures. One of the major advantages of incorporating your business it that it limits your liability:
for instance, if your business goes bankrupt, creditors can only seize the assets of the business, not your private holdings such as your house, car and bank account.

Most of the corporations that have been in the news lately are publicly-owned, that is their shares (pieces of ownership) trade on the stock market.
Shareholders share in profits when the company declares a dividend. If the business isn't doing so well and the dividend is reduced or dropped altogether, the share price will go down because people will be motivated to sell their shares before things get even worse.
If the share price goes down far enough, the company could end up virtually worthless (bankrupt).

This process, maintaining and increasing the dividend and share price, is the main motivating factor behind business decisions. Public corporations are responsible first and foremost to their shareholders.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. It is just the way it is, inevitable because of the essence of what a corporation is.

Democratic governments, on the other hand, are responsible to the people who voted them in. Just as corporations cater to shareholders, governments are meant to cater to voters. It's all about getting elected, and then re-elected.

Again, neither good nor bad. One system ideally balances the other.

HOWEVER

It doesn't really work that way anymore, particularly in the United States, because it takes a great deal of money to run an election campaign, and nowadays this great deal of money comes largely from:

corporations.

The US Supreme Court elevated the status of "corporation" to the level of "human being" way back in 1886, so this is nothing new; but just this past January that same court struck down a previous decision which limited corporate spending for political purposes. So in reality, the US government is still dependent on voters but the road between Washington and voters runs through the corporation.

And since corporations aren't really people, Supreme Court notwithstanding*, they don't have a heart nor a soul nor a conscience. Just loads and loads of money.

Now I'm not saying ban the corporations. We need them in order to have some sort of economy and way of life. It's like the polar bears: we don't want them to disappear, in fact we need them to maintain the balance of nature and the ecosystem. But if we run into one on the street (still possible in some parts of Canada) it is best to quietly get out of the bear's way. Good and evil is all in the context.

The first step to regaining some sort of balance between the common good and corporate good is for the public to understand the nature and role of corporations, then find ways to turn government attention directly to voters instead of running through the corporate middleman. And forget about "self regulating markets" - when left to themselves, markets are greedy, like the people who created them, but without a conscience because they were designed as such. People need to demand - loudly - that the government pay attention to the common good first, and only then will things begin to change.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Landing #130

I watched the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis this morning, live on my computer.

A little over 29 years ago, I watched the first Space Shuttle landing, that of Columbia, live on my TV.

I was 7 months pregnant with my first child, and I cried. The accomplishment of landing a spacecraft like a normal airplane seemed so majestic, even spiritual.

Anyone who knows me knows I don't cry.  I attributed it to the pregnancy hormones but even watching today's landing I admit to tearing up just a little.

The Space Shuttle program is nearing its end. The baby I was carrying is now married and expecting his own first child. I'm no longer a 20-something, but a 50-something, reinvented multiple times since that first landing on April 14, 1981.

And in the process of verifying that date I discovered that the first landing, like everything else, is on YouTube.

It looks pretty much like all the landings except for the chase planes and the fact that it had never been done before.

This latest mission was number 132, which means that it's the 130th safe landing.

I will miss the shuttle program, which has only two more scheduled missions before retirement. However, it's not reasonable to expect NASA to continue with thirty year old technology.

In 1981 I watched on analogue cable TV; in 2010, on broadband Internet on a wide-screen HD monitor.

In 1981 I did not have a microwave oven, VCR, nor a cell phone. People didn't have home computers, and the Internet was in its infancy.

If I've moved on, I guess NASA should as well.

What's disappointing is that there is nothing comparable to replace the shuttle. Trips to the space station will continue via the Russian program and there are some vague rumblings about trips to the moon (or not) and Mars but that won't be in my lifetime.

It's difficult, as always, to justify the amount of money spent on space exploration when compared to funding needs on earth. But if it weren't for the space program, would American schools and hospitals be better off? Would the money really have been spent there or on other programs for the common good?

Funding magically appears for ventures such as the invasion of Iraq and bank bailouts so I can't help but feel that it's lack of motivation, not lack of resources, that has allowed most of the dysfunction in society to continue.

I was six years old when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, causing a spurt of science mania for the US, which couldn't let their Cold War enemies eclipse them technologically.

The igniting spark might have been political but the result was a better educated public and great strides in scientific achievement. Science was cool. If you got the grades, you studied science in school.

I completely fail to understand the current public attitude toward science. It seems to range between apathy to disdain to outright mistrust. And while it might be appropriate to question the motivations of corporations such as drug and oil companies, the underlying science in its pure form has no hidden agenda, according to the scientific method.

It was a shock to discover from my own kids that science and the space program were no longer cool and that hardly any of their peers went into science in University. It's beyond disturbing to read about the state of science education in parts of the United States and even Canada when religion tries to exert an influence in an area in which, in my opinion, it does not belong.

So now, as I watch the stock market sputter and the oil spill crisis unfold, I have to wonder whether a better educated society would have allowed corporations to fulfill their destinies with so few checks and balances.

Or was that the point, all along?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canadian women fight back against Freedom

Skimming through twitter today, the above headline caught my eye.

Canadian women fight back against Freedom?

First thought, a story about a right wing women's group propped up by the Harper government. One whose funding wasn't recently cut.

But clicking through revealed that it was a sports story about a Canadian women's soccer team playing against an American team named the "Freedom".

Seriously?

I'd like to have some of what they are smoking over at the Globe and Mail.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

STFU? Not a chance...

It seems there’s been quite an epidemic of potty mouth in politics these last few weeks.

In the US, both Senator Carl Levin and Vice President Joe Biden have had their sound bites bleeped for the words “shitty” and “fucking”, respectively.

In Canada, NDP MP Pat Martin threw an “ass” into the mix.

Now, in an even more shocking turn of events, a woman has joined in the profanity.

Not just a woman – a Senator, a Conservative, and a Senior Citizen.

I had to wonder, WTF?

Seriously, how can Nancy Ruth, a woman who has devoted her life to human rights and women’s issues, bring herself to tell women to be quiet about Canada’s plan to omit funding for abortion in the G8 maternal health initiative for developing countries?

You can hear it for yourself via the sound clip on the CBC page.

“I have every confidence that it will include family planning and so on” if “allowed to roll out”, Ms. Ruth said.

“And so on”? It’s a little late for euphemisms after you’ve told people to STFU.

Does “and so on” mean “abortion”? If not, does this government think that contraceptive planning is really a solution for those parts of the world where rape is endemic?
Are women supposed to carry around condoms to hand to their rapists?
If a woman’s only choices are to bring an unwanted child into the world or take a chance on an unregulated abortion, how does this help women and children lead healthy lives?

Another part of the statement that jumped out at me is this:

“This is not about women’s health in this country… Canada is still a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there. Don’t make this an election issue.”

Canada?

I thought the initiative in question was for maternal health in developing countries. How did abortion in Canada suddenly land on the table?
Is Ms. Ruth saying that Canadian women are to care only for themselves, not for their sisters in other countries? If so, why is Canada undertaking a health initiative for those people in the first place?

My head is spinning.

No, this whole thing doesn’t add up. Kind of the opposite of “if it looks like a duck, etc. then it’s a duck”.
This is not a duck.

The more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that Nancy Ruth just might be a genius.

She has, with four little words, both given lip service to her party’s platform and blasted it to smithereens.

She had to know that telling Canadian women to STFU would have the opposite effect. And just in case, she threw in the so-called f-bomb, to ensure maximum media coverage.

“Don’t make this an election issue” could be code for “ladies, your rights here at home are in more danger than you think. Speak up now, let there be an election, get these Neanderthals out of office!”

“This is not about women’s health in this country” means “This IS about women’s health in this country.”

Finally, not once but twice Ms. Ruth planted the idea in our heads that she means the opposite of what she is saying:
“I hope I’m not proven wrong” closely followed by  “I hope I’m right”.

I hope I’m right too, and that Nancy Ruth is actually encouraging Canadian women to speak up, rather than showing signs of entering her dotage in a most public and embarrassing way.

In either case, however, I certainly have no intention of shutting the fuck up.

That was never ever an option.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

What I Did For Earth Hour

I don't get it.

Everywhere I look I'm bombarded by symbols.

Pink ribbons for breast cancer. Red ribbons for AIDS. White, for ending violence against women.

Bracelets of every hue for any number of causes.

Last week I received multiple Facebook messages encouraging me to wear purple for epilepsy. I also vaguely remember being urged to wear denim for some reason. That one was easy, I always wear denim.

And now, even as I type, Earth Hour is upon us.

I am starting to feel like the small child in the story of The Emperor's New Clothes.

I am not disputing the worthiness of any of these causes, and for the purposes of this argument, let's assume global warming is real.

My question is, how does any of this help?

I know that ribbon campaigns are part of fund raising. That's fair enough. But once I've given the donation, how does my wearing the ribbon or the bracelet or the colour scheme help any further? By "raising awareness"? By providing a positive example encouraging others to follow my lead and make a donation? Maybe.. but is that enough to justify the hype surrounding these symbols?

By now I suppose everyone knows what the pink ribbon means. A yellow ribbon means I have a family member serving in the armed forces. But beyond that, colour association becomes confusing. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of colours and an unlimited number of causes.

If I wear a purple ribbon I could be fighting any number of things including lupus, fibromyalgia, homelessness, pancreatic cancer and cruelty to animals.

A blue ribbon could mean that my calf won first prize at the county fair, or else that I am against prostate cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and/or child abuse.

Clearly the method is being overused, with likely diminishing returns.

I am even more confused by the "wear this colour!" campaigns. Who is to know if I'm wearing purple because I'm in the mood for it, or because I support epilepsy research? And tell me someone please, exactly HOW does my wearing purple help anybody?

In many cases I don't even have to make an actual donation in order to use the symbols. I can put pink ribbons all over my website and Facebook page for free. I can dye my twitter avatar green in support of the Iranian revolution. Then again, the greenery might end up confusing people who might think I'm an environmentalist. Or really not feeling well.

Which brings us back to Earth Hour.

Last year I spent Earth Hour sitting alone in the dark. I felt ridiculous and promptly forgot about the whole ordeal to the extent that I had to re-learn what the whole thing was about this time around.

So much for "awareness".

I do believe that global warming, climate change or whatever they call it now is real, because any arguments to the contrary seem to come from those with vested economic interests in keeping things running full steam ahead. (If only we still ran on steam.)

But making a festival over turning lights off for an hour? On a Saturday night? Even the promoters acknowledge that the effect is symbolic.

Symbolic, and certainly nothing new. Turning off unnecessary lights, turning down the heat and air conditioning, and avoiding unnecessary driving are lifestyle changes I made decades ago. Besides, my personal carbon footprint is nothing compared to that of industry so why place the guilt on me, for leaving my lights (actually, only one light) and computer on during Earth Hour?

Let's have earth hour at 2 PM on a weekday and close all the mines and factories. Let's have public education about the consequences of our culture of acquisition not just in financial terms but with regard to the environmental impact it creates. Let's have people insist that governments enact appropriate legislation to protect both the environment and the economy, so that these vital imperatives are not working at cross purposes. Let's not have people think that turning off their lights for an hour once a year absolves them of any further responsibility towards the environment.

Oh and if you're lighting a candle to replace your electric lamp, do make sure it's made of soy or beeswax. Normal candles are made of paraffin, which is made from...


wait for it...


crude oil.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cold as Ice

Recently, some members of the Canadian women's ice hockey team drew criticism for their manner of celebrating their gold medal win at the Olympics.

The ladies (and I use that term on purpose) ventured from the privacy of their locker room to the slightly less private ice rink (after the event had ended and spectators had departed) and engaged in some "eyebrow-raising activity".

The first eyebrow raised was that of an Associated Press reporter, who, smelling a story, went running to the IOC for their reaction.
This was the first the IOC had heard of the issue, and after making the required noises about "investigating", realized that what the girls did was actually milder than what the boys routinely do, (out in the streets IN PUBLIC), and quickly backed off.

Probably a smart move considering that barely a year after Michael Phelps was photographed smoking a "bong", the IOC quietly appointed him Youth Olympic Games Ambassador.

What then is the significance of this story? Is it about overly prudish sensibilities, the proverbial  double standard, or even more?

A look at the photos of the celebration reveals that the champions were still in their hockey gear, thoroughly enjoying the moment with the help of beer, cigars, their cell phone cameras and even a wayward Zamboni machine.

Not the stereotypical vision of female loveliness that western society generally entertains.

However, it's clear that these women were having fun - indeed, the time of their lives, and why not, on the heels of such a major accomplishment as winning an Olympic gold medal.

Having fun, dressed in bulky athletic uniforms, unshowered, with no makeup, and nary a man in sight.

Even worse, they were having fun doing guy things. Lying on their backs on the ice with their feet in the air. Drinking! Smoking cigars forheavensake.
 

The image of one female hockey player pouring champagne into the mouth of another was probably too much of a mixed metaphor for polite society to bear. Graphically sensual in deed but decidedly un-sexy in context.

Head. Must. Explode.

Had the players been sitting with their ankles crossed, demurely sipping white wine from crystal stemware, would there have been an outcry?

Clearly the issue isn't alcohol per se, since it's perfectly all right for the leader of the free world to enter into a bet on the outcome of the men's championship, in which the stake is A CASE OF BEER.

Gambling. Alcohol. All you need now is strike 3.

Interestingly, there has been no outcry that I have heard concerning the female figure skaters' skimpy outfits and the suggestive moves performed by the ice dance teams.
No outcry either for the skin-tight outfit worn at the closing ceremony by singer Nikki Yanofsky, who is only 16 years old.

A minor, one month short of the local legal drinking age? Scandalous.
A minor exuding sex appeal? That's cool, no problem with that.

And in too-perfect juxtaposition, the images at the top and bottom of this newspaper page. (I am referring to the "Sunshine Girl" who apparently changes every day, and whose photo, if you click on it, gets bigger. Or something.)

It's not just a double standard, male vs female at work here. It's a more insidious set of values where context is key, and what matters is not so much what is done but by whom, to what purpose and in what manner.

I don't mean to take the use of alcohol lightly. I do mean to highlight inconsistencies in values held by some segments of society and as always to shine some light on what I see as hypocrisy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Sorry State of Tiger's Apology*

Far be it from me to jump on a celebrity-bashing bandwagon, but...
there was just something not quite right about Tiger Woods' apology.

I'm not talking about the staged feel of it, nor the micro-management; not the absence of both his wife and his wedding ring; not the refusal to take questions nor the question of how sincere he really was; not even the issue of whether a public apology was even called for, as Tiger's transgressions were a private family matter after all - at least, as far as we know.

All of the above has been sufficiently chewed-over.

What bothers me is the following passage:

I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have far -- didn't have to go far to find them.

As a woman, that translates into "my wife wasn't enough for me."

Now I can hear all you men screaming out there that I'm wrong,  it has nothing to do with how much (or whether) you love your wife, it's about conquest and power blah blah blah.

I don't care.

The phrase "I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me" would be appropriate in reference to cheesecake or expensive gadgets and trips.

Not women.

I do realize that many men would, without hesitation, jump at the chance to have sex with beautiful women whenever and wherever they want. I get that. What bothers me is the implication in this statement that sex outside of marriage is unilaterally a good thing.

There may be many good things about it but there are also consequences, no matter how much fame and money you have, and even if you are never caught. Consequences not only to your family and the other women but to your own emotional state.

For one, you destroy the emotional intimacy that marriage is meant to create. For another, you live in fear that you will be discovered, and all your hard-earned wealth and fame will be endangered - just as it was for Tiger.

There are more but I won't belabour.

"I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by" not only implies, but says outright, that Tiger Woods felt impeded by his marriage vows.

And just in case the audience might have missed it the first time, Tiger repeated,

I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me.


Tiger sees his marriage as a box, a prison sentence, a place full of rules and boundaries. Where is the love, the support, the friendship, the nurturing that goes on in a home with small children? Where is the appreciation of having a friend and partner, someone you know so well and love so much, with you in mind and body, every single day?

Tiger used the words "integrity", "character" and "decency" as virtues he will aspire to. He makes it sound as if he will have to use all the discipline that he applies to his athletic training in order to live within the "boundaries" of his marriage.

I have a lot of work to do. And I intend to dedicate myself to doing it.

He just doesn't get it.

As a woman, this would not be what I'd want to hear in the course of an apology. This would not be what I'd want to hear, ever.



*Please forgive the pun. Couldn't help myself.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Then and Now


It's (cringe) Valentine's Day! Perfect time to start up the blog again.
Actually, any day is a perfect time for that. It just happens to be Feb. 14.

In lieu of producing actual new content, I've decided to recycle one of my journal entries from ten (TEN!) years ago, with updated commentary. Enjoy (or not):

THEN:

LUPERCALIA

 I wasn't going to do this. I tried to ignore it. I told Hubby and kids not to get or do anything because I wasn't "into" it this year. And the wretched word "valentine" hasn't appeared in this journal yet.. until now. (Whoops I just realized I used it last entry. Nevermind.)

 Of course I'm a day late, as usual. As I write this, the 14th is over and my home is a valentine-free zone (except for Older Son's room.. girlfriend, you know.)

NOW:

I'm getting better. Not a whole day late, maybe half a day since this will be posted in the evening.
For the record, "Hubby" is now "The Ex" and the "kids" are grown and on their feet. Mother is very proud.
 

THEN:

The older I get, the more I detest holidays that have become blatantly commercialized. Anything that sends you off to the mall muttering "I have to get something for A and something for B.." is bad. I don't want anything that someone feels they have to get me. (Well, unless it's jewellery, maybe.)

 NOW:

Chocolate has joined jewellery in the *approved* category. 

 
 I'm all for love, in all its forms, romantic and otherwise.. I grew up in the 60's after all.. but this holiday isn't about love, it's about making sure you don't piss off the people who are important to you.
 

It starts in childhood, at school. I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I didn't receive as many valentines as the other kids.
 Some teachers try to avoid this by making it compulsory for everybody to send cards to the entire class, but then it's meaningless... 



...or even harmful. Having to give the same kind of card to the kid who smells bad and picks his nose as you give to your secret crush can cause serious cognitive dissonance and teaches a bunch of life lessons, most of which are probably wrong. (Furthermore if the kid who picks his nose IS your secret crush, you've got much bigger problems.)

And need we even go into the issue of same-sex valentines?



While society now seems to recognize the issues that some singles may have on a day dedicated to shopping I mean love...

...this holiday is also difficult for those in unhappy relationships.  The unrelenting media hoopla sends the message that if you're not fulfilled in love, (or even if you are but your lover forgets to shop for you) then you're a loser. Not to mention those who have lost loved ones through no fault of their own. I don't think that leaves a large percentage of the population unscathed.

I am now pleased to report that having no relationship is better than having an unhappy one. For me, anyway.

This holiday has come a long way from its origins... and it might be argued, gone full circle. A quick web search revealed that Valentine's Day is generally accepted to have come from the pagan festival of Lupercalia. Lupercus was a Roman god whose duty it was to keep the wolves from the door (literally).
(Symbolism, anyone?)
On this feast day which was Feb. 15, a name-drawing ritual was held, wherein young men drew the names of young women from a box, and got to keep the woman for the year.
Christianity eventually put an end to Lupercalia and the lady lottery, substituting the name of a martyred saint, Valentine, and a saint lottery, for choosing the name of a someone to emulate for the year. Not much fun for the boys, anymore.


Pity I didn't link to that source. I tried to replicate the search but came up with some academic killjoy who says there's no evidence to support the lottery thing. There is  more info here  on what really must have gone on (naked carousing, animal sacrifice) but I still like the first story better.



I doubt that Valentine's Day is perceived as a Christian holiday anymore, and we even forget to use the "St." most of the time. The fact that it's allowed into American public schools must mean it's devoid of any religious content.


I was being facetious. Really.


So we're back to a courting ritual with heavy sexual overtones, and heavier commercialization,


a  conclusion also reached by columnist Mark Morford, who wrote a similar (and much better) article in 2003:
...the church both succeeded in their hostile takeover, and failed miserably. Sure Valentine's Day is all romance and sentiment and Malaysian-made stuffed teddy bears on the outside, but it's all raw oysters and sly spankings and salacious romps and whipped-creamed nipples and soft divine bedroom cooing, inside.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2003/02/14/notes021403.DTL&nl=fix#ixzz0fYsVpTHs

In the original post I rhetorically asked whether love had anything to do with it at all. Some feedback at the time suggested that any event that encourages a show of affection is a good thing. This is true, as long as the affection is sincere and not limited to one day out of the year. 
And don't forget the chocolate.