Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Benchmark from the Clerics

I was so relieved this morning to read about the papal address. After a flimsy, washout of an election that solidified the Conservative mandate in all three major parties and elevated our most flippant and inexperienced policy-maker to official opposition, it was a breath of fresh air to finally hear something constructive being discussed on the world stage. It was simpler this time, more cerebral. Instead of the craziness of JP2 reaching out to Israel, admitting the Church's participation in Nazi Germany and the constant visiting and speaking to other cultures and people in this world affected by global actions, the new pope has spoken on the subject of hell. At long last, someone up there with a priority system.

According to Pope Palpatine, Hell really exists, it's an actual place and for at least some of us, that's where we will undoubtedly end up.

What outcome can be expected by publicly stating such a position? Well for one thing, we now have a benchmark for evil. The person who watched their family drown in the flooding of New Orleans after Katrina can compare the pain in their bodies and souls with rape victims, families of dead soldiers, young veterans suffering from severe physical and emotional trauma, and of course First Nations people who are continually dying of addiction and tuberculosis in the richest and most advanced civilization in history. No more will any physician or psychiatrist, teacher or friend need to delve into the complexity and individuality of one person’s suffering. No more are we to be plagued by the desperation of conscience and the torment of personal hells. It’s a real place with real people. Nuance is for suckers. Are evil people kidnapping children and turning them into nihilistic soldiers? Are there international slave traders selling fifteen year olds over and over again? They’re going to hell. Laws on earth are secondary and probably infringe on God’s ability to punish wrongdoers. Don't worry about doing anything about any of this stuff: you're conscience can now let you rest easy easing no-one's suffering because those who perpetrate evil will be marked by He Who Is Called I Am.

Speaking of benchmarking, isn’t it great to know that gays and pregnant teenagers are going physically to an actual place? Won’t it relieve some of your workload? I mean, after a long day at the office, you have to go home, change, get some rocks, drive to the nearest abortion clinic and drop off your wife on her way to protest outside of the courthouse. You spend a few hours shouting at teenage girls (men in strip clubs do the same thing, but if they’re in a bad mood, they throw quarters) and hurling stones. This is grueling physical labour! Then you have to come home and educate your own children against the godless, heathen modernism being taught in today’s schools. God help you if you plan to bomb an abortion clinic over the weekend, who's got time for that anymore? It must be calming and such a relief to know that the stress on the current family unit will be relieved by this revelation that hell is real and wrongdoers will simply go there for punishment. Go God! You rock this bitch!

Global Warming? Not really a climate crisis. You see, if it was and we were destroying God’s creation, he would punish us. We aren’t in hell, as demonstrated by the crisp lawns behind gate after gate, and the soothing music playing in all these solid reliable SUV’s on the road. We don’t have to worry about alarmist reactionaries who probably just want to devalue the dollar and socialize every nation on earth. It’s a relief too to know that our boys in Afghanistan and Iraq are helping those delusional non-believers get to the great I-told-you-so of the afterlife. Why overextend ourselves with Blue Helmet missions to save people from what will probably happen to them anyway in the end? What we need to do is focus on right now. You see, Revelations tells us that when a place is prepared for the Jews (chosen people my Aunt Fanny), Jesus will come back and Rock This Bitch in A-Minor! So supporting Israel is definitely on the list of non-hellbound activities that we should all be concerned about rather than negotiating between Israel and Palestine together. Whew! It’s almost a palpable feeling of a weight off your shoulders to know that there is no reason to fully respect the historical complexity of a centuries-old religious confrontation.

Hell is a place. Not a state of mind, according to the Pope who got drafted into the Nazi army when he was just fourteen. Can there be a personal reason for such a revelation? Was it unfair to pose such a choice to a young man? When your options are to be killed just like almost everyone else or to turn off your mind and join the oppressors, wouldn’t it be perfectly reasonable to imagine a hell that would sufficiently and physically punish your oppressors? Is it not in some way understandable to imagine a place similar to that which you were exposed to? We're not all Tolkien, so maybe this is his gig.

I have seen torture in my short little life. I have seen beautiful people shut into terrifying prisons within their own heads. One of them made his own exit and I do not believe he is being further punished now as the Catholic faith proscribes. I see those impoverished who cannot escape the cyclical prison of debt and despair, I see those flooded out of existence who must turn only to themselves to rise again as no hand has been extended to keep together families and faiths. I have seen hatred. I have faced those who would destroy me. I have watched great minds torture themselves out of existence.

Hell is not a place or a path. It is not demons who care about possessing you. It is not underneath the skin of our streets, it is not behind the doors of any bath houses. Hell is the razor you take to your own skin. Hell is the acidic swallow of the last pill. Hell is the fundamental understanding of indentured servitude, of your own tiny self inside the hugeness of this world. Compared with where I've been baby, I'll take simple brimstone any day.

It will never be that easy. It will never be enough for us to point on a map, Armageddon, Hell, Cloud City. We are responsible for how we treat each other. We are responsible for how we choose to live on this earth. There is nothing waiting for us at the end, which is why it is imperative that we live well now. We owe each other a floodwall that will hold. We owe each other vaccines and water. We owe each other deep breaths and blue oceans. There is no-one on earth who is owed life here in Hell's proximity.

Monday, March 26, 2007


This is what I'm talking about. I've been going a little apeshit lately because a provincial election is coming up in my province. This means that yet again I have to listen to at least one party leader, in this case two, talk about sovereignty as though it is some sort of solution to the problems that apparently plague the province of Quebec. Each time this happens my ears start to burn and I honestly feel like I'm living in the Canadian version of Slaughterhouse 5. I was in high school for the Meech Lake Accord, for the Charlottetown Accord, all of that. I was living it in my nation's capital day in and day out. We discussed at length what would happen to Quebec and the country itself while across the bridge, literally a 5 minute drive made daily by people living in hull (now called Gatineau due to gentrification) who are wondering if they are going to have to apply for separate citizenship in order to keep their jobs in Ottawa. It was so schizophrenic, and the whole point behind making it a referendum within the entire country was because it affects the entire country. Then we had three referendums just in the province and it was tight. Not just because the question was deliberately worded poorly, but because there are people here divided on the issue.

We came through. I went through both of those things and I'm not dealing with it again. We are rich, we are free, we have health-care, and Canada needs us. As a province we have the best environmental policy in the country, our secondary education (world renowned for quality) is quarter the price of the rest of the country, we have subsidized day-care and included in our provincial health plan is drug coverage. If you are a single-mother and your child gets sick, you can see a doctor, get medicine and day-care while you go to work. This is who we are. We are the conscience of the country and now we are having this nonsense discussion again. As though we have at all the resources to set up a citizenship infrastructure and a military infrastructure. As though the rest of the world would not lose total confidence in Quebec and the rest of Canada as a result. As if the current cultural assimilation of America would not move more rapidly North on every inch of the border, as though it wouldn't matter. This is the greatest city in the greatest province of the greatest country in the world and dicking around with nationalism is a dangerous and unworthy distraction from truly important issues like our mission in Afghanistan (it's gotta stop) our level of blue-helmet missions worldwide (diminishing by the hour), our failure to commit true resources to improving the lives of First Nations people, the gutting of the Office of the Status of Women, what other country has a federal office with a mandate to monitor and improve the status of Women? Go Canada! These issues merit attention but instead our leaders discuss revenue transfer and how best to go it alone. The Atlantic provinces have far more reason to do so, and if they're in, so the fuck are we.

I have long held the opinion that the Merry Harper does not care about this country, only the political and economic gain to be made as it's "leader". The last budget came down and I swear the transfer of so much unmandated money into Quebec, no oversight, no earmarking, no mention of this much for healthcare, that much for poverty relief, etc, looked nakedly to me like funding the separatist movement. This was reinforcing my surety that he would enjoy a separation of our country, the method of which was shown when Cheney skipped meeting the PM at the time when he visited the Alberta oil fields. This is our home. We are who we are because we are so diverse and compartmentalizing our nation will do nothing to improve the quality of life of us, our neighbors or anyone on earth who looks to Canada for inspiration and leadership.

The latest discovery is thousands of Canadians who have lost their citizenship in the bureaucracy of the federal government. There are clauses from the forties that include such archaic document submission as absentee birth forms for people born on army bases and children born out of wedlock to non-Canadian mothers. Most of the people affected had no idea there was such an issue and are only now finding it because the US has insisted we use passports to travel to their country or as I call it, across the street.

Who are we now? Are we the people who stripped our own of their part in this nation? Are we the people who have left First Nations tribes on a boiled-water notice for three consecutive years? Are we the people who willingly closed 11 out of sixteen offices of the status of women? Are we the ones who slashed arts grants and tourism funding? What is happening to us? How in the wake of such nonsense, such un-Canadian behaviour can we focus on separating from the country as a whole? We can't leave them at a time like this. The government is not governing. We are failing to pressure the US to care for it's own people in the Gulf States, we are failing to relieve the Sudan from genocide, we are failing to lead the rest of the world in arresting global warming, we are failing to care for our own people. This is not the time to seceed. This is the time for Quebec to stand for Canada. To show how simple it can be to care for it's own. To demonstrate willingness to uphold our own values within a greater whole.

I am not voting for the PQ, the ADQ or the Quebec Solidaire. I am not agreeing to withholding our values from those who need it. I am not mandating anyone to take me away from my country. Quebec needs Canada, and Canada desperately needs Quebec.

Friday, March 23, 2007

beware of greeks bearing gifts

One of the insidious things going on in Louisiana that I did not know about was the attempt to purchase land from the people who own property in the areas affected by the aftermath of Katrina. I have read blogs and seen video of people even worse off who apparently have had their homes condemned by FEMA and then seized as the living conditions are unacceptable. In only that way is anyone in charge of reconstruction willing to admit that current conditions merit attention.

For anyone to whom an offer has been made, I must warn as loudly as possible that you stop and find any First Nations person/American Indian anywhere and ask them what kind of deal you're going to get when a rich white guy offers to buy your property at your darkest hour. We exist at a moment in time right now when black people in awesome numbers, poor and underprivileged people are at an age and in a position to leave something to the next generation. You'll hear lots of stories from wealthy suitcoats about how much they love to hear about someone who started from nothing and made something of herself. What frightens them is hundreds of thousands of people in every niche of the North American caste who started with something and due to that had fewer odds to overcome.

I have been wondering about this type of thing for a while. I remember asking a few years ago about the First Nations history here in Canada. I had a reasonably good education from K to the end of high-school, the same education anyone else would get here more or less. I learned about the Plains of Abraham and Louis Riel. I learned about the Metis and the different tribes who aided and traded with the English and the French. What I didn't learn was their history. I know people got here and I know most of the tribes were wiped out in various ways. I know many remain, but as their tradition is mostly oral, I have no idea what was going on here before any white person got here. And since the Europeans wrote the history books, the subject isn't available until you get to the university level.

I pose the same question about Africa. We know and are taught over and over about our own history, we are shown in some part the history of slavery. We learn about slaves and about the history of the end of slavery. We are told that slavery is over and that it doesn't happen anymore here. (more on this later, pimps are slave traders.) We are not told about the mentality of slavery. We do not learn about how to deal mentally and emotionally with people being taught for centuries that they are slaves and people being taught for centuries that black people are slaves. In Canada it is slightly better, but we learned that freed slaves were those who wished to escape, those who needed to be granted freedom by displacement. These lessons have lasting effects. I never got taught what happened in Africa after the slaves were taken. I learned about the many years of the trade happening, and the economics of it I learned quite well, but I have no idea what happened later. This type of displacement has the same effect as genocide. Without the living history of a people, reminders are lost. Instructions are lost, advice and history is completely lost. A level of trauma that high will turn a country against itself. Good news for anyone who wants to stay in charge for a while, but the long-term effects of trauma on that level are almost always civil war. This is a country's, a city's, a society's version of self-harm.

There is acceptance too in this, of ridiculous treatment. One of the most popular commodities in Africa right now is skin bleach. HIV is rampant, a genocide is being committed in Darfur, Lake Chad is gone and the people living in these deplorable conditions are strongly encouraged to get white as quickly as possible. This is an export of insanity. Our culture is rapidly homogenizing Asia and Europe, but they are wealthier areas, able to support a cultural assimilation in stages and with less personal damage. These too are areas that include long histories, living ancestors, reminders and teaching of how to live. These cultures have the wherewithall to slowly include different ideas about beauty, food and lifestyle safely.

Many complain about American Imperialism, myself most definitely included. But the imperialism that allows so many people to ignore a tragedy at once is much larger and more insidious than america's version. The country (as we currently know it) is too young to have rooted the history of it's lifestyle. It's still forming itself and the memory is not yet long enough to give reasonable perspective. The kidnapping and subsequent sale of an entire civilization happened so recently that black people still have to fight not to be seen as slaves in this day and age. Within the mentality of ownership comes the implicit comprehension that the person owned cannot help herself. This can produce charity, but almost always it produces exploitation. When an entire race, an entire city and certainly an entire state is seen to be owned somehow, to be beneath others, naturally it is going to be used and discarded more easily, it's citizen's cries for help more easily ignored.

We are doing nothing about reconstructing the Gulf States. We are dancing around the word genocide in Darfur because no-one wants to get involved and calling it what it is will force our hand. We are not solving the AIDS crisis as we so quickly could, we are rewarding agribusinesses like Starbucks not just to purchase at shameful prices the products of Ethiopia, but in fact to patent the ancient words from languages centuries old in order to prevent them from doing it themselves and bringing some healing to their own people. My issue is sovereignty and this is a personal sovereignty that is being infringed upon. There is a limit of acceptance to how much we give away and when too much is taken from us, what is left often is complex rage and simple despair.

How do so many people at once fail to come to the rescue of desperate citizens? The first step would be in admitting that so many people have been educated to think of blacks and southerners as poor and underprivileged and therefore ignorable or in need of charity. How can major news media who so consistently held accountable those who were supposed to help turn to other things and not revisit the issue? It's not a story anymore. "They" were poor before and they're poorer now. It's no longer the aftermath of failure, it is becoming the norm. We are now starting to hear about New Orleans as though it no longer exists. As though it is something almost fictional from a history book.

I live in a place of strong cultural identity. The French people here were abandoned by France itself at the time this country was developing. The Francais here, the Acadians and the Metis had to come together and figure out what was going to happen. No-one was going back to Europe, and the English were colonizing all over the place. Immediately across the lake was a huge war of independence, so we were mostly on our own. In more modern history, this province was so rapidly becoming English that we passed a bill to ensure that our street signs, businesses and government used and lived our language. This was quite upsetting to many people at the time, but they got over it. It still upsets people, but we have two official languages in our country, our kids are taught two languages which directly affects their intelligence, we do not fear to raise cultural issues in Parliament because we recognize how important a sense of identity is to an entire people. There are moments like the two referendums we had, like the FLQ crisis, like the Oka crisis, like the recent shootings, where we felt like we were dangling. But there is a difference between dangling alone and dangling on the end of a long line. Even small stability is reassurance enough to come through to the other side whole. Louisiana knows a little about being abandoned by the French. And Quebec knows a little about the displacement of lost people, in our case, freed or escaped slaves who made it here.

I was shocked at the time that everything was happening, but in the immediate aftermath, I was also shocked at how few people bothered to do anything. When it came to a few months after the fact and most people still hadn't been given a trailer, the debris had not been cleared, bodies were still being found in houses, how did every black person in america not stop everything they were doing and hold the government hostage? How did mothers everywhere not see what conditions the kids were being left in or who had been separated from their parents and not bring the country to a standstill? I would have loved to see the people of New York shut down the stock exchange and refuse to finance any activity worldwide until proper steps had been taken. How does the governor of Louisiana not mobilize the caucuses of every Gulf state to close oil and gas refineries until such time as proper attention is paid to the citizens in need? How does the mayor of New Orleans not call the mayor of every other major city on the planet and insist that pressure is put on all governments to pay attention to this? It won't happen now unfortunately because there is a presidential election going on. This is a time for people to promise to do things, not to actually do them. More ooomph is gotten out of saying what will be done in 2008 rather than simply mobilizing now. I can't help but notice the democratic congress failed entirely to remember that something needed to be done like, yesterday. And the current white house is now in a position to simply run out the clock. If there is such a thing as a localized hurricane, I hope one hits the home of Jeb Bush and Trent Lott over and over and over again like in a snowglobe.

With despair comes acceptance and forgetfulness. We are beginning an amnesia about how we treat each other. There is a point at which the momentum is lost and the immediacy of a situation becomes day to day life. Any soldier in any war zone anywhere will tell you that it becomes day to day because it has to in order for the human mind to survive. Only looking back do you realize how little time was spent in the trenches, only a few months or years maybe, and it seems like eternity. We are condemning ourselves to just such a mindset again.

We are all in this together. This place may seem large, but it is our only home. We are all citizens and as such we must be able to expect a bare minimum of civility and cooperation from each other.

I won't forget, but I want to know what's happening. I want to know whether those people got their homes back and how they are doing now. I want to know if the levees have been rebuilt or even begun, I want some reassurance that the people who were displaced are being offered a way home, I want to know if as humans we are making any moves towards prevention of such a disaster in future.

I don't actually care where Angelina Jolie's new house is, but for her kids' sake, I hope it's very nice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

just say no

The budget has come down and once again Duceppe has completely ruined my opinion of a usually savvy politico. He was supposed to be the troublemaker. The one who would get up in Harper's face on issue after issue, as my mp, he should have been starting some shit.

Sadly, largely because the budget is generous to Quebec (as it should be) Gilles is supporting the bill which will allow it to pass without a question of confidence. The status of women continues to deteriorate, First Nations reservations are still on boiled water advisories and Alberta's oil is subsidized at a fantastic rate which, unlike softwood, the main purchaser of the oil will never complain about.

This may well turn to a period of self-examination for me, as I am continually disappointed by the leadership of my province and this country. How is this possible? I have yet to see any initiative that makes me suspect a change for the better is coming, so where do my ridiculous expectations come from? I feel a little like Charlie Brown, always willing to believe that Lucy wouldn't yank the ball away at the last second.

Jack will oppose, so will Dion and both of them will lose support for it. They will be accused of foot dragging and it will put them in a position of damage control rather than activating their own policies. We've been talking and talking and talking about another election and this was supposed to be the moment. The budget was supposed to come down and we were supposed to say, no. This is not acceptable, we will not live in these conditions.

Instead we get a tax credit that will deplete our surplus entirely by 2009 and for what? So that suburban areas where Tories wish to activate a base will receive a tiny cut in their taxes before the next election. So that major private interests can continue to lobby parliament tax free. So that oil is not only subsidized, but considered a tax break. So that we can subtly fund the separatist movement.

We are a whole country. The economic desperation in Atlantic Canada directly affects us all. The unacceptable conditions on First Nations reservations directly affects the standard of living everywhere. The closing of the offices of the Status of Women directly affect the standard of living of families across this country. The separatist movement in Quebec affects the economic and social security of each part of Canada. As such this budget is not acceptable, nor is the leadership who proposed it.

But when will together we all say No?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fiona speaks

I had been thinking of digestion too. I had swallowed a lot of tripe in my day, about the filthiness and inherent falseness of women, the voracity and greed of us, the second hungry mouth. Tuna fish, oral sex, drunken goldfish swallowing, she never learned what a nyad could be, her people kissed cod for luck and she shut down any similarity we had to each other. They told her she was vicious and stupid at once, and so now as a result, she is. For my part I was left alone mostly unless something was wrong and needed correction. I was told it was all my fault and that I was supreme to my emotions, I was responsible for them and their effects. And so today, I blow in the gales he brings to my coast and wonder where again I will muster the strength from to keep my buildings standing in his wind. If I am above the effect others have on me, I have no reflection and must be truly as vampiric as they say I am. Parasitical, a user, I will suck you dry. But if I subsume and let it be felt here, my structures fall and rubble lies where once the mermaids swam above the gardens of the citizens, the reptiles and pachyderms homeless. Our people leave an ecological footprint on us and it is this that makes us truly who we are. We are as much a product of ourselves as we are of those we choose to surround ourselves with. It is in this choosing that we master who we will be.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

un Opie unique au Quebec...

It appears that along with all the other singular french celebrities, political stars, media outlets and international events, we have one more iconic parallel to the american celebrity. I'm talking of course about Opie of Mayberry. It gave me shivers watching the debate last night, reminiscent of the veep showdown between Cheney and John Edwards 2 years ago, and of course, who could forget the Duceppe-Layton-Martin-Harper hoe-down from 2005?

Mario went into this looking like the fiesty incumbent who was going to do some good. He has a wobbly position on Quebec sovereignty, but it's been in his favour since few people actually want a referendum, but most Quebecers understand deeply how little interest or sympathy Ottawa has for this province. I was expecting him to take some deep digs at Charest and work to distance himself from Boisclair's position and history on sovereignty. In other words, I again was expecting to be impressed and I was left sorely disappointed. Mario Dumont was possibly the saddest, most desperate attempt at a candidate I have ever seen in my days of watching debates. He had good points and he had interesting things to say. His worst blunder? That of most men: timing. He jumped in both feet first without sussing his opponents. He seemed to forget that he was in a room with Charest, a heavyweight who won the last election based on debate tactics, someone who wasn't going to be taken by surprise on his own turf. Boisclair handled himself like a pro. He was calm and collected the entire time, and even if his hand movements were distracting, he presented himself calmly and with aplomb. Both men took advantage of Dumont's high-pitched blustering to appear confident and statesmanlike. Even when all three of them became animated over the various topics, in comparison, Dumont appeared to be a small child at the grownups table, not quite understanding why he's getting stern looks from his elders.

The paper was a tactic and that was just sad. Charest pulled exactly the same thing in the last debate he had against an opponent, and I'm sure Dumont had that in mind when he brought it out. Sadly though, by bringing it up at the wrong time he got questioned by the mediator, and by brandishing it (one must not show papers to the camera) he got reprimanded as well. Finally, the difference that makes me quite ill. People died under that bridge. The photo I remember most that day was of the small boy looking on where he lost both parents and an uncle. He was probably wondering who was going to take him home. Charest has already developed a commission to investigate and quite right as this is the way to address such a thing. By pulling out an accusation that Charest knew the overpass was deteriorating and did nothing, Dumont gave up his persona of the concerned citizen looking for change and became that viper-tongued monster we've all seen over the years: a politician. And not a very good one. Charest was able to stand gravely, appearing to protect the event from political exploitation and at the same time appear to be completely distanced from the issue. It doesn't help that the document itself does not assert what Dumont says it does, it reads that a special investigation into the structure should be undertaken. No mention is made of danger, impending collapse or structural damage.

Boisclair could have won if he had been in another party. That's what kills me about the silver fox every time! He knew it was his first debate and he had to make it work, and by pacing himself and not letting up, he seemed to be the clearest thinker, the most level-headed man in the business. It came to naught however, as another referendum is a huge gamble and Charest was able to stroke the fence jockeys by reminding them that Ottawa recognizes Quebec as a nation. It doesn't actually mean anything, but then, it doesn't have to.

Notwithstanding the question of a referendum at all, if we had one and separated, would we then get to see a debate between Boisclair and Gilles Duceppe for leadership of the new nation? I would pay good money for that! Gilles would eat him alive!

There was no real winner last night, but the loser was definitely clear. The debate was between Charest and Boisclair, ostensibly Referendum or no as that is the only issue on which the two leaders truly disagree. Dumont will have to pack his lunch and go home and remember the kind words of his father who later became Matlock, it's not winning or losing that matters, it's how you play the game.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Black Algae

On the website of that Tim person who went around the world on no emissions, he states his mission, to show that if he can go around the globe on no conventional fuel, any of us can get to work or school using far less fuel than we currently consume. There is a statement on it, unattributed, which caught my eye: "Do you live too far away to ride your bike? Maybe it's time to move closer." This I feel is where the green revolutionaries lose the people.

He (or his webmaster) is certainly not the only person to suggest that our own actions even in small ways will collectively save and possibly restore our home planet. Suggesting that each person begin in her own way is simple and it is a useful tool to convince people to take small steps. Sadly, most of the greens I've heard speaking and writing on the subject seem to have lost focus somehow on the 80 percenters out there in the normal, consumer-driven, debt-driven sprawl of north american life. It is exemplary to do great acts to demonstrate possibilities to other people. Pontificating, however, will not lead to one single convinced individual.

We live in a state of perpetual motion. Our employers boost us around willy-nilly, from office to office. We live through down-sizing, layoffs, buyouts and we agree to ridiculous demands simply because it is safer to say yes to moving halfway across the country than it is to look for another job at a company that will likely downsize in the next few years as well. This type of suggestion, pick up your family, move your kids closer to work so they can get driven all the way to the school that is suddenly half-way across town is not just misguided, it is condescending. A single athlete who can pick up and run around the world does not one whit of harm by suggesting we all drive less, but it does remind any person currently on the fence that the people who tell them about global warming and what we should do about it are ludicrously out of touch with the everyday man. And if that's true, what else are they out of touch about?

This is not a time for pontification. We are lucky enough to live in a huge space. We have elbow room and we can stretch a little when necessary. As such we have vastly different cultures in our country that the suggestion to use one method everywhere is harmful and useless for us all.

This is a time of debt-oppression. Consumer credit is the single most disgusting form of manipulation since Machiavelli. It allows companies to pay people the least amount possible, and encourage them still to buy as much as possible. In the name of independence and personal freedom, this crippling debt cycle is sold to us at 18% by our banks, our industry and our neighbors. Even those of us who are aware of it are terrified that any shift downward in this trend would destroy our economy and the world as we know it would end. When executives from Wal-Mart are asked, and they have been repeatedly, about the nature of their business, the horrible way they treat their employees, the impossible demands they make on their suppliers etc, they respond always that if they were so bad, the people would vote with their feet. They actually think that the purchase you make at Wal-Mart because you live in the middle of nowhere and the local grocery, pharmacy, toy store, clothing store, electronics store etc have been closed and there is literally nowhere else to go, that your dollars are a vote in their favour. The choice is yours, and you chose us. I have never been prouder than the day I read about Vancouver refusing to allow Wal-Mart to build a store. Now that is a vote!

This is a time of too many choices and too many turns. How is anyone to know what to do with themselves? You can't move hardly without somehow doing terrific evil to the natural world around us. This is not a time for autocratic finger-pointing. It is a time for leadership. I wish only we had some.

Inspiration is the only way to solve this crisis. We are not now in a moment when simply doing one small thing in the face of this will alleviate our psyche. There is enough going wrong daily to stop anyone in their tracks and honestly ask, why bother? This is a time when we need to know that the best minds of the most people are focusing on the waking world and our limits in our home. Coastal cities will no doubt have different participatory solutions that those on the Canadian Shield. We are a distinct people living in a time when we must save ourselves and yet know it is possible. Pressuring banks for green rrsp's is a good start, as most Canadians have some type of retirement plan in the works. Insisting that banks offer simple investment plans in companies with reputations for actual production rather than simple earnings is a very easy way to participate. There are green companies too who need investment capital, such as solar panel manufacturers, tidal hydro generating companies, water purification plants etc. Hybrid and electric vehicles need to be as modern looking as other cars, at the same price points as normal sedans, they should come with a tax incentive as should the plant that makes them in order to diminish the waiting list. And shopping should not be the national pastime.

Telling someone who just made it past the last round of layoffs and is going out for a quick drink after work that she shouldn't live where she does is insulting and simple-minded. Many of us need our homes to unwind and relax in the face of a massively mismanaged world. We are told often to hang low, keep our heads to the ground. Put up and shut up, it could be a lot worse. Few people I know even bother to write or phone their MP should an issue of concern come up. We are quick to scream about potholes in our streets, but it is rare to see anyone at city counsel meetings, or to hear of anyone calling their city counselor with a concern. And rightly so. We get to work early, we stay late in case someone else leaves on time regularly and gets fired the following week, we desperately fight each other in traffic home to pick up kids from day care and feed them, ourselves and possibly see other humans for several minutes before dropping exhausted into bed. Over time these days and weeks wear us down and blind instruction on greenmaking will be greeted with rueful smiles and turned backs.

We need a locus of energy. We need someone to say, hey look over here, we're getting electricity from the sea without damaging it! Hey, look over there, we can cheaply get a tram system into an existing city infrastructure that everyone can use. We need some goodwill and good cheer. We need a powerful voice that good things are happening to increase momentum. We need laws and structures that protect those weakest among us. We need someone great, a giant to make us grin. We need someone who can respect the intense struggle of labour unions to get reasonable treatment of extremely talented technicians. We need someone who can manage oversight to avoid corruption in huge organizations like unions and banks and universities. We need a spirit who wants good things. Any hippie who decides to run off alone to his earthship will not help anyone that loves their city to do planetary good. We need wisdom and charisma. I don't know the alchemy needed to make such a person who can renew our ability to keep the peace, to set an example without preaching, to live well. But I know that we need it. I can feel the algae growing over my pond and I know I am small enough that to clean it out I will need your help.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

smelly wales

slipping through the cracks

It's finally happened, A/C's are on sale in the Arctic. That's right, at the moment it is so warm in the arctic circle that during the season of the midnight sun, the Innu who inhabit the area, need to use air conditioners to survive. The warmth has also ruined the centuries-old craft of building igloos, a self-insulated snow house, the only completely sustainable housing on earth using zero soil, trees or skins. Sure they have an unfair advantage of scarcity in the supply of usable soil, trees and animal skins, but the privileged Inuit people have never lorded it over anyone that their culture survived for thousands of years in harmony with the desert of the north. Finally, that ingenuity and pull-yourself-up-by-your moccasins attitude has paid off. At long last, the culture of the indoor-regulated temperate climate has come to the people above the 66th degree.

May I refer the regulars to the last suggestion I had for tidal generators off the coast of the arctic sea? They're gonna need power if they're gonna run refrigerators, air-conditioners and that new fangled electric heating we always say we're going to get up and running with. Speaking of running, how much clean, running water is on any given First Nations reservation in North America? It's not as much as you might think. I'll give you a hint: they're still dying of tuberculosis. And since the issue of sovereignty never leaves my pen (okay, keyboard) for long, may I suggest that since there are already people living in the north and gentrification is only a moist matter of time, we remind the international community that the ever-warming, ever widening Northwest Passage is ours to maintain, clean and protect, including the wildlife that lives on it's coasts and we need to restrict it's use for commercial traffic in terms of tolls and the right to say no. Included in this is a reminder to our own government who never seems to bother mentioning it in the least. Moreover, to every candidate who currently wishes to make known their environmental attitudes and yet who never bother to campaign in First Nation reserves or from less densely populated places of environmental concern.

Paul McCartney as well, and other celebrities who feel the hunt of seals, polar bears and other arctic creatures who don't immediately come to mind will be pleased to know that due to the rapidity of the melting glaciers, experienced Inuit hunters are literally falling through the ice into the northern oceans and in some cases drowning. That'll show those ignorant First Nations who hunt on a subsistence level and can mark the genealogy of every species with which they share the land. I can't wait for anyone living below the 49th parallel and who has never seen a seal, nevermind a real Inuit person, to find out that their long-fought battle for a cause they can't begin to understand is over. The polar bears are long as they can swim. Who knows? Maybe whales and dolphins were meant to be carnivorous. Maybe a little northern hors d'oeuvre is just what the evolutionary doctor ordered.

It has always been heartening to me to see the respect with which our cultures treat those who have stewarded the land they live on for as long as they can remember. We could have probably learned something about glacial melting points, early-warning signs and non-asbestos insulation for our homes during our own chilly seasons. But the joke's on them, now selling an air-conditioner in the arctic is funny because it is true!