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Showing posts from 2012

Idle No More

The Gun - a failed symbol of power

The power of America since the second world war is indisputable. Achieved through weapons, propaganda, and money, this power is as oppressive to the people who wield it as it is towards the designated enemy.

When a young gunman enters Sandy Hook Elementary School and kills twenty children, the world grieves.  We struggle to find answers to questions, too big to grasp.

But the issue is larger than guns themselves. It is what they represent in our psychology. The phallic symbol representing male fertility has been worshiped in various ways for centuries.  Since we have learned that fertility requires more than one member, we are required to understand the complexity of nature.  So effective, healthy masculinity is no longer served by the worship of a phallus any more than femininity is represented by a uterus.  Yet phallic symbols exist everywhere in images of power.

Once power was idealized as a heavenly distant god, a monarch, a ruler or military might, it separated its true nature f…

A Message from Pablo Casals

“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.” - Pablo Casals

For Word Warriors

Write don't shoot.

Write your concerns about the future of Canada, to news outlet editors.

Murray Dobbin has published a list of emails to editors across the nation.

Other than filling up the inbox's of busy editors it will not damage the environment.  It will not cost anything other than some of your time.

The Power of Public Opinion

David Suzuki informs us that almost "all species that have existed  are estimated to have gone extinct within an average of a few million years." We are an infant species, "a mere 150,000 years old" who have adapted and survived deserts, tundra, rainforests, wetlands and high mountain ranges. Furthermore, "we’ve accelerated the rate of cultural evolution far beyond the speed of biological or genetic change."

Can we survive a million years? Will we be around in a few million or the next hundred years?

George Monbiotwarns that "Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address."  By the late 1980's, it became clear that our world "was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine" as it also became clear that climate change was man made.  This political doctrine makes conversations about planetary health obsolete. It claims only profit and greed counts in ways that would be morally …

A Willing Silliness in Winter

Soon it will be the first day of December, and I will be asking myself about the value of gift giving, decorating trees with little ornaments, drinking and eating too much, and going to parties.

Is there a therapeutic silliness? In the midst of snow, cold, bare trees and root vegetables growing whiskers in the cellar, how does it make us happy to put on feasts, use up our food stocks and bank accounts, for a few weeks of extravagance?

Perhaps the answer can be found among those who are too poor to have Christmas. Ask those living in poverty about Santa Claus, Jingle Bells, high hopes and high expectations? What does it mean to know you can't light up a tree like everyone else, even though you know these things are not as critical as nutritious food and good health.

The argument that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus is true for those who celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the carols and hymns around that are as beautiful as the staged nativity plays in school. However, for th…

If Hate Should Win Over Love in America

The narrative coming out of media has inflamed rage, alienation and despair among the American people, and so the land is ripe for draconian measures. This will ensure absolute power for the tribe who have funded xenophobic movements, government lobbies and media, in countries all over the world.  If the haters win it means a large enough portion of American society is ready for bloodletting and the scapegoats have already been identified.  If the haters win based on their promises it means America has given up on social justice - which is not socialism but shared responsibility through civil society.

Planned parenthood and women's rights will be shut down along with women's voices, as promised by candidates. Same sex marriage will be banned and the LGBT community will be forced underground or targeted with violence. Abortion will be made illegal even in cases where a woman's life is at risk.Medicare and social assistance will be stopped.Environmental pollution will rise e…

Interrogating the Dark

It has been written that conservative parties are appealing to social conservatives - their support base. I am not sure what the difference is between social and religious in the conservative camp but Wikipedia says "Social conservatism is a political ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values". These seem to be based on Ambrahamist values, which are mostly about a prescribed morality particularly opposing sexual permissiveness. 

Over the years there have been many values attributed to social conservatives which include:
making abortion absolutely illegal (even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is at risk)that prisoners should not receive any support spiritually, psychologically, or intellectuallythat we should bring back the death penaltyto spare the rod is to spoil the childthat welfare for the poor is a disincentive to workthat unions are destroying the economythat personal wealth is a measure of the extent to which…

Dear Prime Minister Harper

I forward this letter (italicized below), found on Rev. Frances Deverell's (President of Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice) blog in support of her fast for Climate Change.
I believe current world economic distress and natural disasters are caused by climate change and as a human race we must take action.  We must address the fact that we cannot grow our economies forever.  If our children and grandchildren are to have a chance at a quality of life we need real leadership from you and we need it now.
We need to direct our attention and our resources toward building an economy based on renewable energy.  We must slow the use of oil and coal and preserve reserves in the ground for future generations.  We can do this by: •Putting a price on carbon •Supporting all initiatives that develop and promote renewable energy •Supporting any and all methods of energy conservation
Slowing down the development of oil, coal, and nuclear will slow economic growth, but slower growth is inevitable bec…

Think Before You Take

Soon (April 2013) the Harper government will be considering whether to raise the salaries of politicians. 

All MP's, according to this Globe and Mail article, currently earn a basic salary of $157, 731. Senators earn a base salary of $132,300.

Meanwhile the Harper government has cut back old-age pensions, laid off public servants, cut funding to social services that help those Canadians most at risk. Unionized workers are expected to take cuts in pay, and the non-unionized are getting less pay and less hours.

The argument that politicians work hard and deserve to be well compensated means we are focused on money as the only reward for skill and hard work.  Does that mean all those who juggle multiple jobs at minimum wage are not working hard, don't have skills and don't deserve  hope for a better standard of living?  

On a planet choking from mankind's ideologies of growth and greed, a true indicator of how much a sentient being is worth is her ability to readjust her appe…

Rosh Hashanah: What Has Become Clear To You?

I grew up in England under the notion that I lived in a "Christian" country and went to a "Church of England" school.  So I cannot really speak about Rosh Hashanah with any credibility. However, I am happy to see that this holiday is acknowledged in social media.  

The message is probably simplified in the interfaith community, whereas the deeper meaning and discipline more rigorous for the truly observant.  Yehuda Berg says "The Kabbalists teach that Rosh Hashanah is not a religious event, but a cosmic opening where we can plant the seeds that will determine how our reality will unfold in our new year."

I do feel a newness in September. But the idea that we examine our own actions, for our own judgement, as Berg points out, is very helpful when there is so much violence resulting, in all probability, from our judgement towards the other.

Easy to believe that I am powerless to do anything about the big events, I am brought back to earth by Yehuda Berg'…

Naked Harry

It's easy to believe you can trust your friends when you've had a drink and you're all having a good time. Easy to believe they share your sense of ethics and would not sell their pictures to the sleaziest press, even if you are naked.

The frog in this rose is also naked and wouldn't mind at all if the gardener uploaded this image to a blog, as long as owls and raccoons can't see him. So why do we get excited over a prince being naked? Or rather, how many of us besides the press, are excited?

The man is 27, good looking and rich.  He loves fun. The sight of a healthy naked body doesn't hurt anyone else, as long as its among a group of consenting adults. War, on the other hand, hurts millions.

Perhaps there is a Freudian statement about getting naked. Perhaps we all secretly long to reveal who we are, to be uncovered, undressed, natural. Perhaps Harry feels he is entitled to be himself, a regular guy, in the privacy of a rented room.

I have three adult childre…

The Age of Integrity

What has become very clear to all who are interested in global issues, revealed through mainstream and social media, is the absence of true leadership.  The ways in which absolute power corrupts absolutely are being revealed day by day. The young are more affected by this because they  weigh the meaning of their lives with what they observe from the outside.

Because the power of rulers is mostly about control and intimidation, the world for them is not a place of texture and diversity. Everything must be managed and dominated.  Even those who instill systems of justice live under the constant threat of being dethroned. The rulers who stay in power longer, it seems, are those who have behind them the military, the media, other superpowers, and the determination to do whatever they must to stay in power, including killing their citizens.

War may appear to be about land and resources, but is, if we look deeper, about something else. It is about controlling the imagination and creativity…

Design the Future Based on the Truths that Nurture Us

Yesterday’s shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin is only 16 days after the shooting in Aurora at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie.

Whether you believe this is part of an elitist conspiracy to break down civil society by brainwashing unstable men, or whether America is being punished by God for allowing liberal views, or that the invisible hand  (the economy) is creating despair – one thing is certain – the  violence that has been glorified for the colonization of other countries and the exploitation of the masses for the profit of a few, has been brought home. No-one is spared.  No place is safe. No prayers or ideology will fix this until most of the people on this planet realize we are all in this together.
Chris Hedges notes this day in 1945 when “the United States demonstrated that it was as morally bankrupt as the Nazi machine it had recently vanquished”.  This was the bombing of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki three days later. Hedges calls it “an act of mass annihilation…

How Oppressive Power Needs Its Own Mythology

Gary Younge, in his recent Guardian article, titled The world as seen by Republicans, in a land of myth and amnesia lists the mythologies that drive the Republican political movement in the US.

Younge points out many conservatives believe the problems of America are caused by foreigners or foreign influences. "For a core group of Republicans "foreign" has become an epithet – a slur willfully blurring the distinction between non-American, un-American, liberal, non-Christian and non-white."

Onlookers, including Gary Younge, understand this is part of an election strategy to beat the Democrats by targeting Obama's right to be president.

"This is of course a proxy for race made popular by the birthers, who, despite all the evidence, insist Obama was born in Kenya. In a world where direct racial attacks are out of bounds, "foreign" becomes a useful metaphor. This man, it says, is essentially not like us or even from us.
Branding him Muslim, as though this…


Imagine  all the people living

This senryuis an homage to the song "Imagine"written by John Lennon. It was released, according to Wikipedia, in 1971 as a single, and then again in 1975 with the album "Shaved Fish".

I think this song is one of the most popular anthems to peace and Lennon's words resonate as much today as they did then.  

How is your sic-o-meter?

Is your skin uploading too much information these days? Do you see strange reports on Facebook and Twitter?  Phrases quoted, beliefs expressed, coming from the mouths of those who should know better? Are you wondering what happened to our leaders and our stateswomen?  Do you ask why there is no good news anywhere?

Well you have joined the world as you perceive it.  Your body is now a nervous substrate of all the information you read, see and hear.  Your sic-o-meter is working.

If you feel there is nothing you can do to respond effectively to all this noise, you are not alone.  What I think might be happening to your mind-body receptor (and mine) is the convergence of all those tweets, headlines and status updates. They are pureed into a felt-sense of the world which may feel like you are well-informed.

This puree, already containing your tribal associations, your habits and prejudices, will blend with external information. Rationally you may think that a mud slide in the Kootenays do…

Water for Elephants - intentional spoiler alert

Last night I watched the movie Water for Elephants directed by Francis Lawrence, starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz.  The quality of the production was very good.  The acting, scenery, camera work, was all excellent.  But all this was lost under the endless frames of violence.

The bulk of the storyline, which was potentially a very good storyline, was filled with scenes of brutality, oppression and denigration of human and animal life. Frame after frame showed us just how depraved and brutal, the circus owner was.  After half an hour you get it.  The owner, August, clearly a psychopath, created his world based on the premise that you must beat down the life force in all living creatures - even those you profess to love, until all that remains is unquestioning obedience through fear.

The mainline story is about the love between a runaway hired hand, a vet student who was called away from his exams when his parents were killed in a car accident, and the ci…

The Power of Insight

The fifth of the five spiritual powers is the power of insight. Thich Nhat Hanh maintains that the power of insight "is a sword that cuts painlessly through all kinds of suffering, including fear, despair, anger, and discrimination." He goes on to say that an insight is more than a notion and Hanh's key teaching is the insight of impermanence.

I look for stability through democracy and social justice perhaps because it offers some comfort that others might do unto me as I would do to them.

Because of my attachment to social justice I act according to what I believe is just and fair. I raise my family on ideas of justice and kindness and empathy.   Self-interest to me is contributing to a world guided by laws based on a reverence for life.

But at the moment what I hear and see in the news, in social media, on the internet, on the radio, goes against all the notions of justice, kindness and empathy. I feel outraged not just because I fear something bad will happen to me o…

The Power of Concentration

"Mindfulness brings out the fourth power ... of concentration" says Hanh.  The power of concentration can lead to a breakthrough, to see deeply into the object of your focus. If we are suffering some ill-health, say a back ache, we can concentrate on that pain and perhaps link it to an emotional event that we have brushed aside.  Someone told me once that back ache is a sign of needing support, a lack of support. When I think of those who have suffered back pain I wonder if their active independent personality keeps them from seeking the support they need.

I often get headaches that rob me of my energy.  Would these aches be telling me that my head is resisting the work I plan to do, to concentrate on?  Or are they telling me I should concentrate on the thoughts I am having in regards to the way I  respond to the outer world? Are they telling me to stop living in my head and have some faith in action?

If someone gets angry with me my first response is to move out of ear rang…

The Power of Mindfulness

This is the third of the Five Spiritual PowersHanh says "Mindfulness is the energy of being aware of what is happening in the present moment. When we have the energy of mindfulness in us, we are fully present, we are fully alive, and we live deeply every moment of our daily life."

The challenge for me is that I think a lot about what is happening globally in terms of peace and social justice.  I think about the reservist, Trevor Greene, who was severely injured during his term  fighting in Afghanistan and how the government has cut back on services to soldiers who return needing health care.

This is not considered mindfulness or is it?  Reaching out in empathy (and outrage) to someone who puts himself on the front line for his country but who believes he doesn't get the medical care he needs.

The trick is that no matter what discipline I practice there are so many things I have no control over. So is awareness going to make me more powerful in this regard?

Moving fur…

The Power of Diligence

Hanh says we are capable of going back to our best selves but we must maintain this practice of diligence.

He says there are two kinds of consciousness - the open consciousness (the living room) and store consciousness (the basement).  But the store consciousness is described also as the land where seeds lay underground that we don't pay much attention to until something happens to remind us of those seeds.

In most people's lives, there have been times when we have felt threatened, angry, victimized and in despair - not knowing where to turn next. These feelings are seeds, hidden underground, when we are happy and life is good, but when fears arise we feel those seeds lying there, and must decide whether to water them or let them dry up.

There are four aspects of diligence: first - when negative emotions haven't manifested in your mind, you don't give them a chance to manifest; second - is calming and replacing negative seeds (anger, hate, fear, despair) in your consc…

The Power of Faith

Thich Nhat Hanh translates the word faith into confidence and trust "because it is something inside you and not directed toward something external".

So I shift into a place of confidence that I am a being of integrity and that I have a right to be here.

Working through the night and the following day with this particular power enabled me to give up anxiety, to second guess and question everything I do and say.  What is that about? And - what was that?

After spending so many years looking to the external world for assessment of what is good and what is troubling, I can see how moving to a place of faith in my ability to create some goodness in a changing and unpredictable world, I can bring my focus back to my own energy.

For a start I told myself that I had faith that I could sleep through the night so that I could get up early the next morning to do what I had promised to do. It worked and I felt less like a creature oppressed by the whims of fate.

During the waking hours…

The Five Spiritual Powers

In Thich Nhat Hanh's book The Art of Power he lays out five spiritual powers he teaches to  ground us in the power from within that many would not associate with power.

They are:
The Power of FaithThe Power of DiligenceThe Power of MindfulnessThe Power of ConcentrationThe Power of Insight Over the next few days I plan to write about these individually in the hope that I will learn how to access my own spiritual powers.

Not wanting to simply plagiarize Hanh's work, I feel it necessary to focus on my responses to what he teaches.

If I can’t rule the world I shall destroy it.

Who said that? Was it Hitler or Richard III? Is it the bad guy in any (pick one) action movie? Or the familiar fantasy of every child who can’t get her own way but which is soon forgotten when met with a suitable diversion?

The trouble is there are adults in positions of power, who I suspect operate as though control is a kind of revenge.

When our government eschews the professional knowledge of corrections workers and creates more tension within prisons by cutting programs and demanding prisoners pay more room and board; when they plan to shut down 10 of the 22 Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres, which provide rescue and emergency services for boats; when they silence thousands of federal science workers for Environment Canada, because their research contradict Federal Government plans for economic growth particularly with shipping bitumen from the oil sands; when Jim Stanford creates a graph that shows "that in the last decade, Canadian petroleum exports grew…

Community or Asylum

In Chris Hedges article "Welcome to the asylum" he spells out the ways in which civilizations dissolve into madness.

"The quest by a bankrupt elite in the final days of empire to accumulate greater and greater wealth, as Karl Marx observed, is modern society’s version of primitive fetishism. This quest, as there is less and less to exploit, leads to mounting repression, increased human suffering, a collapse of infrastructure and, finally, collective death. It is the self-deluded, those on Wall Street or among the political elite, those who entertain and inform us, those who lack the capacity to question the lusts that will ensure our self-annihilation, who are held up as exemplars of intelligence, success and progress. The World Health Organization calculates that one in four people in the United States suffers from chronic anxiety, a mood disorder or depression—which seems to me to be a normal reaction to our march toward collective suicide."

The Western…

Re-aligning the Future

What can we do in our one short life to create a sustainable, just, future?

First we need a 'level gaze' at the global situation as it is today - the wars, the marginalization of people, the economy, the gap between haves and have-nots, the environment, and all the other problems threatening this planet.

And then we need to look at how things work. How do movements begin and how do they affect change? Do they have to be funded by corporations and governments? Is it possible for grass roots values to emerge and challenge the status quo, staying true to the original cause?

Given the endless examples of corrupt power that began with good intentions, it would be easy to turn away from the world and entertain ourselves to death. Anyone who dares to utter ideals is likely to be laughed at or viewed with suspicion. That is the problem - we have lost faith in humanity's  ability to solve the big problem.

Imagine an alien nation visiting this planet after everything has been dest…