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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 1 December 2017

Sometimes, I do these things just because I can

You're welcome.   =o)

Friday 24 March 2017

Wrestling with Divinity

"It lightened my heart to see a Jewish old man mentioning in his story Palestine not Israel. Whereas, many Arab people themselves stopped recognising Palestine. That meant a lot to me."

Said by a Palestinian friend last night at the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald screening.

The man in question was a 94 year-old Austrian Jew who survived the Holocaust. He himself spoke of being in an incredibly gentle camp, nothing like Buchenwald, but the fact that he is Jewish and was in Europe during the Nazi regime by default makes him a survivor.

The goal of the Nazis was genocide, after all.

I'm fairly sure that the man's referral to Palestine is because that's what it was called at the time (we wouldn't call France Gaul today) but there was unquestionably a bit of recognition in his voice that there is contention about the founding of the modern state of Israel.

Today, in a separate conversation, an Arab-Canadian friend of mine commented on that, and quoted Nelson Mandela:

She said that she truly believed that the significance of that plot of land and the conflict for who it belongs to is the thorniest political, religious, social and example entrenched human stubbornness there is. When we have the maturity, humility and recognition of our species not as tribes, but a whole that is more than the sum of its parts required to solve the Middle Eastern question, we will by default be able to solve any such conflict, anywhere.

This thesis fascinated me, as did the impact the Jewish man's simple referral to the land as Palestine had on the Palestinian, and both got me wondering.

Pretty much all the conflict between people comes from misunderstanding; some of it is intentional, but a lot of it is a tragic result of inability to know each other, to reach past what we put out to see them as they see themselves - to love thy neighbour as though they were just like you. The conflict and lack of trust grows not from a threat, but the perception of threat, which really comes down to feelings of vulnerability and of strength/confidence.

We don't see each other as individuals, as we see ourselves; we see a gender, or wealth, or ethnicity, or religion. It's not an instinctive thing to recognise individuals as individuals, and our selves as part of one greater whole. It's not our cognitive starting place.

What's behind the name Israel?

It's very easy for me to talk about homelands and nationalities and territory; I'm a white dude from Eastern Ontario, and I have always had a home to return to. Even here, though, I know how society all-too-often treats those without home, or those in the minority. Through much of history, Jews have been an ethnic and religious minority separated from a home - something I believe accounts for much of their suffering.

Everyone needs a home. It's true suffering can lead to strength, no one should have to suffer, not live with the certainty that their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will suffer the same, or possibly worse. Having a home matters, socially; after all, we don't think of the homeless as neighbours, do we?

No one should have their home taken from them. Spiders and flies, or better yet:

The screening took place at the Centre for Social Innovation, a place that is designed to be welcoming to those who put the well-being of people (love thy neighbour) and planet (not ownership of a plot, but responsible stewardship, like a gardener). In the room were Canadians from across the world, of different religions and degrees of practice, different socio-economic classes, etc.

We touched on that thorniest of human, tribal, historical, imposed, religious, everything conflicts with people directly representing both sides of the equation present, and we found common ground.
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I love CSI - it's a space where I've done a lot of community-building. From that space, I've collaborated in projects that have broken down walls, built bridges, created opportunity, set the table for the possible. We have, truly, created a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

As I tell everyone, the secret ingredient behind CSI is easy - there isn't one. The space isn't magic; it's designed with intentionality, but it's really just a space where people can come together, break bread, share ideas, grow community, and be part of the change.

Don't get me wrong - there is conflict in CSI; after all, we're only human. The trick is that when conflict arises, the culture of the space isn't to look to the other person as the problem, but to look inwards and start by understanding why there is the feeling of a problem. Nine times out of ten, what emerges is a better understanding of the other person, of the situation, and ourselves.

What we wrestle with isn't the Other, or any external force; it's our own insecurities, and arrogance, and ignorance.

When we reach deeper, we find the core of what makes us who and what we are - which is the same thing that makes everyone who and what they are. The basics - the DNA, the hard-wiring, it's all the same; it comes from the same place.

Dig deep enough, you find the place where we all connect.

What happened between that Palestinian and that Jew, at the prodding of a Syrian-Canadian at an event hosted by the grandson of Canada's Forest Gump was a little piece of understanding that transcended tribe, religion, even ownership and geography. It took the Israel/Palestine question and turned it on its head - instead of whose land or whose right, it was a moment of "we have both suffered, and let's respect that."

From moments like that comes empathy; from empathy comes understanding; with understanding comes growth.

That is perhaps what we're grappling with; touching the divine isn't about territory or superiority, but about recognising that the geography that truly matters is that between us - the whole that's more than the sum of its parts.

When you see the Other as your neighbour, you don't fear them living next to you. When we view the land as a space we steward, we can do better, and do it together.

You can dismiss this all as airy-fairy nonsense, naivete in the face of dark-hearted realities.

That's your right. I can understand your fear. But I don't share it.

My wrestling days are, hopefully, done. Lightening hearts that we may rise together - that sounds like a lot more fun to me.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Know Your Enemy

WAR ROOM PRO TIP: Don't call Trump "president." Call him Trump, Mr., etc. But don't ever bestow legitimacy on opponent.  

Here's the problem with this.

In a democracy, other parties aren't your enemy.  They are representatives of differing perspectives. There will be points sides agree or disagree on, as has always been the case in Canada - in fact, the three main parties tend to agree on way more issues than they disagree.

Winning is about beating an opponent, though, and politics is about power - not policy, but the ability to be the one who implements it, to the exclusion of others.  

So, the war room.

Politics in this country has always been pugilistic, but in my experience it's only gotten militaristic in the past 20 years or so.  In that time, steadily growing teams of opposition research and such has been employed and deployed to disrupt other parties.  Messaging has gone way over the top, presenting foes not as dumb or "not up to the job" but as existential threats.

This kind of "don't legitimise your opponents, even if they've been legitimised by the electorate" stuff is all part of that.

It's putting down the opponent, creating and trying to push your own version of reality.  That pisses people off.  It's pissed people off so much, in fact, that more than a few people are willing to back guys who say fuck you to the "established players" and their increasingly removed-from-reality games.

Which reminds me of the scenario below.

Who do you want to delegitimze Trump to?  Anyone who likes him is going to feel even more justified in doing so, and in ignoring you, if you play these sorts of games.  Everyone else already agrees.

Don't focus on what you call the guy - focus on the people who don't trust you.

Because they aren't your enemy, but you've sure given them cause to view you as theirs.

Image result for locke and jaime lannister

Wednesday 15 February 2017

You Can't Be a Christian and a Traditionalist at the Same Time

At least, Traditionalism in the way Julius Evola meant it:

Brotherly contamination?  Purge oneself of feeling united with others?

That's not true to any religion - in fact, all the world's major religions, including Christianity and Islam, preach the opposite.

The Golden Rule is universal, not individual or national isolationism or superiority.

The story of religion - of faith, and of humanity - has moved in the opposite direction.

The notion of the superhuma n ancestor, of whatever ethnicity, is a myth.  Even the concept of a set, unevolving "race" is pure fabrication.

Diversity is strength.  That which adapts, survives; that which grows in symbiosis with other organisms grows stronger through the process, whether it's genes in a body, individuals in a society, or plants in a garden.  Ecosystems, the meta, are not bred from competition, but co-dependency, the whole that becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Trump, like so many others before him, have sought power by dividing and conquering, by building walls, demonizing specific ethnic, religious or other groups.  Bannon does the same thing, but less from a selfish desire for power than a tribal sense of power that is his tribe's by right.  Like he's being nudged on by a little voice on his shoulder.

Neither Trump, who could care less, nor Bannon, who has gone deep into the "alt-right" land of divide and conquer/tribal superiority and nativism have thought much about the "traditional" origins of such notions.  Nor whom they are attributed to.

If they did, they might find themselves puzzled by the nature of his game.

He's pleased to meet them, though - and hopes they guess his name.

Monday 6 February 2017

So how do these things connect?

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PMO’s new Canada-U.S. relations ‘war room’ unit seen as ‘smart,’ considered unprecedented

Ottawa’s anti-radicalization centre to look at all forms of hate including alt-right: Goodale

CSIS Highlights White Supremacist Threat Ahead Of Radical Islam

Canada has a natural constituency for Trump to tap into - not many, but enough Canadians buy into pieces of is narrative, anyway.  And ultra-right media are ready and willing to fan the flames.

Yes, there's the trade front, and other areas of trans-national engagement that will be impacted by this.  
We equally have to be consequences of what potential reactions will be here at home.

This doesn't mean standing up to Trump is worth the effort; doing the right thing always is.

Even more important, especially now, is not wavering from what we stand for.

Monday 28 November 2016

Hate isn't a Purifying Force - It's a Poison

Is it that bad?  Is that really what the alt-white fear?

Maybe it's just rhetoric, a line to draw attention.

“My strong suspicion is that it’s really not about the policy. It’s about controlling the conversation. What is everybody talking about?”

Just business; hit the button that gets the result you want, even if it means hurting someone else in the process.

It's like a boxing match, right?  When the bell tolls, the match is done, the competitors shake hands and go out for drinks.

Politics is a blood sport, they say.

Except it isn't.  It's not an arena, it's not entertainment - and winning isn't the end of the match.

That was the basic ideology behind Apartheid.  Apartheid, like any oppressive regime, isn't about sport, friendly competition, aggressive play.  It's about dominance, which is about suppression.

The political platform is part of the problem.  

It has fed the fears, stoked the angers, ignored some voices, picked fights.

Yes, there are latent issues, historical contexts, all the rest of it.  But we ended up where we are because we lacked leadership to see the path ahead and head in a different direction.