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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.

Saturday 19 May 2012

How Police Are Responding to a Riot Culture Through Centralized Coordination

Yup.  So, how do you manage a challenged economy, behaviour issues both from the bottom (rioters) and the top (Chris Mazza, for example) while tackling the mental health crisis and positioning Canada for success in the Knowledge Economy?

But we already know the answer to that...

In other words, they're looking for centralized coordination, data sharing, specialized collaboration.  They want to work together and create a national system.  Which is what's being called for in tackling mental health, too.  Yet our politicians seem to want to head in the opposite direction.  Which is why the new social entrepreneurs are leading the way.

Funny how that works, isn't it?

Dutch Disease, Canadian Cure: Mental Health and the Knowledge Economy

Andrew Coyne, National Post

Stephen Toope, National Post

Diagnosing the Illness

Canada’s manufacturing sector has taken a beating over the past several years.  The former mill town where I was born and raised (Cornwall, Ontario) is one of many communities across the nation that saw the majority of its jobs, tax base and community life blood pick up and move to greener pastures.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair blames this manufactured migration on Dutch Disease – the focus of the Canadian government on supporting our natural resource exports (ie. Alberta Oil) over other sectors of the economy.  To me, that’s like placing the blame for not having a job solely on the back of an unemployed person.  It’s a simplified interpretation of a far more complex picture.

Canada’s manufacturing loss has been to emerging economies, places like India, China and Brazil.  In these countries, employers have less obligations to their employees around payment, vacation, health and safety.  A rise in Canada’s dollar might be a stick discouraging manufacturers from continuing here, but lower responsibility costs elsewhere is just as much a carrot. 

What Canadians – and these manufacturers themselves – seem to forget is that these responsibility costs in Canada have resulted in a healthier, better educated populace with better access to services, opportunities and each other.  By empowering individuals and creating a more level playing field, Canada has increased the quality-of-life of its citizens.  It isn’t by chance that so many leaders and innovators, people ranging from Don Tapscott to Mike Lazaridis and Jim Basillie are Canadian (not always by birth, but definitely by experience).

Meanwhile, in other countries, the rights that Canadians fought for generations ago are in increasing demand in these surging economies.  Governments are being pressured to support their citizens, a responsibility that will inevitably fall back on the shoulders of industry.  Far from escaping responsibility costs in the Western World, these tumbleweed businesses have actually served to foster labour movements elsewhere.  It’s elegant, really, when you think about it.

Finding the Cure

Despite the positioning of Canada’s Finance Minister, Canadians are past the point of being willing to move to wherever to find work and take any job to make a buck.  Amiable lot though we are, we won’t stand for a return to the labour migrations of the Dirty 30s.  To Canadians, home and dignity will forever have a higher value than our dollar. 

That’s fine, because there is a growing industry out there that is less reliant on location for success.  In the Knowledge Economy, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, only that you have access to the tools and training that foster innovation.  Empowered Canadians – people, again, like the author of Wikinomics and Growing Up Digital or the founders of RIM – are at the forefront of new technologies, new processes and new approaches to success.

Yet, Canada is also undergoing a labour rights movement.  Like many other Western countries, there is a growing focus on mental illness and the social and economic losses incurred by a poor understanding of how mental health works and how mental fitness is accommodated.  This unheralded business crisis has spawned strategies and studies in jurisdictions around the world.  Responses include plans like Canada’s first, national mental health strategy.

At the same time, we are experiencing the rise of the social entrepreneurConscious Capitalists who see profit as a stepping stone towards meaning and legacy, rather than an end in and of itself.  These entrepreneurs, conscious of the impact of their actions on future generations (as they themselves are the first generation of Canadians being told to expect a lower quality-of-life than their parents) are largely focused on reducing our national carbon footprint, not through expensive schemes but as a matter of efficiency.

Mental health and innovation – these two things are inextricably linked.  As the Occupy movement helps spurn mental health protests and as governments and industry increasingly turn to young entrepreneurs to craft tomorrow’s action plans, these two things will merge.


Canada is on the right track and has an opportunity to be a world leader in connecting cognitive ability and creativity, consciously.  While it is highly unlikely our manufacturing sector will ever recover, it is increasingly apparent we don’t need it to.  Natural resources aren’t a long-term sustainable enterprise, nor are current practices in Canada as environmentally sound as they could be.

Natural resource dollars stimulating the Knowledge Economy and empowering social entrepreneurs, however, is a win-win.  These Conscious Capitalists, with greater access to venture capital and partnerships with natural resource extractors, can find new ways to reduce the footprint of resource extraction on the one hand and explore new opportunities in the creative industry.

To fully harness the capabilities of creativity, we need to understand how it works and how to foster it.  That means, understanding the impact of work, home and social environments on cognitive development as well as a less stigmatic view on the underlying genetics.  Occupational Mental Health and Safety, Mental Fitness and a focus on Conscious Capitalism – it’s the same confluence of history we saw during the industrial revolution, only we’ve moved from physical well-being to cognitive well-being.

Welcome to the 21st Century; welcome to the Conscious Society.

Freedom, Internal

Friday 18 May 2012

Puzzling Out Society's Problems

To me, all these are all pieces in an emerging puzzle picture; by putting selfish or partisan interests ahead of the Public Good, the so-called Machiavellian strategists are blindly leading us – and themselves – into one rake after another.

This is because they aren’t thinking broadly enough, nor far enough ahead.  Traditionally, there hasn’t been enough real-time accountability for them to put that much effort into long-term, public interest strategy.  Thought, of course, emerges from the mind -  but mental health isn't something we've wanted to talk about, either.

Demographic reality, political and economic reality, social challenges and social media are all forcing us to be more conscious about our actions. 

Go fast, go alone.  Go far, move together. 

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Jim Brownell: What a Politician Should Be

I still remember the way in which Jim invited me to work in his office way back in 2005 - he called me up and asked "want to help me make a difference for the folks back home?"

This wasn't just a line.  Jim made things happen that I would never have thought possible.  He advocated for his community and delivered on an impossibly grand scale; three hospital developments and other additions to local healthcare, school developments, all kinds of infrastructure projects, supports for local businesses, local academic institutions, environmental protections, support for farmers, support for initatives in Akwesasne, etc.  You simply can't tick off a ten best-accomplishments list for Jim, because that's too limiting.

Jim didn't just deliver for his community - in support of his riding, Jim delivered for the whole of Eastern Ontario (pushing for and realizing the Eastern Ontario Development Fund) and for the whole province.  My personal favourite was the forgiveness of Cornwall's Downtown Revitalization loan.  When he pushed for this with the Ministry of Finance, he was told they couldn't do it for just Cornwall, because there were a number of other Ontario communities in the same position.  "So," Jim replied, "let's do it for all of them."  Not only did he make that happen - he convinced the Premier to come down and make the announcement in person.

Some pundits and opposition Members criticized Jim for some of his other pursuits; a Heritage Day (which eventually morphed into Family Day) or the commemoration of the gravesites of former Premiers of Ontario.  These critics missed Jim's subtle genius - by serving as a conduit for the public expression of Ontario's proud, rich history, Jim continuously brought the focus back to his riding and its pivotal role in that story.  In the same vein, Jim's constant invitation of Ministers to the riding and of constituents to Queen's Park literally changed the way people looked at Eastern Ontario.  Few folk in the Legislature could have recalled the riding name of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry before Jim - by the time he left, everyone could ryhme it off without hesitation.  Then, there were things he did just because they were the right things to do and someone needed to do them.

His community respects him; his colleagues admire him; staff love him.  There are more people out there who look at Jim as a second father (or grandfather, for some of the young'uns) than are currently working at QP on whole.  How many politicians get their own night named after them?

Jim Brownell's legacy will last for a long time to come - a tribute to the leadership, fellowship and the strength of character he embodies as a politician and as person committed to making a difference.

Of course, legacy is a thing to think about when you're done - Jim's still at it.  We're all better off for his dedication.

Family Impact

Stephanie Zubcic PhD@BeingUncosmo
That's what I'm learning! RT : Never let an experience pass, though, without learning something from it!

That's taken from my Twitter feed.  Stephanie and I (who don't know each other personally, but that's the way social media rolls) had just started following each other.  I saw a tweet from her about "this too shall pass" and answered, starting the thread.

Stephanie's answer got me thinking about my own experiences with cancer; I lost an aunt to lung cancer and my father-in-law to non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  Both were terrible experiences for the individual to go through but they were hell on the family, too.  I still remember my grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, watching his daughter waste away - hard enough as it was, but her physical condition kept giving him flashbacks to Buchenwald.  How he found the strength to keep going and holding her hand, I'll never know.

My father-in-law wasted away over years; there were moments of crisis, uncertainty, but the end was never in doubt.  The ten years of tribulations my wife's family went through took a tremendous toll on all of them, impacting their lives in ways they aren't always conscious of.  When I go through any trial - for instance, my recent run-in with an ignorant driver - my wife goes into "it's all unravelling" mode.  There's no feeling worse than knowing you are causing distress for someone else.

So, I sympathize with Stephanie.  I sympathize with the family of Tori Stafford, with Lisa Raitt, and with all the families of everyone going through challenges personal, professional or physical.  The families are victims just as much as the person directly impacted.  It's not enough for us to tell these people to "tough it through" or "stay strong" or at worst, "suck it up;" there's a big difference between surviving an experience and learning to live again after.

Experiences of hardship will shape you, one way or the other, but it's the love and support of others that will help you move forward.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Could China be Harper's Achilles' Heel?

Socialist and Separatists? They'll destroy our country.  Environmental advocates?  They're fundamentally un-Canadian, backed by foreign capital.

But Huawei and China?  They're just good partners.

Canadians are an open people, but they value their security.  Harper should know - he's spent his entire time as Prime Minister fanning the flames of fear.  He needed more control, the argument went, to defend Canada from radicals like Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

Now, his own security apparatus - the people he has listened to unquestioningly (F35s, cough cough) as they supported the Harper Agenda are telling him that same political agenda is going to hurt Canada.  Not only that - the US is now wondering whether they need to worry about Canada becoming a security threat, a pawn in China's broader game.

So, having consolidated power, Harper is becoming the embodiment of every threat he has warned Canadians about, time and again.

What do you think - is Huawei a Trojan Dragon?  Will China prove to be Harper's Achilles' heel?

The Folly of Entitlement: Ludwig Topf and Byron Sonne

      - Byron Sonne, a man who went out of his way to get arrested, allegedly to prove some kind of point, but really just for shits and giggles.

     - Ludwig Topf built crematoria for Nazi Concentration Camps

He was a legitimate businessman doing business with the government, so of course he did no wrong - except facilitate the murder of millions.

Recently I was hit, as a pedestrian, by a rich kid who fits this same profile - they see themselves as well-heeled and therefore, not accountable. It's a story that plays out time and again across the city and across society.

People like this, people at both ends of the economic spectrum that robe themselves in entitlement, are at the root of our social challenges.  Until we are all conscious that no person is an island, we're going to keep reading stories like this.

Kurt Prüfer's arrest on May 30, 1945 led Ludwig Topf to fear arrest himself. That same evening, he decided to commit suicide. In a farewell letter he cast himself in the role of a person guilty of nothing and wrongly persecuted. He disinherited his brother Ernst-Wolfgang and his sister Hanna who, he felt, had abandoned him. On the morning of May 31, 1945, at the age of 41, Ludwig Topf committed suicide by taking poison.

Farewell letter by Ludwig Topf, May 30, 1945 (excerpt, underlining in original)

"If I have made the decision to evade arrest it is for the following reason: I have lost all belief in any law in this world now that my family has also done me so much wrong and harm. If I am arrested, the greatest of all wrongs will be done to me. I never consciously or intentionally did anything bad; instead it has been done to me.
I was never cowardly – but I was proud. Handing myself over to the mercy or mercilessness of a foreign country is something I cannot do, because I have learnt the bitter lesson that there is no law and no decency left in this world. That is why I, as a decent person, today have one remaining opportunity to determine my fate as I see fit. And that means immediate departure from a world that in general has become unbearable, and in particular has persecuted and wronged me.
If I ever believed that my innocence as far as the crematoria are concerned (and my brother is just as innocent) would be recognized and honoured, I would continue to fight for justification, as I always have until now – but I think people need a sacrifice. In which case the least I can do is provide it myself. I was always decent – the opposite of a Nazi – the whole world knows that. If I were still able to feel at peace in the heart of a family, the struggle would be worthwhile – but the Topf family that showed composure, integrity and self-confidence has ceased to exist. I was its sole representative as far as that was concerned. Indeed I am so alone that I have no need to ask anyone's forgiveness, not even for a suicide." 

GSAs, Catholic Schools and Education Reform

Having the advantage of being on the political periphery, I have no qualms going near this.

I think there is a real opportunity here to make a more cohesive, efficient system that provides our kids with more opportunities (in a cost-effective manner) and makes it easier for harder-working parents to know their kids are safe and exposed to valuable learning lessons in after-school settings.  We could potentially even reduce gridlock by putting after-school programs in schools.

That's my idea.  If you've thought of something different, I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Jim Flaherty, Work, Social Value and Mental Health

This is an interesting insight into Jim Flaherty’s thinking.  It fits with his pattern of snipping at opposition, snipping at the provinces, snipping at anyone that disagrees with him, frankly.  I’ve see this time and again – people who have struggled don’t think others should have support.  Is this because the person being asked truly feels that it’s better to suffer through hardship, or is it that they don’t want others to have advantages they themselves missed out on?

Each generation should strive to make life better for the one that follows.  This generation is the first in Canadian history that won’t see that trend continued.

I think the underlying problem of the Flaherty approach – and the generational gap we’re facing – is that when you put your own interest first, everything gets weighed against the value for the person.  That’s limited thinking.  We have so many shortages of specialization in Canada – why on earth would we want to force people to cling to the bottom rung?  Given Flaherty's commitment to supporting people with mental illness and combatting the stigma around mental health, this must be a difficult issue for him; his approach to work runs directly contrary to current understandings about the impact of work on mental health.

The solution isn’t sink-or-swim, nor is it keeping everyone afloat – it’s about teaching people to fish.

If Jim Flaherty disagrees, he should ask himself this – is Canada better off having him as a politician or a taxi driver?

Monday 14 May 2012

What Is Success?

CMHO's Change the View Anti-Stigma Video Awards

Ask kids to visualize what mental illness is and how it's stigmatized, you get some pretty amazing results. 

Check out these videos from Children's Mental Health Ontario's ChangeTheView winners.

Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, Take a Stand Against Neo-Nazism

Do I have your attention yet?  Good. 

I have zero interest in saying "I told you so."  I would much rather we avoid repeating mistakes.

We live in an integrated society and will be held accountabile by both our actions and inactions.

Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper - the ball's in your court.

Show the world that Canada stands against hatred and will always, always stand on guard for those in need.

The Conscious Revolution: Peering Into the Looking Glass

Globally, the economy is in a precarious place.  The traditional models of wealth generation and circulation are proving unsustainable at all levels.  People on both ends of the increasingly polarized social spectrum need to take a hard look at what they value, what they feel they deserve and what their commitment to society should be on the macro and mirco levels.

There’s a mental health crisis that’s been recognized internationally, too – suicides, anxiety and depression, increased awareness of and empathy for those suffering from conditions ranging from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to ADHD and post-partum depression.

Social media is connecting the world in hyper-kinetic ways.  As of right now, we really do have a networked intelligence – the question is, how consciously and effectively can we harness it?  How well are we leveraging our global information transfer network?

Everyone is talking about the challenges and need for significant change in our economic, political and social institutions.  The classes that have led the Capitalist system through boom and bust are trapped in models of yore, uncertain what to do next.

They are turning to social entrepreneurs (the creative types who see money as a base-line for sustainable living and are more interested in creating social meaning with their work) for solutions.

The models that are successfully empowering and promoting social entrepreneurs (Google, CSI) take an active approach to workplace wellness and cognitive workplace design – there’s a whole emerging field just starting to crackle that will combine psychology, kinesiology and interior design in developing the cognitive workplace, spaces designed to enhance creativity and productivity.  

Globally, the increasingly focused (and centrally coordinated) efforts to address mental illness are going to collide with the economic and social challenges in ways that might be surprising.  Poor work design and an education system that focuses on mass-produced rote-learning actually foster anxiety and depression, while not developing the practical skills needed for success in tomorrow’s economy.  At the same time, we are still feeling our way through alternative cognitive ability diagnoses and accommodations, with a long way to go before we get it right.  We can’t afford to be losing productivity and having so many people reliant on the healthcare system.

What we need to start doing is tap into these potentials effectively; we can no longer afford to have the future Steve Jobs’, Albert Einsteins and Winston Churchills succeed by luck of timing or geography – we need everyone to reach and harness their full cognitive potential.

Society is being forced to change the way we view work and education to support the latent talents that will fuel the Knowledge Economy.  The natural source of inspiration and ideation for this cognitive revolution will be the social entrepreneurs – people who on the whole are concerned about the environment and looking at sustainable practices that also create business opportunities:

-          Increased integration through social media

-      A shift towards shared, networked-learning that encourages students (and employees) to be active participants in planning and executing their education

-          Increased critical thinking in politics, vs model-based partisan loyalties

-          A growing reliance on social entrepreneurs and horizontally integrated idea-sharing as a vehicle for growth and policy directions

-          Mental health care begins to become more proactive, with appropriate accommodative measures built into work, education, etc.

-          The Cognitive Revolution, like the Industrial Revolution before it, will reshape our society around a more conscious Capitalism.

Welcome to the 21st Century; welcome to the Conscious Society.