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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 28 December 2013

Stephen Maher, Vacuous Celebrities and a Hobbit's Tale

It's not hard to look at the headlines and headline-makers today and despair.  

There are so many narcissistic, vacuous celebrities out there who gain and maintain fame more through notoriety than through talent.  Making history has apparently become about shock value, not something resembling actual contributions of value.

Meanwhile, there is war, destruction and soul-sucking poverty; all avoidable, if people were willing to work together and plan ahead.

There are the preludes to war, leaders ragging the puck and offloading responsibility in ways that inevitably spark fires of social disruption.  We know what to expect, because we've seen it all again and again; it's Groundhog Day, only the loop runs just long enough for new generations to forget or ignore the lessons learned by their ancestors.

If you fear for the future of humanity, you've got just cause to do so.  

By all appearances, we're a petty, vengeful self-absorbed lot more prone to negative reaction that pro-social altruism.  How can we but end up in darkness?

And yet, there's nothing new to this picture - as Warren Kinsella points out, we've been enjoying bloodsports, ignoring the well-being of our neighbours and feeling better about ourselves through putting down others since before the written word.

Thug leaders with neither vision nor foresight like Rob Ford aren't uncommon - in fact, history is full of them.  I've said to many that Ford is like a toned-down version of Saddam Hussein and that, if not for the laws, expectations and culture of Canada, things in Toronto would be a lot worse.  

This can be taken as an insult against Ford, who is but a genetic and experiential product; it can also be taken as a compliment for the rest of us.

There are self-obsessed celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Rob Ford, but there are also good ones, people like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie who are equally famous, opt not to take themselves seriously and feel a responsibility to use their fame to further the goal of an equitable society.

More importantly, though, there are those people whose names the world will never know, but that you perhaps might; your neighbour, a teacher who cared, a boss who treated you as an apprentice rather than a resource.  There are also the innovators, the pioneers, the people who have changed the world as much as Johannes Guttenberg but without having their names recorded.  

History is replete with people like this.  In fact, history is a bit like an archaeological record; we will celebrate the names and events that are passed on through tradition, but much of what has shaped the world we live in was never written down; it simply was.

It's easy to look behind and feel frightened for what's to come, but what we see is not the entirety of what is.  The greatest people, the ones who bring promise of brighter days are not on the periphery, nor are they waiting just beyond the horizon.  

They're here, right now, doing what they do best which is not selling brands or making headlines, but doing the little deeds, developing small ideas that will lead to an avalanche of social change for which someone else will gain credit.

Don't feel bad for them, nor bitter - fewer people claim fame than we might think when we focus on those who do.  That, too, is how it has always been.  Our journey may seem like a slow decent into darkness; it isn't.  

We sometimes just need visionaries to remind us of this.

Monday 23 December 2013

That Which Doesn't Kill Us...

... brings us together. 

In the meantime, Toronto Hydro has asked those who have electricity service to "share the power" and consider inviting neighbours inside.

The Storm is bad, compared to what we're used to.  It's clearly no typhoon, though.

Throughout the hit zone, people are taking pictures, sharing news, sharing tips on how to stay safe or keep warm and are sharing their resources.

The worst is over, though some branches will still come down and there are still many without power  Of course, there are those who go without heat and shelter every day.

Be thankful for what you have, look to your neighbour and plan for the worst.