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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 25 January 2014

What Do We Call Futurists These Days?

Cognitive Labour, motivating increased productivity, the combo of political disengagement, entitlement and how to address our democratic deficit, mental health - I've been all over these emerging fields for years now.  

It's nice to see others staring to see the world for what is it - truths wrapped in biases that can be stripped away, with the right accommodations, discipline and mindfulness.

Maximizing individual potentials.  It's been that way for a while now.  Thank god the chasm is being breached, because we can't wait much longer.
After all, those waves of troubles lapping at our shores aren't letting up.

Sins and Stones

I'm a bit of a simpleton this way - I believe that people are like icebergs, with the vast majority of what makes us who we are residing beneath the surface, often in ways we can't perceive ourselves.  While some of what we see is similar and other parts different - culture, ethnicity, language, sexual preference, etc - even among what we do see, we all have more in common than we do different.

It's by defining ourselves as distinct from others (how many self-labels among ethnocultural groups simply translate as "the people?) that, to a large degree, we understand who we are and what those Others are not.  It's a particularly bad practice in politics.

At it's absolute worst, we give in completely to hatred of other groups and cease to consider anything more than the basest metaphors for those it's convenient for us to find distasteful.  My grandfather spend time at Buchenwald, as did Elie Wiesel - it's a story I've been exposed to in sum detail.

You cannot intellectualize arguments in favour of hate and hate-based policy; you can confabulate them, you can bundle them and you can defend them with vicious attacks, but to intellectualize means to distill emotional feeling from evidence-based fact.  Conscious thought and emotional bias are two different cognitive processes.

It's I die or you do, brother - what more facts do you need than that?

There is plenty of blame to go around - in Canadian politics, we have increasingly disparaged opponents with biting, character-diminishing words and defending right or wrong those in our corner.  All Parties do it - and continue to do it, in regularly-disseminated fund-requesting emails.  It was only a matter of time before one Party, it's young operatives weaned on such a cynical internal couture, started turning their gaze outwards.

We are all increasingly living in glass houses, folks; it's a reality we're slowly becoming conscious to.

Canadian Politics: Storm's Getting Worse

In a disconnected realm where fear narrows one's focus and self-interest locks it in, nobody cares about their neighbour.  They want jobs, they want security, they want to know what's in it for them.  

Generally, politics feeds on fear and self-interest.  Policy pitches are based around ensuring more money stays in your pocket, more bad or discomfiting people taken out of your way, your life get's easier.

But there's this thing that happens when the system doesn't work for all, when the infrastructure is selectively maintained - when the storm hits, everyone feels it.  Rich or poor, when the power goes out and the cold sets in, you want someone to be there.  Even if that means being there for someone else in return.

This is a theme I return to again and again; it's one of those simple bits of clarity that everyone is able to see, when they polish the glass.  I'm hardly the first person to point this out.

Things always get worse the more we look to self-interest.  They get better when we remember that communities are more than the sum of their parts.

Storm's getting worse.

We'll pass through it soon enough.

Friday 24 January 2014

Forbes on Right To Work

What's with the sociology committing at Forbes?  Look, these employees have to quit expecting to be hand-held by bosses or unions through the work process.  They work, they get paid.  They work harder, they get paid more.  If they think their deal's not adequate it's up to them to make that case to their boss.

Employers, after all, own the means of production, like a field or a factory.  The workers are given access to the employer's resources and brand - it's up to them to produce to standard and if they bring in a bit more, well then they may get to keep some of that.

To expect an employer to wade into the emotional well-being and job-satisfaction of their employees - why, that's as unnatural and flighty as this play-based learning or innovation stuff.

Better to ignore special interest parties like Forbes and go with common sense policy, like Right To Work that has a long lineage of success.  


Community - What CosPlay and Politics Have In Common

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.

   - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Political people love cosplay.  They just don't know it - or at least, may not admit to knowing it.  

But part of them does.

Politics is a multi-faceted jewel with more than its share of inclusions.  There is fowl play, high drama, lost friendships and enduring grudges.  Somewhere in there are legitimate differences of policy preference, too.

But for anyone who has been to a political event - an Annual General Meeting, perhaps, or a leadership conference - they are familiar with that something extra, that something special that shines brighter than any blemish.

There is something special about being part of a process, of belonging to something that's a bit bigger than any one person.  It's certainly true of political teams, when a sense of common purpose exists; while there are some politicians and operatives who see Parties and events as tickets to their own success, the vast majority are there for what they contribute to.

But it goes beyond that.  

I've been at leadership events where strangers representing different candidates will sidle up to each other for a picture and a pitch, all with a smile.  The same holds true for events where folk from different Parties find themselves together, shirted up and ready for action.  

Beyond the walls of the convention hall and without the uniform, these folk would probably never even think of connecting, but something about the space that gets created when we put on our political super swag suits changes everything.

More than that - there's this mentality that forms where people are simply less judgmental all around. 

Not every political enthusiast has a head full of campaign lore, knows Minister by name and is fluent on the latest policy debates.  Shockingly, there are some who come out just because they love the feeling of being part of the political process.  

And you know what?  That's fine.  While there are always daisy-downers in a crowd, looking to pick fights and rain on other people's parades for morale reasons (to weaken someone else's or to raise their own), for the most part people at political events are accepting.  It doesn't matter your accent, your education, your anything - other than a commitment to be part of that community.  

You may have lots to give, you may have nothing; you may be young, old, New Canadian, 6th Gen or First Nations - none of that sets you apart, it simply adds to the texture of the community.

Like cosplay, it's that commitment to being yourself, being respectful of others and adding value to the greater whole that matters.  

When you make the effort, the community returns it.  
Is there a lesson in this for would-be leaders, looking to unite people behind... something?  

I think there is.

UPDATE 4/Feb/2014 - Avengers Toronto, assemble!

There's this funny thing that happens to me somewhat regularly - I'll write about something like, say, community created through costume, and then I'll find out that it actually exists.  I could tell you exactly why that happens, but where's the fun in that?

The Prostitute's Mission

Sex work is in the news these days.  It's a whole facet of our society that I don't understand and, as a curious person who likes to base opinions on facts and other people's feelings rather than my own biases, I like to understand things.

I learned about Sans Magazine today through a chant with a smart young entrepreneur who's written for them before.  This young lady, like me, is a social catalyst, trying to accomplish a variation on this prostitute's mission - provide otherwise disadvantaged people the ability to experience what others have without difficulty (civic engagement, a voice that gets heard, confidence to participate).

There's a growing community of virtuous schemers out there, trying to foster an open world where we are able to overcome biases and look around corners we normally wouldn't consider both to be cognizant and supportive of those who may not be able to communicate a need, but also for the opportunity for innovation and growth that may be lurking there.

At the same time, there's a growing entrenchment of the top-down, survival-of-the-toughest ABC culture that has always been an underbelly for our current social model.

These are the sorts of people who fuel the quotes on @GSElevator  - saying things like "I never give money to homeless people.  I can't reward failure in good conscience."

Sometimes these tough, hyper-confident guys use the services of prostitutes.  As a sidebar, I was surprised during my travels in South America just how common it was for male friends to lose their virginity to prostitutes, almost as if they felt the need for a safe practice zone before putting their abilities (and confidence) on trial with unpaid for women.

Which all got me thinking about another story from an escort, speaking directly to experience with those tough, unforgiving Wall Street types:

The folk at the top have a lot more in common with the folk at the bottom than they'd be ready to admit.

Sometimes you just need to be in the middle to see this.

It's the Culture, Stupid: Corporate Welfare and Horatio Alger

The Horatio Alger myth is closely associated with The American Dream - the belief that with honesty, hope and hard work, anyone can rise from the ashes of poverty to the heights of power.

This notion of the ability to succeed despite an inequitable playing field has been co-opted by Objectivists and Libertarians on the Political Right; in their take, the villains have been replaced by governments.  If it weren't for oppressive, stifling regulation and burdensome taxation, they say, businesses would flourish and enterprising individuals would get ahead.

The problem, they will tell us, is that regulation and taxation stifles the ambitions of corporations large and small; the welfare state coddles individuals, oppressing their natural ability to rise up and succeed.  Get rid of the system, let the free market do its thing, and everyone will magically start behaving in a successfully selfish, go-get-'em way.

Individuals should look to the wealthy bankers, lawyers and country squires for inspiration - after all, if they could succeed, anyone can.  It's just a matter of the have-nots getting over themselves and doing what it takes to get ahead.

After all; if Horatio Alger could do it, anyone can.

Last night I had the privilege to attend the relaunch of Make Web Not War.  MWNW is a passionate community of tech enthusiasts primarily, but increasingly boasting representation from the world of communication, policy and community activism.  The goal of MWNW is to catalyze an Open Society, where people freely share information and work collaboratively for a better world through - you knew it was coming - honesty, hope and hard work and an actual sense of community (raise all ships, go far together).

The sponsor for MWNW is Microsoft, a corporate giant.  They have put a great deal of money into their open community initiative and are proactively engaging in other open society projects such as Open Data Day Toronto.  

That bears repeating - they make money by doing what they do well and are investing back into the community, despite whatever taxation and regulation impediments may be in their way.

Microsoft isn't alone in this; organizations like Bell Canada have invested heavily in Let's Talk, a suicide/crisis hotline.  Corus Canada invests in education initiatives.  There are countless examples of successful businesses that aren't sitting on their capital, but investing it back into their communities.  

They aren't waiting for regulatory or taxation changes - they're succeeding and contributing on the strength of their own drive, offerings and vision.

Then, take a look at a company like RIM.  RIM had a huge burst of success that actually declined as Canada/Ontario's regulatory and taxation burdens declined.  What government did had nothing to do with RIM's failure; they simply stopped being as innovative and trend-setting as they had been.  The became complacent and sought to beat existing trends, not set new courses.

And what of the car manufacturing industry?  Is it government's fault they aren't succeeding?  The Political Right has derided the provision of "corporate welfare" propping up failing industries in much the same way as they deride welfare for individuals.  Meanwhile, the Political Left gets mad seeing government dollars end up lining the pocket of increasingly wealthy CEOs.

Why on earth would CEOs be pocketing money that could be better used to incent productivity and innovation from their teams?  Is that, too, the fault of government?  If so, then how do you explain Make Web Not War or Bell Let's Talk or the private support for Open Data Day Toronto?

I've said it before and will keep repeating the same message (that's what they teach you in politics): what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

If the Political Right expects individuals to pull up their boot straps and find success, no matter what circumstances of poverty they find themselves in, then the same must hold true for corporations.  They don't need excessive tax breaks or the strip-mining of regulation; if so, then their successful, pro-social peers couldn't have succeeded either.

If it's the fault of Canada's unemployed and working poor that they're falling behind, then it's the fault of capital-hoarding companies that they aren't pushing envelopes, too.  

Of course, that's a simplistic assessment that misses the big picture.  We have crafted a culture of self-interest in Canada, one that largely fits the objectivist narrative of one Stephen Harper.  When you put your own wealth first, then that becomes your only goal.  You're not interested in helping others, or investing in others, but rather in reducing costs so that you can retain more income.  Which is what Right To Work is all about, too.

So here's a new spin on an old theme - it's the culture, stupid.  

We are encouraging people to be hewers of wood and haulers of water, profiting much from as little innovation and investment as possible.  It's true from the top to the bottom; we want sellers, not pioneers, and counter-intuitively are motivating the kind of behaviour that's holding us back.

Not that it should matter what policies are set from the top, nor the hurdles that lie on the path to social consciousness.  

If Microsoft can do it, Canadian CEOs, so can you, without waiting for some magical government vanishing act to make your lives easier.

So quit making excuses and get it done.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Committing Sociology is Necessary - You'll Just Have to Get Over It

The Politics of Convenience

If your beliefs come first, you have no issue standing by them all the time, not just depending on your audience.  That's what leadership is about - convincing people of the merits of your vision.  It's time consuming, requires an ability to listen and above all, it takes compromise.  People need to know you take them seriously.

If you don't, they won't take you seriously.

And they wonder why the public is cynical about politics.

Professional Campaigners: With Friends Like These...

I'm sure these folk mean well.  After all, "they've put a lot of effort into this and will be very disappointed" if he doesn't recognize all the hard work they've done to get him out the door.

This reminds me of when my first son was born; we were given a free photo shoot and free picture courtesy of some studio that had a deal with the hospital.  I made it clear to the photographer that we had zero inclination to pay for anything - we'd do the freebie and take his card, but that was it.

Of course the photographer went in with a sales mentality regardless; during the photo shoot he took dozens of pictures with dozens of outfits, putting a lot of effort into it.  I reminded him as we left the shoot that, when the pictures were developed, we'd be taking the one we liked best and that would be it.

When it came time to pick the picture, however, the photographer pulled every trick in his book to get us to buy.  He tried to guilt us into not acknowledging all the effort he'd put in.  He tried to shame us - how could we let such beautiful pictures of our first born go to the shredder?  

As his last-ditch effort, he revealed more of his true nature - he had an almost faultless record of closing deals off of these free photo ops, who did we think we were to add a blemish to that?

I smiled, thanked him for the picture and we left.  Free market, etc; I'm not buying what I clearly indicated I had no interest in.  Good for him, making the effort, but that's the risk - you eat what you kill and you don't make a kill every time.

I've got no idea what the backstory is on the internal Tory conversations.  What little I've managed to glean from headlines, though - fully recognizing that's only the tip of the iceberg - the impression I have is that Tory's organizers were organizers first, looking to back a winning candidate, and Tory supporters second.  

I'm sure they've worked very hard to pull together a campaign machine for their man.  I'm sure he's appreciative of their efforts.  But I wonder if he has at any point made it clear that such efforts were a guaranteed investment.  

It could be they're not.

Over the past several months, I've been approached by a number of would-be candidates, gauging interest in joining their teams.  What's interesting, though, is that I'm seeing a lot more individuals looking to build teams and then find candidates.  They don't have a vision, really, nor do they have one individual they believe in - so what, I ask, are they after?  

To me the answer seems clear.  They want skin in the game and they want the chance for access to a winner.  It's good for their CV, it's good for their ego - but is it good for our city, or province, or country?

But back to John Tory.  

He may decide to run, he may not; he's made it clear that he won't be making his choice until February, and has clarified that it won't be February the 1st in accordance with the press cycle, either.  So there's at least some cause to believe that leaks and anonymous quotes are efforts by his "supporters" to force his hand.

In so doing, what they've really done is expose the man they're trying to force into the game to unnecessary criticism.  Olivia Chow supporter Warren Kinsella has already used this opportunity as a way to preemptively brand Tory as a ditherer, nudging the public perception of him into negative territory.  This is a trend that will only continue, meaning that when and if Tory decides to jump in, he'll already have an albatross to contend with.  

When you're fighting against smears, you're not selling your message.  And that is how politics works. 

And of course, that's what people are tired of.  We aren't dumb; we get the games being played and increasingly, are becoming real familiar with the people playing them.  If we're sceptical about politicians, it's the professional campaigners that make us despair, fueling our well-recognized democratic deficit.

Canadians are not being bold – Transportation discussion blog by Fred
A few months ago, John Tory was a guest speaker at Why Should I Care.  During his presentation, he talked a lot about political cynicism and how the focus on partisan wins through partisan attacks, vote-buying one-offs ranging from Fake Lakes to Scarborough Subways were crippling the sustainability of our society as well as starving politics of public good will.  It has to end, he said.

I agreed with him then.  I hope he still feels the same way now.  It's a message he should pass on to his friends and, ideally, foes out there in the municipal election arena.

When you back a horse or try to create a candidate because you want to win, it's your credibility that takes a hit.  

When it becomes about winning, and winning is in no small part about defeating, you've lost.  We've been sold that bill of goods before and it's starting to lose its veneer.

We don't want to be sold on the faults of the competition; we want something to believe in.

It's time both candidates and campaigners start to stand for, not against.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

A Little Opposition Is A Healthy Thing

I know a story that kinda goes like this, but with a different ending.  

It was the 2003 election, one the Tories were expected to win.  The Liberal Leader, Dalton McGuinty, was wearing the "still not up to the job" brand after a rocky start to his leadership.  McGuinty's ability to gain traction in rural Ontario was far from certain - the Liberals were largely considered to be an urban-centric Party.  

You'd think his core team would have been nervous nellies, knowing full well this was their Leader's last kick at the can.  By rights, they should have felt a compulsion to stamp out any internal opposition especially from a mere candidate so as not to look weak to the masses.

McGuinty did have a candidate that took issue with a Party position and did so publicly.  Like Brister, this candidate got some stern advice from the Party.  Where the story differs, however, is that the Liberal candidate was never told he had to recant or be dropped.

He went on to handily win the riding of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry and held it until he retired in 2011.  Even now in his political retirement, people still turn to him as their representative.

That candidate, of course, was Jim Brownell.  

Brownell went on to challenge Party wisdom again and again over the years.  With time and experience McGuinty, his Ministers and the OLP on the whole learned that when Jim had an opinion it was worth listening to; he had a fair bit of wisdom of his own to share.

The collaboration of Jim Brownell and the Ontario Liberal Party went on to do many great things, including the Eastern Ontario Economic Development Fund, closure on Cornwall's Project Truth scandal, new hospitals, downtown loan forgiveness and tourist promotion.  Brownell campaigned on his ability to put Eastern Ontario back on the map - he did, to the OLP's benefit.

By learning to listen to and show respect for a rural candidate, the McGuinty Liberals were demonstrating their commitment to learning from and listening to rural Ontario.  It was something the good folk of SD&G certainly took notice of.

More than being a fine Parliamentarian and a partisan asset, though, Jim brought a lineage of rural courtesy and comradeship with him to Queen's Park.  He was well-respected by Members of all Parties and absolutely adored by staff.  His genuine warmth and compassion led to his becoming an unofficial morale officer for the OLP which again benefited.

Never once did Jim ever support something he didn't believe in.  Never once did he compromise his beliefs.  Instead, he learned to work with the Party as the Party learned to work with him.  Which is how government is supposed to work.

All of this says a lot about Jim.  It says a lot about McGuinty and the people he surrounded himself with, too.

Just as the dismissal of Dave Brister has something to say about Tim Hudak and his team.

Could Dave Brister have become Tim Hudak's version of Jim Brownell, gaining trust externally, building morale internally and helping to usher in more than a decade of Party wins?

I guess we'll never know, will we?  

Affective Vs. Cognitive Domains

Courtesy of Mike Billingham.  There are so many smart, engaging and engaged people out there, all working separately towards a common goal... if we could just connect everyone we'd all get there so much faster!

Just Keep Climbing

Lots of people focus on sales - selling what you could do, promoting what you have done.  You can't stay competitive with a stagnant product, so a sales-driven approach invariably crosses into denigrating your competition.

Whatever it takes to win, right?

There's a lesson in this - just keep climbing.

Saving this for later

"She didn't know that was what she wanted.  She only knew that the very openness of the open world was a great danger."

She may feel like she's alone in this; many do.  But she's not.  Neither are we.

Right To Innovate

Unless you live in Canada (or an Ontario governed by Tim Hudak).  But we don't believe in innovation, anyhow - it's too much like progress.  Besides, with all the natural resources we have to exploit, we see our economic success as a no-brainer; who needs to think?

Dave Brister and the Right To Participate

2 of 2 - I was asked to recant my opposition to RTW legislation in exchange for retaining my position & I refused to do so.

Dave Brister is a perfect example of what's wrong with our political system.

He won the PCPO nomination in Essex (or was handed it, which would be another example of what's wrong).  He remained steadfastly in support of his leader - just not all that leader's positions.  In the name of transparency, integrity and open debate about the issues, he expressed his opinions about a given issue on Twitter.

And then the leader he had publicly stated support for sacked him.  And now Ontario has one more cynical citizen who has logically come to the conclusion that there is no place for the individual in Ontario politics.

Make all the arguments you want about Party loyalty and not giving fodder to other Parties.  You'd be absolutely right to do so - but is that a good thing?  When did it become about tribal interests instead of finding the best possible solutions?

In theory, Tim Hudak is all in favour of individual agency: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" kind of thing.  This is in no small part why he's anti-union and anti-regulation; don't muzzle people's agency, his reasoning goes, and they'll do right by themselves and others.

So committed is he to gaining power to reinforce this agency that he's willing to sacrifice or subdue his own people to get it.

He turned a blind eye to the disgraceful treatment of Norm Sterling by his own people.  

He plays a will-he-or-won't-he game with the Fords regardless of what they do not because of what they stand for, but the votes they may have to offer.

Tim Hudak is a crass political operator, but he's by no means the only one.  Every Party at every level has them.  In fact, it's these cynical folk who tend to rise to the top and stay there; they're competitive, aggressive and shrewd, which means they do what it takes to win.  

Those who don't can't compete.  That's just how survival of the fittest works.  

But governance isn't about survival of the fittest - it's about the strength of the whole, which depends on both the strength of each individual within the whole and their ability to participate.

It's all good to talk about right to work, but how realistic is that when leaders are so quick to take away someone's right to participate?

Which, of course, is why Dave Brister is right.  The policy approach Hudak favours won't create new jobs, it'll result in lower wages and less equity for those who don't have power and access already.  

Those who already have position and resources will work harder to push down any competition.

You need look no further than politics (and Hudak's leadership in particular) to prove the point.

Assisted Suicide and Pandora’s Box

I wrote this in June of 2012.  I still feel the same way.

“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”
- Gandalf, Lord of the Rings

CFN – B.C Supreme Justice Lynn Smith has ruled that assisted suicide is legal.  In her ruling, Smith argues existing provisions in the Criminal Code that make assisted suicide illegal are an infringement against an individual’s rights to life, liberty and security of person.  In her view, right to life seems to include right to death; liberty includes the ability to impose the ultimate limitation on oneself and security includes the ability to permanently protect oneself against pain.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m not in favour.
There are plenty of arguments being made around the morality of assisted suicide and the Pandora’s Box we’ve opened  when we see death as just another treatment option (and in today’s reality of unsustainable healthcare costs, a less expensive one at that).  Of course, the defense of assisted suicide goes beyond financial savings, spilling out onto compassionate grounds and the issue of civil liberties.  If people don’t want to keep suffering, or if their families don’t want to see them carry on in unending pain, shouldn’t they have the right to put an end to it all?
Let’s consider the issue from a different angle.  As the Hippocratic Oath demands that doctors do no harm, let’s think about what happens when preemptive death isn’t an option.  If assisted suicide isn’t on the table, what then?  When jumping the gun on death isn’t a way out, we’re faced with the reality of confronting illness and its impact on both the sick and their social circles.  Illness is more than just a personal, biological affliction; unless you’re a hermit, illness is a social cross that gets borne by everyone.  From first-hand experience, I can tell you that living with illness is a brutal business for all concerned – the afflicted individual, their family and their community.
My father-in-law died from complications after a long, painful battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a disease that slowly deteriorated his body and put unsustainable stress on his family.  When the father was at home, they never knew for how long it was for.  When he was in the hospital, they were never sure he would be coming home.  Despite all the uncertainty and the strains on their own lives, my wife, her sisters and their mom were always there for him, visiting him in hospital every day, making sure their father knew he still mattered.  Yes, there were days when the pain was too much, when they wished it would end.  It was on days like that my wife and her family were grateful for the support they received from neighbours, friends and family; cutting the lawn, occasionally fixing meals or just listening, but doing whatever they could to support the family so that they could, in turn, support their father.
The doctors never expected my father-in-law to last as long as he did, but then he was a strong man.  Much of that strength was drawn from those who supported him.  The stress that his family endured took such a toll that they still feel its effects acutely today, more than ten years after his death.  It should come as no surprise that we all donate annually to cancer research; we are committed to supporting the search for a cure to cancer so that, one day, no family will have to go through the same thing.
That, essentially, is the history of medicine.  There was a time when smallpox was a serious concern; now, after a global effort, it’s believed to be a thing of the past.  Families used to suffer the loss of loved ones to measles, mumps and rubella; all illnesses for which we now have a vaccine.  More broadly, we can look at physical conditions like blindness, limb loss, asthma or mental illness as challenges that have made life arduous but that collaboratively, we are finding answers to.  The Hippocratic Oath challenges doctors to find alternatives – not to end problems, but to create solutions.
There’s a Joss Whedon line (paraphrased from a Martin Luther King JR. quote) that comes to mind whenever I think about medicine and social services in general:
But what if no one is there to carry you?  Here’s another story:
A woman in her eighties is living in a senior’s home.  She has severe emphysema, a condition she developed after years of smoking.  She picked up the habit in her youth because advertising told her it was the cool thing to do.  As a result of the emphysema, this woman is now limited to a wheelchair – for her, the whole world has shrunk.  Everything from breathing, leaving her room, even eating has become a chore.  Her family doesn’t visit much – they would love to, surely, but they’re just so busy.  The boss only allows so much time off for family care, because he, too, has a bottom line to manage.
Recently, this woman was rushed to hospital, shrinking her world even further.  With everything a chore and nothing to live for, you can bet death is on this woman’s mind.  In fact, you could even say she is in a state of depression.  This lady’s kids worry about her from afar, hoping she gets better and confidently telling themselves she has the best possible care.  They tell themselves this while they’re taking a well-deserved vacation in the Europe.  Put the option of assisted suicide on the table for this woman, for her family – what position do you think they would take?  What has made this woman’s life unendurable – her illness, or the inattentiveness of her family?
Here’s another quote you might be familiar with – the stake.
Yet, we have developed treatment for leprosy, haven’t we?  We have developed things like prosthetic limbs, glasses, asthma pumps, chemotherapy.  There’s a great big push out there for a culture change in the way we understand mental health, including how our personal behaviours impact the state of mind of others.  None of this stuff has happened over night; it’s taken generations of collaborative effort, often on pieces of a bigger puzzle that will not be completed for generations, much less within a given contributor’s lifetime.  We might not cure cancer tomorrow, but if we give up on those who suffer from cancer today, we never will.
Call me stubborn, if you will – I’d take that as a compliment and attribute my stoicism to the good genes of my grandfather who survived the Holocaust.  My experience has demonstrated, time and again, that there is no gain – no progress – without pain.  If we’re not part of the problem, we have the chance to be part of the solution.   I believe in the value of individual sacrifice for the public good; be it donating blood, giving to a charity or not using your air conditioner excessively.  Giving back is a choice I have made; we all have to decide what to do with the time that is given us.
Putting assisted suicide on the table as a treatment option for illness is just one facet of an emerging public conversation about death.  Capital punishment is being revisited, too, partially in response to a recent, horrific murder.  All of this focus on death and endings will force us to reevaluate just how much and in which ways we value life.  The lid is off Pandora’s Box, indeed.  And what was it that was left inside that box?