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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 22 August 2014

Why I Disagree with Warren

Warren Kinsella makes a compelling case as to why we should not watch the ISIS video recording the murder of Jim Foley.  There are many who agree with him; "once seen, it cannot be unseen" has been a common response.

To watch the video is to submit oneself to terror, the argument goes.  See it, and they win - their message is that powerful.  Take us seriously, world, because we are a threat, we can be anywhere.  We can even be your neighbour.

The purpose of terrorism is to instill terror.  If terrorists make you afraid, they've won.  To deny them this opportunity by ignoring their acts, then, is to deny them a win.


I can understand this argument, just as I understand the ability of fear to consume one's thoughts and paralyze one's actions.  

I understand, but I disgree with it.  Here's why.

Fear is a feeling that varies in scope; it can be induced through varying means.  A workplace bully or a schoolyard bully that shouts down, punches or belittles is on the same spectrum as the people who've flocked to the ISIS banner.

In all cases, the attempt is to empower oneself at the expense of others and scare people into staying out of your way.

Nasty political attacks are a more civilized form of marginalizing foes and discouraging competition, but they, too, attempt to scare the other guys into looking over their shoulder so that they stop moving forward.

ISIS is a small group in a foreign land, though they are comprised of citizens from around the world.  What they are trying to do, however, isn't much different than what the Nazis did within the contained space of occupied Europe.

Fear was their biggest weapon, one they used to keep people in line.  If you went against the Nazi regime, your life was forfeit.  You weren't safe from their ideology, even at home - in Vichy France in particular, you couldn't tell who was foe and who was ally.

Most people, fearing for their safety, complied - but not everyone.

Across Occupied Europe, resistance cells formed.  Even in Concentration Camps like Buchenwald, resistance groups were formed and operated at great peril to themselves.

Unlike us, these folks couldn't choose not to expose themselves to the terror being imposed upon them. They lived it every day - and yet they didn't let it stop them.  They overcame their fear, harnessed their fear and, in so doing, inspired others with their courage.

It was that courage - the willingness to stare death and fear in the face and still keep on going - that won the war.  It's been a deciding factor in every war man has committed against himself.

Part of war is hatred, as Kinsella himself has previously observed.  You have to hate your foe, hate them so much that you see them as animals to be able to treat them as such.  This is why the cops in Ferguson call protesters animals; it's why any oppressed minority groups gets compared to vermin.  Unless you're a psychopath and have no empathy at all, you have to dehumanize your foes to treat them in an inhuman manner.

Hatred is no small part of what fuels ISIS.  It allows them to do dishonour others in a way they would never tolerate among their own.  From their perspective, as the video clearly demonstrated, "they" were wronged by the US in Guantanamo in Iraq, wherever; this is them upping the game to show that they are an even greater threat to be feared.  Escalation is as escalation does; it's never eye for an eye, it's bring a gun to a knife fight.

I myself have watched the video.  It's not the first time I've seen a brutal death (and I've seen a couple in person) but I cringed none-the-less.  I feel a great swell of empathy for the Foley family; no one should have to endure such torment which, for them, will likely never end.  For Jim Foley himself, I feel at ease; however horrendous his last few years and in particular those last few moments were, his suffering is now over.

For the ISIS folk, though, if I feel anything it is pity.  Pity, because they have lost their way - with every act they commit they bring themselves further and further away from the faith and values they claim to be enforcing.  They worship false gods; there is no sanctuary that await them, not in this world or any other.  

They have made the choice to reject their humanity.  That's what I took away from watching the murder. That, and the realization that they have more hostages, as well as sway over countless innocents in the Middle East.  

As a human being, I am worried about them, the people who are right now at risk because of ISIS' shunning of their humanity.  I want to know what I can do to save them from similar terrors, because they are our brothers and sisters.  If I could, I'd save those enslaved by the ideology of terror that embodies ISIS from themselves - I would help them rediscover their humanity, and their path.

But saving innocent lives takes precedence over saving lost souls.

When ISIS is demolished and justice brought to these murderers, I will feel regret that it came to this, but will remember and be that much more engaged to ensure my children don't have to live through the same terrors as did my grandfather.

Why do Catholics obsess so over the Passion of Christ?  Is it not a kind of violence porn?  Yes, but it also serves as a rallying cry, a reminder, a mission statement.  Let that death serve as a catalyst for us so that we may make the world better.  

I have seen the murder of Jim Foley, a martyr for the cause that all faiths represent - a light in the dark rather than a lengthening shadow.  I have seen manifest the threat that faces humanity and it isn't a banner, a nation or an ideology - it is fear itself.  Of others, of ourselves.  Fear condemns us to live in the darkness, in silos, in The Cave.

I don't fear their heart of darkness.  I know we have the light on our side.  It's already been kindled; when we harness it, we will always, always push the darkness away.  

That's the only way to stop a bully, whether it's a kid in a schoolyard or a murdering terrorist hiding behind a mask; to look them in the eye and remind them that it doesn't matter how strong they feel they are - we are many, and we are legion and we will not waver.

Conquering fear and standing up for what's right not for ourselves, but for each other - that's how we win.

Contrasting Harper and Trudeau: Immovable Object vs Unstoppable Force

Stephen Harper - the man above.  Like a mountain peak covered in clouds, Harper is narratively above the scandals that have rocked his party - but also out of reach for the average Canadian.  

Harper is intransigent in his positions (though it's not fair to call him immovable, I supposed, given how many times he's climbed down from positions).  He has weathered countless storms, emerging as the last man standing after many had counted him out.

People have learned it's not so easy to topple the Harper juggernaut.

Justin Trudeau is a man among the people.  Like running water, he's a stream that people willingly jump into so as to be carried on his journey.  Everyone can picture themselves getting a picture with JT, because they know and feel that he's accessible.

Trudeau is a force of nature - at times unpredictable, but always impactful.  It's been tried, but no opponent has been able to tame him; instead, he leaves them in his wake.

There will be many issues that come up over the course of the campaign which, of course, has indeed really begun.  Harper will talk about the economy, and domestic security and, surprisingly, foreign affairs, which for his team must be seen as an extension of domestic security - Canada has played a paltry role from the sidelines of most of our current crop of international crises.

Trudeau, like a defense lawyer, is playing more to the hearts of the people; he has vision, energy, a promise that is best embodied by us, the people, not the man at the top of the mountain.

The difference between these two men is more than scripted, more than carefully-chosen political planks designed to woo specific coalitions of voters.  While all of that comes into play, at the core of this dichotomy are two very different world views.

Harper believes in survival of the fittest, when it comes to economic matters; get rid of regulatory shackles social service restraints and let people duke it out in competitive fashion.  Those who succeed will carry this country up the ladder; those who don't, he hasn't much time for.

For Harper, there are three kinds of people - the ones he caters to, the economic engines; the ones he feels families should be responsible for, those unable to work, and the inhumans - the criminals, the street people, the sloths.  The first group should be supported so that they can empower the country and dedicate whatever resources they want to the second; the third group has no place in our country.

In his world, people are what they are from birth - fixed, unchanging, immovable.  A crime is a crime; criminals are bad people who should be locked away.  

For Trudeau, there are people and there is context.  He disagrees with the simplistic notion that it's the bullet, not the hand that pulls the trigger or the circumstances that led to intent that matter.  Trudeau commits sociology; like a scientist, he's not content to accept that apples fall from the tree just because that's what they do - he wants to know why.  He believes that kind of knowledge allows us to change circumstances for the better.

These two men - Trudeau and Harper - communicate in completely different ways and look at the world through two completely different lenses.  Harper's world is fixed, as fixed as he has been in the PMO. Trudeau believes the times are a changin' and sees himself as a conduit, a prism for the people.

It'll be a fascinating contest, so far as sociology-committing goes; the immovable Harper and the unstopable Trudeau.


Thursday 21 August 2014

Think Fair

Wynne's Priorities

There have been many discussions around the issue of Sikhs, turbans and motorcycles.  Attempts at work-arounds have been tried, including turban-accommodating helmets (I remain convinced this is doable; it's an entrepreneurial opportunity in the waiting). 
Ultimately, though, there are only two options available at the present, and a decision needed to be made.
There are a lot of Sikhs in Ontario, especially in the vote-rich 905.  If voters vote for those politicians who give them what they want, and there's sufficient support within the Sikh community for risking helmet-free motorcycling, they could very well punish the Wynne Liberals for this move.
Knowing this, Wynne did it anyway.
This isn't political fight-picking as a way to polarize voters and win other groups; the Sikh community is too big and organized to be made a political bad guy.  Quite simply, Wynne did her homework, realized her choices and made the one that fits within her priority, ie the well-being of Ontarians, even at her own political expense.
Happening so early in her mandate, the risk isn't as big for Wynne as it would be to do this right before an election, but it's still there.
Why would she do it?  Why take such a political risk over such an avoidable issue?
The answer's pretty easy - that's what leaders do.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

The Most Interesting Person in Canadian Politics Right Now:

... and he's going to hate me for this.

You can read more about why I think Richard rocks, here.  But this post isn't really about him.

He's not a lord of business, nor a political dauphin or a shrewd Machieveli.  He's a guy who works at Swiss Chalet who believes in something bigger than himself.  It's that belief, along with an urge to explore our country, that has him out there, spreading the Open Word, changing things in ways that won't fully become clear for years to come.

Broken down, Richard's belief is in us - us, and what we can do when we trust, collaborate, dream and engage together.

Richard is the most talented, most interesting and most extraordinary person in Canadian politics right now not because of who he is, but because of who he represents.  Namely, all of us, no matter where we come from, nor what titles we hold.  We can all change the world if we commit ourselves to it fully, willingly.

Any one of us could be Richard.  Any one of us could join Richard as his tour rolls on to its conclusion in Ottawa on September 16th.

That, for me, is ultimately the point of Open Government, tours like #OGT14, events like Why Should I Care and organizations like Samara, or Make Web Not War, or My SoJo.

We don't need to be afraid of how our country is being changed - not when we offer our hands and become part of that change, consciously.

There's a conversation happening right now among a hopeful, dynamic Open Community; there's not big tent, just common ground.

I hope you'll join us - we're far more interesting with you than without you.

Kinsella and Tory

Not that anyone really cares what my opinion is, but here it is anyway.
Segregation isn't always something intentional.  Was the TTC intentionally trying to marginalize people with disabilities by making the system so un-wheelchair friendly? 
Were right-handed people intentionally marginalizing left-handed people with the whole right-handed scissors thing? 
Of course not.  We're not omniscient, us humans, and we repeatedly do things with the right intent but to the wrong results.
If we define segregationist as "excluding some members of the population" then every public and private system is biased.  On the plus side, the more we learn - the more we commit sociology - the better we are able to cultivate a more inclusive society, infrastructure and services included.
I truly think John Tory has his heart in the right place, and did even when he suggested women needed to complain and golf more to get ahead.  Any conservative who suggests people need to just sell harder to get what they want are equally encouraging, but equally missing the point.
That's for Tory.  Now for Kinsella.
Kinsella is a master of political communication, which is not the same thing as real-world communication.  The goal isn't to convey information so much as it is to incite emotion.
He would have known the emotions his tweet would enflame; after all, it's his business to know how words influence people.
The fact that he deleted his tweet is, in my mind, a genuine recognition that what he said was harmful.  It'd be silly to suggest he's trying to delete evidence of what he wrote; he knows as well as anyone that the Internet never forgets.
Having said that, an apology is something one person offers to another in recognition of a wrong committed, full-stop.  I was unfair to you, I recognize this and I beg your forgiveness.
Apologies are acts of submission - they're also acts of leadership.  To ask for forgiveness is to place your absolution in the hands of the person you have wronged, an important step in building trust and fostering communication.
Kinsella apologized - but in the same breath, asked for an apology from John Tory in return.  To me, that's not a sincere apology, that's tactic.
Whether John Tory should apologize for the Chretien ad has as much to do with Kinsella's tweet as the shooting of Michael Brown, which is to say nothing.
I don't know either man.  I've had a couple brief interactions with Tory, but not enough to say I know the guy.
From their public communications, though, I do feel both have the right intent - as they say, though, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I imagine it matters much less to either man whether apologies are issued or not; both are thick-skinned political veterans who know how the game is played. 
It does, however, matter to the public how our public figures interact with each other and how carefully they consider the impact of their words, actions and policies on everyone else.
Instead of picking at each other for gain, how would it be if our political people tried to one-up each other by offering better, more inclusive policies that everyone can get behind?
Just an idea.  As mentioned, though, I don't really expect them to listen.

Open Government: The Pen and the Stone

Having announced my speaking topic for OGT14's September 16th Ottawa closer as Open Government and Responsible Society, I've been playing around with frames and ideas of what to say.

As an example, here's something I penned on the subway today between meetings.

Still looking for a ride there, by the way.

I've brought two little items with me that I'll try to sell you on - a pen and a stone.

About the pen - it doesn't really matter where it comes from or who made it, right?  You want it because of what it allows you to do.

With this pen, you can make your mark on the world.  You can sketch out ideas, record your criticisms, share cute cat pictures.  

You can do graffiti tags or write letters to your member of Parliament.

While this pen can be yours, it doesn't come out of thin air.  
Somebody somewhere had to create the tool and make it available to you.  You can't have it for free.

How many people here have a pen on them?  Great!  You don't need this pen, you're all set.  For the rest of you, let the bidding begin.  I only have one, so, supply and demand - you want to raise your voice, it's gonna cost you.  If you don't happen to have money on you, too bad, so sad - you've lost the chance to record your voice.

Even if you had a hand in making the pen itself.

This pen is your voice - without it, what are you?  That's why you want it; that's why everyone wants it.

Now for the stone.  

You're probably thinking the pen was the easier sale; the stone, on the other hand, has little intrinsic value.  I mean, what is it, but an object in space?  You can't write with it.  You can't eat it.  It's got an awkward shape, doesn't package neatly, is a heavy thing to carry.

That's just because you don't know what this stone can do.

Though it may look plain, unexciting, this stone is incredibly valuable.  Thousands upon thousands of people around the world are dying to have this stone; it's a rare commodity.  I'd almost say it's priceless.

We'll get to what this stone does in a second, but first - let me tell you where it's from.  

This particular stone comes to you today from fabled antiquity, from the very beginnings of our Western society.  It was wrought by smiths of ancient Greece, touched by fire and created to endure.

You're curious now, aren't you?  But wait - it gets even better.

It's got magic powers, this simple stone.

No, really; it has the ability to bring people together, to solve complex problems, to resolve war, end poverty and ensure a positive quality of life for all.

I love this stone.  I love what it does.  In fact, I believe in what it can do for all of us so much that I want to share it with each and every one of you at no cost at all.

You're waiting for the catch, right?  You're a smart crowd.

The power in this here stone can only be unlocked when we use it.  

If it sits in a corner collecting dust, it's magic will never be revealed.  
If it's hoarded by a select few of you - say, those with their personal pens at the ready - then it's full potential will never be harnessed.  

We'll all be missing out.

You pen-wielders can never get full value from this stone unless each and every one of us has the ability to leave our mark on it, too, - which can't happen if we don't have a pen.

This stone is democracy.

Democracy is not like the pen, the tool for registering your voice; it's not a product that can be bought or sold, like a computer or a vote; it's not a service that can be hired, like those of a lobbyist.  

The stone doesn't market its inherent value; it has no voice of its own, except that which we record upon it through our own engagement.

Open Government often sounds like it's about tools - data sets and digital platforms, hackathons and public consultations and whatnot.  
Those matter, but what Open Government is really about is putting a pen in the hand of each and every resident of this country so that they can leave their mark on the foundation stone of democracy.  

That's how we build a strong, stable society.  It's the only way we can build that society.

When individuals are empowered we, as a community, can bring this stone to life.  Only then does the magic happen.

Democracy is, after all, just a word - like a stone, it has now power of its own.  We bring the magic.

If you don't have a pen, which not everyone does, how can you leave your mark on the stone?  It doesn't mater whether it's public property or not.  

If you have a voice - if you have wealth, network access or even are just a gifted communicator, that's great. You get to be heard.

Unless your neighbour has equal ability to raise their voice and leave their mark, our democracy is nothing but a word on a page, as empty of value as a plain and simple stone.

Open Government is about ensuring everyone has the ability to be heard.  It's about bringing our democracy to life.

Without voice, the stone is nothing.  When we put a pen in the hands of our neighbours, everything is possible.

That's it; that's my pitch.  That's all that Open Government has to offer - objects in space, unless they are used by us, together.

Whether you buy in or not is a choice you alone can make.  I guarantee, though, that it won't happen without you.

Are you in?

Tuesday 19 August 2014

The Truth Hurts

Embedded image permalink

We don't like to see shit like this on our teevees - our entertainment (which, let's face it, for many is what televised news is) is supposed to be fun and wholesome or, if risque, in a titillating, removed kind of way.

The truth rarely manifests itself in clean white-bread sound bites.  It tends to be rough, tough and uncomfortable to know.  But it must be heard.  You can't recognize or solve the big issues otherwise.

Props to CNN for this.

On @jandrewpotter's Response to #Ferguson and War Room Politics (UPDATED)

I don't know if Potter quite intended to make this point, but there it is.  When he talks about the increased militarization of society on the whole, he could just have easily pointed a finger directly at War Room politics.

Partisan politics is all about forcing a political outcome.  It tends not to involve violence and deadly force, lately, at least in some countries - but that wasn't always the case.  As Potter hints at, we've seen a slow debasement of standards in politics, a subtle shift that has allowed more and more questionable tactics to be used.

Destroy your opponents?  Hate, step on their throats, etc?  How is this a healthy way to engage in policy debate in a democratic country?  Yet that's how war-roomers frame the battle between them and the barbarians at the gate, or in office.  

Only we can save you from them.

It's not much different from the mentality that produces lines like "bring it, you fucking animals, bring it."

They will eat your babies and salt your land out of sheer malice, given the chance.  Heck, they're trying to do both already, aren't they?

Truth be told, plenty of partisans are just like the cops Potter describes; they relish the combat and want to rack up wins, whether it's for bragging rights or for career advancement.

Instead of guns, though, they use robocalls, Nationbuilder and behavioural economics to force their wins and defeat their foes.

As I've written before, though, this is the sort of slow creep from which actual shooting wars always start. We're seeing that play out right now.

Potter makes another crucial point, though, that has been lost in the fog of pseudo-war:

Police officers serve and protect.  They are keepers of the peace who, by the nature of their work, face extraordinary risk to life, life and mind.  Soldiers are different.  Soldiers are trained to walk into the line of fire; there job isn't to preserve peace, but to fight for it.  It's a completely different enterprise.

Funny enough, we're seeing a strange shift in behaviours; friendly neighbourhood cops are being replaced as the cliche by heavily armed, tough-talking cowboys in SWAT gear while the US military has become the biggest consumer of Positive Psychology in North America.  

Soldiers are learning about social-emotional learning and communication at the same time as how to survive in the war zone.  There are some police I know who get this stuff and are committed to using the positive tools available to do their job - to serve and protect - better.  Having said that, there are lots who simply love the power of wearing a badge and carrying a gun.

Soldiers accept that sacrifice is part of their job; they, as people, come second to the cause they serve.  Both sides will have guns, both sides run risks which have often been mitigated by codes of honour like bushido or chivalry.  Omerta is not a code of honour - it's a defense for the Prisoner's Dilemma.

Cops don't have the same level of skin in the game; they could and probably should expect to punch out form their day job and have a regular life at home, same as anyone.  As such, risk doesn't play the same way for police as it does for soldiers.  

Which is partially why we've seen an escalation of weapons and tactics among police, especially in light of 9/11, but even in response to situations like G20.  They want to be in control of any given situation, but they don't want to be at risk.  More guns, armour and the like helps mitigate their risk as crowds grow in response to an increasingly disengaged decision-making class and the consequences of armchair policy making.

The truth is, folks, you can't take the risk out of war - certainly not against your own people, not without becoming a doomed-to-fail tyrant.  Trying to do so unilaterally and without a willingness to honour your opponents as you'd like to be honoured yourself is a sure-fire way to escalate tense situations into shooting conflicts.

Something that also holds true for political parties, by the way.

I hate to say it, but things are likely going to get a lot worse before they start getting better, which bodes well for none of us.

UPDATED 20/8/14

Reflecting on Potter's piece this morning, another strand stood out:

6. That is why the real problem with what we are seeing in Ferguson is not the equipment, but the culture. And by that I don't just mean the culture of policing, but our culture as a whole. Over the past decade, the dominant themes and motifs of our culture have become increasingly militaristic.

Why is that?  Why are we developing into an increasingly militaristic culture that is so focused on being able to compete and score wins?

A couple thoughts on this.

We live in a consumerist culture that pushes the notion of entitlement for all.  You deserve to have the latest phone, or sneakers, or whatever; if you're not part of the latest franchise craze, well, you're being left behind. 

It used to be that only elites felt a sense of entitlement; either by birth, luck or in some cases, actual talent, they got more access and the means to control access to others.  That control of stuff like money and policy led to a sense of social divinity, that they could do no wrong by virtue of being who they were.

We still have a highly entitled elite; one of the messages they and others are conveying is that, in a supposedly flat world, there should be no redistribution of resources, no sociology - just pure free market capitalism.  To get ahead, people need to be competitive.

What do we tell our kids?  They have to be number one.  What do we tell people on the job market?  They have to be expert salespeople, in addition to whatever else they used to be.  No longer do we have sellers who seek out services to sell; now, we have a neofeudalism, where the front-line is supposed to be master sellers, pay their own way and provide for the elites.

If you're going to survive in a competitive world, you need to be tough, aggressive, have the best tools, right? 

That's the culture we have; each to their own, success through aggression.

Explains a few things, doesn't it?

Monsters and the Heart of Darkness

There was a time when the dark was a truly terrifying place.

Beyond the boundaries of the campfire lurked wild things, monsters that saw our ancestors as prey.  To survive, people learned to be afraid.

With time, technology, innovation and knowledge, the dark corners of our world have slowly been painted in; what once were monsters are now curios, or resources.  There's really no creature waiting in the shadows for us any more; if anything, we've replaced the monsters.

Yet fear remains.

My eldest son has been having occasional night terrors; it's something I can relate to, having suffered through similar fears when I was his age.  He's a bright, inquisitive, creative boy, capable of populating the darkness with bone-chilling nightmare creatures that would freeze your very soul - which is exactly what he's doing.

To help him through these, I've been employing a combination of neuro-psychological tricks; making funny, discussing his successes to build confidence, letting him snuggle for the oxytocin boost it gives him.  Call it pandering or committing sociology if you want - I know what works, I know why it does, and the results prove themselves.  He's sleeping calmly now.

One of the key things he and I have discussed is that which we fear - the monsters in the dark.  I asked him to go through and tell me about all the monsters he knows - ghosts and goblins and orcs and vampires and zombies and werewolves.  We have explored each of these creatures, slowly coming to the conclusion that hey, none of them are real.  They are all fiction.

So what does that mean, I asked him?  That the monsters we feel aren't in our closets or under our beds, he said, but in our minds.

In our minds - we create the monsters we fear or, more accurately, we take latent fear and give it form. That's the deep dark secret of humanity - we feel first; it's our feelings, not reality, that we rationalize.  Such is the hidden truth of any stigma or human conflict in the world.

My son and I talked about the individual monsters we were familiar with - characters in stories, villains in movies, etc.  The reality is that more often than not, some good guy gets the bad guy in the end or, in other cases, the villain is funny, or misunderstood, or comes to see the light (punny, perhaps, but equally telling).

Monsters, I told my son, are products of our own fear.  They have power in numbers that is stripped from then when we understand them as individuals. The way to fight a monster isn't with a stake, a gun or a sacred book, but with two things - light and ownership.

When we cast a light on the dark places in the world, the snake in the path often turns out to be little more than a curved stick.  Understanding takes us out of the shadow world of The Cave; it kills mystery, perhaps, but fear also - and replaces both with wonder.

That's one.  Two is ownership.

When we give our monsters names, backstories, motivations, personality traits, they cease to be unknowable fears and instead become products of our imagination.  When we breathe life into a character, they become part of our story - as in, a story that we author with ending we right ourselves.

We need not dread the dark, nor fear or welcome death.  There is no universal unknowable; there's just what we don't know, yet.  When we take ownership of the creatures that lurk in the dark, they hold no power over us - instead, we consciously control them.

This is true of the darkness within, as well.

How Stephen Harper is like Rob Ford

Rob Ford has lied, repeatedly, about a whole host of things, minimized them when caught and then taken to demonizing the press for bringing up his track record of fibbing, gross negligence and blatant criminality.

The Harper PMO had been less than candid about everything from the Cadman bribe to Mike Duffy; political truths have proven to be different for them than the actual truth.

There's a rationale behind this, called Omerta - if everyone on the inside holds the line, stays silent and expresses confidently their innocence, the theory goes, the cops have got nothin'.  Prisoner's Dilemma avoided.

Only the House of Commons isn't a prison and, one would hope, our government isn't the mob.

The truth doesn't match the rhetoric.  Fewer Canadians are willing to tow the line, accepting a growing list of rule-breaking as justified so as to keep the Left at bay.

It's as true for Team Harper as it is for Rob Ford.

Leaders Set the Example


Leaders set the tone for society.  There's an expression for it in Italian that translates into "the fish stinks from the head."  If our representatives are combative, insisting that policy development and debate is a blood sport - well, that's the pinnacle of our democracy, isn't it?  Everything else should probably function the same way.

It's a well-known fact that you need to stir people's emotions to get them to act, though the focus in politics tends to be acting by donating, voting or parroting partisan messages.  The truth is, though, there are always those who will escalate things further, given fodder to do so.

Think how different things would be in Ferguson right now if the cops had less artillery on their side, if - as is likely the case for most of the predominantly-white police force - they didn't feel like their whole way of life was threatened by a mass of Others.
What is political rhetoric if not a call to action against a dangerous Zombie Hoard of inhuman partisan Others?  They must be stopped, their throats must be stepped on, their careers destroyed.

Actual words used by actual political people.  These people, though, are supposed to know they're actors on a stage, that none of the combativeness really means anything in the real world.  It's all sales, street-theatre.

The public, though, are intended to buy the message as authentic, real, and the threats as clear and present dangers.

If Justin Trudeau is a threat to the nation, surely he must be stopped.  If Stephen Harper is devil-spawn, surely he must be removed.

Be wary about treating the people as sheep, partisans; you never know where the real wolves are hiding.

UPDATE: I finally got to see Winter Soldier.  The wheels within wheels, the cells deeper within being the ones with the guts to do what really needs done, the willingness to sacrifice the people to create that better world for them - it all sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it?
Leaders don't hide within and force sacrifices from others.  They don't crave and hoard power.
Leaders lead by example.

Rethinking Emergency Services - and Emergency Preparedness

Now this is interesting.

Reactive costs around emergency services is unsustainably high.  Cops, their benefits and their resources cost a bundle.  Fire and emergency medical services - the folk who respond to 911 calls, including everything from home fires to car crashes to EDP situations on the street - they cost a bundle, too.

But we need these things, right?  We have to be tough on crime, which means these are justified costs; we have no business influencing public behaviour or offering handouts to people who might otherwise commit crimes, get into accidents or cause themselves harm - that'd be too much like committing sociology.

Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014.
Far better we cut proactive social services, support for charities and all that kind of lefty stuff to afford the back-end costs of cleaning up avoidable messes.

Yet it's vital that taxes be low, because people should have a right not to invest in public infrastructure and social sustainability or some such.  If we can't raise taxes to pay increasingly expensive, reactive emergency/crisis services, what do we do?  

Heck, it's a proven thing that the private sector is better at everything than government, right?  Why not outsource policing, like we do with garbage?  The magic of the free market will ensure the best service at the lowest price, right?

I wonder what Blackwater charges for city policing.  Or those cops in Ferguson; they'll be looking for new work before too long.

The path that we're on is not a sustainable one; slowly but surely, we're creeping down a dark road of fractured society, increased marginalization of growing communities that will be "managed" by security forces that don't answer directly to the public, nor to elected officials, who answer to their Parties first anyway.

It's the Decline of the Roman Empire, Western style.

This is before we take into account aging infrastructure, poverty, employment, health, mental health, gridlock and all the rest of it.  

These things are connected; it's folly to think otherwise, even though that's what we tend to do.  What does heart health have to do with exercise, or work stress?  Why should I have to pay out-of-pocket to help someone else's kids - even if those payments can help prevent their kids from shooting mine down the road?

The reality is this - every man for himself is not going to work.  We have to get organized - we have to figure out how we're going to live here.  No one is going to do that for us; no one is going to sweep our problems away.  It's all on us.

Us - not us vs them, but the collective us; white, black, gay, transgendered, Muslim, Jew, pauper and king; we all live on the same earth, breathe the same air, so on and so forth.  There is no ground except common ground.

So what next, ideally?

First things first - recognize that short-term fixes don't save money, they simply allow costs to fester. We need to stop looking at short-term ROI and start making long-term investments in infrastructure, in people, in systems.  Fiscally, we can't do this by piling on to our debt - there has to be another way.

Fortunately, there is, but it requires a massive change of perspective from people in every corner of society. We have to engage, to want to engage with each other, from top to bottom.  The incredibly wealthy need to understand they haven't earned the right to live above society; investments in their world are beneficial to them.  The marginalized need to realize they are as much a part of our whole as anyone else, but will have to learn some comms skills and the like to have their voice recognized and opportunities provided.

I'd frame it like this - society needs to come 25% of the way to the elite, who having the most resources should have no problem coming 75% of the way to the middle.  For the poorest, most disenfranchised, the ratio gets reversed - society needs to come 75% of the way to them and stay engaged for the long-haul.  No one-offs here.

Why on earth would we do this?  It sounds a bit too much like work, like change, like pandering or cow-towing.  Fuck the others, it's us against them, or they simply don't matter.  

This is the Burning Platform, the Tragedy of the Commons; we are loathe to do what is in our own best interests long-term, because we simply aren't that rational.  We're selfish, petty, short-sighted, flawed.  We fumble in the darkness of ignorance - all of us.

How might we motivate, catalyze culture change on a global scale?  

It's been done before; there are models out there of how to get massive social blocks to embody the Golden Rule, to practice hygiene and see supporting one's neighbour not as a bother or a hand-out but a responsibility.

As always, it comes down to carrots and sticks.  You need a threat, one so massive and daunting that there is no way money can help you escape it.  We're seeing that threat emerging now - social chaos, infrastructure collapse, the Godzilla Armageddon.  Ebola, Ferguson, crushing debt, unemployment, war, collapsing infrastructure - it goes on and on.  I don't care how much money you have; when the whole world is on fire, there's nowhere that money can take you.

The threat of collapse due to our own shortsightedness is part of the picture, but not the whole one.  After all, there's enough information out there right now to show us the risks of pretending we live in silos, yet we do it anyway.  Something more is required.

Enter the carrot.  We're not going to leave the burning platform unless there is somewhere more desirable for us to go - that's simply the way people work.  So, what does this better world look like?  How do we get from here to there?

This is where vision comes in - something we've not heard a lot about in our political discourse for quite some time.  We've had plenty of pronouncements, plenty of vague resentment, but an actual vision?  We have almost forgotten how to dream, it seems.

Which is where we return to emergency management and individual preparedness.

We can't collectively afford the cost of back-end emergency response; we don't feel like we can afford the cost of prevention, either, though it's invariably cheaper to stay healthy rather than it is to cure a disease.

Instead of outsourcing emergency preparedness/response, we need to internalize that capacity; every home should have an emergency management plan, every community a coordinated response plan and hand-off mechanism.  

When the next big storm hits and there are too few emergency responders to get to everyone consistently for days, weeks on end, people will need the ability and resources to collaborate and hold the fort until support arrives.  

That means training, social-emotional resiliency-building to help with the stress and above all, empowerment. These also happen to be good tools for citizens to have to be engaged citizens in a responsible society.  

Another thing about engaged, responsible citizens?  

They're far better at holding government to account, open style.  That means not treating politics like a spectator sport, cheering or jeering from the sidelines but getting on the field, putting some skin in the game.

People are more than their home lives or their communities, though - they are work, they are school, they are transit.  As it stands now, we design life in silos - work and home are supposed to be separate; transit is considered a pathway, not a barrier, which it often is; people are viewed in terms of their assets and liabilities rather than as whole creatures in a social ecosystem.

We need more engaging leaders in all sectors that don't look at their companies or the world as a pyramid on which they sit at the top, but a system of which they are part; the more they take from the common ground, the less there is for others, impacting their growth.  When they block out the sun, others can't but wither.

Society's like a garden that way.

The allusions here are intentional; hopefully they connect the dots for you as they do for me.

We can build that better world, should we choose to work together.  Things will continue to get worse the longer we opt not to.

Something we collectively need to be conscious of.