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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.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Paradigm Shift: From Trickle Down to Grassroots Up

Open Data... community-sourced policy... engagement skills-building and tech/digital access to facilitate?

Earlier today I was at Cisco with Toronto Youth Cabinet's Chloe-Marie Brown discussing all of this.  The day before, it was Mark Stern at CSI.

It's the opposite of trickle down - it's growth from the grassroots up.

And it's coming sooner than you'd think.

Oh, and I'm crediting the term and concept behind The Social Gardener to Jennifer Li.

The Stampede Threesome: Sexism, Social Media Shivarees + Social Tipping Points

There I was, just trying to read a thoughtful piece on the problems with policing in Toronto by my friend Andray Domise when this headline catches my eye:

Catching Up With the Woman From the Calgary Stampede Threesome at Her Strip Club Debut

I can't say I've ever been to the Calgary Stampede, but somehow I doubted that anything featuring a threesome would be part of the official agenda.  My curiosity was piqued enough to see what was going on.

The story that emerged - and I'm surprised I didn't hear of it first on Twitter, where I spend an inordinate amount of time - was of a woman and two men who had consensual three-way sex in a somewhat public space.  Someone saw it, was disgusted and to properly express their disgust in a 21st Century way, filmed and posted video of the act that caused them such discomfort.

No more the "look away, kids" mentality of our parents - when we see something we feel is out of tune with our social norms, we take the story viral.  We'll come back to this later.

The bias with which the Stampede Threesome (Stampedesome?) story has been portrayed online and what that says about our male-centric society has been much discussed.  Men are encouraged, even celebrated for being sowers of seeds where as women, society's nurtures and child-rearers, are shamed for being sexual creatures.  How exactly men are supposed to sow if fertile fields are closed to them remains one of those social paradoxes that we tend not to explore.

Of course the shaming of women isn't limited to sexuality (which is regularly a substitute for social power) - it applies to women displaying any non-demure behaviour.  Another recent case in point - Imperator Furiosa.

Furiosa - Charlize Theron's character from Mad Max: Fury Road has been viscously and virally attacked for hijacking a movie whose title references the male hero.  Apparently, she's part of an insidious feminist conspiracy to undermine masculinity, a forcibly planted female lead in what's supposed to be a boy's movie.  

Written and directed, mind you, not by a feminist auteur like Ava DuVernay, but by the same dude who has sheppearded the Mad Max franchise from the beginning - George Miller.

What's the connecting thread?  Society's men call the sex/hero shots and someone has altered the rules.  And the macho men, they don't like it.  They feel threatened.  It's like the Muslimification of the Western world, only worse, because this time it's their own women undermining man's natural role as roost-rulers and power-wielders.

Meanwhile, Alexis Frulling - the lady at the centre of this story - has done a remarkable job of crisis management (own the story from the outset, ensure your own narrative is well-told and widely-circulated).  More than that, she seems to have done a pretty good job of turning an avoidable moment of infamy into an entrepreneurial opportunity.  There's strip dances, sex tip videos, etc, etc. She could probably do well with a line of merch, too - the ways she could continue to reap benefit from her 15 minutes are endless.

If Frulling were a guy, she'd be given props for ingenuity and seizing an opportunity.  She's a woman, though, so instead the whole incident is being framed as a manipulative publicity stunt (still no mention of the men involved, mind you).

The fact that this 20-something (manipulator!) beautiful (Delilah!) woman (whore!) has become a magnet for social castigation from a vocal segment of the population isn't surprising.  Same thing happened to Jennifer Lawrence, although her source of sexual infamy was intended to be private; the same thing's happening to Steph Guthrie for fighting back in a way that would, again, be celebrated as tough political winning if she was a man.

It's a well-established social phenomenon best represented by the shivaree, an ancient custom intedned to force social outliers to conform to societal norms.  Instead of pots and pans, though, these mass-shamings now take the form of viral campaigns, like #DuffyPickUpLines or #TellVicEverything.
Mike Duffy and Vic Toews, mind you, are/were supposed to be social elites, defenders of tradition, etc.  They were shamed for abusing their position, whereas Fulling is being castigated for stepping beyond the prescribed bounds of acceptable female behaviour and nudging into males-only territory.  

Castigated by a vocal few, though - hardly the majority.

Back to the Andray Domise article that kicked all this off:

Without a highly visible outcry that shames the Board into adopting changes, the work done by police to increase transparency and reduce fatal encounters often amount tohalf-baked and widely criticized measures. 

Highly visible.  Shaming.  What he's calling for - what #BlackLivesMatter or any of the related campaigns around young black men killed and young black women abused by police represent - is a shivaree, public pressure for behaviour modification.  

It's what any protest seeks to accomplish, really; forcing the shapers of public norms (ie policy) to get more in line with the public (or a subset of the public) mood.

Gay marriage is another example of this, with even corporations getting on board.

You may note something of a trend-line connecting the dots here.

Yes, Alexis Frulling has many vocal online detractors, but she's also got a lot of supporters who are equally turning on the societal norms that punish women for doing what men get celebrated for (while still being told to be more like men when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling in work or politics).

Society used to be a lot smaller - homogeneity and cultural standards were easier to universalize through shaming efforts such as the shivaree.  By and large, though, those smaller societies had more standardized social roles, too - roles that limited people to certain constraints that may not have reflected their individual capacity.  Marriage was limited to men and women, holidays were Christian affairs, men - particularly alphas - dominated in the boardroom, the bedroom and in the House of Commons.

Society has changed; the needs of society have changed.  We've collectively outgrown the standards of the past which actively impede economic and social success.  What we need always comes second to what makes us comfortable, though - which is especially true on the macro scale.  As traditional society and the failings of our political, economic and social systems and norms fail a growing percentage of the population, though, the scale is tipping from efforts to maintain the status quo (shivarees) to calls for systems disruption and more equitable social standards (protest).

Perhaps Alexis Frulling is the perfect metaphor for this tipping point; the passive, minority partners in our social relationships are weak and passive no more.  

The time of top-down messaging and social norm-defining is over.

We're into three-way conversations now, and the usual suspects are just going to have to get used to sharing the marketplace of power.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Donald Trump's Room

Some people loved Trump's attack of John McCain.  They thundered their applause at the attack.

How representative were the people in the room of the people of the United States?

Not that it matters - politics is about comparative numbers, not public representation.  Get enough like-minded people together, inspire them to intimidate others and you win.

Trump won't admit he's wrong - he'll double down.  It's what he knows; it's why he's rich.  

Is that what the US wants in a leader, though?

Monday 20 July 2015

Ava DuVernay, Supergirl and Permission

Career Tip from Ava DuVernay: 'Follow the White Guys'

It's nice to say, and it might even be nicer if it was the case - but is it?  Has that time passed?

That's a quote from the new  Supergirl, talking to some human dude who thinks he has the answers and doesn't trust outsiders.  A guy who told her to go back to fetching coffee.

Compare that exchange this this one (1:37) - Supergirl's cousin Superman similarly being marginalized by an official military-esque guy (gritty black men in both cases, which on screen always means they don't mess around).  What's Superman's response?  He doesn't ask for permission - he makes it clear he's humouring the human because he's nice that way.

Supergirl - passive hero, needs permission.  Make sure you win, Supergirl, 'cause you wouldn't unless a man-figure gave you that push!

Superman - "you're scared of me because you can't control me.  You don't."  It works out, though, because he's like a titan.

Alas, we're not there yet.

When you know The Game...

This is a sparring program, similar to the program reality of society.  It has the same basic rules, like social gravity.  What you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system.  Some of them can be bent, others can be broken.

Sunday 19 July 2015


One more sleep until Christmas in July for Moms and Dads!

Not that the CPC probably has any problem with that association - after all, everyone loves Santa.  He brings gifts to all the good girls and boys, right?  With his shelf-elves providing intel on all citizens to see who's naughty and nice and keeping an enemy's list of those who aren't.

The point is, of course, that this was exactly the kind of politics Harper once professed to stand against.  It's rather telling that the team around him now embraces the bribing of Canadians with their own money so enthusiastically, isn't it?

Donald Trump pulls a Vic Toews: Limbic Limbic Laissez-Faire UPDATED

That's what Trump said first.  Then he said this:

Sound at all familiar?  Say something belligerent while talking tough, then forcefully deny having said what you're on record as saying.

Vic Toews did that this one time.

What was said first is what was emotionally true for the individual; what was second was a forceful defence of character through an attach on someone else's facts.
Now, go back to Trump's original comment.  He got captured, i.e. he got defeated.  How can losing make you a hero?  It's a bit like giving money to the poor - why would you want to reward failure?

#1: I never give money to homeless people. I can't reward failure in good conscience.

Or how about this one?

#1: You don't feed wild animals b/c they become dependent and can't fend for themselves. How's it different for poor people?

Both quotes taken from here.  It's worth reading through the list just to see the pattern of thought behind it.

If life is a race, then only the first one across the line is the winner.  After a couple runner-ups, nobody cares any more and there's no reward, so you want to be at the front.
And if you aren't, your nothing.

That's the mentality of people like Donald Trump - it's psychopathic, true, but it's worked out pretty well for them.  

Why?  Because not everyone is a psychopath.  Most people aren't willing to steal ideas or money from others, belittle their peers or employees so as to weaken their self-esteem and make credit-taking easier.  Most people don't undercut good ideas out of spite or dedicate massive amounts of money for character assassinations, either.  

It takes a special kind of person to be willing to burn down the nation if they can be king of the ashes.

Of course the Donald Trumps of the world aren't successful because of their individual merit; they're successful largely because of their comfort and ability at abusing others.  

We have a habit of rewarding confidence.  In times past, this made sense; whoever was strongest was best able to fight off wild animals or competing tribes.  What strengths does not help with, mind you, is policy.  Policy is about collective understanding of the needs of all people within a system so as to design sustainable programs, services and infrastructure. 

If you are incapable of empathy - as psychopaths aren't - then you can't do any of this.

To Donald Trump, John McCain is a failure because he got caught.  Tough guys don't get caught, and they don't lose.

Which means Trump will have some significant cognitive dissonance to deal with when he gets his ass handed to him.

In democracy, don't you know, it's the people who are always right.

UPDATE 19/7/15:

But in seeking to downplay that exemption as "minor" and "short-term," Trump's campaign raises more questions than it answers as to how he sidestepped military service during the war.

You could almost see it coming.

War, of course, is a risky proposition.  Smart people don't take risks themselves - they offload risk to suckers dumb or weak enough (ie, not them) to pick it up.  It's like jury duty, or military service.  The only people who partake are those not smart enough to get themselves out of it - right?

Trump is successfully positioning himself as the poster-boy for laissez-faire capitalist success - and at the same time, demonstrating painfully how it is contributing to societal collapse.  And causing the need for something different.

So naturally, I'm really starting to enjoy his campaign.