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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 18 September 2015

Canada's Easter Island

Does this surprise anyone?  Facts tell, but stories tell - and when you eliminate facts, no one can fact-check your story, can they?

Team Harper has played the game thusly - to the victor go the spoils and winning justifies anything.

They get away with it, too - so what message have other parties taken away?  Team Harper weren't the first down this path, so we can see the pattern - if we've been around long enough, that is.  

It's lovely that we'll have monuments to Canada's mythological past, though.  It'll be what future archaeologists can study as they try to piece together what happened to our country.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Coalhouse Mohamed

It's hard to capture the magnitude of the ignorant, arrogant short-sightedness in this.  Let's take a crack at it anyway.

Killing the American Dream

The much-vaunted American Dream says that if you, individual you, work hard and hustle hard, you can be anything - the next Steve Jobs, the next Oprah or the next President.  As a side-bar to that, the narrative suggests hand-outs are oppressive to the individual's ability to succeed.

Yet here we have a young man who had no criminal record trying to impress his teachers with unquestionable giftedness, and he's been smacked down hard for it.  What message gets sent to the broader public?  That the American Dream doesn't apply if you're brown-skinned or have a Muslim name?

Depriving the American Economy

How old are you in grade 9?  17?  Ahmed Mohamed made a clock.  He's made a go-cart.  I couldn't do that, and I'm 20 years older.  This is skill, ability - and more than that, it's the kind of technical ability Western labour markets need more of.  Plus, he was proud of his work and wanted to show it off - that strikes me as a great starting point for entrepreneurialism.

The job of schools is to produce educated, well-adjusted youth who can add value to society and the economy.  That doesn't happen when people are labelled "terrorist" and thrown into jail for showing positive initiative.  

Giving Police a Bad Name

"Look, we get that he said it was a clock and that, in actuality, it was a clock.  We're gonna charge him with bomb-making anyway.

What the hell??!?  This is a Rob Ford level of doubling-down.  These Irving cops have essentially admitted they were wrong and jumped the gun, but because they're the cops and he's a brown kid, they can't really back down, right?  So they're trying to justify their action by digging their hole even deeper.

Even from a strictly PR/crisis management perspective, this is dumb.  If you're going to admit a mistake, address it - that's the best choice.  If you're going to proceed anyway, then don't admit fault and make yourself look like the numpties you are.  What a total embarrassment.

Recruitment Opportunity

Back to the American Dream for a second - work hard and your hard work will propel you forward. Add to this the basics of a free market economy; value will eventually be rewarded by market forces.  
If I'm an actual terrorist group, I'm seizing on this story for its narrative-building and recruitment potential.  Look, kids, you're not welcome in the US!  They are corrupt, anti-us, and oppressive.  
They don't want you.  We want you - and your skills.  Join our team, gain respect, skin in the game and your talents will definitely be put to use!

And that's just scratching the surface.

More evidence that the greatest threat isn't foreign trouble at our shores, but our own wilful ignorance.

Forgive 'em, lord...

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Call me a cynic, Christine, but...

So happy to see all the names on this list – a lot of familiar ones!
5:15 PM
Definitely! I’m going to be emailing Craig and a few others later tonight, just to check in
5:17 PM

Hi Craig,
See above. I just wanted to share the conversation I had with Justin Trudeau with you. He wanted me to check in with you. If you're having difficulty donating online, you can always give us a call at 1-888-LIBERAL. We're open until midnight EST tonight!

Really, Christine?  Justin Trudeau's on a plane, asking about me and my donations - sorry, my preparedness to "step up?"
I don't think so.  I don't think Trudeau, or Christine for that matter, have the slightest idea who I am.  I think they've got  Nationbuilder or whatever outreach platform working hard to fill in the blanks for mass e-mails that are disingenuously attempting to create the impression that the people on your list count as people, not numbers and donor profiles.
Bottom line - I don't feel part of that team.  A human resource to be mined, perhaps - but that's hardly empowered engagement.  
Contrast this with another fundraising ask I received recently; Erin Kang, founder and community-builder for Stories of Ours sent me a direct message asking if I could help out, and told me exactly what it was the money would go for.  I know Erin - she's not connecting with me because I'm a name on a list, but because we're friends, she knows me and she knows I believe in what she does.
And what Erin does - what Stories of Ours represents - is more than one party, tribe, or fundraising drive.  It's about building community.
Also, don't worry about it! You've been an infinite help with this project in many other ways. thanks
smile emoticon

No everyone-else-has numbers pressure tactics (that kinda backfire when they're that low).  No "can I count on you?" condescension.  For Erin, it's about the vision and the values - many roads to the top of the mountain, etc.  I'm giving her some money anyway, but it is nice to be recognized for other value-added contributions.

Of course, stories of ours puts the people and their experiences first; Erin, a gifted story teller, works with presenters to help maximize their ability to tell their story with impact and then creates the space where they, not she, builds the narrative.  She's the facilitator.
Could you imagine getting a message like this from a political party?  
"Craig, if you can donate, great, but I know you're working hard on projects that tie into the core things we all believe in - maximizing personal potential and nurturing strong, resilient societies.  Whether you can donate to us or not, your work is recognized and appreciated. If we can in any way, let us know."
Even that could be a canned letter sent out to people on the list.
Maybe the kind of trite messaging above works on some.  It would be pretty unfortunate if it does.
It is not and should not be about him, and whether we are making him happy.  It's about the people, the spaces we inhabit.  The vision, and the role people have to play in it.  Otherwise you're replicating the same top-down mentality that Stephen Harper embodies, whatever else your rhetoric says.
But hey - if JT really wants to talk policy and change-making, I'm pretty easy to reach.  
'Til then, my next donation is going to Erin and Stories of Ours.  I know it's money well spent.


I'm With Warren

I was talking to a friend yesterday about politics - one controversial policy topic or other.  She mentioned that, in her opinion, all politicians are liars.  Okay, I said - but politicians are people.  Anyone can be a politician; our crop of politicos always represent a wide swath of backgrounds, professions, communications ability, etc.  They're human.

If they're all liars, self-centred manipulators and what not, is that not reflective of all of us?  If it's not them, as a separate species (hath a pol not eyes?) but their behaviour is not what we, as the people represented, might want to see - what's causing it?

The same day, I was giving a training on community animation with a special emphasis on emotional intelligence, self-regulation and empathy.  My key points are these:

- we're all emotional beings first; our emotions shape our world view

- emotions are influenced by a combination of internal and external factors

- like our physical states, our psychological/emotional states can be exercised and shaped, with effort (which varies from person to person)

- knowing how we feel and why we feel that way helps us to interpret the behaviour of others through a similar lens - what are they sharing, and what can it tell us?

- good space design and great culture design can help strengthen communication and improve both mental health outcomes and productivity; they can also reduce tensions and increase adaptability

Why Should I Care?

I am proudly part of the Why Should I Care team - a volunteer-driven not-for-profit that promotes civil conversations about policy.  We bring in top-notch speakers to discuss issues, not debate them; the audience gets to ask questions, gain insight, increase their understanding of a situation - which is rather different than being hammered with ABC messaging.

WSIC is one of many groups taking the same approach, encouraging what can loosely be termed an informed, engaged, responsible society that has the tools and understanding they need to make informed choices in their interest, both immediate self and broader social.

On the other side, there are a lot of public servants, citizen activists and yes, even political staff and politicians working to make Open Government a reality.  It's a slow process, but is fundamentally changing the way politics works.

In politics, this responsible society/open gov/behavioural economics stuff is still pretty fringe, but it's gaining traction - not because of aggressive sales, but because it's simply what works best at this point in time.

If we want to hold other's back, we can use the past as a weapon.  If we want to adapt to the broader changes happening in our world, though, we're going to need all hands on deck - all of them, from all quarters.

It won't be easy to change the way we do politics, the way we do organizational structures, the way we do engagement.  It isn't meant to be.  If that's what works, though, then those best able to adapt will be the ones who succeed.

You don't need to take it from me, though.  Warren Kinsella says it way better than I ever could.

The Political Free Market: Bringing Down Under to the Great North (and some fresh air at the end)

"They" being select members of the B.C. business community, the kind of folk that Lynton Crosby wants to find a relevant message for.

Expect more of this ABC-style approach to political campaigning as the season-long #elxn42 lumbers forward into fall. Identify your target market - only your target market, not (pejorative minority group) - they aren't your people anyway - and then close that deal.  If you keep hammering at them, hitting the key emotional triggers and all that jazz, you'll push them into making a choice, and that choice will be in your favour.

Pretty simple, right?

You'd think so, at any rate.  Apparently not, though.  Despite having aggressive sales folk like Nick Kouvalis and comms whizes like Kory Teneycke at his service and despite having long-term loyalists like Jenni Byrne and, um, Chris Woodcock in his circle, Harper has decided to look further afield for the talent he needs to win this election.

It's not that, you know, he's ungrateful to his own people.  He simply realizes it's a tough election and he could very well lose, especially if his campaign can't get on the right course.  Staying the course isn't an option, because too much is not going his way.  If they're too risky to guarantee a win, you have to look at other options.

Which is what a lot of Canadians, including traditional Tory supporters, are doing.

Harper's people, meanwhile - they're all about the free market and against national protectionism. 

They won't be the slightest bit wounded or embittered about Harper's clear indication that he doesn't feel they're up to the job and preference for bringing in an Australian to do the job they are having trouble with.

Which is why Harper's whole team is surely embracing the simple message frame and proven track record of that Voldemort from Down Under, Lynton Crosby.

It doesn't matter whether he comes from up above or from Down Under, or how much skin he has in Canada's election.  It makes no difference whether the policies and messages he picks as winners for the target he identifies create headaches for non-Con market voters.  All that matters is that he can deliver the goods.

This got me thinking.

Harper's message is that the other guys - Trudeau and Mulcair, because he is loathe to mention Elizabeth May's name - are too risky.  You can't be sure they'll do a good job, and if they don't, fire and brimstone will ensure from the ruptures that will form in the earth, sucking all that is good and traditional down the drain (like manufacturing jobs and the forest industry).

Thing is, though, Harper hasn't done so hot himself.  He's continued and exacerbated the trend of poisoning the democratic well for partisan gain; he's made a mess of relations with provinces, the media and countless stakeholder groups; un- and under-employment are on the rise, aboriginal women are still going missing, pipelines are still pipe dreams, etc.  

Can we really count on Harper to do anything other than what he's been doing already?  That's what his campaign seems to suggest - more of the same, when that simple hasn't been good enough.

It's a bit risky, isn't it?

Maybe Harper has provided us with the extra option we needed.  Perhaps we don't need to limit ourselves to the risky choices before us - Harper didn't, and as leader he sets the example, doesn't he?

There's no rule that says Canada's Prime Minister has to be an elected official.  To be honest, the office of PM is one of convention, not one of legislation, so we have all kinds of flexibility on how to fill the role.

To keep things moderately in-house, though, what we could do is look at honourary Canadian citizens to fill this honourable role.

Here are some options:
   Karim Aga Khan IV

   Malala Yousafzai

  Aung San Suu Kyi

 and my personal choice:

   The Dalai Lama

Of course, we don't have to look abroad to find the best fighters to conquer electorates, or to fight off our political representatives. That's another thing that's become convention, but is not and does not have to be the rule.

Perhaps instead of looking abroad for people to fight his battles for him, Harper should look to the past for some advice on what it means to be Public Servant #1, as the Prime Minister should be:

- the Honourable Jim Flaherty, 2011

As for the rest of us - maybe we have to stop waiting for someone to solve our social ailments. Maybe we have always had the ability ourselves, and just needed the opportunity and encouragement.

Now's the time for something different.

Monday 14 September 2015

Love is a Garden

Some advice I gave to a friend earlier today: 

"Love is like a garden - it has to be tended to thrive."

What's that mean?  It means all the little acts that keep a garden alive - a bit of weeding, watering, ensuring plants have the support they need - are similar to the things that keep relationships thriving, like time together, acts of kindness, gratitude, etc.

Nature provides the seed, but it's nurture that helps it grow.

Sunday 13 September 2015

A Shift In Power

The rest of Kinsella's analysis talks about how the Convervatives will become competitive again, with the focus being on someone eventually becoming the people's choice.  That's how the system works, isn't it?  You gotta have a government, it's gonna be a party, so it's just a matter of choice.

This in response to an emerging reality:

See, we can't keep playing the starfish-throwing game and patting ourselves on the back righteously - it isn't enough.  

The world is changing - literally - and it's impacting us all in more pervasive ways than at least we in the West are used to.

Which means that the way governance works needs to change and adapt.  As happens always, it's an organic process - as existing systems fall behind need, others step up to fill their place.

We live in interesting times...