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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 11 December 2015

Ford V Trump

Hilarious, but not surprising that Donald Trump thinks real life is like the movies.  His own life, however, is a bit more Goodfellas than it is Air Force one.

FORD                                                               TRUMP

Humble                                                              Egomaniac
Puts the work before himself                             Sees all work as being about himself
Uses his resources for public service                 Uses people for personal service
Isn't a racist, misogynist prick                            Um, yeah
Has walked away from plane crashes                Is a walking disaster for America

Donald Trump is used to living in the sort of fictitious world reserved for the hyper-rich or for celluloid characters.  He thinks Michael Bay is a military strategist, not a movie maker.  He makes fun of veterans, though he's made a point of never serving himself.  

Trump is two-dimensional, cartoon villain - the kind Harrison Ford characters tend to beat on screen.

Wonder how many other pop-culture figures see the would-be president as less substantial than the characters they play?

Thursday 10 December 2015

Shadows on the Wall: God Loves, Man Kills

Let's get this out of the way.

There is violence in the Koran.  There is violence in the Bible.  There is violence in the Torah.  Every book of "God's word" is written in the language of man, using human narratives, stories and analogies.

Can any one language capture the beauty of a sunset?  Or the power of a hurricane? Or the joy of birth, or the sorrow of war?

The best we can do is allegory, interpreting shadows and assuming these Words are the world. Wherever there is interpretation, there is assumption, the infusion of one's own inclinations into the message; it's as true for those who write as it is for those who read, speak, act, and follow.   Until we turn away from that which is in front of us, we fumble in darkness, unaware of the light.

Violence is embedded in the history of humanity.  It's our first form of communication, our primary means of gaining power.  Anger, fear, aggression - these are the expressions of those who live in darkness.

When we say "struggle", by inclination we think of conflict with the Other.

In any Abrahamic version of god, and in the combination of deities from other faiths, power is not something that needs to be gained from mere mortals.  God can be the stern father, the frustrated Chair of the Board of Directors, or the loving parent.  

God doesn't need humans to do his/her/its dirty work.  What God wills, happens, both for the good and bad of people.  Be it a flood or rivers turned to blood or manna from heaven, our help is not required.

God doesn't need an army.  It's men that want the power, the prestige of calling themselves God's army, or God's state, or whatever.  Why would God need a starship?

At the heart of every Book, every religion from every corner of the world is one simple message, one Golden rule:

Do unto others you would have them do unto you.  Live together.  Let justice, not dominance, be your path.  Wherever people come together in recognition and reverence of the whole that is more than the sum of their parts, that's where you'll find me.  

Quranic Quotes #174Groups like ISIL can justify murder, rape, torture, sadism in the name of God; they can parse words and cherry-pick phrases to justify their actions.  They can delude themselves that they can hasten the end of the world if they just ignore what's inconvenient.  It's a backwards way of looking at things.

Be the change you which to see in the world.  Lead by example.

How can you fight against that which undermines the will of God - the creation of a community of recognition and reverence - if you cannot find the light of reverence within yourself?  Death and oppression are not the opposite of belief, nor violence the tool of the believer.

Leaders can use hate as a wedge tool to divide and conquer, and justify such actions however they want.  This does not make them great.  It makes them selfish.  They claim themselves as the pinnacle while turning their back to the mountain.

If God is found where people come together, then that which drives people apart and keeps them from shared recognition and reverence is an active denial of what God is.

Violence, oppression, division - these are not the tools of God, divinely stated in human words.  They are human concepts latched on to by those who see shadows and think they know the world, or are too lazy, too impatient or too frightened to turn from their shadows and seek the light.

The believer stands upon the mountain top and, stunned by the awe of the world, helps others journey to the top to share in that reverence.  The non-believer builds a wall around the mountain's base and spends their time keeping others away, never having truly reached the top.

Embedded image permalinkExcept the peak is not above; it is found within.  Where you find the light, you find an opening, and beyond lies a garden full of colour and texture.  In that garden, a rose blooms.

When you turn your back to the garden, you see only shadows.
Where God shows us a rose, the non-believer sees a mushroom cloud.

Islam means submission - submission to the will of Allah.

And the will of Allah is for people to desire for others that which they would have themselves.  

That's the big secret, the deep mystery.

Everyone can be a Muslim; everyone can submit to the belief in a whole that is greater than any of us, than all of us.  Everyone can be a Buddhist, without ever saying a chant.

There are many paths to the top of the mountain.  They all begin within.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

The Unexpected Teacher

Empathy is the ability to see the world through lenses other than your own.  Like a spectrum, it's all the shades and hues together that create perfect light.  If you can't see that, you'll never see the world as it is.

In essence, you'll live in a cave.

It's a risky business, stepping out into the light...

Ways to Help Syrian Refugees (by Zareen Muzaffar)

Zareen Muzaffar is a young journalist with a passion for story-telling.  She has become both a partner and an inspiration on the #WelcomeHomeTO project. She's working on a really cool story-compilation project that I know you're going to love!

Here are some tips she has for those looking to welcome Syrian Refugees as new Canadians but not sure where to start:

Wish to help the Syrian refugees?

According to the latest article in Toronto Star, Syrian refugees will begin arriving in Canada by mid-December. The federal government said this week that Canada could welcome as many as 50,000 refugees by the end of 2016, including those who are being privately sponsored.

What can we, as Canadian citizens, do to make the transition easy for the Syrian refugees? What’s required at this time is a better dialogue between the government and settlements agencies. WelcomeHomeTO aims to promote and maintain a culture of openness where the newcomers feel welcome.

Those who wish to assist in helping Syrian refugees can contribute in different ways. Here are some ways you can help make the transition smoother for the refugees arriving in different parts of Canada.

LifeLine Syria: This community engagement initiative plans to actively participate in Canada’s commitment to resettle Syrian refugees. They aim to help recruit, train and assist sponsoring groups over the next two years to welcome and support refugee families during their first year in the GTA. LifeLine Syria also plans to work with the Syrian community in the GTA to ensure that they help shape and participate in this initiative. For more information visit their website or read their plan of action here.

GTA Refugee Assistance Hub: This group was created to help people find/supply donations of clothes, household goods and other immediate needs and required services for Syrian refugee families arriving in Toronto. All members are welcome to post requests/offers for items, questions, offers of time/skills, etc.

In-Kind Donation Collection: Located right by the subway station (Dundas West), this center has 21 Certified Information and Referral Specialists and five Arabic speaking staff members. They hope to receive winter clothing, bedding, kitchen ware, computers among a range of other necessities. For more information, visit their page here.

The Clothing Drive: What started out as a post on Facebook quickly turned into a national campaign for donations. The Clothing Drive collects clothes, organizes them and delivers the packages to the incoming Syrian families. They describe their inititave as, “This drive is a "Room for More" initiative on behalf of several sponsorship groups. The mandate is simple: collect clothes and only clothes for the soon to arrive Syrian Refugees.While the immediate need is for winter clothing and outerwear - we will accept clothing for all seasons”. Join their group on Facebook  here.

Save a Family from Syria: The First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto has partnered with the Muslim Association of Canada(MAC) and specifically their Masjid Toronto to work together to bring families to Toronto and settle them into a new life here in Canada. Volunteers can sign up on the website. You can also read stories on their webpage here.

Horses, Bayonets and Toronto's Taxi Barons

If ever a case was to be made of the desperate need for taxi companies to get with the times, this is it.

Uber is increasingly popular, especially among younger travellers.  Individuals and companies have started to play with Uber's potential value-add - everything from pizza delivery and mail service to increasing mobility for people with mobility issues.  Yes, it's a new model and yes, it requires new regulatory frameworks to support it - but with initiatives like Tim Hudak's Private Member's Bill aim to do just that.

Apart from providing supplementary income, part of the big reason Uber is so increasingly popular is because it is the anti-taxi.  The taxi racket has a bad name in town; drivers rushing corners or cutting off pedestrians, taxi barons gouging their own drivers, etc.  

In the free market, customers are the evolutionary forces that determines what survives, and they tend to favour what is seen to work in their best interests.  Increasingly, the traditional taxi model is becoming the horse and bayonet of commuting options.  It represents a bygone era of service dictators who fought government with the assumption that the public was really a passive third party.

Uber, on the other hand, represents where society is at now - civic engagement, expansion of option, governments looking to support entrepreneurship and co-design services and regulatory environments with the public as well as the usual organizational suspects.  They've hired some smart young policy minds and communicators from Queen's Park (the amazing Susie Heath comes to mind) who know how to engage, not just message, and who better reflect Uber's end-user than old-school taxi company owners.

Which brings us to this inane protest which will disrupt traffic, piss off commuters and reinforce all the things people dislike about taxis and the entire taxi industry.  

Why on earth would taxis schedule their own funeral procession?  What can they possibly hope to gain by frustrating the people who ultimately pay their bills - citizens?

Simply, because the taxi industry lives in the past and haven't figured out why they need to change their tactics from what worked a century ago.

The theory here is dominance - flex your muscle, remind people what power you have and then force the powers that be to turn their backs on your competition, leaving you with a non-competitive market.  It's what Steven Harper tried to do as a politician, which ultimately led to his downfall.

Sorry, Taxi barons, but that just isn't the way it works any more.  

Moves like this don't strengthen your cause - they alienate your "base."  And the more young commuters have their experience of taxis tainted with negatives, the less likely they will be to use them - especially when they can turn to friends or try new experiences through organizations like Uber.

By all means, proceed as you feel is right - get your horses and bayonets out and show those politicians who's boss.

It's your funeral.  I just hope you can afford the fare.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

#12Days of #SmackdownCSI

It's that time of the year - the time when the the friendly, collaborative people at the Centre For Social Innovation sharpen their knives (or at least, spatulas) and bring out their smack.

Well, at least that's the theory.  So far, this year's been quiet - really, it seems like Team #12Days are the only serious players in the running.  Which I get - we are kinda hard to beat.

We've got the plan.  We've got the story.  And yes, we've got the kick-ass cocktail, too, which is more than some sugar-coated lollys can say.

And we will be counting the 12 Days to Smackdown, giving all and sundry a walk down memory lane of the incredible journey CSI, under the guidance of the amazing Tonya Surman and supported by an incredible cast of characters, has taken from then to now.

Follow along on Facebook or Twitter as we move closer and closer to the final day... 

On the 3rd Day of , gave to us:

Shakira’s hips weren’t lying. Stephen Harper became Prime Minister of Canada. Ontario and Quebec were rocked by a 4.5 magnitude earthquake. Fortunately for Canada, this was also the year The Centre for Social Innovation became a global face for social innovation through speaking engagements around the world. Someone had to pick up that torch!

On the 2nd Day of , gave to us:

The Martin government falls with a no-confidence motion, same-sex marriage becomes legal in Canada and the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team provides post-tsumnami support to Sri Lanka. Of course, the biggest news of 2005 – that was the year Eli Mansky joined the Centre for Social Innovation team. 

On the 1st Day of , gave to us:

In the year Leonardo Dicaprio took to the skies as innovator Howard Hughes in The Aviator, a dynamic group of changemakers (including Tonya Surman) opens the doors to CSI – a new home from which 14 founding members took flight. 

Captain Phasma For Halloween

It's one of those standards - when a costume is designed for a man, it emphasizes beefy.  When the same concept is repurposed for a woman, it's made sexy.

Even when it's a character like Spiderman, who's lithe in the comic books - the boy's get beefed up:

And the girls get sexed up:

But that's not fair, right?  I used a kid's picture for the boy and an adult picture for the girl.  Well then, how about this?

Boy = tough, girl = sexy.

Even when it's something like armour.

Look at Boba Fett's armour, as it appeared in the movie:

And a female version for Halloween:

Everything hugs.  The armour plates - which would be functional in the original - changed.  Spandex is added.  And that's a tame one:

You can say this is what the market wants, or it's what men want, or it's all that's available.  The point is, the trend exists - men's outfits repurposed for women get sexed up to some degree or another.

Which begs the question - what will Captain Phasma's Haloween outfits look like as the character, a woman in armour, gains traction post-Force Awakens release?

The Perfect Union

Are you worried about a Muslim invasion of continental USA?  Worried that there is a deep conspiracy between Muslims inside and outside of America, plotting to destroy the fabric of what makes (made) America great?  Fear that they're hiding in your very midst, masquerading as normal people - maybe even the President?

If you hold this to be true, I have a question for you - why don't you believe in the US Constitution?

There are Muslims all around you, whether you realize it or not.  It's kinda like how there are Protestants all around you, and Catholics, and Hindus, and Sikhs, and atheists.  People you know - perhaps even the same ones - might be first gen or second gen Americans, or 5th gen.  They may be gay or straight, like country music or rock n' roll.  These very same people may or may not like sushi, or children, or Michael Bay movies.

These people around you, they can be all of these things, or none of these things.

They can be mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, coaches, teachers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, athletes, coders, introverts, extroverts, communists, bloggers, trolls, porn-watchers, choir-singers, donators to charity, reservists, Masons, or couch bums.

When you stop to think about it, really, it's pretty scary - you can't really tell what a person is or what's in their heart just by looking at them.

Let's ignore the Constitution for a second and say that your personal feelings of insecurity trump all - what can you do?

Even if you shut out the world, find some secluded corner to live in with people you feel look, think and act in ways you get, you will never know for sure if there's a secret something in your midst. You could turn a blind eye, I suppose, and ignore the things that make you uncomfortable - but the discomfort would remain.  

This still doesn't solve the problem, because things like ideology aren't genetic - they're viral, and they can spread.  Let's say your kid is on the Internet and comes across Rumi, or sees a cute boy/girl on Instagram or Tinder who identifies as Muslim, or socialist, or whatever, and gets curious.  Starts doing some homework.  Maybe even starts considering whether Islam or communism makes sense to them.

What then?  Do you ban the Internet?  Do you work over-time to ensure you children recognize the evil presented by ideologies and viewpoints and lifestyles that don't mirror your own?  Or are you a big-picture thinker, and would rather make sure there are no corrupting, othering influences out there offering temptation?

How do you shut out or wipe out all that you see as un-American to ensure your country looks and feels just the way you want it to?

You would have to start by throwing out the Constitution.

WE, the people.  That's first.  Not we, the people here at this moment in time; not we, white people - we, the people, period.

A more perfect Union.  That is, the act of joining two or more things together.  Not one thing remaining the same, and everything else conforming to it; not the rejection of differences. 

Justice - the equal application of the law for all the people.  All the people.

Domestic tranquillity - note that this comes first

Common Defence - internal tranquillity, which means a focus on forming that more perfect Union, which implies the Union isn't perfect already.  Defence common - collectively defending the people, which is rather different than divide and conquer, which is the opposite of forming a more perfect Union.

Welfare, Blessings of Liberty and Posterity - of the people, for a more Perfect Union.

This is the American constitution, not some externally imposed doctrine.  It doesn't speak of conformity, of segregation, or of excessive impositions on religious groups - in fact, it speaks directly against those things.

Of course the Constitution was written in a different time, a more hopeful time.  The United States was an experiment, an innovation, a can-do attitude that rejected the notion that the people should be subjected to imperial impositions.

The United States of America believed in people first, and what they can achieve when they have certain liberties and a framework that encouraged them to work together and create a whole - a union - that was more than the sum of its parts.

So - who are the people?

They're everyone.

What's their obligation?  To form a more perfect union through the promotion of justice, tranquillity, common defence and common welfare with the blessings of liberty being applied to all, now and for posterity.

It was a good plan then, and it remains a good plan now.  The problem is, it's not being followed.

Justice isn't equal.  Tranquillity isn't the goal - way too often, we see uncessary escalation in the interest of divisive beliefs.  Some Americans are being defended by the State while others are being denied justice and common welfare - so is it any wonder that tranquillity is absent?

The whole point of the Constitution was to lay out a dynamic framework that entrenched certain liberties and public responsibilities, allowing for the United States of America to remain strong, open and adaptable.

To fear an invasion of communism, or Islamism is, in essence, to deny the strength of that vision.

Which brings us back to the people.  For the United States to work, as an entity, it requires the people to internalize and live by the core mandate of the Constitution, which is to form a more perfect union.  
That doesn't happen without empathy and compromise, by all parties.

It doesn't matter if you are a fifth-gen American or a new American, the same principle applies - the union of the commons comes first.  Justice for all is essential.  The common welfare and common defence are inherently connected.

Which is all just words, unless the people put them into practice.

The United States is, by its very nature, a virtuous conspiracy between people, seeking common ground and equally adapting for the development of a more perfect union.

To believe otherwise is, frankly, un-American.  And definitely unbecoming in any person seeking to lead the country.

Donald Trump Open Letter to American Muslims

Dear American Muslims,

We don't actually count you as Americans. In fact, we think you're all terrorists, convening in your mosques to plot the overthrow of America under the secret instruction of your secret Muslim President.  Although a couple of you are, I assume, good people.

We know you have bombs and plan to blow up real Americans with them.

Which is why we real Americans need guns, and need to keep an eye on you, and why you can't aggregate, or dress how you like, or have any of the other freedoms real Americans enjoy because, you know, they're enshrined in our constitution.

You and the Mexican people, speaking Mexican and eating tacos. Rapists and thieves, all of them. Except those who aren't, but that's like, a minority.

So yeah - real Americans like me can't figure out why fake Americans like you hate us, so you're on notice.

Hugs and Kittens,

The Real Donald Trump