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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.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Anyone Else See the Problem with This?

Wait for it...

How much money do I need to donate to a party who's contracting local offices, increasing centralization, paying more money to people who already make more than I'll ever see to stop someone from spending money that I'm never going to benefit from?

At what point does "the middle class" or the lower class start gaining from citizenship rather than simply trying to stop the bleed?

Oh, I know.  Wait for it, it's coming, if I pay a bit extra, I'll even get a sneak peak.

I'm not holding my breath.  Neither should they be.

Donate Now ⇒Donate Now 

Holocaust Survivors on Display

"We note that survivors will be presented at the events as zoo animals."

The intent wasn't malicious.  Nobody consciously planned events that used survivors as props or spoke way over their heads about German intellectual history.  It's just that the event planners didn't consciously plan events with survivors directly in mind, either.

It is critical to understand that the cost of flying survivors and caregivers to Germany, putting them up in hotels and such isn't cheap.  Those who put up the cash are clearly going to want some time to shine themselves in return.

Especially here, though, it's important to remember why these events are continually held in the first place.  

Commemorations aren't about the funders.  They're certainly about the survivors.

When that culture of remembrance gets lost in a culture of self-adoration, we have a problem.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Three Castles of Thuringia



National Objectivism

It never ceases to amaze me when the political right talks about the Nazis as being leftists (national socialists, don't you know).

After all, their work camp system was built on laissez-faire capitalist principles.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Is This War?

War is competition - it has winners and losers.  When you've won, theoretically, the war is over. Good and bad isn't really an ethics thing, so much as it's the story you get to write once you've won. 

We have laws that are meant to keep the worst of human behaviour and a predilection towards selfish ignorance in check.  Ethics, in theory, are the things which help us manage ourselves in a social context.

 Most of the people I know in politics have no direct connection, no personal experiences that relate to the absolute worst humanity is capable of when it puts winning and story-shaping ahead of in-the-now values and ethics.  Winning elections is a race, after all - what matters most is getting across the line first.

Election funding rules get skirted.  Laws get skirted, or ignored.  Corners get cut, memberships get paid for, attacks are personalized on the theory that politics is a blood sport and if you wanna play, you gotta be prepared to give and take some hits.

All's fair in love and the war room, right?

It's this frame of thinking that worries and frustrates me.  I know enough about human behaviour to know that such ideologies become hardened over time.  As the "stakes" are rhetorically raised, the enemy increasingly demonized, more and more questionable strategies and tactics become acceptable.

We see it happening around us, every day.  

Until the people who crave power start recognizing it comes with a hefty responsibility, things are only going to get worse.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Education in Canada

The message many in corporate land will take from this is that they are the centrepiece of the economy, and as such all institutions need to be gearing people to meet their needs.  That means lowering aspirations, wage expectations, job security and benefits expectations.  After all, our businesses need to be competitive with others on the global stage, right?

Many University presidents will argue that, with the job market so tight and the future so bleak, it's never been more important for youth to learn critical thinking and develop robust educational portfolios, thereby making them ever more attractive to employers.  In other words, don't focus on them, it's someone else who needs to change.

Ever more pressure will be placed on grades, theoretically, but as is the case with immigration in Canada these days, it's who's got the money that will truly get ahead.  They can pay for higher tuition fees, more tutors - wealthy parents have more friends who can give their kids a shot than parents of lesser means.

This is the way of laissez-faire capitalism; responsibility is the only think that trickles down, as does the pressure to do more with less and be judged as worthless should they fail to do what those of greater means are capable of with ease.

Here's what I know to be true - there will always be those who discourage others from aiming high, either because they want to reduce competition or they genuinely feel there are some people who just aren't capable of amounting to anything.  When people feel like they have no hope, that the best they can aim for is a crap job that pays the bills, there is only so much heart they will have to put into it.

When you've got an economy that's underpaying cognitive labour, the results will be lacklustre.  The average employer will lean a bit harder on their staff, burning them out, nudging them to work past rational limits leading to even more anxiety and depression cases in our hospitals.

Yet we don't have a national strategy to deal with our mental health crisis.  No, we'd much rather spend time tracking the conversations of an increasingly embittered nation.  Well, those private conversations are going to start getting less pretty as more and more people become fed up not just with our politics, but our social system.  

Those who do well within that system will accuse others of sour grapes.  Those who don't will accuse those at the top of greed and corruption.  As always, scapegoats will emerge.  They may even be emerging already.  The picture that emerges isn't pretty, though it should be familiar.

Fortunately, there is another trend out there, but it's barely a blip on the economic radar.

I've written about it a bit on this blog, in various places, including this piece on redefining wealth. I've gone on about redefining social responsibility, too, which involves writing a new social contract.  Canada 150 provides an excellent opportunity for this.  

We all know why it's important to know history.  Any business can tell you why assessing the landscape matters, too.  What we need to get better at is mapping the future and adapt our course to arrive their in dynamic fashion.

Alas, that's not a lesson that can be pushed, sold or hammered into static memory.  

That's the number one assumption we need to unlearn if we're to move forward.  

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

I Can't Do It Any More - We Can't Do This Any More

People say I'm the life of the party
Because I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue

I'd like to think that I add value to the world I live in with the rest of you.  I'd like to think that the things I've done in my career and in life have had a positive impact - provincial policies changed, projects realized, countless individuals mentored and supported in their growth trajectories.  

The events I've organized on my own have been copied by others, which means they were good ideas, right?  The events I've supported have surely taken on added life through my contributions. My blog posts are fairly well read, considering I don't do much to promote them; I'd like to believe the comments I make on social media spark conversation, expand networks, hopefully inspire others to change their view or take action to strengthen society.

The sad truth, however, is that I often feel like I'm completely worthless.  Like there's a yawning gap between the objectives I try to accomplish - and put a great deal of energy into - and me, as an individual.  I keep pushing harder but have actually started to lose ground.  Increasingly, I feel like I'm bleeding out, like the work I do is my life blood, oozing out of a thousand gaping self-inflicted wounds.  

I feel tired, spent, lost.

This probably sounds like a "woe is me" rant; I can only tell you that isn't my intent, that isn't how I feel.

Recently, I've been wondering if I'm just completely delusional.  I mean, people invest in things that have value, right?  People that do good work are in demand; they are recognized, invited, brought on for contract work or project development or whatever.  If people are constantly asking more from me, it's because what I've done simply isn't enough - it doesn't have value.

Therefore, I don't have value.

It's a gut-wrenching thing to admit, but it must be true.

I think of all the people I've worked with - the encouraging words, the polite smiles, the push to do more, to frame differently, to hustle harder, and all I can think is I've let each and every one of them down.  

How many conversations have I hindered rather than help with my constant stream of ideas?  What great initiatives have been sidelined by my suggestions?  How many people have I frustrated by imposing myself where I had no business being?

There's nothing worse than intending to add value but, in fact, taking it away.  Demanding what isn't my right to demand, imposing where I have no business doing so.

I know how exhausted, how spent I feel day in and day out.  I can only imagine how much life I suck out of others simply by being around.  It's not fair to any of us.

I can't do it any more.  I can't keep being a thorn in the heel of meaningful development, a cross to be borne by the amazing people who have given me so much of their time and patience.

You deserve better than that, than me.

I'm sorry.

There is but one tag on this post – April 1.  As in, the first of April, commonly known as “April Fool’s Day.”  Naturally, there’s a reason for that.

I’m not going anywhere.  I will continue to tweet, event-organize, lobby, connect, mentor, strategize and do all the other things I do to contribute to society and do my part to keep a roof over my family’s head and food on the table. 

Those who truly know me will tell you that giving up simply isn’t part of my genetic make-up and that no matter what hits I take, I always get back up.  My attitude, in a nutshell, is this – adversity is the world’s greatest teacher.  Every stumble, disconnect or deal unclosed is a lesson on how to better frame the next time.

I’d be lying if I suggested there was no truth to the theme of the piece.  Like a growing percentage of people in this world of ours, I often do feel like I’m being asked to do more for less, with increased emphasis being placed on me to sell the value of whatever it is I’m doing to the people with the money or space or capacity or whatever. 

We see this in the workplace, with unpaid interns being told they should consider themselves lucky for the opportunity to skill-build, or contract workers being told they’re lucky to have work, period, so quit complaining about benefits.

Are there too few women in politics?  It’s quite simply their fault for not trying hard enough, is it?  Same goes with senior positions in Any Give Sector – if the women self-promoted as much as the men folk, if they put career before family like men did, they’d have more success, wouldn’t they?

What about youth and civic engagement?  Kids these days, they want everything handed to them – they expect university education to lead to well-paying jobs, they expect to be listened to without having to do the really hard job of sales and marketing to make what they have to say be relevant to the people they’re saying it to.

Same, of course, for voting.  If youth don’t vote, they can’t complain if policy doesn’t reflect them.  The burden must always, always be on the individual; the only way to ensure a strong economy is to push everyone to have that killer instinct, to be hunters and sellers studying the market landscape and predicting employment trends – and develop their own budget to afford this R&D/market research.
That’s the system we have; that’s laissez-faire capitalism.

In reality, this system is a crazy hybrid of tribal hierarchies and typical predatorial behaviour. 

People get to the top of the social ladder through hard work, right?  And with that comes the riches.  If anyone wants those riches, or access, or whatever, they have to hustle in the same way.  That’s the predatorial part – eat what you kill, always be closing, etc. 

Except we’ve also got the hierarchical system in which the Alphas get the greater portion of everything, but that comes with responsibilities to the societal whole.  If the percentage of homeless people, malnourished children, poverty, etc. existed in a smaller tribal society, the head man would quickly find himself without a head.

None of this is to suggest there’s an elitist conspiracy theory to mix social systems in a way that actively oppresses growing percentages of the population from achieving success or being engaged in society; those who say that’s true have way more confidence in the ability of people to cohesively organize than they deserve.  It’s more a matter of “if I did well in this system, than anyone can, and why would I want a different system if this one clearly works for me?”

People’s intent matters, but it’s simplistic to expect a direct correlation between intent and consequence. 

Besides – not everyone is a hunter.  Not everyone is a hustler.  Nor, despite what laissez-faire capitalists think, should they be.

Can you imagine any ecosystem where every creature is a predator?  There’s none that exists in nature; if anything, the evidence shows that any given ecosystem can only support a small number of predators. 

It’s the exact same thing with economies.  If everyone is selling a product and the general rules of predation apply, the vast majority of people aren’t going to close, aren’t going to get paid, aren’t going to survive. 

Except in our social ecosystem, the “weak” hustlers don’t die, they underperform, burn out, suffer from depression.

Which is exactly why the tone of the original post was written from the perspective of depression. 
People are giving up looking for work because they have no expectation of winning.  They’re giving up voting because they don’t feel it makes a difference.  You can call them weak, needy, losers, whatever you want, but the fact is their ranks are swelling.

As are reported incidences of depression. 

Depressed people don’t work well, contribute less, are less effective at parenting, more distracted while driving, more likely to use healthcare services, taxing the existing health system.  In aggregate, it ain’t a pretty picture.

If you’re at the top of the social strata, or if you’re a natural hustler, you will probably come back to the “so what?” mentality – what’s this got to do with me?  If you can’t sell the threat of an emerging situation in clear soundbites without a lot of complexity, it can’t really be that much of a threat, can it?

History tells a different story.  It tells this story over and over again in compelling ways.  If you care enough to look, you’ll have little trouble finding examples.

We can’t do this any more.

Every man for himself is not going to work.  We need to figure out how we’re going to survive here.


What happens to predators when there’s no more sheep to eat?  Exactly.

Everyone has value.  It's really baffling that the people most reliant on others - the sellers, the CEOs - have some much trouble recognizing that fact.  

If everyone has value, then we're all worth investing in, aren't we?