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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.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Problem Definition and Political Ice Cream



This has been readily identified as a key problem within our bureaucracies, political parties and how our very democracy functions.

But are we identifying the right problems?  Or are we viewing everything as a nail because the only thing we know how to do is hammer on our own interests?

Leaders don't tell people what the problem is and how to fix it; they bring them together to properly identify the problem and design a sustainable solution.

It's a forward, together kind of thing.

The Poem I Read at the KLB Plaque Unveiling (Reflection by William Walderam)

I've had some asks for the poem I read at the unveiling of the plaque commemorating The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald.  In truth, I was asked by Mike Dorsey if I'd read it just before the event started and was handed a paper copy of the poem right then.  That copy went to a German journalist, but I've found the text online here:


By Willie Walderam, Royal Canadian Air Force, KLB 78402

I'll think of you dear KLB
Again some future day,
When the world is gay and free
And I am so far away.

Of those long appells in pouring rain
With neither boots nor shoes,
And the SS guards who counted us
Hitting whom they choose.

When I bounce my children on my knee,
I'll think of the Gypsy kids,
Who, instead of wearing ball and chain,
Should have been wearing bibs.

When I Lay in my cosy bed at night
I'll think of your hard boards,
With a single blanker to cover us,
And flees and lice in hordes.

Ironically, I'll think of how
You took our dog-tags from us, 
'Nix soldat-civil' you said,
Smiling fanatically at us.

Yes, you gave us soup and enough black bread
To etch out a mere existence,
Enough to keep us wanting more
And weaken our resistance

How two of our number lost their lives
For lack of medical aid;
You wouldn't even give them food
To help save them from the grave

And then: after eight weeks spent in your filthy soul,
Which seemed to me like years,
The Luftwaffe came, took us away,
I felt like shedding tears

And so to all you Konzentrators,

A toast I offer thee:

Here's wishing you a happy life,
And to Hell with KLB

I have no picture of me delivering the speech, which is fine - it's about them.

Political Sales is Still Sales

Your donation can make the difference and you could be the lucky donor to get a call from Justin. Please click the link below and give $3.

Let's do this for Justin -- and for Canada.

On a flight home recently, I watched 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street back-to-back.  It was an interesting experience.  You could look at them as different ends of the same spectrum, really; one one end, a dehumanized man nearly looses himself as he becomes a pawn in a money game by messed-up wealthy folk; in the other, a wealthy man becomes enslaved by drugs and money, losing himself at the same time as he dehumanizes the others he manipulates.

Sales is about profit - getting more money.  You can save the spotted owl if you have enough money.  

Politics is about power - getting more influence.  You can save the spotted owl if you have enough political power - but to get that takes money.

Sales is catalyzing behaviour - convincing people to give you something - their money, their vote - with some kind of exchange being implied.  But it's the convincing part that matters most.  That's why both sales and politics attracts such aggressive, combative personalities.  They don't care what they're selling so much as that they are winning.

To make a sale you need to catalyze a choice.  You want your mark to strip away everything else that's in their thought frame and feel a sense of comfort with you and urgency not to lose the opportunity before them.  In politics, added this mix is a great deal of negative influencers like "if you don't donate/vote, the bad guys will make rainbows and sunshine illegal."

It's a lot easier to sell a person - a brand - than it is to sell an idea.  It's far harder to try and build a relationship.

Whatever Party you're getting an email from, expand beyond the message you're meant to focus on and think about the context and intent being conveyed.

In this case - your donation will change the world and by donating, you'll get to talk with the one person who will make that happen.  Canada gets mentioned after.

It's good sales - create demand, imply competition and the potential for exclusivity.  What it isn't, though, is good community-building.

Leaders don't dictate from the top - they lead from the front.  

By the same token, communities must be build collaboratively, beginning neither at the top nor at the bottom, but from the centre, from common ground.

To many "leaders" are missing this right now.

69th anniversary of the liberation

Verbal contributions of the events on 11 and 13 April 2014 in the Buchenwald Memorial

Friday, April 11 , 15.15 clock

Tour of the commemoration of historical places in the former prison camp, beginning on the former appeal court

Address: Katrin Göring-Eckardt
Group Chairman of Alliance 90/The Greens in the German Bundestag
Address: Éva Pusztai
Jewish survivors of the concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald

Sunday, April 13, 13.30 clock

Central commemoration of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and commands (IKBD) on the former appeal court

Welcome: Bertrand Herz
President of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and commands
Address: Floreal Barrier
Chairman of the Advisory Board survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp at Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora
Ed Carter-Edwards
as a member of the Canadian Air Force prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp
Elling Kvamme
former Norwegian inmate of the Buchenwald concentration camp

More Pics from Buchenwald

Comfort: Bertrand Herz, President of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and Sub-Camps, left, with Nazi concentration camp survivor Ed Carter-Edwards, who travelled to the service from Canada. Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals and the homeless were sent to the camps, among many others
Comfort: Bertrand Herz, President of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and Sub-Camps, left, with Nazi concentration camp survivor Ed Carter-Edwards, who travelled to the service from Canada. Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals and the homeless were sent to the camps, among many others 

Emotion: The prisoners at Mittelbau-Dora and its parent camp, Buchenwald, were forced to make German munitions for the war in terrible conditions
Emotion: The prisoners at Mittelbau-Dora and its parent camp, Buchenwald, were forced to make German munitions for the war in terrible conditions

Former Nazi concentration camp survivor Boleslaw Pieniazkiewicz of Poland mourns behind the memorial

Horror: Nazi concentration camp survivor Chasten Bowen and his wife Jeanie Bowen travelled from California. Here they examine the ovens where bodies were burned

Horror: Nazi concentration camp survivor Chasten Bowen and his wife Jeanie Bowen travelled from California. Here they examine the ovens where bodies were burned - 

See more at:

The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald: We'll Meet Again

Grandpa Ed singing We'll Meet Again as we closed the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the 169 Allied Airmen that endured Buchenwald.

Here are the four surviving Airmen that made it to the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald:

Left to right:

Chasten "Chat" Bowen, Anaheim, CA, B-17 aircrew
Richard "Dick" Bedford, P-47 Thunderbolt pilot
Donald Shearer, B-26 crew
Ed Carter-Edwards, Halifax WAG (427)

Hope we all meet again next year, gents.  Honoured to have spent the weekend with you - you truly are inspiring.

Pushing Daisies in Partisan Politics: WWJD?

Chasten Bowen of Anaheim, a former U.S. flier who was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp after his bomber was shot down over France during World War II, would be eligible for reparations in a deal being negotiated by France's national railroad and the U.S. State Department, but says he does not need them.

Over the past week I was in Germany, commemorating the liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp with survivors, their family and various state officials.  Among the group was Chat Bowen, a former World War II pilot in the US Airforce who is one of The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald.

Chat tells a great tale of this one time when he was separated from his fellows in Buchenwald by the SS and placed before a firing squad.  The SS figured the 168 Allied Airmen they'd thrown into the Camp against the conditions of the Geneva Convention would have valuable insight to help them turn around a war that increasingly wasn't going in their favour.

You have to have met Chat to really understand what comes next but let me assure you, I believe the story exactly as Chat relays it.

According to Chat, his first comment was "what, it takes 20 of you for just little old me?"

The SS shouted at him stamped their feet and shouted their questions, threatening to shoot him at any second.  The more they aggressively pushed him, the more he found himself laughing.

"I found this complete calm come over me," Chat said in conversation over the weekend. "I flat-lined, I figured I was already dead.  So I said to them 'Go ahead - I know where I'm going and I know where you're going, and you've got a long road ahead of ya.'"

Chat is a practicing Christian who believes the Bible as literal truth.  I disagree with him on that, but you simply cannot argue with the philosophy he has developed concerning life.

So long as he's on the right side of the green grass, he says, there's not much that can upset him.  Cribbing the Dalai Lama he likes to say "if you've got a problem, solve it, and if you can't solve it then how's it a problem?"

Chat defeated the SS who lined him up for execution that day.  They smacked him and sent him back to the others, but he survived.  Even if they had killed him, the seed he planted that day would have come back to haunt them.  

He has continued in the same vane since that day, sharing his story and the lessons it tells, encouraging others to laugh, remember what truly matters and enjoy every minute that you're "vertical and on the green side of the grass."  He has a great deal to say against hate, too.  Hate, he says, is such a waste of energy.  It makes you sick.  He cannot do that to himself, much less to others.  He laughs instead.

None of what we see in modern politics is anywhere near as bad as what the Nazis did - but it's getting worse.  We've always used attacks, but they're becoming more deeply personal.  Hate, political advisers will tell us, is a purifying force.

Partisans are increasingly carving the population into ethnic blocks and targeting them for specific purposes.  All Parties are focusing on propaganda under the term of "attack ads."  

They're all portraying their leaders as the only one who can save everyone else from, well, each other.  Divide and conquer, etc.

It's almost like they don't know how to do anything else.  So engrossed in the game they have become that they are blind to any other alternative.

More than a few partisans on either side of the divide are practicing Christians yet, when it comes to politics, seem more willing to act like Caiaphas.  Instead of seeking to heal troubles within our faltering, power-centric political system, they would fight against anyone who seeks to break the silos that have fed them well for so long.

Why?  What's their end goal?  Is it absolute power?  To what end?

Stephen Harper and many of his Cabinet wolves are practicing Christians that supposedly believe the tenets of their faith - one that, notably, has this fella called Christ at its centre.

Would Jesus Christ have supported the Fair Elections Act?  Would he be as focused on throwing disenfranchised Canadians into the deep end and see how they swim on their own?  Would he have been proactively seeking ways to belittle his opponents so as to force them to cooperate with him world view?  Would he have been pushing the masses to put coin into his PR machine to fight back with more ads?

Where would Jesus have placed himself if he'd been in Buchenwald with Chat - with the SS, or in the line of fire?

Too many of our Political People have lost their faith and don't even realize it.  The cognitive dissonance must be terrible, given the amount of self-serving confabulation they put out.

Spin it as they may, though, the truth would be thus - if Jesus were around today, it would be them he'd be standing against.

It's time these political people stop asking whose on their side now and spend some time thinking about whose side they'll be on when they're horizontal on the brown side of the grass.