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CCE in brief

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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.

Monday, 9 February 2015

CCE on Hiatus

            - @StephenKing, On Writing

Of late I've had a problem with my eyes.  They constantly pulse with an ache like muscle burn and have essentially gone dry.  You know the expression "no tears left?" My eyes have gotten so bad that sometimes, when I close my lids, my eyeballs stick to them.  I've been taking fish oil pills and eye drops to remedy the problem (and thankfully, they're starting to accomplish something), but all that's really doing is treating symptoms. 

The truth is, my eyes are sore because I've pushed them past safe limits of usage.  Working on this or that, always more hours, always more demands (which almost always originate within), I've forced them to stay open when they wanted to close, squeezing every drop of productivity I can out of them, both through reading and in writing.

It's fun to say "work hard, play harder" and all that and suggest that sleep is for the weak.  It's not such a good idea to actually believe it.  You can truly push your body's limits to the point where you snap the rubber band of resilience and don't bounce back.  My eyes are case in point; I broke my body's instinctive reflexes.  Now I'm periodically told I will go for long stretches of time, especially in anything involving mental engagement (like a conversation) without blinking at all.  Creepy, is how it's been described to me.  My unblinking eyes, unwavering focus is creepy.

This is half of why I'm taking a hiatus from blogging; my optics issues just happen to provide an excellent metaphor for the other half.

My eyes, through internal pressure, no longer close of their own volition.  It's not a conscious thing to rest, to take a break.  The same holds true for my writing.

I am well-known as a prolific, insightful, occasionally brilliant writer.  Occasionally, because sometimes, but not all the time, I'll craft a phrase as profound and powerful as it is a delight to read.  Considering how many thousands of words I write, daily, I would certainly hope this to be the case.  It's a bit like the stopped clock, only in reverse.

That's what I do; I write.  I wrote lots, I play with ideas, I play with words.  The more I put out, the more I find the essential narrative that weaves the various threads of my interests, concerns and hopes together.  I have disciplined myself to crank out more content than almost anyone I know.  Other people look at my record and only wish they could match the output.  Which is a bit like a casual drinker wishing they could their liquor like an alcoholic.

Therein lies the problem.  Like my unblinking eyes, writing has become a reflex, the state that in most people is reserved for pause.  I don't write, then pause - writing is the work, the pause, the alternative, the everything.  I will often sit at a computer, cranking out content, straining my eyes, fingers wrists for hours, during hours that would be better used sleeping. 

Thing is, writing isn't supposed to be a state of rest - it's an action meant to serve a purpose.  It's a craft meant to serve an audience.  While I do have a decent audience - hundreds of people from around the world visit this blog daily and I couldn't begin to tell you how many look at my slideshare, or other blogs - I couldn't in all honesty say I'm writing for them.  I'm not writing for myself, either; I just write. 

If I'm going to be egotistical to assume I've got something worth saying, I should be narcissistic enough to make that writing accessible for my audience.  Brevity, clarity, strong through-lines of though without an unwieldy amount of tangents.  I'm not doing that.  My essays read like On the Road, a rambling, burning bush of tumble weed criss-crossing my mental landscape.  It invites no one on the journey, it just blazes along.  Writing has become breathing, only more like breathing in paint fumes to dull the cognizance of something else.  What that is, I don't know, but I owe it to myself to figure out. 

I also owe it to you, dear and faithful reader, to re-learn how to write with you in mind.

So, CCE is going on a writing hiatus.  If you see a piece pop up on this blog in the next few weeks or so, consider that I've fallen off the wagon and feel free to poke at me to stop.  Social media will be different; I'll do less, but my SM also serves a purpose.  If I'm producing content for other spaces, it damned well better be paid, or I've simply fallen into the same trap in a different location.

If you're reading this, I do hope you miss me.  I hope my eyes recover enough that they remember how to close on their own. 

When I'm back, I hope both my words and my eyes will be worthy of your attention.



Friday, 6 February 2015

War Room Language, Reality

Just words, of course; you know, the playful, aggressive, trash-talking banter of politics.  If you can't take some idle threats and tough words, the you clearly don't belong in politics. 
Survival of the fittest, etc.  War room politics, get in early, keep 'em down and keep 'em scared.
All's fair in war and politics, right?

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Canadian Leadership

You may have seen the Abacus poll making the rounds, asking about traits of Canada's three main political leaders.

Stephen Harper is a political machine; he messages like it's nobody's business.  He knows how to hit, he keeps his caucus (and government, and increasingly non-government) locked in a steely fist.  Harper clearly loves being the boss.

But does that make him a leader?  

He's a well-meaning guy, that Mulcair.  He'd lend you money if you needed it.  But what would he do to help you earn it?

The flowing locks.  The charm.  He knows how to make whoever is in his gravitational pull swoon, and that's a great many Canadians.  But is that leadership?

Harper's a CEO kind of guy - he tells people what to do and clearly is comfortable sacrificing them for what he sees as the corporation's gain (which tends to be a mix of the Party and his ideology for the country, but after all he is a politician).

Trudeau is nice to be around.  He's a great, inspirational speaker, like a Canadian Tony Robbins.  But making people hopeful about hard work isn't the same thing as motivating them to work hard.

Mulcair?  He's smart, he's focused, he's compassionate, but what does he want?  It never feels like he wants to lead - he wants to be the guy who holds the leader accountable.  What would he do if all the pressures that are now laid at Stephen Harper's feet were to settle upon his shoulders?

The questions asked here are populist ones - this is the kind of stuff people make their minds up over.  But are these the leadership traits we're looking for?

Leaders don't tell people not to worry, they've got it covered, leave it to them.

Leaders don't pontificate on the virtues of humanism.

Leaders don't give you a fish because you are hungry; they teach you to fish so that you may never go hungry.

A couple alternate questions to consider:

- Which leader do you feel would best prepare you to negotiate contracts yourself?

- Which leader would empower you to speak in your neighbourhood - or empower your neighbourhood to speak up together?

- Which leader would you trust to lead your family to survival in the wilderness?

- Which leader do you feel has the best grasp on what the next ten, twenty years will look like?

- Which leader would you follow into battle?

- Which leader inspires you to act, to engage, to be part of the solution rather than a consumer?

I would argue none of them.  There are no Abe Lincolns, no Winston Churchill's on our political landscape, which is unfortunate, because that's the kind of leadership we desperately need right now.

There's a big difference between getting the leadership we need vs the leadership we want.  It's never been much of an issue in Canada; we've had strong economic fundamentals, we've not been invaded since the War of 1812, we've never really suffered.  We have the privilege of looking for the fun stuff from our leaders and weaning ourselves off of engagement, because we've been able to be comfortable.

Times are changing, though - the Canada our children will inherit is going to look pretty different than the one our parents left for us.
We're not going to get it this time out, but we're going to need some real leadership soon.  The question is, will we recognize this in time?

ISIL Don't Know Ford

Good to see they're not doing their homework, at least.
These aren't religious militants.  These are bitter bunnies with martyrdom on the mind.  Not God's people. 
No, it's more and more clear every day who's pulling their strings - a man of wealth and taste.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Post Democracy

It's not just Postmedia, of course.  How often have we heard that our democracy is trapped in a downward spiral?  Our politics becoming more polarized, with less room for actual discourse?  How about burning people alive suddenly being a legit act for somehow justified in the name of religion?
We are experiencing the twilight of an era, a new dark age and yes, even as Prime Minister Harper has suggested, a great evil is descending on our world.
If, that is, you define evil as that which moves us away from civilization.  Sociology, collaboration, dialogue, art and ideas, all that kind of stuff.
Don't give up yet, though - don't barricade your home, hoard canned goods and take up religion in preparation for Armageddon.  This isn't the end - it's an ending, to be sure, but it's not the first one we've experienced, is it?
Of course we have.  And we know how the story goes, too.
How does the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened?
A new day comes; the light of civilization shines out all the clearer.
We adapt, we grow, we diversify and empower.  We always have.  And we always will.


Monday, 2 February 2015

Sympathy for Stephen Harper

What happens when government policy threatens the security of Canadians - like, say veterans, or aboriginals, or racialized youth?  What happens when targeted groups stand up for themselves in protest, possibly blocking highways and the like to ensure they have an impact and are heard?
Such acts of self-advocacy certainly interfere with the government's ability to maintain stability.  But then, so was a singular dependence on oil, but that's off-message.
This is the message:
A great evil is indeed descending over our world.  It's nothing new.  In fact, we know exactly what this evil looks like.
Wonder whether Harper likes the Rolling Stones?
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste

Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste


The Political Economy

Buying votes, in other words.  It's no different than the hospitality costs government officials lavish on potential investors, or consultants on themselves. 
It's the cost of doing business, really - people buy relationships first, products second.  It's the kind of thing Preston Manning started the Reform Party to stand against.  It's not Manning's party now.