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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, 22 October 2014

Atlas Never Wavers

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
Yes, Britain was an Empire then, but Churchill's goal was not tyranny, but defense against tyranny and, ultimately, tyranny's defeat.  He never wavered.  And he won.


Deeds not Words

True, this; it's damned scary to think how easy it was for what was likely one lone gunman to shoot his way into the home of government in Canada - and that after having already shot a soldier at least the equivalent of two city blocks away.
The response from our government has been, shall we say, lackluster.  Disappointing, in fact.  Alarming, at worst.
Parliament Hill is never short of bluster - tough words, biting critiques, snide comments abound.  When the action's about people not them overseas somewhere, the words flow easily, confidently.
Yet when it's closer to home, we have representatives barricading themselves with chairs stacked against doors.
There will be time for introspection moving forward, but I would suggest it's not just the people on the Hill we should be furling our brow at.
For this is a democracy, folks.  The leaders we have are chosen by us; their words and actions are condoned by us, even if it's by our refusal to wade in ourselves.
Our democracy is suffering; it's not something that's happened overnight, nor are the current crop of elected officials to bare all the blame. 
It would have been great for police, or the army, or Parliamentary security to have got the guy before he got into the House of Commons.  That's their job.
But how many citizens did he pass, with his shotgun, before he got there?
I've no interest in ours becoming a gun-toting culture; that's gang warfare.  Guns bring the illusion of power and safety - they're a way of putting risk at a distance in theory only.
Democracy is messy; ownership implies risk.  Part of the reason our democracy has suffered is because Canadians have been too willing to upload responsibility and risk to Parliamentarians who, reflecting us, aren't that interested in the responsibility side of ownership either.
We cannot expect our security forces to be a blanket and the world.  It's time we ask ourselves what price we are willing to pay for democracy.  And if the answer is "not that much," what we should fear is our own indifference.


Canada's Churchill

Today's attacks in Ottawa have heightened emotions - there is fear, there is anger and there are consequences to both.  It's in times like these - times when despair creeps around the margins of society - that we look to leaders for inspiration, for comfort, but strength.
It's great to have pitbulls in the Legislature who know how to attack and deflect, but in times of crisis, leaders need to carry the nation on their shoulders.
On this day, that leader was Kathleen Wynne.
We'll see what happens as we move forward and how the words of the federal leaders resonate, but the determined, authentic voice of Premier Wynne resonated with many of us today.

The Leadership We Deserve

The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died.  Strength, power and courage were born.

- Malala Yousafzai

Strong.  Fearless.  Unwavering.  Focused on one thing only - not power, but empowerment.

That's leadership. 

On a day like today, this is worth remembering.

It Doesn't End Here


Multiple shots were fired within Parliament here on Wednesday morning, and police officers rushed to secure the building and move occupants to safety.

Take a moment and reflect on this.
Canada is a country of complacence; we can count the horrific acts of political terrorism that have happened on our soil on one hand.
What's happening right now has no precedent in our country.  Culturally, it's not a reality we've ever had to deal with.
Canadian politicians may exaggerate threats, pick fights and the like, but this goes beyond partisan rhetoric. 
What's happening now is not localized to Canada, either - there is a tectonic shift happening in the global village that will be reflected on as an end of an era and the beginning of a new one, many years from now.
But we don't live in the future; we live in the present.
The beliefs we tell ourselves matter to us are under attack from without and from within.  There are no clear bad-guys or good guys; that's a simplistic narrative that has an unrealistic closed end.
We need to understand context, content and consequence of every action we take now and what it will lead to next.
Now is a time of great challenge and change.  It's not going to be pleasant, but we can come through more adapted as a society on the other end.
We have to want this, though.  We have to start embracing that other half of rights and freedoms, ie responsibility.
Are we open to change? 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Social Art and the Enterprising Monk

I had an interesting conversation today with  a (paid) intern about social enterprise.  We chatted about a wide variety of related topics (open government, virtuous schemers, social synapses, culture change, behavioural economics, etc.) with a particular focus on the challenges of being a social entrepreneur.
One of the ideas we visited was the notion of trust and engagement.  If, as Simon Sinek says, we don't buy what people do but why they do it, it stands to reason that we want clarity of intent and purpose - a mission statement, for example.  But what is the mission statement of a social entrepreneur?
The straight-up goal of an ordinary entrepreneur (or any business person) is to make money - we specialize in something so as to develop a saleable skill or craft, then focus on getting paid for the implementation of our expertise.
The goal of a charity, on the other hand, is not about profit - it's to address a cause.  The assumption is that the money we give to charities will go to good use because the people taking our money aren't interested in profit; they've put the mission before self.
We will give to a charity for this reason; we care about the cause and want to see it addressed, but we also trust that the people we're giving our money to are only taking out of it what they need to pay the bills and putting the rest towards the public good.
Rightly, we get mad when we learn of charities misusing our money.  In a case of bad apples spoiling the barrel, an egregious case of fund mismanagement or corruption, all charities fall into suspicion - that's how seriously we view the matter.
What, then, to make of social enterprises?  They want to make money like a business, but they want to do public good, like a charity.  There's something that doesn't quite sit right with this model for many - we pay for things we get, but we give to others through donations. 
This is probably why we're seeing a growing number of hybrid models - social enterprises that will have a for-profit wing, which touches on the issue that drives them, but also a fully-mandated social good wing that doesn't or only lightly plays in the profit space.
Is this a church and state thing?  Do we not want people to make money doing social good, because making money is about self-interest?  Monks and nuns are given donations for the public good they do, but they most often also take on vows of poverty, living every aspect of their lives for the betterment of others.
We don't all want to be monks, but that doesn't mean we aren't interested in dedicating our lives to the greater good.  How might this be accomplished?
The recent #OGT14 tour was, essentially, a public good (it facilitated civic engagement) but it was framed as art.  Appropriately, Richard Pietro, the tour's creator, had no sponsor, but a patron in the form of Make Web Not War.  Richard didn't live the life of luxury on his tour, but he wasn't a monk either. 
There are no fixed rules in this space - it's still nascent.  That means there's lots of room to evolve, try new things and of course, adapt.
It may be that we are hard-wired not mix public good with public profit, but then we were never intended to fly, either.
What do you believe?
"Intelligence must follow faith, never precede it, and never destroy it."
  - Thomas Kempis


Whether Ebola or Terrorism, Don't Fence Us In

Wide open country.  Land, lots of land.  Freedom.
These are key pieces of the mythos of America - space, freedom and of course the will to defend them at all costs.
I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat - those are labels that don't perfectly reflect reality.  It's the same with the Blue/Red/Orange spectrum here in Canada - a focus on what differentiates the parties neglects the blatant similarities, plus the tendency for positions to shift, pendulum-like, all the time - even within parties.
Here's the deal.  Getting elected is about getting attention.  Fear gets people's attention.  All parties present themselves as the centurion at the gate, the only one who can keep that which we fear at bay - whether it's terrorists, or oil companies, or diseases.  Not so much natural disasters; even office-seekers know better than to go there.
Fear is a reactive emotion that draws all energy into a narrow wedge of perception.  When you're afraid, or angry - flight or fight - what matters is what's in front of you.  There's no time to waste on anything else. 
This is where the use of the term "hungry" for success comes in; people who are "hungry" feel a base need that shuts out all else - the hungry will hunt and kill because they have to, and isn't that how winning is done?
Is winning about beating the other guy, about destroying the competition?  Do you need to act fast, be aggressive to win - if you only get to eat what you kill?  In the absence of actual hunger, how do we manufacture it to pressure action?
Why, fear and anger, of course.
We are hardwired to fear that which is threatening, to close ourselves off from it.  We are hardwired to respond aggressively to that which makes us angry, generally with quick, visceral actions.
Fear is a prison.  Anger is a prison.  Worse, it's a prison with porous walls; we can't get out, but infection can seep in.  We end up trapped.
Ebola is a disease; it doesn't recognize borders, nor walls.  You can't fence it out.  Terrorism isn't a disease, it's a symptom - you can't isolate and cure it without recognizing what the broader illness is.
I get the short-term ROI of pushing the fear button and why it's an awful temptation to would-be leaders in the US, in Canada and beyond.  I can only encourage them to resist the temptation and consider the longer-term ramifications.
There is no End of Days - time marches on, the world evolves.  That which evolves, survives.  That which tries to remain unchanging in a changing world becomes at best, a fungus, like North Korea, or at worst, extinct.

Don't fence us in, for if we cannot move, we cannot grow.