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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.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Canada Watches Its Democracy Erode

Those aren't my words - I took that headline from The Australian.  A paper on the far side of the world that is watching what's happening here with sadness.

What made me think of this today?  I read the article below by Lorrie Goldstien and wondered, where does education fit into this?  If we're spending all of our resources on the back end, we're not solving anything, structurally - just throwing the starfish back in the sea, one at a time.  Or trying to cure lead poisoning might be a better analogy.

This one quote stood out:

 - because it reminded me of the article I read previously, which focused on Harper's piling up of democratic infractions:

Make no mistake it, Stephen Harper is dismantling Canadian democracy - our system has become more opaque, less informed, more cynical - more empire than the federation we signed up for.  The reason for this, to me, is pretty clear - Harper doesn't trust, has contempt for and ultimately fears what the Opposition (both on the Hill and any group that opposes him) could do to him.  Err, the country. 

With each offence he commits and gets away with, Harper is emboldened to break the rules a bit further.  What's more, this is the Prime Minister - supposedly, the most accountable man in Canada.  If he can get away with rule-breaking, what message does it send to others? 

We're left with two questions to be answered:

Do Canadians care enough about our democratic process?

For those that are fully behind Harper's dismantling of transparency and accountability - have you thought what will happen when he's gone?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Humanity's Riddle

It's long and complex, with references out the wazoo, but this piece ties together themes and trends that transcend time, culture and language.

But it's definitely worth reading.

Many of the beliefs we take for granted as established and ours in fact have roots in unexpected places.

Symbols like the snake (knowledge), the tree (the circle of life) and fire (understanding or innovation) are repeated throughout history and tradition.  Just as is the idea of a power greater than ourselves.

All these strands are threading through time to a common juncture, like roots to a tree, only we can't see where they connect.  

This, then, is the ultimate riddle we face - what lies behind the curtain

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Tianxia - China's Strategic Objective

While Mitt Romney targets Russia as the US' Public Enemy #1, China is slowly expanding its influence north of its border with the world's largest country:

Upset that the US wouldn't play his game his way, Stephen Harper has rushed into the comforting arms of China, who's starting with oil and through panda diplomacy, starting to look at our telecoms and water.

While our leaders turn inwards, focusing in internecine national fighting, they seem to be looking at foreign players through the opaque lens of their domestic political fortunes in the frame of four-year cycles.  China, on the other hand, is playing a much broader game.

So, what are they up to?

China's strategy has fundamentally never wavered since the Zhou Dynasty.  To understand China's mind, understand the concept of Tianxia.  Then, read Sun-tzu.

Of course, China is one step behind where they need to be.  But that's a post for another day.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Trust, Leadership and the Future of the Global Village

Two articles caught my attention tonight.  This one, about trust, loyalty and leadership:

"Loyalty is built on relationships, shared understanding and trust. Engagement and commitment require loyalty, shared goals and fair treatment."

- and then this, about the perilous state of the global economy, in no small part due to prevalent attitudes:

"Moreover, there seems to be little willingness - or perhaps lit-tle ability - for the major countries to act together again. Squabbles have grown, some countries are in fiscal distress, and others face daunting domestic problems."

I highly doubt deluge was chosen as a metaphor by accident.

When we're uncertain of the way forward, when it's hard to know how to trust, it's worth remembering the words of someone else lost at sea:

Action, Reaction, Consequence and Ownership

   - Joe Warmington

This morning I walked into a subway train; there, standing beside a door, was a woman somewhere in the late stages of the second trimester of her pregnancy.  In other words, big enough in the tummy to make standing a real strain on the back.  This woman was standing while all the seats around her were filled with 20 somethings and a couple of middle-aged men. 

I asked her if she wanted a seat.  She smiled a bit sardonically, then said “nobody offered, so…” as though that was all there was to it.  I then promptly raised my voice: “Can someone please give up their seat for a pregnant lady?”  Everyone looked up, stunned out of their Monday-morning mental fog; someone was challenging them to be active.  A man of about 50 got up; the woman took his seat, apologizing all the way.

A fella standing next to me nodded in approval, said “that’s the way to do it.”  Though it seems the thought of being proactive had either not occurred for him or he wasn’t willing to act on it.

What happened here?

You could very easily argue that the people who didn’t proactively get up were being selfish and that I was being helpful.  You could also argue that the others on the train were minding their own business and I wasn’t.  In terms of positioning, you can pretty much rationalize anything.  Reasoning is as much a product of behaviour as it is a precursor. To really get at why we do anything, you have to go down one layer further to what actually motivates action.

Chemistry is about what happens if you mix ingredients in differing quantities.  Done enough, you can replicate a given experiment and guarantee the same results.  The same holds true for neuro-chemistry, although there are obviously more factors than we can consciously follow all at once.  Our internal chemistry, impacted by external factors, is what makes us do (or not do) everything; from braving the dark to go pee to asking someone out for a date, from giving up a seat to asking for one in the first place.

It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that the neural circuitry that internally motivates us to act or not act is the same as it is in other invertebrates.  We all need to eat, we all need to reproduce, security and energy conservation matter to all of us – if you believe in evolution, why should it be otherwise?

Now think about the Eaton Centre shooting Warmington refers to.  A man walked into a crowded space and started shooting, hitting innocents as well as his intended target.  There’s not much different about this dominance behaviour – eliminating threats, reinforcing position – than there is among a group of chimps.  The significant difference is that as people, we have access to more harmful weapons than just our hands.  Basic selection-of-the-fittest wiring isn’t designed with handguns or worse in mind.

We like to single out people who talk out loud to themselves as being mentally ill, or not in control of their mental faculties, but how much control do any of us consciously have over our actions?  Fundamentally, is there much difference between a school clique, a gang, a tribe or a Political Party?  In terms of behaviour, is naturally passive or naturally aggressive behaviour any different in humans that it is in other great apes, or other species?

More often than not, its our limbic drives direct our behaviour rather than our executive function. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

With information, effort and experience, you can learn to control your own impulses, both positive and negative, and harness your ability to do what you want it to, rather than the other way around.  Martial arts is a great example of this.

When you are in full ownership of your actions, you are by necessity more aware of how your environment impacts your impulses.  The reverse becomes true, too – by understanding the principals involved, you can figure out what triggers reactions in others, and come to manage those, too.

If knowledge is power, then ownership is empowerment.

The trick lies in being conscious of this.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Too Many Characters

The following back-and-forth tweetage with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi reminds of advice I have heard, time and again; don't give detail, give bullet points.  People don't have the time or patience or complexity.  This is true, but is this wise?  How many corners do we keep painting ourselves into by not delving into detail? 

Which reminds me of this clip from the movie Amadeus, about Mozart - a genius composer who could create symphonies the way others can breathe, but was a rather complex man as a result of that creative fire

Brevity = speed; detail = distance.

Which few did you have in mind?  ;o)

"if we don't have great public education, we should stop taking immigrants". Adrienne Clarkson.
How about "we need immigrants + a strong society, so we should make sure we have the best possible public education for all?"
too many characters! :-)