Curiosity is terminal

Friday, 30 November 2012

Come On Over to My Place, Honey. We'll Talk About Love.

Coming out.

I entered this fray intending to blog about politics. I am a reasonably engaged (and outraged) Bc'er and Canadian. I am one of those people my federal government has branded a radical, and I have been involved in union and progressive activities most of my life.  I read a lot of blogs and I admire the research and analysis that goes on out there. I see a lot of good people who want good for others, who are working to inform us and to hold cruelty to account. I wanted to help do that too.  But frankly, it took over my life and it was all I thought about and man, I got depressed.  So I'm leaving that to the bloggers I admire. I'm still going to picket and protest and hand out information to my fellow students about pipelines and omnibudgets, but I'm not going to feel like I have to write about it.

I think the world is love starved, and I think it knows it. I am heartened when a video about giving away some boots goes viral. And even more so when there are no trolls in the first 50 comments on it. I was overjoyed yesterday when Ian Welsh wrote a wonderful post about kindness.  And again this morning when I discovered a blog called Song of the Watermelon with a column on environmental rights  which sounded very much to me like a call for a big dose of love.

I'm 46. Carpenter, instructor, former cook and waitress.  I go to college part time. I started out taking stuff because I wanted an education. Five years ago my heart and I managed to blow my world to emotional smithereens. While I was recovering I read two books that changed my life. Trite, I'm sure. They were The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D. and A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., and Richard Lannon, M.D.  The Brain That Changes Itself inspired in me a million questions about neural plasticity.  So I began taking psychology courses and part way through the second one I realized I needed to know biology and chemistry, because the answers to my questions keep tracing back further and further. But A General Theory of Love began a new line of questions for me. The brain can change its patterns, it can bypass damage and it can allow the body to learn new ways of functioning, but love changes the brain, too. And lack of love is fatal.  So I want to know what love is. I want to understand how it works.  I want to know what goes wrong when it is absent.

This last weekend I saw a terrific one man band called Drum and Belltower.  He did this song, and everyone in the restaurant danced:

Maybe music and dancing are part of love. I think they are.

I know this too is trite and it has been my secret for the last 4 years: I believe that love is the answer. What I am not too sure of is what are the questions? I intend to spend the rest of my life looking for the  questions.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Foreign Workers

I'm trying to read the Canada-China Foreign Investment  Promotion and Protection Agreement. Its kind of tough slogging. I'll try to comment on it after I get through it and write to my (not) MP about it. 

 In the meantime I have some questions for our rotten governments about the whole foreign worker thing:

1.  If these are skilled workers, why are we allowed to pay them less than 15% of the prevailing wage? 
2.  Which prevailing wage? The prevailing wage for that skill? Or the prevailing minimum wage?
3.  Why are these workers being brought into the country as foreign workers rather than being allowed to immigrate? (Maybe the answer is so that their employers and this rotten government can hold the threat of deportation more emphatically over them. If so, why is that okay?)
4.  What exactly are the oh-so-technical skills in a mine that Canadians are incapable of learning?
5.  Why the sudden need for so many workers?
6.  Why is it so important to get so much of our resources out of the ground and shipped off somewhere else in such a hurry?
7.  Do you really believe that there are no workers anywhere in Canada who are willing and able to do those jobs?
8.  What exactly do you have against Canadian workers?
9.  For that matter what is it that you have against workers, no matter where they come from, that  you want to treat them like shit? 
10.  Are you really so stupid that you think this whole economic house of cards can stand if the people who do the work earn so little that their income taxes are insignificant and they cannot afford the things that bring you sales taxes?

There are fewer and fewer reasons to be proud of my country all the time. The notion of inviting people who are in desperate straits in their own countries to come here for work only to be treated poorly and paid poorly in order to bring down the wages and the working conditions for everyone in a country that was once known for its humanity is positively evil.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Well, How About That?

A day or two ago I posted that the whole Enbridge spectacle was starting to look kind of farfetched to me. And that all that attention focused in one place made me nervous about what we were not supposed to be looking at.

Could it be what Andrew Nikoforuk is talking about here in the Tyee about the "Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People's Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments?" (Its on the government of Canada's website on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade page.)

This agreement was tabled on September 26, with virtually no fanfare, except that Elizabeth May noticed it and has written about it on her website. I am absolutely sick about this. This gives Chinese companies the right to use only materials and workers they specify on projects they would own. It gives them the right to sue provincial and municipal governments in Canada if they pass regulations that hurt their projects or profits. It offers them protection and security from domestic opposition to their projects. Plenty has been written about current foreign investment in the oilsands. Chinese oil companies already own a good sized chunk of them , and if CNOOC is allowed to take over Nexen, they will have a larger chunk. They own the tankers and the refineries Enbridge is proposing to use for its bitumen. And there is some discussion about whether Chinese companies might be interested in building and operating the Northern Gateway. If this agreeement goes through on October 31, the work that so many British Columbians have done to protect our coast,  rivers,  rainforest, watersheds, habitats and communities might well be for naught.

The Council of Canadians is on this,too, with a letter you can send to all MPs.

What can we do to stop this?

h/t The Disaffected LibThwap

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Resources and The Gifts of The Magi (picture heavy)

Here in Atmon, we are surrounded by a wonderful abundance of wilderness. There are lakes and forests all around, and it can be beautiful indeed. I was depressed most of the summer because it felt as though I was alone in my alarm about the massive growth of resource depletion around me. I spent a lot of the summer looking at the world like this:

I had the opportunity to go to Terrace and Kitimat for work. I had never been. It was really beautiful and I fell in love with the Coast Mountains. This is the Douglas Channel. Note the islands:

 I spent some time on horseback in Jasper, looking down from a ridge on Pyramid mountain:

I went on a wildlife tour and  I watched this bear and her baby browse on buffalo berries for at least a half hour. There were tourists from Germany, Israel and Brazil in our group and they were enchanted by their first sighting of a live bear. I live in the forest and while bears are not an everyday sight, they are by no means a novelty to me, but I was no less thrilled than our multicultural guests:


On the way to Jasper we stopped at the Ancient Forest. It's 102 km east of Prince George, with a small parking area just off the highway. The trail is a loop and both ends are right at the parking area. It's quite wonderful. You walk for a few minutes and everything looks like this:

 And then the path heads up and around and it looks like this:


Which maybe looks just like any tree in a photograph like that, but when you see a little context...

There is a meadow with ferns as tall as me. I'm not tall, but still. 

I also went on a small trip with my baby goat before she went off to the other side of the country to continue her pursuit of a cool future, and I was in Salmon Arm and Revelstoke for the first time in my life too. There was a pretty sunset and small drizzle that we enjoyed from the pier on Shuswap lake when we got into town.

 We went to the Meadows in the Sky parkway in Revelstoke for a walk and Revelstoke looks like this from the mountain:

I spend a lot of time with a couple of groups who are working to make sure that the Northern Gateway pipeline doesn't happen. When I was in Kitimat and Terrace, the locals told me they don't want the pipeline or the tanker traffic.  I am on the periphery of a group that is trying to make sure that the Site C dam in The Peace doesn't happen. (damming the Peace River for a massive hydroelectric dam which will flood the Peace Valley, which happens to be significant farm land.) I have petitioned against the Fish Lake mine in the Quesnel/Williams Lake area which will dump toxic tailings either into Fish Lake or upstream of the lake. (They have offered to build an artificial lake to compensate.) In Revelstoke, I went to the Farmer's Market and met young people fighting to stop a mine in their area which will also dump tailings into a sensitive eco-system. I have been following, with increasingly sinking heart the nonsense of the Timber Harvest circus, in which they are now threatening to log old growth forests. No one on that committee appears to have heard that trees take CO2 out of the air and return oxygen.

I am reminded of the O. Henry Story the Gifts of The Magi. You know, the one where the young wife sells her beautiful hair to buy her husband a fob for his treasured pocketwatch, and he sells the pocketwatch to buy combs for her hair?

Here in BC we shall have JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! and prosperity (for someone. You and me? Perhaps not.) but we will have no clean water, air or farmland on which to grow our food. To say nothing of habitat for bears. Tragic.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


A young woman has died. She was bullied to death. She was followed, taunted and abused by inhuman young people who practically commanded her to kill herself. Subsequent news items are full of inhuman comments that somehow this young woman deserved her fate.

A young woman gives birth in jail, while prison guards and nurses taunt and abuse her. Subsequent news items are full of  inhuman comments that somehow this woman and child deserved this cold and unwelcoming birth, and perhaps even worse.

I am reading "A General Theory of Love" by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon. It is about the biochemistry and  biopsychology of love. It begins with a description of Paul McLean's triune model of the brain, in which there are three distinct parts of the brain- the early "reptillian" brain; the limbic brain wrapped around the early one; and the newest part, the neocortex, wrapped around that. Each part is mostly responsible for a certain part of our existence - the hindbrain responsible for such physical necessities as breathing, eating and running away from danger, the limbic brain responsible for our relational lives, and the neocortex giving us language, speech, math, reasoning abilities. None of these parts operates completely independently- there is overlap and communication between the three, and the book describes an evolutionary hypothesis for these three structures. As I am in the beginning of my scientific education, I do not yet know other hypotheses that refute this one, though the authors hint at the existence of such and argue for McLean's model:
"The scientific model of separating neocortical from limbic brain matter rests on solid neuroanatomical, cellular, and empirical grounds. As viewed through the microscope, limbic areas exhibit a far more primitive cellular orgainization than their neocortical counterparts. Certain radiographic dyes selectively stain limbic structures, thus painting the molecular dissimilarity between the two brains in clean, vivid strokes. One researcher made an antibody that binds to the cells of the hippocampus-a limbic component- and found that those same fluorescent markers stuck to all parts of the limbic brain, lighting it up like a biological Christmas tree, without coloring the neocortex at all."
And there are behavioral distinctions as well:
"Remove a mother hamster's whole neocortex and she can still raise her pups, but even slight limbic damage devastates her maternal abilities. Limbic lesions in monkeys can obliterate the entire awareness of others. After a limbic lobotomy, one impaired monkey stepped on his outraged peers as if treading on a log or a rock and took food out of their hands with the nonchalance of one oblivious to their very existence. . . After limbic ablation, adult hamsters ignored the calls and cries of their young: a limbectomized pup would repeatedly walk on top of others "as though they did not exist."  In addition to erasing the recognition of others, removing limbic tissue robbed these mammals of responsiveness to the playful overtures of normal littermates."
A few pages previously in the book, while discussing the evolutionary emergence of these three parts of the brain, the authors say:
" Many people conceive of evolution as an upward staircase, an unfolding sequence that produces ever more advanced organisms. From this perspective, the advantages of the neocortex-speech, reason, abstraction-would naturally be judges the highest attributes of human nature. But the vertical conceptualization of evolution is fallacious. Evolution is a kaleidoscope..."
It seems to me there is an alarming lack of kindness in the media. And it seems like there is a preponderance of attention concentrated on people with a severe inability to behave humanely, who have the ability to just use and disregard others as if their being or desires were  of no matter. And I worry about how successful our popular culture deems these persons.
I wonder about the cerebral anatomy of these persons. Specifically, I wonder about their limbic makeup. I wonder if we are evolving into psychopaths.

Friday, 5 October 2012


About a hundred years ago (Hyperbole 'R' Us)  I waited tables in a kind of hoity-toity joint where I had to toss the caesar salads and carve the chateaubriands at the guest's tables.  I liked doing it because it gave me more chance to talk to the guests. 
So one night I am tossing salads for these three nice guys, a bit older than me (who was maybe not legal in the states yet) but not by much. They're friendly and well mannered and very interesting and well spoken, and somehow I get them to tell me that they work for a circus and they are the magic show. So I let them tell me about that for a while, and then I ask them to teach me some sleight of hand so that I can make the salad bowl empty and its contents "appear" on my guests plates. They laugh and look around and decide that my best bet would be to break a window or something because a good illusion depends on the misdirection of the observer's attention.

I have stopped paying very much attention to the circus that is Enbridge. Because the spectacle seems to be growing, and some of what they have contributed is beginning to look rather incredibly farfetched. Some of it looks even, dare I say, amateur. As if, maybe, it was never intended to be taken seriously.

 I find myself looking around a lot. And wondering where I am not supposed to be looking.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Offshoring Skills

Yesterday Politics and its Discontents had a post about finding products that are made in Canada, as a way of keeping jobs in Canada.

I have long been alarmed about the offshoring of jobs. I was alarmed by the Free Trade Agreement in 1988. I remember reading about it and being struck at the time by a quote from one of the American negotiators, (Yeager, I think his name might have been) "Canada has no idea what it has signed."
I watched the Battle in Seattle in 1999, and my heart broke to see all the people who cared, not for profits and money, but for survival, being arrested, and brutalized and denigrated as just so many dirty hippies.
I have watched us sell raw logs, and the jobs that go with them. Now we dismantle sawmills, pulpmills and papermills and we ship the whole plants to China, along with the jobs.
And when we lose those jobs, we lose the spinoff jobs that go with them. We lose vacations, and team sports for the kids, we lose a few dinners out a year/month/week. We buy fewer toys: boats, bikes, RVs. Maybe we lose homes.
It is no different for our minerals. Away they go, along with the refining, smelting, processing. How is our steel industry?

The thought this always leads me to  is that the more we don't DO anything with our resources here, the more we will forget how. We will not just have lost the resource, and the value-adding job, but the skill.

What is that likely to look like in 20 years?

h/t Lorne

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Yo! Christy! No means NO!

So the airhead masquerading as a premier has told Alberta that the Northern Gateway Pipeline is dead unless BC gets a bunch of money.

Not as far as a whole bunch of BC'ers are concerned.

The people who spoke to the JRP here in Atmon (Almost The Middle Of Nowhere) don't want it at any price. The people who live near the route and the port don't want it at any price. Some of us have been reading the proposal, (which is too vague on too many points) and paying attention to the arguments, and attending the JRP hearings (and listening to them online, too) and even attending the protests, which if you aren't a bobblehead pretending to be a premier you know are happening all over the province.  And those of us who have actually been participating in this process (flawed as it may be) DON'T WANT IT AT ANY PRICE.

So quit telling the world we have a price. We don't.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Money Can't Buy Me Love

I heard Ella singing that the other morning. It got the day off to a great start and I have been singing it ever since. At the top of my lungs if I happen to be alone. Singing makes me feel better. Funny, that.

Stephen Collis writes today in Rabble about an article in Nature about climate change, which makes him think of all the environmental changes in Bill C-38, and then also about a book I shall have to read, "Debt: The First 5,000 Years" by David Graeber. Collis says this near the end of his article:
What we need is movement building: a movement grounded in the commons (in care for the commons, which is simultaneously a care for the future we will share); a movement against the damage legislation like Bill C-38 participates in (damage to the natural environment and the commons, damage to First Nations' territories and traditional ways of life, damage to citizens' rights and freedoms, damage to workers' opportunities and well-being); and a movement that-when the next election does come around -- will allow us to genuinely use the electoral system to reverse some of the damage currently being done, and in turn reform that electoral system so the sorts of abuses we are now suffering are not possible in the future.
For now, we need the streets, and we need pots and pans. But even this must be little more than a prelude and means to deeper organization. We cannot simply hope to increase the numbers of willing casseroles participants week by week, until we somehow overwhelm the government. We, too, will run up against the metric of our "base," or at least fall into the calculus Graeber warns against: "Any system that reduces the world to numbers can only be held in place by weapons." That's the state's game. It can't be ours.

I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was with  Occupy.  I thought one of its strengths was its taking care of others. As hopeful as I was about it though, I was not sure it had the momentum to start the revolution. The reason I say this is that I think a majority of people are still comfortable enough not to want to lift their heads up and risk being a target. I don't mean to say that they are happy with things. I don't think  folks are happy. Indeed, I think they are not, but that they may be scared. This movement that Collis talks about will only come when people no longer feel they have anything to lose. And those of us advocating a movement have to think about how those we ask to rise up are going to feed and shelter their children, their elderly and themselves.

Which brings me to the weird benefit that Enbridge and its stupid pipeline and this government with its nasty omnibus bills are actually conferring on us. They are reminding us what community is about. They are threatening us, but in our conversations about this we are aware that others are threatened, and frightened. Here in Atmon (Almost The Middle Of Nowhere), which is quite close to the towns and regions that will be directly impacted by the pipeline, we have quite a cohesive little community centred around its opposition. And this is true of other hubs of opposition  too. And because it has been going on for some time now, these communities have really grown to know and care about one another. 

This is coming up again and again for me. Last weekend Lorne linked to an article by Murray Dobbin in Counterpunch on this same theme.

My child goes to university in Halifax. I went to visit her in her first semester there and we went to the Farmer's Market together. In the middle of a fairly large area was a community trading post. It was a  six foot 4 x 4 with a base of some kind to keep it from falling over, festooned with index cards of skills people wanted to trade for needs they wanted met: This is what I can do; this is what I would like. I will cook you a meal in exchange for french conversation practice, I will trade my plumbing skills for lessons on the piano,  I will trade carpentry skills for patching my jeans. It was the loveliest thing. I am still nearly verklempt thinking about it.

I think I'll go and sing...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Could These Things Be Connected?

Doug Saunders had a good article on the war of 1812 in the weekend Globe. Yes, I read the weekend Globe. I don't want to discuss it. Everyone has an embarrassing habit. This is mine.

Anyway,  it was about the war of 1812. (Everything seems to be about the war of 1812 these days. Remember those heady days when you turned on CBC radio and EVERYONE! was talking about sex? I thought that was tiresome. Who knew I would feel nostalgic for the merely tiresome?)

Anyway! (again) this article had this neat little gem in the middle of it:

"The events of the war,” historian Colin Read wrote, “demonstrated that a significant portion of the province’s approximately one hundred thousand inhabitants were either indifferent or hostile to the British cause … how to purge the province of this lamentable pro-American element was clearly a major question, then.”
The solution, our leaders decided, was to import people who were loyal – not inventive or talented or ambitious, but loyal."   (italics mine)

Which made me think of the shiny new legislation that allows employers to bring in foreign workers and pay them 15% less than the prevailing wage. And the about-to-be-new shiny legislation that repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, which used to specify that workers on Federal contracts had to be paid the local prevailing wage and be compensated for overtime.

Yes indeed. One more way to not be proud to be Canadian.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Not Much Between Despair and Ecstasy

I've been transferring my vinyl into MP3 files. That's a line from an old song that I had not thought about for a long time. It's a fun morning wake-up song.   Can you identify it?

Despair is more the order of the day just now. I should like to have to stop meeting a certain group of people in this particular way:

Both rallies were pretty great. It's refreshing to be around a bunch of people who think as I do about the state of our country. One of the participants said she was having a bad day and she felt really discouraged about things but when she stepped out her door (just a block from the protest site) and saw 80 people with signs and banging on casseroles it lifted her spirits immeasurably.

Alas the buoying that my spirits got from organizing this event was kind of short-lived. I am offended that my elected representatives are reading and watching movies and just following the command to vote no to every single amendment. I am outraged that any and all opposition to this bill is characterized as merely delay. This is what the man who works out of the office shown in the second photo said to our local paper yesterday:

"The opposition parties are trying and will continue to organize public rallies using people that support their side and people that would join them in a 'No' vote in every part of the budget." he said, adding the governing party could do the same. "But those folks are all busy working and earning a living and raising their families and trying to make their lives as good as they can."

Almost all of the above folks came to these protests on their weekends and after a hard day's work. Some of them spent the day caring for their children or elders. Every single one of them is trying to make their lives as good as they can, and the lives of others, besides. It nearly broke my heart to read that and to think of all these committed caring people dismissed so easily. I phoned the man. Told his poor assistant what I thought of his lousy quote. Informed him that I organized these rallies in my time off from the job in which I earn a good living and paid quite a few taxes, including his salary, thank you very much.

Yes, despair pretty much all I had the last 17 hours. And then a link in my blogroll sent me to Framed In Canada where I saw this video (also available in french):

And, lo, if not ecstasy, I have a tiny slip of hope again.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Sampson 2010- 2012 Rest in Peace Kitty

Sammy reached out at me in the pet store. He was reaching and calling and I couldn't hear him through the glass, but he had my heart that moment. I persuaded Don to take him as a housewarming present. Because home is where the cat is, don't you know. Don figured I really bought him for me, which may be true, but Sammy was his own cat. Right from the start he wanted love and attention when he wanted it, and not for one moment longer. He especially did not want his belly touched, which was really hard:

because he had such a soft, spotty belly. Sammy was and 8th floor apartment cat, but he visited my house often and grew to love riding in the truck and the car.

 He was taken from his mother too soon and when he settled into bed next to us for the night, he would purr and his little paws would pound the air and he would suckle at his own nipples. He grew out of the suckling, but he never figured out the kneading. He would come to have his head scratched and purr like crazy and his front feet would knead away in the air, sometimes even reaching over his head. He has this great way of coming silently into a room, sneaking up on you and then turning on a roaring purr right under your chair. It was the loveliest surprise. 

Sammy liked boxes

fishing and gardening

He liked to help Don shave

and help me do my homework

Sammy loved to play in the grass and climb the plum tree in the front yard. He liked to wake us a couple of times a night, stomping on us and purring. He had a stuffed goose he took to beating up when it was bigger than he was and watching him carry it around was the funniest thing. He had a great fondness for mohair yarn, and he would fish in my yarn baskets looking for a ball to carry around. I loved finding a random ball of mohair where it ought not to be. He had a flair for making an entrance. Somehow it always seemed like he was shouting, "I'm here! Here I am!" I think we will be watching the doors for his entrance for some time.  Sammy left his footprints on our hearts. We will miss him so much.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Ah, Another Day in Divisive Politics

There is an article in the London Free Press today about how EI rips off steady workers.

I wonder how it is that some people think that their experience is the only experience in the world. They have steady work and so everyone else must too. They got through school with no problems, so learning disabilities, differences in abilities, different kinds of encouragement (or dis- as the case may be) cannot have existed. Their job never moves, so they give no thought to what it feels like to have to move for work.

Once upon a time I was  a waitress and a cook. Here is the thing about cooking and waitressing: its kind of dead-end and the hours are crappy if you want a regular life with a mate and your kids. The money is really only good if you work at night, which, see above is not necessarily conducive to your relationships. So I took up carpentry. Here is the thing about construction: every job comes to an end. You build a building, its done. If the company you work for has another project right now, maybe you don't get laid off. But maybe you do. I worked at 2 restaurants before my apprenticeship. I'd been at both places a long time and I knew what I was doing and could be trusted to show up and do my job and not need any supervision, and so I worked all three jobs in a kind of concurrent/rotating arrangement. I would finish a building, call the restaurants and have shifts right away. And I could be called on in an emergency to cover shifts too. Because I was reliable that way, when I got a call for a construction job, someone would cover my shifts so I could go.

And then we had a recession. While I finished up a building I was doing, both my restaurants closed. I was laid off. 300 carpenters in my union hall moved away to find work during the next 9 months. I had a small child. My daughter's grandparents and great grandparents are all here.  The idea of leaving all of our emotional support was beyond distressing. I had three specifically marketable sets of skills, cooking, serving and building. There was no building work, and the only thing that restaurants could see was that as soon as construction picked up again, I would go for the better wages and benefits. This was the response my resume got everywhere I went. (Never occurred to them to pay me enough to stick around, though) And so I was on EI. I had to bring in a job search report once a week. Every week I would pick a different part of town, and I would spend all morning all week looking for work. I would apply at every business that looked like I could do or learn what they did. (and with construction, cooking, serving, sewing, some typing and rudimentary computer, mechanical and welding abilities, I am hardly unemployable). I was unemployed for 6 months. I got a job in a grocery store that had recently gutted its employee's collective agreement. I was hired at $8 an hour- almost 2/3 less than I had been earning, and was held by the new agreement to 20 hours a week. I earned a whopping $165 a week. Just enough to have enough docked from my EI that I wound up with a little less than $200 a week. My rent was $500. My savings fed us, but before I managed to score a second job in a truss plant, that was gone. There are 2 months that I am still not sure how we lived.

But I finished my apprenticeship and things picked up and because I was a hard worker I started getting name requests and working a lot. And that maybe was a story in itself because I'm a small woman. And how I came to work for this scaffold outfit and do what I do is another story yet. But for the last 6 years I have maxed out my EI contributions in September. I can send my kid to university, and study part time myself. I have a good life. I don't know that I won't ever need EI again, but I am damned grateful it was there once. Not for one minute do I begrudge the $800 I contribute every year to the program, because it helps someone somewhere eat, or pay the rent, or be able to send their kid on a school field trip. But I do kinda resent some of my taxes, which are paying for the leeches who don't want the working schmucks to have three meals and a roof over their kid's heads.

So good for John Robson if he has never needed it. And good for him if he never needs it.  But his world is not all our worlds. And some of us might give him a hand if he needs it. I wonder if he would do the same for me?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Canada, oh Canada

So the list over on the right is by no means exhaustive. There are probably about 30 blogs and online newspapers I read regularly. And by regularly, I mean a few times a day.  (My own particular jury is out on whether my smart phone was such a smart idea.)  But reading keeps me from writing. Because they are such good researchers and analysts and writers, I often feel like what I might say about these things is immaterial. I am, in a word, intimidated.

I do feel strongly about the state of this country. I am pro-choice. I am in solidarity with the Montreal students and their supporters. I am appalled at the bundling of so many regulatory items in the budget implementation budget. I am in agreement with Mr Mulcair on the situation with the dollar and the lapdog behaviour of the western premiers. I am opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline. I am in favour of Canadian jobs, but not at the expense of the Canadian wilderness. I am an anti-capitalist.

But honestly, I don't know what to say about those things that dozens of people have not already said very well indeed.

25 years ago, the local school district stopped doing certain maintenance on one of the old schools in the city. It was built in 1910. It was a big two story structure with great high ceilings and tall windows and big wide trim, and sagging floors. I went to school there when I was 10, and my daughter went there all her elementary years. 15 years ago the district began their campaign to close it. That was when my daughter was 7. Their first argument was that the school was underused.  In fact it was not underused. There were actually two schools - the regular english public school, and Programme Cadre, a program for French Canadians. Even though my daughter attended the english program, I found the cross- cultural experience of  this combination exhilarating. We learned so much about Quebec by participating in the Programme Cadre events. The school also housed the local YMCA daycare program. In all the school provided rather a rich community experience, but our board had visions of a central mega- school  and no quaint little community schools in children's neighbourhoods.  Why is community and connection anathema to a certain kind of politician?
I remember going home from the first meeting about the possibility of closing the school and being mad. Really mad. And as I brushed my teeth before I went to bed that night, I thought, "Somebody needs to do something."  And I looked in the mirror. And my reflection looked back, and I thought, "Oh..."

We managed to rally the community for 5 years and put off the board's plans. But remember they had stopped doing maintenance 25 years ago? It was intentional. By the time my daughter moved to highschool, the cost of catching it all up was apparently prohibitive. The school was demolished, and in its place stands a shiny new highschool. No elementary school in the area.

I don't know what to write about what this same kind of people are doing to our country (in fact, one of those school board members is now the provincial AG). I don't know how to express my anger, and my fears, and yes,  sometimes my despair. They are making a mess that is going to be expensive to clean up. But in my mind, demolition is not an option.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

On Quaint Woven Carrying Devices and Subterranean Destinations

What country is this? 
No. Not really. I have not been living under a rock for the last couple of decades.
I have been paying attention.
In fact my circle tends to find me a bit tiresome on the Cassandra routine.
But even having feared all this from the get-go does not make me less disgusted.

Honestly. I don't even know where to direct my outrage at the moment:Crime bills, Surveillance bills, Election fraud, Pipelines, Missing women inquiry, Legislation about to be enacted in BC to destroy the right to strike.

Tomorrow, as a union carpenter I will be standing up in the cold with the BC Teachers Federation against unconstitutional legislation , and right after that I am going to an information evening about the pitfalls of the Enbridge pipeline. It will include a talk by a pair who lived on Haida Gwaii for a month, living entirely off the land.

I can picture a better Canada. One where we do not have to be  exploiting  someone, something or somewhere. One where we are more respectful, and capable of recognizing the agency of others. (I am so sick of being told that someone else's wishes are in my best interest. My best interest includes trees and bears and unsullied coastlines, thank you very much.)

It makes me really sad to think that what we have is really someone's best imagination.

Friday, 20 January 2012

A Ted Talk to share

If you happen to have 17 and a half minutes, watch this. 

I am opposed to this project. I am opposed to expanding the tar sands. I fully recognize the dissonance in those statements against the natural gas furnace that has kept me warm these last few minus 30 days, and the little, but gasoline powered car in my driveway. I do not purport to have the answers. But I am fully prepared to help look for the answers. I believe that we could live without oil if we wanted to. And I believe that more people are willing to entertain that idea.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Knickers in a Knot

My Knickers are in rather a lot of knots at any given time. It makes them damned hard to wear.

My current knot is the Northern Gateway pipeline.  I was mad all day Thursday  when my local CBC early morning radio show played an interview with someone from Ethical Oil. I had certainly heard of Ethical Oil, the organization, the book, its author. It has sounded ridiculous to me from the get go. Yes, women are probably oppressed in other oil producing nations. I am not in favour of oppressing anyone ( oh, maybe I am in favour or oppressing monstrously wealthy corporations bent on development and money to the detriment of all else...), but frankly, I cannot see what that has to do with anything. We in Canada are filthying up the environment and we are trying to build a pipeline through a magnificent wilderness.  I don't see how saying we don't do one bad thing (don't we?) somehow excuses other bad things. We mine and export asbestos. That is bad. We treat our First Nations abysmally. That is bad too. I see nothing special to distinguish our oil from someone else's oil.

But what really got me storming around and swearing like a pirate so that the BF, the cat and the fish were all looking for cover, was the idiotic assertion that the opponents of the pipeline were getting funding from "foreign" sources. And that the whole debate was between Canadians. Fuck. What a load of unmitigated shit. There are foreign interests in that pipeline. Enbridge has partners in China and the bitumen is going to China. When the oil companies (and the government?) have no foreign partners in the debate, then they can contest the pipeline opponent's foreign contingent.

However. Even then, I think it is a stretch, 'cause the environment matters to all of us. Even the climate change deniers. It matters very much, even if we think it doesn't. My own personal opinion is that anyone who is trying to save a corner of this planet for the sake of saving it has a better right to that effort than anyone trying to make a buck off that same corner. Life trumps money to me. Always.