Category Archives: Politics

Hey, do you feel that?

That knot in your stomach, that pressing feeling in your chest, the lump in your throat. If you follow the news, you’ve probably felt like that a lot in the past few weeks. You might feel as though the world is coming apart at the seems, but it’s not. It is coming alive.

We are witnessing the latest stage of a process that has been happening ever since the first novels were printed. The trend continued with pamphlets, magazines, film, and colour television. Every time we get a new piece of media technology we see ourselves as who we really are, and often we don’t like what we see.

I’d like to tell you that it’s going to get better, but in some ways it’s not. Every death is going to get more painful as we have access to the backstories and grieving families of the victims. We can’t see them as statistics as well as we used to.

Yes, the Internet makes it so we can’t ignore these problems anymore. And that’s a good thing. No one really wants the status quo anymore. It is going to take a lot of work, but I am seeing hearts change out there.

If you care about a having a more equal society, and you are not in any hurry to prove people wrong, you can really do a lot of good out there. You may have to grit your teeth and listen to your friends repeat facts to you that you know are wrong, but the true inaccuracies fall apart against the most basic questions. If you find yourself worn out, by all means, take a rest and give yourself the strength to fight, but keep that pain close to you. It will come in handy when it’s time to act. I believe that we are on the right path. It’s a painful one, but it is one that leads to justice.

Oslo and Other Shootings: The Debate on Mental health

Auburn, Washington State. A lone gunman opens fire in a local casino, wounding 7.

Grand Prairie, Texas. One man draws a gun at a children’s birthday party at a roller rink. 6 dead, 4 wounded.

Oslo, Norway. After setting off several car bombs near the Prime Minister’s office, a solo perpetrator makes his way to a Labour Party Youth Camp on Utøya Island with an assault rifle. 76 people dead, 96 wounded.

It’s the same story that’s been repeated for years. A lone X attacks Y armed with a Z. A dead and B wounded. Solve for X. We just had three of them in the space of a week, and it wasn’t even a full moon. The aftermath is usually the same. The candlelight vigils, the scholarships and charities set up in the victims’ names, not to mention the filing away at civil liberties to prevent future attacks. There might be some debate over the death penalty, if the attacker didn’t have the courtesy to end his own life. For all the anguish that these attacks cause, very little is done to tackle their only common thread. I’m talking, of course, about Mental Health.

These shooters are crazy. It’s not really a debate. They act alone or in small groups. They are often described as quiet and isolated. There are sometimes manifestos, blog posts, and youtube videos discovered after the fact showing just how bad their mental health was.

Why can’t we stop them at this stage, before they take out scores of people with them?

The short answer is the Law. If we could just call up the men in the white coats on someone, it would infringe on a host of civil liberties that make a modern society possible.

However, there is a lot more that we could do for our collective mental health that doesn’t involve Nurse Ratched or lobotomies. We could be checking up on people, making sure they have a connection with the community. We can identify problems and either speak to the person or contact someone who could help. Even perfectly mentally healthy people could get checked up once a year to establish a mental health baseline.

The problem with this is that there is no polite way to do it. You can talk to Miss Manners, Ann Landers, or Dan Savage, if we want to try to get people any kind of mental health, you committing the ultimate dinner party faux pax. It’s not even as simple as a stigma against the mentally ill. No one looks twice if you go to a physician, but If you see a therapist, you are immediately sick until proven healthy! Even if you swallow your pride and decide to bring a fruit basket to the overgrown house down the street, how can you keep from embarrassing yourself? How do THEY keep from embarrassing themselves?

These random acts of violence are becoming a standard hazard in industrialized nations. We’ve focused so much on promoting individuality over society that we have no tools to keep people from shooting up a mall if they really want to. Mental health is still a poorly understood field, but we can’t just cower in fear waiting for the next attack. We have to make our understanding a priority and establish a new social framework. New manners will be chartered and polite boundaries will be redrawn. I’m not sure what form this new society will take, but the debate has to start now.

Stanley Cup 2011: The Game, The Riots, and The Future

My Reaction to Last Night's Events

My Reaction to Last Night's Events

After 17 years, I let myself believe again. We had the best offensive line in the league, and stepped over teams that would have crushed us in seasons past. The ghosts of ’94 were finally about to be erased. But alas, it was not to be. And to add insult to injury, the streets of Vancouver were once again plagued by rioters.

Losing the game was one thing, but I couldn’t handle watching the city being used as a commercial for tear gas and nightsticks. Reports were coming in about gangs of teens and twenty-somethings from as far away as Surrey “gleefully” rushing to the riot areas. I decided to declare a personal media blackout for the day. I wouldn’t read any news reports or facebook statuses related to last night. Just as those police officers wanted the crowds to disperse and move on, I wanted life in general to do the same.

A clean living room and an organized office can do a lot for a broken heart. I decided to poke my head out and survey the aftermath. Vancouver was now a joke on the world stage. Even my wife’s grade 6 students were disgusted and that crowd will argue over a missing pencil. Fortunately there were many citizens as well as police trying to stop the destruction. There were many volunteers the next day to clean up the mess. The boarded up windows were covered in messages of support and regret.

I hope they arrest and publicly shame every last person who was making trouble downtown that night. It’s funny how people freak out over the privacy issues mobile phones and facebook. Right now it’s almost being used as a form of street justice. This technology is the only way we’ll catch these thugs. I know public flogging’s out of the question, but I wonder if banishment is considered a cruel and unusual punishment. Please go to www.identifyrioters.com and see if you can pick out any faces.

Now, as for the game itself. I’m in no position to figure out the deciding factor because I am by no means a regular hockey fan. There were a lot of conspiracy theories flying around that night. There was the Rome suspension, Raymond’s injury, and the fact that the son of the head NHL disciplinarian played for the Bruins.

As Gary Bettman, the NHL Commisioner stammered and sputtered in front of a booing Vancouver crowd, I wouldn’t have minded if a quick bout of US hyperinflation had him changing his home address to the back of a ford station wagon.

But let’s think about that for a second.

If Bettman suddenly wasn’t NHL commissioner, perhaps by getting hit by a schoolbus full of bantam league hockey players, who would take his place? It wouldn’t matter. The US has more population and more economic power to keep the league going.

Where’s our population and economic power going to come from? Where is that Canadian NHL commissioner and owners who would bring the game back to its home country and make billions while doing it? Is it some internet tycoon thinking of selling his business to a bunch of Silicon Valley VC’s? It could be one of those postal workers on the picket line, sitting on some product he built in his garage but can’t take to market because the post office is the only way his family can get benefits. He could be in the same room as you. Anybody with a plan and the will to carry it out.

At the end of the day, conspiracy theories are nothing but excuses. If it’s going to take more Canadian owners in the league, then let’s make more Canadian owners. Let’s build this country up so we can have our game back. Instead of complaining, rioting, or otherwise about our Cup-less team, let’s make a Stanley Cup in Vancouver happen, just like our Canucks built the best offensive line in the league. GO CANUCKS!

Think Like a Stakeholder

The Bloc may have been Orange Crushed, the Green Party may finally have a seat, and the Liberals may be sitting in a corner thinking about what they did, but I get the sense that most of my friends are angry about last night’s election of a Conservative Majority.

It might have been the low voter turnout, it might have been the Liberal Party Platform of “Hey, what are you going to do, vote conservative?”, but Conservative Majority is a reality, and no amount of calling Harper a robot or “Bush Jr.” is going to change that. Calls for electoral reform only dissuade us from the real problem, which is that my generation does not understand the Conservative mindset.

I really think that we have this image of the CPC that’s made of more ideology than reality. We talk about Conservatives like they are an irrational race of hairy barbarians who enjoy beating anything smaller than themselves with hockey sticks. They want to divide up the country among the rich and powerful, destroy the environment, and execute mentally handicapped criminals. Any intellectuals, poor people and minorities who have a problem with that can suck it.

We take this view at face value and yet we ignore anything that conflicts with it. Why would they be popular with low-income voters if they only serve the rich? Could it be because they keep trying to lower taxes and make home ownership more affordable?

The Liberals and the NDP have been praised for offering us “Freedom from” policies. Like freedom from poverty, health care, or child care costs. While the Conservatives are determined to take away those policies, they want to instead offer ownership stakes. The idea is that if you own your own piece of Canada, you’ll work harder to make it a better place. Is this a better offer? Can the other parties match it?

Until we can fully appreciate what goes through the heads of the politicians and voters that have made up this government, we will be cut out of the national decision making process. Public health care, education and the environment will be subject to the whims of the Conservatives. While they have shown themselves to be capable, by no means do they have a complete picture of how to run this country.

May 2nd is Election Day

I thought Monday was going to be surreal, I had no idea to what degree. There was Harper showing up in Abbotsford of all places for an election rally. The Pollyanna in me wants to believe that he was keeping a former stronghold riding from turning into a battleground, but I know this is where he could count on the most supporters to show up. Then there was this business about Jack Layton getting a massage from an establishment that was under investigation for giving out happy endings. The Harper fans that trotted this out must either be stupid, desperate, or both. This can only mean that they think the NDP, of all the other parties, is actually a threat to their government status.

And then they catch Osama freakin’ Bin-Laden.

It sounds like something you’d slip in to conversation if you think the other person’s not listening. My wife does it sometimes. On the one hand, I’m glad they got him, I’m glad he’s dead so we don’t have to deal with a long and embarrassing trial, but DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

I don’t care if they all seem like the same party, I don’t care if one vote doesn’t matter, and I don’t care if you’re in a stronghold riding like mine. Get out there and show them that you are present. Non-voting is the result of a martyr complex of the worst sort. So your situation, or the country’s, is so bad that no political party could possibly help. By not voting, you are protesting the whole idea of governments and political parties! Your snowflake political opinions are too complex, too nuanced to be summed up in a mere ballot! You might think you’re Che Guevara right there, but no one actually cares if you disengage from the political process. Low voter turnouts only embolden the worst of us to run for office. You can blame the government for not caring about you, but it’s not like you’ve been caring about the government. Your MP probably didn’t even get a stern phone call from you. History is not just written by the winners. It’s written by those who choose to participate in it. Be present this May 2nd and Vote.