May 31, 2013

How To Be Content

"I'm Alive. I'm Alert. I feel great."

I am fortunate to experience this sensation most days when I wake up. I swing my legs out of bed and think to myself, "Today is going to be a great day".

My mom swears that I was born a quiet and contented little dude. She called me her "Buddha Baby" and says that from day one I have never been demanding. I have been looking for the middle path ever since.

Much has been said about moderation over the eons. The saying "Enough is as good as a feast" is one example. I fear it is too modest. Just enough is better than a feast. Just the right amount, in any situation, is always better than too much, or too little.

We experience diminishing returns the farther past 'enough' we go, until soon we are harming ourselves and our surroundings. Luxury, for example, is an extreme practice that flips the middle finger at enough and gorges its way right past moderation on its way to throw up all over logic and decency.

In industrialized nations the gorging has increased dramatically over the past few decades. However, the level of happiness reported by the citizens of theses nations has remained stubbornly mired at the level just before the unfettered feasting began post WWII.

We are all born content. What else does a mini-human want except some milk, a clean bottom, some swaddling to keep warm and cozy, and someone to love them. Simple, and it is the way we all began.

Then we are trained to want, desire, acquire, grab and buy our way to success and happiness. And if we get there we may find that it is a hollow victory. In spite of being all-of-that, there is still something missing.

It is an endless pursuit. Cars, BBQs, houses, vacations, big screen TVs, electronic gadgets, fashionable clothes, best selling books, restaurant food... the list goes on and on and on. How does one ever feel content when the finish line is constantly being moved further away?

How To Be Content

  1. Don't compare yourself to others. It doesn't matter what other people have, or where they go, or what they do. 
  2. Know that you aren't as needy as you have been trained to feel. You don't need as much to be happy as people tell you. 
  3. Celebrate the little things because they aren't really little. To me a huge shoe collection is a little thing that would add nothing to my life. Clean water on the other hand, is priceless.
  4. Know that you are probably better off than most of humanity. If you have a secure warm, dry place to sleep, nutritious food to eat, adequate clothing, access to education, and supportive friends and family, you have more than most people alive today.
  5. Think about the things you have that give you pleasure, rather than the things you don't have that you think will give you pleasure. You probably have more stuff than you realize, and it may be more than you really need. Why add more to the pile?
  6. Take the personal challenge to find out what "just enough" means in your life. It can be a fun challenge to see how efficiently one can live life with an optimal amount of material support. Not 100 items, and not 100, 000, but somewhere in between.
  7. Be careful what you wish for. Often what we think we want is not what is best for us. Do we really want it, or was the desire planted there by those wishing to profit from manufactured desires?
  8. Be grateful for everything you have. Practice giving thanks for everything you have. I give thanks for: water, love, food, clean water, hot water, soap, socks, peace, security, good neighbours, sleeping in, flowers, a garden, beauty, clean underwear, a lack of pain... my list is endless. Oh, thanks for reading this.
  9. Keep on going. Once you experience the initial liberating feeling of not wanting all the time, you may find you need less money to support your diminished desires. Less money means less work, and less work means more time to do the things that matter the most to you.

May 30, 2013

The Era of Our Discontent

John Steinbeck wrote The Winter of Our Discontent  to address what he saw as the moral degeneration of American culture in the 1950s and 1960s. It is considered to be a classic novel which helped establish the author's reputation as an "independent expounder of the truth".

The time frame in which Steinbeck wrote his novel coincides with the "Golden Age of Capitalism", a time when marketers where learning how to get people to consume more than enough. We went all in and tossed the baby with the bathwater.

Industrialized nations decided to trade traditional ideas of what is good and right for the promise of more. But sacrifices needed to be made, a malaise descended upon us, and our current condition set in.

Of our predicament, Steinbeck observed:

“When a condition or a problem becomes too great, humans have the protection of not thinking about it. But it goes inward and minces up with a lot of other things already there and what comes out is discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something--anything--before it is all gone.”

There is a restless desire, a craving for things we don't have that has not only persisted, but intensified in the intervening years since 1961 when the novel was first published. We have fallen for the fallacy that if some is good more is better, and everyone is trying to get what they think they deserve before the whole outhouse goes up in flames.

In the meantime we try not to think about grabbing the last oil, or the last of our primal forests, or the last of the whales. I figure people focus on future purchases and experiences about 70% of the time, cherish memories of past purchases and experiences 20% of the time, harbour regrets 5% of the time, leaving a grim 5% of their time for enjoying the here and now, the only real time we have got.

The winter of our discontent has become the era of our discontent. We live in a system that promotes excessiveness and pretends there are no limits at all. In a careful balancing act, we are being challenged to fulfill our needs without being overly abundant. How much is that?

May 27, 2013

How Much Is Enough? Monday


In their book How Much is Enough?, Robert and Edward Skidelsky note that our system depends on an endless expansion of wants.
“Capitalism rests precisely on this endless expansion of wants. That is why, for all its success, it remains so unloved. It has given us wealth beyond measure, but has taken away the chief benefit of wealth: the consciousness of having enough. … 
The vanishing of all intrinsic ends leaves us with only two options: to be ahead or to be behind. Positional struggle is our fate.”
 How much is enough in a system where we work longer hours not for more happiness, but to fulfill our infinite, often manufactured, desires?

How much is enough in a system where billionaires remain unsatisfied?

How much is enough? And when do we stop?

"To be satisfied with a little, is the greatest wisdom; and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his cares; but a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not."
- Akhenaton 

May 24, 2013

Gardening and Other Acts of Defiance

I would argue that simple living is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do,
and gardening can be a big part of living a simpler, more sustainable life. 
In an act of total defiance I went to my first Seedy Saturday this spring. Our community hall was packed full of fans of all things gardening and agricultural. I haven't seen so many wonderful, non-conforming rebels gathered in one spot since attending a Renaissance Fair.

And nary a Monsanto representative to be seen... unless they had undercover Pinkerton agents infiltrate the event dressed as hippy organic back-to-the-landers.

It seems perfectly natural for neighbours to collect and share seeds among themselves. After all, humanity has been doing this since plants were first domesticated 10,000 years ago. Until now.

Today the trend is toward making the ancient practice of seed saving illegal in order to protect the profits of the modern makers of genetically altered seeds and associated products.

"Monsanto is big. You can’t win. We will get you. 
You will pay."

Many people have heard about Monsanto's all out war against seed-saving farmers, but may not know they are pressuring governments to create "seed police" to stop profit-threatening seed saving wherever it occurs.

"A new and restrictive law, put before the European Commission on May 6, creates new powers to classify and regulate all plant life anywhere in Europe. The law would make it illegal to grow, reproduce, or trade any vegetable seed not “tested, approved, and accepted” by the new “EU Plant Variety Agency.” The new agency would maintain a list of approved plants, requiring payment of annual fees to keep those plants on the list; otherwise, they cannot be grown. 
Several last-minute changes were made to the law following public outcry – mostly to allow home gardeners and small organizations with fewer than 10 employees to save/swap/sell unapproved vegetable seed – but nearly all varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds will be criminalized under the proposed law. This means the act of saving seeds from one generation to the next – a cornerstone of sustainable living – would become a criminal act." - source
Now is the time for defiance as we continue what will soon be labeled "guerrilla gardening". It is our right, it is sustainable, and it must be protected as a basic freedom.

Plus you get strawberries.

Consider joining the March Against Monsanto May 25th - everywhere. We can and will change the world together. Get more information here.

May 22, 2013

Breeding New Consumers

In the ponzi scheme that is global consumerism the most important thing is a continuous influx of new victims buying in at the bottom level. These rubes provide the profits for those at the top. No new rubes, no profits, no ponzi scheme. That is why the powers want us to breed new consumers.

In recent years the birth rate of many consumer countries (including my own) has been steadily falling. Economists are panicking! Business leaders and their friends in government are panicking!

The persecution of the childless, something that has always existed, is ramping up. We need more consumers for the ponzi scheme or, we are warned, the whole thing will go up in smoke.

Those without children are "selfish" and cause very bad things to happen including "disease, war, and economic stagnation or collapse".

Sorry about hastening the Apocalypse, but I can't remember a time that I ever wanted children of my own. I have no regrets about making this decision.

I am no grumpy child hater. I love children and have worked with kids in a variety of capacities ranging from camp counsellor to elementary school teacher. But it is silly to think that everyone has the obligation to have children of their own just to provide endless growth for a sick system.

If consumer economies must act like a cancer or die, then by all means let's let them die. We can then replace them with better ways of meeting everyone's basic needs in a sustainable fashion.

Now I am more satisfied with being child-free than ever before. It is always a pleasure for me to deny the consumer beast more fuel for the inferno of its dark mills.

I am happy to do my part whether that means buying less, traveling less, or breeding less. By not adding to the creche, we are helping to ensure there is enough for the children already born.

May 20, 2013

Growing Without Buying Monday

I rescued this passionately purple plant from an eroded area down the beach

There is no end to the ways a person could spend money on gardening. Who wouldn't want to buy everything when looking at garden advertising? However, if one is patient and resourceful growing plants can be done without buying anything.

My patio is full of greenery, most of which I have acquired for nothing. Containers, soil, plants, some seeds, soil-enriching compost - all free. Gardens are, by nature, joyfully abundant places and gardeners are usually the type to share the bounty of their green spaces.

It took three years before this plant flowered for the first time this spring

 For me growing things is a form of moving meditation. When I attend to my plants I am completely absorbed by being with my green, growing relations. That I have been able to indulge in this health-promoting activity without buying anything makes it all the more challenging, and satisfying.

Strawberries were left by a previous tenant, and the fall crocus bulbs were a gift from a neighbour

Now I am in a position to pay it forward and I share my greenery with whomever wishes to profit from nature's abundance and do some growing without buying. And what can you expect?

Free, happy flowers, free, frugal food, and a healthier outlook on life.

"Gardening is a labour full of tranquility and satisfaction; natural and instructive, and as such contributes to the most serious contemplation, experience, health and longevity."  
- John Evelyn

May 17, 2013

All My Relations - Learning From Nature

We can learn a lot from observing our animal relations

"All my relations" is an expression highlighting the basic philosophy of many Native Americans. According to these beliefs, animals, plants, stones, and humans are all related because we come from a common source.

But we have become dangerously separated from contact with these relatives by modern fast-paced lifestyles. Standing Bear warned us, "Man's heart away from nature becomes hard".

Besides a diminished sense of compassion, the lack of exposure to nature also means a loss of knowledge. We are missing out on valuable lessons in the greatest classroom of all. However, it is always there, waiting for us to pay attention.

"Look at the flowers - for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are."    - Osho

Even in the city, the sky is always above. Flowers grow in cracks in the sidewalk. Gulls clean up the fries someone left on the bench. How can we notice these things when we are constantly rushing around struggling to "get ahead"?

We have to go slow, or better yet stop entirely, to observe and learn from nature. Its lessons often progress slowly with the phases of the moon and turn of the seasons.

From observing the rich world of nature we can learn how to live comfortably and sustainably on earth. We can learn about ourselves and how we fit into the larger picture of life.

5 Things I've Learned From Nature

1. Slow and steady gets the job done. Water wears down mountains to mole hills over millions of years. Nature doesn't hurry - neither should we.
2. Cooperation rules.  The excitement of competition may get all the headlines, but it is good old boring cooperation that is the overriding factor in nature. Like a beehive, things hum along nicely when everything works together toward a common purpose.
3. Don't take more than your fair share. Excluding the human animal, other creatures do not consume more than they need. If they did, their ecosystem would crash and the population could not be sustained. Nature deals harshly with the over-harvesting of resources.
4. Don't struggle. Water flows along the path of least resistance. It doesn't fight the rock in its way - it finds a way around it. Somehow, when you let go and let your life begins to flow like water, things always manage to work out. Nature's abundance provides when you let it flow into your life.
5. Do what you can with what you have where you are at. When the seed of a tree falls to the ground it uses what it has to grow at that spot. I have seen trees growing in the most challenging of locations, including in cracks in the rock high up mountainsides.

All your relations are waiting for you in their beauty and wisdom. All it takes is a few minutes of down time in order to have a quiet meditation on the natural world, of which we are but one part.

It can be done anywhere, anytime. Watch and learn. Feel the joy, the delight.

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."  
- Kahlil Gibran

May 15, 2013

R. Crumb And The Consumerism Illusion

Building the illusion of the consumer capitalist dream

Underground artist Robert Crumb drew comics that expanded and distorted my malleable mind when I was a kid. I loved his twisted take on our crazy world.

After growing up with Crumb's alternative art, as an adult I discovered his writing and learned more about the man behind the drawings. In his words I found the source of the twisted views which generated so many classic silly images like the Keep On Truckin guy and Mr. Natural.

I found that this artist was a serious philosopher and social critic. I loved his way of thinking even more than his unique way of drawing.

Crumb, was born in 1943, the year that shoe rationing went into effect in the US due to WWII. But such restraint was not to last for long. Soon many parts of the world, including the US, transitioned into the post-World War II economic expansion, or the "Golden Age Of Capitalism".

During the period that lasted from 1945 until the 1970s, many western economies saw consumerism and advertising take over. Cheap mass produced items hit store shelves and shopping was packaged as an activity unto itself.

Lifestyles began to change. Both the complexity and speed of life began to ramp up in a way never seen before. The era of excess was about to dominate the common person's sense of reality as people were transformed from participating citizens to passive consumers purchasing distractions with their new "disposable income".

Of this period Crumb says, "As a kid growing up in the 1950s I became acutely aware of the changes taking place in American culture and I must say I didn't much like it." Indeed, the times were turning toxic.

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides promised "better living with chemistry", and they weren't even the most toxic inventions unleashed upon a dangerously unaware public at the time.

Other inventions like Disneyland, The American Dream, and corporate controlled mainstream media and entertainment were toxic to former free thinking, free living people across the land. It was the beginning of the consumerism illusion.
"What we kids didn't understand was that we were living in a commercial, commodity culture. Everything in our environment had been bought and sold. As middle class Americans, we basically grew up on a movie set. 
The conscious values that are pushed are only part of the picture. The medium itself plays a much bigger part than anyone realizes: the creation of illusion. We are living surrounded by illusion, by professionally created fairy tales. We barely have contact with the real world."
Crumb does not feel optimistic about how this experiment in social engineering will turn out. He envisions a result where everyone is scamming everyone else, a situation that we seem to have achieved.
"The problem is that the longer this buying and selling goes on, the more hollow and bankrupt the culture becomes. It loses its fertility, like worn out, ravaged farmland. 
Eventually, the yokels who bought the hype, the pitch, they want in on the game. When there are no more naive hicks left, you have a culture where everybody is conning each other all the time. 
There are no more earnest "squares" left—everybody's "hip," everybody is cynical."  
Robert Crumb knew that we left something important back in the 1950s, something authentic, slow, human, and real. It was all replaced with an illusion that keeps us complacent and too busy to think clearly about what is going on.
"It's much easier to lie to humans and trick them than to tell them the truth. They'd much rather be bamboozled than be told the truth, because the way to trick them is to flatter them and tell them what they want to hear, to reinforce their existing illusions. They don't want to know the truth. Truth is a bring-down, a bummer, or it's just too complicated, too much mental work to grasp."
I guess all we can do is keep on truckin' for the kind of changes that everyone will benefit from. I am sure Mr. Crumb would approve of a bit of free thinking that leads to restoring sanity to our increasingly crazy world. 

May 13, 2013

Stop The Busyness Monday

I have a neighbour that has recently arrived in Canada from Cuba. When we talk about the differences between the two countries she often points out how much more busy it is here. Everything is "rapido, rapido, rapido", and that one is not hard to translate.

Maybe geography can account for some of the difference - this far north for a large part of the year if you don't keep moving you are going to freeze to death. But we do have homes with central heating, and yet the busyness goes on four seasons a year.

What is the purpose of all this friction as we frantically rub up against life? Is our quality of life improving? Do our efforts make the world a better place?

Many of the world's difficulties are due to the glorification of busy. Busy for the sake of busy. Keep moving. Increase productivity. Do more with less, or do more with more but always, do more.

We tend to look at non-busyness with suspicion. What would we even do if we stopped all the activity?

People are unable, afraid, to break their addiction to busyness. It is, after all, a culturally approved road to "success", and it  helps avoid being labeled with a variety of get-with-the-program put-downs like "slacker" or "lay about".

John Lennon, in his song Watching The Wheels, lamented being labeled as "lazy" when he took time off from the music industry to raise his son and bake bread.

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game...

But Lennon was happy and content with the slow pace of his new simple life. He was not afraid to step off the merry-go-round.

Like Lennon, we should not be afraid of slowing down, or stopping completely. Our mental health and the health of the world depend on our ability to balance action with rest. It is vital that we occasionally take a break to talk with a neighbour, or watch hummingbirds visit a feeder or go for a walk. Or just sit.

Industrialized nations would benefit from adopting a more tropical attitude. Instead of a frenetico high stress life out of step with natural cycles and rhythms, we can create one in which cooling down time is as important as the heat of activity.

We all benefit from moderating the relentless pursuit of busy and taking a little tranquilo tiempo. I propose a revolution of relaxation that introduces the spirit of the siesta into the frantic bits of the world that are desperately in need of a nice, long rest.

Think of all the damage that would not be done, and rest we would get, if we all agreed to do nothing more often. I know my neighbour would be appreciative if we could slow or stop the busyness, even for a short while.

May 12, 2013

Moms, Women, and The Ancient Goddess

Black Madonna - by V. Armstrong
This week I sent my mom a letter. The kind that goes into a stamped envelope and that she can hold and turn over in her hands. In the letter I thanked her for teaching me about so many things that I may not have known otherwise.

Alternative things, liberating things, mind-expanding things, controversial things. Things like the Black Madonna.

The following is from a card that came with a small statue of Black Madonna. It is a fitting tribute for today and every day.

"The Black Madonna is a symbol of wisdom and the resolution of opposites. Mary, Virgin and Mother, incorporated the two faces of the ancient triple goddess (Virgin, Matron, Crone) which were least threatening to the church of Rome, but her continuity with archaic virgin goddesses (such as Aphrodite, Artemis of Ephesus, or Mari - Ishtar) is indisputable." 
Worship The Ancient Goddess 
"She has been called Gaia, Mother Nature, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Mistress of the House of Life, The Creatress, Divine Ancestress, and Mighty Lady. Known by many names, venerated by ancient humankind in many forms, the Goddess is actually this blessed Mother of Earth which sustains us all.  
Extensive research by Marija Gimbutas, Riane Eisler, et al shows that neolithic matrifocal cultures created much of human civilization. Agriculture, animal husbandry, pottery, weaving, city-planning, architecture, and the gamut of core technologies that shape human life this day developed before 3000 BC.  
Abstract values of justice and government, the invention of writing and the wheel, aesthetics of art,  dance, music, and religious ritual all evolved in Goddess - worshipping societies. Excavation of their settlements show towns undefended by walls. Values such as nurturance, cooperation and partnership with the Earth were critical.  
But in the 35 centuries ending circa 500 AD nomadic invaders swept down upon the life-affirming cultures. They appropriated both the civilizations they found and the Goddess Herself as the spouse of their warlike God. Principals of dominance, sex inequality, class status, warfare, and consumeristic exploitation of Earth which so influence our world today date from this relatively recent imbalancing cycle of history. 
Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have shown that it is our myth, ritual and symbols that must change before our culture can rebalance. Images of the generous and loving Goddess direct our consciousness toward cooperating with and loving rather than destroying Earth."

It is time to celebrate moms, women, and goddesses everywhere and regain some much needed balance.

Thanks mom.

May 10, 2013

Being The Change - The Transition Towns Movement

Gardens grow more than food - they also grow community resilience 

Current ways of living in industrialized nations are increasingly seen as the unsustainable practices that they are. After we come to this realization we have to ask ourselves questions about where to go from here. The Transition Towns movement is helping provide some solutions as we move away from our fantasies of infinite growth economics on our finite planet.

Why should perpetual economic expansion be a goal for anyone but those at the top when such growth does not benefit the rest of us and harms the environment? If economic growth does not lead to increased happiness and environmental integrity, why support it?
Clean energy

But how do we quit participating in this flawed system when it seems like there aren't any viable alternatives? How can we transition away from a doomed perpetual growth model to one which is sustainable?

Although they may be discredited and poo-pooed by mainstream decision makers, alternative ways of living do exist, and many individuals and small groups are choosing them.

Gandhi advised we be the change we wish to see in the world. As we transform our own lives, desired outer transformations in the world around us will happen simultaneously.

The principles of Transition towns can  be applied on an individual basis as well as to villages, towns, cities, and nations.

Alternatives To Unsustainable Living
Transition Towns
"Transition Towns (also known as transition network or transition movement) is a grassroots network of communities that are working to build resilience in response to peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. 
Central to the transition town movement is the idea that a life without oil could in fact be far more enjoyable and fulfilling than the present: "by shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design the future low carbon age to be thriving, resilient and abundant — somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth." - source

Sustainable housing
In my own town a small group of optimistic and dedicated world changers meets regularly to discuss the best ways to move forward with the Transition Town mandate in this location.

The TT program is based in part on the tenets of permaculture, and seeks to raise awareness of sustainable living and to build local resilience. It hopes to make such changes sooner, rather than later.

And with a nod to Gandhi's sentiment, the Transition Town movement also believes that inner transition must accompany the outer transition in our communities.

First we get our own house in order, then we help our communities do the same. In this way we will create secure, sustainable practices and more enjoyable ways of living together.

Low carbon travel
Check out the Transition Network website for more information on sensible, do-able alternatives to current harmful practices.

May 9, 2013

Not Buying Anything For Mom

Life is a perpetual celebration of the Universal Mother
Unsurprisingly, I didn't buy my mom anything for Mother's Day. And after reading some of the obligatory "buy, buy, buy" propaganda for this annual merchandising occasion, I am glad I didn't.

A mainstream media advertisement disguised as news that I read today began by informing readers that "This Mother's Day, moms are getting more love than last year.."

The translation? Spending money on your mom on this one special day = love. Therefore more spending means more love. What bullshit! It amazes me that we fall for this as often as we do.

You can't buy happiness or love for yourself, and you can't buy them for someone else. But that isn't what the big retail organizations are telling us.

According to them acknowledging our moms means "opening our wallets" and "spending more". Taking care of mom means buying her meaningless, excessive gifts on one arbitrary day rather than showing respect and gratitude 365 days a year.

Drooling retailers tell us buying stuff is the way to show we care. They lie, and for their fibbing they will take an estimated $20.7 B haul in the US alone this year.

Refusing to participate in this obvious scam  is a non-consumeristic way to honour all mothers, right up to the Universal Mother inherent in everything.

This Sunday my personal celebration of all the moms I know and love will not contribute one cent towards the mum's day retail industry.

What we can give moms around the world is our love (real love, not money love), our time, our support, and our respect year round. The rest is just expensive lip service that signifies nothing but a way to get into your wallet.

May 8, 2013

Power Of The People Means Hate And Lies Always Fall

The power of the people will ensure that truth and love prevail.

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it - always."
- Mahatma Gandhi

May 7, 2013

Committing Critical Thinking

It is hard to believe in global capitalism once you start
critically thinking about it

North America, in my experience as both a student and a teacher, has always been proudly anti-intellectual. Why? Because decision makers have always known that an uneducated, uninformed population is easier to exploit and manipulate.

The blissfully unaware are easier to lead to their mundane jobs, and then to the mall after work. Such a population won't notice the degradation of the environment or personal freedoms.

I used to look south across the border and cringe at the anti-intellectualism of the Bush years because it went way beyond the usual dumbing us down routine. Now my own country has been invaded by a leadership that preaches the uselessness of critical thinking of any kind, and then formulates new laws to back up the sermon.

In response to the horrific Boston bombings, Canada's Prime Minister basically responded by telling us now was not the time to think (or "commit sociology" as he inanely put it), but to look around for the biggest stick we can find and start bashing suspicious looking foreigners.

Is there ever a time to not think? Isn't that what has gotten us into the messes we currently face on a global scale? So much for being proactive and practicing evidence-based prevention to ease and perhaps solve our pressing problems.

I found the following open letter at (a local online news source) that reflects my frustration, embarrassment, and shame in the great leaps backwards that our current anti-intellectual government has been taking us on every front.

Open letter: Thou shalt not commit sociology (or critical thinking of any kind)

by Staff on Apr 29, 2013 at 4:36 pm

The anti-intellectualism of Stephen Harper demands a reply. In face of global capitalism’s mounting crisis, critical interrogation of social phenomena, causes and consequences is urgently needed. We invite Canadians to ‘commit sociology’ and indeed ‘history’, ‘literary criticism’, ‘philosophy’, ‘political science’, ‘anthropology’, ‘critical legal studies,’ ‘political economy’, and ‘feminist studies’. 
The latest attack on independent research and scholarship is part of the current Conservative government’s attempt to keep Canadians in the dark. Since at least the 1960s and 1970s, evidence-based research in the humanities and social sciences has illuminated pervasive injustice and inequality.  In Canada, long-standing colonialism in dealing with the First Nations, the ‘patriarchal dividend’ in employment, politics, education, and social security, the gulf between rich and poor, the scapegoating of racialized immigrants and foreign workers, the criminalization of the poor, and the hollowing out of the middle class have been confirmed.  To a significant degree, anti-racist, feminist, and other critical scholars have shaped policy and improved outcomes for the less powerful. Their scholarship has also encouraged social movements such as Idle No More and Occupy, which reject the market capitalism embraced by the right as the solution to global immiseration. 
Harper’s administration and its allies have mounted a general attack on critical research, be it in the humanities, the social sciences or the sciences. They want data-based interpretations of Canada that document elite, corporate, European, and male abuse to disappear. Their assault on the humanities and social sciences, like that on the sciences, began with censorship. Statistics Canada, archives, libraries, and parks and historic sites, not to mention programs of scientific research, have been hobbled.
National history is one special target of conservative efforts to cleanse Canada of proof of inequality and injustice. Ottawa’s 2011 “Discover Canada” guide to the citizenship test and 2012 immigrant guide, “Welcome to Canada,” foster a deliberately na├»ve patriotism.  Political decisions to turn the Canadian Museum of Civilization into one of History, to embrace reactionary commemorative practices, to militarize patriotic mythology, and to attack Library and Archives Canada, the principal depository of our history, aim to dumb down the electorate. 
The contest for hearts and minds goes far beyond anti-intellectualism. Current government practices form part of a broader process of public ‘de-gendering’ that aims at the systematic elimination of gender, racial, and class justice from public policy. That result threatens hard-fought struggles by Canadians of every description and scholarly investigation of every variety. 
In face of a world that is so self-evidently badly served by reactionary forces, we rededicate ourselves to committing critical scholarship.  We also support scientists who document the precarious state of the environment.  Like them we embrace the ‘sin’ of employing data in aid of a proactive public policy that fosters a sustainable and equitable planet.  We urge all Canadians to do the same.

The open letter was signed by 80 concerned critical thinkers from universities across the country.

When the leader of any country tells the population "now is not the time for thinking" it means they are hiding something and now is the time for thinking. It means that critical analysis and sanity is under threat.

It means that they know there are more of us, and that in spite of their attempts at obfuscation and befuddlement, we are educating ourselves. We are becoming aware of what is going on, and we don't like it.

With awareness comes the knowledge that we can, and will, stop the things that assault human and environmental rights. Like the fanatical right wing governments that are trying to take over the world and perpetuate their self-serving, harmful ways.

I hope Canadians will lend their critical thinking skills to our current management's manipulations, and help oust them all at the next election... if not sooner.

May 3, 2013

I Am The Earth - The Earth Is Me

I am the earth, and the earth is me. To speak of us as separate entities fails to recognize that everything is part of one great living being. We are interconnected, and interdependent. We need each other.

Chief Seattle reminded us of this fact in his 1854 warning to us. We should have listened to our host more sincerely, and taken his words to heart.

We have allowed the destruction of the environmental part of our system because most of us live separated from intimate contact with nature. We are cut off from the cycles and rhythms of the earth, and this has dangerous consequences for everything.

The pressures of modern life move us toward a structured life in which we wake to an alarm clock and go to bed after the news. Our schedules accommodate what we think needs to be done, not natural rhythms.

We ignore our connection to everything else at our peril - we are part of the earth. We think we are exceptional and don't need the environment. Wishful thinking leads us to believe some magic technological fix will come riding to our rescue. But it won't.

Only we can rescue ourselves.

A slower, more simple life allows one the time to reconnect with the earth and its ways, and live in respectful harmony with nature.

When we acknowledge our common blood and respect natural rhythms, the health of the whole earth improves.

We are one family, and we need each other.

May 1, 2013

May Day 2013

Protesters shout slogans calling for better working conditions for garment factory workers during a May Day rally May 1, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Worker exploitation is alive and well, and we all caught a horrible glimpse of it when hundreds of workers perished in the Bangladeshi factory collapse.

“Labor-rights groups around the world have been asking, indeed imploring, major retailers to address the grievous safety hazards in their Bangladesh factories and the response is always the same: vague promises and public relations dodges, while the pile of corpses grows ever higher.” - Scott Nova, executive director of the Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium. 

May Day 2013 is a celebration of over 100 years (or should that be 1000 years?) of workers' struggle for fair treatment from their elitist overlords. 

Today as the neoliberal hyper-capitalist system goes global, the ongoing fight for the recognition of worker rights is more important than ever.

May Day is a time to remember the efforts of those that came before us, and to reflect on the values we want our world to be based on when current unsuccessful and unsustainable methods are replaced.

Questions for contemplation could touch on a variety of key areas such as:

Equity - How much should people get, and why?

Self Management - What kind of say should people have over their conditions?

Diversity - Should the paths to fulfilment be diversified or narrowed?

Solidarity - Should people compete or cooperate?

Environment - How will we make the environment our #1 priority?

People before profits. Happy May Day to the workers of the world!