Follow the Leader?

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Life begins in a womb, or in a room, depending on your view, I suppose. But without a doubt, we all exist as the result of a big bang; the merging of two completely separate things; an egg and a sperm, and then lo and behold, out of this unification pops a brand new energetic being. Unlike baby lizards, which hatch from an egg and are completely independent at birth, eating ants, flies and small worms, brand new people are utterly incapable of doing anything except crying, flailing and losing their poop. And some people continue this type of behaviour well into adulthood, which isn’t to say those people won’t ever change, because they can. Humans are capable of advancing their position in life through self-determination, unlike a lizard, which will always be a lizard.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit unnerving comparing people to lizards, it puts me at risk of having a raging reptile or a pissy progenitor on my doorstep. I’ll put a pee-pad on the landing. Now, back to my weird, and over-simplified comparison, the most obvious difference between a human and a lizard is that people have a desire to determine their own path in life and can actively plan towards attaining that goal. In essence, we try, we fail, we try, we fail, we try, we succeed and we grow—remove the pee-pad. Whereas, lizards simply live in the moment fulfilling their own needs; eating, drinking and fornicating.

Furthermore, as a non-lizard species, we have the unique ability to use introspection to hone our personal progress and develop compassion for our fellow human beings. If we cut beneath the superficial mask we wear for appearances sake, each individual soon comes face to face with their own inner workings, including their deepest fears and most vile inclinations, in doing this time and time again, everyone eventually discovers we are all capable of doing dark deeds in difficult circumstances. This revelation leads us to find empathy for those who struggle. The idea of compassion doesn’t exist for lizards, they simply view the smaller lizards, the less powerful lizards as a source of food to fill an empty need.

The progression of any society is intricately linked to the empathy the people display for their own fellow man. I came across these paragraphs in a book, the words buried themselves inside my heart and mind, irretrievable shrapnel from an explosive idea.

Hammer cocked, a round in the chamber, finger resting lightly on the trigger, I drew a bead on whoever walked by—women pushing strollers, children, garbage collectors laughing and calling to each other, anyone—and as they passed under my window I sometimes had to bite my lip to keep from laughing in the ecstasy of my power over them, and at their absurd and innocent belief that they were safe.

But over time the innocence I laughed at began to irritate me. It was a peculiar kind of irritation. I saw it years later in men I served with, and felt it myself, when unarmed Vietnamese civilians talked back to us while we herded them around. Power can only be enjoyed when it is recognized and feared. Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those that have it.” .

This Boys Life: By Tobias Wolff

This scenario gnaws at the reality of our time. Do you think the leaders of today promote self-determination, fearlessness in the face of adversity and compassion for others, or do they actively participate in shaming, name-calling and enjoy the predatory feeling of having their finger on the trigger? Will the babies born today be encouraged to live their lives to their highest capacity as a human or will they be limited to the barest minimum like a lizard?

Freedom for All?

Lance Corporal Alexander Antoniuk, February 19, 1924 — December 31, 1944

Enlisted: March 2, 1942 in Edmonton, Alberta. He served in the military with 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, R.C.I.C. He body lies in the Villanova Canadian War Cemetery in Italy. He fought for freedom; for the freedom to voice an opinion without being attacked with name calling or shaming, the freedom for a citizen to refuse an experimental treatment without being coerced or pressured into taking it, and the freedom from censorship and government overreach. The people who have followed every mandate cannot understand why some of us think some of our freedoms are gone, but I ask those people, with respect and love , how would you know some of your freedoms are gone unless you use them? Put the shoe on the other foot for a moment, what if you used your freedom of choice to reject a brand new medical treatment, and for that you lost the freedom to travel, to eat in a restaurant, to go to a movie theatre, and perhaps even lose your job. Would you notice your freedoms gone then?

Earlier this week, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act (formerly known as the War Measures Act) for the first time since 1970.

As a reminder, the War Measures Act was invoked in 1970 because the Quebec nationalist group, Front de libération du Québec, set off over 200 bombs across Quebec, kidnapped a British diplomat, and kidnapped and murdered the Deputy Premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte.

We highlight this most recent usage of the War Measures Act to explain the extremely high bar required to invoke this massive expansion in government powers, and even then its usage was opposed by the NDP on civil liberties grounds.

Since 1970, Canada has faced many crises in many different forms.

The Emergencies / War Measure Act was not used to resolve the Oka Crisis, a series of protests where multiple deaths and hundreds of injuries occurred, the Calendonia land dispute, the extended blockade of pipelines and railways in 2020 and 2021, the September 11th attacks, or even the COVID-19 pandemic itself.

This is because the Emergencies / War Measures Act contains extremely strict rules about when it may be used.

Just one of these many restrictions says that a crisis must “exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it” before the federal government may step in and take over.

The crisis must also be of a nationwide nature, not restricted to just a small geographic area.

Given all the border blockades across the country were handled and ended by provincial governments before the federal government even invoked the Act, and the only remaining protest is the one in his own backyard in Ottawa, the current protest clearly fails to meet this criteria.

If you are in agreement, you can sign this petition.

Historical Love and Savagery

Happy Valentines Day! My original intention for today’s blog was to compose uplifting flowery prose which might inspire love and connection. However, as I delved into the complicated and muddled past of this whimsical day of adorations, I soon discovered there was nothing whimsical about Valentines Day. Its curious beginnings have been studied by various historians sifting through the dusty realms of the past, but unfortunately, rather than locating a precise origin, the beginnings are vague and incomplete. According to some, our designated day of love began with animal sacrifice and ended with a lottery in which young virgins were raffled off. Other chroniclers surmised February 14 was named for St. Valentine, a Roman priest, executed for secretly marrying young lovers against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II, and thereafter was named the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers.

If you find the history of Valentines Day tragic, I would agree, but that said, haven’t we done something amazing? We took a historically horrific day and turned it into a day to express our love for our families and our friends. Each time we gape at our history with distress in our heart it’s an opportunity to revisit and become aware of the tribulations of the past thereby creating a brighter future.

Let’s consider the years of 1933-1945, when Adolf Hitler, the German dictator sought war and hate instead of peace and love. His leadership was directly responsible for the deaths of six million Jews and five million noncombatants. Many of those died in the concentration camps, and thousands of deaths were attributed to medical experimentation by Nazi doctors. During Hitlers war campaign the rape of innocent women and children were common occurrence, and he actively persecuted homosexuals and people with disabilities, and went as far as authorizing a euthanasia program for disabled adults.

Today, we look back and wonder how this devastation could have happened, the survivors tell us it occurred quite gradually, it began with a propaganda campaign, a stealthy layering of words resulting in a slow twist of the mind. The government sponsored media used radio, newspapers, posters and flyers, to dehumanize their fellow Jewish citizens and dissidents. Eventually they considered those people enemies that needed to be dealt with, debate was not allowed, disagreeing voices squashed and demonized.

“The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little ones but would be ashamed to tell a big one.”

Adolf Hitler

Around that same time period from 1922-1953, Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, became responsible for over six million peoples deaths and perhaps as many as nine million if you take into account death by starvation and concentration camps for dissidents. A historian, Norman Naimark, penned the book, Stalin’s Genocides, to illustrate the dictator’s horrific deeds.

“In the process of collectivization, for example, 30,000 kulaks were killed directly, mostly shot on the spot. About 2 million were forcibly deported to the Far North and Siberia. They were called ‘enemies of the people, as well as swine, dogs, cockroaches, scum, vermin, filth, half-animals, apes. Activists promoted murderous slogans: “We will exile the kulak by the thousand when necessary— shoot the kulak breed.” The kulak class were farmers. ‘The destruction of the kulak class triggered the Ukrainian famine, during which 3 million to 5 million peasants died of starvation.”

Norman Naimark

It’s ugly. It’s terrible to read, and it’s difficult to consider those times, yet if we turn away from the bloody history of our world we dishonour the pain and suffering of the dead. A forgotten history is a repeated history. Out of all the mass murdering leaders of the 1900’s, the Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong, reigned supreme at killing his own people. His rule led to the deaths of 45 million people. Forty-Five Million. Rodgers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team can hold 20,734 people for a concert. You would need approximately two thousand-one hundred and seventy Rodgers Places to hold all the bodies that Mao Zedong was responsible for killing.

“Mao thought that he could catapult his country past its competitors by herding villagers across the country into giant people’s communes. In pursuit of a utopian paradise, everything was collectivised. People had their work, homes, land, belongings and livelihoods taken from them. In collective canteens, food, distributed by the spoonful according to merit, it became a weapon used to force people to follow the party’s every dictate. As incentives to work were removed, coercion and violence were used instead to compel famished farmers to perform labour on poorly planned irrigation projects while fields were neglected.

A catastrophe of gargantuan proportions ensued. Extrapolating from published population statistics, historians have speculated that tens of millions of people died of starvation. But the true dimensions of what happened are only now coming to light thanks to the meticulous reports the party itself compiled during the famine….

What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in history, responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962. It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe that dwarfs earlier estimates, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction. When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: one of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten kilogram stone was dropped on his back and then he was branded with a sizzling tool – punishment for digging up a potato.”

-Frank Dikötter

People are complicated creatures, our egos and fears sometimes lead us into unreasonable actions. In the 18th century around twenty percent of all woman died from the Black Death of childbed. Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, sought to solve the reason. Fairly quickly he established that the mid-wives had a much lower rate of mothers dying after childbirth than the doctors, therefore he concluded the mid-wives must be doing something different than the fully trained doctors. After spending time observing the mid-wives verses the doctors, he eventually came to the conclusion that the doctors did not wash their hands between seeing patients and delivering babies. In short order, Dr. Semmelweis instructed his staff to begin washing their hands and cleaning the instruments between patients, and in response the rate of Black Death in his delivering mothers dropped off dramatically. Incredibly, the other doctors did not immediately follow his solution and actively shunned and mocked Dr. Semmelweis’s suggestion. It took years before hand washing was implemented and in the meantime many more woman died.

History holds so many warnings in the crotch of its bloodiest years. Looking at history we can see, the first sign of a government gone astray can be found in the wording used by their media and its leaders. It utilizes disparaging language, singling out a particular group through blaming and name calling. Cultivating emotion through the use of certain phrasing is a the most powerful tool a leader can use in addressing its citizens. It can either bring people together or drive people apart.

“We all know people who are deciding whether or not they are willing to get vaccinated, and we will do our very best to try to convince them. However, there is still a part of the population that is fiercely against it.

They don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist. It is a very small group of people, but that doesn’t shy away from the fact that they take up some space.

This leads us, as a leader and as a country, to make a choice; Do we tolerate these people?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Do you tolerate me? Do you think I am racist and misogynistic for making a personal choices for the only thing I truly own on this earth—my body? Dividing citizens has never proved a peaceful path into the future. Love and unity is the only way to move forward. Consider this, ordinary civilians are not the instigators of an oppressive and tyrannical society, however, through fear and manipulation the majority of citizens do grant their leaders that power. Our history is being decided now. I am an unvaccinated healthy citizen on the side of freedom— love me or hate me, it makes no difference to me, I still consider you a potential friend and ally in a world that seems to have gone over the edge. Happy love day to you.

Unearthing Information

Photo by Alex Dugquem on Pexels.com

Good day, my fellow companions sharing in this grand adventure of life. I have a confession to make. I used to be the most over-trusting, easily deceived, green as grass, rural dweller that you ever could meet. I assumed all professionals such as doctors, dentists, lawyers and cheese makers were equally effective and proficient in their job. I had no clue that a little research goes a long way. Talk about naive. I mean, I was once a Girl Guide, I should have taken the motto, ‘be prepared‘ more seriously, but I think I was a bigger fan of the stylish uniform than being prepared. Long story short, I have aged into the understanding that a quality investigation into anything relating to your health and welfare is critical to a great outcome. And, if you know me at all, you know I have a story to illustrate this point, and no, it’s not about a cheese maker. However, if anyone one has one of those stories, I’d be absolutely giddy to hear it.

A few years ago, my friend, Brenda and I were on our daily walk. It was mid-summer; the towering grass growing in the wide ditch swaggered within the rush and wane of the wind and a hint of wild mint from a pond beyond the willows wafted through the air. We strode side by side without saying a word, all talked out from our previous kilometres, tiny beads of perspiration sparkles on our faces and the heat of the day hangs on the road between the ditches. A sudden movement to my left snatches my attention, a fluffy bear cub rears up near the edge of the road and contemplates us with obvious curiosity. My breath halts as a huge black mass rises up from the long grass behind the cub. My eyes widen and my body trembles in alarm. Brenda hadn’t seen them yet.

I grab hold of Brenda’s t-shirt to get her attention. “Stop. It’s a bear,” I say, huffing on each word. My knees weaken, running into a mama bear with cubs was not on my bucket list. Brenda’s eyes bulge as she takes stock of the imposing bear and her three cubs now romping unpredictably through the grass.

Thankfully, this bear and her three cubs had been sighted in the area a few days earlier and I had taken the initiative to sit at my computer and search this question, ‘What do you do when you run into a mama bear and you are about to drop a deuce in your drawers?’ Instantly, I received a list of websites about bears, none about poo. I read about five or six articles to get a wide variety of advice. The national parks had excellent information but there were also some educational personal accounts. The unanimous point in all information was DO NOT RUN. Then I opened another window and searched, “How to remove poo stains from panties.” So, according to experts you can mix one tablespoon of white vinegar with one-liter of water in a spray bottle. That said, I should have checked my sources, because squirting the bear with vinegar solution only enraged her further.

Kidding.

The bear stood about a camper length away, like an average fifth wheel, not a tent trailer. It seemed as though we stared at that bear for hours before we made our move but in truth it was closer to a second. And in that second, it was impossible not to take notice of the sharpness of her claws and the whiteness of her teeth. Who was her dentist? As we huddled together, I swear our hearts weirdly synchronized and we pounding out the drum beat of ‘Run Run Run,’ by the Who.

“What do we do?” Brenda asks, voice quavering.

Do Not Run, I thought. “We need to look as non-threatening as we can, look at the ground,” I say hoarsely, my mouth drier than a salted mummy. “Back away slowly.” We move in lockstep, a stealthy retreat. The sow shook her head clearly agitated, clacking loudly. Obviously she is trying to decide who to eat first, juicy Brenda or dusty Deb. In one swift move she drops down and takes two powerful strides toward us, head bobbing, ebony fur rippling in the sunshine. Then she rose up again to her full height, clacking fretfully.

We continue backing away, calmly and quietly— kind of quiet. Whispering, “Oh my God, oh my God.” A rattling holy phrase. The bear hoverers on her spot, eyes unblinking, nostrils flaring. Bren and I back down into the ditch nearly disappearing from the bears sight into the sparse shrubbery that lined the road. We duck behind a wimpy looking willow; the sturdiest tree of all. The bear sways trying to see where we are. I search the ground for a weapon of some sort, just in case; a weighty branch to be swung as a club or a sharp-ended stick like a spear. There is nothing. Only twigs. I could poke her eye out.

Then Brenda leans into me. “I think she’s leaving.”

I look up and peer through the leaves. Sure enough, the mama decides we are not a danger and she and her cubs lope off in the opposite direction, up an incline and into the deep bush.

Looking back, I should have failed my online bear psychology degree. Having done the research, I knew that Brenda and I should have been carrying bear spray or wearing a bear bell to announce it was dinner time. But at least I was able to move through my fear and use some of the tools I learned to minimize the possibility of a bad outcome. After all, we are all in charge of our own outcomes. So today, as in every day, I wish you the clarity of mind and clarity of heart in any decision you make. Oh yes, and by the way, the vinegar and water solution really does works.