Tag Archives: politics

why being canadian makes us sick

today was the annual general meeting of the canadian mental health association. our speaker was dr. paul kershaw.  from his intro:

kershaw is an academic, public speaker and media contributor. he is one of canada’s leading thinkers about care-giving and family policy, receiving two national prizes from the canadian political science association for his research.

dubbed by some an ‘evangelist professor’, kershaw uses research to be a cheer-leader and critic of canadians with the intention of inspiring substantial policy change across the country. to this end, kershaw devotes time to liaise with leaders in government, the business community, the not-for-profit sector, and the academy.

kershaw does not shy away from tough issues. on radio he has been labeled a “boomer-hater” because he speaks about intergenerational inequities between baby boomers and the generations that follow. as a proud feminist, he chides the personal and policy decisions by which many men evade their fair share of care-giving work, and fail to enjoy a fair share of the joys that come with caring. among the general public, he argues that ‘being canadian’ is making us sick, because the medical system in which we take national pride shows more of a disease fetish than an aspiration to promote health. at the university of british columbia, in the college for interdisciplinary studies, kershaw is the human early learning partnership (HELP) scholar of social care, citizenship and the determinants of health.

here are my notes from his talk:

how many children come to school ready to learn? 70%. that sounds like a good number. but what if you turn it around?

30% of children come to our schools vulnerable (don’t meet age appropriate benchmarks – e.g. not fully developed re fine and gross motor skills, playing with peers, following simple instructions, etc.)

why should that worry us?

we are most sensitive to our environments in the early years. what happens in the early years sets the tone for the rest of the life.

statistically speaking, those who are vulnerable in kindergarten tend to have more problems with teenage diabetes, mental health, coronary heart disease, elevated blood pressure, premature aging, etc.

what are the fundamental failings in canada when it comes to looking after our youngest citizens?

poverty.

poverty 1: families are strapped for time – “i’ll compromise my time in the domestic area” work-life conflict – BC has the highest rate of work life tension
poverty 2 – service poverty (lack of social services)
poverty 3 – income poverty – we have the highest rates of poverty among children

5 reasons why we fail our next generations

1 – our perceptions don’t reflect reality
2 – lack of gender equality
3 – we have other policy priorities
4 – we have a disease fetish
5 – we are a boomer centric society

1 – misperceptions

  • canadian perceptions of reality are not reflective of actual reality
  • “do you knw what share of kids reach our school system vulnerable?” 82% of BCers underestimate how vulnerable we are
  • 86% thought we’re more generous to address these problems than we are

2 – lack of gender equality

  • we are at the bottom of OECD countries re family policy and gender equality
  • gender equality and family policy go together
  • we used to be #13, now #30
  • in 2001 we had a ministry for women’s quality, now we have no ministerial representation whatsoever
  • quebec is the only place with a good family policy because they want to breed more quebecois

3 – we have other priorities

  • 45% of our budget allocated to things medical
  • social service spending has contracted
  • health care is consuming an ever growing share of the budget, mostly because the budget overall has shrunk
  • social service spending used to be 18%, then 15% just before recession, now even less – 500 dollar less per person now

4 – we have a disease fetish

  • a mismatch between how we devote our public spending and how we spend on children
  • spending increases as we get older despite the fact that it would have the most impact if it was spent on children
  • this reflects that when someone gets sick we want to be there
  • we are lousy at prevention
  • but what do we owe ourselves in this society?
  • another example: we spend millions to save the lives of preterm babies but spend nothing on things like food for 5-year-olds
  • do we want to be dominated by disease or by health?

5 – we are baby boomer centric

  • this creates intergenerational tensions
  • politicians are baby boomers, they want to spend money on what concerns their age group
  • we can tackle children’s problems in a 5-year period (different from, say, environment, which takes much longer)
  • but baby boomers are aging so that’s what they pay attention to
  • we are also worried about pensions. but we are doing well with pensions and we’re not ranking well at all when it comes to children.

what do we need to do?

  • we need to think about health promotion differently. we need to address time, service and income poverty. improve parental leave system. why 40-45 hours a week for both parents? typical canadian works 300 more hours than the typical dutch person; netherlands and scandinavians do much more for children
  • need to increase welfare by 50%, and need to think about tax policies for the working poor
  • service poverty – need access to monthly parenting support and health check in. too spotty right now.
  • after kids are 18 months, needearly learning and care services. THAT is a major health promotion policy.

this is not inexpensive, a good 3 billion dollars a year. where to find the money?

1 – we HAVE found an extra bunch of money before, for increased health services
2 – if you’re patient, prevention early on has HUGE economic payback once they hit the labour market. we can predict the quality of our labour supply. with increased child health, we can increase economic growth by 25% – enough to pay down entire debt before these kids reach retirement

a 12-step buddhist talks about anger and george bush

a guest post by the 12-step buddhist:

how do you feel now that barack is official? i’m still in shock. waiting for a big news release about some kick ass exec orders reversing idiocracy. one of the big questions for me is how to practice buddhism and the principles of 12-step recovery around politics. on one hand, i care very deeply about the state of the nation. but not just the nation, or certain people in the nation who i like.

in the 12-step world, we are to be of service to everyone. in buddhism, we’re interested in the total liberation of all sentient beings from every form of suffering–forever. so how do we deal with our strong feelings about, say george bush for example? do we have the right to have anger towards him? certainly, from a non-buddhist perspective, we should be angry. but in the 12-step world, we know that anger is the dubious luxury of normal people. in buddhism, we strive to have compassion for everyone, even, especially, the ones who make us angry.

for one thing, karma says we cause our own suffering. anger is suffering. holding on to anger is holding on to suffering. venting our anger is causing more suffering. understanding equanimity is also a buddhist tool that we can apply. george bush and barack obama have the exact same buddha nature. how could they be different? we can also practice compassion. how does it feel, deep inside, to be george bush today? can we imagine that he, like us and all beings, wants not to suffer and wants only happiness.

your comments are welcome. let’s see how people really feel about this topic. be honest. let it out. i’ll respond to the comments in a few days.

darren littlejohn blogs here and is the author of the 12-step buddhist.

one web day: democracy and open source

open sourcetoday is onewebday. from their site:

onewebday is an earth day for the internet. the idea behind onewebday is to focus attention on a key internet value (this year, online participation in democracy), focus attention on local internet concerns (connectivity, censorship, individual skills), and create a global constituency that cares about protecting and defending the internet. so, think of onewebday as an environmental movement for the internet ecosystem. it’s a platform for people to educate and activate others about issues that are important for the internet’s future.

when i hear the words “online participation in democracy”, my first thoughts don’t turn to politics. they turn to open source.

open source is a collaborative way to develop, maintain and change a “product”, from a sermon to software to pharmaceuticals. open source allows and depends on concurrent input of different agendas, approaches and priorities in decision making and contribution. the most widely known open source product is wikipedia. i guess the barnraising of old was also often an open source project. open source is grassroots-based and the opposite of centrally-directed, authority-based activity.

i know very little about open source yet but the way i see it so far, it seems to epitomize democracy.

here are some examples of open source:

and how can you help the web on onewebday?

1. if you’re a web user, use a standards-compliant web browser like firefox or opera. they’re free, faster, and more protective of your privacy. and because they conform to web development standards, they make things easier for people who make web sites. if you’re a web developer, test your sites with the w3c’s markup validation service.

2. edit a wikipedia article. teach people what you know, and in so doing, help create free universal knowledge.

3. learn about an internet policy issue from the center for democracy and technology, and teach five other people about it. there are real legal threats that could drastically change the way the internet works. we should all be aware of them.

4. take steps to ensure that your computer can’t be treated like a zombie. computer viruses can steal your personal information. they can also cause major network outages on the web, slowing things down and making sites inaccessible. vint cerf estimates that more than 150 million pcs have already been zombified, and are now awaiting their next order. to learn more about the threat of zombie computers, read this article.

5. join an internet rights advocacy group:

  • become a member of the electronic frontier foundation. the eff has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights, from privacy to free speech to internet service.

  • join the internet society. isoc is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the internet for the benefit of people throughout the world, particularly by establishing internet infrastructure standards.

  • support creative commons by donating and by using their licenses to copyright your work. if you’re outside the u.s., help support their counterpart, icommons.

6. help promote public internet access. if you live in a city, there is likely an organization dedicated to providing free wireless access in public spaces.

7. donate to the wikimedia foundation. the wikimedia foundation supports not only wikipedia, but several other projects to create free knowledge: textbooks, news, learning tools, and more.

8. donate a computer. you can donate a new $100 laptop to children in impoverished countries, or donate your used computer to goodwill or a school.

9. write your onewebday story. talk about what the internet means to you and why onewebday matters at http://onewebday.org/stories

10. if your city is hosting a onewebday event, show up on september 22 and participate.

the open source image comes from marc wathieu

truth and reconciliation for canada’s first nations residential school victims

first nations - three generationsthis week, prime minister stephen harper will issue an official apology about the abuse that happened during canada’s apartheid time, when for decades, first nations (aboriginal) children were taken away from their families and boarded in residential schools where they were to be made into white people. more often than not, on top of the trauma of being ripped from their families and thrown into a different culture, these children then also encountered the most atrocious physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

we are starting a truth and reconciliation commission, and i sincerely hope it will bring healing.

for today, i’d like to bring to you the voices of some first nations sites.

on native unity, there is something written by kevin annett, a former united church minister. he can come across as pretty radical but i have to say that much of what i’ve read rings pretty true with me and my first nations friends and acquaintances. i also met him in person a few years ago, we had a great conversation, and he seemed he had his head screwed on right. check it out for yourself:

residential school atrocity – why an apology is wrong, and deceptive: bringing humanity to bear on the residential school atrocity

rend your hearts, and not your garments (joel 2:17)

imagine for a moment that your own child goes missing and never comes home. years pass, and one day, the person responsible for your child’s death is identified, but he evades arrest and imprisonment simply by issuing to you an “apology” for your loss. he even speaks of seeking “reconciliation” with you.

wawatey news, a first nations online news site, talks about the selection of justice harry laforme to head the commission:

justice harry laforme will be objective in carrying out the mandate of the truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), says nishnawbe aski nation grand chief stan beardy.

“revealing the truth and showing the history of the era … are key to the success of the commission,” beardy said. “it was important to find the right person to lead us through this process. he is an aboriginal person with lots of experience. he’s the right person.”

assembly of first nations national chief phil fontaine agreed.

“i can think of no one better than justice harry laforme, a mississaugas of new credit first nation band member, to chair the truth commission,” fontaine said. “not only is he a proud first nations citizen, he is an outstanding jurist and a compassionate and understanding person.”

frinally, some thoughts from rodney merasty, a former teacher from pukatawagon in manitoba, and now resident of curve lake first nation, in ontario:

in a true reconciliation, “indians would have returned the respect for our heritage, respect for our peoples role in society, and a return of indian self-esteem and pride in ourselves. let us move towards attempting to restore the ‘indian family’ to what it was before the government confiscated our children. a healthy family is what was taken away from us with the advent of the residential school system.”

merasty said, “it is not enough to think about reconciliation for just the living survivors of the residential school but reconciliation to correct the damages that are still manifesting themselves today within a very disillusioned and broken down family. in order to do justice to the children of the residential schools we must spend time and money on correcting the long term damage that continues to this day.”

he noted, “our people always communicated and shared history, family values, culture and stories through word of mouth orally. when our children were taken away from us they took away our ability to continue our tradition and culture. children were no longer around to teach and train in the familiar ways. then, in turn, children were abused in every way imaginable and close to 50% of them died (murdered) in residential schools.”

merasty said the ones that were ‘lucky’ enough to survive were left to live in a world where the only thing they had to share with their children (generations of today) was an inheritance of dysfunctionalism, “so this vicious cycle continues in many ways.”

he said, “so you can see and understand why reconciliation is so much more then doling out money to survivors and their families; reconciliation is looking at the long term damage that was done; and instituting measures and steps that will at the very least reverse the trends of dysfunctional living by many of our people in our little indian reserves.”

image by grant neufeld

guilt, cheney and guantanamo bay

junebugkitty, one of my stumbleupon friends, had some interesting comments on the topic of guilt that we started discussing here a few days ago.

he mentioned the famous milgram experiment, where subjects in a psychological experiment were required to administer electrical shocks to their fellows when told so by an authority. over 50% followed those instructions, even when informed that the shocks could be lethal. (a re-enactment of this was staged recently, with the same results).

he then says,

this all leads to the conclusion that the world is headed by a small amount of people that are emotionally different, and don’t have that guilt factor, and aren’t ashamed of what they do, so they have the physical capabilities of committing atrocious acts to protect their image.

the nerve it takes to order people to be tortured, to know that one is responsible indirectly for the deaths of hundreds of thousands cannot be ignored by a lot of people, yet the public still votes in wars, the government keeps guantanamo going, the torturing of people ruins somebody, that’s where post traumatic stress comes in.

but why? how is humanity able to commit acts such as this? i do not understand what makes those people different from me, and it scares me to think that i would do the same as they if presented with the opportunity. not because i am evil, or different from others, but just because the military uses basic instincts to teach to kill, fight, and not to act before you think …

how do they do it? and how do they get into the positions they are in, once fighting? the urge to kill is stronger than the urge to save.

i’m definitely confused on the concept of war and the events that take place there, and what inside a person makes them act like that. do you know what it is?

i don’t know if anyone knows for sure – but let’s think about this for a moment.

nancy defines guilt as an “internal sense of culpability, being responsible for the impact my actions have if they impact others injuriously.”

others associate guilt with shame and/or regret; others yet with remorse.

in the re-enactment of the milgram experiment, those who administered the shocks showed signs that they felt the injurious impact their actions had on others. that did not prevent the majority of them from acting on it and breaking off the experiment.

similarly, shame, regret and remorse are feelings, and usually feelings that are played very close to the chest.

the question is, is guilt, in these situations, a motivator  for action? or could one break off the experiment without feeling guilty?

one scenario might be where a person says right from the beginning that they will not hurt a person at all, or that they will only go so far with hurting a person, and then follows through on it. then the conviction takes the place of the guilt (and is probably much more motivating).

more likely, however, is a situation where a person slowly starts to feel uncomfortable until guilt and/or remorse get so high that they cannot take it anymore, and then they stop.

when i was watching the re-enactment video, i was also wondering what might be happening with the subjects after the experiment. were they lying awake at night wandering, “how could i have gone so far?” thoughts of remorse and regret. the same as guilt?

what junebugkitty seems to be wondering about are people who apparently do not experience such uncomfortable tension that they break off whatever injurious activities they are engaged in.

is it because the external pressure of authority is greater than the internal pressure of guilt?

is it because they find themselves in a physical or cultural environment similar to the one in the milgram experiment, where harming another is expected and sanctioned? (i.e. they are pressured by a faceless and nameless authority)

is it because they are inured to guilt?

the latter question could lead us back to what some of the commenters on this series of guilt talked about: guilt as manipulation. if, just for the sake of argument, dick cheney was brought up in an environment where he was constantly “guilted”, he has a number of choices. for example, he could

  • be spooked by guilt wherever he goes, never taking risks, always afraid of the guilt monster.
  • become hyper responsible.
  • deal with it in therapy or other self-reflective, self-changing processes.
  • become immune to the discomfort of guilt and simply disregard it.

if we have a number of people at the helm who have chosen to disregard guilt, who command an army of people who do not have the energy/will/courage to react to guilt, then it’s easy to imagine how we can have a nation that is not 100% up in arms against what’s happening in guantanamo.

(this post was mentioned in the carnival of political punditry)