Saturday, January 11, 2014


Converge (2013)

This is a long and winding post, but the ideas converge, so I hope you'll follow me through.

I finally got around to figuring out what this "Chris Christie" thing is about - basically, his office purposely orchestrated a huge traffic jam because the mayor of the place wouldn't endorse him.

This is IT people - this is where even the most "la la la, I can't hear you!" among us MUST see that the people in those offices no longer understand that this is NOT a giant game where you're moving strategy pieces around. They've played so long that it's about winning with your hand, not finding the best way forward, and they are no longer even ashamed to cheat. Christie was one of the few Republicans who sometimes made sense, and look at the scheming of the people he hired and nurtured. What scheming led to his election in the first place?

How can anyone believe anything anyone in high-level party politics says? Even the "good ones" are twisted at the core, like biting into a red apple and finding it brown and rotten inside. They are playing strategy games with people's lives. Do we really accept that this is the way we will govern ourselves, where money and power are the primary goals of the game?

What are we going to DO about it? (yes, the rhetorical question plaguing society).

I was reading Noam Chomsky this week, as he filtered through various ideas of what constitutes "the common good" and how that has been co-opted. Heavy, dense reading, and I don't see many people following it through all three pages but well worth it. He shares Thinkers' well-reasoned arguments that government should be seeking the common good, and where structures and systems of government prevent that, they should be disassembled and replaced.

First, he shared John Stuart Mill's classic "On Liberty":

"The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges: the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity."

How daring! How dare we expect or ask government to do THAT! That is not economic development! That is not growth. Do we really think people DESERVE, individually, to have their own development considered, their own uniqueness embraced? Everyone?

No, I don't think we do.

And so we don't dare expect it. Because we don't expect it, we don't demand it. Because we don't demand it, we don't get it. We get "growth" that is really just the acceleration of the transfer of all public resources into a few private hands. The people buying the politicians are playing a game to take over the world, and we don't believe we deserve anything better.

Also this week, I met with two sister circles, and found myself understanding that, somewhere along the way, I internalized the idea that other people don't want me to share myself. Sharing my own perspective, my essence-based offerings, was pushy, self-indulgent, facile, annoying, demanding, intrusive, irrelevant, unwanted, disruptive, amateur, and/or overpowering. I had come to believe, unconsciously, that my offerings had no real value, were unnecessary and largely unwanted, and best kept to myself or shared only through filters, barely-open valves. More than that, I internalized that sharing my gifts was, in fact, selfish and arrogant, and that they were probably, in any case, unworthy of sharing. I let myself feel that how others valued my offerings was, in fact their value. And then, over the last few years, I didn't.

Something shifted over the last 8 years. I find my own work beautiful. I write because I crave to read what I write, instead of not writing because I don't have time to do it perfectly. I blog. I share my nature photography. I allowed myself to paint, for the first time, just before I turned 40, and give my canvases away with the shyness of a six year old. I've expanded my horizons in understanding enough to start unwinding the mess we're making, at least in my own mind. I'll never know enough, but the patterns and the proofs have stacked up to the point where I feel pretty comfortable with my world-view and the direction I'm going.

But I still held the belief that I wasn't worthy, to other people. I can know my work is beautiful but not expect the humans to see it that way. I can know my words have meaning and not expect the humans to understand. I can understand how my writing perfectly captures something and still figure that no one but me will ever grasp the greatness of what I'm doing. I decided I needed to harden myself to that, the idea that no one would get me but that doesn't make me unworthy, it makes them mistaken.

I'm find myself skittish, going further than that. What does further look like? Believing my work is worthy and it's up to me to find the people who might be interested in learning to understand, and help them. Accepting that my work not only deserves to be experienced by the people it does speak to, but that I have a responsibility to share it just in case.

Today I wonder, what if the political problem and the personal problem are the same? What if our collective inability to hold our governments and corporate leaders and financiers to account is really a manifestation of our collective inability to accept our own worth? To own responsibility to persevere through all the people who aren't interested or see our offerings as pushy, self-indulgent, facile, annoying, demanding, intrusive, irrelevant, unwanted, disruptive, and/or overpowering, to believe that we are worthy of development? What if nurturing our own development., and sharing that, is the best way to personally support "human development in its richest diversity." Us, and the people we touch.

What if we know we are worthy and deserving of developing ourselves, and so is everyone else. What if we believe that, pursue it, and try to act that way? Won't it naturally fall out that we demand policies that support us, that we curtail and create tolerance limits that support us?

What if the most political thing I can do is believe in my own worthiness?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tugging Threads

(I can't credit this photo because I don't know where I got it)
Have you ever tried to untangle a bunch of necklaces? I don’t mean one or two chains curled together like sweet, tarnished-silver lovers, all loose knots and no kink. I mean a big, hairy knot of chains, like someone took your jewellery box and just shook it and shook it in a crazy hair-flying, paint-mixing, booty-shaking frenzy. Up, down, sideways, crossways, other ways, rattling your precious pieces like the insides of a maraca to a heavy metal beat, rocking and rolling until those chains are good and blended. That kind of tangled.

Sometimes I imagine my little jewellery box is actually a magical vortex that sucks and swirls my chains like flotsam into a whirlpool black hole and spits them back out again, T&T (tarnished and tangled).  It's the only explanation I can muster, because I remember hanging them oh so carefully, polished and separated, on those tiny little hooks the last time I touched the box.

So, anyway, this was supposed to be a metaphor to say: I untangle stuff. That's something my mind likes - looking at that giant pile of interlock and seeing the specific loops to pull, the exact clasps to unclasp, to loosen the knot.

I've been applying this particular skill to my own society - Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada. A few years ago I started looking at the systems we live in as though it's a tangled hair-ball of necklaces, chains wound upon chains. Now, I have some ideas about the knots to tug at - the ones, once freed, loosen so many others with no maddening, nail-breaking picking and tugging at all.

Specific things to do over the next 20 years:

Social Order:

Provide a set number of free counselling sessions per Canadian per year under OHIP.

Provide financial and facilitative support to local restorative justice efforts, neighbourhood associations and neighbourhood projects.

Transform most prisons into secure mental health and addiction treatment centres.

Provide adequate supportive and co-operative housing to demand.

Health Care:

Expand OHIP to replace the dental and prescription drug portion of the average health and dental plan provided by employers.

Expand the Community Health Centre model.

Provide personal support workers as prescribed by qualified medical specialists.


Provide all children with a nutritious breakfast and lunch at school.

Fund at-school before-and-after school care.

Gradually increase to a 1:5 ratio of adults to children in schools.

Reimburse post-secondary education tuition of trades, college and university grads, upon agreement to work at least two years in Canada in the eight years following graduation.

That's the list.

It takes time, but the direction is what matters. It takes finessing and finagling, consultation, experimentation - yes, it does! But pull on those threads however you can for 20. Then (but maybe only then), you'll be ready to implement a basic living standard to stabilize Canadians' incomes, subsuming all income assistance programs. It won't be as hard as you think, because when you pull on the threads I shared, you will loosen hundreds of others, and they will shake out with what feels like little effort or cost.

You think it's expensive? You should see what NOT doing these things is costing us. And then, try to imagine all the unimagined benefits that would cascade, exponentially, from the specific investments I mention. I'm not crazy, I know what people are like and how power works. But I also think a lot is possible if we think longer term than your average politician. I think about 200 years from now, and what's possible if we pull on even a few of those threads today. Even if we don't do it particularly well, just loosening them will cascade lower costs and greater prosperity in justice, health and continued economic competitiveness, while inspiring new activity in lower-stress community-based daily lives of people. Remember people's lives? The reason for the system? Government has forgotten.

These sound like policy ideas, for governments to do, but they are not just that. They are specific ideas to start discussing as if they were possible, instead of dismissing as impossible. Suspending disbelief to ask, "What if..." When we begin to believe in the possibility of something, we open pathways for possibility.

And that is the first thread to pull.