Pacem ad Populum Terræ

There is no reason whatsoever for anyone on our planet to not have enough food, enough clean water, enough housing, enough medicine, enough education  and enough love to live lives without created suffering. We have enough resources on our planet to end the global environmental, refugee, food, and war crises we have today. There is no logical reason for human injustice and suffering to happen anywhere on our planet. None whatsoever.

BUT we have a collective flaw. We want what we don’t have and will not give up what we do. So much so that we will kill, persecute, disenfranchise, and ignore others who have less. We are inhuman in our collective ability to solve these very solvable problems.

Yet everyday I see messages of understanding, of pleas for justice, outrage at inequality, and lonely shouts out into the world of people searching for meaning and balance in their day-to-day lives. How can it be the case when there are so many efforts and pleas for a better world yet at the same time the world is filled with so much human created grief? It is a dichotomy that is at the heart of who we are as a species, and a dichotomy that beggars us to a whiplash existence from grace to hell and back again over and over.

Ask yourself this one question about the state of our world. Is there a single leader or government that continually works for the collective well-being of us all? A leader or government that holds human care and wellbeing above any other consideration? In Canada we have Justin Trudeau, a man who was elected with great hope, but is now creating a system where corporations will build out our much-needed infrastructure improvements for a profit, and is ignoring his own promises for democratic reform to our electoral system. Barak Obama maybe? He spearheaded some amazing strides forward for the United States with gay marriage, health care, and brought his country back from a near economic collapse. But he and Congress allowed the people who created that crisis, and the suffering that went with it, to continue without any penalty.

We saw what happened in Sierra, what happened in South Sudan,  what happened in Iraq, what happened in Turkey, what happened across Asia, what continues to happen across our planet. Nothing was done, no effort was undertaken, no action completed, to stop these mountains of human suffering. It happened and we shook our heads and made sad noises. We donated some money and posted to Facebook our outrage. We soothed ourselves with our own thoughts of “ that is horrible“ and moved on. I do this. You do this. We do this.

And we, in the west especially, lull ourselves through our days with pictures of our wonderful lives posted as displays of a faux identity. We alleviate our loneliness in likes and retweets and struggle for meaning in something that does not have meaning. We have bought into the lie of our identity as nothing more than consumers, and because we always want what we don’t have, we allow corporations and the governments that serve them to continue on unhindered and undeterred. We are complicit.

We don’t do anything about this. I don’t do anything about this. I rant and rave in these words in the foolish hope that someone else will recognize and understand some small part of what I am inadequately expressing. In the hope someone will reach back and ask to help me to make a change, or better yet , ask me to help them. 

And there are moments of human beauty and generosity. There are moments, millions of times a day, that we do or say something that is transformative. Millions of moments everyday where we exceed our own expectations and become something better than we are. Millions of moments of kindness, of laughter, of art, of caring, of LOVE. So much so that in any second, on any day, in any country on the earth, you can witness this and be left breathless with the how extraordinary we are.

But we have yet to overcome our basic flaw collectively and for more than a second. If I have a prayer for this new year it is that. That we find our way toward the sustained effort of being, not extraordinary individuals, but an extraordinary species. A species that sees itself for what we can offer one another and our planet and not a species that wants more of what we don’t have.

Peace to the people of earth and peace to our collective hearts as we stumble forward seeking who we can be rather than what we are.

 

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Buzzsaw Cowardice

Your buzzsaw quick cowardice dresses itself in the theft
of Judy, Doris, Rosemary, Anne, and Heather’s work.

Who? you ask ….Yeah .

And now you stand on the shores of the pacific, reeking of privilege and anglo pride,
bringing salvation to the poor people of a nation whose history and struggle you only notice in the airport gift shop.

What? you ask …..Yeah.

I would gladly stand in a court made of Y and 46XX to be judged.
And when sentence is passed would say thank while you slink out the backdoor
with your eyes down.

Uh? you say….. Yeah

So go a head spit spite and shout your words yelled from safe distances.
I am unafraid of any judgement you may generate and offer the evidence of your incompetence dressed in other peoples struggles.

But! you say……Yeah

Shibboleth

Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right.” Book of Judges, Chapter 12

 

I have been considering first principles for sometime now. More specifically my own first principles and what they mean to me and what I do with them. In my beginning there was art and it informed what I did and how I went about my life. It began with music and moved on to theatre. Art and its creation was a first principle.  And then came to a stop.

Over the last 10 or so years i have tried a number of times to restart the process of creating but it was always abortive in the doing. Always came to a point of confusion and non-completion. The largest part of the blame for this resides within myself by holding on to past wrongs and failures. Some part of this is because of where I live. It has not been as fertile a place to create as other places I have lived. But again and again, for sometime now, I keep thinking about these first principles of where I started. The first principle of creating art.

Let me say that Art is a completely illogical thing. Where the impulse for its creation comes from for me is almost undefinable. In trying to II sputter and flail about. But still it is there; a very deep and strong impulse despite my abuse of it. So I chose to go back to first principles. The drive to create art.

This will mean i will need to set aside some other plans and processes I have currently started or am doing. To those of you who will see me leave that work I am sorry for not finishing it with you. I hope you will understand. I must do this other thing.

I will begin by understanding and writing and talking about the parts of this first principle of creating art. About sharing my thoughts on what it means here in my community and most importantly creating it. For those that create art there is a kind of shibboleth that we recognize amongst one another; a way of identifying those who understand these impulses and need to create. I will be seeking you out and will know you, and you me, by how we frame our thoughts. How we say Shibboleth to one another.

This will not be easy but i sense already it will be a worth while. I am filled with a mad excitement and a real terror at the thought of starting .or is it restarting and of abandoning the safer path I am currently on. So let this be a declaration of a beginning.

Wish me Gods speed and turbulent waters. Everything else is merde .

Quigley

When Jimmy Kimmel Cried

There has been much outrage and outrageousness over the brutal killing of Cecil the Lion, including the very authentic moment when late night host Jimmy Kimmel was visibly moved over how the animal was killed. My social media feeds for the last four days have been overwhelmed by a deluge of posts on the lion including calls for the perpetrator of the killing, a Minnesota Dentist, to be hunted himself. Yesterday morning, between the time when I was eating breakfast and listening to the radio while driving to work, I noticed something that left me a little troubled.

First was this story posted on my Facebook feed, “International report confirms: 2014 was Earth’s warmest year on record“ and then came, “Canada offers up to $8.3M in fight against ISIS” with this line in particular leaving me shaken, “Naked women are sold at market like cattle, with manuals on how to sell slaves and deal with them.”  Then this came up, “France deploys riot police at Calais as migrants try to rush Channel Tunnel” where Prime Minister Cameron of Great Britain has offered to send dogs and chain link fence to deal with the issue of the economically displaced. And then there was “Verdict in Mohamed Fahmy retrial postponed until August” about a Canadian journalist who is still being held in Egypt. Or “Attacker stabs six people during Israel gay pride parade” about an ultra-orthodox man recently released from prison who had stabbed people at a parade five years previously and did the same thing again.  All of this I read in the space of the hour when I eat my breakfast and when I get to work.

While the issue of Cecil the Lion and the way this animal was butchered is tragic, I was struck by the lack of comparative attention to these other stories involving the lives of people around the world. I mean women and children being sold at sex slave markets with instruction manuals should create some outrage one would think, or the fact that thousands of economically displaced people from Libya to Afghanistan are trying to jump on to moving trains and trucks, where five have died, in order to get to Great Britain because they want a better life, should cause some attention on Facebook or Twitter, no? Or the fact that our planet seems to be on a collision course for radically higher sea levels and rapid weather change that would affect millions should at least create some stir? But no. The story of Cecil the Lion not only consumed social media but was in heavy circulation on our radios and tv sets and North America was focused on that.

How did this happen? How did we end up so focused on the case of this lion and not on at least some of the stories, or thousands like them, above? Have we become so disconnected from the plight of our brothers and sisters on our planet that what happens to them doesn’t even register anymore? Have we been reduced to veering wildly from Cecil to cat videos to the billions of inspirational videos that we cannot even see through the noise to what is happening around us? Or have we become so overwhelmed with the complexity of our economies and environments, combined with the distraction of the small screen, that we can’t even begin to grasp how to look at and deal with these very human issues?

I don’t believe that most people “just don’t care” or that Gen Y is “self involved and lazy” or that Baby Boomers are ”all about their own money and power” or that the poor should “be able to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps” or any of the thousands of easy one-line responses to issues and problems that are deeply complex and are woven through our communities and planet. No, I believe that people are essentially good and that our fellow humans will go out of their way to help those who need it.

But maybe we have become more myopic in what we react to and maybe that myopia leads us to not be able to understand our place in the larger context of humanity and our planet. And maybe the world comes at us so fast and in such a customized way that much of the world is filtered from our view even as it is happening right in our own backyard. And maybe, in writing this to myself and in recognizing my own small world view, we can lift our eyes a little higher to see over the horizon to see a wider view of our world and our place in it. Cecil is a part of that story but so are the millions of people from our own downtowns to the middle east and across the World. I hope you’ll remind me to lift my eyes as you remember to lift your own and consider the bigger picture and hope that Jimmy and the rest of us are as moved by these issues as we are by Cecil.

Solid Ground

We have gone through what seems to be an unending series of calamities and misfortunes that at times for me seems to shake the fabric of the world and I am left standing like a witness to a mugging. What was stolen was us, the collective we, and the ground we were standing on. The place where the crime happened is our forested city and perhaps like many bystanders we let this crime happen.

Our Annus horribilis began with racism on ice that fled to discrimination in a market which catapulted into park occupation in hopes of equality that was then dismantled which hurtled into the eroding of the middle class jobs, locked gates, and picket lines, that then staggered into the facts of increased poverty, lower employment, lack of opportunity for newcomers and new generations, that slid into the daily horror of bullying which finally sighed into the wavering of our belief in public office.

We also had moments and movements of hope this last year. Gatherings of the concerned and optimistic, heartfelt conversations over beer and coffee, presentations of excellence and inspiration, and revelries of who we are in dance, music, theatre, and words. These shared experience in twos and threes, hundreds and thousands, made the last year bearable when things seemed to have no chance of being better.

In the face of all this some come to the front to offer a way forward and drop out of site when they cannot find consensus, some are tenacious and keep iterating and creating, hoping that the next time the combination of idea, people, and place will coalesce into a magic moment and it will all come together. The majority will stand on the sidelines and remain mute hoping for a brighter day.

It is to all of you that I am writing this. I am writing because i believe that in order to know where you are going you have to recognize where you are and where you have been. I have been in places of bright optimism and bleak pessimism. In places where I have been comforted and have offered comfort. In places of screaming in rage and in places of counseling clam and tolerance. And it is in that we find the rub dear reader.

We are in a time and place of wild swings of intention and action, of inattention and inaction, of tolerance and rage, of expectation, hope, cynicism , decay and rebirth. We have no solid ground to stand upon and survey where we are and what we are doing, and know not where or who we want be today or tomorrow.  We are ricocheted around these times like rubber balls on concrete walls and we are left unstable.

We have lost the old solid footing of community institutions like churches, clubs, political parties, and often the comforting familiarity of community, neighbor and family. If this is the case then we must build new institutions on the old or rebuild that which has crumbled. Organization that do the work now that was once the purview of government and who work for the common good should come together and buttress each other, standing forward as places for community to grow from. Our institutions of higher learning can no longer look inside their own walls or so far beyond them thy the cannot see the people living around them. We live just outside the doors. Collective recognition of old institutions like churches should begin because they are the ones feeding and caring for the most untouchable and unloved amongst us and do this despite our growing disbelief and distrust in them.

Those with voices clear and strong need to step forward now and take up the reins of leadership in our community with the pledge that they will restore our faith in the offices of political power but with the understanding in their marrow that all of that power is derived from the people who live around them. They must pledge to never shun the input for those that gave them this great gift of trust and pledge that they will work tirelessly, not for themselves, but for us and our collective hope for a better place to be and live.

If we do this then we shore up the ground we are standing on and have a stable place to build upon and to look out at the world. If we decide to do this then we must not only point out what is wrong but point out how to make it right.

This is not about policy or party but rather it is about belief. The belief that we can achieve anything if we have the collective will to do so and that if we chose to, we can stand together again on solid ground.

Manifesto for a Creative City

For Michelle, Judy, and Natasha – as presented at Ignite Culture

Let us talk about creation and the creative, about art and making, about the width and depth of London’s creative class and creative places and challenge the definitions of what and where and who and when culture and art is and can be

Let us applaud the grace of the water as it passes us by through the four seasons and glance through hoar frosted trees at the sunlight that tumbles down on our upturned faces and know that we are blessed by the happy coincidence of time, place,  season and each other

Let us savour the lush aromas that slink out to our senses as we struggle valiantly in trying to decide where to feast ourselves. Let us offer our quiet appreciation of a job well done by the ones behind the walls of the kitchen and by the ones who whisk out to our anticipation marvels of palate and poise.

Let us scream our full throated joy in never resisting the beat or in lifting our voices in harmony  – – never wishing to be released from sounds that drive our hearts and fill us with the impulse to dance. Let us praise and thank those who put together music so beautiful that we are left breathless by the audacity of what has just stirred our most secret places.

Let us witness the grace of bodies in movement in the expression of the undefinable and gasp in wonder at the expression of a unique soul made manifest by the extension of arm and leg and neck and toe. Let us shake with excitement at the mad moves made by the mad young in perfected abandon on pieces of cardboard in the middle of a sidewalk.

Let us fall in to a palette of colours and lines and curves that holders of brush and pen, crayon and spray can make for us to gaze on —images so profound or of such whimsy that we want them to be enshrined on our private walls to gaze on and share with those closest to us

Let us clap and offer our thanks to the catchers of light. To the ones with lenses big and small that tell a life’s story or a moments thought in the millisecond movement of a finger on the shutter button. Or in the longer stories of photon catchers who tell us tales in the campfire glow of cinemas screen or monitors glow.

Let us marvel at the artisanship of digital magicians as they create places of play and communication and industry that move forward our entire world. That these keyboard wizards are as much a part of our creative classes as are the arts of the dancer, the actor, the artist, and the writer.

Let us listen to the scribble of the poet and the novelist. the blogger and the news chronicler, the inspiring an the inspired,  as they reflect  the experience of the city in which we live or the world we hope to see. In the sharing of the the personal and the profound, the plebeian and the pedantic, the reflective and the reasoned.

Let us recognize the places we have come from in the procession of our stately buildings and homes as they wind by us in the reflected window light of summer sun and let us be reminded of those who have come before us and built that which we now stand upon and walk through

Let us revel in the green embrace of our parks, trees, and spaces that we share with each other in summer …be suffused by riotous colors, the falling of leaves and the girth of our harvest in fall. Let us contemplate the slow babble of water and the stillness of snow and ice in winter and let us explode in an ode of joy for the release that spring gifts us with

Let us celebrate the playwright and the Director, the designer and the actor who stand before us in manufactured landscapes and make our collective narrative breathe and come to life . These thespians who speak the speech tripingly upon the tongue and dare to hold a mirror up to nature.

Let us look around again at the faces that pass us by and know that the whole of the world in all its the ages live with us and treasure that this has happened in old London town. Let us grab hold of that diversity of sex and race, youth and age, and gather it in the embrace of our beautifully diversifying london.

Let us decide to include the hockey fans and the monster truck rally goers and buyers of metal trees and not succumb to petty cynicism but welcome anyone with the courage to share in what we do  – to invite them to feel they are a apart of something greater than any one of us – our collective culture

Let us go to the holders of public purses inviting them to understand that with out us toiling in the golden seem of creation there would be no heartbeat at the fork of the Thames. That our food would be a little duller, our lives a little grayer, our street a uniform drab, –there would be no laughter amongst the clowns and there would be no tears of joy when the curtain falls.

Let us decide to scatter the seeds of our creativity across the whole of our city and not just to those with pockets deep enough to pay the entrance fee. Let us reach into our schools large and small, junior and senior, and grab by the scruff the imagination of the young, inspiring them to make things that would leave our efforts looking pale and slight in comparison

Let us understand that we do not need to compare ourselves to any other city or place but that within our own nooks and crannies, our own parks and boulevards, that the whole of our lives are encapsulated and all we need is see, and there before us we will find the muse of inspiration leaping to embrace us with outstretched arms.

Let us understand that without the efforts of the creative class this place would be so much less and let us take responsibility and decide to no longer shake our fists at deaf heaven but reach out to the people that pass us everyday and let them know in no uncertain terms that we are here and we make this world, this country, and this city a better place to live by the very act that we are driven to do. CREATE

Let us decide for once and for all that we can no longer attract or expand, make new or revisit old,  iterate or innovate , without the recognizing that the whole of our city is an experiment in art and creativity. That we should no longer make the potential of what we want to be up on the backs of tissue paper wishes but inscribe them into the very soul of our forested city.

Let me offer my clumsy words clumsily offered. I define art as play skillfully done and all that is needed is to understand that anyone or any place can be average but if we chose in this moment and in this time,  that this place, our place,  is brilliant —then we are and have always been a Creative City

City of Opportunity II – I speak as a Londoner

I must begin this post by stating clearly: I  AM IN NO WAY REPRESENTING THE OPINION OR POSITION OF ANY ORGANIZATION OR GROUP AND THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE AND ON THIS WEB SITE ARE SOLELY MY OWN AND ARE NOT ENDORSED BY ANY ORGANIZATION OR GROUP

Councilor White in the previous Blog Post to this asked a question at the beginning. She asked ” Will you kindly clarify your comment about the Glen Cairn Centre? Are you speaking for them or as the Emerging Leaders, ED?”  Respectfully I have never claimed publicly nor privately to speak for Glen Cairn Centre or on behalf of Emerging Leaders who is my current employer. I ask Councilor White that when she called my previous employer and current employer Friday to complain about me was she speaking as a City Councilor or as someone who works for Children Aid Society or as a Private Citizen? Does she represent the City of London Council when she handles a CAS case? Does she represent CAS when she speaks at council? Or is she or any other Londoner allowed to speak out when they see something they disagree with?

I have never once spoken on behalf of Emerging Leaders or Glen Cairn Centre here or on Facebook, and would never do so, without express permission. The problem becomes when this happens it has a chilling effect on free speech and citizen engagement. But so be it, I can not be silent, even if it has personal consequences for me and my family.

Councilor White and the Mayor have made some points in defending their position. But the heart of the matter remains and while both of them and others have direct experience with people in poverty and Londoners with mental health issues so do I both within my family and amongst many friends. I have advocated my entire life both privately and publicly on behalf of those who are most often left behind because it affects my life and the life of my City, Province, and Country.

Mayor Fontana had posted the following in response to the outcry on the cuts to affordable housing, he did this on Facebook and I post it here unedited and in it’s entirety:

With a reduction in the contribution into the Affordable Housing Program, we will be shifting our approach to affordable housing. Right now there are a number of vacant units out there and a lot of individuals and families who need them. Instead of focusing on building all new units, our focus is shifting to filling existing units and entering into public private partnerships to convert exisiting spaces (like commercial space no longer being used as commercial space) into affordable housing. It’s a different approach, but it’s still a good approach and we will be able to increase the number of people we can help. London has done incredible unique things and we will continue to do so.

Affordable HousingThe reduced funding for the Program will result in a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.Changes were made to legislation January 1, 2012. The New Housing Services Act repeals Social Housing Reform Act and gives the City of London as Service Manager more flexibility and discretion within local rules.This will give our housing experts the needed flexibility to create new housing policy and new housing programs based on the needs of Londoners, moving away from the previous prescriptive approach set out by the province.This shift in strategy is designed to achieve greater efficiency in using the City’s housing funds: 
• Families and individuals will have access to housing. While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. 
• The City can leverage the same amount of federal and provincial funding. 
• Jobs continue to be created through construction and renovation projects. 

Working within our funding, we will be using a combination of:
• convert to rent units (increase)
• creating more short term rental supplements (increase)
• home ownership program
• building new affordable housing units (decrease)

Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes.”

I think there are a couple of key points here to pay close attention to and to understand more fully and to seek clarification on.  I notice in this post the Mayor states ” a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.” . Notice some important words here?  An emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term? This will mean an increase in temporary housing and not permanent housing.

It’s important to note this as well: “While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. ” .  Fewer rental units and more short term or temporary housing.
What we need to recognize here is that we are in every case reducing the number of permanent homes as a means to achieve a 0% tax increase. We also need to understand there is an 8+ year waiting list for permanent housing and while moving more families into temporary housing may be attractive in the short term we will in fact be delaying the issue at the expense of those most vulnerable and  sadly who is to say that that temporary housing budget will be there in a year or 3 years or 5.
We also need to understand the economic as well as the human impact of this cut. Abe Oudshoorn ,a recognized voice in homelessness and housing issues, wrote in his blog “this means that the $1M cut to the Housing Reserve Fund represents a potential $8M loss, or at $140,000 per unit, 57 units of affordable housing not built.  Each new unit also represents 2 person years of full-time employment.
Abe goes on to say ” affordable housing represents a much cheaper way to house people who are experiencing homelessness.  Housing an individual in shelter costs $1,450 per month, jail costs $140 per day, psychiatric acute care costs $650 per day, and acute care inpatient over $1,000 daily.  These statistics are clearly outlined in your Council-approved London Community Housing Strategy.  Therefore, putting money into housing up-front saves us much greater costs down the line.You can read the whole post here
Councilor Joni Baechler wrote on her Facebook page ” In My Opinion
Some members of council indicated they support the cut in Affordable Housing by $ 1Million because of the “Mayor’s plan” presented to committee yesterday. To be clear, there was NO plan presented. The Mayor simply outlined how he would divert the Affordable Housing $’s. What may have been missed by some councillors was the “KEY MESSAGE” from staff on the briefing note which states: “The reduced funding from the Program will result in a STRATEGIC SHIFT from the creation of a MAXIMUM number of PERMANENT units to an emphasis on creating shorter term TEMPORARY housing MEASURES”. The plan presented is a significant divergence from the Council adopted COMMUNITY HOUSING STRATEGY. Staff DID NOT recommend the budget cut in this area.As a result of this cut, we will not be able to leverage the same $$’s in order to meet our housing targets ($20 M in municipal housing dollars has leveraged $140 M from other sources). We will construct 75 less units per year which results in the loss of 72 associated jobs. The “temporary plan” does not address the housing crisis as year after year we will fall further behind.The cut to Affordable Housing is permanent. It will temporarily solve a fiscal shortfall on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community
Important in what Councilor Baechler states is that Staff recommended against these cuts and that we will not be able to leverage these dollars and we will construct 75 less units per year.
So despite assertions to the contrary we are left with the same terrible loss at the expense of those that can afford it the least, but if we can focus and share our concerns with Council and the Mayor for just one week ,as so many on twitter and email and by phone have, then maybe, just maybe, we can convince a thoughtful Councilor or a thoughtful Mayor to change their vote and end this tragedy and begin to create a city of opportunity for everyone.