Do you care?

You don’t care. You don’t care about housing for the homeless. You don’t care about people sleeping on streets. You don’t care about lack of medical care in our hospitals. You don’t care about ever crowing seniors centres. You don’t care about refugees families fleeing chemical bomb attacks or dead children washed up on shores. You don’t care about the environment. You don’t care about someone having to work 4 jobs to get by. You don’t care about he education system. You don’t care that young people have to pay more to go to college or university or trade school. You don’t care that people on social services don’t have enough to live never mind get back on their feet. You don’t care that things will not be better for our children and grand children. You don’t care.

Of course in your head you’re arguing with me or saying you give to this charity or volunteer for that cause but all of that does not prove that you care. What it proves is that you give to charity or volunteer while poverty increases, homelessness increases, education systems degrade, health systems degrade, women are run over in Toronto, and that our fellow Canadians who live on the streets or who work at Walmart are looked on as disposable. You d’on’t care.

If you did really care you could change, in an instant, all of the negatives above and we would live in a better country. But you haven’t and I don’t think you will.

Here’s some interesting fact “For every dollar corporations pay to the Canadian government in income tax, people pay $3.50” or that “Canada’s 102 biggest corporations …have avoided paying $62.9 billion in income taxes over the past six years”

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or that ““Last year, Canada’s Big Five banks — BMO, CIBC, RBC, Scotiabank and TD — occupied the top five slots on Report on Business Magazine’s Top 1000 ranking of the country’s most profitable companies. Collectively, they booked $44.1 billion in pre-tax profit. (Their just-reported 2017 profits were even higher.) ….analysis found those five banks avoided $5.5 billion in tax.” https://projects.thestar.com/canadas-corporations-pay-less-tax-than-you-think/

Also important to know is that according to Policy Note writer Iglika Ivanova “ There has been two fundamental shifts in who pays taxes in Canada since the late 1990s:

A shift of the tax bill from business to families (through large reductions of corporate income taxes and a proliferation of business subsidies and tax credits)

A shift of the tax bill from higher income to middle and modest income families (through personal income tax cuts at the high end and an increased reliance on regressive taxes) https://www.policynote.ca/how-have-taxes-changed-over-the-last-half-century/

But we, and an electorate, could change all this. We could make sure banks pay their fair share, that corporations pay their taxes, that the wealthy pay a tax like we had in the 60’s or mid seventies. We could do that and fix every major social, infrastructure, and wage problem we have in Canada in the next 5 years.

But you won’t. Instead people will say and post on social media that immigrants are taking our jobs, or the Fraser Institute will post something about taxes going up by 1000% and you’ll repeat knowing it’s not true, or you’ll complain about teachers making to much money, or about how your city is spending money on transit and what the hell do we need transit for anyway, or you’ll buy a new BMW SUV or Ford F150 and sigh sadly over the whales dying on beaches whose bellies are filled with plastic, or you’ll blame the politicians because they’re all crooks or useless but you elected them.

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 The picture above is from a series done by the Toronto Star  and is a great example of how we used to care as a country. Can you imagine today that? Can you imagine if we said to our municipal, provincial and federal governments that we want you to build 20,000 new homes a year for those that need them and hoe this would change everything on our country? Can you imagine that? 

I know you can.

But will you? Will you do something about it using the most powerful tool you have …..your vote? Well it is Christmas time isn’t it. And isn’t Christmas a time for miracles? And couldn’t we use a miracle right now? You could use you vote next time and create a miracle. Demand that Banks and corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share and then that hope for a miracle will become a reality. That’s all it would take to fix all our infrastructure and social issues from transit to homelessness from bridges to eduction. Your vote.

But turning Christmas wishes into realities is your choice. The questions is will you make that choice and change the course of Canada from less caring to a caring and just one or not? Well that Christmas Miracle is up to you. 

Roger and Me

I was on twitter the other day criticizing a municipal politician on a call he was making regarding public transit and on came Roger to attack me. Now I have to say that Roger really doesn’t like me, though he might protest he does or is neutral , but if you go back and look at our twitter interactions, there have been a number of times I criticized an elected official and Roger jumps in with both feet and usually on my head. Now I have to say I don’t have a lot of time for Roger either. I think we’ve talked in a person a total of 10 mins but in that 10 mins impressions are made of one another and for Roger he doesn’t like me and I’ve no love lost for Roger either.
So What? Why are you sharing this with us you ask? Well I think it’s worth understanding how personal relationships, or the lack of them, can effect public discourse. In my case Roger thinks I’m a misinformed bully who doesn’t know what I’m talking about and am to blame for the public housing woes in our city. To me Roger is a self appointed political troll who formerly held office and is part of the AM talk show controversy gang. If there’s a progressive idea then Roger wants to kill it.
So here we are, two 50 something year old men, arguing like 5 year olds in the school yard, because we don’t like one another. Global is local and local is global when it comes to politics.
I’m willing to bet good money that many a degenerating political argument is fuelled by this kind of animosity. Tump and Obama is widely held to have come from a correspondents dinner held by the White House while Obama was president. Notley and Kenney. – well that is fairly obvious with a short google search. And the list goes on and on. Personal dislikes or grudges turn into long standing dislikes that flair up and die down.
In the case of Roger and me, well he’s been calling me out for at least 5 years, and I’m sure I’ve called him out as well. But all of this doesn’t solve the question of political discourse and it’s decline. Is political discourse declining ? Well more that it’s going back to the way things were in the 19th century with papers and pamphlets calling political opponent’s everything under the sun. Roger and I haven’t quite got to that standard yet but amongst some Canadian and US politicians it sure is there with Triumph recently calling the Democrats in Congress scum.
Now I don’t know if Roger and I are a symptom of the lack of civility and respect in public discourse or merely the expression of some good old fashioned personal rancour, but it doesn’t take much to see Roger and me replicated across all kinds of political parties, issues, and conflicts. I’m not proposing a solutions to all this, way above my pay grade, but I do think it’s worth thinking about how personally motivated these attacks and arguments can become. For Roger and Me, despite anything he might say, I think it is personal. We just don’t seem to get along and if we don’t get along how many others don’t? Just something to consider as you digest your Sunday politics

A Deeper Remembrance

I am, like so many of you , thinking of Remembrance Day. My Great Uncles and Grandfather served in World War Two. Came from their homes around Maesteg in Wales and were flung across the continents of the world to stop a man who wanted to erase whole chunks of humanity and put his jack boot on the throat of the globe. I am so grateful for their service and their sacrifice . So grateful to their wives and children who stayed at home while bombs fell. So grateful to those men and women who worked the factories to supply the arms and equipment to end the thugs reign. I Remember.

But I also remember what they lived through before the war. The privations of the depression. Seeing their fathers flung out of work and their mothers standing in bread lines. Nothing very glorious or heroic about what millions across our planet went through only then to face a conflict on a scale the likes of which humanity had never seen.

But that generation, and yes they were The Great Generation, came through the depression and a world war and looked around and said somethings have to change. In the privileged west, whilst the planet began the slow process of rebuilding, they began to build. They built public education on a massive and well funded scale. They brought in access to universities and colleges for whole tranches of people who before the war would never have been allowed through their ivied entrances. They brought in health care on a scale that eradicated so many diseases that mere decades before would have left people buried rather than go on to raise families. They instituted labour reform so children didn’t have to work and that a persons dignity was ensured while they did it. This growth led to a growth in rights and freedoms that had never been seen since nor after. They were The Great Generation.

Sadly their children, The Boomers, turned their backs on this progress and decided that corporations have the rights of people, that tax cuts are better than service increases, and that greed is good. The generation that demanded freedom and said don’t trust anyone over forty went on to curb education, health care, working rights, and have brought us to the point we are at now.

Don’t get me wrong. There are enough of my generation, Gen X, who did their part as well and there are a good number of Gen Y lining their pockets and following the example of the previous generations. But after The Great Generation invented the middle class and grew it so prosperity was more about sharing wealth than owning it, The Boomers started to pull it all down. In a whirl of deregulation and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy they started an avalanche to a time before The Great Depression.

We as a species are often stupid when we try to act as a large group. A person who would gladly share their food with someone who didn’t have any or would welcome a stranger in need into their homes are the same ones who vote in leaders and governments who have bankrupted the promise of the spring the Great Generation started.

Today we reap the harvest of what The Boomers created. Weak or stagnant wage growth that began in the 80’s carry through to today despite the increase in productivity by workers. It takes 13 to 29 years today for Gen Y to save for a home in contrast to the mid 70’s when it took and a average of 5. And Gen Y leaves with more school debt than any generation previous and have not inherited a world that was better for them as it was for their grandparents.

So this Remembrance Day I’m not only thinking of my Grandfather and Great Uncles who served but I am also remembering what that generation did to rebuild after that largest of wars. The building of infrastructure, wages fairness, a better world for their children than they had, an expanded and funded eduction system, a universal system of medical care, and a progressive system of taxation that made sure millions would not fall back into poverty. That’s what I am remembering this November 11th. I’m remembering the Great Generation, with all their flaws, and remembering the slow loss of many of the things they built. I remember the scope of their accomplishments and hope today we will begin to renew the promise of what they started.

In A Narrow Space

There are the finger wagers who say “ you’re too angry”, the rage blinded trolls who make personal attacks, and the indifference and fear of the middle. I wont be arrogant enough to count myself amongst any of these group but do count myself with those that work to make change in our community be it for the most vulnerable, or for business, or for political change. I count myself amongst those who week in/ week out, on social media, and in endless meetings, add our collective community effort to creating change.

But on social media it doesn’t matter what you say or do you’re going to be be criticized. Recently i was criticized for being to “angry” on twitter. I have been told that I have burnt too many bridges, or that i won’t get anything i care about done if i am demanding, and have been told I am not demanding or angry enough. Both of these are common complaints hurled at my feet.

Up until very recently I was deeply wounded by these words. I would carry them around inside for months or would try to “change my behaviour”. But more recently I have come to realize that while some might think me to angry and some thing I don’t go far enough, I have decided that both sides are right but that their criticism are fundamentally flawed.

Sure we can stand around shaking our heads at those on social media who are demanding or angry or scream at those who aren’t “doing enough”” but ultimately both are a restricting way to move the world forward.

Frankly when issues from poverty, social issues, wages fairness, basic equity and equality haven’t changed in decades, I feel justified in not only being angry but furious. I no longer have the patience to “work through the system” or to “ join institutions “ while the fundamentals of our communities get worse. I have been working on some of these issues for more than 20 years and so, having some serious skin in the game, I have a right to get worked up and to point my finger at the slow movements of our leaders in the face of the real human sufferance I can see around me.

Then there are the trolls and the haters who pollute social media and take these issues and weaponize them for their own entertainment or out of a need for revenge. These people take what is good clean outrage, or a great coming together of community, and they be-foul it. These people make it nearly impossible for themselves to be a part of the solution and end up making everyone flee the field rather than be personally attacked day after day.

Then there are the people in the middle. They sway back and forth between the finger wagers, the righteous angry, and the trolls. But really they mostly end up nowhere and would rather not bother than get involved. Some say that we should feel sorry for those in the middle because they are caught between these groups but i have no sympathy for them. The majority middle needs to wake up and stop being so preciously self involved that they’d rather not get help at all unless it Si to quietly drop of some food in an anonymous box at the checkout. It was this group that elected an Ontario government that seems to be working at dismantling our provincial social safety net. It was this delicate middle that elected governments that gutted education, health care, and allowed tax cuts to the largest corporations and most wealthy. So I don’t have sympathy if they flee social media and the public square. They have been doing this for decades before twitter and its no surprise that they still do this today.

As for the finger wagers and the trolls? They are what they are and will not change, and even if they don’t, I’m happy to talk to most of them. As for me I’m still furious and still trying to work on change despite the indifference of the middle and the finger wagging and trolling of the others. But I, and so many others, could use your help.

My Friend Steve (In Memoriam)

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There are some people you meet in your life that become a kind of reference for the place you live, the times you have, and the triumphs and failures you go through. My friend Steve was one of these people for me.

I had come in contact with Steve before I moved to London. In 1999 my brother and I were talking in that kind of half serious/half joking way of creating an internet service provider company. So when moving to London became a fast reality I reached out to The London Economic Development Corporation ( LEDC) and it was Steve who replied. 

Frankly I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what I was talking about, but with the bravura that comes with being in my 20’s, I bulled ahead. When I arrived in London in December of 1999, Steve, with his usual grace and charm, invited my wife and I over for diner. Fortunately for us Steve, his wife Sharon, and his brilliant son Jeff had some people in common with us. The Longstaff’s. Kip and her sons, Nic and Michael, had a long standing relationship with The Glickman’s and on that December evening my wife and I arrived and began an 18 year relationship with the Glickman’s.

Jeff and I created plays together, had serious long talks about art, and I have had the joy of being a part of his work as a film maker. Sharon has always been generous with her time and expertise in design, and my wife Heather always made sure Sharon got our year end newsletter. But then there is Steve. My reference for my time in London.

Steve was there during the struggles and triumphs we’ve had with our daughter Erynn. Steve was there when , with my gifted friend Jennifer Wigmore, we created the Theatre Arts program at Fanshawe – Steve sat on the first advisory committee. Steve was there to see some of the plays i directed and preformed in. Steve was there during my time with Emerging Leaders, always encouraging me and always supportive. Steve was there with Sharon when we bought our home and quietly suggested i needed a good stereo and helped me choose one at his business, London Audio. 

Steve was there with thoughtful advise on the many times I fell flat on my face and had few friends. Steve was there. That’s the point. Steve was there to introduce me to London, to make a family from out west feel welcome in a new town, to show me the good places to eat in town, to introduce me around, to offer his wisdom and insight, to share his sharp and riotous wit when we sat together, and …well …to be Steve.

About a year ago I received an email from Sharon. Steve wasn’t doing to well and things were difficult, but Sharon was very grateful for our year-end newsletter and wanted to let me know how Steve was doing. Steve had Alzheimer’s. 

I asked if i could come and spend time with my old friend and over the course of the next year I was blessed by the time I had with him. 

Steve was born and grew up and married in Montreal. He went to University there and like many others decided his new family needed to leave that city and find opportunities elsewhere. London is where he came, and with his family, created London Audio. Steve served on many Boards in our community including Kings and at The Grand Theatre. He gave back to his community again and again and in so doing quietly added to the tensile strength of our forested city.

During this last year he memorialized his life in Montreal and London with me. He would tell me again and again of the accomplishments of his sons and how deeply proud he was of them. He told me of his childhood on the streets of Montreal and of his early married life with a brilliant young wife. He would share with me his philosophies of business – you must make sure the customer always gets what’s right for them. He shared his thoughts on politics and religion and the deep admiration and fondness he had for his friends and colleagues. 

My most cherished memory of this past year though is sitting quietly, no words needing to be spoken, and listening to music. We would sit for a few hours and listen to his favourite album, K.D. Langs Songs Of The 49th Parallel. Sometimes I would play my ukulele and sing for him and sometimes we would sit and talk. It was…..so very good. 

In his last week of life we was hospitalized and I would go and visit him to spell off Sharon or Jeff for a short time. I would sit and play K.D. Lang and just be with him. I was with there the day he died. Jeff and Sharon had left for a quick bite and so I sat and played his favourite music and offered what comfort I could. We spent two hours together . Me holding his hand and him, eyes closed, listening to his music. I left at around 4:30 p.m. that day. Picked up my wife from work, went home and ate some supper. It was 90 minutes later that Sharon let me know he had died with Jeff and her next to him. 

His funeral was a triumph of a life well lived. His three sons lionized their father with humour, honesty, and deep love. London came out and marked the passing of someone who made a difference to our little city, not with flash and spectacle, but with quiet service and dignity. And his friends, those of years, and those of his life in business , came and shared the grief of his passing. 

For me Steve’s funeral marked something else though. It marked my time in this city and pointed to a way of being and engaging – a way I have often failed at. It pointed to the loyalty of friendships long developed, it pointed to the strength of serving community, and it pointed to the pleasure of living a life well.

It was a privilege to know Steve. From my first moments in this city to his last moments among us. It was an honour to spend time with him in his last year. It was a joy to hear him telling me the stories of his life and it was with pride I watched his family, friends, and community honour his life. Thank you Steve for your generosity of spirit, your warm and joyful wit, and for allowing me to be a small part of your life for the last 18 years. I have been marked by our time together and will carry your examples with me in my heart.

Thank you dear friend

Rest In Peace.

 

You’re a good person. Right?

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You are a caring person, aren’t you? Sure you are! You give to charity, you volunteer in your community, you post encouraging things on facebook to people who are having a hard time, and you show your love to your friends and family. You are a good person.

But if I put you together with a group say the size of a city are you still caring? With a group the size of a province or state? How about as a country? The reality is is that while you show many excellent qualities as an individual when we become a collective, we are not nearly so nice.

What are you talking about you ask? Well in my little city there is a 20% child poverty rate. In Sri Lanka, there are thousands of Rohingya killed. In Europe and In North America there is a growing exclusion of immigrants. In the UK between 2011 and 2017 homelessness shot up 60%. There is a shrinking middle class as a small number sit comfortably amongst the elite or much more likely in the ballooning serving classes. Thousands of children are starving to death in Yemen, and South Sudan and the planet is warming to such an extent that unless we cut out world emissions by half, then the world will descend into climate chaos that will make millions homeless and kills hundreds of thousands.

So while YOU are a kind person WE, collectively, are so cruel that we allow these crimes against our fellow humans to happen unimpeded.

Well fine, you think, but what the hell am I supposed to do about that? I’m only one person. I don’t have any power.

But this is where you’re wrong. Every 2 to 4 years you vote for people that allow this to happen. Every 2 to 4 years you vote for lower taxes for yourself. Every 2 to 4 years you vote for those who are suffering to receive less, for corporations to receive more, and for the service that would alleviate many of the worlds problems get fewer and fewer dollars.

“Well, I give to charity!” I hear you saying. Well yes, you do but charities, both global and local, are a way for you to do a little to ease your guilt or to reinforce your good impulses. Charities are the single best way to justify governments ( which you voted in) to not pay for the service we need in our nations. We donate to charities so we don’t have to pay increased taxes for poverty, education, mental health, homelessness, or refuge services. Charities are a stop gap, a cheap, ineffective fix, that allows us as citizens to avoid our responsibleness to our fellow citizens.

Governments should pay for poverty, for refugees, for health, for education, for end of life care, for infrastructure, for all the services that charities or private businesses have no business being in because that business is our collective responsibility. Let business sell us phones and cars and presents to put under our Christmas trees, but take them out of the care of our fellow citizens. In a world of governments that take care of its citizens we don’t need charities. They become irrelevant.

“But we can’t afford all that,” you say. Well, more wealth is traveling across our globe now than in the history of our entire planet combined. Yet we, as citizens, chose not to pay for these issues to become solved once and for all. We as the wealthy, middle class, the poor, decide not to pay to address the growing needs of our fellow citizens or our planet. We choose to allow corporations to pay as little toward the well being of our fellow citizens as possible. We decided to enable the Über wealthy not to pay; we chose as the middle class to spend as little as possible, we decided to do this every time we go to the ballot box to vote. We decided to allow this growth in suffering to keep growing.

But I thought you said I was a nice person? You are. As an individual, you are a very thoughtful and kind person. But once I put you into a group that votes then you’re not very nice at all. You’re selfish. You, collectively, chose to turn your backs on your fellow citizens and allow suffering across the globe to increases.

So during this time of good will on earth and people of good will I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy, kinder, and more thoughtful New Year.

Shattered ( Part Two – Alone In A Crowd)

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We are labeled or we label ourselves:

Visible Minority                             Millennial                 Conservative

Women                                             Addict                        Urban                  

Man                                                 Asian                            Poor

LGBTQ                                            Conservative               Handicapped

Old White Guy                              Unemployed               Canadian

Boomer                                          Progressive                   Fat

Indigenous                                   Artist                               Middle-Class

The list of identities can go on forever. These labels give us a sense of belonging, a sense of injustice, a sense of our place in the world, a sense of what makes us different from others. Identity helps us find others like us, and because we are human, we all want to belong. We are social animals.

But these labels can, and do, move us to exclude people as much include. If I’m a low-income white male who has been told his entire life that he can work hard, go to school or get a trade, I’ll get a family, home, vacation, car, and retire comfortably. When that doesn’t happen, I can feel cheated and look for someone to blame. If I am an indigenous woman who has been told that I’m a drunk, worthless, have heard the stories of my parents taken to residential school against the will of my grandparents, had traditional land stolen and destroyed, then I can feel angry with the colonials who own everything and exclude me.

If I am an immigrant from India who worked hard to bring my family with me, who saved, and studied, struggled, and finally got to a country where I thought the opportunities were greater for my children, landed a job,  can feel proud. But then had my child comes home crying because another child called my child a terrorist while the teacher looked on and did nothing, then I justifiably feel I am not welcome and not wanted. If I am a woman who sees a man raised to highest office for life despite credible allegations of sexual assault or I make less than a man with the same job then, I will rightly feel the world is unjust and that patriarchy is an unspoken law.

Yet despite these real and justified grievances we try to work together, difficult as it is, to achieve greater goals. Government is the greatest example of this. We vote and chose the party or individual to represent our interests at the tables where laws are created, and decisions on where to spend our collective taxes are made. Education, health care, infrastructure, social services, fire and police, environment, zoning, natural resources, business, and a host of other decisions on an infinite list of areas. In principle, these are a collective effort for the collective good done within the framework of institutions.

Institutions are defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ” An organization founded for a religious, educational, professional, or social purpose.”. So courts, governments, business associations, non-profits, foundations, universities and colleges, cooperatives, all fall into this category of institutions.

But if the institution is organized and led by someone who’s identity does not recognize mine then we have a severe crisis of belief in the goals of institutions. If they don’t recognize the inequalities in my life or my interests, then are they a credible institution? Many religious organizations felt the anger of indigenous communities for their participation in the nightmare of the residential schools. Many left-leaning individuals see the conservative parties as institutions that enrich the wealthy while encouraging a lack of tolerance. Many conservatives feel the left is spending our children inheritance at the cost of paying for wastefulness now.

Our identity clashes with the needs of the greater whole within the framework of institutions.

We often do not have the faith necessary in the leadership of these institutions to moderate our disbelief in the goals they set. So we oppose or disengage. There may be a good historical reason for this, but we have to ask what form of justice or what form of reconciliation is needed to strengthen the institutions that help individuals arrive at a collective action that strengthens, rather than divides us collectively? Is this even possible given the justifiable level of cynicism many populations around the world have? And if it is possible who is credible enough to begin this process?

I want to write “yet despite this I believe we can….” but I’m not sure I can say that right now. I am not convinced that we can come together and reconcile these differences. I friend told me  he believed the only thing that could reconcile us was an existential threat so great that it threatened the entire planet. But I’m not sure this is even the case.

Today I read in the New Yorker Magazine about a United Nations climate report saying that “Ten million more people would be exposed to permanent inundation ( flooding), and several hundred million more to “climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty.” Malaria and dengue fever will be more widespread, and crops like maize, rice, and wheat will have smaller and smaller yields—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Security and economic growth will be that much more imperilled. “. All of this because the governments of the world could not collaborate to ensure global warming stays under 2 degrees Celsius this century, despite the global catastrophic results. The individual needs of counties could not be reconciled to the collective good of the global community.

I am sure you, as do I, find all of this heavy to think about and very depressing to dwell on yet, as I said in the previous posting, you have to understand where you are to see where can go. And where we are is complex and changes in the space of moments. Where we are is as individual effects the collective, and all this leaves the mechanism of action, our institutions, unable to meet our needs. So do our institutions need reform or do we as individuals need to reform ourselves first? I’m not sure. But we have to chose because the consequences have left us frozen in inaction in a moment of crisis.

You can read Shattered – Part One here 

In the next post I will talk about religion and business