In response: ““It’s important we address these issues with clarity and pragmatism.” . LMHU and an angry assumption.

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The respected, certainly by me, community activist and writer for Our London, Eric Sheppard, wrote a rebuke to Medical Officer Health Dr.Chris Mackie’s warning to Londoners that a lab report showed fentanyl in a urine test of a person/people who reported they only used marijuana or cocaine. So the Middlesex London Health Unit put out a warning suggesting that people who use marijuana carry naloxone kits which can counter the overdose effects of fentanyl.

There then came a vigorous reaction in the media and social media by a those saying this was an over-reaction by MLHU; Eric was one of those strongly critical in both mediums. Eric shared his criticism in his weekly Our London article. While I have a lot of time for Eric and the many good things he does for our community, encouraging voting and his advocacy of cycling among many others, I cannot agree with the criticism of MLHU or the reasoning that informs it. So I have reposted his article here, in italics and quotes ,with my response between each paragraph ( Here is the original post of Eric’s article in Our London and the warning posted by the MLHU)

Recently the Middlesex-London Health Unit issued a warning about fentanyl appearing in other drugs. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate painkiller, many times stronger than heroin. Already fentanyl and the even-stronger carfentanil have claimed many lives across Canada.

Totally agree here and an important reminder about the effects of this synthetic drug and its dangers.

“Most people who use opiates do so safely. They know their regular dose, and ingest enough to get the high they seek. Overdoses happen when mistakes are made — either overestimating tolerance or underestimating potency. Because of its potency, unscrupulous dealers have been known to add fentanyl to poor-quality heroin to make it appear stronger. Fentanyl-laced heroin makes a risky dose far more likely, possibly resulting in respiratory arrest.”

I am not sure how Eric know that most people who use opiates do so safely nor do I know where his knowledge of the cause of overdoses come from. When i google “common reasons for drug overdoses” there are 2,060,000 results returned and the first five results are:

    • Most Common Causes of an Overdose – Mountain Laurel
    • Drug Overdoses Are the 9th Leading Cause of Death in the US
    • Drug Overdose Deaths Top 10 | Time.com
    • Most Commonly Overdosed Drugs | 12 Keys Rehab
    • Drug overdose among the top 10 causes of death in B.C. | Global News 

On clicking the 6th result I learn that the US Centre for Disease Control ( CDC) says “The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid.  Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled”. Health Canada reports that there were 2,458 opioid related deaths in 2016. So I’m unsure as to whether users know their tolerances or not or know how to use opioids safely. What is certain is that a substantial number of people have lost there lives due to opioid overdose. Eric rightly points out that unscrupulous dealers lace opiates with fentanyl increasing potential risk.

Thankfully, the drug naloxone can counteract the harmful effects of opiates. In an emergency, a naloxone injection could save the life of someone who has overdosed, or accidentally been exposed to a potent opiate. Naloxone kits have already proven successful in reducing mortality, and are a key component of harm reduction.”

Excellent points by Eric, especially as it relates to harm reduction, which is a proven way of helping addicts.

But something about this warning doesn’t sit right. The MLHU statement claims that local cannabis might be laced with fentanyl as well, which doesn’t make sense. Fentanyl is far more expensive than weed, so there’d be no reason to do this. The evidence for this claim is a positive urine test for the drug in people who claim to have only used cannabis — hardly an airtight case. No actual reports of laced cannabis have surfaced, but public fretting about it keeps popping up. Classic urban myth moral panic.”

Here is where i lose my way in understanding Eric’s argument and I begin to disagree. I’m not sure that saying something doesn’t sit right adds to a meaningful criticism of a public health warning or saying that the “claims” MLHU make don’t make sense because fentanyl is more expensive than pot. Some times people do things for no reason than the pure mischief of doing it. Or the same unscrupulous dealers Eric points to earlier in the article could as easily continue to be unscrupulous in putting it in low grade pot to make it seem more powerful. Unlike Eric the LMHU, CMHA, London Police, and Addictions Services Thames Valley take the users ,who’s urine returned a positive result for fentanyl, at their word when they say they didn’t use the drug and had only used pot or cocaine. I they chose to believe these users at their word as therapeutic relationships, including harm reduction, is built on trust. As to the claim that there has never been a case of fentanyl in pot I cannot say. but when I do a google search on it I get 428,000 results with the top 5 being:

    • Fentanyl-laced pot: threat or myth? | The London Free Press
    • Fentanyl and marijuana – The London Free Press
    • Is Weed Really Being Laced with Fentanyl? – VICE
    • Premier Clark’s claim pot laced with fentanyl not true, say police …
    • Mass. police concerned about reports of fentanyl-laced marijuana in …

I am not sure how Eric equates the warning of the MLHU and other agencies as  being an urban myth moral panic. I think it was a responsible action of these agencies to put out a warning reporting the possible risk from what they found in testing. How that equates to a moral panic or urban myth makes no sense.

“The rationale here seems to come out of the idea that it’s better to be safe than sorry, which holds some value. Encouraging more people to be equipped with naloxone is a noble goal, but the ends don’t justify the means. Misinformation like this is not just unhelpful, it actively undermines harm reduction strategies.”

I agree with Eric re being safe rather than sorry but believe it holds more than some value. If it prevents even a modicum of suffering then i’m all for it. I further agree with Eric that encouraging folks to carry naloxone is a good thing but would strongly disagreeing re ends justifying means.. The ends, no death or overdoses, do justify the means, which is a suggestion to carry a naloxone kit if your going to use street drugs. How this is unhelpful, or in any conceivable way undermines harm reduction, is frankly unfathomable. it also makes no sense how a public health warning that suggest carrying naloxone could in any conceivable way undermine HARM reduction. This in his argument Eric creates cognitive dissonance against the point he tries to make. There is no sense in it..

A major benefit of legalizing cannabis is removing the moral stigma around use, allowing a more nuanced conversation about drugs. Bold, scary warnings like these do the opposite. Scared parents will try to scare their children, who will see right through the deception — or worse, become numb to other warnings. Instead of establishing a trustworthy learning relationship, the opportunity to convey important information about developmental risks and best practices will again fall on deaf ears. This warning serves only to discredit the MLHU and the good work it does.

Really agree with Eric here that there does absolutely need to be a more nuanced conversation about drugs and their use. What I don’t understand is why he isn’t using one himself here. His assumptions as to the actions parents will or won’t take, or judging the efficacy of the warning, seems to be more about trying to defend pot use than having a nuanced conversation on drug use, addictions, or legalization. Eric has been a stalwart 420 ally and has advocated for pot legalization, something I agree with, but he seems to confuse this public warning with a negative judgement on the safety or use of pot. This sadly discredits his argument rather than the MLHU’s warning. The MLHU did not say pot use is bad. They did not say people who use pot are bad. They pointed out that this was the test result they received from this group of users and it was enough of concern to post a public warning. That is all. The moral outrage seems to becoming more from Eric and others on social media rather than the agencies involved in issuing the warning.

Should cannabis users carry naloxone kits? Absolutely; the more the better. Anyone who uses recreational drugs, or who has contact with people who do should consider getting one. They’re free, and the training takes less than an hour. Accidental overdoses do happen, and being equipped to save a life is well worth the effort.

Absolutely 100% agree with Eric here. Do this if you use any street drugs.

But if promoting the distribution of naloxone is what the MLHU is trying to accomplish, then they should do so without pretence. This practice is an inherent good for the health of our society; no further reason is needed.

Again Eric seems to be assigning motive when there is none demonstrated. What pretence? They posted a public health warning for the good of the public. Where is the pretence in this? And why do many pot legalization supporters on my Facebook and twitter feeds seem to think that this health warning is a judgement on them and their habits?

As the opiate crisis unfolds, we’ll need to start taking other steps to mitigate harms. Renewed talk of a supervised injection site in London has surfaced lately — arguably one of the best tools to ensure public health. Providing a safe, clean, well-equipped facility for people to inject will reduce overdoses, ensure proper needle disposal, provide wound care, and connect clients with social services they may need

Absolutely agree with Eric here!

It’s important we address these issues with clarity and pragmatism. If our goal is a healthy societal relationship with drugs, then we cannot rely on sweeping claims and fear mongering. Each drug is different, and knowledge is a powerful protective force.

Yes, please, lets address issues with “clarity and pragmatism!”! Eric’s article at times does do this but he ascribes motivations to MLHU that seem to be assumptions at best and attacks to further an acusation of an unspecified and unproven prejudice at worst. The result of the hue and cry by Eric and others is that it confuses the conversation. The conversation should be about drugs, their use, the truth of their effects, the legalization (or not) of them, and most importantly the assistance of those who suffer under the yoke of addictions. It should not be a vague attack that tries to discredit the honest motives of the MLHU or it’s officer of health..

“Drugs don’t kill people; ignorance does.” .

Sadly ignorance of a potential problem can kill people and the MLHU chose to not leave anyone ignorant of a potential danger even if at the slightest chance for harm.

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Symbol of the Heart not of Fear

Amir Farahi has posted a petition that states “ We the residents of London, Ontario demand that Mayor Matt Brown and the rest of City Council put an end to the call for our city becoming a sanctuary for illegal immigrants “. His whole goal is to get our City Council to overturn their motion to become a Sanctuary City. He lists some reasons why it is important to sign this petition and stop the tide of illegal immigrants coming into to Canada.

Let’s look at his reasons and go through them one by one. Amir’s number one reason for London not becoming a Sanctuary City is: “Canada and the United States are both signatories to the Safe Third Country Agreement. Under the terms of the treaty, any refugees seeking asylum in either state must claim protection in the country in which they first arrived. Therefore, the motion that was passed by the council is contrary to this international agreement.”

Yes, Canada is a signatory to the Third Country Agreement but what Amir Fails to point out, and was reported in the news, is that our friends to the south are working hard to expel refugees. These refugees are so terrified that they are willing to walk through -15c and lower temperatures, with their children, over a great distance, to ensure they aren’t sent back to their countries of origin, where they fear for their lives. And while it is fun for Amir to trot out the Third Country Agreement, it has been noted that Trump is happy to ignore the agreement and send people back. Hard to have an agreement if both parties do not live up to it. So it’s a bit unfair of Amir to ignore the SAFE in the Safe part of the title of Third Country agreement.

Amir Farahi’s second and third point are essentially theme and variation on the same idea. He says “Supporters of this idea need to realise that your intentions may be great but that doesn’t mean that it is practical. Our human desires are unlimited, but resources are scarce. Canada can’t take care of everyone in the world. We have plenty of problems at home that we need to address. Let’s not break the bank.” AND “ First things first, our labour force participation and employment rate is below the provincial and national average. There are more than 35,000 people in the London area that are living in extreme poverty. Over 8000 children are suffering from poverty here at home. Aside from a mental health and addiction crisis, we have an HIV epidemic with a record-breaking 58 new diagnoses in 2016.”.

In these heartless and feckless points, Mr Farahi sets up one vulnerable of group, refugees, against another group; The homeless, addicted, and those with mental illness. As someone who has spent a bit of time working on the issues the effect our most vulnerable fellow citizens, I was not aware that refugees had created diverted resources from them. And if Amir Farahi was so concerned with the lack of resources available to help those in need, perhaps he would be better served by looking at the more than 50% cut in the corporate income tax rate that success governments have doled out like candy between 1998 and 2012. Reversing even some of these cuts would solve the issue of resources for most vulnerable he seems so concerned about, as well as helping refugees.

He then insinuates the idea that they’ll come here and take our jobs. Again this is the kind of argument that would be recognised when Canada and the U.S. refused to let the Jews in when they were fleeing Nazi Germany. There is not, nor any proof of, refugees affecting the jobless rate so permanent residents cannot get work .

Lastly, Amir Farahi trots out the most insidious reasons for his hateful petition. Refugees are dangerous. You let in refugees and terrorists with be amongst them and that s a danger to the good citizens of Canada. I would remind Mr Farahi that in the sickening attack on the Mosque in Montreal it was a Canadian Citizen that did the work, it was the monster Mark Lepine, a Canadian Citizen, who inflicted the atrocities at École Polytechnique de Montréal, and I would REMIND Mr. Farahi that it was Canadian Citizens who attacked the House of Commons. His fevered fear instigating reasons for why London should not become a Sanctuary City are more like hearing Donald Trump speak at one of his rallies rather than someone who ran for City Council in London Ontario.

In the end, Council cannot order our Police to ignore Federal law and ignore illegal refugees. Council cannot order the Police to do anything. And in the end, this motion by Council is much more a symbolic act than one of actionable consequences. But I would say to you that symbols are important. Symbols point to who we are and what we stand for. Symbols like the maple leaf, or the RCMP hat, or the tree for our forest city stand for something. I would prefer our city creates symbols of hope and love like a sanctuary city rather than the small and cringing symbols of fear Mr Farahi suggests in his small hearted petition.

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.

 

North

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“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” Emily Dickinson

It seems that with the U.S. presidential election so many of us have been struggling to make sense of what happened and to shout our opinions of the result in the spaces we have available to us. Why did he win? Why did she loose? How could this happen? Why is there such racism, classism, misogyny, hatred, spite? Are all those people who voted for him that clueless?  Are they all rednecks? Are they all stupid? Why? Why? Why?

Myself? I think I have the answers, but really I don’t. I think I know the solutions, but really I don’t. All I have are half formed opinions that are bursting to get out of me. Frankly I simply don’t know. I don’t know why he was elected and she wasn’t. I don’t know why I feel powerless. I don’t know why I have such a huge energy to do something but with no idea of what to do. And if I am really, really honest with you dear friends this has been the state of things for a very, very long time.

I am adrift in a directionless fog of what to do, and have been for years. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know what I want. I want justice and mercy, equity AND equality, I want anyone was left behind brought to the front, I want kindness, I want the sharing of knowledge and freedom, and most of all I want love to infuse everything all the time. But knowing what you want is one thing. Knowing how to get there is another. With people I know casually and those who are close to me I sense they are lost as well. I sense they want the same things. If what i sense is true then why can’t we get there? Why isn’t there more love, more equity, and a sense that the world is bending toward the light?

I have been talking to one friend on great number of things for a number of years now. Through the these conversations we explore ideas Ideas about democracy, morality, beliefs, politics, friendship, institutions, government, and who we are. We agree on many things and disagree on others and I like that. I like the struggle, in our time together, to define an understanding. To create a kind of common compass with which we can chart our way through the times we are in.I love compasses for they are miraculous things. By using compasses humans created the means to chart the world, find the undiscovered country, and expand the horizons of what we thought was a certainty to what we see is possibility. The ability of a needle to point north is not only an absolute in an uncertain world, but also comforts us with guidance when we are lost.

That needle pointing north is what we seem to need right now. The thing of it is though that no one can tell you where your  internal needle is pointing. You have to, and will know this within yourself, like all great explorers who have followed the compass north, face some moments of truth and some moments of sacrifice to get there. We know what is necessary to achieve equity and justice. We know what is needed to make the least amongst us first. We know what justice and fairness looks like. We know what is needed to develop education, healthcare, wellness, and create a decent standard of living for the world. We know what is required to achieve the world we all talk about but can’t seem to get to. We know which way is north and may have to, like those explorers following a compass , sacrifice some of what we have in order to balance the scales so we all can stand in a place of possibility rather than the grim certainty we have experienced in the last few weeks.

We can all sense within ourselves where true north is as much as we know where the sun is when our eyes are closed and turn our faces into its warmth. I sense, rather than know, that there are answers to this feeling of being lost in the world. I sense, rather than know, the direction we might take in order to get to that undiscovered country. I sense, rather than know, that the rest of you sense this as well. Perhaps we all should work on a shared compass and follow that sense of true north.

Also the Fault of Progressives: Trump, Leitch, and the Age of Division

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We are all, quite rightly, appalled by the way Donald Trump has behaved. His xenophobic, sexist, misogynist,  racist, daily diatribes are in embarrassment to the Party of Lincoln. But while we are all feeling morally superior and content in our enlightenment, I am troubled by how we progressives helped to create the environment for this kind of viral hatred to grow.

We progressives are great a supporting causes like #YesAllWomen, #BringBackOurGirls, #IceBucketChallenge, #IndyRef, #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveWins . All of these are critical issues in our world and all of them very worthy of our attention but there is a problem. Who are we progressives ignoring?

There is the bias we show in the causes we champion and the people we don’t. In the case of the dog whistle politics of a Kellie Leitch or Donald Trump, the cause we did not pay attention to was the plight of the blue-collar worker and those who were ejected in to an uncertain future from the economic disaster of 2008. So many lost their jobs ,or were made redundant by changes in technology on the factory floor, that there became a huge group of people who were left behind. And while clever pundits and economists speak of creative destruction, in the real world millions lost the dignity of work in the middleclass.

The result? Men and women, many of whom had achievied  a middle-class lifewere thrown into a  long humiliating nightmare of uncertainty. Manufacturing jobs were devastated and never came back because those industries either moved to cheaper labour markets, Caterpillar did this here in London, or innovated through technology and so need radically fewer workers in plants. Also retraining programs were inadequate at best and callous at worst. A worker would rarely, especially in the US, get the training they needed to work in advanced manufacturing and would often be forced into programs that were irrelevant to the current job market. Also it was brutally tough for a 50 year old man or woman to retrain in the computer focused workd of advanced manufacturing.

So the dignity and stability of work, which is so critical to having a stable life, became a memory for millions across north America who instead found themselves in precarious work and precarious lives. They were, and are, a growing  group who are rightfully angry and rightfully feeling ignored. Into this vacuum come Kellie Leitch and Donald trump who provide easy targets for the anger and frustration. So it is any wonder that we have the environment that spawns a Donald Trump or Kellie Leitch? No progressive movement I’ve seen is advocating for this group  and so they support those who, through lies and misdirection, provide them with a target for their anger. Immigrants, political correctness, elites, women, international bankers and the list goes on and on. It is so easy for Trump or Leitch to pretend to be one of them while givig them targets for their anger that further thier callous ends. Meanwhile we in the progressive ranks shake our heads and tut in superiority. Racism, sexism, and prejudice are always unacceptable. But it should be equally unacceptable for so many millions to be left behind and become the targets for politicallu opportune predators like Trump and Leitch to pretend to use our friends and neighbours so callously.

Perhaps we need a new hashtag that lasts for more than a weekend. Perhaps we need a hashtag that says we will stand with those being ignored. Perhaps we should do more than a hashtag and actually send messages through the corridors of power and say we will not ignore our friends and neighbours any longer. We won’t stand for the denigration of the dignity of work and the humiliation of families that are left behind. That would be a proud achievement for the progressive movement. I doubt it will happen but it would be a proud moment. #nooneleftbehind

exuberant, lame, yellow with cream and sugar

exuberant exigent sunlight floods eye and a bounty, green in start, ruby reds in completion, wends it’s way to my attention. All day I have thought about the next 5 minutes i say, and the man on the radio quotes Matthew to the masses.

lame luddite words burp on their screen and they react like dust trapped in the furnace air filter. Fast in approach but stopped and stuck in resolve. All day I have thought about the next 5 minutes i say and the lady laughs and pirouettes out of shot.

yellow yielding warmth offers a chance for joy and you take the moment and instagram it out of existence. All day I have thought about the next 5 minutes says the lady with the too large glasses as I go through the door with bell clanging finality.

the next 5 minutes get filled for the next 3 hours – conversation, coffee, and potential

Sunday

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The sun, yellow bright in it’s inevitability, one handedly shakes us up and at em with a blank page invitation to other opportunities, and in the first precious hours of wakedness, you read mornings news, contemplate the laughter conversations of yesterday, and finish another 1000 words of intention.

Here comes the mob media posts of lovely people that sonder into your awareness and the insistent shout and satisfying of fur friends answered and satiated.

Now the wonder of breakfast begins frying pan busy and oven insistent and I cut and chop my way through “i should have said” considerations and D minor C major progressions of sparkler flared recollection.

Not for nothing and nothing is what you’ll get but …..oh wait….bacon!

Lunch times laugh still pings about my soul from yesterday and the technicians exasperation at the old timers insistence still makes me warm smile curl around its recollection. A note of sour trashcan ended discord interrupts my progress with comments of someone else angst.

Toaster pops, coffee wafts, poached eggs shimmer, potatoes smile, and the table conversations begins in a newspaper spread passing of family on a Sunday morn.

Not for nothing and nothing is what you’ll get but …..oh wait….bacon!

….coffee?