Wednesday, March 30, 2005

this solidarity, comraderie, and partnership building

I spent the last 2 weekends out of province. M and I went to NYC to celebrate JC's ascendency and have GTs.

The weekend before that I was in Calgary. I was short-listed for a prestigious Award of Excellence by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Yes, an honour being nominated and all that. But it really was. I had to get up on stage with 5 other finalists and talk about my work. I went first (must've been alphabetical). It was humbling being in a row with all these amazing young adults (under 30), committed like myself, tired like myself, but being honoured for our dedication and resilience for a cause, a riteous cause, we presume.

The winner was an amazing Hatian-Canadian woman living in Quebec City who has started a 50-organization strong network, which is countering racist propaganda being spread by an immensely popular radio station there. The station is so popular they have a fanatical club, some members of which have threatened this poor woman and her colleagues. It's a real struggle, old-school. She was inspiring.

I had written an acceptance speech, because the winner had to say a few words. I didn't win, and it was too long anyway, but for S&Gs, here's what I wrote down:

If I had stayed in Halifax, I'd never have been nominated for this award. I'd probably be working for the government, or one of a few ENGOs on some educational or social marketing campaign to get people reducing, reusing, recycling in some way. I'd be another white guy in Halifax, scheming up ways to influence other white people in Halifax. I'd care about issues of race social justice, but they wouldn't be my main focus, and my work probably wouldn't take the needs of non-white people, or white immigrants, into consideration. In fact, my work might not take the needs of people into conseration at all, except in the most abstract manner of thinking and action.

But I chose to study in Toronto, a city that had always made me feel alive, energized, and kind of like a bigshot. A city that known for its multiculturalism, where half of the residents were born outside of Canada, and where visible minorities are more visible than they are minor. And in this social climate, only the fools take race for granted - though there are no shortage of fools anywhere.

It was in this social climate that I experienced and continue to experience a superb education in race and cultural relations, in social justice, and in the powerful nuances of systemic and individual racism, and culturalism. For this I owe Toronto a great debt of gratitude.

But, though Toronto Region welcomes close to 1/2 of newcomers to this country, the welcome comes with clandestine caveats and conditions [who can resist alliterations?], beyond the official hoops through which refugees and immigrants must jump. I'm sure we've all heard comments of this nature: "Why can't THEY just adjust? This isn't like where THEY come from." Or "Even if she could learnd proper English, she just wouldn't fit with US." Or, "What does a Master's degree from China REALLY mean? Ten years of experience sure, but what about here in CANADA?"

To many people these comments are subtly if not completely innocuous, but to me they indicate a deep-rooted problem of attitude, a problem with CANADIAN culture. Though we may TOLERATE diversity, we fail to engage with people who are different from us.

I've been so fortunate to live and work in Toronto on these issues, with an environmental institution, and sustainability is still one of my core values.

What I've learned is this: you can't GET people to change their behaviour without a shift in attitude, and you can't GET someone to change an attitude unless you are willing to take that journery with them. This means open engagement with all kinds of people, and lots of them. I think that wsocial justice, sustainablility, and human health are goals almost all Canadians can agree on. Those of us using a great deal of our time, energy, indeed our lives, working to achieve these goals, need to strive for broad engagement with open, honest dialogue, and thoughtful action, if we are to secceed in creating societies in which we can all thrive.

This conference, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and the National Youth Anti-racist Network, are all ways to achieve this broad engagement. As we tackle racism and other isms, confront bigots of all kinds, and attempt to dismantle systemic barriers, it is this solidarity, comraderie, and partnership building, that will allow us to shoulder great burdens with the strength that only inclusive community can muster.

For this reason I wish to humbly thank CRRF for this recognition of my network's efforts. And even more importantly for bringing us all together in the spirit of open and honest, yet critical and self-reflexive, exchange.

Thank you.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

A Very Brief Rap

How is it that Eminem can climb the pop charts
like he's some kinda piece of magic
When he has less talent than Talib Kweli,
The Roots, or even Lenny Kravitz?

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Monday, March 14, 2005

What to do in Case of Heart Attack

In an earlier entry I made reference to a 'what to do in case of heart attack when no one is looking' slideshow that my co-worker sent me. Not that anyone is asking, but I thought I should explain why it was so funny.

The simple answer is the lack of context. It was sent by a co-worker who used to be a volunteer, and it was me who initially hooked her up to the volunteer work (as is my job), so I think she appreciates that and even though I haven't gotten to know her very well, we get along well and like each other. [I have a few such relationships with co-workers and it's a strange dynamic, but not at all a bad one.]

Digression aside (and over with), she sent me this slide show presumably because she knows and trusts me and feels it is important and useful information. Indeed, I remember its advice well (in short, force yourself to cough hard repeatedly to keep your heart going until you find help) because I fear keeling over at a (still) young age, and I know I don't get enough exercise, and for all I know maybe she could tell.

The hilarity of it is that it comes without any context, a random snippet of potentially useful information digitized/pixiliated for easy consumption and memory bank storage. Like everything else. And that's about all I can handle on this potentially important subject. And that's about all it makes sense in the hurleyburleycampbellsoup world to digest on any potentially important subject, i.e. one that COULD save your life but won't likely, and has little to do with your day to day acts of LIVING your life.

If anyone is reading this, I'm sure s/he is shaking his/her head wondering when the laugh track kicks in. THAT's why it's funny! Because nobody seems to think much about how strange this is, the information pouring in from every angle with no varifiable sources (I'm assuming that the coughy technique will save me but for all I know that could have been sent by FLQ terrorist thirsty for my anglo-blood), all de-contextualized, yet all POTENTIALLY relevant, if only the right situation will come along to justify the time we invested in reading all those emails.

All this is not to say I don't appreciate my co-worker's email. I'm glad to know she thought of me, and thought enough of me as a human being to include me in the list of people to forward the potentially useful slideshow to. Just as I appreciate it when my mother sends me virus warnings, or news clippings about violence in my travel destinations. I guess it's just that, being a very contextual person, I strive for a deeper understanding of things that seems to get more difficult the easier it becomes to access information in general.

Incidentally, I just read an obit of a bigtime Canadian journalist whose wife said living with him was like being married to a google engine. But I bet he was better at giving context.

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Pissed Off Old Guy Syndrome (POOGS)

Also known as Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS), this particular dis-ease reminds me of a deeper, more insidious social ill: Bad Research Idea Syndrome (BRIS).

This guy, Jed Diamond (not to be confused with the great Jared Diamond) observes a bunch of pissed off old guys and comes up with male menopause, or manopause, as cleverly coined by the minions of the mass media.

Here's Jed's big quotation: "I also saw these kinds of changes [from relative mild-mannered machismo to extreme grumpiness] in men who were under considerable stress, or who were suffering losses of self-esteem due to major life changes such as divorce, job layoffs, or illness." So, Jed, you're saying that under great duress, men get moody? Gee, thanks for the tip, here's your $35 for the hard copy version.

Another of my favourites is the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which surely does wonders in explaining why so many people are tired all the time. It's because they have the chronic. So, what can they do? Drink lots of water, exercise more.

Recently M was telling me and X about some research that seemed to indicate that being left-handed is a dangerous condition, as lefties tend to die much younger. On further examination, someone figured out that almost all really old people are right-handed now, because they had that shifty left-handedness beat out of them at a young age. On even more scrutinous consideration by yours truely, it was revealed that research delineating left-handers and right-handers is a big fucking waste of time, brainpower, and money.

Why are human beings obsessed with inane research topics? How will the information resulting from comparisons between lefties and righties, or from observing grumpy old men in their natural habitats (like convertable corvettes) benefit humanity? Will it feed the hungry, employ the unemployed, give us more joy? Will it unplunder the Earth, will it bring justice to the wicked? No.

I propose a study on the concept of BRIS. We need to find the source of this scourge and bring it to its knees, crush it down further still, into the underground, and sneer at it from above.


Friday, March 11, 2005

Who's Crazier? The Crazies, or the Ones Attacking the Crazies?

The other night my housemate took me to the City of Toronto Committee of Adjustment meeting where some yahoos from our neighbourhood were trying to shoot down the renovation of a group home. The owners, a nonprofit organization that provides supportive housing for psychiatric survivors, want to add 4 new self-contained 2-bedroom units for low income families and generally improve the state of the building. This will mean the current residents will have to vamousse in some months, but the owners will pay their rent for 3 months, help them find other housing and they'll be allowed to return if they wish as soon as the building is ready.

Well, the yahoos went apeshit, led by 3 principles: 1) An ill-tempered rolly-polly man-in-black who, having already threatened violence repeatedly against the owners in a previous meeting, insulted the Chair of the Adjustment Committee, and said he'd stand outside the house in question in protest until it all went away; 2) A yuppie film-maker, who offered my favourite comment of night: "I'm making a deposition in favour of diversity, in small amounts." And 3) a certified professional planner who submitted a 26-page letter to the Committee outlining his objections to the renovation (according to him it's not a renovation at all, but a whole new kind of structure).

What's really crazy about all this, is that all the owners were asking to do was expand the property slightly. It would still be smaller , relative to property size, than 10% of the surrounding houses. But according to the neighbours, it was just too big and just too densely populated. Interestingly, it came out at the meeting that character number 1 (violent man) has a larger house (relative to lot size) than what is being proposed.

Not to bore you with planning details, but why do you think these yahoos REALLY didn't want this renovation, when they themselves have monster homes? Could it be, by any chance, that it's because they don't like the idea of psychiatric survivors moving in next door? Nothing like a little NIMBYism to get your week started off right.

But the Committee of Adjustment is no place to discuss who's living next door since it isn’t legal to zone people. The only person on their side of the argument who seemed to understand this was the planner, so he used some absurd and backward planning illogic instead, and was listened to patiently, but ultimately, shot down.

The most beautiful thing happened at the end of the meeting: One of the Committee Members gave a brief but inspiring speech, saying "I'm very heartened to see people so committed to protecting their houses, because I know how hard it is to get a house." Get it folks? If you own a house, does that suddenly give you the right to deny others a decent living space?

The committee unanimously accepted the proposed renovation, and the yuppie-man shouted into his microphone that it was nothing but a 'kangaroo court', and my housemate and I raised a golden glass over veggie burgers and smiled broadly.

But it's hard to keep one's faith in humanity when one is surrounded by brazen selfishness with no understanding of what community really means.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Instrament-Makers Workshop

worksie shoppie slippy sloppy
instraments we shall make
soo-ey oo-ey icky wickie
instraments today

Instramental tooled in kits
devised by spammers, scammers n slammers
coiners of phrase and cliche

"to reinvent the wheel"
when "collaboration-building"
could save us all
is a sin to Allah Ganesh
Better to cop, adapt, revise, re-apply
instructions from the manual

Carefully crafted by marketing gurus
specialistic yahoos, goobled n garbled
in just such-in-suchaway
in the instrament-maker's workshop
we learn how to work in time
beat 1 undone farflung on-a-drum
the perfect essential rhyme
in which our reason shall define
the perfect time for a plot twist
[Goldilocks the dominatrix
pimping circus bears in Demoine]

Anyway back to Newtonian physics
chop these up real small
divide into 3 equal piles
weighing equatorial amounts
drop them into the water
watch equidistant waves
spooling outward
proving the world is round
It's that luminescent bit
at the end, when the full moonlight
catches the sinus waves
on a 45 degree angle at 3 am
that proves what I'm saying is right

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Monday, March 07, 2005

State of the World

Interesting piece here:

It is by Worldwatch, which claims to be non-partisan, and seems to be somewhat so. They aren't too hawkish anyway. Some might find them too lefty.

My problem with this review, and others like it, is that it has some pretty serious assumptions that are left implicit. Like, "urbanization is largely a positive demographic trend." But, you know, according to whom? Based on what? Good for whom? Maybe urbanization is a good thing and maybe it isn't, but they haven't really given much discourse/debate/data either way.

Still, some interesting/scary trends going on, for all you news junkies.


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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pretty Pointless

A young man stood captivated and captured
and carouselled in the cryptic crimsom
of tepid tortured boiling blood
at the sight of one seaweed-soaked maiden
cascading in waves of skylight ripples
aglow with the source of the sun
and its big brothers
bathed in moonlight dancing
on white smooth young soft feminine skin
perk-breasted shyness too pure and perfect
to return his glances of gaze or respond
to his brain-wave love psalms
composed by a riverbed stream
until finally he asked her opinion
and she had none
and the illusion was shattered

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

multicultural hockey pucks

The Raptors are in San Antone tonight to lend themselves as floor mops. Game time is 8:30 here in TO, so that's some good fun to look forward to. We'll be watching in the falafel joint around the corner, since we don't have cable and they have a big screen TV. Next door is a sports bar but it's full of too many gocks (geek-jocks). Sure, I'm one myself, but I crave the cross-cultural experience.

Watching hockey at the falefel joint is the funniest thing. You got M cheering for Finland, me with my Canadiens hat, one other white guy sitting alone making fun of us, and a bunch of people speaking a bunch of languages, not paying any attention to the game, then singing O Canada when it's over with great pride. I love it!


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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Quick one on the two time

It's almost bed-time, wouldja lookit that? Almost 11!

Somehow my stress has declined without any decrease in workload. In fact, there are several unanticipated urgencies to take care of. To what do I owe my relatively low (i.e. average) blood pressure? Three thank yous to:

1. A hilarious what to do in case you have a heart attack when no one else is looking slide-show that was emailed to me by a co-worker,
2. James Joyce's 25-page (and counting) diatribe on the joys of burning in hell,
3. The Academy.

The soft furry kitty cat purring away on my desk doesn't hurt either.

As the GREAT Bobby McFerron said, "Simple pleasures are the best. Hell, yes."


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