Not Even a Pandemic Stops Bullying

NetFlix docuseries Pandemic

As citizens of the world isolate themselves, and most of the world has come to a halt because of COVID-19 or Coronavirus, I had some hope for the future. Why, you ask? Because if ever there was a time, since World War II, that the world must come together to stop a threat, it is now.

The reality is, this virus, known as COVID-19, does not discriminate. It does not discriminate based on whether an individual is male or female. It doesn’t choose its victims based on a person’s age, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or social standing. It does not matter to the virus whether you belong to a Royal family, a wealthy family, middle class family, or a poverty-stricken family. Nor does it discriminate based on whether you’re a celebrity, a politician, a CEO of a corporation, a professional, or tradesperson.  The truth is, if you are a human being, you qualify.

Yet, I naively thought that we humans would realize (during a crisis never experienced by anyone presently living) that all of us are human brothers and sisters, and that we are all in the same boat. I thought it would motivate humans to start behaving more kindly and compassionate to one another. Don’t get me wrong, many on the planet are. But still bullying and racism continue, even when the world is in crisis. People and Forbes magazines both report that countries worldwide are reporting an increase in assaults against citizens of Asian descent. People’s article, Racist Attacks Against Asians Continue to Rise as the Coronavirus Threat Grows, tells of a Chinese fencing student who was viciously assaulted in Australia, how a student from Singapore was attacked in London by four men shouting ‘I Don’t Want Your Coronavirus in my country,’ and how a Los Angeles high school student was attacked after bullies accused him of having the virus. It lists other examples. Clearly, many in the human family fail to see one another as brothers and sisters.

There is a letter in the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, a newspaper in the Canadian province of British Columbia titled, Adults are a primary cause of bullying behaviour among children, where the authors say:

One only has to really look around to see and realize that bullying exists, every day, in all age groups. Bullying is a constant in our society and it is about exerting or trying to exert power over those who are vulnerable or in positions with less or no power. It seems to be acceptable for adults to bully in their daily dealings and interactions. Corporations and government at all levels pay lip service to preventative programs. Programs need to be geared to adults as well as youth and children.

Children learn by observing the behaviours of their parents. They mimic those behaviours and take those behaviours and beliefs on as their own. If their parents/society demonstrate bullying behaviours and those behaviours/ beliefs/attitudes are deemed acceptable, then the child will think that they too can get away with those behaviours. They become the norm.

This is exactly right. We are born innocent and pure. We are born without the tendency to bully. Bullying is a learned behaviour, so I agree completely, adults are to blame when children or young people bully.

The letter also says; “The activities of the U.S. president Donald Trump are a blatant example of bullying,” which is exactly right. In my last post I revealed how the U.S. president was referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” claiming he does this because it was where the pandemic had its roots. What he is really doing is laying blame on Chinese people and encouraging racial bullying against people of Chinese or Asian descent. Racial bullying is a type of racism where someone’s bullying focuses on your race, ethnicity, or culture.

I saw a meme on Facebook that said, “It kind of feels like the universe has sent us to our rooms to think about what we’ve done.” The world is being stilled, just as it says in Psalm 46:10 of the Christian scriptures, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Maybe it is a reminder to all of us that we humans are a family, and we need to be acting as a family. Perhaps it is reminding us of the Golden Rule; “Do unto others, as you would have done to you.”

Perhaps this COVID pandemic is a tool of some higher power bringing about transformation on our planet to a create simpler, kinder, and more caring world. Perhaps the pandemic is lasting a long time because we humans are slow learners. Anthon St. Maarten, an inspirational speaker from the Netherlands, says; “Many of us dream of a better, safer, more caring world, without recognizing that it all begins with creating and maintaining a deeper love in our own home. The seeds of world peace should be planted in our own backyard.”  Mohandas K. Gandhi says it best when he said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Maybe that is what this virus is trying to teach the world, and more specifically each of us. The change has to start with you and me.

The Two Faces of a Pandemic

A commentary on the current pandemic

The NetFlix docuseries Pandemic

As I watch the world literally shut down because of the virus known as COVID-19, and as my wife and I are practicing “social distancing” by self-isolating in our home, I can observe and reflect on the world’s new reality.  American author, J Lynn, says, “Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place,” or American singer-songwriter, Morgan Harper Nichols who says, “Going through things you never thought you’d go through, will only take you places you’d never thought you’d get to.” Perhaps this is what is happening. This COVID-19 pandemic may involve forces we don’t understand that are taking the world in a new direction. My wife and I call it a “reset.”

I been  feeling like the world is out of control for a while now. Democracy in its present form is failing us. Corporate greed is irreparably damaging the planet. Racism and hate are on the rise. I could go on and on.

Tough times—presently the COVID-19 virus—can bring out the best in people, and the worst in people. I witnessed and read about both. First, the worst in people.

A personal example is recently a parent asked our great nieces to stop at the grocery store on the way home from school to pick up some milk. It just so happened that they got the last jug. Three ladies with their carts stocked piled with various products followed them around the store, calling them selfish. They were traumatized by the experience and refused to ever go back during this pandemic.

Barbara Coloroso,  an international bestselling author says this about bullying:

Bullying is not about anger, it’s about contempt, a powerful feeling of dislike toward somebody considered to be worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect…

These three selfish ladies were feeling contempt towards our nieces because they were not able to get the last jug of milk. They likely—I’m speculating—considered two teenagers to be inferior and undeserving of their respect. The Japan Times has an news report titled, Japan sees rise in harassment, bullying and discrimination linked to COVID-19, so bullying is occurring as a result of this pandemic.

The HuffPost article, Forced To Finally Take Coronavirus Seriously, Trump Turns To Racism, reports that after months of properly referring to the virus as Coronavirus or COVID-19, the U. S. president is now insisting on calling it the “Chinese virus.” Trump claims he does this because it is where the pandemic has its roots, but what he is really doing is laying blame on Chinese people and encouraging prejudice and violence against people of Chinese or Asian descent. The American leader is promoting hatred, racism, and bullying. Is racism bullying, you ask?

Childline, based in London, England, is a confidential service for children, says this about bullying and racism.

Racial bullying is a type of racism where someone’s bullying focuses on your race, ethnicity, or culture. Racism and racist bullying can include:

  • being called racist names or being sent insulting messages or threats
  • having your belongings damaged or having to see racist graffiti
  • personal attacks, including violence or assault
  • being left out, treated differently or excluded
  • people making assumptions about you because of your colour, race or culture
  • being made to feel like you have to change how you look
  • racist jokes, including jokes about your colour, nationality race or culture.

What Trump is doing is shamefully encouraging people to be exclusive of Asians and to treat Asians differently. Racism is bullying!

I have also observed that this pandemic is doing wonderful things. China and Italy’s pollution have drastically lessoned. (see CBC News). Fish and dolphins have returned to Venice’s canals because of halted tourism (see Venice). Italians sing from their balconies during pandemic lockdown (see Singing). People are posting all sorts humorous memes (see example below) to uplift people’s spirits, and posting creative ways to de-stress during this difficult time.  I could go on.

What I find most interesting during this difficult time in history, is people’s attitudes seem to be shifting. I’ve heard people say, “I feel relief and less stressed now that my commitments are gone.” One person told my wife that she has never felt better now that she isn’t working because of social distancing.  People seem to be coming to the realization that maybe their lives have been out of control, and this pandemic is forcing them to slow down. The world was required to “be still” as the Christian scriptures say, “Be still and know that I am God” in Psalm 46:10. Many in the world are beginning to see all humans as a family, saying things like, “We’re all in this together,” and “We all must do our part to prevent overwhelming our health care systems.” Humanity is reaching out to one another.

For example, people are making posts of encouragement. I just read this one:

This too shall pass. I just wanted to take a moment today to remind everyone that storms do end and nothing lasts forever. Things may get worse before they get better, but as a world we will get through this crisis together and emerge stronger because of it. This is a time to demonstrate our capacity to come together to help, care for, and support one another.  We can use these struggles to reforge our faith in one another and prove to ourselves our capacity to tackle difficult global challenges collaboratively. Like our ancestors before us did after the wars, we can use this humbling situation as a catalyst for new grow and new direction for the century to come.

Perhaps this is the silver lining! Perhaps this pandemic is transforming the world into one that is simpler, kinder, and more caring. Let’s hope so.

Is Democracy Broken?

A commentary on the present state of the world’s democracies.

A few weeks ago, we visited friends in a nearby city. During one of our discussions, this friend mentioned that he is disillusioned with democracy (not his exact words). I asked him why and he questioned the type of leaders that were being elected; leaders who were racist, narcissistic, misogynistic, anti-immigration, and who support white supremacy. This got me thinking. I began to wonder if democracy is broken.

When I visited China last November, our tour guide said something that made me question democracy. Our guide said the democratic world accomplishes little as governments are always squabbling. He further explained, whenever a democratic country elects a new political party, the previous party’s policies are reversed, thus little progress is made. I elaborated on this in my post on China (see China post). This begs the question: Are our democracies working efficiently? Is there something wrong with the way democracy is presently practiced?

Presently, there is increasing popularity in electing extremist right-wing politicians. According to Reference, neoconservatism is considered to be one of the more extreme right-wing ideologies. It takes a firm stance against anti-authority media and aligns itself with religious conservatives. Religious conservatives have specific positions on certain political issues such as abortion, homosexuality, creationism, science education, treatment of prisoners, immigration, and many other issues. Typically, conservative Christians favour anti-abortion laws, oppose gay marriage,  and many have a hardline against illegal immigration (see Intelligence Report).

Extremist right-wing politicians also tend to be nationalistic. In high school social studies—one of the courses I taught for many years—nationalism is defined as the belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals. Nationalist leaders are gaining momentum in Europe (see BBC). American president Donald Trump calls himself a nationalist. (See HuffPost). There are many extremist right-wing nationalistic politicians being elected. Why is this so? Does this mean democracy is failing us?

When our politicians act more like school aged children with their bullying behaviours and temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, I believe democracy is broken. When it becomes acceptable to vote for politicians who spout rhetoric that is divisive and “unchristian,” democracy is failing us.  When it becomes acceptable for the US president to use profanity, such as the “F” bomb (listen to Trump), we are electing a breed of politicians of the lowest kind.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced criminal investigations for fraud and bribery. A google search shows numerous US politicians under investigation. The US president is under investigation for obstruction of justice as well as other crimes. Two former Brazilian presidents were investigated for a scandal known as Operation Car Wash (see BBS).

My province recently elected a premier who was under investigation of voter fraud (see CBC). I thought politicians where supposed to have integrity. Even more disturbing for me, is our newly elected premier handed out earplugs to his caucus, clearly indicating his refusal to hear debate from democratically elected opposition members about a bill that removes some bargaining rights for government workers (see HuffPost). This kind of behaviour from a leader stems from arrogance; a leader who thinks his party knows best and those who have alternative views are to be ignored. I thought the heart of democracy was healthy debate. Apparently not in my province. Former US president, Barack Obama said, “The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.” I believe this to be true. When healthy debate is squashed in our legislatures, then as far as I am concerned, democracy is broken.

That leads us to the question: What is wrong with democracy? Former British Prime Minster, Winston Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Perhaps he is onto something.  Louis L’Amour, an American novelist said, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” Exactly!

My brother and his wife worked during our province’s recent election, and both expressed how appalled they were by the electorate. They said they had numerous voters in their 30s and 40s who were voting for the first time. They also said they fielded numerous questions asking how the voting process works. Both my brother and his wife were shocked when several voters asked them why there were names on the ballots which they did not recognize. Many of them were looking for the party leaders’ names on the ballot. I was shocked to hear this. This is why, at least in part, democracy is broken. The voters are failing democracy.

Former US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” That is it! Voters are too apathetic to educate themselves. That explains, at least in part, why Donald Trump won the 2016 election.  Trump’s supporters are largely uneducated, according to polls (see Inquisitr).

Former US president, John F. Kennedy, once said, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”  I have to wonder if unprepared voters, who buy into the dangerous rhetoric being spouted by extremist right-wing nationalistic politicians is putting world security at risk. History teaches extreme nationalism started both world wars. Jose Marti, a Cuban poet, writer, and nationalist leader said, “The first duty of a man is to think for himself.”  Democracy is literally “rule by people,” and is a system where the citizens choose their leaders or government. To fix our broken democracy, people need to start thinking for themselves and educating themselves. Voters need to make informed decisions when voting, and that means determining what news stories are true and which are “fake news” stories. This does not seem to be happening at the moment as most voters believe the rhetoric spouted by extremist right-wing nationalistic politicians. English humourist, writer, and journalist, Allan Coren says, “Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they’ve told you what you think it is you want to hear.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson, American 19th-century philosopher says, “Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.” Are we electing dictators? Seems that way to me. Are we electing bullies?  I see this more and more, and voter ignorance is to blame.

Former US president, Abraham Lincoln said democracy is “government of, by and for the people.”  I still believe this is why democracy is the better system when it is not broken. Former US president Barack Obama said, “No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise.” Perhaps compromise is another problem. We’re living in a polarized time in history and compromise seems to have gone out the window. Each political party thinks they know best and are unwilling to listen to other parties’ views. An openness to different points of views and a willingness to compromise must occur for democracy to work effectively! Politicians must unite and do what is best for all. 

I know it is more complicated than what I’ve outlined, and democracy has problems other than those I’ve addressed above. The issue of corporate donations to help political parties get elected, for example.  Corporate wealth increases when a corporation’s preferred political party is elected and makes policies that perpetuate corporate greed. An informed electorate that votes responsibly is a good start to fixing our broken democracies.

Leadership at a New Low

A commentary on some of our world leaders.

On December 6, 2018, just eleven days after returning from a trip to China, Canada arrested the chief financial officer (CEO) of Chinese tech-giant Huawei for breaking United States (U.S.) sanctions against Iran. Canada legally acted on an extradition request of the U.S. since Canada has had an Extradition Treaty with the United States since 1971.

Now, because of our legal obligation to honour such a request, my country is caught in the middle of its two largest trading partners—two super powers essentially—and worried about having to choose sides. If Canada extradites the Chinese executive to the States, it will result in deep anger from China, and letting her go free will anger the U.S. which is our chief trading partner.

China warned Canada there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release the CEO of Huawei. Since the arrest, according to The Guardian, 13 of Canada’s citizens have been detained in China. The Guardian reports that at least 8 of those 13 have since been released.  The media has mostly focused on the two detained Canadians who have been accused of endangering state security. On the 14th of January, 2019, a Chinese court issued a death sentence to a Canadian man accused of drug smuggling. This young man appealed his original 15-year sentence, and in a sudden retrial the death sentence was issued. This all sounds like bullying to me. Bullying is bullying whether it is in a schoolyard, or part of world politics. According to Forbes, China is accused of bullying several countries, such as The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Really, Canada is caught in between two bullies. You could take the classic bully story line of the ‘big bully’ frightening the smaller kid to turn over his or her lunch money to the bully. If you apply it to Canada’s current situation, it would be a small child being tormented by two ‘big bullies.’ Both bullies want the victimized kid to turn over the lunch money to them. The child victim is damned no matter what he or she does. If he or she turns over the money to bully one, there will be a deep anger, and likely retaliation, from bully two. If he or she turns the money over to bully two, there will be a deep anger, and likely retaliation, from bully one. It’s the old idiom, damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. Every possible action or inaction would result in a negative outcome.

That brings us to the United States (U.S.). The magazine, Foreign Affairs has been the leading forum for discussion of American foreign policy and global affairs. It describes the United States as the “bully of the free world.” The Washington Post says, “Trump’s America is a bully, not a beacon.”

In my June, 2018 post called, A Flashback to School Yard Supervision, I reported on how Trump displayed bullying behaviour over perceived trade inequalities with Canada. On Twitter—he seldom exhibits bullying behaviour at news conferences—accused Canada’s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau as “meek and mild” and “very dishonest and weak” all because our prime minister declared that U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum were “insulting” and his insistence that Canada would not be pushed around.

The English Oxford dictionary defines a bully as “a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable,”or as an individual who “seeks to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable.” There is no shortage of examples of Trump seeking to intimidate a vulnerable person, world leader, or country.

Temple of Heaven exercise park

I’ve visited both countries. I mentioned earlier that I returned from a trip to China just prior to all of this tension between Canada and China. I found the wonderful people of China to be welcoming and friendly. In fact, one man gave each of us a mystic knot tassel, a Feng Shui symbol for good fortune. The retired Chinese people at Temple of Heaven fitness park were very happy to demonstrate their physical fitness abilities. While watching musicians and large groups of people singing in this same park, one Chinese person grabbed the hands of two people in our tour group and starting dancing with them. The Chinese people we met were non-threatening, welcoming and kind.

I’ve been to the United States many times, met several Americans in our Canadian national parks, and I travelled with Americans when we were on our Irish tour in the summer of 2018. The Americans I met were friendly, happy to talk to us, and were genuinely non-threatening in any way. In fact, while on our tour of Ireland, one our fellow American travellers bought me a whiskey while visiting an Irish Distillery.

mystic knot tassel,

What is really going on is that my country, Canada, is caught in the middle of a trade dispute between the U.S. and China, the two biggest economies in the world. The U.S. is accusing China of unfair trade practices. The Americans want China to import more American goods and to stop forcing American companies to hand over their valued intellectual property if those companies wish to do business in China. This dispute became a ‘trade war’ when tariffs implemented by the Trump administration, and China retaliated with their own tariffs. Are tariffs a form of intimidation? You bet. Is Trump trying to intimidate China to do what America wants them to do? Yes. Is China attempting to scare Canada? There is no argument there.

Are China and the United States—one could include Russia in this list—bullies? If the ordinary citizens of those countries are not the bullying types, then it must be their leaders who are the bullies. And because they are bullies, the citizens, who are innocent people, get hurt. Canadians in China are being detained as a form of retaliation for Canada’s participation in the arrest.  Business Insider warns that tariffs will likely increase the price of goods, which can have serious economic effects. Several economists and business groups have warned that higher prices from tariffs can hurt American firms and consumers. Ordinary citizens in both countries are harmed because they have to pay more for goods.

Trump is a bully. Same can be said about China and Russia’s leaders. Bullies on the world stage are not only a threat to world peace, but heartlessly make decisions that often are not in their ordinary citizen’s best interests. It is time to elect—when that is possible—world leaders who have their people’s best interests at heart, and not their egos.