Has the World Gone Mad?

A Commentary on the worlds rage over George Floyd’s murder

Jerry Holt/Star Tribune

Just when I think 2020 can’t get any worse, I (#blogger, #blog, #somseason) witness the United States fall into Chaos as rage spread across the country over police brutality of African Americans. The rage is expressed in the form of protests and riots resulting in destroyed businesses and damaged landmarks. Protests also occurred around the world, with people gathering in solidarity with protestors in Montreal, Vancouver, Jerusalem, London, Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro, and in 140 American cities. (See ‘We Are All George Floyd’: Global Anger Grows Over a Death in Minneapolis). World leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Beijing criticized the U.S’s rapidly eroding moral authority on the world stage.

This Chaos was sparked by racial bullying, (#antibullying, #bullying) with a police officer murdering George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis.  Racial bullying is a type of racism where someone’s bullying focuses on race, ethnicity or culture. George Floyd’s friends and family referred to him as a “gentle giant,” and say he never made an enemy. Mr. Floyd is just the latest of a growing list of African Americans whose deaths have sparked outrage and protests across the nation.  Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in February in Brunswick, Georgia, by two white guys while he was out jogging. (See Ahmaud Arbery) Other victims of racial bullying are Breonna TaylorSandra BlandPhilando CastileEric Garner. Trayvon Martin.

People across the world are enraged with racism on the planet. We Canadians like to see ourselves as non-racist, but truth be known, it is a problem here as well. CBC News’ article, Thousands rally in Toronto to protest racism in wake of the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, reports that thousands of people attended a peaceful rally to protest racism around the world and to demand answers in the death of 29-year-old African Canadian Toronto resident Regis Korchinski-Paquet. In the case of Korchinski-Paquet, her mother had called for police assistance after a domestic conflict, requesting that her daughter be taken to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Regis’ family has accused Toronto Police of pushing her off  of the balcony, while the police claim that she was on the balcony when their officers arrived, and that she jumped from the building.

In the article by The Guardian, Black Toronto residents 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police, study says, it reports that black people made up 61% of cases where police used force that resulted in death according to the Ontario human rights commission. In another CBC News article, Canadian police must acknowledge racial bias to fix it, Indigenous advocates say, it states there are numerous cases involving police use of force against Indigenous people. The pattern is police physically abuse Indigenous people, but rarely cause deaths unlike the U.S. Racial bullying is an issue in Canada, just as in the U.S.

Bullying of any kind, including racial bullying, is a learned behaviour. If it is learned, then it can be unlearned. Penn State University has an article, Racism is Learned at an Early Age, where it states:

Learned racism is the outcome of how often an individual is personally exposed to how dissimilar cultures and races of people interact with one another…improved relations and withheld judgments may occur if a child observes positive interactions and attitudes among diverse groups.

A huge part of racial bullying has to do with White Privilege. Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, (ACLRC) at the University of Calgary, defines White Privilege, or White-Skinned Privilege, this way:

“The unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it. Examples of privilege might be: ‘I can walk around a department store without being followed’; ‘I can come to a meeting late and not have my lateness attributed to my race’; ‘I can turn on the television or look to the front page and see people of my ethnic and racial background represented”

I can say, as a Caucasian, that I have never been followed around in a department store. Any time I’ve been late to a  meeting, my lateness was never attributed to being white. That cannot be said for Indigenous people or those of African heritage.  The vast majority of shows I watch on television are actors of my ethnic and racial background. That is not true for Indigenous people. Having white skin bestows benefit and privileges that white people often do not grasp. On the other hand, many people of colour, and Indigenous people, are likely highly aware of these privileges because they are denied them on a daily basis. Check out McIntosh’s “White Privileges” checklist in the ACLRC article and see if you answer yes to them as a Caucasian. I answered yes to them all.

I recently saw this quote in a meme: “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because you aren’t personally affected.” That about sums it up. Those of us with White Privilege must understand that the outrage happening in the U.S, and around the world, is because African Americans, African Canadians, and Indigenous people have less privilege (less access to education, jobs, etc.), are labelled (lazy, unethical, etc.), are regularly bullied, and can’t even go for an evening walk in their neighbourhoods without fearing racial bullying. Caucasians must recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting because of white supremacy.

So long as White Privilege exists, and racism or intolerance is modelled to our children, this problem will exist. What is happening in the U.S. is very disturbing, but understandable. It’s a wakeup call for the human family to stop, reflect, and decide what type of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in a world where compassion is the norm, and true equality exits? Our political documents say we are all equal, but the reality is, this world lacks equality. As George Orwell’s Animal Farms says, “Some are more equal than others.” Like the pandemic, this is just another wakeup call for the human family. These protests are call for a better world, and we the people must demand it.

I’ve said many times in previous posts, there is a very simple solution to bullying, and that is following the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and it’s true. If only it were that simple.

Is Nature Fighting Back?

A commentary about the environmental abuse

National Geographic’s recent article, To prevent pandemics, stop disrespecting nature, states:

Some people are viewing the pandemic as nature fighting back against all that has been and continues to be done to it. But it is human behavior and disrespect for nature that have been the cause. Furthermore, as we cope with the pandemic, climate change is marching ahead. It’s causing strong ripples of change in all ecosystems and probably tipping the balance in favor of pathogens currently unknown to us. The wise way forward is to invest in conservation and science, and to embrace nature and the glorious variety of life with which we share this planet. A healthy future for humanity and a healthy biodiverse planet go hand in hand.

Perhaps, science is catching up with Indigenous spiritual teachings since Indigenous people have been telling us since first contact to respect the earth. For example, Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki, Algonquin is credited with the quote: “The Great Spirit is in all things. He is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us. That which we put into the ground she returns to us.” There is an ancient Indian (Indigenous) proverb that says, “Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” There is a Cree prophecy which says, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” On the Assembly of First Nations website it says,

Indigenous peoples are caretakers of Mother Earth and realize and respect her gifts of water, air and fire. First Nations peoples’ have a special relationship with the earth and all living things in it. This relationship is based on a profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth that guided indigenous peoples to practice reverence, humility and reciprocity. It is also based on the subsistence needs and values extending back thousands of years.

Indigenous people have always believed the earth to be a living organism. Now even some scientists are saying the earth is alive. It is called the Gaia hypothesis, first articulated by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, and argues that Earth’s physical and biological processes are inextricably connected to form a self-regulating, essentially sentient system. Check it out in the Astrobiology Magazine.

In another National Geographic article titled, Traditional indigenous beliefs are a powerful tool for understanding the pandemic, it states:

While this pandemic is presenting an opportunity to find meaningful ways to connect, it’s also a wake-up call with important lessons for the future. “If we don’t learn from now,” warns Mindahi Bastida Muñoz, general coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, “then another thing, more powerful, is going to come.

I’ve  (#blog, #blogger, #YA, #authors, #somseason) always argued that this pandemic is a wakeup call for humanity. To borrow a phrase from singer Jidenna’s song, ‘Bully of the Earth,’ we humans cannot continue to bully the earth. Let’s call it earth bullying (#antibullying, #bullying), and by that, I mean, exploiting and abusing the planet by polluting the air, ignoring climate change, pouring plastics into the ocean, deforestation, and pouring tons of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, etc.) into our environment. If the Gaia hypothesis is true, and the planet is a living organism, then we humans are killing Mother Earth.

Yet, we humans continue with the earth bullying. The New York Times has an article, The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules, listing all the environmental protection rules that have been or are in the process of being eliminated. CBC News’ article, Alberta regulator’s move to suspend oilpatch monitoring sets dangerous precedent, reports that oil companies say the environmental suspensions are necessary to maintain COVID-19 guidelines. In essence, the oil companies are claiming it is too dangerous to monitor the environment, yet it is not too dangerous for hair dressers to cut hair. The argument is weak to say the least, yet our provincial government fell for it. CBC News reports in their article, Alberta rescinds decades-old policy that banned open-pit coal mines in Rockies and Foothills, says the provincial government is cancelling environmental protections that have been in place since the 1970s,  making it easier for open-pit coal mining in some of the province’s most ecologically sensitive areas. This move has nothing to do with Covid. This is about corporate greed, and governments enabling companies to do so at the expense of the planet. It is shameful!

Back in 2018, the Guardian had an article, The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us, claiming “climate breakdown could be rapid and unpredictable. We can no longer tinker around the edges and hope minor changes will avert collapse.” There is no doubt for me that continued abuse of the earth will have dire consequences for humanity. National Geographic’s article, Ocean Threats, has a long list of threats to our oceans because of human activities. The Guardian has an article, Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study, essentially arguing that humans are the cause of a mass extinction. I’ve seen articles about bird populations declining, and bee populations being endangered. It is all alarming!

Having said that, CBS News’ article, Before-and-after photos show dramatic decline in air pollution around the world during coronavirus lockdown, is eye opening. The earth, whether a living organism or not, has shown an amazing ability to heal itself when allowed to.

A NASA photo

I’ve always argued in my posts that this COVID pandemic is a tool of some higher power—God, Allah, Yahweh, Universe, Source, or whatever you want to call it—bringing about transformation on our planet, creating a simpler, kinder, and more caring world, and that includes the earth. Maybe it is a reminder to humanity to respect and honour the earth instead of being a bully of the earth. The Indigenous people have always said that. If only we of European decent had listened to the Indigenous people instead of bullying them into submission, before bullying the earth.

The Ugly Reality of Bullying

A commentary on the damage bullying causes.

As I become known as an anti-bullying advocate, people send me articles and videos that they think may interest me. This week a friend sent me this video clip posted by a mother.  The video is of her son crying after he was targeted at school because he has Achondroplasia, a genetic disorder. Be warned, the mother uses course language and the video is upsetting to watch; at least for me it was. Here is the video.

For those unfamiliar with Achondroplasia, it is a genetic disorder that results in dwarfism. In those with the condition, the arms and legs are short, while the torso, or trunk, is typically of normal length. Those affected have an average adult height of around 4 ft (131 cm). Other features include an enlarged head and prominent forehead. The disorder typically does not affect intelligence.

In a Huffpost article about the video called, Mum Shares Heartbreaking Video Of 9-Year-Old Son Traumatized By Bullying, Quaden’s mother describes the relentless bullying experienced by her son every day. The family, who are Aboriginal Australian, live in Queensland, Australia. The mother says in the video :

“I’ve just picked my son up from school, witnessed a bullying episode, rang the principal, and I want people to know – parents, educators, teachers – this is the effect that bullying has…Every single… day, something happens. Another episode, another bullying, another taunt, another name-calling…Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?  This is what bullying does.”

Her son repeatedly cries out that he wants to end his life in the video. 

Here is a NBC news clip about the video.

The good news is Quaden and his mother have been flooded with support after live-streaming the heartbreaking video of her nine-year-old son’s misery because of bullying. In fact, one celebrity with dwarfism started a Go Fund Me page to send Quaden to Disneyland, and the page has raised over $300 000. That goes to show the number of wonderful people on our planet (see Australian boy in bullying video receives global support).

What shocks me is this a story that needs to be heard,  yet people question and even attempt to discredit the story. Some on the Internet questioned Quaden’s age. Why,  I don’t know. Some claimed the mother of Quaden was financially benefiting from the video. The most noteworthy was the story was twisted into a conspiracy theory that Quaden was an 18-year-old scammer (see Conspiracy Theory). Why the negativity?

In my author talks, I define bullying as “when you keep picking on someone because you think you’re cooler, smarter, stronger or better than them.” These bullies—hurting people who are taking their pain out on Quaden—see him as physically different from them, so I can only speculate that they feel entitled to harass him. They are obviously insensitive, uncaring individuals  who fail to understand how hurtful their bullying is. When bullying causes someone to contemplate suicide, it is heartbreaking.

The fact is, we are all members of the human race and therefore deserve to be treated accordingly. It reminds me of Act 3, scene 1 of the Shakespearean play, Merchant of Venice, where Shylock, a Jew, confronts two Christians. Shylock says:

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, actions, passions…warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die…”

Every human being has feelings, needs, and desires. We all want to be happy, feel loved and respected. We are the same physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Size, shape, and colour does not matter.  Why are people so intolerant of differences? I don’t get it. Talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres says:

“We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.”

She is right! As she says, “…if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy” then bullying would decline; maybe even stop. I’ve said in  previous posts, there is a very simple solution to bullying, and that is following the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Every major World Religion and philosophy promotes this rule. If only people would start following it.

Remembrance Day, a Day to Yearn for Peace

A commentary on war and peace.

It amazes me how fast annual events come. Once again, November 11th Remembrance Day is upon us. It is the day of the year that marks the anniversary of the official ending of World War I, and in Canada Remembrance Day is a public holiday and federal statutory holiday with a notable exception of Nova Scotia, North West Territories, Ontario and Quebec. All Commonwealth Nations—an organization of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire—observe this day as a day to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.

Since visiting Vimy Ridge and the Normandy Beaches in France four years ago, my wife and I have a much stronger appreciation for all soldiers and the sacrifice they made to maintain peace and freedom in our world. Visiting both WWI and WWII military cemeteries was a humbling experience to say the least. What shocked us the most was the age of many of the soldiers, some as young as 17 years old. We now attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies with much more gratitude and appreciation for all soldiers.

We Canadians, as well as all world citizens, must consider Remembrance Day an important day to observe. It is essential that we remember the soldiers who have lost their lives or put their lives on the line to protect the rights of its citizens.

Having said that, I began to wonder why we don’t have days that honour those who work towards peace. Why not a national holiday devoted to the promotion of peace. To my surprise, such a day exists. Why have I never heard of it? The United Nations (UN) International Day of Peace, or Peace Day, is observed around the world each year on September 21st. The UN established this day in 1981 with a unanimous United Nations resolution, and “Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace” according to the International day of Peace website.

A Culture of Peace News Network survey in 2019 found internet reports concerning more than 655 celebrations of the International Day of Peace from 103 countries around the world. These included 280 events occurring in all states of the United States and 6 provinces of Canada, 144 events in Europe, 54 in countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, 53 in Africa, and 53 in Latin America and the Caribbean. There were 50 events in Asia and the Pacific, and 21 from Arab and Middle Eastern countries.

Only 6 provinces in my country held events? When I checked, the province in which I live, Alberta, did nothing. Is peace not a goal for Albertans? Every country, every state, and every province should be holding events on Peace Day. Let’s be honest, our world is at one of it’s most divided times in history. The potential for another world conflict is once again high. The idea of a planet getting along peacefully, respecting the planet’s diverse cultures and peoples, and living in harmony is badly needed. Every country on this planet, and every citizen living on this planet, should be excited about a day for peace that would promote a more peaceful existence.

There are always those pessimists who say, “peace will never be possible.” With that attitude, they’re probably right, but perhaps a global day to celebrate peace could change the attitudes of pessimists.

New Internationalist is a leading independent media organization dedicated to socially conscious journalism. It has an article called, 10 steps to world peace, which outlines a plan; a plan that I believe has merit.

  1. Stamping out exclusion. When corrupt elites prevent a decent life for the majority of people, an injustice occurs.
  2. Bring true equality between women and men. The larger a country’s gender gap, the more likely it is to be involved in violent conflict, according to research.
  3. Share wealth fairly. According to a World Bank survey, 40 per cent of those who join rebel groups do so because of a lack of economic opportunities.
  4. Tackle climate change. Ecological stress from global warming is proven to worsen conflicts over natural resources.
  5. Control arms sales. Promotion of arms sales and heavy military spending heightens global tensions.
  6. Atonement for past aggression on the international stage. The conditions forced upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, WWI’s peace treaty, were severe and widespread and set the seeds for WWII. I would also suggest reconciliation for past aggression on indigenous peoples must also happen.
  7. Protect political space. Across the world public dissent must be defended from repressive tools such as unplanned administrative regulation, misuse of anti-terrorist measures, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture and murder.
  8. Fix intergenerational relations. Much conflict can be understood as a youth revolt against established corrupt systems run by, largely, older men. Recent climate change activism led by Greta Thunberg is a example of this.
  9. Build an integrated peace movement. International Day of Peace could be a way to achieve this.
  10. Look within. Peace starts with you and me.

There is no question that some countries are more peaceful than others. In fact, according to Global Finance’s article, The Most Peaceful Countries In The World 2019, the

most peaceful nations also enjoy lower interest rates, a stronger currency and higher foreign investment—not to mention better political stability and stronger correlation with the individual level of perceived happiness.

According to the 2019 Global Peace Index compiled by the international think-tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) covering 163 independent states and territories that are home to 99.7% of the world’s population, the most peaceful country in the world is Iceland, followed by New Zealand and Portugal. I’m happy to say that Canada was ranked 6 out of 163 countries. The USA was ranked 128th. To create a peaceful world, peace starts with individuals, then peaceful nations.

Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India, once said, “Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals.”  Unless humanity can reach a point where diversity is celebrated, respect is the norm, and love is the motivating factor, world peace cannot happen.

Really the answer to achieve world peace is very simple. Leaders of countries must live by the Golden Rule. This Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is found in most religions and cultures. In some religions, the Golden Rule is considered an ethic of reciprocity. This rule appears in the positive or negative:

  • Treat others as you would like others to treat you (positive)
  • Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated (negative)
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathetic)

This principle is found in the Christian scriptures in Luke 6:31 which says, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (New American Standard Bible). If all people followed this rule, peace would occur and there would no longer be a need for soldiers.

These Pathogens Have Not Been Eradicated?

A commentary on the state of our world.

A Pow Wow my wife and I attended two years ago.

Last week my wife, a friend, and I attended an event called, “Meet the Inuit.” It was a series of talks by Inuit, Metis and Indigenous speakers, along with cultural performances. Many speakers said things that caught my attention. One Indigenous speaker talked about the clash of two cultures; Indigenous, Inuit, and Metis cultures verses European culture.

This made sense to me. Indigenous culture is present orientated—time conscious without clocks—whereas European Canadians are future oriented—time conscious with clocks. Indigenous Canadians (likely all Indigenous peoples) share their possessions freely—at least traditionally,  cooperate, are spiritual, and live in harmony with nature whereas European Canadians are savers and hoarders, compete for goods, driven by capitalism, and try to conquer nature. The world views of these two groups are vastly different.

Some of the speakers shared their experiences in the Residential Schools. It always strikes me when a Residential School survivor speaks of being taken away from their parents at ages 4 or 5, given haircuts and new clothes, told never to speak their native tongue, kept from their siblings who were attending the same school, and forced to stay several years in an unwelcoming large building. One speaker even told us how his brother literally was taken off the street by government agents without his parents being informed. His parents thought his brother had gone  missing.

CBC News has an article titled, Genocide against Indigenous Peoples, reports that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, now deems the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada a genocide. Previously, the museum had said Indigenous Peoples faced cultural genocide rather than genocide.

The United Nations’ convention on Genocide (1948) says a genocide is:

  1. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  2. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  3. forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

As The Star’s article, Cultural genocide?  says;

Canada did not pack Indigenous people onto train cars and send them to be gassed, or march them into fields and execute them with machine-gun fire. However, our country committed not “cultural” genocide, but just regular genocide.

We forcibly took children from families — sometimes at gunpoint — and flew them to remote locations they could not escape — sometimes in tiny handcuffs — where they were submitted to a program of forced labour and “education” designed to destroy their cultures and civilizations. This desire to destroy cultures seems to be the reasoning for various public figures’ use of the adjective “cultural” before genocide. The other reason, I presume, is that some cling tightly — and childishly — to the idea that Canada has always been on the side of goodness and justice, and they find it very hard to accept, admit, and announce that we are a country that committed a program of genocide that lasted for many decades.

Results of Rwandan Genocide

Let’s call “a spade a spade.” Canada committed genocide against our Indigenous, Inuit and Metis people; a genocide no different than the ones committed by Nazi Germany during WWII, or Rwanda in 1990s.  I must confess, I was one of those Canadians that held to the idea that Canada has always been on the side of goodness and justice. I no longer think that, and I now recognize that Canada has a dark past. Let us not forget the Japanese Internment during WWII; another dark part of our history.

One of the Indigenous speakers talked about how our greatest hurdles come from within. He spoke about what he called, The Six Social Pathogens.

Merriam-Webster defines a pathogen as a specific causative agent of disease. It typically refers to a bacterium or virus, but in the context of the speaker, a pathogen is a causative agent of the disease of racism. The six pathogens are: assumptions, presumptions, stereotyping, profiling, bias (for, or against), and misappropriation of feelings. This speaker says everyone—whether we’re aware of it or not—has some or all of the for mentioned pathogens working within us.

Before I go any further, let’s define the six pathogens. An assumption refers to something that is accepted as true without proof, whereas a presumption refers to an idea that is considered to be true on the basis of probability. Stereotyping is a set idea that people have about what a person, or group of people, are like. Profiling is the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behaviour. A bias is a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned.  Misappropriation means to put to a wrong use, so misappropriation of feelings is putting our feelings to a wrong use.

These six pathogens don’t just apply to attitudes towards the Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit people. They can apply to any group. As I observe what is happening in my country and the world, I would argue that these pathogens are presently very active. A Statistics Canada report in 2016 (the latest statistics I could find), revealed that the number of violent hate crimes rose 16% from the previous year, driven by increases in common assault, criminal harassment and uttering threats.” A 2014 Statistics Canada report found that, in two-thirds of cases, victims of crimes don’t report these hate crimes to the police.

As long as these six pathogens are alive and active, and there is a “us verses them” attitude, racism, prejudices, hate crimes, and so on, will continue. As long as we identify with a tribe instead of the human race, there will be conflict. As long as Christians, or Jews, or Hindus, or Muslims, or Buddhists think their faith is the right faith, there will be religious conflict. As long as there is masculism, there will be feminism. As long as feminist seeks to promote the rights and equality of women—which they should—and see themselves as equal with men, there will be misogyny, which is the disrespect and oppression of women.

As long as conservatives, as opposed to liberals, think their philosophy is best, there will be political tensions. As long as there are people who believe in “White Supremacy,” there will be racism and hate crimes. As long as there is ethnocentrism—The Cultural Superiority Complex, there will be anti-immigration. I could go on and on. Neale Donald Walsch, in one of his Conversations With God books, said, “Your way is not the only way. It’s just a way.”  We humans need to integrate that. Unless humans are willing to understand and accept differences, our planet is headed down a dark path.

Now, I had to ask myself: Do I have these pathogens? When I thought about it, and was completely honest with myself, the answer is yes. Have I made assumptions, or presumptions? Yes. I once believed Christianity was the superior religion. Did I stereotype? Yes. I once thought that people living on the streets were just too lazy to get a job. Did I profile? Yes. I targeted “unique” individuals in high school. Did I have biases. Yes. I had preconceived ideas about Indigenous people—they were lazy, drunks, etc.—until I educated myself. Were my feelings misappropriated? Yes.  I had my opinions about the LGBT community until I got to know some of their members. I would judge people based on first impressions, when I knew nothing about them, or knew anything about their story. In other words, I didn’t follow the Muslim proverb:  To understand a man, you’ve got to walk a mile in his shoes, whether they fit or not. Other variations of this proverb are: walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, put oneself in another’s shoes, put oneself in another’s place, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Now, I try to do this; I try and  understand others and avoid judging them. I’m not saying I’m always successful, but I try.  If humanity did the same, perhaps our planet would be in a better place.

Tribalism Isn’t Working, so There Needs to be a Better Way

A commentary on our present state of democracy.

The province where I live is presently immersed in an election to determine who will govern  for the next four years. As I educate myself and watch the campaigning, I am alarmed.  Why you ask? The Edmonton Journal’s article, Controversies hound numerous MLA hopefuls ahead of Tuesday’s election, outlines numerous candidates, most from one political party, who have posted homophobic, Islamophobic, and white supremacist comments on social media. There are other controversies as well, such as one of the parties being under RCMP investigation for voter fraud and a “kamikaze’ scheme during the leadership race, yet people continue to support this party. I don’t understand why.

More and more, it feels like elections and politics are becoming increasingly divisive and polarized. Politicians show no shame in provoking anger, attacking one another, bolstering fear, and pitting people against each other. This certainly is true for the provincial election happening right now. I see it in our Federal politics as well, with the current Prime Minister and his government attacking the opposition leader and his party and visa versa. Threats of lawsuits for defamation of character are taunted. Then there is the United States, the most polarized country with its president constantly attacking someone and most definitely displaying these polarized views.

I’ve gone through numerous elections before, so I’m trying to understand what is happening in this one. I don’t recall them being so divisive before. It could be my memory, but I don’t believe so. We seem to be living in turbulent times. Recently, someone helped me understand what is happening. He said—not  in these exact words—’our democratic system is based on tribalism’. What is he talking about?

The Oxford Dictionary defines tribalism​ as “the state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes,” and “the behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.” Yes, this is what is happening in our politics. We have tribes—political parties with specific philosophies on how to govern—with members loyal to the tribe, that is, political party, and its tribe members refuse to consider philosophies different from the one they align themselves with.

From Debate.org

I see two main philosophies; conservatism and liberalism, or some may say the progressives. The Oxford Dictionary defines conservatism as “commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation,” and “the holding of political views that favour free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas.” It defines Liberalism as, “willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas,” and “favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms.” That same dictionary defines progressives as “an idea favouring social reform,” and “favouring change or innovation.”

That appears to be it. Both philosophies are found in most democratic countries,  and its people are aligned with one or the other. In Canada, some of our political parties even have these words in their names. Federally, we have the Conservative Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Canada. In my province, we have a Liberal Party and the United Conservative Party (UCP). In the U.S. there are the Democrats—the tribe that follows liberal/progressive philosophy—and the Republicans—a conservative philosophy. Even churches like the Catholic church is divided into conservatives and liberals. I’ll be honest about which tribe I align with. It’s the Liberal tribe as we have to be open to new ideas, since many of the old ways are not working.

From my point of view, political tribalism is failing us. As I mentioned earlier, it stokes anger, promotes attacks on one another, bolsters fear, and pits people against each other. I’ve read many of the comments on political stories involving the provincial election, and people are nasty, and insults are written to those who oppose their views. Conservatism is strong in rural areas of my province, and my experience has been most are unwilling to listen to other points of view. They dig into their positions and refuse to listen to counter arguments. This is NOT healthy!

The New York Times has an opinion article called, The Destructive Dynamics of Political Tribalism, which outlines the many ways tribal politics is detrimental to our societies. Canada’s Maclean’s Magazine has an article titled, Tribalism is tearing Canada apart. The title needs no explanation.

There must be a better way; a gentler, kinder, and more cooperative way. I’ve pondered this and the only system that makes sense to me is a system of governance involving consensus, which means a general agreement must occur in decision-making.

Wikipedia explains consensus decision-making as,

a group decision-making process in which group members develop, and agree to support a decision in the best interest of the whole group or common goal. Consensus may be defined professionally as an acceptable resolution, one that can be supported, even if not the ‘favourite’ of everyone.”

Wikipedia says consensus decision-making aims to be:

  1. Agreement Seeking: A consensus decision-making process attempts to generate as much agreement as possible.
  2. Collaborative: Participants contribute to a shared proposal and shape it into a decision that meets the concerns of all group members .
  3. Cooperative: Participants in an effective consensus process strive to reach the best possible decision for the group and all its members, rather than competing for personal preferences.
  4. Egalitarian: All members of a consensus decision-making body are afforded, as much as possible, equal input into the process. All members could present, and amend proposals.
  5. Inclusive: As many stakeholders as possible should be involved in the consensus decision-making process.
  6. Participatory: The consensus process should actively solicit the input and participation of all decision-makers.
The Legislative Building of the NWT.

Does consensus decision-making exist in governance today? Absolutely. Consensus democracy government is alive and well in Canada as it is used in two of Canada’s three territories; Northwest Territories and Nunavut. These Legislatures are designed so politicians sit in a circle, symbolizing a unity of purpose.  In Provincial Legislatures, opposing parties sit across from each other, symbolizing opposing views. It’s interesting to note that the population of these territorial jurisdictions are a majority of Indigenous people.

Consensus democracy government stems from the Indigenous culture. I’ve always maintained that the traditional Indigenous people have always done things right, and this is but another example. A blog by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. called What does traditional consensus decision making mean? explains some of the roots of this form of governance. I know many of you are thinking “no way consensus democracy would work because it is impossible to get everyone to agree.” This blog explains,

Consensus is not the same as unanimity. Consensus means a group or community arrives at a consensus by listening to the opinions and concerns of others – they work towards a suitable decision. Not everyone is necessarily pleased with the outcome but they realize it is the best decision for the community. Unanimity requires that everyone involved agrees.

This is how governments should work, and need to work. Perhaps it is time for democratic countries to seriously look at alternatives, such as consensus democracy. Just because tribal politics has been our the way till now, doesn’t mean we can’t make a change for the better.

When Will the Meanness End?

As a teacher, I spent my entire career trying to instill in my students the values of respect, responsibility, honesty, integrity, kindness, and compassion. I know many of my colleagues did as well. We tried, as teachers, to show students that bullying behaviour was unacceptable, and not the way to solve problems. We also taught that all people were equal and that racism was immoral.

What is discouraging is the amount of bullying I see happening in the world. The World Health Organization defines bullying as, “repeated exposure of one person to physical and/or emotional aggression including teasing, name calling, mockery, threats, harassment, taunting, hazing, social exclusion or rumours.”  Here are two recent examples.

The Edmonton Journal reported that an Edmonton, Alberta mosque received a detestable letter in January of this year. Here are some of the highlights of the letter:

“On behalf of real Albertans, we would like to advise you that you and your religion [Muslims] don’t belong here in Alberta…We are White. We are Christians. We are Proud…Our Premier to be…is going to take Alberta back…We are not racist. We just want our way of life back.”

What amazes me is the author(s) say they speak on behalf of real Albertans. For those who may not know, an Albertan is a person who lives in Alberta, one of the ten provinces in Canada. I googled ‘real Albertans’ because I really don’t know what a real Albertan is. I could not find a definition. By the tone of the letter, I would say I am not a real Albertan, even though I was born, raised, and lived here all my life.

The letter says ‘we are White’ and ‘We are Christians.” I’m also white and raised Christian. A declaration of ‘we are white’ can only be interpreted as a declaration of white supremacy. Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines white supremacy as a “person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.” So, that definitely makes me not a real Albertan as I think ALL humans are equal. That is what the UN Declaration of Human Rights says in Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Now what astonishes me the most about this terrible letter is the declaration, “We are Christian.” There is nothing Christian about this letter’s message. Romans 2:11, in the Christian Bible says, “For God shows no partiality.” Furthermore, Mark 12:31 commands, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” The message of the letter is the opposite. There is NOTHING Christian about this letter’s message.

The declaration, “We are not racist,” in the letter is what astounds me the most. Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” The letter’s declaration of “We are White” infers whites are superior. Clearly the author(s) of this letter are racist and don’t know what a racist is, nor what a Christian is.

In January of this year, CTV News reported that a threatening letter was left on the doorstep of a Leduc, Alberta Indigenous family urging them to ‘move out’.  The letter said, ‘We do not like your kind’. This is eerily similar to a letter I referred to in an earlier blog post, Should we be worried.  That letter, like this one, was signed “Your friendly Neighbours.” There is nothing friendly about a letter that threatens. The authors of this letter are hypocrites.

Furthermore, this is a racist letter. The author(s) are suggesting superiority of a particular race—the white race—for they stated, ‘We do not like your kind’.  They disapproved of the family’s “lifestyle,” criticizing the upkeep of the family’s home. The writers wrote, “If you cannot take care of your property, then go back to the Indian reservation where it is accepted…We gave you land and you need to respect the generosity.”

The last statement is insulting, as the author(s) clearly don’t know Canada’s history. Indigenous people are the original peoples—thus why they are referred to as First Nations People—of Canada. A website of the government of British Columbia (another Canadian province), also called B.C. says, “Indigenous people have lived in the area now known as B.C. for more than 10,000 years.” Europeans, on the other hand, landed in Canada in 1497 with the expedition of John Cabot. Really, the Norsemen (Vikings) were the first in Canada dating to around the year 1000. L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland and Labrador is the only confirmed Norse archeological site in North America, and is widely accepted as evidence. Indigenous people were in Canada long before Europeans.  This is why the letter’s statement, “We gave you land and you need to respect the generosity,” is absurd. If anyone was generous, it was the Indigenous people who welcomed and allowed the Europeans to stay.

I like to believe that we teachers made a difference in instilling values into our students. I’ve had parents tell me we have. But, it only takes one person to undermine what teachers and parents do. The Psychology Today’s article, The Trump Effect: An Update, says,

“Last spring, we wrote a two-part post about “The Trump Effect,” which was originally defined as an increase in bullying in schools caused by the rhetoric Donald Trump used during his presidential campaign. Now, a year into Mr. Trump’s presidency, the definition of The Trump Effect has expanded to include religious and racial bullying by adults as well as: misogyny, sexual assault, and other socially unacceptable behaviours.”

The article goes on to say,

“Free speech and expressing our opinion is a constitutional right. It’s up to others whether or not they want to listen. But when the speaker is POTUS, we all listen. And when the president’s use of provocative rhetoric that causes harm to others, including and especially innocents, or when he behaves in previously unacceptable ways, what can we do? What should we do?

First, we can realize the only person we have control over is ourselves. We control what we think, what we choose to say, and how we act and react. We can choose to be harsh and damaging, or to be kind and compassionate.”

It is not fair to put all the blame on the current resident of the White House, as there are other world leaders spewing rhetoric promoting racism and bullying. However, Trump is likely the single most negative influence in North America. This childish man has brought out the worst in some people and his rhetoric is impacting my country. What Trump has taught me is our world needs more love, kindness and compassion.  Thankfully, there are good people. Neighbours of the Leduc Indigenous family overwhelming came out supporting the family. (see Hateful letter backfires).

A TRUE Christian speaks out against unkindness, racism and bullying. Christian or not, that is what we need to do. I think Francis of Assisi said it best in the Serenity Prayer. “Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.”  Or as the Christian Bible says in 1 John 4:20,

“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” If the authors of these letters claim to be Christian, then they need to act as one.