Saturday, 24 September 2016

One Tribe

A short while ago I took a vacation.
I visited some folks in Sault Ste Marie and some other folks in North Bay. During the eight day sojourn, I travelled 2600 kilometres, met a bear, stood twenty feet from a young buck, climbed waterfalls and kayaked to my childhood camp. It was a trip down memory lane and an exploration of new places all in one holiday.
And, despite an eight hour thunderstorm while sleeping in a tent, it was relatively relaxing.
Our ability to travel is much easier than it once was. For whatever reason, I'm reminded of the movie Seven Years in Tibet when travel was longer, gear was weightier and stays in one place were longer. In our technological age, we tend to flit from sightseeing flower to sightseeing flower all the while claiming we've “been there”.
We've “seen there” yet really haven't “been there”.
Our reach has become global in a relatively short period of time. A two or three week vacation can take us to countries around the globe when it wasn't so long ago those same journeys would take months or years. Our ability to move our personal energy mass around has increased while the depth of our intimacy with a place we visit has declined.
Travel isn't all that has become global.
That ability to move from place to place with relative ease has opened the world up to economic markets we never knew existed not much more than a hundred years ago. While long distance trade has become easier and quicker, particularly with the advent of the internet, we still cling to the notion of tribes. Our country has become our tribe and within those countries are further tribes called states, and provinces. And further, we have tribes with city and town and village names. We used to know everyone in our neighbourhood and could count on them in times of need.
Not so much anymore.
We have become a global corporate conglomerate. We have friends who are dotted around the globe. We have global institutions. Our monies move globally with the click of a mouse. (Thirty years ago if I had said I clicked a mouse I would have been told to leave the fucking mouse alone.) We have international organizations and certain international laws. We move arms around the world like pieces on a chess board without anyone really knowing who is doing what. We have secret societies in enclaves, real or fictitious, where no-one with a modicum of common sense would step foot.
We have a global peace keeping force that can't keep the peace.
What we don't have is global policing and global governance and global industrial laws.
Recently there have been implications of high ranking officials, wealthy people and corporations moving operations or hiding funds in countries with little or no tax. By doing so, they avoid paying taxes in their own country. It has also become common for criminals to seek asylum in countries without extradition treaties. All of this while we still grapple with pockets of atrocities both abroad and at home.
Why do you suppose there are so many refugees? Huh? If things were hunky-dory in their country, they wouldn't want to seek refuge in our countries. Right? RIGHT?
I have nothing against rescuing refugees. Under the current system around the globe, it is our only option when people are downtrodden or ostracized or are being killed. However, the best option is to repair that which ails the countries where these people are coming from. Without a global government, this will never happen. The U.N. Hasn't the teeth and, in many cases, industrialized countries don't give a shit. Instead, we continue to hide behind thin red lines on a map and claim “it isn't our problem”. Instead, we pick and choose who we help or don't help, often because of economy rather than empathy.
The time for a world government with teeth has come.
The time to stop dispensing rockets and guns and bullets like they're popping from a Pez dispenser has come.
The time to end corporate over human decision making has come.
The time to stop ignoring atrocities because there isn't economic gain has come.
The time to stop “legal” money laundering by those who “have” has come.
The time to bring all citizens of all countries up to an acceptable standard of living and of safety has come.
The time for a global view rather than a tribal view has come.
The only way this works is for all country's leaders to be involved. It isn't a matter of one country opting in and another opting out. All countries leaders are compelled to sit at the table. Yes, even those country's leaders who we disagree with. This system for governance cannot be based on the ideals of one nation. It must be based on the ideals of all humanity with humility.

The time has come to become one tribe.

Thursday, 15 September 2016


I want to meet Juan Valdez and ask him why my coffee was crap this morning.
We used to know who made our stuff.
I was reading a book called “Glass, Paper, Beans” by Leah Hagar Cohen. I've never read her stuff before, yet the book compelled me to pick it up one day while browsing at a used book store. Sometimes shit just calls your name, ya know? The subject matter caught my attention. The premise of the book was the stories of the people behind what we use every day. In this case, the author is sitting in a coffee shop reading the daily paper. Thus the title and ultimate history lesson about glass mugs, the newsprint industry and coffee production.
We really have no idea regarding the stories behind our stuff.
For the record, Juan Valdez does not exist. He and his trusty mule bandying about some Columbian mountainside are figments of an advertising wizard's fertile imagination.
There is a push on to buy local stuff. I see it every day in store windows and internet posts and advertisements. But what does this mean? If I buy a banana from a local shopkeeper, do I know the story behind the production and processing of that banana? The last time I checked, we don't grow bananas in Canada which means it came from elsewhere. Presumably, I might know the shopkeeper. Beyond that it's pretty much a crap shoot.
Someone once suggested to me I buy a suit from a local producer. Thus, I would know who made the article. In truth, I don't know who made the article. I know who cut the fabric and sewed it together but I don't know the person who produced the cloth and thread and buttons and zipper nor do I know the person who assembled the machine which stitched it all up. The only person I really knew was the person stitching the cloth together.
Even then, would I know they were the one to stitch it together?
Much of what we buy originates elsewhere, constructed by faceless people (or equally faceless machines). In our global economy, the food container could be from China, the metal to make the container from Europe, the edible contents from Brazil and the labels from Canada. How do I really know where anything truly comes from?
All Canadian Beef!
Um... really? Is the farmer here to verify that?
The world economy has become faceless and thus, emotionless. There was a time when we knew the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. They all lived down on Drury Lane with the Gingerbread Man. I knew whose farm my steak came from. I knew the growers of corn and beans and carrots. I knew the weavers of cloth and the builders of chairs. Even now I can go to a farmer's market and meet the grower. Yet, I would bet beyond a reasonable doubt they didn't manufacture the bag or the labels or the cute little berry basket.
It isn't possible to know exactly where things come from any longer. I do get the premise behind buying local and one must also keep in mind the faceless box store corporations employ several people on my block. What do we do with them when the store closes?
This in no way means I shun local stores. In fact, I use them as much as possible. At the same time, I try to be realistic about the origins of certain items.
There are many stories out there. I think it's far too easy to not notice the young man behind the counter paying his way through university or the single mom at the big box store who is worried about what to feed her kids that night. Those are the real stories behind our stuff. Those are the real people.
I think it's important to recognize the mug which contains my morning coffee came from a small company in a town in New Jersey which employs an elderly man who has been pushing the same buttons for 35 years, is close to retirement, who frets over how he will pay his bills come next July when they push him out the door, who only wants to be home with his adored wife of 42 years and to tend to his gardens in the back yard with his grandchildren.
That's the guy I want to know.

Real people behind my stuff.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Common Sense with Bears

During my recent trip to the hinterlands of Northern Ontario, I met a bear.
Before I go further regarding the bruin, the “Hinterlands” of Northern Ontario are much more civilized than our southern cousins give credit and there are quite a few people in that stick-ridden, backward boondocks who know they are far better off than those occupying the smoggy, concrete jungles of the south. Yet, folks in the south of the province are convinced those of us from the north are flea-bitten, bearskin wearing, slow learning, axe wielding, red-plaid Neanderthals without the sense to move to the warmer climes. In fairness, there are fleas in the north, just not as many because the natural predators who eat them aren't smothered in tarmac, concrete, and lawn fertilizer.
But, that's another story.
As it often seems, I come back from Away to Not Away with a slightly different orientation than before I was Away. Yeah... that sounds weird to me too.
Back to the bear.
While camping in Pancake Bay Provincial Park, my partner and I decided going for a morning hike was a delightful idea. Why not, right? We're both hikers (outdoors people in general, really) and we were in prime country for just such an activity. As we're heading into the trail (not more than three minutes), we see a bear on the opposite side of a stream. As sentient homo-sapiens are wont, we automatically apply human principals to non-human, non-biped, fur, scale or feather bearing life forms and surmise the previously mentioned bear will remain on the other side of the stream.
The bear, with only bear-conceived ideals, had other thoughts.
He crossed the stream at a pace that far exceeded our previous erroneous conceptualization of bear speed... toward the path we were negotiating. Needless to say (or perhaps I should say), common sense prevailed and we backed out of the woods fairly quickly. My last glance back at the bear was a glimpse of him peeking curiously over a knoll at two abruptly less intrepid bipeds retreating to the road.
The human constructed road seemed safer, as if a bear, which lives in a park crisscrossed with roads, had never conceived of the notion to walk on the frigging road.
Man, we are a dumb species.
Later in the morning, I needed to make a morning visit to the latrine.
Yours truly discovered that bears, indeed, are mobile. After finishing my morning duties, I heard a sound outside the public convenience. Caution hasn't always been a strong suit of mine so I opened the door. There, not ten feet away, was my quadruped bush buddy. I had a sudden urge to repeat perform my morning duties. The bear wasn't looking at me nor did he seem to pay much attention. Still, I decided under the circumstances a vewy, vewy quiet retreat back behind the door might be the better part of valour.
We are an odd lot, are we not?
Our species, under its current condition, seems to have a fantastical misconception about almost everything. Firstly, determining what is a true threat and what isn't seems to be a matter of individual judgement. There are those reading this who will believe they could have walked up to the bear. There are others who might think my retreat was not linked to valour at all. There are still others who would have ignored the bear and continued blithely on with their day. Who's to say what the outcome may have been under different circumstances. The bear was young; probably less than two yet already away from its mother.
The whole incident sort of made me consider a lot of recent events and happenings.
Was Prime Minister Trudeau really photo-bombing a wedding with his shirt off at a beach or perhaps a wedding party at a beach was a complete surprise?
Is Donald Trump really presidential material?
Is Hillary Clinton really presidential material?
Are there really radio waves being heard from space?
Was the temperature really hotter this summer or was El Nino just being a bit of a prat?
Is it really necessary for a pipeline to pass through native land?
Does Nestle really have more right to water than the rest of us?
We can debate opposite sides of issues until we are blue in the face. Oftener than not, most events have so many sides to them we haven't the foggiest what the truth is. To some, Donald Trump is the perfect antidote to a troubled America. To others, Hillary is the perfect continuation of President Obama's legacy.
Some think aliens are trying to contact us and have purchased copious amounts of tinfoil hat materials.
Perhaps one should use common sense when deciding whether something is real or fiction. Not the common sense manufactured by industry, politics and Hollywood star-gazers. No. The common sense I am referring to is the kind that is; a) based on common knowledge and, b) represents the common good.
If the actions taken by a group are not for the common good of all, then it isn't common sense. Insert any decision choosing corporations, government or large institution over the needs of people. If actions taken do not serve the good of all people, then they are not common sense, regardless of how it's spun.
Common sense told me to leave the bear alone. Wild things do not require human contact and tend to survive much better without us interfering. Common sense also tells me to stop watching the news because of its over-hyped manipulation of the truth. Common sense tells me some starlet seen knotting laces at Bergdorf Goodman's isn't news. Common sense tells me we are living in a fantasy world of someone's creation and expecting to hear the truth from their lips when it's in their best interest to keep the fantasy going.
Common sense tells me the interests of large institutions and their profit margin are less important than the humans they impact.

Common sense tells me people are crazy.