By walking I found out
Where I was going.
By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.
By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.
Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.
From hypocrisy, I wove directness.
Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.
And I shall be where I started from.
Last month, I had the pleasure of seeing journalist/war correspondent/author Chris Hedges speak at the Bloor St. United Church. Hedges is one of the few critics of American hegemony that I truly respect; one that is accessible, and while filled with some modicum of doom and gloom, still has rays of hope shining through it. Due to his religious backing, I feel that his compassion and understanding of how the American system and populace works is both balanced and interested in finding a way to salvage whatever we can of our society, through community building.
Chris comes to Canada often. His wife is a Canadian, hailing from the GTA, and he seems to exude an air of appreciation and excitement for our country – well, our country sans Harper. It was my second time seeing him speak (the first time being at the Get Up! Stand Up! event in Toronto this past May), and just like the previous time, he both enlightened and moved me. Speaking on subject matter from the death of the liberal class (an expansion on his novel) to how we’re living in the Age of Thanatos (an age of perpetual war and death catering to the death instinct). Another positive note to his talks is that he is always able to feel — something that I think is uncommon. I hear people speak who care about society, but every time I have seen Hedges speak, he has moved me to tears, not to mention that he often tears up himself at the remembrance of some of the atrocities he has faced.
On Friday, he was surrounded by those who hung off of his every word; sycophants if you will… those who clapped and hooted at every second word and those who stared at him adoringly for the entire 2 1/2 hours. I was among those (but definitely cognizant of how I was exhibiting signs of idol worship to no end). I really appreciate his emphasis on rejuvenating the liberal class. He delved into issues about why the liberal class had successfully saved our society time and time again, as it is our ‘safety valve’. Hedges purports that since we do not formally adopt certain liberal ideology as a system, it has the ability to reform and change our society for the better. “Movements that held fast to moral achievements but never gained from a positions of power” were the ones that saved and shaped our society. Chris really pushed the idea of unions through this point. He urged us, as Canadians, to push for unions and to support our existing unions.
As always, with events like this, I leave feeling motivated, inspired and humbled. I left feeling a need to change my life in several ways; looking to things that Hedges brought up that really resounded with me and my current situation. Lately, I have been feeling lost, and sometimes it’s amazing to hear someone, someone who is so able to take a critical, and factual look at our society, help emphasize the things I don’t want to be a part of. I am so thankful for moments like that.
I look forward to seeing him again, and to have him remind me that while there is a lot of things to be sad over in this world (climate change, unjust war, poverty, immense class divide, etc.) there is hope, and possibility. And that’s all that we could ever hope for. Currently I am reading Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Illustrated by Joe Sacco). It is a hauntingly in-depth look at America’s Sacrifice Zones. I spend most of my time weeping while I read this book. I HIGHLY recommend it.
Photo cred to my very talented friend, Dan Campo.
I may be a little late on this, but it is such a worrisome thing, that I struggle often on how to actually convey my thoughts without sputtering with anger. I swing between intense fear and sadness for what is going on in Canada, and disbelief of how little I hear about the truth behind the oil sands project.
When I do delve deeper, I am frightened and so worried about what is to come: the oil spills, the contaminated water, the death of thousands of species… all for what? Money? Pandering to big oil? This surely cannot be in the name of mankind’s longevity, because it is far too short sighted for that. We are allowing the destruction of not only our country, but our future. Climate change is happening; the government of Canada is our guide us down to Hades and across the River Styx.
The biggest argument is income for Canadians, but let’s be real here, the truth is that most of the companies extracting the oil are foreign.
Anyway, I am becoming increasingly aware and infuriated with the lack of media coverage on this topic. I bet half the Canadian electorate has no idea that on June 1st, Alberta experienced the worst oil spill in North American history, killing off 42 hectares of Boreal Forest. I hadn’t been so passionate about the subject—well I knew what was happening, and I was aware that it was bad, but just how bad was it? I stumbled upon a website and my whole view on it changed. The website Oil Sands Reality Check should upset you, frustrate you and compel you.
Among ALL the harrowing factoids provided on the site, here are some of the scariest for me:
“More than 600 million cubic feet of natural gas are used per day to extract and upgrade the oil from the tar sands. That’s enough to heat more than 3 million Canadian homes every day – almost every house in Western Canada.”
“Canadian federal taxpayers subsidize the oil industry $1.38 billion a year. And that’s not counting your Province’s subsidies to the oil industry.”
“80% of the traditional territories of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation are rendered inaccessible for periods of the year due to oil sands development.”
“A higher than normal incidence of rare and deadly cancers has been documented in First Nations communities downstream of the oil sands by doctors, the Alberta Health Department and First Nations since 2007.”
“Under current oil sands expansion plans, woodland caribou populations are expected to disappear.”
“95% of the water used in tar sands surface mining is so polluted it has to be stored in toxic sludge pits. That’s 206,000 litres of toxic waste discharged every day.”
Please check out the site and educate yourself on something SO important. Here is the link again: http://oilsandsrealitycheck.org
I just wanted to share an event that I think is particularly interesting and could be something of interest to my readers. I’m hosting an event with my MeetUp group this Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 (TOMORROW).
For those of you who have not heard of Government 2.0 or Open Data, the idea of both is to connect citizens with their elected officials in a more meaningful way.
Through use of emerging web 2.0 principals, technology and data sets, we are working towards creating a new definition for participatory democracy.The event is called: Crowdsourcing Canada’s Open Data Institute and promises to be a lively discussion with two of Canada’s Government 2.0 and Open Data advocates: Jury Konga and Dennis Brink.
I’ve attached a poster for the event (it’s free, you know!) and I really would love for you to be there (if you’re interested) or pass it on to someone who may be interested! This is my MeetUp group’s 5th event and we hope to continue bringing Toronto into the Government 2.0 scene in the future.
Does the Government of Canada need to reveal the parameters of it’s intelligence operations?
Several groups including Amnesty International Canada, OpenMedia.ca and the Council of Canadians have called for more transparency from the government regarding surveillance metadata. This push came last week when The Globe and Mail reported that in 2011, “Defence Minister Peter MacKay approved a secret electronic eavesdropping program that scours global telephone records and Internet data trails – including those of Canadians – for patterns of suspicious activity.”
Secretly conceived in 2005 by former defence minister Bill Graham, the program was temporarily put on hiatus in 2011 due to backlash from federal watchdog agencies, who expressed concern over warrantless surveillance of Canadian citizens (rightly so).
The data collection is headed off by an arm of the Department of National Defence, the CSEC, or the Communications Security Establishment Canada; and while other countries (U.K., U.S.A.) have legislative oversight of this agency and the data collection, Canada does not. The question is why? Amidst all the issues with the NSA in the U.S., at least they have legislative oversight committees watching and regulating the work. These committees are put together by elected officials and are independent of the cabinet, a stark contrast to the CSEC, which has no oversight. With the U.S. system, at least there is some non-partisan oversight (granted, I’m assuming that elected officials truly do listen to their constituents and their wellbeing), something that Canada needs to implement ASAP. This is something that we, the citizens, can push for. I understand as well that even if there is some oversight, there is no guaranteeing that an agency like this will ever work in our favour, but any transparency would be welcomed and is a necessity—we must fight to protect whatever rights that we have left.
While metadata is not so specific that it reveals what is being said, it still can give information on where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, what websites you’ve frequented, who you know (and how well you know them! eeeek). How is this data being harvested? How anonymous is this data?
I take contention with the idea that the government can know what we are up to, without any suspicion of crime or threat, while our elected officials are allowed to conduct their business in private. How is that fair? Why, in this age do I still have to worry about the possibility of my government spying on me, or if they are going to be using my own life’s happening against me? Also, what if this ‘metadata’ is being passed on to other agencies? How secure is my information? I’m pretty sure that in the last year, I’ve heard reports of government ministries loosing significant amounts of data on citizens. Thank you but no thank you. I’m increasingly becoming aware and worried about how my data is being used, and what information is out there on me.
In light of all the scandal surrounding the United States’ NSA data collection, I think it is absolutely imperative that Canada creates a form of legislative oversight over this agency. Look, I understand that collection of data is going to happen now, with all the arguments about security and past events supporting those arguments, but my main issue with all of this is how much is being decided for us citizens without public consultation. Further, I fear that there is probably not enough security over this data, and I worry about potential abuse. If I am to live in a big brother world, I would rather I have some say in it and at least have some knowledge of what is happening. This is why I think it’s SO important for people to recognize that our government needs reform; that our government only works for you if you get involved, and that in our digital world it’s so simple to get involved and know what is happening.
I guess that Canada can’t be considered as a democratic nation anymore when all the work that our government does is done in secret, without consultation, hidden away until scandal pushes it out. Sounds a bit neo-fascist or autocratic if you ask me.
With that, I will leave you with an amazing new Rap News on the NSA and Snowden.