Elizabeth May, Losing Confidence

“If I were inventing democracy from scratch, I would not have invented political parties” (p17). Yes! “Mindless partisanship insists on a team mentality. My team versus your team …” (p17).

“Decisions are made on the basis of public opinion research far more than on the basis of policy analysis by the civil service” (p75). Yeah, when did THAT start to happen?

“If a citizen truly needs the intermediation of a lobby to get the attention of policy-makers in Ottawa … then we have no real democracy” (p173).

And then there’s the FPTP (First Past the Post) system Canada uses. In the 2008 election, “The Bloc won 50 seats with 1.3 million votes, while the NDP won 37 seats with 2.4 million votes. The Green Party won just under 1 million votes … yet won no seats” (p199). ‘Nuff said.

The Corporation – Joel Bakan

Well worth the read! (A surprising, but not, answer to what the fuck is wrong with our world? How have we gotten to the point of no return?)

Prayer

Check out https://deadwildroses.com/2020/05/03/the-dwr-sunday-religious-disservice-jesus-is-a-dick/

from David Brin’s “Detritus Affected”

“Physicians swear a Hippocratic Oath whose central vow is ‘do no harm’. I wonder–how many other professions might do well to set that goal above all others?”

Excellent question.

“Look, see this broken plastic wheel? Part of a cheap toy, circa 1970. Giveaway prize in some fast food outlet’s promotional kiddie meal. Seventy grams of carboniferous petroleum cooked under limestone sediments for two hundred million years, only to be sucked up, refined, press-moulded, passed across a counter, squealed over, and then tossed in next week’s trash.”

Capernaum – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Capernaum (movie) currently on netflix.ca – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

It will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Gwynne Dyer (along with half the species) misses an obvious point

I highly recommend Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars, but I must say he misses an obvious point, especially evident when he says “There are almost seven billion of us, and it is almost impossible to imagine a way that we can stop the growth before there are eight and a half billion” (p.268) — because it’s very possible to imagine a way: men just have to stop ejaculating into women’s vaginas.

Just think: the devastating climate changes that have already begun to happen (i.e., the beginning of the now-inevitable end of life as we know it) could’ve been avoided if we’d kept our greenhouse gases to under 350 ppm — which would have been so easy if we’d kept our population to a certain level.

So it begs the question: why is not ejaculating into women’s vaginas so unimaginable for men?

Opinions, Judges, and Juries

Why is it that a prerequisite for being a jury member is that you have no opinion about the case—in particular or in general.  Those “who may have strong prejudices about the … issues involved in the case, typically will be excused” (uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/JuryService).  Only airheads need apply.

I don’t believe there are such prerequisites for judges.  So either the system is just inconsistent (ho-hum) or judges are trained to set aside their prejudices in order to render a fair judgement.  (Some judgements certainly constitute evidence to the contrary, i.e., that judges are not so trained.)

Yes, the word ‘prejudice’ is usually intended to mean something negative, but really, isn’t a prejudice just an opinion, perhaps a very strong opinion?  In ordinary contexts, the ‘pre’ in ‘prejudice’ suggests you’ve established your opinion before considering the individual facts—you’ve prejudged a person, for example, on the basis of their skin color or sex, without knowing anything about the individual person.

But in this context, if I have formed an opinion about, say, the issue of abortion, before considering the individual facts of the case (let’s assume it’s an ‘unlawful termination’ case or some such), why should that exclude me?  Isn’t it a good thing that I have thought long and carefully about various issues?  Apparently not.  When it comes to juries, only airheads need apply.  (Pity, ‘opinionated’ has become such a dirty word.)

Comedown (a short short story)

Millions of us watched, eyes glued to the nearest television.  At school, at play, at work.  Everywhere.   We held our breath. 

“Coming down nicely…  Picking up some dust…”

They had less than 30 seconds of fuel left.

“Houston, Tranquility Base here.  The Eagle has landed.”

The Eagle has landed!  We did it!  We landed on the Moon!  People cheered!

Then we saw Neil Armstrong going down the stairs.  And then those words, for all the world to hear, and remember, forever. 

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

And then Buzz Aldrin bounded  in slow motion across the surface.  The surface of the Moon!

 They took samples of the dust, collected some rocks, drilled for core samples.  And planted the flag.  The American flag.  There on the Moon.

 

It was such a—comedown.  All those years, SETI watching so closely, so persistently, people everywhere excited every time they thought they saw a UFO, and then this.

A surprise visit.

No one saw it coming.

Suddenly there was this small ship out there, heading our way.  Well, not our way.  It looked like it was going to land in the States.  Washington, probably.

So everyone scrambled to meet it.  The President, of course, with lots of security.  Men with guns.  And some sort of first contact team.  A linguist?  An anthropologist?  A biologist?  Robert J. Sawyer?  Of course not.  More men with guns.

And press.  Lots of press.  And aides pushing last minute speech revisions at the President.

And people.  My god, Americans like to crowd.  If Woodstock had 500,000 people, there must have been ten times that there in Washington.  Five million people.  Waiting.  For what?

Well, that was the question, wasn’t it.

 

Every time people watched the now-famous footage, they stopped talking when the flag was planted.  It was a sacred moment.  They’d stand and put their hands over their hearts.  If someone didn’t, well…

“Hey, aren’t you proud to be an American?”

“I guess.”  An awkward silence.  “I’m glad to be an American, sure, but—”

“Well, stand up then.  Show some respect.  That’s our flag.” 

 

The ship landed neatly.  Uneventfully.  After a while, the door opened.  A ramp unfolded.  It was just like all the sci-fi novels said it would be.

A figure appeared.  Humanoid.  It looked out at all the people, then focused on the ones nearest to him.  All of whom were just staring.  Stunned, I suspect.

“This is yours, yeah?”  It did something to the clipboard thing it was holding and the American flag wavered in the air, projected as a hologram or something.  “I’m in the right place?”

The President took a step forward then, and launched into his speech, in the  stentorian voice that got him elected.

“We greet you, we welcome you, to this great nation, the United States of America.  A nation of which we’re proud—”

“No—”

“A nation strong and—”

“Well, that’s all very good, but—”

“And free—”

“No, you’ve got it wrong, I’m—”

 

National pride, my ass.   That’s what the American public was supposed to think.  Either that or that it was a victory thing.   They were competing with the Russians, and they won.         

But every government in the world knew otherwise.   It was a claim to ownership, pure and simple.  This was the U.S., remember?  Capitalism? the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of profit?  It was like in Far and Away, that movie with Nicole Kidman, when the pioneers raced across the land trying to be the first to get to the section they wanted so they could put a stake in it, so they could claim it as theirs.  It was like during the gold rush, when miners would stake a claim wherever there was something promising, just in case. 

 

“I’m Collections.”

“And—”  The President stopped speaking.

“You’re in arrears?”  It consulted its clipboard.  “Fifty years, actually.  Comes to—oh my—967.3 trillion.”  It looked at all the blank faces.

“U. S. dollars,” it added helpfully.

They still didn’t get it.

It tried again.  “Property taxes?”

In the long and awkward silence that followed, one of the aides suggested that they retire to the Oval Office.  Or the nearest Tim Horton’s.  Well, actually, they don’t have Tim Hortons in the States, but you know what I mean.  Somewhere where the world couldn’t watch whatever was about to happen.  Because, the aide correctly surmised, it wasn’t going to be pretty.  Let alone glorious.

“Sorry, but no thanks,” the Collections Agent said to the invitation, “I’m on a schedule.  So—how would you like to pay?”

“Um, ah, we don’t have that kind of money,” the President stammered.  Unpresidentially.

“Oh, well, then, we’ll just garnish your…” it tapped away on its clipboard, “loan repayments.”

“Excellent,” the Finance Minister stepped forward.  “I’m sure you’ll find that will cover the amount in full.”

The agent tapped on his clipboard … then tapped some more…

“Actually,” it seemed to be scanning a long list, “none of your creditors appear able to pay in full.  Not the way you’ve calculated their interest.”  It looked up then.  “I’ll just collect the principals and consider the loans paid in full,” it said cheerfully.

The Finance Minister fainted.

“There are 500 American billionaires,” someone called out.  With uncertain pride.   “If each of those donated a billion dollars…”

“You’d still be short,” it called back.  “By 966.8 trillion,” it added.  Helpfully.

Again, silence.

“What about your natural resources?” it asked.

“What do you mean?” the President said.  Stupidly.

The agent had resumed tapping.  “No, I can see you…you’re getting your water from Canada?  But—  You used what you had to fill swimming pools in California instead of irrigating crops—food crops—in the Midwest?  Why would you do that?”  It looked up, genuinely puzzled.

Awkward silence.

“And you haven’t figured out how to desalinate?”  It was amazed.

“Actually, sir, m’am, your—” the Science Advisor stepped forward, eager to correct the bad impression that was clearly being made, “we have.”

“And you’re not doing it because…?”

The Science Advisor stepped back.  Quickly.

It consulted its clipboard again, then looked up in disbelief.  “And you’ve already used up all your oil—in just—” it did the math, “ten seconds?”

Embarrassed silence.  Almost, but not quite, guilty silence.

“And you haven’t figured out sun panels?  Not even windmills and watermills?  How the hell did you get to the moon?”

The Science Advisor muttered to himself.  Then left.  Just walked away.

“Look,” the Agent sighed, “I’ll give you a twenty-four hour grace period to come up with a plan for repayment.”  It retreated to its ship for a much needed drink.

The next day, a group of Nobel Laureates presented a carefully prepared plan.  They were willing to engage in a one-way exchange program, to share their knowledge, as payment.

It was a heroic thing to do.  Very patriotic.  The President promised huge rewards upon their return.  But they didn’t do it because it was heroic or patriotic.  They were trying to redeem humanity in the eyes of the alien.

When the Agent told them they’d be perfect for their teaching their six-year-olds, they beat a hasty retreat.

As a last resort, the President offered their weaponry.  Really, what else did they have?  Inventory after inventory was solemnly passed to the Agent.  The pile in its (two) arms grew.  And grew.

“What, have you guys been spending all your allowance on guns?” it quipped.

Yet another awkward silence.  To which it raised his eyebrows.

And it was clear, at least to the only woman on the President’s staff, that the meaning of raised eyebrows was multiversal.

Finally, with considerable ceremony and much-to-do, the President offered the last inventory: one hundred state-of-the-art next-generation brilliant bombs.

“I think you’ll find that covers it,” he said.  Weakly.

It opened the folder and flipped through the specs.

“’Fraid not,” it said.  “The museums won’t pay that much for these.”

“Museums?” he said, then clutched at his heart.

“Hey!” it had an idea.  “We could turn you into a tourist destination.  Sort of a Disney theme park for our kids.”

“Yes, we can do that!” the Vice-President had stepped up.  Over the President’s body.  “We have lots of Disney theme parks!  We can add more!  How many more would you like?”

“No, I meant—you’d be the entertainment.  Just as you are.”

Oh the horror

On yet another occasion during which I was stunned by one of my neighbour’s stupidity and ignorance, it suddenly occurred to me that the person I was speaking with probably hadn’t read a book since high school.

(Yes, it then occurred to me that s/he probably hadn’t read a book during high school either.)

Then it occurred to me that that was probably true for most people. 

I tried to imagine what that would be like.  What my mind would be like if I hadn’t read a book, not one book, in the last, say, forty years.

Oh the horror.

Because what could possibly go on inside such a mind?

In addition to their high school history and geography textbooks, through which they might have plodded here and there, they might have read, perhaps, a dozen novels, in all.  Library books for the annual book review assignment in English class.  Who is the main character?  Describe the setting.  What is the main conflict?

They may as well be illiterate.  They are, essentially.  They’re functionally illiterate.    Because yes, they can and probably do read package labels and price tags, but what else?

The newspaper.  Which is pretty much nothing but exposition.   Low-level description.  No analysis.  No critique.

What if everyone read just one non-fiction book a week?  What if employers rewarded them for doing so, as many of them do now for physical exercise: in addition to so many points per kilometer, because it reduces their healthcare costs, so many points per page, because —   Ah, there’s the rub.  What’s in it for them?  Nothing.  In fact, on the contrary, it’s to their advantage not to have their employees develop knowledge, understanding, critical ability.

Okay, so what if the government implemented such a reward program?  Well, it’s not really in their best interests either.  Which explains, perhaps, why the education system doesn’t mandate critical thinking courses.

Of course, if parents …    But every time they say ‘Because I said so,’ they stomp on critical thinking.  It’s just easier that way, I guess.

So in whose interests is it be critical?  Our own, of course.  Otherwise, we’re suckers to manipulation by media.  Corporations.  Government.  Anyone who puts their own self-interest before yours.

But in our society, the word ‘critical’ has negative connotations.  It’s bad to be critical.

Oh the horror.

Why is honesty rude?

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  

What?  Why is honesty rude?

What kind of society considers honesty, truth, to be less important than—what?  Social cohesion?

And that assumes that people will be offended by the truth.  If the truth is about them, I suppose that’s an accurate assumption.  But what does that say?  About people.

And actually, even if the truth isn’t about them, I suspect many people would be offended by the truth when it challenges their own views.  And what does that say?

More likely, truth has simply been trumped by self-interest.  Because if honesty does offend, for whatever reason, then the truth-speaker will be alienated, ostracized, a social outcast.  (Though, as far as I’m concerned, social inclusion is of dubious value…)

But if we’d’ve been honest every time rights collide, speaking up about the limits of freedoms, perhaps everyone wouldn’t feel so frickin’ entitled all the time.  To everything.

If we’d’ve called each other out, on anything, on everything, we’d be leading more authentic lives.

Many of my neighbours have their tvs on all the time; as a result, they do very little thinking on their own.  Not only because there is no silence, typically required for thought, but also because they’re exposing themselves so relentlessly to a worldview censored by a handful of conglomerates motivated primarily by self-interest.  And then, because there’s nothing going on in their heads, they can’t stand the silence, so they keep the tv on all the time…  But do I say “Shut that thing off and wake the fuck up!”?  Of course not.  That would be rude.

A couple of them also take RV trips.  Do I point out that they’re leaving a huge ecological footprint, that they’ve contributed to climate change, that they’re partly responsible for the increasing number and severity of storms, and that, therefore, they’ve been rather selfish and inconsiderate?  No.  I ask whether they had a good trip.

When I see a woman performing femininity, do I tell her she’s making it hard for those of us who’d like to be taken seriously, for our knowledge and our skills, not for our clownface and shoestilts?  No.

So as it is, superficiality has become a habit.

Those of us with half a brain, who are trying to live an authentic life, a morally responsible life—we’ve been silent too long.  We’ve been polite too long.  We’ve been dishonest too long.