Okay, Toronto. It’s up to you   Leave a comment

There are times in life when I need a bit of inspiration.

The recent provincial election in Ontario brought me to one such time. However, the antidote arrived unexpectedly in the form of a blog posting by Joy Connelly. Chicago in April 2011Joy Connelly began with the following words:

“As I watched last Thursday’s election results, I was reminded of the motto printed on housing hero Steve Pomeroy’s letterhead: focus on what you can do, not what you cannot.”

Joy then proceeds to illustrate the powers that are available to the City of Toronto to deal with our housing crisis. Yes, there are things that can be done! To read an inspirational posting about what we can focus on doing, read Joy Connelly’s blog at:

https://openingthewindow.com/2018/06/11/okay-toronto-its-up-to-you/?

 

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Posted June 13, 2018 by allanbaker in Canadian society

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A Tale of Two Narratives   Leave a comment

Challenges await Venezuela’s Maduro as he wins a second term

Closing of a voting table at about 7 pm Sunday in the teacher’ college in Ali Primera park, Caracas. Photo: Jim Hodgson

To no one’s surprise, Nicolas Maduro has won a second term as president of Venezuela. And again (not a surprise) we see two narratives developing about what happened here on Sunday.

Our Canadian labour observer delegation saw an election that was expertly run, had good participation, and which had no fraud that was evident to us. Granted, we were mostly in the poorer neighbourhoods where support for Maduro is highest — the neighbourhoods where the majority of Venezuelans live.

Meanwhile, even by mid-afternoon, the international media were reporting a low turnout and complaints of fraud.

“Polls close as opposition cries foul,” said the BBC. Such reports cited opposition candidate Henri Falcon who by mid-day had registered 350 complaints about the process. By the time the polls closed, he registered more than 900.

Around mid-day, the United States declared it would not recognize the result. Other countries, including Canada, are expected to follow suit.

In the end, the vote was not close. Maduro won with 5.8 million votes. His principal opponent, Henri Falcon, had about 1.8 million. Voter turnout was 48 per cent.

“We are the force of history turned into popular victory,” Maduro told supporters gathered outside the Miraflores presidential palace after results were announced. Promising to be a president for all Venezuelans, he renewed his call for dialogue. “Permanent dialogue is what Venezuela needs,” he said.

For Maduro, the negative international reaction, while predictable, will be a problem. Existing sanctions already hurt the country’s ability to make purchases abroad. Companies and banks are now reluctant to engage with any Venezuelan purchaser, making access to food and medicine imports ever more difficult — and provoking shortages that have a direct impact the lives of ordinary people. To make matters worse, U.S. administration officials have warned of new sanctions that could reduce Venezuela’s oil exports.

Some problems are home-made. Despite concerted efforts, corruption is still an issue. I spoke with a young doctor who supports the government and deplores the diversion of medicine from Venezuela to Colombia. “People who do that are traitors,” he said.

Venezuela also suffers from hyperinflation and some of the world’s highest crime rates.

Maduro has promised a new national dialogue to achieve some way of living with the opposition. The problem is that at least since their failed coup attempt in 2002, most opposition forces have shown little or no interest in any solution other than complete capitulation or regime change through force: another coup or foreign military intervention.

The most concerted effort to bring opponents into the present electoral process collapsed in early February after months of international mediation led by the Dominican Republic. A previous Vatican-led effort also failed.

The challenges are immense, and there will be no honeymoon for this president as he begins a second term.

Yet Venezuelans merit attention and solidarity as they try to find a way forward. Democracy is supposed to be about the people ruling. Venezuela is one of a handful of countries remaining where the poorest people have wrested control away from the rich who used political structures to maintain economic privileges.

This column originally appeared on Rabble.ca

 

 

An unintentional parable   Leave a comment

This is a personal reflection written By Jim Taylor:

IMG_1896_2I was driving north, up the main highway. As I came down the hill into town, traffic slowed to a standstill. The truck ahead of me turned on its four-way flashers.

Something was happening, but I couldn’t see what. I peered through the gap between the vehicles ahead of me. And I saw a woman, walking backwards across the four lanes of traffic, beckoning to something or someone with her hands, encouraging them to come on.

Then I saw what she was encouraging. A pair of geese. Canada geese. Big birds. When they spread their wings and hiss, they can be terrifying. But these two waddled along following the woman. And right behind them came a pair of goslings, balls of fluff on toothpick legs. And finally, behind them all, came a man pushing a bicycle, making sure no one got left behind.

Or run over.

The whole cortege reached the far sidewalk. The geese vanished into the park. The man and woman gave each other high-fives, and went their separate ways. Traffic rolled again.

As I too drove on, it occurred to me that I had just seen a parable enacted, a parable of the way the world could be, and should be.

Jesus didn’t have Canada Geese or four-lane highways to talk about in his parables. But I think he would have described that scene as a sample of the kingdom of God.

The goslings trusted their parents enough to follow them into a totally foreign environment. The geese trusted the woman enough to follow her across the highway. The woman trusted the drivers enough to believe that no impatient driver would run her down.

 And it worked.

For that couple of minutes, no one roared over the sidewalk to save a few seconds. No one honked angrily. No one brandished middle-finger salutes. Everyone got where they were going, at most a couple of minutes late.

It’s a parable of the “kingdom” because all our relationships depend on trust. Every day, we commit hundreds of little acts of trust. So many, in fact, that we don’t even think of them as acts of trust — we take them for granted.

I trust that my breakfast cereal is safe to eat. That an oncoming driver will not suddenly swerve into my lane. That the radio news is not fabricated fiction. That the cash register at the grocery store will add my bill accurately. That the tree will stay upright, the bridge will hold, the sky will not fall.

At least, not today.

If I couldn’t trust these incidents, I’d be paralyzed. Afraid of everything. A nervous wreck, a human Chicken Little.

Trust keeps our society, our civilization, even our world, running smoothly.

We exist in a vast, universal, web of relationships. We are, in a sense, the sum of our relationships. When we can no longer trust those relationships, we lose a huge part of what we are. We are reduced to being an individual playing solitaire.

 That’s why breaches of trust are so serious. And that’s why little incidents that remind us how much trust matters, matter. Even if they bring traffic to a standstill.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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As Time Goes on …   Leave a comment

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Barbara Ehrenreich has taught me some important lessons about how western society works, or doesn’t. I particularly appreciated her book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001), because she allowed me to vicariously experience what life is like for those who are precariously employed, for example.

When I encountered a review of her latest book, Natural Causes: The Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, I was eager to read what the reviewer had to say. I was not disappointed, even though the topic of Ehrenreich’s book is not my first choice of reading material.

At one point Victoria Sweet, a medical doctor herself, writes about Ehrenreich’s take on our attitudes:

“In her new book, Barbara Ehrenreich ventures into the fast-growing literature on aging, disease, and death, tracing her own disaffection with a medical and social culture unable to face mortality. She argues that what “makes death such an intolerable prospect” is our belief in a reductionist science that promises something it cannot deliver—ultimate control over our bodies. The time has come to rethink our need for such mastery, she urges, and reconcile ourselves to the idea that it may not be possible.”

Check out the full review of Natural Causes, as printed in The Atlantic, at:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/05/barbara-ehrenreich-natural-causes/556859/

 

Toronto – still Toronto “the good”   Leave a comment

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan DenetteFirst responders close down Yonge Street in Toronto after a van mounted a sidewalk, crashing into a number of pedestrians on April 23, 2018. The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette

 

Following the horrific event, and tragedy, that happened in Toronto, Canada on Monday, April 23, 2018, there has been plenty of commentary. Ten people are dead; fifteen were injured, thousands are traumatized. How could this happen in Toronto?

Stephen Marche has reflected on all of this, and whether it will “change Toronto” in a posting on Walrus Magazine’s website. Some of what March wrote is:

“Because the people of Toronto, at their best anyway, know that any time you put people into pre-established categories, you’re most likely being an idiot. That’s the reason to move here after all: to live in a place where they won’t put you in a box. The city doesn’t always live up to this ideal of inclusion. It fails often, even. But I believe, in a very serious way, that the aspiration towards openness and tolerance remains real. Multiculturalism works here. Everybody knows it. The ceos of the banks know it. The kids scrounging WiFi outside the libraries after hours know it. The convenience store owners know it. Drake knows it. The old wasps in the upscale Rosedale neighbourhood know it. No random act of violence is going to shake that knowledge.”

The whole article that Marche created is available at: The Walrus

 

Posted April 25, 2018 by allanbaker in Canadian society

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10,000 Trees Makes a Difference!   Leave a comment

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On Earth Day, 2018, 10,000 Trees organized the planting of 1,200 native wildflowers and 4,600 trees and shrubs along the Rouge River in Markham, Ontario. All of the planting was done by volunteers who came out for the day and gave willingly of their time and energy.

Since 1989, 10,000 Trees volunteers have helped to restore over 180 acres of fragile watershed land. Our plantings protect creeks and streams in the Rouge River watershed from soil erosion, helping to link existing islands of forest and extending wildlife corridors.

Formed in 1989 as an offshoot of Save the Rouge Valley and the Rouge Valley Foundation, 10,000 Trees now runs as an independent all-volunteer group, with Charitable Organization status. Our group is constantly growing and is recognized as one of the best tree-planting groups in Canada.

Our legacy is hands-on education and stewardship. Through our work, we hope a legacy of preservation will continue to grow for years to come. We are very proud to have introduced thousands of people to the joys of restoring wildlife habitat. Our volunteer groups learn practical skills – and people of all ages dig right in and realize they can do something for the land, wildlife and people in our city. Together we’re making a difference!

For more information on 10,000 Trees go to: www.10000trees.com

 

Religion AND Science   Leave a comment

“You’re a scientist AND a you want to be a minister in a church????”

That is a question that a friend was asked prior to his ordination.

In the UC Observer there are testimonies from four scientists / ministers who have also been asked that question of how they square the circle of being a scientist and a Christian leader.

https://ucobserver.org/faith/2018/04/4-science-trained-faith-leaders-share-what-still-gives-them-goos/

A grouping of young stars, called the Trapezium Cluster (centre), shines from the heart of the Orion Nebula in this photo by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA