Archive for the ‘Canadian society’ Category

Long work hours don’t work for people or the planet   1 comment

Busy? No time? Stressed? Unemployed?

Here’s a possible alternative for our society, so let’s begin talking about how we humanize our time.The David Suzuki Foundation has just published a thoughtful piece that challenges us to think about why we who work for a living, seem to be working long, stressful hours.

In their column, they quote the New Economics Foundation which advocates a 21 hour workweek. Such an innovation would, they argue, address problems such as overwork, unemployment, high carbon emissions and entrenched inequalities in society.

The full column can be found on the Suzuki Foundation website: www.davidsuzuki.org

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Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955 – March 10, 2017)   Leave a comment

Richard Wagamese first came into my life through a book club. They read his book, Indian Horse, which was then recommended to me. The story touched my heart in the summer of 2016, and I subsequently read his books, Medicine Walk and One Story: One Song. The latter book is full of wisdom for life.

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At Christmas 2016 I was blessed by receiving the gift of Richard’s profound wisdom, contained in the book, “Embers”. For example, “Embers” contains the following:

“LIFE is a series of passageways we choose largely on faith and a healthy dose of hope. We hope that the hallway of our choosing leads us to magic: the inexplicable, the sudden, the unconfined. Not so that we can capture it, hold it, make it our own – but just so that we can feel it, even for an instant. Feel it and know the truth that the universe itself is magic. Hope that by our believing, our blind trust, our inherent innocence, someday, sometime, somewhere, that magic will become us, even fleetingly, and we touch the face of God.”

Reading Richard Wagamese has helped me on this journey called life; he has helped me to know more about the tragedy of Canada’s residential school system and the harm that it did to First Nations people, and I am thankful for the wisdom that he has shared.

Hope in an unexpected place   Leave a comment

The following story – from the U.C. Observer –

( http://www.ucobserver.org/columns/2017/03/spirit_story/ ) –

is one that encourages all of us to remember those basic human characteristics of empathy and hope. Although the writer, and the story, are from the U.S.A., similar stories are happening in Canada too.

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Hope in a hardware store

By Alicia von Stamwitz

A new immigrant to the United States must enter public areas with caution, alert to hidden dangers. It’s a lesson I learned at a young age when my mother was bullied by a stranger in a grocery store.

So when I spot a Mexican man in a Home Depot store in St. Louis, I am not surprised that he looks anxious, shifting his weight from one foot to another. He’s short — maybe five feet tall in his heavy work boots — with a bushy black moustache. His furtive glances at the overhead signs tell me he does not read English.

I slow my cart, remembering a frightening experience from my childhood.

“Look at the treetops, Alicia!” my mother says as we creep along on shaded streets in our new station wagon. “The American oak trees are so tall and the branches are so wide that they meet at the top, like friends hugging each other.” She speaks to me in Spanish, but she is fluent in English thanks to her American teachers in Cuba. And thanks to American television, I have learned English fast.

We stop at a grocery store and push our cart up and down every aisle. “It’s expensive here,” she whispers in Spanish. As we wait in the checkout line, I notice the man behind us is watching my mother. He takes a step forward and says in a low voice, “What are you doing here?” My mother looks up, startled. “I — I am shopping.” Her English is perfect, but her voice is high, as if she is asking a question.

“You do not belong here,” the man growls. My mother turns to the cashier and holds out a coupon. But the cashier does not take the coupon; her eyes are fixed on the man. Everyone is looking at him. “Go back to where you came from, spic,” he hisses. The word hits my ears hard, like the word “spit.” Nobody moves at first, not even my mother. But when the man pushes past me to force her out of the narrow aisle, she turns to run and pulls me after her. When we are safely inside our car, I push down all four locks. My mother is trembling as we pull away.

This happened over 50 years ago. I want to believe things are better now, but I fear they are worse.

A long minute has passed, and the Mexican man in the home improvement store has not moved. I am about to step forward to help translate when a burly employee in an orange apron appears beside him. I tense. But the employee is a good man. You can see things like this at a glance. The way he ducks his head to meet the Mexican man’s lowered eyes. The way he nods encouragingly and speaks softly. I let out a breath. I did not realize I was holding it.

He gives me hope, this employee. I want to thank him when he is done helping the Mexican man. I want to remember that he and others like him have more collective power than any politician, even a demagogue.

On the way home, I look up at the treetops and repeat my mother’s words, like a poem or a prayer.

Alicia von Stamwitz is a writer and editor in St. Louis.

HOW WE TREAT NEW IMMIGRANTS DEFINES US   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – Sunday March 5, 2017

During the depth of winter, when snow lay deep on the ground and arctic winds sucked warmth from bare skin, small groups of people from countries where snow is as unknown as poutine struggled across the world’s longest undefended border into Canada.

Illegally, of course.
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Night after night, TV news showed video of these asylum seekers. Stumbling through snowdrifts, burdened by baby strollers or car seats. Dragging plastic suitcases. Huddled at a roadside, too numbed by bitter cold to go any farther.

They were greeted by police officers. Who led them gently to a warm car. Who helped carry their children. Who delivered them to a border immigration station, where kindly officials helped them fill out their applications to stay in Canada.

This is the Canada we imagine it to be. Compassionate. Decent. Hospitable.

NOT SO WELCOMING
But at the same time, there’s another side. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 25 per cent of Canadians want to impose travel restrictions; over 40 per cent feel we’re being overrun by too many refugees.

As Scott Gilmore wrote in Macleans magazine, “As of last month, Canada has accepted 40,081 Syrian refugees. That’s one refugee for every 857 Canadians.”

Let’s put that statistic another way. Kelowna’s largest arena holds around 6,800 people for a hockey game. Would eight Syrian refugees — yes, just eight — somehow subvert the local culture?

But political parties still foment fears of being overrun. Leadership hopefuls want to grill immigrants to make sure their “values” (whatever that means) won’t conflict with ours (whatever they are).

There are also legitimate concerns. Such as that it’s not fair for some refugees to get a free pass into Canada, while others wait for years in refugee camps.

LEGAL COMPLICATIONS
For the last 15 years, too, Canada and the U.S. have shared a legal agreement to treat each other as a “safe” countries. Essentially, that means we trust the other country’s justice systems to process asylum claims fairly. Refugee claimants must request protection in the first “safe” country they reach. So if they come to Canada through the U.S., we should return them to the U.S. for processing.

So far, the U.S. is the only country considered “safe.” But what happens when a new administration’s xenophobia makes the country no longer feel “safe”?

It’s not as if all of these border-crossers are helpless indigents. Some take taxis to the nearest border point. A few admit coming a long and expensive route: from the Middle East or Asia to South America, up through Central America and the U.S. to the Canadian border.

Legally, we should send them back. But turning away a family with shivering youngsters just doesn’t feel like us.

Gilmore again: “There is nothing we can do to stop asylum seekers from walking into Canada, Samsonite in hand. We aren’t building a wall, or even a fence. Our armed forces don’t even have enough drones to take a group selfie on the parade ground, let alone patrol over 8,000 kilometres of frontier.”

ESSENTIAL DISCONTINUITY
There are no simple answers. Because there is a discontinuity between micro and macro perspectives. You cannot always extrapolate from the small scale to the larger, and vice versa.

Physicists tell me that, at the ultimate micro level, my chair isn’t really there. Neither am I. We both consist of quarks and gluons, which are not things at all but packets of energy measurable only as probabilities.
But I still need a chair to sit on.

If a shopper at the grocery cashier’s lineup can’t find a few missing coins, I will gladly give her what she needs. But I won’t extend the same privilege to every other shopper.

Macro reasoning says that we can’t just throw our borders open, take anyone who shows up, anywhere. Micro says that we can’t callously turn people away.

So what should we do about this discontinuity? Again, Gilmore offers good advice: “We can help them settle into our communities, reducing tensions with those who are less welcoming. We can find ways to help the small towns along the border who are suddenly rattled by refugee families walking over the stubble. We can publicize that crime rates among refugees are lower than among native-born Canadians.

“And we can ignore the bigoted leeches on the fringes of our political system, people cynically turning reasonable concerns into wide-eyed panic….”

Most of all, I suggest, we can make the way we welcome asylum seekers a model for the kind of country that they — and we — want to belong to.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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What Can One Do in These Times?   Leave a comment

Feeling helpless is seldom a solution to responding to what is going on in the world. We all have power, and all to frequently we give that power over to others. The following column was written by Jim Taylor and there are suggestions about how we can act. Taylor suggests that we avoid “wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes”.

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Take Responsibility

A week ago Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries where he doesn’t have business ties. He branded them “evil”.

Two days later, a Canadian with far-right sympathies entered a mosque in Quebec City and shot six men in the back as they knelt in prayer. Eight others were injured.

The timing is too close for pure coincidence. If you’re a white supremacist feeling you should take action against people you dislike, what better justification could you ask for than encouragement from the world’s most powerful person?

Trump called Ottawa to offer his condolences. I think he should be charged as an accessory to murder.

So far, the man charged with six murders and five more attempted murders, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at Laval University, has volunteered no information about his motives. But his Facebook page reveals that he paid attention to Trump’s rants.

The Quebec murders are not an isolated incident — although they are the most extreme example of the anti-feminist, Islamophobic, and homophobic outbreaks since Trump’s election. The same mosque previously had graffiti painted on its walls, and a pig’s head dumped at its door during Ramadan.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
Several readers have written, in response to earlier columns, asking “What can we do?”

I hesitate to prescribe anything that I am unwilling — or unable, by my nationality — to do myself.

I know that not everyone can do what Oyama resident Bev Edwards-Sawatzky did last weekend. As a 70th birthday present to herself, she flew to Washington to take part in the Women’s March.

With half a million other women — massively more than attended Trump’s inauguration in person — she pushed her walker through Washington streets. Over a million more joined in marches in 670 locations around the world.

But we can’t all go on marches. And marches in cities Trump has never heard of will have little influence on his policies.
We need to avoid wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes.

WORDS OF WISDOM
The widely known Serenity prayer, written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr back in 1934, offers some valuable advice:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

First, then, accept that some things, we cannot change. Mass protests will not undo an election. Clever placards will not unseat the emperor, with or without clothes. Storming Washington with scythes and pitchforks will not eliminate the electoral college.

We cannot, as individuals, reverse Trump’s immigration bans or reshape international diplomacy. We cannot call back the missiles and drones. We cannot make ISIS vanish.
And it’s futile to reason with unreasonable men.
So we need to focus on things that we can change.

Which means that we start with ourselves. We need to ensure that our words and actions never, never, foster the prejudices we deplore — racism, homophobia, misogyny, and bigotry. We must exemplify — nay, incarnate — the virtues we claim to value.

By forcing us to examine what we consider right, Trump may actually have done us a favour. (I don’t recall him ever saying that he would do something because it’s the right thing to do.)

CALLING FOR COURAGE
Doing the right thing might mean offering hospitality to marginalized minorities, regardless of their origins or religions. For me, it requires being scrupulously honest — both with others and with myself. As far as possible, I intend to avoid purchasing products from, or investing in, companies that support Trump’s version of justice.

And I shall try not to remain silent when I hear racial, sexual, or religious slurs.

When the indigenous peoples of Central America were being slaughtered by government-backed death squads, when survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools were being ruthlessly cross-examined in courtrooms, representatives of North American churches risked standing with them. To simply be there.

Perhaps, once again, we need to be companions, to stand in solidarity with those being demonized. A recent report says that Trump plans to change the program “Countering Violent Extremism” to “Countering Islamic Extremism” — despite an FBI report showing that the primary danger to Americans now comes from home-grown white supremacists.
So we may want to attend worship in mosques, with their permission. We could recognize — even celebrate — non-Christian festivals like Ramadan and Divali.

Yes, that may involve some personal risks. That’s why Niebuhr’s prayer asked for courage.

So….
Know what your values are. Do what you can, in accordance with our values. Don’t waste energy on what you can’t change.

But most of all, don’t do nothing.
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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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Just tell me the TRUTH, eh   Leave a comment

Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners lives in Washington, D.C. That is true.

However, there seems to be some debate beginning about what is true these days, and what is not. This applies to politics in Canada, and possibly elsewhere. I can only speak from my experience of politics in the country where I live.

According to Stanley Hauerwas, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us that politics “can never be divorced from truth.” Indeed, Hauerwas maintains that Bonhoeffer believed that “cynicism is the vice that fuels the habits to sustain a politics that disdains the truth.”

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The paragraph above is a quote from a posting by Rev.  Jim Wallis, the title of which is “Christians” Call to Speak Truth to “Alternate Facts“. Wallis examines what role Christians may have in the coming days, and years, as he makes the following observation:

Christians are called many times in the Scriptures to be truth-tellers and to reject falsehoods, from scriptural commandments against bearing false witness to Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:

“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…. So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.”

Yes, I believe that we are all in this together. As The New Creed in the United Church of Canada says, “We are not alone. Thanks be to God!”

The full column by Rev. Jim Wallis, from Washington, is available at:

https://sojo.net/articles/christians-call-speak-truth-alternative-facts

The Gulf Between Macro and Micro   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – January 1, 2017

Another year end, another statutory holiday, and so I’m under no obligation to deliver a column of 750 words focussed on current events to the local newspaper.

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Like most of us, I find myself thinking back over the last year.

Certainly, if you lived in Syria, Yemen, Gaza, or either of the Sudans, it would not have been a good year. And perhaps not in the U.K. and the U.S.A, depending on your political alignment. In the news, too, famous people toppled like ten-pins.

But that’s the macro level. At the micro level, most people I know have had a pretty good year. Stock markets have soared to record levels. Employment has risen, if fractionally. Mortgage rates have stayed low. Even without autopilot features, cars have been getting better and better – economy models now have safety features you couldn’t get on luxury cars 20 years ago.

Here in Canada, we have a federal government that at least seems to operate from an ethical base. Some things move too fast for some, too slow for others. But it seems that we are going to have more humane legislation governing marijuana use; removal of bureaucratic blockage of safe injection sites; maybe even a more equitable system for voting. We already have something closer to satisfactory laws allowing the terminally and hopelessly ill to get medical assistance in dying.

Medical care and treatment have improved. My wife Joan currently benefits from chemotherapy that didn’t exist just 5 years ago.

And over the last year, we have given almost 40,000 desperate refugees a new home. Media reports claim they have integrated about as well as could be expected. It’s not easy, giving up everything you have known to start all over again.

The challenge for the coming year, it seems to me, is to reduce the disparity between the macro and micro perspectives.

On that theme, I think of an article distributed by CounterCurrents, an alternative news source out of India.

Do not lose heart,” wrote Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a certified Jungian analyst with a doctorate in ethno-clinical psychology. (No, I don’t know what that means either, but I like what she says.)

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. It is not given to us to know which acts, or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

“What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up…”

If you’re interested, Ms. Estes best-known book is Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of The Wild Woman Archetype, which was on The New York Times’ best seller list for 145 weeks. And if you’re interested in CounterCurrents, you can check it out at www.countercurrents.or, or write to editor Binu Matthew at editor@countercurrents.org
Happy New Year!
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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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