Monday, June 1, 2020

Nice


Most people think they are 'nice' so when someone tells them something they have said isn't nice, they don't take it well.  Because if they are nice, they don't say 'not nice' things.

Jane Elliott has been an activist for human rights for a long time.  If you don't know about her, I strongly suggest taking some time to watch this

The first time I saw it, I was chilled to the bone - that discrimination can so easily be taught, to the point of demonizing someone else.  There are other examples of how people become dehumanized - I won't include them here.  Rest assured, they exist.

If you are white and object when the term white privilege is used, think about what that term means.  And why someone might suggest that you, personally, benefit from white privilege in North American society.

Someone once said:  No one is saying that a white person doesn't have a difficult life.  What they don't have is the colour of their skin making their life even more difficult.

During this time of Covid-19, people are pointing out that we may all be in the same storm, but we are riding it out in different boats.  Mine is pretty secure, but others?  May be leaking, might be rudderless, might not be much better than a raft.

We are at a crucial stage right now where many of the inequities of society can be examined and maybe even changed to improve things for everyone.  But it seems that some folk are determined to grab all the 'pie' they can and deny any for those 'others'.  Why?  You can only consume so much 'pie' and then what?  It goes bad?  You throw it away?  Why not share it in the first place?  How much 'pie' does one person actually need?  (I'm looking at you, every billionaire in the world.)

Corporations are grabbing all the financial resources they can.  I forget which big business just recently went bankrupt - after paying their upper management millions of dollars in 'bonus' money.  They get a 'bonus' for navigating their business into bankruptcy?  Wow.  In the meantime their employees get...nothing.  Airlines scooped up millions in pandemic funding - and then refuse to refund money on tickets people like me have paid for and are unable to use.  And then they announce employee layoffs, once the money is into the pockets of their share holders and upper management.

If you are white and want to break out of your bubble, there are lists of resources available on line.  You might read some political science, like James Laxer.  He has written extensively about Canada/US relations but also the history of North America.  Which is not pretty by any stretch of the imagination.  Also Ziya Tong's The Reality Bubble, especially the section on social 'bubbles'.  But there are so many more.

I am constantly surprised at how many white people have no clue about the history of their country.  I am constantly surprised by their 'surprise' at how the US and Canada (and many other countries around the world) were shaped by the very notion of white privilege, the 'white man's burden' (if you don't know what that is, google it) and how discrimination and oppression has shaped the culture we currently live in.

While I may not be personally responsible for this history, I can change things going forward. 

Over the weekend, the protests about the death of George Floyd raged all across the US.  White people can help change things in many ways.  One example was in acting as a 'white shield' to protect black people from the actions of militarized police.

The police appeared to also be targeting journalists, two of whom were shot in the face and were blinded.

In Canada we have similar dynamics at work so we must not be 'smug' about how 'nice' we are. 

As it was said in 'my' day - if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

What can you do to help everyone in this storm?  (Hint - if nothing else, you can vote for politicians who are not demonizing or in some cases actively trying to kill their electorate.)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Speaking Out




First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist



Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist



Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist



Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew



Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me


  -  Martin Niemoller

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pandemic Fatigue


You've all seen it.  The graphic representation of the Covid-19 virus.

It kind of looks like a really messy ball of yarn.

As the pandemic continues its constant roll through society, the numbers of people who catch the virus, the numbers who survive - and who do not - mount.

As human beings we like our routines, and do not like it when those routines are disrupted, our plans cancelled.  For some of us, staying home, staying out of the cross hairs of this virus is easier than for others.

The uncertainty wears on our nerves and we miss our friends and the events that we had so looked forward to attending.  Not knowing when life will get back to 'normal' is stressful.  Even more so if you are facing economic hardship due to losing jobs/business.

As mentioned, human beings have gone through pandemics before.  We can manage to navigate our way through the restrictions, plus we have the knowledge now of how a virus works and what it takes to avoid it.

But pandemic fatigue is real.

I know my focus is shot.  I am coping - more or less - by focusing on my goal of weaving down my stash.  I make myself get into the studio for at least two hours every day.  The weather hasn't been great this week so I haven't gone walking, but I hope to get back to doing that when the current weather moves on.  There are predictions for super storm cells to the south of us that may impact us with more rain.  Certainly the skies are overcast today and it looks very dreary.

If you are finding yourself unable to cope right now, rest assured it is normal.  Set up a Skype call with a friend, go for a walk, maybe have a physically safe visit with a friend like I did last weekend.  We sat in the carport, either end of a long table Doug has set up for dealing with parcels/shopping.

If you can't focus enough to read or do your hobbies, give yourself some time to accept that life is full of ups and downs and if you are currently 'down', contact a friend, have a long chat, reach out to someone and let them know you need a virtual hug.


Friday, May 29, 2020

A Liberal Education


As I turn a major 0 type birthday this year, I look back and remain amazed at how my life has played out.

I was born and raised in a geographically isolated town of mostly blue collar workers (my dad being one of them).  I grew up 'poor' insofar as my parents scraped and did without so that their children (my brother and I) could have the essentials.  Luxuries were few and far apart, but even so, I confused the kids at school - I only had one pair of 'good' shoes but I had multiple hand knit sweaters, made from expensive yarn.  I had nice clothing that mom made.  I had music then ballet lessons.  Because mom saw the value in such things and she made the money for them happen.  Even if it meant stew several nights a week that was mostly vegetables from our back yard garden.

Mom signed the approval papers for me to get a library card when I was in grade one or two, I can't remember which teacher took us on the field trip to the library - possibly grade two, then when the librarian phoned her to ask if mom knew the kinds of books I was taking out?  Told the library I could take out anything I wanted.  (the book in question was a grade 12 history book, apparently - I don't remember, but overheard  mom telling a friend the story when I was an adult).

So from a very early age I read.  Voraciously.  Everything I could get my hands on.  I read fiction, but I also read non-fiction.  I drank up everything, absorbed cultures that were not my own, learned as much as I could about everything.

I was also blessed with really fabulous teachers (for the most part).  When I complained to mom that I didn't much like my grade five teacher she asked why.  I explained that he 'favoured' the girls and was mean to the boys.  She agreed that wasn't right, but there wasn't anything I could do about it and that I needed to continue to do my work.  I don't recall her saying that I ought to defend the boys, but I wanted to.

Grade 6 was a transitional year in large part because of my teacher, Mr. Rae.  I will never forget him and the way he taught us to think for ourselves, to use logic, to question the status quo.  He taught us history without the sugar coating of white supremacy.

In high school I benefited from mostly really excellent teachers, and those who were not good, in fact, down right 'bad'.  From the 'bad' ones I learned how not to teach.   I learned even more about teaching when mom went back to school as a mature student to take an Early Childhood Education degree.  I typed up her papers, editing them, getting them into 'proper' English (she had English as a second language and never could wrap her head entirely around English grammar, especially written.)

In grade 7 I was assigned a pen friend living in Sweden and eventually went to visit there, living on campus for three months at the university in Orebro.  Nothing like living in a foreign country, not being able to speak the language to develop an appreciation for your own culture - and to begin to see inequities in it.  Distance is great for developing perspective.

My parents mostly identified with conservative values (of the day).  In grade 10 our liberal social studies teachers gave us a 'test' to help place us on a political spectrum.  I placed in the liberal leaning part of the quadrant.  And over the years, as I have taken such 'tests' subsequently, I have remained there. 

Sunday school taught us that Jesus loved the children, all the children of the world - didn't matter their colour.  Turn the other cheek.  Love your neighbour.  Be kind.  Those were the values I took from church.

And yet.  And yet.

Here we are.

I was born in 1950 so I lived through many of the things listed in this piece of music.  I remember McCarthy, the race riots, the march to Selma.  I remember actual lynchings happening.  John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy all assassinated - by white men. 

I remember Nixon, Johnson, Reagan, Vietnam.  Many American draft dodgers came to our neck of the woods.

I wept at so many things that have happened in this world as human beings murdered each other in the name of...something something gazpacho, as Jim Wright says. 

We are at the cusp of something momentous right now, in this time, in this place.  The pandemic is forcing us to take a long hard look at society, shining a spotlight on the privileges white people have claimed for themselves and withheld from others.

White people are not superior to others. 

White people live in a bubble of privilege that they have claimed for themselves.  Some of whom are willing to retain through violence.

White people need to open their eyes.  See how what they are doing is simply wrong -  IF they call themselves Christians.  IF they actually care about what Jesus said.  IF they even understand that Jesus was a brown man from the middle east. 

These are difficult times due to many factors, the pandemic is just shining a spotlight on them.  Time to work on what is causing the problem and stop killing each other.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Uncertainty



We watched a program on moths/butterflies last night.  It was fascinating to see the various combinations of colours and shapes they come in.  How some advertise their toxicity, while others mimic the signs even though they are not actually toxic.

The transformations the creatures go through until they at last emerge from their chrysalis to become their final incredible self are quite simply amazing.

Human beings don't change their form much.  We just go up, and sometimes 'out', we develop grey hair and jowls, but our physical shape remains pretty much the same throughout our lives.

On the other hand, we are adaptable to a degree that many other animals are not.  So we assess our situation and judge what needs to change - and then we change.  If we don't, we risk not surviving.

And so it is with this pandemic.  We are facing a virus with no known cure or vaccine at this time.  We do, however, understand how viruses work.  We know that transmission is from person to person and that right now avoiding contact with the virus is pretty much our only strategy for avoiding catching it.

In the beginning very little was known about the virus but as medical folk and researchers found out more, recommendations changed.  At first health officers were reluctant to recommend a mask, fearing that people would assume that a mask would provide 100% protection.  There were also too few medical masks and there was concern that front line health care workers would not have the personal protection they required to safely help those people who were already seriously ill.

So recommendations at first were to stay home and businesses were ordered shuttered.  Then as it became obvious that this virus was not going to go away any time soon, researchers found that cloth masks would help prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus and now the recommendation is to wear either paper or cloth masks.

But always, always - wash your hands with soap and water.  If you can't do that, hand sanitizer will help, but wash your hands when you can.

Politicians and businesses are scrambling, trying to figure out how to loosen restrictions, run businesses, maintain physical distancing of 6 feet, protecting staff and customers.

But overall, there is enormous uncertainty about so many things.  When will interacting without all these protective measures be safe?

The bad news is...it may take a very long time.  As in years, not months.  This may well be our new 'normal' for the foreseeable future.

For the minority of people who scream that the virus is a hoax - it isn't.  It is within the power of every person to take appropriate measures to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the staff of the businesses they frequent.  If you  love your manicurist or hair dresser?  Wear the mask.  If you love your library, teacher, students?  Wear the mask.  If you love your guild mates?  Wear the mask.

Maintaining physical distance and wearing a mask are our best strategies for avoiding becoming ill.

The cloth masks a friend made for us are now in Canada and on their way.  In the meantime, we are wearing either paper masks.  Doug also has some N95 masks purchased for the wildfire season last year.

I have a hair cut booked for tomorrow.  I will wear a mask because I know she has a compromised person in her home.  While I believe I have not encountered the virus, it is my duty as a concerned citizen of this country to follow guidelines and care for the people around me.

In the meantime, I seldom go into the public preferring to stay isolated as much as possible.  Because I can, I will.

Being pretty much an introvert I'm not having a terrible time missing social interactions in person.  So far I have done a couple of Skype calls with friends, stay in touch with distant friends via Facebook Messenger, emails and even (can you imagine!) phone.

This is a time of enormous uncertainty for human beings.  It was my hope that we could come together to help each other through these difficult times.  Some do.  Some...don't.

My hope is that we go through this time of isolation, much like the caterpillar in it's chrysalis and emerge into a society that is more equitable for all, no matter our colouring, no matter our shape, so that each and every person can shine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Marathon



We are living in 'interesting' times.

As event cancellations mount, requirements for masks be worn, the US passes 100,000 deaths, soaring ever higher, the reality is that this is going to be a marathon.

The world has been hit with several waves of bubonic plague.  The one that lasted from 1346 to 1353 is considered to be one of the worst to ever happen.  Millions around the world died, some estimates putting the death toll at 1/3 of the population of the time.  Society went through upheaval after upheaval as the plague arrived not once, but several times, wave after wave.

Medical understanding of the time didn't have the resources or technology that we do today.  Some forms of the Black Death were so very virulent that you could be apparently healthy in the morning and dead by nightfall.

We are facing similar challenges right now with Covid-19, except that we do have an understanding of how a virus works, how to avoid catching one, and technology to help some people survive it.  Unfortunately some survivors are going to have long lasting deficits from the damage the virus has inflicted on them.  And some simply do not survive.

So far my community has escaped the worst of the virus, but people are having to make hard decisions - to open businesses or not, to return to work or not.  What society will look like in 3 months or 30, no one can say right now.  That bad outbreak of the bubonic plague was SEVEN YEARS.  Not seven months.

We have to start planning now for how we will continue.  Some businesses are taking precautions by installing plexi shields.  Some are requiring patrons wear masks.

Yesterday when I had my appointment with the audiologist, I was required to wear a mask.  They had masks available if I didn't have one, but I do.  They had hand sanitizer, and while I waited for my appointment, he wiped down the counters with sanitizer.

I made sure I touched nothing (or as little as I could), wore my mask, and we discussed the mask wearing.  (I was trying to disentangle my hearing aids from the mask elastic around my ears.)   He expressed the hope that once people  had gotten used to wearing masks and disinfecting their hands, that the habit would continue and that overall the flu/cold season (both viruses!) would be lessened because people would follow better hand hygiene, cough into their sleeves, or just stay home if they were sick, and so on.

When I 'retired' from teaching it wasn't anything to do with a pandemic but simply me being too tired and feeling too fragile to face long distance travel and the constant worry about getting sick while I was on a trip.  Teachers are now posting that their new terms of conditions for teaching will include that ALL the people involved will wear a mask.  Or they won't be allowed in the classroom.  Anyone not willing to wear a mask will not be able to attend the class.

If I were still teaching, haring all over creation, I would have a similar requirement.  I understand completely why a teacher would want to protect themselves AND THEIR STUDENTS from catching this (or any other air borne illness like flu/colds).

Covid-19 is not going to go away any time soon.  Will it last seven years?  I hope the hell not!  Will the Olds classes go ahead at Yadkin or Cape Breton in September?  No idea.  Will the border be open to anything other than essential travel?  No clue.  Will I be willing to get on a plane and travel from one coast to the other?  Uncertain.

I intend to not catch this virus because it will most likely kill me.  So I continue to stay home, stay out of the line of transmission as much as I possibly can.  I will wear a mask, wash my hands. 

My desire is that we will all survive this time and be able to continue with our lives, most likely with adaptations for the virus.  Because this one is going to take a while to be beaten back.  But there will be another.  That you can bet on.

Human beings are infinitely adaptable.  We are going to have to adapt to this new reality.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Roller Coaster


People like me who live with a disease like cancer frequently use the roller coaster as a metaphor for the journey.

Cancer is no longer a death sentence, depending on the type of cancer and access to good medical care.

I was extremely fortunate in that just as I presented to the local cancer clinic, a new oncologist had arrived to begin practicing here.  Happens that he was very experienced in the type of cancer I have and had actually developed a protocol to treat it.  At the time the protocol was not approved in this province, but he fought for me to get it and managed to get approval for me to benefit from his experience and knowledge.

But just because I was in remission for six years afterwards didn't mean I was 'cured'.  In fact I lived with that fear of return before every check up.  I did so well that my check ups went from every three months, to every six months to once a year.

And then it came back.

By that time, however, break throughs were being made in the treatment of the cancer I live with and instead of chemo again, the new oncologist put me on a 'miracle' drug.  Instead of poisoning my entire body with toxic chemicals in hopes of killing the cancer not the host (iow, moi) the new drug targeted just the rogue cells.  Unfortunately, while it worked extremely well to kill the cancer cells, it also did a number on the rest of me.  Commonly called 'adverse effects'.

And so I hit the portion of the roller coaster where the peaks became higher and the drops more stomach dropping.

Roller coasters are not a continuous round of sharp ups and downs - they give a few seconds of respite between rapid corners and stomach turning spirals.

And so does living with cancer.  At least the type of cancer I have.

Right now the peaks and valleys are fairly low.  I go in for check ups every six months.  Mostly I ignore the fact that I have cancer like a black cloud looming over me - like the cartoon character from Dogpatch - because for most of the year it is pretty far 'behind' me.

But I cannot forget for one minute that it is there.  And as the time for my check up draws nearer, I spend more time thinking about it - is this physical issue cancer?  Or allergies?  Is that physical issue cancer?  Or pandemic stress?

While I have gotten pretty good at isolating such thoughts (swimming in De Nile is not always a bad thing), the closer the appointment, the more I think about it.  Is it back?  Or do I get another 'pass'?

So I ride the roller coaster.

To those people who ask how I am 'celebrating' still being in remission?  I don't 'celebrate'.  As the stress of the 'not knowing' shifts to 'knowing' the remission holds, I can once again take a deep breath and shove the black cloud further away, further behind me.  Unless I detect symptoms, my next appointment is in six  months.  In the meantime, it will be back to weaving.  I still have way too much stash.

But the cancer, plus cardiac, plus my age, mean that I am three times susceptible to the Covid-19 virus.  So, because I can, I will continue to isolate as much as possible.  If I need to go out (as I do today) I will wear a mask.  I will sanitize my hands, mask, etc., when I get home.  I have the privilege of being able to self-isolate, so I am removing myself from the line of transmission as much as possible.

We are all riding the pandemic roller coaster.  Some of us just have extra twists and turns in ours...