Saturday, February 25, 2006

Shades of South Dakota

Yes, the shades of South Dakota's religious based legislation that will forbid any type of abortion will eventually wash up on our own shores in Canada. We have the same anti-woman mind set up here in Canada, our own home grown version. Prime Minister Stephen Harper (how that phrase stick in my craw)is, of course, anti-abortion. As are the majority of his party. Which brings me in one synapses connection around to David Emerson and his cross over from the Liberal camp to the Conservative one.
Women in particular might want to ponder this move. The cross over from a party who is pro-choice to one who is anti-choice means more to the lives and health of women than a shift in economic direction, which Goddess knows, is anti-woman enough. But there is a profound difference between safe, legal abortions and women's back ally brushes with death in which death too frequently won when abortion was illegal At age 77, I remember those times well, both here and in the US. Women were acutely aware of the dangers of back ally abortions, of the deaths and disfigurments but pretended not to be even when it was their own mothers, sisters, daughters, or friends. It was a conspiracy of silence, sealed with women's fears.
And it isn't only the physical dangers of illegal abortions that trouble women. It's the spiritual and psychological garbage that women and girls must swallow by knowing that one of their own eggs, perhaps fertilized by rape or incest from a criminal minded, degenerate male, is regarded as more important than women's entire lives. What perversion! What infamy! What hypocrisy!
Women don't get pregnant all by themselves. And there is usually a man hanging around when women have abortions, sometimes even some religious right conservative men who while they think abortion is sin, are also capable of holding the thought that it's not quite so much sin when they are the ones connected to abortion either by consent, or studied indifference or profoundly studied denial.
But the men out there who believe that abortion is murder should take an oath, and urge all their like minded brothers to take an oath, not to have sex with women unless the women agree they would be positively delighted if they got pregnant. Otherwise, the anti-abortion stance is not only hypocritical morally, it is intellectually so flawed it gives me the creeps to know that a man who thinks this way is heading our country. And inducing other self righteous, elitist, anti-democratic men to join their disgusting band of women haters.
David Emerson crossing the floor sends more messages than one, first, that the people in his riding are inconsequential to him, that all of us plebs are, really, and secondly that the health of women and children means diddly squat. Yes, under Spephen Harper Canada is fertile ground for South Dakota's religious right conservatism. How pleased our Prime Minister must be!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gucci Shoes and Imelda Marcos

Oh, yeah. Six hundred dollars for a pair of shoes! And ugly ones at that. Shades of Imelda Marcos! There obviously comes a time in some upper crust women's lives when they don't blink an eye and even think it's cute to buy a pair of shoes that cost six hundred dollars. Or maybe even six thousand. That's probably an exaggeration but probably not much among the wealthiest elite. Which explains why they have so much trouble trying to actually imagine how poor and even middle class citizens get along on so little. In fact, the economic elite has so much trouble with this they feel at some level that really poor people are not quite human so therefore they can take whatever crumbs they can snatch from poor people to add to their own huge money piles. And they have a legal and moral philosophy for continually taking and trying to take the crumbs from the poor, it's simply this...Privatization good, government programs bad.

Of course Carole Taylor is more of a symbol that a force behind the economic throne of British Columbia. She does as she is bidden by policy directives and if it happens to suit her real beliefs, good, but that's not what is called for. What's called for is an pseudo-intellectual economic voice to prop up Gordon Campbell's philosophical mandate to trash all of the public resources of this province. That's his version of Gucci shoes. But as much as Gordon Campbell would like to privatized the very air we plebeians breath there is a limit.

In spite of the valiant efforts of The Vancouver Sun and Province and Times Colonist to convince citizens that it would be a smart and Nobel thing for us plebs to agree to cut our own economic throats in order to further the increasing amassing of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, in final analysis all real political power rests with the people. It does. It really does. And Carol Taylor's Gucci shoes may have the same affect on the provincial body politic as Imelda Marcos'
shoes had on the psychie of the people of the Philippines.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Separate But Equal?

The idea of separate prisons for First Nations people is being kicked about by certain politicians. Which certainly makes manifest the musings of many native people themselves that the prisons of today are the residential schools of yesterday. Okay, maybe at first glance the idea of an exclusive native prison or prisons might sound as if it had merit. After all, there are so many First Nations people in prison today, these politicians reason, why not just give them their own prison? Then they can concentrate on their own cultures and promote their own heritage. And during the two and a half years I was in the women's prison in Burnaby I was welcomed by the Native Sisterhood and enjoyed the activities they sponsored. And benefited from them.

In spite of my positive experience with the prison Native Sisterhood, or maybe because of it, I oppose the idea of separate prisons for First Nations. Why? Because it seems to be suggesting that it's okay for a certain large segment of a certain minority racial population to be recognized as a criminal class and organized as a criminal class around race. It suggests that we should just admit, as a society, that there will continue to be a large group of native people incarcerated into the future so let's get on with it and start specializing.

After all, white Canadians have segregated and incarcerated other races before. even aside from the residential schools. The Japanese got a fair share of segregation during the Second World War as did the Germans, and before that, the Dukabour children were taken from their parents and incarcerated behind fences. And lately, there has been the attempt of some Muslims to recreate Sharia law here in Canada which fits into this same mind set, that some races have to be organized under different rules.

In my opinion First Nations people don't need specialized prisons, they need better diets, health care, some decent jobs, an earnest effort to either control the drug scene or legalize it altogether. And some decent housing, never mind the tiny rivulets of blessing, rain down some hard substantial social housing. Segregated prisons are a pitiful answer to the need for social housing. And separate but equal facilities along racial lines smack of the same reasoning behind racial segregation in the deep American south from which I came, a reasoning that kept black people oppressed for centuries. And many First Nations women have been abused by the men of their own communities, as have black and white and Asian women. Anything that further segregates women out from the laws of the larger community raises alarm bells for me. And I hear those bells a ringing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Parenting...Do Any of us Know What We're Doing?

Yes and no. While sheer love and worry can guide us to a certain extent there are evermore societal dichotomies, contradictions and plain old dangers out there to keep us all spinning. And these same societal contradictions are seeping into some serious children's literature. A kid's book by well known BC writer Niki Tate poses a problem that is baffling adults. Entitled Trouble on Tarragon Island, a young girl struggles with the deforestation of her island home. I think this is an important book which is why I wrote the blurb on the back of it. Which in turn prompted Jenni Cash in reviewing the book for Monday magazine recently to comment in her opening paragraph that none of my kids have written about me. Yet.

When I passed this comment along to three of my four daughters (one is totally lost under a pile of academia) all on the same day their reactions were identical...did I really think any segment of society might benefit in some obscure way from putting yet another Mommy Dearest book out there?

I was quite taken aback. Okay, I've not been the world's greatest mother, but who has? Show me one. Just one. And it's getting harder and harder to mother anybody or anything in this society that holds such contempt for mothering in the first place. Mothering occupies a weird space in our culture. Everybody needs and longs for mothering while at the same time we collectively deny that it's terribly important by where we demand that our politicians put our collective money (it seems that Harper may successfully kill the proposed universal day care program which working parents sorely need as good day care is an essential component of mothering) . And while it's acceptable for both men and women to individually mother children, even that isn't honestly honoured or celebrated because women primarily do it. And this denial of the incredible importance and necessity of mothering regardless of who does it exists in tandem with the most awful pornography where women are not seen as mothers and life givers, but as sexual body parts that will be devalued as soon as the parts age a bit. And the right to spread this image of women and increasingly children is enshrined in law. Free speech, you know.

Free speech? Nothing is free. We pay for this devaluing of mothering in our society. Coupled with the overvaluing of sex acts women are more loath to trust men, men less like to respect women. Which in turn makes parenting more difficult for both. Parenting is not a private matter; it takes more than a mother and father, sometimes single, or even a village to raise children. It takes an entire country.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Elders, Drugs, and Ice floes

I was privileged to sit on a discussion panel yesterday at Langara College with two incredible elders, Elsie Dean and Ben Swankey. Elsie is in her eighties, Ben in his nineties and both have fought unstintingly for economic justice, equality, and peace. At seventy-seven I am somewhat younger but certainly the contemporary in age of these two remarkable people and we shared many common memories. They just started sooner than I did, that's all. I was in my early thirties before I had a serious thought in my head, burdened down as I was with Louisiana style evangelical religion, virulent patriotism, racism, and sexism. It took the integration of the public schools in the sixties to stir the cultural stupor I had inherited. The total accumulation of blatant cowardliness, hatred, bigotry and ignorance surrounding the refusal of white society to accept integration in my part of the world served to short circuit my brain synapses and I was jerked wide awake. And I didn't like what I saw in southern Louisiana. I still don't. I weep for New Orleans. But at least some of the people there are willing to name what they saw, what they endured, what they still see and endure. New Orleans is racism writ large.

And then there is the golding of the the Baby Bommers. We elders are the parents of the Baby Boomers. And there's a lot fewer of us than them. In fact, there are so many of them they may at some point crash the health care system altogether. They are being scolded by health care professionals already for not taking better care of themselves, for smoking too long, for drinking too much, for eating too much fat, for getting fat. But the one subject doctors and other health professionals won't bring up is drugs. They will never concede that maybe people should stop taking so many drugs.The fact that Baby Boomers as a group were totally sold years ago on the wonders of drugs means they probably wouldn't listen anyway, even should doctors start coming clean and saying in effect, these pills are drugs and nobody has any real idea what the long term effects will be or what mixing these up with your other drugs will do to your gut, your heart, your liver, your spleen and especially, your brain. And let's not forget a significant number of doctors hold shares of one kind or another in drug stores, drug manufacturing, drug research, and drug companies of all kinds. Doctors and pharmaceuticals are the biggest drug dealers in town.

Because they operate legally and are wrapped in the warm fuzzy blanket of respectable professionalism (unlike the Hell's Angels who must take a certain amount of legal risk even though I understand there are Hell's Angels members working on the port docks of British Columbia, you can't get much safer than that ) our good doctors and pharmaceutical companies are only too willing to help out the aging Baby Boomers with an steady supply of happy pills. Or hormone replacements. Or uppers. Or downers. Or blood pressure pills. Or whatever pills for whatever condition you have or think you have. Or the doctor thinks you have.

At least in the old days when the Innuit elders who walked out on ice floes in times of severe food shortages knew what they were doing. They weren't drugged to the nines. And even in those cases where elders may have been encouraged to go to the ice by the younger members of the community who had hunger gnawing at their bellies, the choice to relieve the starving community of another mouth to feed was usually the elders decision made in the cold, clear light of the options. And his or her decision would be respected because the elders were necessary parts of the community. In them resided the wisdom of their culture. Besides, I believe the funny sign I saw in a thrift store once that read: "Old age and treachery will win out over youth and skill every time." I don't think the Innuit elders went until they were ready.

However, I do think that as our general population gets older, more and greater varieties of drugs will be offered by doctors whose major part of their practice seems to consist of shilling for drug companies. Of course with serious illnesses people need and deserve medical help. That's not the point. There's a difference between medical help and a drug culture that offers a drug for every disturbance of any kind in the human body and mind. When I pass along East Hastings on the bus and gaze out upon Pigeon Park or Carnegie Library and see the walking dead shuffling around making dope deals I don't feel superior. I don't feel superior at all. They are the other part of us, a part so drugged now the people can't function, they have been discarded by society, scarcely fed and not housed at all, they are already on the ice floes and their numbers will increase. And some of us will be among them.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Logging deaths and corporate profits

How to separate the two? Well, not with Gordon Campbell and his cabinet in office. Gordon Campbell married these two entities, logging deaths and corporate profits, that had only been loosely living together before. For what reason? Haste. Campbell and the corporations want all of the valuable old growth trees cut out of public forests as soon as possible before everybody, including First Nations, wake up to the fact that when old growth trees from public forests leave BC they are actually stolen property. How so? Because they come from public forests. The government is supposed to hold these forests in trust for our children and grandchildren, not liquidate them. Besides, a lot of these parcels of forests are being contested by First Nations. By allowing these huge, American invested or US based corporations to take the trees from Canadian public forests is in itself an act of treason by provincial governments. And when Gordon Campbell encourages this process he knows he isn't acting in the interest of British Colombians, native or non-native, but in the interests of his god...privitization.

And secondly, the desperate, drastic ways in which our public forests are being liquidated serves Gordon Campbell and the corporations quite well in another way...By contracting out. Don't you just love that phrase? Contracting out. Oh, yes. Two birds killed with one stone. The little contractors who have been hired to cut for the logging giants will work their men furiously to get the last of the old growth out. They have to work furiously because they are operating on a thin margin. And then the same little contractors will be blamed for doing the actual cutting in sensitive areas. Oh, but Campbell and the corporations are shrewd! They don't give a contenential damn how many loggers and truck drives are killed with the frantic lessening of safety rules as long as they can blame the men themselves. For carelessness, of course. And then also point fingers at the little contractors for permitting the lessening of the rules which the holy truimphate (Gordon Campbell and his cabinet and the huge corporations) not only encouraged, but by their polices, mandated in place. Which has resulted in the unprecedented numbers of deaths of forestry workers.

I have been writing (and yelling) for a long time that the clear cutting of our ancient forests shows disrespect for life itself, a disrespect that is now being echoed in the deaths of forest workers themselves. The only ones profiting out of the death in and of our public forests is the corporations. And Gordon Campbell, of course, in paying homage to his god, privatization.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Who can we trust now?

Ourselves. Our new Conservative government is trying to internally combust the very first week in office with problematic cabinet appointments. As we all know, David Emerson is a major player in this mess of confusing and double dealing but I don't think we should be too hard on the fella. After all, he is just being the CEO corporate animal that he is. And beside, Stephen Harper and our premier, Gordon Campbell say this country really needs Mr. Emerson. Why? They insist it's because only David Emerson can run the Olympic Games and take care of our international trade. Well, now. Why wasn't any of this known before that David Emerson was such a talented fella, in fact the only one in Canada who can serve Canada in these capacities? Has he evidenced such remarkable talents while he served in office as a Liberal?

Some say that paranoia is a simply a heightened sense of awareness and I'll go with that definition and suggest another reason Harper and Campbell need Emerson, in fact probably the only real one. It's because of Emerson's talent in playing both sides of the fence in the softwood lumber dispute. In my opinion there really is no softwood lumber war. How could there be when companies like Weyerhaeuser and Breascan are wholly American owned with other giant corporations who operate in our woods heavily American invested? These guys collect on both sides of the border. They clear cut our public forests paying little or nothing and will eventually collect additional taxes on the US side. What a sweet deal!

The only softwood lumber war actually happening is the one international logging companies have been waging against Canadians for years; by stealing away our public forests almost for free. With the blessings of all provincial governments and BC courts, I might add, begining backin the 1950's with WC Bennett and the first provincial forest minister, Robert Sommers. In 1953-54 Robert Sommers was sentenced to five years in prison for accepting money and bribes from BC Forest Products in exchange for a huge tree farm license. And while poor Robert Sommers did two years in prison, guess what happened to the tree farm license? Right. The judge declared that BC Forests Products who had given the gifts and money judged as criminal acts, could keep the Tree Farm license. A court ordered blessing on BC Forest Products keeping stolen property.

And to this day citizens and future citizens of BC and Canada are being robbed of our national heritage...our public forests. Was it any coincidence that just recently the Americans were up here with a settlement proposal that seemed to be a go until Gordon Campbell brought Emerson on board for his input? And the proposed agreement was scuttled? There is a very simple way to settle the so called softwood lumber war. Stumpage rates are the key. Double or triple them. Or made the corporations who operate in Canadian forests bid on public forests. As long as logging companies who operate in public forests pay little or nothing for our huge, valuable trees their only interest will be in prolonging a phony softwood lumber war. Which is why Emerson is so valuable to the logging and lumber corporations and to Gordon Campbell and to Stephen Harper. They think Emerson, with his background in the forest industry, can keep the softwood lumber war going. When you have a business deal that pays coming and going you don't just ditch it. You protect it by whatever means possible and the citizens of this country be dammed.

So who can we trust? Ourselves. By being just as outraged at the loss of our public forests as we have been by Emerson crossing the floor.