Archives for posts with tag: canada

The death of Jamal Khashoggi has lead to a lot of public outcry against Saudi Arabia, and yet the responses from a lot of world leaders has been pretty non-committal. They spout a lot of rhetoric about the horrifying nature of such a crime, but when it comes to a response of substance, they openly cite money as the reason they’re just plumb not going to do anything about it. This leads me to a question: how much does it cost to kill a journalist? Actually, scratch that. Saudi Arabia has been going after dissidents for a while, and there was that whole “anti-corruption” campaign wherein all political opponents to the Crown Prince were arrested and jailed. The behaviour is nothing new, but the target is, so let me rephrase that. How much does it cost to kill a journalist for an American Newspaper who also happens to be a US resident?

The price tag for US President Donald Trump is currently $450 billion, but it could even be as low as $110 billion because Trump speaks whatever happens to be on his mind, be it a lie, an untruth, and, maybe through the law of averages, the occasional half-truth, so who knows what the actual cost of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia is? Given Trump’s personal enjoyment of harm being committed against journalists, one can certainly speculate that even if no money was on the table, Trump would be hesitating to condemn their brutal murder.

Trump not giving a shit about brutal dictators committing heinous acts is not news. However, Trump is not alone on the world stage as he is on so many other occasions. Our very own Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is unlikely to cancel a $15 billion arms contract, citing a $1 billion cancellation fee. We might put the arms deal on hold, pending the conclusion of the investigation being conducted jointly between Turkey and… Saudi Arabia? Oh good, at least we know it won’t be biased. Presumably it will be reinstated once this whole thing simmers down.

France‘s President Emmanuel Macron won’t even address halting arms sales, despite European pressure lead by Germany’s Angela Merkel. France sells about $12.6 billion worth of arms to the Sauds. The UK isn’t planning on giving up its £4.6 billion in arms sales either. Nor the Spanish government, who decided after all to sell Saudi Arabia a bunch of bombs, because if they didn’t, Saudi Arabia would not buy its warships, meaning Spain would lose €1.8 billion on top of the €9.2 million from the bomb deal.

Now I know what you’re thinking. We all need to sell Saudi Arabia military equipment, because if we didn’t, they wouldn’t be able involve themselves in Yemen’s civil war to create “undeniably the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by far!” Or murder children! Or actively promote cholera outbreaks by bombing so many hospitals that those bombings even have their own Wikipedia page! We have a moral obligation to sell armaments to Saudi Arabia, and that’s why it’s such a difficult decision to abandon those deals! I know, I know. I know.

I know.

However, if we ignore our righteous indignation at those hundreds of thousands of ultimately irrelevant Yemeni children for two seconds and get back to the importance of one American resident, we’ll see that it costs at least a billion of your local currency to dismember a journalist from the Washington Post.

I truly believe that this is enough information for a bitingly sarcastic blog about arms dealing and Saudi Arabia, but I do have one more thing on my mind. When I first heard Donald Trump deny flat out that he would implement financial repercussions on the Saudi government because $110 billion is too much money to throw away on some paltry journalist’s death, it reminded me of the bank bailouts of 2008. “Too big to fail” was the soundbite at the time, claiming that too much of the American economy was invested in these literal criminal organizations to implement any real consequences.

Am I saying that Saudi Arabia has too much of a monopoly on arms sales and that our countries should spread our military equipment around more diversely to not be in the pocket of any particular corrupt tyrant? No. I think that in our current guns versus butter economic divide, the radical lopsidedness of our focus is becoming suicidal. What I’m saying is that if you have a system that demands infinite growth by companies that seek the largest market share, those who grow faster, or who started out big, will naturally consume their competition in their unending greed. In more Marxist terms, capitalism tends toward monopoly. Hence, the banks, the media conglomerates, the tech firms, etc.

Saudi Arabia does not have a monopoly on military equipment. We can always just turn to Israel to support their war crimes if we feel that same burning desire to cause humanitarian crises. My problem is that we live in a system where wealth equates to power, and we applaud this. We revel in it. My problem is wealth. Arms deals, war crimes, and the destruction of the economy are all intrinsically immoral, sure, but having the power to get away with it is the true crime. That power is wealth, and any outrage directed at the Saudi government must include within it the complicity of all our governments in perpetuating the power of wealth, and the system itself that allows and encourages its accumulation.

Why would anyone ever want to volunteer? There are absolutely no tangible benefits; you’re lucky if you get a gift card to The Keg after years of service, if that. There’s no pay, no money, no financial incentives, no personal economic benefit whatsoever. A Joker once said, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” Our whole culture is built on the principle of selling our labour at admittedly below-cost wages, and who would stray from that? For something with even less pecuniary value! Makes absolutely no sense.

When you consider that money is actually garbage at motivating people beyond completing basic tasks, it makes perfect sense, and it turns out there are quite a few reasons why people give away their labour for free. Some reasons adhere to the ‘giving’ nature of volunteering: altruism, paying it forward, fighting for those with special needs (youth, the elderly, the disabled, etc.), and developing a helping culture. Others follow the ‘getting’ path: emotional rewards, meaningfulness and self-fulfillment, personal well-being, and a place in society. Some relate to both: gaining by giving (eg. I might need this kind of help later) and personal growth. And completely irrelevantly to the previous methods, people volunteer as an expression of their values, to follow their role models, to fill up spare time, to overcome personal matters, and most importantly, as a continuation of a lifetime of volunteerism. This is going to come back later, so remember that: a continuation of a lifetime of volunteerism.

The benefits of volunteering are most felt among seniors. Compared to the equivalent non-volunteer, elder volunteers have better physical and mental health, they have better life satisfaction, a longer life expectancy, fewer bouts of depression, and they have greater access to pertinent health information such as exercise techniques and preventative medical care. If you’re old and you volunteer, you are literally less likely to die. The more volunteering you do, the better your chances, as there is a 63% greater increase in perceived health between those who volunteer at multiple organizations compared to those who volunteer at just one. The benefits go on: volunteering can prolong an independent lifestyle, extend participation in the labour force and community, prevent memory loss, and it can even help manage chronic illness. Perhaps you might associate healthy people with volunteering, rather than volunteering with healthy people, but luckily science has already stepped in and said, nah, volunteering does all this. It’s pretty great. In fact, it’s pretty dumb not to.

And, as with everything, we seem to be getting dumber, and shockingly, it’s not the Millennials’ fault this time. Everyone knows about Canada’s aging population, right? Well, more than just single payer healthcare is at risk. Retirees have all this free time, no family commitments, and our seniors today are way healthier and more educated than any group of seniors have ever been before, ever. Ideal conditions for becoming volunteers. However, the enthusiasm isn’t there anymore. It was: even though young people volunteer the most out of any demographic, seniors have traditionally devoted the most hours. On average, seniors devote about 223 hours to volunteering, compared to the next highest group (ages 15 to 24) who clocked in at 130 hours. Seniors make up most of what is called the group of Super-Volunteers, the 10% of all volunteers who make up about 53% of all volunteer hours. These Super-Volunteers aren’t going to live forever, and unfortunately the next group in line to take their position are Boomers.

The Report of the National Seniors Council On Volunteering Among Seniors And Positive Active Aging predicts a “void” which these Boomers are unlikely to fill. Considering that volunteering is estimated to contribute more than $14 billion to the Canadian economy annually (estimated because nobody gets paid, remember), it’s probably pretty important to figure out why Boomers are dropping the ball. There are two lines of thinking on the matter.

The first is that Boomers are such delicate snowflakes that they put the worst libtard SJW to shame. Just listen to this directive from Volunteer Canada to organizations seeking to lure in prospective Boomer volunteers:

Effectively engaging baby boomers requires careful consideration of the life circumstances of each volunteer. Taking the time to listen to the interests and motivations of a potential volunteer can serve to benefit an organization in designing a meaningful assignment that also meets the needs of the organization.

That Seniors Council report from earlier explains that Boomers need “stimulating volunteer experiences that respond to personal needs and interests.” Boomers need a sense of ownership over their work, and need to see its impact on society. They fear that organizations are simply dumping busywork on volunteers, and want volunteering opportunities that matches their skill set. Organizations that rely on volunteers are usually smaller, which typically require a more generalist approach, but Boomers don’t want to deal with any of that boring shit. Boomers want to change the world, but they don’t want to actually do grunt work in order to get it done. Dirt under the fingernails is for peasants, I suppose. There is also less religious incentive, as this incoming generation of seniors is less religiously inclined. Volunteer Canada says that churches, which used to serve as a formal and informal recruitment centre for volunteers, will no longer be effective with Boomers. Shame too, given that almost all of those Super-Volunteers identify as people of faith, even if they don’t cite religious motivation as their driving force.

The other line of thinking for the volunteering decline is the reason the Boomers give themselves: they simply don’t have the time, both in their day to day lives and in their inability to make a year long commitment. Now, that’s a safe answer to give and perhaps the real answer is one that Boomers simply aren’t willing to divulge in a survey, but it’s worth looking into. Boomers do seek casual commitments, swiping left more often than right, testing out organizations before making real commitments. Our oft cited report defines their volunteering as “episodic,” with a greater emphasis on specific projects rather than committing to a single organization for any significant period of time.

Boomers are the first to endure being nicknamed a Sandwich Generation: a generation that must care for its aging parents as well as its stay-at-home children. Obviously this isn’t a new phenomenon, and it is quite common in certain cultures, but it is of growing concern due to the work commitments that households face today that they didn’t before, on top of these additional caring obligations. People are working more hours than ever, and wages are not keeping up with worker productivity, which means people are working harder for less money. With that less money, Canadians owe $1.67 for every dollar they make, with the total Canadian personal debt burden topping over 2 trillion dollars. For reference, from that same year (2016), the Canadian federal debt was 1.3 trillion. Remember that bank employees are pressured to deceive their customers in order to up-sell credit spending, even if you want to forget the practices of credit card companies that target those in poverty with high interest, high penalty rate offers sold under the guise of solving their financial woes. So it’s no wonder that folks are working more. Seniors especially need to put off retirement or continue to work part-time just to survive! Who can volunteer when you’ve got to work essentially forever and take care of kids who can’t move out because they’re even worse off than the Boomers?

In all honesty, the answer probably lies somewhere in between. Boomers don’t want to drudge through the muck in order to help others, they want to be the champion that saves the day with their unique talents. Those are the lucky ones, while the rest are stuck in an increasingly exploitative economy that doesn’t allow time for community work in the first place. Hmm. A community that is failing to take care of itself in any meaningful way due to a cult of individualism and structural economic inequities… hmmmmmmm….

There is a way out. When looking at seniors transitioning into retirement, the greatest factor in them becoming volunteers isn’t religion, altruism, or any ‘giving’ or ‘getting’ motivating factor. The increase of new volunteers upon retirement does not even come close to those who simply continue to volunteer. Those who have been volunteering throughout their entire lives. We shouldn’t be trying to convert Boomers as they stumble into retirement; they’re already a lost cause. Start people volunteering at an earlier age, and those will be the ones who become the next Super-Volunteers when they discover all that free time you’re supposed to get at retirement.

We need to create a culture of volunteering. Remind people that there are better ways to find fulfillment than just earning a paycheck. Try to avoid falling into the trap that an individual can save the world on their own. Superman is a fiction. The reality is that groups of people are the ones who make change. We need to reconnect people with their communities. Rebuild the idea of neighbours. This idea of community rebuilding is quite prominent in progressive circles, and perhaps a culture of volunteering is the path to its fruition.

Today is Canada day. Allegedly, Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, since that was the point when anything worth mentioning started happening here in this vast expanse of land. But what happened 150 years ago that was worth celebrating? What exact event took place? What was its context? What were the consequences of that event, and given those consequences, do we really want that event to define us as a nation?

As is commonly known, Europeans came to this land, and took it from its native inhabitants; some might say stole. The method of acquisition is a bit hazy, since most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots are areas of land that were never actually added to Canadian confederation. These are lands that were never signed away in treaty or annexed through conquest. Even beyond the ambiguities of treaties ceding ownership from a people who had no notion of land ownership in the first place, and the barbarity of stealing land from a murdered people via conquest, throughout a large portion of Canada, Europeans, now calling themselves Canadians, just “took” ownership of the land. The Canadian Supreme Court recently ruled that Aboriginal people in theory do still own the right to that land that they never actually gave up, which Canadian governments are now doing their utmost to circumvent. A most telling example is BC’s former-premier Christy Clark referring to the people “up there” (demarcating them as an Other from the predominantly non-indigenous southerners) as being the “forces of no” who are simply too unreasonable to blindly follow the economic fancies of the Liberal party’s oil and gas lobbyists. Ignoring the environmental concerns of a gas pipeline sullying First Nation’s traditional fishing grounds, what about simple respect for a sovereign people dictating their own affairs in their own land?

I don’t think most people would wish to celebrate 150 years of ongoing land theft, so what else has Canada been up to otherwise if we wish to only acknowledge 150 years? I mean, we all sort of know that white people used to be terrible to “Indians” back in the day, with terms casually thrown around like “genocide” without really appreciating that the term is one we commonly use in conjunction with atrocities like the holocaust: a great way to start the birth of a nation! However, we tend to ignore that. Stephen Harper infamously stated that Canada does not have a history of colonialism. If the Prime Minister of the country succumbs to the idea that Canada is just super polite and never does anything wrong, then I guess willful ignorance is one of those “Canadian Values” that people keep clamoring to demand of our immigrants.

Did you know that Aboriginal people did not get the vote in Canada until 1960? For comparison, black people in the United States, that horrible place with slavery and endless racism, got the vote in 1870 when the 15th amendment was added to the constitution (yes, voter suppression precluded black people from voting at the time, and is still ongoing). Women got the vote in 1918. What this all means is that if we want to celebrate 150 years of Canadian history, a good portion of that 150 years is an apartheid state.

Perhaps that is a bit extreme. Sure Canada isn’t actually Canadian land and we’ve excluded Aboriginal people from any kind of political participation, but we must have at least been polite about it! We’re Canadian, after all! Well, except that the head of Indian Affairs in the early 20th century said shit like this in regard to kids dying in Residential Schools:

“It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habitating so closely in these schools, and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is being geared towards the final solution of our Indian Problem.” [emphasis added]

The emphasis wasn’t added by me, but by the source from where I got the quotation. I decided to keep it because as far as final solutions go to ethnic-based problems, there aren’t many positive comparisons, and me choosing to use the term ‘apartheid’ seems more reasonable over other options I could have chosen, now doesn’t it?

But yeah! Residential Schools! They sound so benign, but you gotta remember that they were places where Aboriginal children were raped and tortured until they acted as white as they possibly could. Children were abducted from their families to be placed in these (well, we’re avoiding a certain comparison so I won’t say death camps even though more than 3000 children died, so we’ll stick with school) schools from the 1830s to 1996. Have some graphic imagery:

Girls were sexually abused and raped. Boys were forced to masturbate while wearing plastic skirts and showering together. Children were stropped, beaten with all manner of objects and were put in the electric chair; for punishment, for no reason at all and for simple entertainment. Children were forced to eat their own days old vomit.

Canada also had Indian Hospitals, which served a similar function to the Residential Schools, where segregated health services were delivered to abducted Aboriginals of all ages. Again the goal was to eliminate their culture, more so than any physical disease. The natives would become “civilized” whether they wanted it or not.

Canada never actually got tired of abducting Aboriginal children, however. During the 1960s, Canada’s intrepid social workers would venture into the Reserves and take children; ‘scoop’ them up, as it were, and now we have the delightful term “Sixties Scoop” to refer to this time period. Rather than place them in frightful Residential Schools, the government placed the children into white foster homes for even more “civilizing” missions against these savage people. Foster care is of course marginally less abusive than the Residential School system, so at least some degree of progress was made on that front. Still though, it ain’t great even today and abuses were (and are) abundant.

When I said Canada never got tired of abducting Aboriginal children, it should be noted that there is now what is referred to as the “Millennium Scoop” since there are more Aboriginal children under government care today than there was during the height of the Residential School period. In 2011, 85% of children in Manitoba’s foster care were Aboriginal. Another “Canadian Value” ought to be persistence, since we haven’t given up on that Final Solution during our much-celebrated 150 years. Aboriginal communities live in Third World conditions in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Their drinking water is undrinkable. Their health, infant mortality rate, and life expectancy is comparatively abysmal. Suicide rates are described in epidemic terms.

I mean, I guess you could be racist and say that Aboriginal people are just biologically determined to live garbage lives, but their livelihood prior to those 150 years shows otherwise. We now use terms like “intergenerational trauma” to described the impact the last 150 years have had on Aboriginal people, and I mean if you really want to celebrate that, enjoy being a shit person, I guess.

Perhaps you’re wondering that someone could in theory celebrate other aspects of Canadian life this Canada Day. Not everything is terrible. Insulin was invented in Canada. That’s pretty neat! We also invented basketball and Trivial Pursuit. Hooray for us! But by labeling Canada 150 years old, what we’re doing is saying that the Aboriginal People who have lived here a lot longer than that don’t fall into the Canadian narrative. We’re saying that we’re just going to ignore the legacy of what started 150 years ago, that Final Solution, and pretend that we never participated in colonialism. If we’re going to mark our calendars for an acknowledgement of 150 years, it should not be a day of celebration, but one of remorse. You don’t celebrate the beginning of genocide.

Why not acknowledge that the First Peoples of this country helped found the nation that we now call Canada? Why not say that the history of Canada is a history of all Canadians? We’d be a lot older than 150 years if we did that! We would see that the tragedy of Aboriginal life is not a permanent fixture, and we would see that their sovereign power is a right imbued in the history of our vast and diverse nation.

I am a patriot. I love my country. I just see my country as a collection of its people, rather than the illusion created by the public narrative. I celebrate Canada by celebrating Canadians, every single one of them, which means I celebrate too those who have been here since time immemorial.


Party on, Canada!