Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lunacy Pact

It's been said in literature that there are those who have made pacts with the devil. It has, in fact, a long tradition in Christian folklore.

They have accepted the shadow of an evil presence to loom over them, as a trade-off for something that they may consider dear to them. The musician Guiseppe Tartini made a pact with the devil to enable him to play the violin as its uber-master. Faust made his pact with the devil, as did Oscar Wilde's fictional Dorian Gray. The exchange was a diabolical one; giving up one's soul to obtain some earthly aspiration.

Favours sought could range from mastery over a creative Muse, eternal youth, untold wealth, or power, political or occult. And, needless to say, there could be many interpretations of what constitutes one's burning desire, a desire so bereft of reason and soundness of mind that one would willingly bargain with the devil to obtain it, and in the process give up one's rights to one's soul.

Without your soul, what do you become? A spawn of the devil? A helpless naif, but one capable of truly outstanding performances of one kind or another? It's a metaphorical process, this bargaining to gain something otherwise unattainable, one that haunts people, and brings them to the brink of insanity.

And it certainly seems, from the evidence being given at the trial of one, Allen Tehrankari, taking place in Ottawa, for the murder of his sister-in-law, Barbara Galway, that Tehrankari's loving and supportive wife has submitted her soul to damnation, in defence of the indefensible. That she is defending her husband against a murder charge is explicable.

That she has chosen to defend her husband against the mountain of damning evidence that has been assembled in charging him with the brutal murder of her sister, is inexplicable. Other than to assume, from the words and beliefs that spew from her mouth in voluntary testimony, that she has completely taken leave of her senses.

Certainly her sensibilities. Certainly her sense of morality and human dignity. This was her older sister whom her husband brutalized, murdered and consigned to a heap of burning flesh.

Granted, the sister, Barbara Galway, appears to have been the Black Sheep of her family and that's another kind of tragedy altogether. How might it be possible, any sane person might ask incredulously, that a woman presented with what appears to be incontrovertible evidence that her husband committed the most bestial of acts, clumsily, insanely, brutally, against her very own sister, yet she helplessly sees in him a pure and innocent spirit?

Bizarre beyond belief. Sufficiently so that one would have good reason to fear for the safety of her young child. Is the fact that an otherwise-ordinary-seeming person has succumbed to dangerous hallucinations sufficient to have public agencies tasked with the safety of young children look into this? Susan Pearce, sister of Barbara Galway, trusting wife of Allen Tehrankari has testified that he was attacked by some unknown men, who extracted his semen.

Is this a new one in the annals of unlikely occurrences in defence of a murderer whose semen was found in the vagina of a woman he raped, strangled, and whose corpse he burned beyond recognition in an isolated wood? These attackers took her husband's semen after submitting him to the indignity of a sexual attack. "How did the sperm get into your sister's vagina at the body site?" the assistant Crown attorney asked.

"I'm assuming the men who did this were the same ones who killed her" was her response. When asked if it did not raise any suspicion in her mind when her husband cut a large piece of carpeting from their home's upstairs hallway to rid the scene of bloodstains, the response was that the wife hadn't wanted her child to be exposed to the potential of bacterial infection from blood. "It's still not very suspicious to you, is it not?" asked the attorney. "No, not really", she said.

Murder is messy work, to be sure. When the assistant Crown laid out additional compelling evidence, that the presence of blood was discovered on the bathroom vanity, the shower curtain, the bathroom waste basket, the wall, the door frame, a stair railing, and carpet fibres were found in a neighbour's garbage can, Susan Pearce was unfazed. "You actually know that that's the blood of your sister on that mattress", referring to the blood-soaked mattress removed from one of their bedrooms.

"Yes, I know that", Ms. Pearce responded. "At that point, you must have serious concerns that your husband is involved", led the attorney. "Well, there are other ways my sister's blood could have gotten there", Pearce claimed imperturbably. And besides which, she iterated and reiterated, her sister was suffering from some sort of hallucinations around the time of her death, to the extent that she was behaving abnormally, lying, that kind of thing.

There's a heart beating in that woman's chest; her soul appears to have gone the way of the devil.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Evading Reality

Women are such incredibly trusting and needy creatures. Many of them, in any event. They are so eager to believe what they want to believe, that evidence to the contrary is shrugged off, too painful to contemplate and therefore much too irrelevant to their lives. Like women who live with abusive men, and persuade themselves that their patience and forbearance will eventually turn things around, and that brute they live with will eventually become what they always hoped he would be.

Not that this is an exclusively female thing; there are men too, needless to say, who live discordantly hopeful lives allied with women who treat them with disdain and don't hesitate to abuse the men they live with because that's just how it is. No one gender necessarily has the monopoly on dysfunctional insensitivity to other people, an inability to care deeply for others, and an unwillingness to restrain their baser instincts.

But as it happens, it is women, all too often, who suffer the greater amount of physical violations, and it is women, and often their children as well, whose lives are in danger when coupled with a male partner whose personality is surfeit with the pathologies that make people controlling and dangerous to others. And when women are in a relationship that they treasure, they will accept low-level brutalities without recognizing them for what they are.

As a case in point, but one whose unbelievably outrageous depths of desperate willingness to believe against all logical signposts and actions to the contrary, there's the instance of a husband-loving woman who denies her husband was responsible for the vicious rape and horrible murder of her very own sister. Despite evidence that clearly outlines her husband's actions as a boldly, baldly unrepentant murderer.

The evidence against this man is so compelling as to be beyond a reasonable doubt, yet he has taken it upon himself to defend himself in a court of law in his murder trial. Police detectives had no difficulty discerning that the murder of this woman's sister took place in her very home, by her husband. Blood identified as her sister's was found in the house, a mattress had been taken out of the house, full of blood, and discarded, later found and identified.

Her husband had suffered suspicious-appearing lacerations to his stomach and groin area. The burned-beyond-recognition body of her sister whom pathologists claim was strangled to death was found, abandoned, in an isolated, wooded area. Her sister's blood was found in the family vehicle. Some of her sister's possessions, along with a portion of rope identical to one found binding her, were in her husband's possession.

But she now, testifying for her husband, claims he was a victim, and not the perpetrator of her sister's gruesome death. Nine months after the dreadful event, her husband explained to his wife that he had been assaulted in their home, by two male strangers, who had proceeded to sexually violate him, thus accounting for the scratches on his groin and chest.

After which the intruders, whom she speculated received entry to the house through having been given the keys by her sister, forced her husband to take the spare-room mattress from the house and load it into the family van, which the two attackers then took away with them, to be discovered abandoned later.

That day in early January 2005, she had been expecting her sister to drop by, while she was away at work, to take care of her three-year-old daughter. Her husband insisted his sister-in-law had never arrived, had telephoned to inform him that she was on her way elsewhere. The child, on the other hand, told her mother that she, her father and her aunt had gone somewhere together.

The prosecutor at the trial incredulously asked the wife on several occasions, "You actually think this happened in your house?" referring to the purported break-in. To which she responded, "Yes, I do, it made sense to me." "You know what we allege about those scratches, don't you", he asked her.

"The allegation is that she was bound, wrists tied. You know that?"
"Yes, I do."
The prosecutor went on to say that while the husband was "allegedly penetrating your sister" she scratched him in an attempt to fend him off. To which statement the husband rose and exclaimed of the prosecutor, "No, he's adding to his lies again". And the faithful wife clings to her belief in her husband's innocence.

Stranger things have happened; evidence that appeared incriminating beyond a doubt has been found in some unusual cases to have another, explicable and innocent explanation. In which case this wife's faith in her husband, if it were to be found in his favour that the evidence is somehow tainted, would be her reward.

On the other hand, reality does impinge, and it does not at all appear likely that her husband to whom she is so utterly, trustingly faithful, preferring to believe that her divorced sister was somehow responsible for her own death, - is guilty not only of murdering her sister, but betraying his wife's trust and manipulating her and robbing her of judgemental intelligence.

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Setting The Standard

If ever there was a standard set for obnoxious in-your-face advertising and hard-sell ubiquity, that award should go to Rogers Communications. No telecommunications giant works harder at selling its inflated-cost services than this miserable company. It bills itself as 'first' in providing wireless, cable television, high-speed Internet and home telephone services to consumers and businesses in Canada.

It got that way, presumably, by presenting as one huge predator on the Canadian public consciousness.

Their telephone solicitations are a bloody nuisance, and barely a day goes by without some kind of advertising being dropped off by the obliging mailman in our post box. Junk mail from a perniciously sleazy company, providing 'home entertainment' for Canadians, par excellence.

Except, who needs it, really. Only those utterly besotted by imprisoning themselves endlessly in a daily rote of television and gaming and Internet afflictions.

Where at one time, almost twenty years ago, we signed up with them, it didn't take long for us to realize this was a service we could very well do without, and we cancelled after a year of service. They haven't stopped preying on us, since. Nor have they taken a break from preying on the larger Canadian public. Their advertising is so pervasive as to become a nauseating presence.

And the most current half-page advertisements in our daily newspaper demonstrates precisely how morally oblique is their campaign to take over all electronic communications services, quite apart from their blatantly omnivorous avariciousness.

It's a given in most social health and academic circles that people watch too much television, spend too much time on the Internet, and overuse cellphones.

Educators point out time and again that, bad enough as it is that adults don't budge from the couch and the glare of the television screen, children too have become irremediably addicted to the presence of these 'entertainment' features gracing every home in the country.

Various government agencies mount advertising campaigns geared to make people think about how they're wasting opportunities to get about, move a little, expend some energy.

Not only is the general public becoming seriously overweight from engorging itself on the fast foods advertised on television screens they're glued to, incapable of exerting themselves to get up, shut the damn thing off, prepare a decent home-cooked meal, then get out for a post-prandial walk around the neighbourhood, and stave off obesity, but the steadily emerging statistics of grossly overweight children also points to a warped lifestyle.

All proudly brought to you by Rogers Communications. That latest piece of newspaper advertising? Well, how about big bold red letters enticingly claiming: "SUDDENLY, GOING OUT SEEMS SO OVERRATED". And below that, the photograph of a teen-age girl reclined on a sofa, animatedly blabbing on her cellphone, while her little sister, gaming controls in hand, is avidly gaming.

"Find out what's waiting for you at home" the advertisement brags.
TV On Demand
Safe surfing
Even voice mail's dialed up


Really? Really!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Confrontational Fascism

Consider the source, above all, when confronted by violent irrationality and unbridled hatred. It doesn't erupt from nowhere. There has to have been a deliberate introduction. Children, after all, don't usually evince suspicion and hatred, they must be led to it. Culturally, socially, politically indoctrinated into a cult of hatred.

Becoming a social contract; one once instilled, is there to stay, to fester and eventually reach its tentacles outward in an inevitable trajectory of proselytizing, sharing with others their rancid antipathy toward others. Prejudice has a way of infiltrating one's inner consciousness, assuming its place in the arsenal of presumed life-coping skills.

Not the very best of emotions, to be certain, but in its own way validating a measure of superiority, that one is part of another entity, not the despised one. It has always been a useful measure of side-tracking criticism of one's own short-comings. Not merely the short-comings of individuals, but those of governing bodies, diverting attention from themselves toward a universal scapegoat for directional blame.

It's a disease of temperament and exclusivity and readily transmittable to others who themselves assume a sympathy for the radical views of popular sentiments, prepared to be assimilated into the culture of hatred toward a readily identifiable group often held in low esteem. The thing of it is, every society is infested with groups prepared to isolate others.

What is happening in universities across North America - and which actually started at University of Toronto, heaven help us all - is merely a reflection of what has occurred on the world stage. For example, within that august world body of equality and respect for others, the United Nations.

Where the nightmare of countries casually and brutally practising human rights abuses have formed a self-supportive cadre of a tight majority singling out one particular country for blame as a human-rights abuser. Just as the UN's World Conference Against Racism was formed to address global racism, religious intolerance and discrimination, and in the process became utterly perverted, so too have university campuses become a blatantly unwitting tool of racism.

Where demeaning and bitterly racist poster cartoons characterize the State of Israel - a parliamentary democracy of equal entitlements and justice under its laws in a sea of dictatorships, monarchies and oligarchies practising rough justice - stands accused of fascism and discriminatory oppression. This is not an isolated instance of rude discrimination on the part of Palestinian sympathizers.

The simple fact is anyone should be sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, bereft of the opportunity to form their own autonomous region by the simple fact that their leaders have traditionally been more focused on grasping opportunities to enrich themselves, than to order themselves to work on establishing the infrastructure and the will to aspire to nationhood.

What is happening now in universities around North America, is the steady infiltration of aggrieved Arabs and Palestinians - long fed a cultural, social diet of Jew-hatred bolstered by a desire to destroy the single country in the Middle East that presents as 'alien' to the general tradition, culture and religion - into the general academic population to pursue their agenda of demonizing Israel and Jews.

Jewish students at the universities are targeted as supporters of Israel, as agents of a diseased and demonic culture, religion and society. It's passing strange that Jewish student groups do not actively agitate for public opinion denouncing the Arab and Palestinian terror groups that attack the State of Israel, yet Arab and Palestinian students feel entitled to encourage one another to run amok, shouting "death to the Jews!"

This is not vintage Canadian heritage or the expression of Canadian values, to wreak havoc and foment violence against member groups of Canadian society, or yet against other countries of the world. Yet groups like Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights insist on their right to spread hatred and encourage violent actions against Jewish students on campus.

The vicious viral propaganda labelling Israel an 'Apartheid State' is not consonant with the truth, nor is it reflective of the Canadian way, Canada's values and social contract. The Government of Canada itself treads a careful line, not to offend any of its citizens whose heritage values may be offended by political decisions it makes; government has supported a sister-democracy, and denounced a terror group.

The campaign of intimation, harassment and violence, both implied and practised, is deplorable, vicious and unreflective of what Canada stands for. It is what bred the disaster of Air India Flight 182, and it is reflective of what resulted in Nazi ghettos and extermination camps.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Triumphalism of the Perpetually Aggrieved

They're a sad and sorry lot, those Quebecois intent on forging a sovereign country for themselves, leaving behind Confederation, their place within Canada, an honoured and storied place. Yet the continually-aggrieved pur laine brush aside the very notion that the rest of Canada has any regard for them. Instead they cleave faithfully to the infuriated belief that Quebec is belittled, unappreciated, by those who, two and a half centuries ago, conquered New France to absorb it into an English-speaking majority.

A situation and condition that had its stresses and its obvious unpleasantness, but that time has long since passed. Canada has been all too glad to see Quebec come into its own, to passionately reclaim its language, to govern its businesses, claim its politics, flaunt its cultural successes. Quebec, at one time not that very long ago, was weighted with the exploitation that the arrogance of the English brought to them, and harnessed in backwardness thanks to the heavy hand of the Catholic Church. But no more.

Isn't it just so, that when people consider themselves to have been historically abused, they become incapable, through long inculcation of victimhood, of advancing themselves without continually breathing the fire of accusation at their one-time oppressors? And through the remorse born of guilt, those one-time oppressors seek to accommodate the grievances at every turn, hoping that one appeasement after another will finally help them turn that last page of the historical document.

It doesn't work, it never does. Appeasement simply validates the reason for the misery in the first place, feeding the embers of bitterness. And there comes a point of no return where nothing, no overtures, no promises, no self-abnegation, no amount of generous funding, no praise and protestations of goodwill and earnest demonstrations of appreciation will pacify the aggrieved beast.

And here is Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Quebecois at one of their self-congratulatory meetings, basking in the success of the stare-down of the planned Plains of Abraham commemorative re-enactment, cooing with pleasure. Chalk another victory down for the separatists. "It is time for Quebec to take charge. When we need to make sudden changes of course ... do we really have the means to deal with the incoherency of a federation?

"We must finish with being wards of another nation. The context proves it. Sovereignty is urgent!" For to secede from Canada would bring monumental benefits to an independent Quebec. For one thing, they would somehow have to replace the transfer payments they receive from the federal government, amounting to some 40% of the total transfers allocated to all provinces. That whopping transfer enables the province to provide sweet services to their population on the backs of other provinces.

Canadians have borne Quebec's dissatisfactions, complaints and constant urgings for autonomy, for representation at the international level in competition with that of the federal government, and the province's ever-increasing groans that not enough federal support for their industries is being expressed. Patiently at first, then with increasing exasperation. The country is officially bilingual, but not so in Quebec, where the French language dominates and English is nowhere.

"If Quebec were sovereign" she claims, "we would have all our taxes. We would have more manoeuvring room to develop an economic strategy, to support families and workers. If Quebec were sovereign, we could support our industries in the manufacturing and forestry industries. Our aeronautical industry would not be rejected in favour of outdated automobile manufacturers in Ontario.

"If Quebec were sovereign, we would be seated at the big international tables where nations work together to lessen the effects of the crisis." If Quebec were sovereign, in point of fact, they would be in a similar position to the French, the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese, with collapsed economies. If Quebec were sovereign, her taxes and her industries and her GDP would fall short of her needs - and oh dear, no more transfer payments.

This woman is delusional, but then no more so than her colleagues in the Quebec movement to become a distinguished country, a success story beyond the imaginings of English Canada. Her synapses don't appear to be hitting on those frontal lobes. She hyperventilates at the thought of the glory that could once again become New France, as though the Battle of the Plains of Abraham had upset God's design.

A proudly independent Quebec would even have a solution for the Islamist jihad menace facing the world. Simply play fair with the peoples of the world, those who agitate for their freedom from oppression, eager to become nations unto themselves. Merely avoid the 'deep bitterness' that people suffer as a result of their colonialist exploitation. That would melt away aggression.

Quebec should know. She will undertake to appease the violently engaged Islamists, to empathetically demonstrate that the wellsprings of their disaffections are understood. Appeasement would gain trust, camaraderie, co-operation, and lead the jihadists to lay down their arms. A reprise of the Canada-Quebec situation.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

A Gracious Host

Quite the occasion, that was. President Obama visiting the capital of Canada, standing side by side with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A contrast in some ways, a match in others. President Obama tall, slim, the slight edge in height over a heftier Prime Minister Harper; one dark, the other light, one supremely self-confident, the other obviously self-aware. Dignity was apparent, and a spark of recognition leaped from one to the other.

Ill at ease, but courteous, for Mr. Harper is so obviously uncomfortable in the public eye, and in contrast, Mr. Obama is not, his gracious openness very much in evidence. But there were unexpected gestures; Mr. Harper gently guiding his guest back to the entrance portals of the Center Block, to recognize and reward the American President's admirers, those many who had stalwartly camped out against a cold Ottawa February day in their determination to catch a glimpse of the new world order.

They stood together, acknowledging the fervour of the adoring crowds, people who braved the weather and the warnings from authorities that they would be better advised to view the proceedings from the warmth of their home, through their television screens. Security was tight, parking unavailable, and no accommodations would be made for the comfort of the bystanders. They found their comfort in the unanticipated sight of the two men standing together, waving.

Television viewers were, after all, rewarded fulsomely, able to watch as the two men proceeded into the Center Block, ascending the steps to the great hall, and President Obama clearly impressed with the Gothic architecture, the stone carvings, the ceiling spirals, turning to Prime Minister Harper to express his appreciation. Upstairs to the second-floor, overlooking the balcony, striding confidently between rows of Canadian and American flags.

And on into the confines of the Prime Minister's Center Block office.

Later on, in the afternoon, at the press conference that lasted longer than any might have anticipated, with a mere four questions permitted, two for American reporters, two for Canadian reporters, the men stood together, as equals, as friends, and Mr. Harper bloomed. He spoke with calm authority as befits his position, not hesitating to articulate his vision of the relationship between the two countries.

Mr. Obama had the grace and the wit to support everything that Mr. Harper said. The new president's endearing qualities as a sensitive human being, a highly intelligent individual, above all, a consummate communicator, took nothing away from Mr. Harper on this occasion. True, Mr. Obama's appearance and his personality, his wide-open smile, his amiability toward others marked a contrast toward the gravitas of Mr. Harper, but neither was the poorer for the contrast.

President Barack Obama's presence, his early courtesy call on the country next door to his own was highly appreciated. Canadians took great pleasure in witnessing this mesmerizing personality making himself comfortable in the presence of Canadians, in our seat of political authority. His skillful tact in reaching a balance between himself and our prime minister spoke to his bright and empathetic personality.

We enjoyed President Obama's visit, brief though it was, to this country, and were impressed by his unabashed willingness to demonstrate his own personal and very human proclivities and needs, happy to temporarily shed his mantle of leader for that of a fond father. But it is Mr. Harper's sensitive handling of the situation, his ability to teach us yet again that he is more than the sum of our comprehension of him, that truly rewarded us.

Bravo, Prime Minister.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Exercise of Free Will

Talk about rank idiocy. A 54-year-old man who happens to have diabetes, has chronic lung problems, and is yet an inveterate, a stubbornly inveterate smoker. It's amply obvious that this is a man who has no intention of taking care of his physical health. He lives on a disability pension. And he lives in social housing, in a high-rise where other people who require assistance also live. This man, however, in different in quite a special way.

He represents a risk to the other people who also inhabit the building in which he lives. Oh yes, he also poses a risk to his own safety, but he doesn't appear to take that very seriously. He will not, it appears, assume personal responsibility for himself. His chronic lung problems are so acute that he has been placed on a protocol of oxygen therapy.

All individuals who use oxygen equipment are forewarned by the supplier of their equipment that it is dangerous for anyone to smoke in the close vicinity of that equipment. Oxygen can be absorbed into clothing quite readily, and the spark from a cigarette could cause an explosive surprise in an instant, turning the oxygen user into a human torch.

Yet knowing this, the man continues to smoke, while using oxygen tanks to help enable his lungs to breathe more easily. This man has been informed time and again that oxygen is an extreme accelerant, yet he insists on his right to smoke. Finally, his oxygen supplier took action, and removed all the oxygen equipment from his apartment.

Legally they had no other choice, since it is illegal under the Ontario Fire Code or under the guidelines of the Ontario Ministry of Health to smoke anywhere close to where such equipment is used. Users are warned not to operate electrical devices near oxygen equipment as well. The man's doctors recommend that he take a smoke cessation course at a nearby hospital.

This man, who suffers from bronchitis and asthma, and has frequent incidents of pneumonia has been in and out of hospitals for treatment, for years. He resists being placed into temporary care facilities that will deal with his many problems, insisting that "I'm not going, I want to be free. They'll keep me in there forever. I'm a human being, I'm not an animal."

Trouble is, humans are supposed to be thinking, reasonable beings, and his behaviour is anything but reasonable. In his own defence, he denies smoking while using oxygen equipment. "I'm not a little kid, I know better." Belying the first-hand account of the care centre's executive director where he was being briefly treated, became violent, and was released.

She claims he tried to smoke while at the care centre and became upset when he was informed he must not, while in the presence of oxygen equipment. That's when he became aggressive and had to be removed from the facility. "I'm OK", he snaps when questioned, and insists "If you keep asking me, I'm going to have to (smoke) a real big one", in response to queries about his smoking, which he denies.

Ottawa Housing, previously unaware of the man's condition and the danger inherent in his abuse of the oxygen equipment, will now become involved, charging a tenant community worker to become involved and check on him on a regular basis, and attempt to convince him to heed his doctor's advice.

If ever there was an instance where someone insisted on abusing themselves, while also insisting that society keep picking up the pieces, this man qualifies right up there. With a health care system already strained to its limits to look after peoples' ill health, there is good reason to bridle at the idiotic selfishness of people like this.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Defending the Indefensible

A man living in west Quebec does a mental swagger, considering himself one who can do without social convention. He evidently likes to flaunt his individuality, and flout decency, thinking it adds some kind of lustre to his reputation. Depends, one supposes, what manner of reputation one wants to acquire. Given his past associates, however, the reputation he seeks to consolidate for himself is a socially unsavoury one.

Fact is, nothing excuses this man's deliberate and conscious willingness to represent as an obnoxious and nasty member of society. Of course, this is a free and open society and within certain outraged and harmful limits he may disport himself as he will. Even to the point of offering insult to people. Of this he bravely laughs and thinks of himself as an iconoclast. Not so. Sadly, he has adopted a shameful icon to represent his character.

A potent symbol of racist denigration, that of incorrigible racial oppression, celebrated by the ignorant and the sociopaths among us. In his front yard he has hoisted aloft a U.S. Confederate flag, redolent of all that was hateful in the violation of human rights where historically black Americans were despised and mistreated; a blot on that country that stubbornly resists all efforts by people of goodwill to abolish.

The United States of America has come far indeed, to a singular place in history where a majority of the voting public finally felt comfortable enough in the white/black reality of the country to commit themselves to electing to the highest office of the land an outstanding American who just happens additionally to be of mixed heritage, but is in his heart of hearts an undeniable African-American.

This very little man, Stanley Davis Jr., 54 years of age - proving yet again that age does not confer intelligence - sees nothing amiss in flying the Confederate flag and under it a noose to cement kindly relations with his neighbours who just happen to be black Canadians. This flaunting of these unequivocal symbols of hate and injustice are injurious in the extreme.

They represent an odiously hideous racism completely incompatible with Canadian values. In a proudly pluralist society we have no need of this kind of unvarnished contempt for others' worth, equality and sensibilities. Not only the sensibilities of black Canadians are violently assaulted by this, but those of all Canadians.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

He Came, He Conquered, He Departed

None other than Barack Obama, 44th president of the great United States of America graced the capital city of Canada with his presence, this day. The great orator, the man with the 50-mega tonne smile, was here, sharing for a brief moment in history, his essence with the people of Ottawa. Whatever else the man may be, he is a projector of personal grace, integrity, dignity, and a natural self-confidence.

He carries himself with an air of royalty; is there any other word to describe this man's august presence? Yet he is calmly still, self-assured and unassuming; a gentle hand, an earnest wish to communicate one-on-one, he carries no trapping of entitlement, even while he wears it so effortlessly.

The weight of public expectations that have descended on his shoulders must take its toll, but it is not in evidence. Not yet. There is ample time for that to set in.

In the early weeks of his presidency he has already encountered a fair number of set-backs, irritations, frustrations, and fall-out from some ill-considered initiatives, not least among them his selections for various executive posts. He has not been soiled by association, but some might question the trust he has placed in some who have misplaced the public trust.

That is no matter for Canada, however; that is solely, at this time, the concern of the people of America. For Canadians, his slight and casual six-hour drop-in was an occasion of significant moment. President Obama has the insight and sensitivity to realize how vitally important it is for Canada - as a neighbour and ally and major trading partner - to feel they are noticed by America.

It's like sitting next to the most popular, beautiful, talented girl at the school dance; no one notices the wallflower. And when the popular girl turns toward the shy and plain-faced girl ignored by everyone else, confiding kindly in her, helping to bring her to some sense of ease and belonging, the gratitude is palpable. All the more so, when the homespun girl respects and likes the cosmopolitan one.

Mr. Obama is not one to stand on ceremony, that much is obvious. But his polite acquiescence to lending himself to the pomp of visiting statesman being feted by a counterpart reflects as a gesture of humility, aiding greatly in putting his host's concerns at rest. His open-spirited willingness to confer equality upon others earns him admiration and gratitude.

From his diplomacy in lending himself and his office to the comfort of his hosts, his dignity and consideration so much in evidence, his utter lack of condescension, his openness to others, he has won himself a greater audience and collective of followers from among the general populace than merely those who extended themselves to be present on Parliament Hill.

His casual walk-about with his security detail in cautious tow around nearby Byward Market, after leaving the gravitas-laden Centre Block of Parliament gave him the aura of a completely relaxed and normal sight-seer, transforming him from the world's most influential politician to a doting parent, looking to bring a few trinkets back to his children awaiting him in Washington.

President Obama's brief trip to Canada has converted the skepticism of many to unvarnished admiration for his persona as an extraordinary, albeit normal human being.

Belying, in a sense his position and his character - infused with an aura of mystery and intrigue - that this man of outstanding ability and intelligence who has attained to the highest office of governance in the most powerful state of the world, yet embodies the quotidian concerns of Everyman.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Now That's Sad and Stupid

What is it with people who so adore anthropomorphizing animals to the extent that they model them after all the customary things that people do, to demonstrate what, how brilliantly they handle animals, breaking them of their own habits and predilections and installing in their stead human ones? Is this a demonstration of care and love of animals, or simply human stupidity and egotism gone awry?

Yes, there are animals who are trained to behave in certain ways that really emphasize their animal character with a touch of a wry send-up of human traits, used to bring a little humour - or occasionally tension - to films, interacting with the human principals. They can inject a bit of drama, tension, humour, and special interest when they're introduced into a narrative playing out on the large screen.

But taking an animal from an early age and teaching it to pattern itself after another species? What, precisely, is the point, other than to make of it a mockery, an amusement for other humans? People have a propensity to the belief that they are capable of controlling the savage, the wild, in animals. How this is possible when people are incapable of controlling themselves and their most egregious emotions is beyond me.

Yet here's the story of an 89-kilogram chimpanzee whom its owner, an elderly 70-year-old woman, has taught from infancy to be a human child, and then, as a 15-year-old chimp, the reflection of a reliably biddable human. One that, given the innate cleverness and ability to emulate of primates, proved capable of absorbing the lessons given it.

The chimpanzee was toilet trained (just like a companion dog) was able to dress itself in clothing tailored for it, sat at the dinner table to eat and even enjoyed a goblet of wine. He obediently and conscientiously brushed his teeth, like any well-behaved adolescent, watched television and was able to use the remote to play his favourite baseball games.

This bespoke the patience of his training. The patience of his trainer, and the patience of the chimpanzee in allowing himself to be trained. Animals, like humans, do want to please those to whom they are beholden for their food and comfort. He also became a celebrity, appearing in advertisements and television shows, bringing a certain kind of celebrity to his owner.

That has now been transformed to a kind of notoriety. Evidently the primate pet had been exposed to deer ticks and was being treated for Lyme disease. The pharmaceutical being used was noted for causing mood swings, panic attacks and paranoia in humans. And that's how it seemed to impact the chimpanzee, too, and to counteract his agitation he was administered a dose of anti-anxiety drug.

But the animal wasn't about to be pacified, and began acting out, making its way outside the house in Connecticut, where he came face to face with a friend of his owner and proceeded to viciously attack the 55-year-old woman who received severe lacerations to her face, neck and hands. The owner attempted to fend him off, by stabbing the chimpanzee with a kitchen knife.

When police arrived, the altercation began to include police officers, whom the chimpanzee then attacked. He opened one patrol car door, and tried to insert himself into the vehicle, when one of the officers finally shot the animal. When police followed the trail of blood, they found it had made its way back into the house.

To its living quarters, where it died. A hapless animal whose natural life was revoked for the pleasure of a woman who owned him, and which proved it could become as berserk as any human in a psychotic rage.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Klutz Supreme

The age-old problem of failing eyesight, hearing, mobility and, alas, intelligence-quotient. One does not necessarily grow wiser as one ages. On the other hand, chronological age doesn't always result in failing faculties. The thing of it is, if you never had it, or had it in small doses, age doesn't confer greater intelligence on those grown withered and grey.

Not that age 65 is particularly old. Not from the perspective, say, of a 72-year-old. Still, one might hope that the 72-year-old, like the 65-year-old, might have sufficient presence of mind and ability to think ahead to restrain themselves from physical maneuvering that guarantees disaster.

Unlike infants, inexperienced in the outcomes of awkward positioning, seniors have had ample opportunity to gather experience.

Which didn't stop a woman in Sudbury, Ontario, from tempting fate. Good thing for her that fate wasn't in a particularly cantankerous mood that day, and let her off lightly. Police in Sudbury, called to the scene of a truly improbable incident characterized what they came across as "a most unusual motor vehicle accident".
Yes indeed.

Live this one down: the woman explained that she had seated herself in the family van, put it in reverse, then tried to adjust her seat. While in the process of adjusting her seat, she opened the door and tumbled out. The vehicle continued its reverse trajectory and the woman was hit by the open door, knocked under the vehicle, where a wheel ran over her head.

Good thing for her it was only her head. Incredibly, all she lost was a shank of her hair. "Now ... I can't say whether it was the vehicle ran over her head or clipped the edge of her head", commented a puzzled Staff Sergeant David Treitz.

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Morals and Common Sense

What is it about human beings and their societies that they find it so difficult to accept moderation? Above all, for parents to accept their responsibility to ingrain common sense into their children, to teach them responsible judgement. Unless, of course, common sense and reasonable judgement is absent from the parental balance sheet to begin with.

It seems a pattern of neglect has developed, where people have children and simply forgo the necessity to teach them values, ethics, self-restraint. Societies that people once lived in looked askance at conduct unbecoming members of the collective, and signing on to certain moral codes has diminished. People simply see no need to restrain their impulses and teach their children to do likewise.

Britain, it has been revealed, by a recent study, has the distinction of appearing as the country in western Europe with the highest rate of teen pregnancies. A report by Population Action International indicates that Britons between ages 15 to 19 had 27 births per one thousand women.

Australia and New Zealand rate at 17 and 27 births per thousand women between 15 and 19, in comparison. Low levels of educational achievement have been pointed out as one causative; the economically disadvantaged, and poor job-market expectations primarily. "Put simply" goes the report, "they see no reason not to get pregnant." Pardon? What is gained by a child having a child?

And British tabloids are all agog over the latest such scandal, with a 15-year-old girl having given birth to a baby fathered by her 13-year-old boyfriend. "I didn't think about how we would afford it. I don't really get pocket money. My dad sometimes gives me ten pounds", said the young boy from southern England.

Talk about low expectations, low social standards, lack of parental discipline and children begetting children. It's not that the British government isn't alarmed about this state of affairs. They launched an education program six years back, attempting to teach teenagers about contraceptive use.

In Denmark and the Netherlands where there is a greater acceptance of teenage contraceptive use, there is a concomitantly lower teen pregnancy rate.

The country, evidently, that could use a whole lot more education for its teenagers, however, appears to be the United States. As high as the British teen pregnancy rate is, it pales in comparison to that of the United States, at 44 births per thousand women, ages 15 to 19.

Parental disassociation, their inability or unwillingness to guide their children toward a fulfilling, self-respecting and socially responsible lifestyle, is the real problem here, no matter the country involved.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

A Mother's Agony

How cruel life can be for far too many people; losing a child and leaving the rest of life to mourn their loss. Bad enough a serious illness, an accident, some untoward circumstance of fate, but for those parents who have lost a child to the kind of chance that drew a murderer's path across that of their child,there will always be the horrible spectre of what their child faced, felt, feared and mortally succumbed to.

The mother of Michael Oatway, the 23-year-old man who was accosted, bullied, then murdered by an obliviously unrepentant younger man of brutish temperament, looking for someone vulnerable enough to fall victim to his psychopathy will never free her mind of the torment of his death. For her there is no rescue from the thought of her son desperately attempting to fend off the vicious attack that ended his life so precipitously.

She sat in the courtroom while her son's killer heard the presiding judge explain his reasons for pronouncing on his sentencing as an adult, one who demonstrated no remorse whatever at having murdered another human being. Cathy Oatway looked for some sign, however slight, in the face of Shawn McKenzie, that might lead her to believe that he felt the slightest remorse, regret for killing her son.

There was nothing at all to be seen, other than his irritation at the inconvenience to his near future occasioned by the murder charge and the resulting judgement. And there, seated in the courtroom, were the symbols of his oppression, the family of the young man he had murdered in the heat of contempt and rage and uncontrolled fury that anyone would have the nerve to deny his demands of them.

In the psychopath's mind, a refusal to submit to demands are tantamount to being humiliated before his friends, gathered around him, a living, breathing concatenation on a public transit conveyance of hardened young hoodlums. Overbearing boors, nasty little minds, social misfits, budding criminals. Looking for the vulnerable to prey upon, to serve their miserable egos.

The murdered man's mother sought out the humanity in the eyes of her son's murderer.
"Even at the sentencing, he was asked if he had anything to say, and he didn't. And as he was leaving, he was still staring us down. He's defiant. I think he feels we have been a great inconvenience to him." As for the mother of the sentenced felon solicitously offering her condolences, no such thing.

Instead, the convicted murderer's mother claimed, "It's just a random incident. You can't name my son as a killer. A killer is someone out there like that pig man", referring to serial killer Robert Pickton. Well, society's vicious psychopaths have to start somewhere, don't they, and her son started his career in a very public venue. But no, not her son: "That's a killer. They have that killer instinct. My son is an accident".

Not at all; rather a killer awaiting the right moment, and he chose that moment, to deprive another human being of his most precious asset. The difference between this woman's son and the British Columbia serial killer is merely one of maturity; each sought his opportunity, but in different ways; the serial killer discreetly, her son arrogantly, publicly. But he will have other opportunities, once his sentence has been served.

Michael Oatway's mother bemoans her dreadful loss. Recalling her son's smile, his laugh, his childhood years. She finds comfort in finding bird feathers, imagining her son is sending a message to her, from afar. She cannot imagine a mother raising a child without loving discipline, without insisting that the child learn respect for others and to take responsibility for their actions.

She, like the mother of the murderer, was a single parent, raising children on her own, having to work outside the house, struggle to make ends meet, and meet her responsibility to raise dependable, loving and socially well-adjusted individuals. She succeeded through sheer force of personal responsibility, love for her children and strength of character.

She knows that a mother incapable of facing her child and declaring him to have been guilty of a monumental crime, and turning to the victim to offer her own regrets, was capable of failing the emotional and practical needs of her child. Knowing that, and understanding how different this woman is from herself, brings her no comfort, however.

Nothing can comfort her in her unspeakable loss. But it might help her recovery toward accepting that loss if she knew that sheer evil did not roam the world in the guise of belligerent young men raised by irresponsible mothers incapable of teaching them respect, compassion and social responsibility.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Responsible?

Appearing in his own defence before a sentencing circle, Christopher Pauchay, a miserably failed father of two defenceless infants whom he led to their death, allowed that "I feel so bad". Truly, what a declaration.

He, at least, can still feel, his two daughters will never again be capable of feeling what they did when he led them outdoors on a freezing night clad in diapers and shirts and left them to freeze to death.

He was drunk. Drunks are not held accountable for the dread things they do while incapable of thinking adequately and behaving intelligently. His children were sacrificed to his stupid vice.

Actually, his ego, since when people are so involved with themselves that their only thoughts are to lose themselves in alcohol, removing themselves from responsibility to those dependent upon them, they abandon utterly and deliberately abandon the needs of others.

His relatives and his tribe are prepared to forgive him. As well they might, since drunken stupors and children left to fend for themselves are common occurrences. It isn't that his family doesn't care that the little girls died. They most certainly grieve their deaths.

It is as though they feel helpless, in the throes of an overwhelming need they cannot control. And, on the evidence, this is more than likely a fact of their unfortunate lives. There is an inherited chemistry that renders them susceptible to alcohol addiction. Allied with the hopelessness of unfulfilled lives they are self-victimized.

Christopher Pauchay's assertion that he worried about the welfare of his children rings hollow. Obviously not sufficiently concerned that he would discipline himself to adequately look to their welfare. His statement that he 'feels responsible' is a gross understatement of reality. He failed his children by declining responsibility for them.

He will never rise to become the human being he had the potential to be. That's at least as large a tragedy as his unwitting sacrifice of his children's lives.

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Another Doting Mother

Peace-loving, equality-promoting, placid and boring old Canada is becoming a riot of violence, lately. The incidence in Canada's major cities of drug violence, street crime, juvenile gangs and the gangster culture is being felt in the most violently civil-deleterious way throughout the country.

What is happening in Mexico is atrociously extreme, with daily killings and a drug culture that is threatening to overtake the country entirely. What we're seeing now in Canada has vague resemblances to the breakdown of law and order in Mexico and elsewhere in the world.

Somehow, we've never quite anticipated that anything remotely resembling this danger to society would ever erupt in Canada. But it has, and it's worrisome beyond belief, both to the country's policing agents, the government and to the population at large.

The scourge of drug dependency, and the constant pursuit of drug dealers to enlarge their territories, to protect against the incursion of other dealers on their territory is threatening the stability of society altogether. When drive-by shootings become commonplace, and innocent bystanders are hurt or killed, then we know the problem has become acute.

Where are the parents of those young men whose unbridled lust for power and easy money has led them to street crime, street gangs and the proliferation of drug dealing? Well, they're there, obviously, but on the evidence don't appear to see anything untoward in their sons' behaviours; they're simply taking advantage of opportunities.

The mother of a young criminal now serving a 16-year sentence in British Columbia on a number of convictions inclusive of arson, assault causing bodily harm and conspiracy to traffic weapons, thinks he's quite wonderful. She described him, in a letter of support as "a role model for youth to emulate". And indeed, youth do regard him as a role model and they do their utmost to emulate him.

In 2004 he hired a drug addict to commit a number of arsons on local businesses, causing $9-million in damages. Over a six-month period he sold to undercover officers fully automatic .303 calibre Bren sub machine guns, fully automatic 9mm Sten sub-machine guns, semi-automatic Smith and Wesson pistols and semi-automatic Beretta pistols, along with silencers and rounds of ammunition.

Police, throughout the sting operation paid him $138,400, which has never been recovered. The man, Steven Porsch, a member of the Red Scorpion gang, considers himself a "criminal entrepreneur", having gone directly from high school into peddling drugs and weapons. He and his colleagues in crime represent a growing body of 'entrepreneurs' of whom Canada has no wish to encourage a larger presence.

He inspired another young man to commit himself to a life of illicit gain and brutally anti-social activities. This 19-year-old has two older brothers, notorious where they live for the crimes they've committed and their allegiance to street gangs. They too have been charged on weapons and attempted murder offences. The three brothers wear bullet-proof vests, and drive bulletproofed vehicles.

Two of the brothers live in a quiet residential neighbourhood, with their parents. Police investigators have been watching this outstanding family and have "learned there are plans to murder" the three. Should these gang members discreetly act to remove one another from active duty, they will be missed by no one other than their supportive parents.

Trouble is, they've protected themselves so well through bullet-proofing, it is only by stealth and surreptitious cover that they can be stalked - in public places - where, when the bullets fly, innocent bystanders are imperilled. And these mothers of the criminals they have raised consider them to be upstanding members of society; albeit a side of society most people have no interest in becoming familiar with.

We really should seriously consider, as a society, the prosecution of parents who support and encourage criminal activity through their children.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

His Own Legend

It appears somewhat unseemly, like the proverbial blowing of one's own horn, tipping the bushel a trifle too ostentatiously to reveal the lining shining from within, but there is Michael Ignatieff, comfortably ensconced for the nonce as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, en route to the prime ministership.

Boasting of what a substantial change has overtaken public perceptions, hugely benefiting the party he represents. Well, there has been a perceptible shift in public apprehension of the Liberal Party in the last month; mostly a sigh of relief that the plaintive voice of Stephane Dion has now been stifled.

"There are people who are saying 'let's check this guy out - I used to vote Liberal'. They're coming to the door", he enthused unabashedly to his caucus and his staff at a Ottawa reception. "We have got to show them a Liberal party that likes itself. Let's put aside the fights and show them a party worthy of their trust."

Assuredly, it would appear that the Liberal party has developed a fondness for itself. Mostly for the idee fixe that has been so long ingrained in its self-consciousness that it IS the party of Canada, and as such represents the country's vitality, ideals, values and aspirations, unlike any other - all pretenders to the throne of executive and lawmaking.

No need, for the moment, of any more infighting; Bob Rae is wearily resigned to having been outmanoeuvred as leader, and the transitory nerd-figure of Stephane Dion who raised Canadian voters' disinterest toward new depths of ennui hitherto unsuspected has been summarily unseated, despite his brave efforts to remain at the helm, stumbling over one minor catastrophe after another.

Leaving Mr. Ignatieff to ride high on a new swell of public opinion. How high? Well, marginally improved from his predecessor's support, and that is to say, compared to the depths any improvement appears inordinately buoyant now, doesn't it? He can strut, he can pose, he can engage in all the boastful rhetoric he likes, but he's still that reluctant Canadian, the one who keeps altering allegiance and opinion.

Add to that the good fortune he's experienced that a newly-chastened Stephen Harper is not quite yet ready to launch another campaign questioning the leadership talents of another rival. This new prime ministerial conduct, quite befitting a leader whose major concern should be the betterment of his country's overall prospects, has hugely benefited Mr. Ignatieff-come-lately.

He's revelling in cheap shots at the government relevant to its handling of the economic downturn, as though he might react otherwise, pluck from nowhere hat-tricks of financial rescue initiatives that mightn't have occurred to the prime minister and his economic advisers: "What now? Is the government going to let Mackenzie die?" he digs provocatively in a B.C. logging town of 100% unemployment.

This man with the reputation of an intellectual - wallowing in good fortune's opportunities to avail himself of a goal for which he has had no experience, evinced little previous interest at the apprenticeship level, and whose penchant for changing his mind with respect to non-trifling issues should continue to raise the antennae of the wary - zips full speed ahead, selling his legend.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Seriously Illegal Predation

Now how about that? Another story of another womanizing bounder, this time in Toronto. Complementing, in a way, the notorious Bountiful Mormon sect in British Columbia, where Winston Blackmore and James Oler couldn't amass enough women and children to adequately fulfil their obligations to their cherished religion. Now there's another candidate to be charged under Section 293 of the Criminal Code in Canada.

An Irish immigrant who, on the evidence - inclusive of interviews he fulsomely gave - was not a lover of women, but a greedy predator on the weaker sex. And how weak they proved to be, succumbing to the allure he presented to them: "Conning women is easy. I studied psychology and behaviour patterns. I presented myself as a dashing, suave sort of guy and women fell for it.

"I have a strong personality and an air of total respectability. And, of course, I'm a good lover - that's the sealing factor." Boastful, isn't he, the clever hound? That's part of an interview he gave with the Daily Mail in 2006, around the time that a documentary film based on his exploits in serial marriages was aired on British Television.

The film was titled "The Conman With 14 Wives", but, claimed Oliver John Killeen, that was wrong. Over a 25-year span, following the death of his original wife in 1974, leaving him with eight children, he married a total of nineteen women. Oh perhaps the term 'marry' is misunderstood here, for he never did go to the cost and bother of obtaining divorces before embarking on yet another connubial adventure.

He amassed, he explained a "collection of wives" out of necessity; to care for his young brood. "Getting divorced is costly and time-consuming, so I decided not to bother" he explained nonchalantly. His penchant for re-inventing himself, presenting as someone he was not, as for example posing as a psychologist with fake degrees, further made him 'irresistible' to women, he said.

This is a man of many parts. Now an elderly 71, Oliver John Killeen was also involved with organized crime in Canada and the United Kingdom. As befits a criminal, his relationships were expressed by "extremely violent" episodes. Causing a judge in an Irish court to sentence him on bigamy charges in 2004, citing the "cruelty and gross deception inflicted on the women in [his] life".

Now he faces charges in Canada, for his bigamous con game. Prison won't be a new experience for him, having spent prison time on fraud charges, previously. Still, with all the information available about his life-style, police are searching for information from his many past wives, asking they contact Crime Stoppers or local authorities.

The man doesn't present as a paragon of virtue, to be sure, but it hardly seems fair to disturb the serene and contemplative nature of his departure into obscurity and agedness. One might think he deserves to revel in the massive self confidence of a life lived well and truly badly.

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The Horror of War

If anyone ever had any doubts about the misery, the terror, the horror of war, they should force themselves to view photographs of injured, maimed, dying and dead children. If nothing else could work to persuade people that any and all other means be sought before any country would resort to war, then viewing these photographs surely would.

Yes, there is a genuine case to be made for protecting oneself against violence from another. And every country can legitimately claim that if another country embarks on a course of destruction with the intent to conquer it militarily and destroy its peoples' lives, then under international law it has a right and an obligation to itself and its population to respond.

When there exists such an historical and intractable conflict as the world sees between the State of Israel and the Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza, surely suspicion, anger, blame can be overcome when there is a sincere effort to meet one another's objectives; largely each side making an effort to retain what they feel is their peoples' inheritance, yet willing to trade off.

Reason cannot overcome passion, and passionate emotion leading to aggrievement and an inability to bargain in good faith simply has both sides clinging to their wish list of optimal needs, with neither willing to make the tremendous effort required to surrender something of great value to achieve something of greater value; peace. If for no other reason than to safeguard the lives of the next generation.

While perusing the web site of the on-line Haaretz Daily Newspaper yesterday I came across a portal that likely wasn't meant to be there, and out of curiosity clicked on it; it read "Help Gaza", and it took me to a gallery of photographs, many of which represented a horrendous calamity, graphically illustrating the dreadful death of a child.

Others were photographs of children, their eyes wild with terror, in horrible pain as they were being carried toward medical help. For some of these children, that desperate run for medical assistance would be too little, too late. For others it would mean their lives would have been saved, but the trauma that they experienced would never leave them.

This is no way to represent ourselves as thinking, feeling human beings.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Enabling Survival

What could possibly be more atrocious than being forced to assist in the plans of an organization that has singled you out - along with all others who share your ethnicity, religion, heritage, traditions and culture - for death. Being forced by circumstances well beyond your control, to utilize your experience and expertise to assist that agency in its diabolical plans to wreak havoc on the economies of the very countries that you know are battling the one that holds you prisoner.

When the alternative is death, one supposes most people would resign themselves to doing what is demanded of them. Particularly when you know that passively doing as your captors demand of you delays your inevitable death. But what bitterness, to be fully aware that other Jews, simply because they are Jews; children of every age group, women, the elderly and the frail have all been marked by this odiously anti-human plan for mass annihilation, and you find yourself assenting to assist their murderers.

So it was with Adolf Burger, then a young man of 25, sent to Auschwitz by the fascist German regime, during the Second world War. Altogether he spent three years in four concentration camps, and managed to survive his ordeal where millions of others did not. Can he be faulted for desperately attempting to prolong his life? It is instinctual in every human organism; to survive. Everyone there did, in fact, struggle to survive, although it availed them little, and they perished in unforgettable numbers.

The tattoo impressed on his left forearm represented the fact that he was the 64,401st individual to be welcomed at the Auschwitz death camp. He was sent there, along with his 22-year-old wife, and she perished there. Then he was transferred to Birkenau, and later to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. And it was there that he, along with other inmates whose professions were typesetting, printing, engraving, banking and counterfeiting had been assembled.

For a most particular purpose; to produce banknotes for the Third Reich, which had developed a plan to destabilize the British wartime economy through flooding the country with counterfeit five, ten, twenty and fifty-pound notes. These professionals, isolated from the rest of the camp inmates in sealed-off huts were provided with precision machinery and ordered to produce perfect forgeries, under pain of death.

Mr. Burger was originally from Slovakia where, when Josef Tiso the president, decreed that all Slovakian Jews would be deported to Germany and he responded by forging baptism certificates to enable Jews to pose as Christians, before he was finally arrested. The production facility at Sachsenhausen was a high state secret and none of the other camp occupants had any idea what was going on there. The curious who attempted to discover the purpose of isolated huts and the workers there, were summarily executed.

Eventually 130-million pounds of quality forgeries resulted, but by then the war was winding up. The few counterfeit pound notes that did make their way into Britain confounded the Bank of England by their quality, causing them to withdraw all notes larger than five-pound notes from circulation for the following twenty years. This footnote in history was recently revealed by the publishing of Mr. Burger's autobiography, The Devil's Workshop.

Mr. Burger's publishing of the events that took place during his concentration camp incarceration and forced complicity with Nazi plans were dictated, he said, by his determination that "I don't want anyone ever to forget what happened, or to diminish what went on there". The intention of the Nazis was to kill all of the prisoners before the Mauthausen camp - where the forging operations were moved to, with the advance of the Allies - was liberated.

The lives of those concentration camp survivors were saved simply by the speed of the Allies in advancing toward the camps, to liberate them. The Nazis had time only to order prisoners to dump the printing equipment into Lake Toplitz, along with cases of forged banknotes. In 2000, divers in a salvage operation brought bundles of banknotes to the surface of the lake, under Mr. Burger's direction.

Mr. Burger returned to Prague post-war to discover his parents had died in concentration camps. In Prague he continued working as a printer until his Jewishness caused him to be fired. The scourge of anti-Semitism that had been advanced to such a fine art of degradation and annihilation, lived on and continues to do so, beyond the failure of the Third Reich.

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A Paean of Gratitude to Robert Graves

Always intrigued by Robert Graves, I recently read his Three Oxford Lectures on Poetry. I believe I came away having learned something about the craft of expressing my subliminal thoughts concretely. I use the word 'craft' because, as Graves points out, the word 'technique' implies intellectual achievement, or a deliberate attempt by the poet to create a poem, admirable for its form, but questionable as to its conception, its ability to move the reader.

It is no mere conceit that poets have long attributed their craft to something akin to a mystic trance brought about by their Muse. The Muses themselves, according to my edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, were nine goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (who was herself not a goddess, but a Titaness. Zeus was reputed to have stayed nine nights with her, and when her time came, Mnemosyne gave birth to nine daughters, who were the Muses.) The nine Muses were thought to be the inspirers of the lively arts: epic poetry, history, lyric poetry, music, tragedy, sacred song, dancing, comedy and astronomy.

Now, although the ancients genuinely believed in gods and goddesses, and that they were the primal force behind our every thought and action, modern may believes somewhat differently. Still, as any scientist, agnostic or not, will readily admit, there is much about the human cerebral functioning that is a mystery. We're thought to have a left0hand and a right0hand brain; that one portion is responsible for practicality, the other for abstractions; that whichever portion dominates in any particular individual, will determine largely whether he or she is a doer or a thinker.

The thinkers often display a facility for language, for absorbing emotional and physical experience into their own personal intellectual reference libraries, that the doers do not. However, these functions are not mutually exclusive.

When we now say that our Muse nudged us, or inspired us to create, what we most likely mean is that our subconscious dredged up from our prodigious memory-banks an appeal to unload; which we then converted into something concrete, like a poem. So it takes more than a facility with language, a good memory, and the gentle conceit that we would like to share our cleverness with an admiring public. In fact, the public isn't all that admiring. Generally, it is only other poets who read the brainchildren of poets. The most essential ingredient, it would seem, for the making of good poetics, is a belief in one's own ability to translate perceptions in a non-intellectual, almost mystical manner. Mystical again, because it is not a planned achievement, but an inspired or spontaneous one.

Robert Graves was himself no slouch as a poet; his many volumes having been translated into a plethora of languages other than English. He also wore the many hats of a linguist, translator, classical scholar, novelist par excellence, and champion of women as the originally 'superior sex'. He had long moved in cerebrally exalted circles (our own Lester B. Pearson knew and admired Graves), having personally known Walter de la Mare, and that greatest of England's modern poets, Thomas Hardy.

Robert Graves explained in his lectures just why, using as poetic examples, poets as diverse as Browning, Kipling, Byron and Burns; sloppy verbiage, or poetic vulgarity as he termed it, is so injurious to the form, understanding and appreciation of a poem, no matter its author.

He went to great pains to point out how essential it was that poets avail themselves of unimpeachable authority when choosing the proper word to convey their meaning, and how careless it was to indulge in over-adjectivication for effect.

Although himself a scholar of international reputation and an impeccable poet, he pointed out that he made every effort to refer regularly to a dictionary source for the derivation of questionable words, their popular usage, change of meaning through their period of use, and the different contexts in which they could be used. He did admit that sometimes, even the Oxford English dictionary could be found wanting, relating how Thomas Hardy told him in 1924 that it ha been his practise too, to confirm doubtful words, and that when looking up one such word in the Oxford, he found it, but the only reference had been: Thomas Hardy: Far From the Madding Crowd, 1874.

This craftsmanship that is the unconscious function of the poet, Graves asserted, is inherent in the being and can be self-cultivated. There is no easy way for the true poet. A long association with words is almost a prerequisite before the poet can successfully collaborate with his inner self to produce a poetic trance. Also necessary to the full flowering of this ability to produce individualistic poetry, is to have read widely other poets' offerings, good or bed, and learning to differentiate between them. Yet one's outpourings should be, he said, inimitably personal in style, never done in imitation of what may be termed a popular style, or styled after a successful poet.

Who hasn't written a poem or a prose piece, then put it away, satisfied perhaps that the general content conveyed what the author intended, but still left with a nagging doubt about some of the words employed" How often do we come back t a poem, perhaps a day later, sometimes months later, to find a more appropriate word floating up from the depths of some unconscious word bank? Robert Graves called this a poetic trance. I believe him, having personally felt entranced by the subtle interweaving of words.

Patience, loving patience, he cautioned. I don't believe I have a patient molecule in my body. But, of course, he was unerringly correct. All the best advice in the world can be handed us by someone who has been through it all himself, though it's only after we have made our own blunders, that we learn. And then, when we come to recognize what we should have done, we read with interest lectures such as Robert Graves's, feel a start of recognition and agree - yes, he's absolutely right.

originally written/published in 1979

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Blessings of Parenthood

Little do we know when we bring children into our lives, to people the world, and bring pleasure and pride to their parents, having successfully nurtured and raised responsible, respectful and loving human beings, what will ultimately result. On the way toward achieving their goal parents discover all manner of landmines they must negotiate to bring their child-raising to a successful conclusion.

Who, before experiencing the joys, the triumphs, the difficulties and frustrations of raising children, might begin to imagine what is involved? What is involved, actually, is the complete giving over of one's life struggles to the emotional support of one's children.

To ensure they are not bereft of their need to be nurtured and protected and encouraged and appreciated. Forging, in the process, independent and capable adults at the end of that long journey from infancy to adulthood. During which process the parents see their own youth gradually submerged to their children's dependence, until agedness overtakes them.

Most parents do reap the rewards of parenthood, despite the difficulties experienced throughout the process of raising, educating and finally releasing their offspring to take their place in the world. And, once those children become adults, their achievements and their personal satisfaction with life, offers their parents the answer to why they became parents in the first place.

Unfortunately, not every story has a happy ending. And one can empathize completely with Angela Suleman, mother of the now-notorious Nadya Suleman, in the agony of her hopeless plight, as grandmother of fourteen children all under the age of seven. She might perhaps be still troubled, but less immediately involved and emotionally distraught, if the work and the turmoil related to raising those children didn't fall directly upon her.

But it has; it is she who struggles and who has struggled throughout the years, to care for her daughter's first six children. Feeding them, caring for them, worrying about them. Her daughter's intractable will in insisting that she must bear that many children - through artificial insemination no less - while she is yet 33 years old, bespeaks a worrying flirtation with mental illness.

"How she's going to cope, I don't know", moaned Angela Suleman. "Now I'm struggling to look after her six. We had to put in bunk beds, feed them in shifts, and there's children's clothing piled all over the house." This is her daughter, the one whose incessant childbearing neurosis has resulted in octuplets following on her previous six children, the one she has labelled "unconscionable".

Certainly without conscience, not to dwell on practicalities such as how can so many children be reasonably accommodated. She leaves it to her mother. However, she also is certain that God will do His utmost to provide for her family. While acknowledging that she was "struggling" to raise her first six children, financially. "I will feed them. I will do the best I possibly can", she assures.

This young woman so wilfully narcissistic, stubbornly obsessed, the torment of her parents, is confident that society, prodded by God, will provide for her and her children. "And in my own way, in my own faith, I do believe wholeheartedly that God will provide in his own way", allowing as she was hoping for help from "volunteers, friends and family."

Burdening her parents, her community, the health care system. Awaiting rescue by the entertainment industry, the purveyors of public interest stories, those who may have compassion on the children born of his insanely selfish woman who seems never to have been able to outgrow adolescence.

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Eggzactly; A Useless Myth

How to eat well and set yourself up to face the rigours of the day ahead? Why, eating a well-balanced and nutritious breakfast, that's how. Partake of citrus fruit for those needed C vitamins, and carbohydrates in the form of toast, and then for protein, think eggs.

Tea or coffee can accompany this excellent breakfast, and you'll be the better for it. Your brain needs protein and glucose to enable it to function well, and your body can use that fast-acting fructose in the fruit, the slower-acting carbohydrate and protein. And you're set for the morning.

The day, actually, since having a well-balanced and nutritious breakfast sets the order of the day. You think clearly; your body operates to its maximum efficiency.

No need of snacks in between breakfast and lunch, and lunch doesn't have to be overwhelmingly heavy in nature; a salad will do, along with a bowl of soup. Dinner is another story altogether, where one repeats the vegetable-fruit, protein and carbohydrate formula in an opportunistically more generous and adventurous presentation.

Eggs every morning of the week? Weren't we solemnly informed that no more than three eggs a week should be tolerated because of their high saturated fat content, sure to spike high cholesterol levels? Ain't so. A mere one-third of our body cholesterol is derived from the food we eat.

And eggs, presenting as the perfect food, one of nature's most nutritionally dense, are not only delicious, can be prepared in a multitude of ways, but satisfying to our appetite and needs.

The British Nutrition Foundations' Nutrition Bulletin has published a study that points out that the nutritional and medical community's warning that eating eggs dangerously increased peoples' cholesterol levels was a misguided myth.

That's nice to hear, but we knew that, anyway. And, knowing that, we simply continued to eat eggs to our hearts' content, for breakfast and occasionally when cereal was substituted for breakfast, we might consider a hearty cheese and herb omelette for lunch or dinner.

Got that? The cholesterol in eggs results in a clinically insignificant effect on blood cholesterol. And while you're at it, enjoying those daily egg breakfasts, remember you also need to indulge in physical exercise, even it's just briskly walking to a daily destination.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

High Food Costs?

In Canada? It's undeniable that basic food prices have risen gradually and sometimes steeply in the past year. But then, the cost of everything has risen gradually. Still, a refreshingly small portion of most peoples' disposable income in Canada is given over to the procurement of basic, nutritional foods, inclusive of fresh fruits and vegetables. It always astonishes me how well we are able to eat for relatively low cost in this country.

Now it astonishes me to read that a survey appears to have established that food prices have risen so steeply that people with diminished incomes relating to the downturn in the economy - and supposedly those who represent the working poor or those on welfare, the contraction in the economy aside - are finding it increasingly costly to eat well. The survey's results, contained in the Journal of Consumer Research appear to point out regional pricing differences.

And those regional differentials in pricing have always been there; the larger, more centrally-located the places of residence, the more challenge in pricing between retailers, the greater the opportunities to find bargains. The more isolated the geographic locations, the costlier it is to truck or fly in foodstuffs. The reasons are obvious in these instances. Somewhat less obvious is a real difference in pricing between co-located cities.

There is a fear being raised with respect to rising food prices that people will become less careful and selective about the food they eat, accepting stale-dated foods at a reduced cost, for example. Yet there are always people for whom reduced-cost items are seen as a bargain, irrespective of their ability to pay. And despite the findings of the research that concluded greater difficulties for people trying to stretch their food dollar, food remains a bargain in this country.

To begin with, fresh products while not cheap, are not expensive, either, compared to food costs in other countries. Canada has a good distribution and wholesale system, its agricultural trade with other countries is exemplary, and we are well positioned to feed ourselves handsomely. Seasonal foods imported from trading partners are available in our winter season, and at reasonable costs.

Basic food necessities remain reasonably priced. It is the food that has undergone processing that becomes more expensive, and one supposes in this busy world where fewer people even contemplate cooking their meals, happier to rely on pre-prepared foods, costs are rising. In response to which, we need to re-adjust our priorities, realizing that healthful eating relies upon basic foods transformed in one's own kitchen into an edibly-pleasing end product.

It's as easily done as said. What it takes is an appropriately practical turn of mind, to value home preparation and eschew commercial preparations. We'd all be a lot better off for that transition. It's not all that time-consuming once you become accustomed to preparing basic meals. And pay far less for them, as well.

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Let Us Be

The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations claims that those who find fault with the current system of aboriginal existence and entitlements in Canada speak falsely. That those who criticize Canada's and more specifically the Government of Canada's - generation after generation - continual submission to the demands of First Nations Chiefs are racist. Racist in their studied opinions that it would far better benefit First Nations people to accept the present rather than languish in the past.

It is one thing to honour traditions, the majesty of memory, the culture that was once so resonant in the lives of Canada's aboriginal populations. It's quite another altogether, and magnificently self-defeating, to claim that the preference is to live as their ancestors did, genuflecting at the imagined practicality of living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as noble First Nations people, honouring the land and their inheritance thereof.

The simple fact is, few First Nations people still live as their ancestors did, and few would wish to, despite their allegiance to memory and tradition. Those who insist on living in the 'traditional' way, on reserves throughout the country live, for the most part, disjointed, ineffective, unrewarding and miserably dysfunctional lives. Addicted to government handouts, living in squalor, unwilling to muster an iota of self-reliance and pride, and submitting to the blinding allure of drugs and alcohol.

In the process remaining dissatisfied adolescents, complaining about the inadequacy of their lives, with no opportunities for decent employment, adequate education, and ignoring the needs of the children they raise. Phil Fontaine and his brothers in aboriginal administration chafe at the inadequacy of government funding for First Nations needs, but the truth is no amount of funding will enable First Nations people to recover their pride and self-reliance.

The chiefs are content enough with matters as they are, raging against the indecency of the situation, the lack of attention and care, and forever urging that greater sums of money be thrown at what has become a simmering, intractable human tragedy. They have the prestige of their positions, they are honoured as representing the best interests of their people, and governments at every level hasten to do their bidding, or at least seem to.

But they have accomplished next to nothing to alleviate the dreadful burden of apathy and disequilibrium, the abandonment of self-responsibility, the willingness to remain dependent on government funding. And corruption that has wheedled its way into the institutionalized structures of aboriginal self-government continues rampant, eating further away at the entitlements and advancement of First Nations communities.

Mr. Fontaine rages against the blight of historical colonization, land theft, cultural discrimination that his people - and Canada's - have suffered. There comes a time, however, when any self-respecting groups of people; inclusive of the more than 50 First Nations peoples in Canada, must determine it is time to forge ahead and finally advance their opportunities and their way into the future. Mr. Fontaine and his fellow enablers cannot hope to dine out forever on historical grievance.

While First Nations peoples were at one time forced onto reserves, that is no longer the case. They remain there as a matter of choice, preferring to live geographically isolated, in their 'ancestral homelands' rather than move to the country's urban areas and meld with the pluralist communities there, taking advantage of better educational and occupational opportunities. Availing themselves in the process nothing but grief.

It is past time for things to be turned around. For the Government of Canada and those of the provinces to finally put paid to the treaties still under negotiation. And for Canada's valued and downtrodden aboriginal populations to join themselves to the multitude of other Canadians struggling to find their place within the greater society and finding and valuing their place there.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Hell and Damnation

The fires of hell is what desperate Australians living in the country's southeast are experiencing; the inferno of the fiery gases; molten metals irradiated by the hellfires of the Big Bang realized. The hell is the experience of living through those all-consuming fires fed by wind and the hottest, driest environmental disaster that Australia has suffered through in its living memory.

The damnation represents the shrivelled souls of those pyromaniacs who were incapable of resisting the urge to encourage further fires for the sheer lunatic, manic pleasure of witnessing hell unleashed on earth. In the process victimizing helpless people, unable to find shelter anywhere from the searing, raging fires. Already several hundred Australians have lost their lives to the unstoppable fires.

The country's prime minister has it on good authority that arson was involved in some of the outbreaks, leading Mr. Rudd to characterize those who set fires as being guilty of "mass murder". Towns that were so short a time ago vibrant with life and activity no longer exist as they were. The areas consumed by the fires that fed indiscriminately upon everything now resemble the black and barren fall-out of a nuclear event.

Two people have so far been charged with arson in New South Wales; one a 31-year-old man who stands accused of a major blaze north of Sydney, another a 15-year-old-boy accused of setting an explosive in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. These actions and the people involved will live in infamy in their country, although neither of the fires set by the two has resulted in deaths.

Fire experts have investigated and their findings are that some of the lethal fires were deliberately set. Forensic investigators are busy in the Kingslake area, the scene of hundreds of destroyed homes. Countless people died horrible deaths sitting helplessly in their vehicles as the fires overtook them and consumed them. Within destroyed homes in the towns that once were, are other residents, also consumed by fire.

People are wandering the destroyed areas in shock, hopelessly looking for family members. Survivors who have suffered dreadful burns will never be the same. Children who were desperately trying to stay alive, huddling with their parents as the fires raged nearby, turning the atmosphere a fearsome bright orange may never be able to live normal lives.

The ground where fires consumed those towns and the people within, along with countless animals, left burned and desiccated everywhere, will recover in time. Now a scene of desolation, burned, blackened, all living things consumed, it will return to life and to promise.

Those who were killed in the passage of the searing winds, engulfed by flames they could not outpace, will become historical footnotes.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cigarette Addiction: Disability...?

That's kind of stretching it, isn't it? To claim that your unwillingness to give up smoking cigarettes, despite its obvious deleterious effect on health, lifestyle, ability to conduct oneself responsibly as an employee, makes you a helpless victim of a disability? A disability, moreover, that should be recognized by the law of the land, compelling a reluctant potential employer to make unwilling concessions.

That's exactly what the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has expressed a willingness to take on; a complaint by a woman from Kelowna that she was denied a job based on the apprehension of a supervisor tasked with interviewing job seekers to fill the position of a part-time operations clerk with the city. The woman, Roxanne Stevenson, did not, apparently, positively impress her interviewer.

The result being that she was not offered the position. One of the questions asked of Ms. Stevenson during the interview was whether she was reliable, whether she could be relied upon to show up for work regularly. Absenteeism no problem, she assured her interviewer; she had "perfect attendance". Yet her personnel file indicated numerous sick days in previous city posts.

The city, in turning down her application, claimed it was their opinion she was not suitable for the job in question. She, however, has laid claim to discrimination on the basis of her smoking habit. An email written by the city's human resources manager cited the supervisor noting her heavy smoking habit, assuming that to have led to ill health and missed working days.

An additional notation set down the observation that the job applicant "reeked of smoke ... was coughing regularly and clearing her throat". These observations are commensurate with a supervisor taking clear responsibility for evaluating and decision-making with respect to a potential employee; one in good working health and reliably entrusted with good attendance at the workplace.

How many employers would be enthused at the prospect of hiring an employee who, when questioned, did not hesitate to respond untruthfully? Which Ms. Stevenson did, in evaluating her own attendance record and attesting it to be superlative, when it clearly was not. Workplace smoking is forbidden fairly generally, but there is no law, nor should there be, that forbids people to smoke on their own time.

But when they do so, and in the process impair their health to the extent that they cannot even conduct a job interview without incessantly coughing and hacking, an extremely poor impression is in the offing. There are no laws that can insist that an interviewee for a position must be hired simply because they present themselves for an interview.

The impression an interviewee makes on an interviewer is due to many variables, not the least of which is a perception of honesty, of reliability. People also assess others on the basis of their physical presentation, along with personality and response techniques. To claim that failure to attract a job offer is unfair based on the presumption of rejection due to a disability is pushing things a bit too far.

And if the complainant feels she has a legitimate grievance, it should be toward herself she should file dissatisfaction. That, while acknowledging her smoking habit as an addiction, and a 'disability', she nonetheless does nothing to help herself, while insisting on the right to inflict the end results of her misfortune upon others.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

We Can, But Should We?

All of a sudden, frustrated, dissatisfied, unfulfilled and sometimes just plain unhappy women have discovered the opportunities open to them through new reproductive technologies. And, it would seem, unscrupulous medical technologists who might knew better can always be found to enable women whom nature clearly hasn't meant to bear children, to have them damn the consequences.

Women like the young, proud new mother of in-one-fell-swoop eight babies who already has six young children and who hasn't the wherewithal to care for all of them. Unable to conceive naturally, she turned to reproductive technology, and with the help of a donor, sailed through a series of single births, then twins, and finally octuplets.

Women are pretty amazing in their capabilities, but what woman exists who can perform the loving function of giving equal care to fourteen children all under the age of seven? And then there are those women whom time, fertility and opportunity passed by, now beyond childbearing age, but who see menopause as no obstacle to their yearnings, with the advent of assisted fertility options.

A 70-year-old woman in India with twins, a 67-year-old woman in Spain with twins. In vitro fertilization solved their problems of childlessness. What will solve their ageing problems as their babies grow into infancy then childhood and suddenly are bereft of their mother's presence?

Even if the mother managed to live to a ripe old age, the child would have the benefit of an elderly mother whose physical capacities and patience would be strained by the ongoing needs, physical and emotional, of a developing child. Now, another woman, a 60-year-old woman who travelled to India for treatment, returning to Canada, pregnant.

India, of all places, where, during Indira Gandhi's infamous "State of Internal Emergency" clamp-down on civil liberties - and her government's push to round up poverty-stricken villagers, beggars living on the streets, those vulnerable dregs of society unable to defend themselves - to round out the government's mandatory sterilization program ensured control of unwanted births in particular segments of society.

Now in India, enterprising medical tourism can avail the foreign moneyed with any kind of medical and surgical procedures not readily available in peoples' home countries. Certainly in Canada, no ethical fertility clinic would treat a 60-year-old woman for fertility. Chronologically, physically, women were not meant by nature to go through the hormone-disrupting procedure of pregnancy.

Ranjit Hayer, the new mother of twins through artificial insemination, was assailed by a number of complications including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Utilizing, in the process scarce medical-health resources in an economy already hard-put to look after the needs of Canadians. And the question remains: how will a 60-year-old, however fit, muster the energy to care for two babies?

As a 60-year-old I looked after my granddaughter while my daughter was outside the home throughout the working week. I had eight hours each day of nursery care for an infant that developed into eight hours a day of physical activity and emotional support for an active youngster, until we were able to place her in a pre-school setting for half-days at age four.

I was exhausted, unable to plan anything for myself other than to look to the nurturing of a young child, after having brought my own three up to maturity when I was young. As an older person, having experienced the normal period of child-raising and finally achieving some measure of time for self, I discovered few opportunities for activities outside providing for a child's needs.

As much as one loves the child, the fact is an older person hasn't the needed energy and patience that a younger woman would have. That realization can be demoralizing and upsetting to one's sense of coping, of enjoyment of life. And it gives short shrift to the child's needs. I had the responsibility of my granddaughter's daily care until she became nine and I 69.

And I happen to be a physically fit senior, an alert and energetic individual, patient enough, and as deeply engaged in the need to stimulate a young mind as anyone could be. I had some relief from the constant need to be on duty to a child's needs when her mother picked our granddaughter up at five each day. These older mothers will have no such relief.

Their choices for themselves are unrealistic. They cannot be assured that they will be able to accompany their children into adulthood. Their selfless acts of sacrificing themselves to bear children are in reality the ultimate in selfishness.

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