Unicorns Will Not Save You. But Spacesteading Might.

The grandest irony of social liberalism/egalitarianism is its dependence on individuals and institutions whose cultures are by and large hierarchical, highly tribal, and at their core, authoritarian, to defend its values.


People claim to value rational thought, but few of us enjoy the company of those who genuinely live that value… because they’re so fucking maddening to be around. No, I’m not referring to the pretenders — software developers, economists, looking at you. I’m talking about the real deal. A lot of people diagnosed on the spectrum tend to fall in this category. As a parent of one, I have some vague idea what I’m talking about. (Oh yes, I do have to add: if you’ve met one person on the spectrum, yadayada…)


Economists have lots of numbers and lots of big words in their arsenal. Couple that with truckloads of confidence (despite the fact that little of what they claim is backed by anything other than hypotheses) and you have a seductive cocktail for neoliberal politicians in search of scholar priests to fill their credibility gap.


There are no frontiers left here. There is no next move with a purely positive outcome. You will always be kicking an orphan child with cleft lip in Bangladesh or beheading a beloved lab rat or pouring oil sand tailings into the orifices of Gaia. We like to work with our hands, but our creations, these things we fashioned in our own image, are now superior to us in every way, and so are their creations. And they’re laughing at us. What’s that? Missing a “soul”, you say? What is that, anyway? And what has it done for you lately? What has it done for anyone ever?

So, the time has come for us to go. The senile, old Geppettos. To go seek out newness. Because we have nothing left to offer here.

This newness, I believe it’s somewhere beyond our stars. I hope it’s something I’ll get to experience in my lifetime. It will be AWESOME, literally, I’m sure.

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Heroes

Police are heroes. Soldiers are heroes. If a soldier — who has done his duty serving his country — kills police, does his hero status get revoked?

I’m not here to make friends. There are already enough people who care more about getting likes or up-votes or high-fives than anything else. This is MY team!!! I’m FOR MY TEAM!!! Fuck them. I’m insensitive. Maybe even misanthropic. But hopefully, a person who knows how to read is also capable of reflection. Capable of thought beyond labelling those with a different view “crazy” or “enemy”.

“I know your family’s grieving — FUCK ‘EM!!!!”

A few weeks ago, a man died base jumping from the top of a popular local mountain. Nobody called him a hero. And why would they? Maybe you can admire his courage, risking his life doing something inherently dangerous. But he wasn’t acting to save someone’s life or serving a greater cause. He was an adrenaline junkie.

And the unfortunate truth, more often than people would like to admit, is that many of those serving in the police (and military, as was the case of the base-jumper) are also adrenaline junkies. Indeed, the job requires a certain amount of courage to be effective. (Whether that characteristic is overemphasized can and should be debated, but maybe another time.)

I’d like to see people stop calling every cop a hero. No. They don’t automatically deserve that. While many of them are (or better said, many have acted heroically), it’s by virtue of their actions toward the population they serve, not simply because they’re wearing badges and carrying guns. Running into a dangerous situation doesn’t make you a hero. Even dying in the line of duty doesn’t make you a hero. I’m tired of this word “hero” being attributed collectively to a group of people to preempt criticism of and/or apologize for the terrible acts, both past and future, of some among their ranks. And I want to emphasize “some”, and it’s for the same reason that we should not be painting any group with these broad brushes of “heroes” or “villains”. Collectively attributing heroism or villainy to any group is both unfair and inaccurate, and especially unhelpful in trying to understand the complex issues of violence perpetrated by law enforcement officers, gun violence, and race relations in the United States.

And politicians, enough about “despicable acts” when police are killed, as if the act of killing was more despicable because the victims were police. Because IT’S NOT.

At some point, I might put down a few words on why I think universal, mandatory military service would a good idea. Now, I also wonder if a universal, mandatory stint in law enforcement would also be a good idea. But among other things, I think it would help to break down the barrier between law enforcement and the public they serve, to chisel away at this unfortunate belief that police are — and must be — somehow better (more “heroic”) than the common people. It’s time for everyone to see things from new perspectives, not hide behind the safety of long-held, narrow viewpoints.

Oh, cheer up, Ducky! It can’t be that bad!

220px-Mallard2
On the train in to the city this morning, I received a call from a friend. He was calling to share a piece of bad news. A mutual friend of ours had died. The train went underground as I began to ask for the what and the how details. The last thing I heard on the other end before I lost the signal was that our friend had committed suicide.

News of the death of a friend is never an easy thing to hear. Death by suicide is even more difficult; what is it that brings a person to a state where they feel the only solution to the problem is to remove themselves from the equation?

I call this man a friend, but I can’t say that I knew him well or for a long time. Most of the time, when I meet someone new, I have no real, immediate sense of whether we’ll form a connection over the long term. Rarely would I say I “hit it off” with someone, but he was one of those people. He was warm, easy-going, and unpretentious, but also well-spoken, thoughtful, and with an amazing breadth of life experience. He was married to the same person for 30 years, seemed to be reasonably secure financially, and to most people around him, appeared to be enjoying the life he’d been given. But fairly recently, he had suffered a nervous breakdown and a possible depression, from which he seemed to have recovered.

But what do we really know of the minds of others? We don’t even know our own minds.

I think most of us see someone who seems generally similar to ourselves (upbringing, socio-economic standing, life opportunities, etc.), we figure they must be like us, generally speaking (walks like a duck, talks like a duck, …). We find it difficult to fathom that something could be so wrong in their inner life that they would nurture serious thoughts of ending their own existence. So if they don’t say anything about it, we might have no reason to suspect anything is wrong. But what happens when someone does express that they’re having those thoughts? I suspect for many of us, it’s so contrary to our natural sense of self-preservation, we don’t really know how to react. “Oh c’mon, cheer up! It can’t be that bad.” “It will pass. You’ll get over it.” or “How could you feel that way? You have so much to live for!”

We might mean well, saying these things, but I wonder: is it really the best we can do? Consider this: would it be acceptable to respond that way to someone without legs talking about the challenges they face trying to navigate a world designed for people with legs? Probably not. Me, I’d be saying to myself, “damn, he has no legs. I guess I should put up with his complaining, at least for a little while.”

I don’t particularly care much for professional sports, but I have a huge amount of admiration for Clara Hughes. During her career as a professional athlete, she competed in both Summer and Winter Olympics and is the only Olympian to have won multiple medals in each. This is not a stunning achievement. It is a unique achievement. No other man or woman in history has done this.
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But she has also dealt with mental illness. Some might say she’s “conquered” it. Some might even romanticize it, claiming it’s what enabled her to accomplish so much. The reality of mental illness is not so simple, nor in any way romantic.

Regardless how some may want to downplay or romanticize the role mental illness has played in her life, I’m genuinely glad she is out there talking about it and helping people understand.

And I’m saddened to have lost a friend. My life feels a bit paler today.

“1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives.” – Canadian Institute of Health Research

“2 in 3 people suffer in silence fearing judgment and rejection.” – Canadian Medical Association

“Only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness.” – Canadian Medical Association

Newtown: Guns Don’t Kill People

Statue of Minute Man John Parker in Lexington, Massachusetts

Statue of Minute Man John Parker in Lexington, Massachusetts

People do.

I started this post about a monthtwo months ago, when emotions were fresh and bitter. But I didn’t want to commit to what I wanted to write. My own words made me angry, and I don’t like being angry. Two months on, emotions are still fresh and just as bitter.

Guns don’t kill people. People do.

The people who colonized the United States of America saw themselves as people under siege. Many had been persecuted for their religious beliefs in their country of origin. They were living in a harsh land surrounded by hostile savages. And while they were subjects of a (somewhat) democratic country, they had no parliamentary representation. All these perceptions helped to create a siege mentality, which, even after a successful revolution against the “oppressors”, has persisted.

Today, it permeates popular entertainment and right-wing political discourse: our country was not given to us, it was hard-won, and we must defend it. Our enemies lie in wait all around, looking for signs of weakness, looking for a chance to take from us what’s rightfully ours. They’re jealous of our freedom and will destroy us if they get the opportunity.

When you’re under siege, it’s important to not appear weak, lest your enemies decide to test your defenses. Like many animals, who, when cornered, will puff themselves up to appear larger, more formidable an opponent to the predator, if you’re an embattled regime, having more, bigger and better guns will make you appear more intimidating to your foes. This strategy seemed to make sense during the period after the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until the early days of the Cold War. Eventually, it became clear that it was a strategy of diminishing returns.

Still, from a position of weakness, guns might appear to be an equalizer, and they can be. But if more guns is your solution to the problem of mass murder by guns, then you don’t have a solution.

True, guns didn’t cause the violence. But they were the enabler. And the amplifier. Let’s not kid ourselves; the angel-making capacity of the .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle is far greater than the knife, the baseball bat, the bare hand, or whatever other weapon the average “bad guy” has at his disposal.

But I’m glad we have guns. Because when the mob is reaching for its torches and pitchforks, coming for my children because they want to blame autism or mental illness or whatever it is that makes us different from them, for the deaths of their little angels, I’ll protect my angels. You people will always have more sympathy for the pretty ones, the popular ones, than the sad, lonely losers. So be it. I’ll be waiting for you. With a couple pitbulls too. Maim your ugly, neurotypical NIMBY faces when you show up at my castle.

America is a wounded animal, frantically biting its own wounds.

Unemployed? STFU!

Mohan (I think?), New Delhi (photo by me, the Bloodfreak)

In April 2010, I went to India. Apparently that’s one of the less ideal times of the year to go, it being the start of summer, and summers in India tend to be warm. I remember walking out of Indira Gandhi airport and being hit by a blast of heat like I’d just opened the door of a 400F oven. (It was actually only 46C according to local weather reports, but I was born in the US, so conversions, you know, I’m not so good at.) Anyway, while I was there, I saw many incredible things. This was the first.

Shortly after arriving in New Delhi and settling in at my hotel, I decided to go check out Connaught Place (officially renamed Rajiv Chowk Place, but still generally referred to by locals as “CeePee”). CP is a popular shopping district. Picture a strip mall that you’ve grabbed the ends of and pulled toward each other to almost form a circle and you sort of get an idea.

I was supposed to meet up with some local friends after they got off work and I had time to kill, so I wandered around a bit. Wandering without purpose as I was usually isn’t a good idea in New Delhi — or any other urban area anywhere in India for that matter — because you’ll be quickly identified as a tourist and targeted by a throng of people selling everything imaginable, even the unimaginable.

I have low tolerance for people in general and I had an especially hard time with the overly-polite “hello, sir!” spiel of the Delhi huckster. I managed to escape the riot of color and action and people of the underground market at CP and when I resurfaced, found this relatively quiet, greenspace in the centre of the circle. I decided to sit for a moment to catch my breath. Of course, that was a mistake. Not 10 seconds later, I was approached by this man — I believe his name was Mohan — who asked me where I was from. Resigned to my fate, I told him I was from Canada. He then asked me if I spoke French or English. Now, it was getting interesting. I told him both, in response to which he produced a ledger, which looked to be full with the scrawlings of previous victims — er, customers. He thumbed through it until he found several entries apparently by Canadians, in both official languages. I was impressed despite myself. Then he told me what he did.

For 20 rupees (less than 50 cents CAD/US), he will give you an ear-cleaning like you’ve never had before. I said, please, no thank you, but I offered him the same money if he let me take his picture. Even after that, he still wanted to clean my ears, but I begged off. I have my limits. But check out the video below to see someone else who went for it.

He’s an example of one of the things that amazed me the most about India: the resourcefulness of the people. As I travelled around a bit, I saw what people in North America would call abject poverty, but the people here were still making a living. They don’t stop to feel sorry for themselves because they just don’t have that luxury. They squeeze everything they can from the little resources they have. I was amazed and ashamed at my own wastefulness and grateful that I have the luxury of living in a place where I can be wasteful, embarrassing as that is to admit.

Yeah, I know travel bloggers say this shit all the time, but hey it’s my story. I did see much worse poverty in other places, but that’s another story for another time.

A Throat Ripe for the Taking

Summer of 2012 passes into memory on a cool breeze, and a light fog draws in over the lowlands of the GVRD. A delicious night follows a gray, but not unpleasant day. The city does not smell of manure. Inside or outside is comfortable, though there’s some indecision over short sleeve or light sweater. I forecast the Richmond Lolitas will be wearing shorts for weeksmonths to come. And bonus, they haven’t yet put their smiles away for the season. A few even have one to spare for an old guy like me. Ah, the summers on the Wet Coast! “Thho gut!”

But all this was the sideshow. Tonight, the main attraction was the trip home. Back to my lovely suburb.

It was the Adam’s apple. Its owner, in the back seat of the bus, a belligerent drunk, not doing anything (yet), but defying everyone to do or say something — anything, so he could have an excuse to prove how much of an asshole he could be. Late night weekend public transit users know who I’m talking about. He reminded me of me twenty years ago, in some ways, but magnitudes more an asswipe. (I’m not a belligerent drunk.) But as far as drunken white trash goes, I’ve seen plenty worse. He was special because, though probably nearly half my age and in fairly good shape for a punk-ass construction bitch, I figured I could take him in his current state.

Alcohol has a wonderfully numbing effect. On feelings. On judgement. I remember the last time I was seriously beaten while seriously inebriated. How I’d felt absolutely nothing. Until the next day. My face lacerated. My nose broken for the umpteenth time (heh, that was muh dad’s word). My entire body ached. My testicles felt like they’d been in a vise. I walked with a limp for days.

I thought how wonderful that entire experience could be for him too, and how I could make it happen for him. I think it could have been special for both of us. How much sweeter this night could have been, to have that sharing moment. To put my elbow into the nose in the center of that curiously Daniel Sedinesque face. The spray it would have made! I wonder if the old Filipina woman sitting nearby has ever seen this level of violence up close. Probably not since coming to Canada (unless she’s a hockey fan). And from that point on, because of his position, I could have easily continued undeterred with blow after blow to the face. It would have been terribly messy for the people around him, traumatic for some, I suppose. Blood. Bits of broken teeth. I think many, if not most of bystanders, would have secretly applauded me. Including the old Pinay. But I would have had to restrain myself though, because the temptation to strike that lump in the windpipe would be great, maybe too great. And there would be no coming back from that choice.

Overall, for him, I think the experience would have been — interesting. He might have said to himself (as I have in those situations), “ah, I’m being assaulted. Did I do something foolish? It’s so weird. I don’t remember now.”

Friends IRL, this is why I don’t go to clubs. Please don’t ask me. If I turn off my humanity… My desire to do harm is intense. My capacity for brutality is endless. I’m scared of myself.