EDWISE 

EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT

The Cooperative Way

The cooperative movement encourages and assists the formation of worker co-ops. Advocates and their organizations lobby for legislation to require companies to first offer their employees to buy their firms before they invite other interests to do it. Such legislation exists in some states such as the UK and some within the United States of America. Some employers prefer to do this, for they respect their workers and their work and do not want to cause them harm. They may believe that their businesses would be in better hands were the employees to take them over rather than strangers and people who are not so familiar with them. 


Where there are allowances for workers to take over the ownership of enterprises, rules and a lending system are in place. The government provides low interest loans and a framework and training for workers' collectives to be able to run companies themselves. In some cases, workers can make arrangements and find funds on their own. There are organizations within the cooperative movement who can educate and facilitate such takeovers.


The cooperative movement does not challenge or object to trade unions; there need not be a conflict. Some unions support workers' co-ops, for they see them as allies and the co-ops, if unions are friendly, see the unions as allies. Collective agreements can offer ideas for the terms of a cooperative arrangement that guarantees and protects the workers rights and safe and reasonable working conditions. However, a worker-owned business would not need a union. Worker's unions are established as a defense against exploitation by owners as all owners of private enterprises profit from the labour of their workers and they do so by keeping wages down and trimming overhead costs by withholding resources and measures that would make workplaces safer, healthier and more comfortable. Private owners certainly do not want to give over the decision-making to workers--no way! They have management to impose restrictions such as time limits and methods. Workers are always pushing back to improve their earnings and conditions.


A cooperative is far more democratic. Workers within it, whether it is a fast food enterprise or a factory, meet and have an equal say in how the work is done. This arrangement is far different from the typical employment where the owner and his representatives command the workers, dictating everything they do at work, from when and how long to use the toilets and take meals to procedures and reporting. Contemporary workplaces may adopt a friendlier management style that shows signs of more respect and appears to consult employees, but you know that the employees' say doesn't count for much; it is still dangerous for them to say anything as their words can be used against them in the end. While there can be all sorts of personalities and ideas present in a cooperative workplace, the relationship of the employees to it and their work is fundamentally different. People simply cannot be abused much since their is no owner exploiting them and everyone who works there has an equal status. True, there can be variations in salary levels considering varying education or training and experience levels, and a bonus system can be implemented as an incentive or reward. 


The cooperative workplace has potential to develop a communal environment wherein workers get to know each other, socialize and assist each other with the problems and demands of life even outside work. In fact, there is a societal vision and philosophy around the worker-owned-and-run cooperative enterprise. It is a vision of a cooperative and caring society with a profound democracy. It is a new kind of communism, a society empowering the people at the base without a government functioning as a centralized decision-making order overseeing and commanding the society. Government has a role in providing services and resources and setting regulations and laws. However, it is one with proper representation of the people, not business owners that dominate and drive and bribe the government to do their bidding to make life richer and more comfortable for them alone. No, it would be a government with proportional representation, perhaps with regional and national election candidates coming from councils filled with nominated and elected workers from the cooperatives and other mass organizations.


There is also a vision of new kind of international relations based on cooperation and aimed at avoiding and settling conflicts through negotiations that would not allow war to break out. the United Nations Organizations would have to be rebuilt and refitted to serve these aims.


An model of a cooperative world has been drawn up by the "All things Cooperative" division of "Democracy @ Work". Here is a link to a video about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-T0XOA5hI0





Life Without Community

Without the communal experiences that common people set up for themselves, life is harder and colder. Without the social and recreational organizations, ceremonial practices, neighbourhoods in action, nonprofit organizations and various associations in which relationships  and support networks, what is there? 


Workers do not have control over their workplaces, so communal experiences cannot be counted on there. Except for recognitions of birthdays, the Christmas party and occasional lunches together, if the they are lucky, employees must perform prescribed tasks on a given schedule and be subject to monitoring. Atmospheres and management styles can vary, but generally employees grab what chance they can to enjoy the coworker relationships but beat it home, happier to escape the confines of oversight and regime in an enterprise directed by others who reap the most rewards. 


School does not always provide relief, either. Private schools are generally business or religious settings run according to a corporate model with its quantifiable assessments and goals. In many countries, public school is an institution regulated and prescribed by government, and are often large. From upper elementary ("middle school" to some) through secondary school, the ambiance cools down and the focus on scores is sobering. After years of neoliberal austerity measures, too, there is nothing much in the budget to provide extra-curricular and cultural experiences. Even if there are student clubs and a student council, the object is career driven, with the ambitious eager to scratch notches on their resumes. Teachers and concerned observers complain how schools, reformed and relaxed somewhat in the 60s, have become like factories. 


At least any school is a place where friendships are made. The local elementary school might be the only locus of communal activity. The degree of communalism depends on the location of the schools. Some school boards that ascribe to a more humanist approach, especially as concerns the youngest of the student populations. Parents are involved. There could be exchanges and special days. Teachers can assess a student's wellbeing, family life and outlook and try to intervene with one sort of support or another. Volunteers from the community could be in the classrooms and hallways. Also, the school can be used for community meetings such as political campaigning and election polling. There may be continuing education classes run in the evenings and on weekends. 


Without much else in the way of community networks and activities, children and parents rely a lot on the school for social nourishment and growth. this could be why it is reported that many youngsters and teens suffered a lot during COVID lockdowns. Most people were cut off from communal experiences and community life. If both parents were absent from the home to earn their livelihoods or very preoccupied earning money from the home, even family life was inadequate. Families with more resources, of course, could manage better. It was the poorest who suffered most.


Without other communal offerings, people hang around shopping malls and parks. They may get to know others who work at or otherwise frequent those places. They may make and meet friends there. However, there is not much in the way program and structure. It's every person for her/himself. 


People who either start associations and get something going or pay membership dues and join some existing thing are much better off. Their lives are richer and more fulfilling. They should support people's associations and organize them to build society in a positive way.

Recreational Clubs

Recreational clubs are communal to one degree or another. I belong to several, as I like casual sports for fitness, culture, interest and social activity. They are all communal in that they are groups that share space to do things together using common resources. 

     For example, my ukulele club meets in a regular club house and plays together following a leading musician. We participants donate a few bucks at each session to support this leader. Members get to the session on his/her own means. We drink and chat together as well. There are no other meetings of this group other than practice/ play times. 

     My hiking club is another example of a common group experience. It is a couple of degrees more communal than the uke club. We have to register, pay a nominal membership fee each year and follow designated hike leaders who plan each hike. There is a publicly accessible website that bears a calendar, information on each scheduled hike,  and reports on past hikes. Our annual fees pay for it and liability insurance, nothing else. There is a car pooling system for transportation to each location of hikes; passengers pay a set amount to the driver to cover fuel each time they are driven to a hike. The trip leader ensures that there are a few photos taken of the location and participants of each hike, which will be posted along with that leader's brief report on the hike. While hiking, we get to know one another. We bring our own lunches, though. There is only one social event each year: the annual barbecue at a favorite lakeside place. Someone lends a barbecue or two and everyone who goes is supposed to bring a little food to share. However, the picnickers bring their own items to barbecue. There is minimal cost to participants and no cost to the club for this event. The province regulates and oversees all organized sports in the province, so this club must follow the provincial regulations and the insurer's stipulations. The city carries information on the club and provides a few gifts to distribute to club members on the day of the annual social.

     The most communal of all the recreational and cultural clubs I belong to is the lawn bowling club. This is a traditional English sport that traditionally serves older people. A whole community thus revolves around the local lawn bowling club. Although the provincial government sets the standards, the city provides a subsidy and the property including the equipment shed and clubhouse. Therefore, city staff clean the washrooms inside the clubhouse and manage the flower beds inside compound regularly. However, members do everything else themselves; it is a member-run organization, with members paying an annual fee to cover insurance, maintenance, outdoor equipment and kitchen and game room supplies. Besides the annual membership fee, we each pay a couple of dollars each time we play a game so that we provide additional funds for snacks, the maintenance of the green and seasonal prizes. Members can drop in any time to present themselves for games on bowling game nights three times a week and one bowling morning session once a week. There are competitions against nearby clubs at least twice a bowling season. The club also runs a croquet evening. There is always social time after games, which volunteers from among the membership organize to set up tables, prepare and serve food and clean up. Volunteers take care of grounds and run the games. In fact, this club is a full-fledged nonprofit society with an executive body. There is one official coach to train members and apply the rules. We follow international rules and techniques established ages ago in England. Though the club keeps some spare equipment, members have to acquire their bowling kits each containing four uniquely marked bowls and paraphernalia. 

      As such a developed tradition, community lawn bowling clubs provide vital opportunities for socializing. Seniors benefit tremendously and enjoy it for the outdoor setting, the company, the mild activity and thrill of the game. Older people can play this despite some physical restrictions and weaknesses as they age. People join as of their late 40s; they typically are people who enjoy sports but who have had some kind of long term injury or ailment, or are just looking for another way to relax outdoors on spare evenings. Many are longtime members who play until they are no longer able at a very advanced age. In fact, club archives with photos are kept and memorial plaques for the most active members are displayed.

      The social schedule of the season offers a lot, from the monthly barbecues to the holiday bowling lunches and the season opening and closing banquets. Participants bring their own lunches to the holiday games and salads and such to share at barbecues, when individuals bring their own items to cook on the grill. The opening and closing events are ticketed meals, but surplus club wealth is used to provide gifts beyond the raffles tickets that are offered at each banquet. 

     The bowling season is only three-and-a-half months long, but the club remains open all year round. There is one card, one darts and one carpet bowling session each week so that members can stay active and engaged with this community. Surplus funds from the summer season provide small snacks. People can buy beverages at each season; a volunteer keeps it stocked up.

    The games organizers keep stats of everyone's performance in all the clubs games, from bowling to darts, so that the persons with the highest scores and most wins can be identified and rewarded a little monetarily from time to time. 

    You can see that the lawn bowling is a full communal experience. It grows a community who do many activities, physical and social, together regularly in a communal space. Lasting friendships form. The membership develops to a more intimate level than other types of recreational clubs. Things are planned to be fair and inclusive.


Humans Helping Humans

I am reflecting on the memorial banquet I just attended. Friends, family and extended family came to share memories and catch up. Now I'm thinking how much such an event is a communal experience. First I consider who and what makes up a family. Then I consider how people rally around someone in need.

In the case of this gathering, close friends and extended family were quite a mix and acquainted in a variety of interesting ways. Of course, there was immediate biological relatives and relatives by marriage. In addition, there were several cases of close friends and family established by volunteer child raising. Here is an example. One man had been in a relationship with a drug addict who continued to help to raise her child well after breaking up with the girlfriend. That child is now a young man who attended the honouring of his quasi-uncle with his wife. Another man brought his biological daughter and grandchildren, as well as a teen-age adopted daughter whom he and his late wife met as foster parents when she was an infant; they looked after that girl for a few years and opted to adopt her after the natural mother, another drug addicted, passed away.             There was a young child at the dinner; she was there under the informal guardianship of her mother's friends, the mother being absent and unable to take care of her. These are all examples of stretching the perimeters of family to

take care of people where there is no obligation by birth or law; people help because they care.

     After the meal and the planned proceedings, informal chat gave rise to a few exchanges about different types of services and individual preferences. One issue is notification of the passing. One person may have a larger or different sort of network than another. How and who to notify? What is the responsibility? I got to thinking that various people well acquainted with the deceased through work or other organized activities and by proximity. If any of them learn of the passing, chances are that someone among them will respond on their own initiative and hold some sort of event to acknowledge it. Take community and leftist social and grassroots political activists, for example. It is normal for fellow activists, perhaps organization leaders or volunteers, to arrange something apart from what the immediate family or close friends do; the activity could be a letter to the family, a public message, a small gathering or a larger service. Work or recreational/ social club mates might react similarly.

     Then I got to thinking that there are a lot of situations of people helping people. Disasters are obvious examples. People will open their doors, provide food and supplies, donate money, etc. On the other hand, there is a lot of talk about how the population will respond to severe economic conditions as stagflation strangles economic life and a deep recession unfolds in the USA and Canada. I hear many expressions of fear. The gun promoters and survivalist convey great fear about their neighbours who they surmise will run rampage thieving and killing to stay alive ,so stocking up on guns, ammo and necessities and preparing to defend themselves or perish is recommended. I, though, believe in human kindness and concern. I think that many able people will organize to take care of each other and try to repair the crisis.

     Think about it. Who runs shelters, kitchens, mobile street services, and outreach and counseling? Who sets up charities and nonprofit or self-help organizations? Average people step forward to work hard finding resources, making public appeals, researching and sharing information, obtaining qualifications, getting funds, and so forth, and they are often volunteers.

COMMUNAL LIVING


Sorry for the lengthy absence. I do not like this blog format and input process, for one thing. For another, I did not have another theme except peace; I cover peace at my Just Peace Committee page on Facebook and my justpeace.blog (Wordpress) as well as in an internal newsletter for the International League of Peoples Struggles (peoplesstruggles.org), which is the Commission 4 publication called "Peace 4 the People". I also write statements for ILPS Commission 4 and Just Peace Committee, internationally and locally, respectively.

     In my activism for peace, we confront imperialism (domination, exploitation and plunder to make astronomical wealth for the few) that is the main source of various forms of violence and oppression. The long term goal is to build an alternative to monopoly capitalist imperialism, which concerned people involved generally call socialism. There are different types of socialism which are mainly state control of land and production and state laws and programs to provide social benefits and protection to the masses. Communist parties have been able to rule and institute vast state socialism through revolution and through electoral campaigns and reforms. We can think of Cuba and Venezuela as examples of one and the other. From the 1930s through the 1970s, US and Europe-based capitalism made compromises to socialize some industry, provide social programs, build infrastructure for working people, and so on. Capitalism's weaknesses, though, could not be avoided: wars, periodic slowdowns, debt and currency crises. The neoliberal approach of the 1980s to 2020 ruined that project by dismantling it and privatizing and deregulating everything. Politically aware intellectuals and working folk are talking about socialism again and decrying "the imperialist system" and all its violence and ills.

     Therefore, I have been thinking about socialism. Capitalism is not working out; it is in total crisis, at least US-based monopoly capitalism is. The crisis is economic (stagflation, approaching recession, debt), social (rising suicide, alienation, displacement, bigotry, disruptive and dysfunctional family life), education (rising illiteracy, lack of supports), health (insufficient public care for all, rising mortality and morbidity, mental health and opioids), unemployment or underemployment, housing (quality and affordability with rising homelessness). I don't have to tell you.

     If more people continue to get politically active and join protests, they can only be effective when they join forces, share info and materials and ideas, collaborate and make demands for change together. All the movements have to come together as one to confront imperialism. It has to have a grassroots, worker and poor people base.

     What alternative and how can we get there? Through collective action and discussion, forms of organization come into being: cooperative enterprises, committees, shelters and workspaces, bartering and sharing arrangements, social and recreational clubs, nonprofit enterprises and charities, popular non-corporate media, art projects, education and skills training programs, worker-owned factories and so on. Oh, you have heard of at least some of these? Yes! They already exist. You probably realise that they are each a product of local struggle. You probably know that they could not be accomplished by a single person, but rather had to be by a collective. When victorious, such endeavours result in people/ worker/ community-run, autonomous collectives that serve the people somehow. The struggle may have required and won state funding and legislation, so that many such collectives are state supported. It is this collective, popular action and organization that interests me, for I see it as the foundation for a whole new society that cares about and operates for and by the people. I envision a governance of representatives from among the communities and collectives that does not own and control projects and enterprises and programs but is designed to facilitate and support them.

     The socialism built in the Soviet Union and elsewhere has largely been systems of state ownership, control and direction of production and community life. I am not knocking what has been achieved. Clearly, the people fought and worked hard for it and benefited from it for a few decades. It is the top-heavy, top-down system that is vulnerable to corruption. Economic critics of capitalism have also reviewed former socialist states and come to accept that, to date, they adopted a capitalist production and distribution model, though wealth and production was not in private hands. State-owned enterprises used the monetary, price and wage system and accumulated wealth, which was to be redistributed into investments in infrastructure, homes, services, culture, and factories aimed at continuous expansion. In other words, they borrowed the capitalist model and changed some of the language. True, there were local committees and trade union and party locals from among whom representatives to the massive regional and state assemblies were regularly and properly elected. However, democracy was at risk and the state vulnerable to corruption as long as the economy and management were centralized. Too much power in too few hands.

     Today, new models of socialism are being discussed. Many prize communal life and governance. I want to think about this approach.

The next steps will be to look at examples of communal life around me. You probably have not held communism high, but that ideal is alive and well around the world as people continue to form and run various types of collectives. You likely belong to one or support one. I will discuss how much each case is "communal".

Communal living is my new thread to be discussed in the next few weeks, if not months. Stay tuned.

Blog

roots of oppression

Posted on June 4, 2020 at 9:33 PM Comments comments (407)
Don't wanna hear one more talk show host confess what they're just learning now about oppression against people of colour. They can be heard telling "us" (?ASSUMPTIONS!) that we have to pay more attention and be more sensitive. Making pledges to (finally) use "their platforms" (very rich and privileged) to listen to black and brown people and help making change happen. Really? They didn't know about the difficulties facing working people of colour and migrant workers before? Just had dinner and hope I can keep it down. 

Understanding racism in North America and Europe takes adopting a historical perspective to understand European colonialism. especially the master of racist doctrine, bureaucratic rule, force against "the other" and forced assimilation, British colonialism. Leaders must acknowledge this history if they are to make changes. Some have begun to here in Canada and a few other locations, such as New Zealand, but it is not enough.

I also object to racialized intepretations of events and behavior, from any angle. Racism is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it is a tool of the oppressor to keep people divided and diverted. Relations are so extensively racialized in some loci such as the USA that it is hard to propose non-race explanations. Whatever one's colour, racism is often an excuse or a cited cause for things not working out. People generally have learned it from a variety of sources. It is deeply ingrained in the consciousness. On the other hand, not recognizing the history and not seeing that age-old oppression bearing down on certain sectors because of their place of origin, language, colour and class position is damaging. Race is not real but racialization is. Racist policy and discourse are real. Socially, race is relevant even though genetically it is not. The power relations, the history of one sector beating down others so as to raise themselves up, is true. It does not just happen in the West. Forms of chauvinism, whether religion or nation-based, is a reality of any imperial system, whether monarchical or corporate, colonial or neo-colonial. 

Racism should not and cannot be addressed as a separate problem from the problem of imperialism and oppression against gender and class. There are elements actually complicit in the oppression who may have a black or brown identity but are very happy to have achieved, by hook or by crook, high status and privilege. They want to talk about their oppression as people of colour or a family history originating in Africa. Feminism poses the same problem. True, violence and discrimination cut across class and unity among the sufferers can be achieved to make certain points. All the same, a social analysis that does not see class and admit to empire will fail. 

Why hasn't more legislation to reduce police brutality against people of colour and alleviate the oppression of the most oppressed in the rich countries been realized despite the decades of abuse? If it is a systemic problem, then it cannot be solved by tweaking the law. If it is a systemic problem then it is about democracy, attaining state power and taking the reins of power to reconfigure society and its teachings.

Why to the racial tensions linger, despite all the talk, changes in law, rise of role models, sharing of knowledge...? The answer is the same in the case of women and the poor: there is a lack of (1) political knowledge and orientation and (2) organization. The people need political education informed by experience on the ground, grass roots organization and mobilization in appropriate actions designed for the time and place and means. 

We all need fundamental change to resolve many problems, racism being one, and others being exploitation of working people, inequality and poverty, plunder of indigenous lands, war and destruction of culture and heritage, etc. Systemic change takes political awareness and organization by the people for a new way.

13 things to stay positive

Posted on May 12, 2020 at 2:33 PM Comments comments (3)
Good tips for staying positive and on course in life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SzvtJMrXx0

9:252020-04-06 · 13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PEOPLE DON'T DO by Amy Morin 

Wild Animal Markets

Posted on April 22, 2020 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (56)
Given that the source of the COVID-19 pandemic could well be live animal markets in China, especially those selling wild animals, I have been playing a small part in discouraging wild animal markets.

There are many good reasons to close them down. First of all, numerous zoonotic diseases can easily sprout from them. In conditions of such markets are on the whole deplorable, with multiple, acutely stressed animals stacked into small cages without proper cleaning, that probability is heightened. Just do a simple "Google" to check and see images of these horrid sights yourself. 

Another thing is there typical location in the center of crowded cities where foot traffic is heavy, and passersby may frequently touch the animals and the cages, accelerating the passage of viruses from animals to humans. The vendor on duty may be holding a creature to lure customers.

In addition, the wild animals languishing in these terrible markets have probably been poached and imported clandestinely. The collectors and shippers are no doubt criminals robbing innocent creatures, even endangered ones, from prohibited areas. They steal from nature carelessly and treat the terrified beings roughly, packing them into vehicles, containers and ships or rail cars to haul them long distances. They thus enter foreign countries illegally and, of course, without proper shots and quarantine. Anything could happen in this scenario. It is to invite catastrophe as much as it is inhumane.

Finally, it is about time that human societies change their relationships with nature, both plants and animals. We need to treat them better, in an informed and kind way. People need to to conserve nature and protect life and biodiversity.

For all the above reasons, I have been commenting here and there on this topic, mostly on social media and in private conversations, to advocate against the poaching, trafficking and trading of wild animals. I have also made a Facebook page, after being shocked that no-one had done it before. 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/502759593748663/ 

I am also concerned for livestock on display in traditional street markets. The conditions and treatment of fowl, swine, etc. at these types of places need to be vastly improved in many of them. There should be more space, hygiene, care, respect and sense. They are also sources of viruses transferred from critters to people. 

Turnover

Posted on April 6, 2020 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (28)
"World Turned Upside-Down" is a modern adaptation of the 17th century protest song about the Diggers' movement for land rights. The lyrics convey the assumption that a society in which the deprived majority must provide service to the privileged majority is an upside-down world much in need of righting. 

It seems that the pandemic is shaking up the global system and turning things over. Suddenly, human needs have been made a priority and non-productive and destructive activities assigned lower priority.

The pandemic has made the lack of support for health care, food distribution, housing and income assistance obvious. The situation has abruptly forced a shift in social structures and state mandates. Suddenly, many activities have been made to stop to give these causes priority. The least productive economic activities are on pause, such as "cultural industries" from luxury travel and professional sports, to pop music, from beauty care and movie-making to fashion. Industries related to war have had to slow down, including aerospace development by corporations such as Boeing and Bombardier.

The present context is resulting in reduced air pollution as use of fossil fuel-powered vehicles has dropped to a minimum. Motor vehicle manufacturing and petroleum production, both big problems, have been undermined. While the price of gas at the pump has plummeted, to favour the average consumer, car manufacturing plants are starting to switch to the production of more useful items, such as medical gear. 

Another affect of this crisis is the recognition of the service provided by workers in certain sectors that have suffered the lowest respect until now: janitors and housekeepers, food distributors and packers, cooks and grocery store clerks, and drivers, for example. Of course, the important roles of emergency service and health care providers has been amplified. 

Social responsibility to the collective rather than individual right and privilege is taking a front seat nowadays. In this context, governments are actually working hard to govern and take care of everyone. Media has an enhanced role to supply information, rather than "conversational journalism" which has more systematically manufactured speculation and carried propaganda.

Long-time issues are glaring, such as the need to provide more support to the workers and poor in times of emergency or calamity, the need for people to consume more wisely and efficiently without depending so much on debt, building health preparedness.

Some already lucrative industries are benefiting and growing in this situation: industries such as communications technologies, medical supplies and pharmaceutical products, financing, internet shopping and food delivery industries. However, the ethos of having compassion and helping others is stronger, which they have to express. Some services and products are being volunteered and provided without charge because of this atmosphere. 

If the people remain vigilant and engaged with what is happening, raising and discussing questions, and keep intervening in state affairs and media broadcasts, they will have a chance to keep some of the positive developments from this global mobilization to address the pandemic.

COVOD coping

Posted on March 16, 2020 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (21)
I'm pretty healthy these days. You?

Allergic responses to air quality are slight; as this March here is unseasonably cold, I am fighting off chills.

I generally take measures to ward off the flu during fall/winter and April flu seasons, measures such as limiting the touching of surfaces especially my face, carrying hand gels and wearing gloves when in transit. Same now, though I am staying home more.

I am staying away from the gym, preferring to do some exercises at home. I am limiting my time on public transit and avoiding gatherings.

Authorities are today announcing shutdowns of services, from airports to libraries, and discouraging attendance at large gatherings (50 or more) as well as use of restaurants. It is spring break today, and we await announcements about status of schools following the spring break.

Fortunately, as a private tutor, I can still get work online. Thank goodness for the internet, telephone systems and cable TV!

on economic sanctions

Posted on March 4, 2020 at 11:01 PM Comments comments (6)
END GENERAL ECONOMIC SANCTIONS NOW!
Statement for Global Days against Sanctions that Harm the People

Some solidarity and social justice organizations called for a global weekend of actions from March 13 to 15. The Venezuela Peace and Solidarity Committee of Vancouver (VPSC) joins in the actions against the blanket sanctions imposed by US imperialism and its allies that mostly aim to weaken states and movements of the people that stand up to imperialist interference, plunder and exploitation. Far from securing peace, human rights and economic development, they cause shortages of daily necessities and hardship to the working people. Also, they often rob a targeted state such as Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua and Venezuela of huge state revenues from international activities that could be employed to serve their people more.

Sanctions are causing suffering to Iranian, Venezuelan, North Korean, Nicaraguan, Cuban and other peoples. Today economic sanctions are a standardized form of economic warfare implemented by US imperialism against targeted states that stand in the way its exploitation and profits. They are part of its arsenal and are aggressive. Such sanctions are carried out despite widespread condemnation, as in the case of Cuba, for UN votes on the Cuban blockade have shown a vast majority of UN member states wish an end to the blockade. General economic sanctions punish entire populations. US sanctions on Venezuela and Nicaragua are illegal. Economic sanctions against North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran are cutting off basic supplies, blocking local commerce and trade and depriving the people, which has resulted in a lowered standard and held back development.

Although some political sanctions properly decided by international bodies and appropriately implemented might justifiably curb truly repressive regimes and reduce oppression, general economic sanctions destroy societies, intended to force them into submission by foreign powers.

When are sanctions justifiable? Take Israel, for example. It is a highly militarized state illegally occupying and colonizing Palestine. It inflicts terror and horror against civilian Palestine on a regular basis with the blessings of the US and its allies including Canada, France and Britain. However, Israel clearly commits crimes against humanity on a massive scale, with impunity. 
Concerned and justice-minded people around the world, however, participate in boycotts and divestment in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This campaign targets major corporations that sell arms and supplies to the Israeli war machine. Part of this campaign is the arms embargo, which advocates a stop to sales of arms and military contracts to Israel. It has had some success. Such is a worthwhile kind of sanction. The UN could do more; it could suspend membership. Other states could maintain diplomatic distance.

There are situations crying out for action against viciously repressive regimes, such as the Duterte regime of the Philippines that has continued an all-out war on the people. It regularly unleashes terror on communities who are struggling to survive acute poverty and defending the right to life and livelihood with peace and social justice. In the pretext of fighting communism, the state national police and armed forces, with the aid of the US, carry out extrajudicial killings of civilian community leaders, labour organizers, protesters, human rights defenders and journalists. Crimes against humanity are the norm in the Philippines. Still, countries including Canada carry on business as usual, awarding aid and trading with the corrupt and bloody-minded bureaucratic-capitalist and land-owning elite. Other states could stop such business dealings and refuse to sell arms. The US could pull its troops out of the region and stop training and supplying the regime. Such would be sanctions that would help the people of the Philippines. Also, other states could cooperate by maintaining diplomatic distance, in such a way as not to harm migrant Filipino workers. Again, here is a context in which a UN measure to suspend membership would be just. It is also a context in which support for the peace talks and the peoples’ demands for land, social and political reforms should be strongly insisted.

In Venezuela, food and household supplies are plentiful in the upscale urban districts. Perhaps to take advantage of the effects of the blockade and the expectation of shortages, prices have been jacked up astronomically. Medium and small-sized businesses have not been able to access some materials for production and sale, owing to high pricing or unavailability. There may be some withholding and hoarding of goods. In poorer areas, restaurants and shops have little to offer customers. Some Venezuelans have chosen to leave the country. Regional tourism is at a standstill. Fortunately, the pro-people government, with the assistance of benefactors and genuine humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross, has a food program to deliver rations to those in real need. As well, it is assisting communities to spearhead local, micro-farming initiatives to create self-sustaining food sources. There are strategies of sharing and self-reliance in the communes. Where necessary, charities and churches dispense hot meals to school children and families. They solicit funds from foreigners so that they can pay for food and distribute it. It is amazing that the Bolivarian government under Chavez and subsequently by Maduro has been able to proceed with providing free transportation, education and healthcare as well as constructing houses under these conditions. It has worked hard to build understanding and make special deals with friendly states, so as to restore some trade. It could do so much more for the people if the billions of dollars of funds held abroad were released, and if billions of dollars in revenues from trade were flowing normally.

The VPSC demands an end to the illegal and cruel economic measures against the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan people imposed by the US aided by its friends such as Canada. Unfreeze the Venezuela state funds withheld abroad and return them to the government of Venezuela. End the blockades against Cuba and North Korea. End the general economic sanctions against Iran. Diplomatic and select trade sanctions against real oppressors who violate the rights of the people and pose real threats. Take a stand against imperialist aggression and domination in all its forms, military or economic or otherwise. Opt for negotiations as much as possible; no military invasions or coups. Canada, stop meddling!

paranormal

Posted on January 22, 2020 at 6:28 PM Comments comments (6)
I'm a bit of an empath, an intuitive with sensitivity. In fact, my Meyers-Brigges personality test result is consistently INSJ )intuitive, introvert, sensitive, judgmental). Other readings are consistent.

I knew this before I got all those evaluations because I have seen and heard things that cannot be explained and that would be categorized as paranormal. Things like apparitions, lights, shadows, mists, bangs, sighs, objects moving on their own, dreams... They happen on and off, and in waves when I start thinking about them. I believe I have guides, though I have not identified them/ I have had some mental communication in that I have been able to ask a question silently and get a clear response soon after. The response can manifest as a physical sign. Like, when I wondered what the cold from a spirit passing through someone feels like, I soon experience a freezing cold sensation come from within my core. When I asked whether my great-great aunt, whose picture I have kept on display, might be one of those spirits hanging around me, I soon saw a likeness of her face and hair hovering above me.

I have learned to be able to close myself off from such activity. I chose not to pursue training in communicating with spirits or interpreting phenomena. I still have the sensitivity, though. If I ask whether spirits are around me, activity occurs that confirms it. When I have a specific question, I get a specific answer. For example, I received an answer after I asked who the elderly person  who had occupied my apartment some years before me was, upon noting signs of there having been an elder present here such as the steel rail mounted on the wall of the shower stall. A sharply clear image of her smiling into my eyes came to me one morning while I was emerging from sleep.

I admit I get into watching films about paranormal experiences and people who use their sensitivity skills. I like to find out what other people experience and how they interpret what they call paranormal activity or interaction with spirits.I am raising this topic because I've been binging on such films lately: TV shows and documentaries uploaded to Youtube. There's one show on the HIFI channel right now: Celebrity Ghost Stories. 

Celebrity Ghost Stories, Haunted Hospitals and the one about children learning to deal with their sensitivities are pretty good. They seem authentic, as they involve people telling others their experiences and responses. Viewers get an idea of the types of experiences happen and how normal the experiences actually are in the sense that many people have them. I don't like the paranormal investigation shows so much because they seem less authentic and beneficial. Those shows typically use a lot of weird music and sound effects over the images. Also, it is usual for the investigators to talk too much and get really excited while the editing cuts back and forth, there and there quickly. The viewer can thus not well detect what the investigators say they are detecting. The presentation is made for maximum sensational effect from nothing much. What bugs me most is that the investigators usually do not have much talent at sensing or interpreting paranormal signs. Although they frequently bring a sensitive such as a medium or clairvoyant with them, nothing is attempted to resolve the situation of an uneasy spirit. They mostly observe "residual" signs of past events, which is to say the powerful memories of a location. Rather, they just intrude and disturb. Even  the TV show called The Dead Files in which a clairvoyant (not a medium) explores a location with reported trouble, is kind of lame, although a professional crime investigator tries to find background on the location and the people who have been there to see if what the clairvoyant senses has a basis in reality. She seems to specialize in detecting negative energies. Not a medium, she may detect restless spirits being "stuck" between life and death or refusing to cross over, but she has no skill to facilitate their crossing. She recommends religious people perform ceremonies or other rituals being done to cleanse houses, which is to remove spirits from a location. She often recommends that people move away from the location! \

The paranormal detective shows are better because mediums try to find clues to serious crimes and they sometimes help cases. 

The paranormal show I like the best is The Rescue Mediums. A pair of mediums are called into a troubled location. Being mediums, their goal is to encounter then communicate with spirits in a location that need intervention to facilitate their crossing over after death into the spirit world. These women are immensely talented. The investigation is more credible. They give premonitions far away from and long before arriving at the sites of investigations, which are compared with their tour of the location later and also compared with researched historical background. It is interesting to find out who the spirits probably are. It is heart-warning to see bothered residents  and troubled spirits find relief. Occasionally, the rescue mediums collect evidence that may be used to resolve a murder or disappearance.


Emergency Preparedness

Posted on January 15, 2020 at 1:29 PM Comments comments (7)
I have been aware that it is advisable to be prepared for disaster or loss of home, but I have not done much preparation other than having some extra preserved food (for about 3 days) and candles with a lighter on hand. Everyone should be better prepared.

I feel I have been lucky so far. I live in an earthquake zone where we get trmors all the time and are awaiting the big one. Weather has been getting more extreme as I have aged into the senior category. Power outages more likely, we have been without hydroelectric power for a few hours at a time twice in the past two years. I have narrowly escaped two house fires with abode and body intact in the past three years. (I only had a house insurance policy for one of those years.)  There are a lot of good reasons to be prepared for calamity Consequently, I have finally been planning for an emergency.

Here is the Red Cross list of things to put aside in case of emergency.

Vitals:
  • Water*
  • Food (non-perishable) and manual can opener if this includes cans*
  • Special needs such as medications, baby needs, extra glasses, etc. 
  • Important family documents (i.e. copies of birth and marriage certificates,passports, licenses, wills, land deeds and insurance)*
  • A copy of your emergency plan
  • Crank or battery-operated flashlight, with extra batteries*
  • Battery-operated or crank radio
  • Extra keys, for your house and car*
  • First aid kit*
  • Extra cash 
  • Personal hygiene items*
  • Pet food and pet medication N/A
  • Cell phone with extra charger or battery pack

Others:
  • Change of clothing and footwear for each person
  • Plastic sheeting*
  • Scissors and a pocket knife*
  • Whistle
  • Hand sanitizer*
  • Pet food and pet medication N/A
  • Garbage bags and twist ties
  • Toilet paper*
  • Multi-tool or basic tools (i.e. hammer, wrench, screwdriver etc.)*
  • Duct tape
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each member of your house hold*
  • Toys, games, books, deck of cards

*What I have so far prepared.

I hadn't thought of some of the items on the RC list. Duct tape, scissors and bags good and easy to get. I could put aside a few Synthroid pills, as I must take one each day. Yeah, book and other pastime activities would be desirable if hanging around for days. I thought about packaging some underwear and socks, but a full change would be good. I should look into getting a phone charger. Cash--yeah; I usually only have $20 to $40 around, but maybe I should put aside more. I guess I could buy a whistle. First, I'll see if the first aid kit I ordered contains one.

Beyond what Red Cross recommends, I have a lighter and lighter fuel. I also plan to have electrolyte solution and mineral tablets with vitamins. (Good for a scenario of dehydration or a period of starvation.) I have a tarp and rope for shelter. 

What food? One problem is expiration of preserved food. I guess I would take note of expiration dates and give expiring food away, then replace it. I am thinking of jerky, protein/ power bars, dried fruit, canned beans, crackers, peanut butter, tins of liquid meal replacement...

Where to keep it all? I think it should be easily reachable in my living quarters. Hard to get to it if locked in storage room. It should be packed up in portable waterproof boxes or bags. Of course, there may be no chance of reaching for all this stuff, and carrying it all out at the moment disaster strikes. At least I can be assured that I'd be ready in case of a lengthy loss of utilities or physical incapacity. I'd also be equipped to help others in need.




Keeping connected

Posted on December 1, 2019 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (4)
I live alone and sometimes it seems that I am losing social contact. However, I can take stock of acquaintances and remarkable conversations I am able to engage in, if I take the time to both engage here and there in the first place, and, in the second, make note of them. We must stop and count our blessings, so to speak. I can cite a few examples of unexpected yet very pleasant exchanges I've enjoyed recently. Reflecting back, they were little gems of social life, 

Today, for example, I had conversations in the course of returning a bag of can to the recycling depot and going back home via the neighbourhood park. Being a patron of the depot over 2.5 years, I am familiar with the workers there. I was greeted warmly by a lady who listened as I explained why had so many soda and beer cans this time, which I wouldn't normally possess to turn in. I told her I had collected a lot after wind storm had blown them off porches. On the way home, I encountered a young neighbour and his dog. Though I don't see that boy much, the dog remembered me. I used to play in our apartment building lot soon after the family first got him. It is a delightful memory: the puppy playing hide and seek behind the vehicles parked in the lot. He greets me whenever a family member is taking him for a walk. Since we were in the park and the dog had the freedom to play there, he made a beeline for me as soon as he saw me and began barking and running in circles around me, evidently taunting me to chase him. I did for a while. I explained to the boy that the dog, a charming Corgi named Ibu, likely remembered our times playing hide-and-seek. He would not even fetch the ball for the boy, only for me! So marvelous that the memory of our play is so strong.

Here is an account of another chance incident. I am advertising a few extraneous items to sell so as to clear out unused things in my place. I had an immediate response to my ad for an old sewing machine. Someone came to pick up the machine on Friday morning. It turned out to be a retired mechanic who enjoys collecting and repairing old machines. It was good to know this sewing machine would have a future. It belonged to my grandmother. She, my mom and I had sewing in common, one of the few commonalities among us. There are many memories attached to her old machine, which is why I had kept it even though I had not machine-sewed for years.

I told this story to an online games partner. We occasionally chat during games.

I am friendly with some of my fellow occupants of this small apartment building. I had not chatted with my best two friends among them for several weeks until I finally caught up with Betty, a retiree who lives above my suite. After that brief and typical exchange, I visited her to offer some surplus fruit and vegetables. She in turn invited me to lunch last week since she had a two-for-one coupon. That was the first time we had gone anywhere together, though she has invited me to join her lawn bowling group.

These are just a few of the examples of unexpected yet meaningful conversations I wind up having in the course of my daily life. If I think I am getting too isolated, I can think back to them and find new occasions. The mistake would be to become withdrawn and uncommunicative in my single life.

art and mental health

Posted on November 20, 2019 at 6:17 PM Comments comments (4)
So glad I am able to post daily here. My posts were blocked for several months, probably because of some sort of hacking/ cyber-intrusion.

Topic today: art and mental health

I recently visited my former university campus to run an errand there. The visit prompted some reminiscing. One memory that comes up from time to time is my decision not to become an English major. Considering that creative writing and literature feeds mostly off emotions, I was a bit afraid of going in that direction when I was around 20. Coming from a family with some history of mental illness and guarding against becoming a victim of mental illness myself, I wanted to protect myself. Also, the stereotype of the writer or professor in deep, agonizing pain and becoming depressed or alcoholic accompanied the vision of a career in English literature. I did not want to get caught in the vortex.

It is a fact that I later encountered alcoholics and mentally unbalanced instructors and graduate students of the English department at that university in the flesh. I had returned for further study but had opted for social sciences. Employed in our TA and sessional instructor's union addressing cases of employee disputes with the university administration during that period as a grad student, I was struck by the reality that a number of my cases concerned several teaching staff members of the English department who had gotten into trouble. The context of their conflicts included mental health issues, such as depression and alcoholism. In fact, a co-worker organizing for this union who was a student and TA in the English department turned out to be alcoholic. The signs of his malady became obvious after sharing an office with him for a few months.

I still keep asking myself what the relationship is between the immersion in English literary studies, often combined with a budding career in creative writing, and the condition of an addiction or other mental health disorder. That the work in this field does involve exploring emotions and, usually, problems of humanity, often delving into tragic moments of history or family life. Many literature students and authors adopt the method of introspection. Perhaps that approach and the condition of digging through the effects and implications of tragedy puts one at risk of falling into melancholy.

Which comes first? Does the condition of mental illness including addiction tend to draw arts and humanities students into literature? Does the immersion in literature cause melancholy? Is it the institutional process and culture that makes people sick? 

Perhaps some people think that the authentic artist must be sad in the first place. It would seem to be considered a prerequisite. Many great artists have suffered acute tragic episodes in their own life--experiencing war, disappointment in love, disability, faulty parenting, crime, gender differentiation and such. Some are very well known as big drinkers, from Lowry to Hemingway, Margaret Lawrence to D. H. Laurence. Wolf was mentally ill. Some, but not all. The majority, I wonder? Has anyone done a survey of authors along this vein?