Category Archives: Social Commentary

Conflicted

I am experiencing conflicted feelings concerning the Olympics.  While I admire the display of talent and ability by gifted and dedicated athletes I wonder at the huge expense of staging this kind of spectacle when austerity is de rigueur throughout much of the world these days, with of course Europe its poster child.  Yet, every couple of years governments manage to find the enormous sums of money to build the venues and generally tart the place up, even as they chip away at social programs.  Let’s not forget the IOC and its financial scandals and gold-plated perks for the sports aristocracy, but perhaps, for the sake of my health I should put that aside until my blood pressure drops back to normal.   Then along comes a moment of drama and excitement and I lose my critical stance for a moment.  The men’s eights in the rowing competition is an example, with a stirring Canadian finish as they edged out Great Britain for a silver medal.  It’s always easy to slip back into being a fan again, particularly for sports that haven’t been tainted by scandal, at least as yet.  And then during a commercial break, I’ll have a moment to reflect on other Olympic irritants, like the chest-beating displays of jingoism in the opening ceremonies both in London and yes, also in Vancouver in 2010.  The nationalism and super patriotism has really gone overboard during the past few decades.  What happened to the pure celebration of sport, and global fellowship that the Olympics first aspired to showcase? Can’t we admire great feats of strength and endurance by the world’s best, regardless of which nation they come from?  Can’t we welcome the world instead of just riffing on the theme of “we’re wonderful” over and over? But against long odds, we do manage to find small pieces of that ideal, witness the global interest that the blind Korean archer received right at the beginning of the games. But for every heartwarming story, there seems to be some ugly truth around the corner, such as the badminton debacle that resulted in four teams getting the boot for attempting to throw their matches. So I remain in a curious state where my cynicism and criticism are counterbalanced by my appreciation for the high performance athletes and the level of play they achieve.  Rather than watching a lot of TV coverage I catch brief reports on the news, and pay attention elsewhere; print or online.  And so I celebrate the individual successes but grieve for the excessive cost spent on frills and puffery.

 

David Trudel   ©  2012

 

 

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Pigs

The recent decision by the federal and provincial governments to flatly reject the claims of sexual harassment by RCMP Corporal Catherine Galliford and in so doing to viciously attack her character and credibility is troubling in the extreme.  It has already been publicly acknowledged that a problem of gender inequality and harassment exists in the RCMP, along with all sorts of soporific claims that they are working to change the culture.  Yet this decision clearly shows that while it’s easy to pay lip service to a difficult issue, when push comes to shove the good old boys lock arms and kick the victim.

 

This case exemplifies the cognitive dissonance we have come to expect from the institutions that should be the pillars of a strong and just society.  They say one thing, but then they do another.  They claim to be working on fixing the problem and then they go and make it worse.  For once it would be nice to see these institutions simply accept the blame instead of using a host of lawyers on attack dog setting to mitigate the potential verdict and damages.  For me, and for many others, it is quite clear that Corporal Galliford deserves support and an apology, not the demeaning character attacks she is receiving from the government lawyers.

 

Our legal system is barely functioning these days, due to underfunding and understaffing on the one hand, and pigheaded decisions such as this that tie up resources on specious court battles.  Can you imagine a world where people and institutions started to take some responsibility and simply own up to their mistakes without going through a ridiculous dance of denial, supported by as many crafty lawyers as can be bought to try to prove that white is black and black is white? While we can’t expect individuals to give up their rights to a legal defense, it would be refreshing to see a government or corporation step up and admit their culpability at the outset and save us all the time and expense of unnecessary court proceedings.  If we do ever start seeing such a phenomenon, it might even reduce the level of cynicism we all feel today.  For now, I remain as cynical as ever that anything like gender equality is remotely possible in the RCMP, and the governments that are enabling this shameful behavior.

 

David Trudel  © 2012

 

 

 

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The Walk

I belong to an exclusive club, one that has no doors or windows, admission fees or structure. Its membership is open to anyone but it is limited to those of us who are able to appreciate and connect with nature on a daily basis.  We understand that in order to be grounded, you have to get off the pavement, and out of the car, out of the house and off the sidewalk and find a piece of the natural landscape where you can walk the earth amidst the trees, the seaside, or the cactus in the desert or the fields of a rural scene.  Walking in a natural setting gives you the opportunity to hear the buzz of the bumblebees and birds calling back and forth, to hear the great chorus of the wind in the trees, and achieve a measure of peace through simply marveling at the beauty of the physical world.  When this can be accomplished in relative safety, with no need for protection, no fear and just a peaceful sense of enjoyment, you have joined the club.

Here at the edge of Victoria, I live on a hillside beside a mystic and mythic park.  There are trails that lead through oaken groves that seem to be transported from the Middle Earth of Tolkien’s mind and wind past craggy rocks scored by the crush of the last ice age when glaciers soared high above the ground.  For thousands of years this has been a sacred site, a place of mystery and delight.  Last year, this was reaffirmed when a group of followers of the late Katharine Maltwood arrived to dedicate the hilltop as the Heart of Virgo, in the physical manifestation of the Zodiac as proclaimed by Katherine, who came from Glastonbury England and was adept in metaphysics, philosophy, and mysticism.  I should mention that she was also a fine artist and sculptor, and that her husband made a fortune with Oxo, the beef bouillon company.  And so, decades after her death a group of seekers appeared on the hill to invoke a new rite for an old place.  Was it serendipity that brought me there as witness that afternoon?  Stewardship of a place that still has its old spirits, sprites and cosmic doorways intact can be fun.  They poke and prod, shimmering at the edge of sight, elemental to the core.

All this, is simply to share a small measure of where I walk and what I see.  I often wonder though, what my counterparts in distant lands experience on their walks.   There must be some wonderful places where other feet tromp on their daily rounds out beyond the distant horizon. Places like the Normandy coast, the Cotswold hills, Grecian Islands, fragrant tropical coastlines, and a thousand more rush through my mind faster than a husband flipping channels on the bigscreen. We walk, our club, in blessed peace, bathed in beauty, absorbing grace.

Yet, even as I take spiritual refreshment on these nature walks, I feel a twinge of guilt.  Because after all, why should I be so lucky and so privileged to be where I am? I know that millions more suffer lives so bleak it makes you cry.  I mean just for starters, living in a big city in some tiny urban cave that looks out at thousands of other electrified cave dwellings, can be pretty soul destroying. A lot of folks are stuck and never see the country, just over-used and trampled urban parks, littered with needles and shell casings, a haven for the dark.  Whole cities live in violent terror, calling into question what we mean by the term modern civilization.  Millions live trapped and corralled, without freedom and for them each walk beyond their personal safety zone is a walk of terror, waiting for a bullet or a landmine or a jeep full of gunmen to cut them down.  Squalid refugee camps proliferate, slums expand and then are subject to eviction, the forgotten armies of the undone hang on in desperation.  Prisons holding poets and social activists along with petty thieves, maintain a chokehold on self-expression and personal beliefs.

So what gives me the temerity to celebrate yet another exclusive club, yet another privilege, yet another luxury beyond capacity?  I can only try to imagine what someone trapped in a horrid place might feel, and I don’t doubt that my club is for the most part lumped in with everything else of the privileged few, and resented unreservedly.  But perhaps it may also be that this idea of natural beauty, being grounded with nature and being able to experience that without fear might also serve as a beacon of hope for the more forgiving of those different sisters and brothers across the miles. At least, I tell myself, I will appreciate the world’s beauty to my full capacity, and enjoy the gifts that have been put before me.  And far away, some lonely soul, beaten and downtrodden but still alive can find a measure of understanding as I revel in the glory of the land.

David Trudel  © 2012

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