Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Protect us from the Stupid People

If there is to be peace in Israel and Lebanon many place their hope on the actions of Condelezza Rice, Mahmoud Abbas, and George W. Bush.

Condi & Abbas in 2005
Don’t get your hopes up.

In statements that demonstrate just how far away from reality these folks are, President Bush told the press that the problem with this situation was that “terrorists hate democracies”. He went on to say that, “Israel, in my judgement, is the act of a terrorist organization trying to stop, ah, the advance of democracy in the region.”

“Democracy in the region”: what could Bush have been referring to, I wonder. Could that be Lebanon, the independent nation that Israel has invaded in the pursuit of Hezbollah extremists? Not according to this article. Bush seems to think that Lebanon has more in common with Iraq than meets the eye.

If you look closely at what President Bushwhacked said, however, there is an interesting twist: “Israel, in my judgement, is the act of a terrorist organization …” See that? Israel is the act *(is acting as) a terrorist organization. For the first time in his presidency, the “Bushism” has turned out to be the truth as well.

The actions of Israel are the acts of a terrorist organization, just as the United States continues to promote itself as the master terrorists in Iraq.

Secretary of State Condelezza Rice decided to revert to her role as Professor of Political Science while meeting with Mahmoud Abbas. She stated that the violence has been continuing because “there has not been a sustainable peace.” Wow … and to think, she even has a PhD and was a professor at Stanford.

In response to her brilliant observation, Mahmoud Abbas (who couldn’t be outdone by this woman) replied, “violence is the absence of peace”.

Now I have no DOUBTS that a cease-fire will be negotiated within the next … decade.

May God help us – quickly!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What Value Life?

Death should never be trivialized. We must recognize that all human life is something that needs to be protected (in part from itself) and there isn’t anyone whose life is “worth more” than someone else. Having said that, I found the following article from the Canadian Press interesting.

A Canadian-born IDF pilot died in northern Israel after the Apache helicopter he was flying crashed. Why should this be newsworthy when so many others are dying? Perhaps to show the “Canadian connection”, which is something our press tries to do to add an extra bit of sympathy towards the story. There is a part of this story that does not make me feel sympathy for this “successful and handsome boy.”

Here we have an individual who made a choice to return to service instead of return to Canada: “Tom Farkash, 23, had planned to fly to Canada to meet with childhood friends, but put off his vacation due to the conflict with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.” But why should the press be making anything more of this young man’s death than of those of these people in Gaza.

It is a truly dangerous game we play when we start weighing the lives of one against another. I have no doubt that Tom Farkash was a wonderful young man, and would have grown up to be an upstanding citizen, if he had the opportunity … as would the innocent civilians who are being murdered in Lebanon and Israel with impunity while the world sits on its hands doing nothing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

a dream worth dreaming ...

How many must die before a war is declared to be an act of violence against humanity? How many innocents must perish, adding to the lists of endless statistics, before the leaders recognize that this killing is getting us nowhere?

Before sporting events in the United States announcers say, “please rise, and honour America with the singing of our national anthem”. It isn’t enough to ask the people to stand before the music; they must be told that they are doing so to “honour” America.

This is an American that should truly be honoured. He risked his career in the United States Army by refusing to accept a deployment to Iraq, stating that “It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. The war and what we’re doing over there is illegal.” These are the words of a True American Hero: First Lieutenant Ehren Watada has true convictions.

These convictions have led to a scheduled pre-trial hearing on August 17th that could result in a General Court-Matial and several years in prison. Remember: this is a volunteer army, not a drafted body of individuals being sent off to war. Lt. Ehren joined the Army after the September 11th attacks, as did many other young Americans. His intention? To protect his homeland, not participate in an illegal war.

In a land that goes berserk when it comes to defend the sanctity of its Constitution, it seems ironic that young Ehren should be persecuted for exercising the rights guaranteed him by the First Amendment of the Constitution. For exercising his freedom of speech and being a conscientious objector to an illegal war, the freedoms he volunteered to protect by joining the army may be taken away from him.

Please read about this brave young man here, and spread the word. With more people like Lt. Ehren it will become more difficult for people like Bush to direct their forces to commit crimes against humanity.

Question Authority

When I was a child there was a bumper sticker hanging on a corkboard in our kitchen. The bumper sticker implored all who saw it to “Question Authority”. It wasn’t a fancy piece of art, with its simple black letters on a yellow background, but I would look at that every day and think to myself (as a child), “why would my parents want me to question authority?” Of course, at the tender age of eight or so my universe was quite centrally revolving around me, so this bumper sticker just had to relate to me.

One day I asked my mother why we should question authority. Her reply was that “you still have to listen to your teachers,” my mother has a way of seeing through any attempts at subterfuge, “but when we see something that is going on and we know that it is wrong, we have an obligation to speak up. Questioning authority means that you do not blindly follow people just because they are in charge.”

This did not immediately arouse a sense for being an activist, but it did keep me asking questions, particularly about “authority figures”. We live in a society based on the premise that the people who have been emplaced in positions of authority over us will perform their roles in a fashion that is honourable to the nature of their office. At least, that’s what we are taught in “Social Studies” (when we weren’t giggling about sex-ed issues that had been raised in “Health Class” during the previous period). What we learned boiled down to one main thing: we were taught about our way of living (here in the west), and why we (the democracies under the protective wing of the United States) are so blessed to be what we are.

Of course, the last time I stepped into a class outside of the university realm was over twenty years ago, which was when I started college. I cannot speak for what children are taught today, but given the general sense of inertial that afflicts our educational system, I imagine that the lessons haven’t changed all that much.

The truth of the matter is, alas, far less respectable. It is difficult to feel a sense of honour about politicians and officials that completely ignore the vox populi, the people who they (theoretically) represent. Instead of having politicians that serve the people we have a political system that allows the sale of power and influence to the highest bidder. The result is a government that is far more concerned about serving the special interest groups that installed them in office than actually dealing with the issues of the land that need handling.

It isn’t as though George W. Bush was the first individual who had the presidency of the United States presented to him by his father and a well-oiled machine of special interest groups guaranteed to drive the White House agenda far from the policies instituted by his predecessor. The great irony of Bush’s presidency is that with the vetoing of the proposed legislation on stem cell research, this president has swung further to the right than many of his strongest supporters.

When the authority of the land could not achieve anything greater than low average marks in university he doesn’t create the figure that young children can look up to with pride and say, “I want to grow up to be just like our president.” Children should have greater aspirations than that, especially in this time when there seems to be so much opportunity for youth. The key to those opportunities, so we have been told, is education. Whether it is “book learning”, the gaining of degrees and diplomas, or “street knowledge”, where you gain experience from … well, from experience, education is an ongoing process that successful individuals recognize never ends.

Authority loses its weight when, even before the end of his second term, this president is being cited by historians as amongst the worst, if not the worst, in American history. Children should have greater figures to look up to than that. Respecting the Office of President is something that is ingrained in the minds of children in the United States, and I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that – we should respect our political leaders … but they, in turn, need to be people of character who deserve that respect. How much respect is due a man who makes light of the war he began over the weapons of mass destruction he knew didn’t exist (the U.S. hadn’t delivered them yet).

Children should aspire to greatness: they should be able to look at the figures of authority in their life and feel a sense of respect because it is deserved, not because we are told to “respect our elders”. There is a massive difference between showing someone respect because they are “an elder” and blindly prostrating yourself before a demagogue feeding on the fears generated by the daily doses of propaganda insisting that another attack against the United States in imminent … just as imminent as it was on the first major holiday after 9/11, and the next, and every other day that gave the Office of Homeland Fear-mongering the opportunity to raise the “threat level”.

Mr. Bush has created a war to fulfil the objectives that couldn’t be carried out by his greatest benefactor, a man whose own presidency could be considered as stunningly successful compared to that of his offspring. Now while Lebanon is being devastated by the IDF, this president chooses to sit amongst his advisors and do nothing. With a Secretary of State that seems to endorse the actions against Lebanon the President takes on part of the responsibility – and shame – for this action.

Look at the dead, Mr. Bush.
Learn their faces. Remember.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What’s a New Day to Bring?

I haven't posted for a few days, partly because I've been experiencing a very bad toothache (now removed ... nasty molar - root canal, broken, extracted ...), and an apathy that has developed as a result of the increasingly desperate situation in Israel, Lebanon, Palestine ... Iraq - hell, wherever.

So, I'm going to do something that I don't usually like: I'm going to do a "link dump" - present you, my dear readers, with some of the most recent (and in my opinion relevant) articles related to the current crisis.

Please remember one thing above all else: If we in the west are silent and do not communicate our wishes to our politicians, they will be able to continue their course of non-intervention with the misguided belief that the "silent majority" supports them. Call your member of Parliament, your Senator, Congressman (woman) - whoever represents you in your government and plead for them to do something. In war, silence kills.

Each link will open in a new window. The second headline is included as an "oh my, uhm, oh ..." it is a story that is unrelated, but related in many ways.

Israel Calls up Reservists

Somali Islamist orders 'holy war'

'Israeli Fire' kills four in Gaza

Rising death toll in Nablus

Solidarity demonstration in occupied Golan

Demonstrations in Jordan support Hezbollah

Comments of Amir Peretz

Arab officials privately back Israel's attack on Hezbollah, claims Israeli press

Atrocities in the Promised Land

Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel: Everything You Need To Know

These images were made in Photoshop. Please feel free to use them, unchanged, for the pursuit of peace. © 2006 the CrazyComposer (aka Peter Amsel).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Shalom - Salaam

Given the current events going on in Israel these past few ... centuries (well, really, I suppose the correct thing to say is millennia, but I do really mean the most recent expression of insanity that has captured the headlines [BBC, Ma'an, Electronic Intifada, Guardian] ) I thought it might be appropriate to play around with the words “Shalom” and “Salaam”.

I have always been amazed that two groups, the Jews and the Muslims, could be so at odds with each other, and yet their greetings were so similar. “Shalom Aleichem” and “Salaam Aleikoom” (please pardon the ad hoc phonetics) are so similar it makes you think that the two peoples speaking the languages came from the same background.

Oh, that’s right, I almost forgot … Jews and Arabs, both called Semites, are referred to as the “children of Isaac and Ishmael”. The patriarch of the Jews and Arabs was none other than Abraham; we are brothers, we are flesh and blood, and we have more to gain by coming together than by continuing to invest in a war that kills many and scars all.

In whatever language it is said, Peace, Shalom, or Salaam, it is a word that must be shouted from the rooftops, the steeples, the synagogues, and the minarets: Let there be peace in the land, let there be peace, let there be peace.

I hope you like this Shalom/Salaam picture I made - with the borrowed flag graphic.

Friday, July 14, 2006

U.S. Complicit in Israeli War

In a move that makes me wonder if the United States Ambassador to the United Nations isn’t a complete imbecile, the conflict in Israel will not even receive a “wrist slap” from the “International Community”, as represented by the United Nations. Why, you ask? Well, when the resolution went before the Security Council, the United States was the only nation opposed. Ten nations voted in favour, four abstained (if you don’t have anything nice to say …), but instead of abstaining – keeping their ignorant mouths shut, and allowing the resolution to pass – the United States, self-declared Police of the World, decided to VETO the resolution.

Hell, why stop a war when we don’t like the language of the resolution? This only further demonstrates the self-centredness of the United States, and how they are more concerned about how they will look to their constituents in an election year (mid-term congressional and other crap). Must not offend the voters now, right?

The United States must share in the responsibility for the growing death toll in Israel and Palestine. With their decision to veto the U.N. resolution to condemn the latest attacks by Israel the United States has taken on the blood that is being spilled, even as though they had fired the shells and dropped the bombs themselves.

Taher al-Nunu, the spokesman for the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said, “the United States must bear some responsibility for Israel's attacks. … The veto is a political cover for the crimes of the occupation, and regrettably, instead of putting war criminals of this government that lost its mind on trial, they are giving a political cover to carry out more of these crimes …".
How many more must die before enough is enough?

How much blood must the land absorb before it is torn asunder by the horror of the act … apparently not enough … yet.

A Worthy Reminder

My mother sent me an e-mail this morning that cried out to be turned into a post here. The reason is quite simple: we are on the brink of a war that has no need to be fought, by people who have every reason in the world to live every say of their lives in the pursuit of peace. This is her message:
I received this "chain" today:

The thing to remember is that the six million Jews who were murdered would, today be the parents and grandparents of 20 million.

IN MEMORIAM - The event that cannot ever be erased! It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain. It was launched during Passover 2005 "The Jewish Holiday of Freedom" until Holocaust Memorial Day, in memory of the six million Jews who were massacred during the Holocaust.

This e-mail is intended to reach six million people around the world! Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world.

Please send this e-mail to 10 people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain.

Please don't just delete it. It will only take you a minute to pass this along - Thanks!

* * * * * * *

[following comment added by my mother]
It is interesting that this comes to me today as the Middle East implodes: bombs are falling and whole communities are burning down; people are dying. Perhaps if the children and grandchildren of those that did survive had been able to learn the lessons of war....

As my mother so pointedly notes, the lessons of war – the lessons of the Holocaust – surely are enough to teach the generations of survivors that war is not the way to resolve the problems that we are facing.

The true message is that we must stop thinking and acting like savages when faced with something we disagree with. Believing that killing the dissenting idea is the best solution is a philosophy that can only lead to the death of the society: it only accomplishes stunted development of the society that ultimately finds itself unable to move beyond the problems that have come to define its very existence.

After all, as powerful as the City State of Sparta was, based on their warrior lifestyle, how much of their society do we ever hear about … aside from their army? In they end, Sparta fell, as do most military powers, as will Israel unless it decides that the path of peace is preferable to oblivion.

Peace: there is no other way.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Countdown: … To What?

As I was posting a link to my blog (Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann) the news came on and I found myself experiencing one of those moments of synchronicity that Carl Jung described. Now, I’m not one to get all freaked out when it comes to superstitions, I’ll even walk under a ladder if I don’t see that there is a likelihood of something being dropped on me. At the same time, Dr Jung’s theory of synchronicity is down right creepy, and it’s something that I’ve experienced so many times I won’t even consider that it might just be “coincidence” at play.

In this case, as I was typing the word “countdown” the preview to the six o’clock news came on and I heard, “a countdown to war in Israel …”. Suffice it to say, my attention was quickly directed towards the recent events. The news, I’m afraid to say, isn’t anything new … nor, in retrospect, is it particularly newsworthy.

What is so newsworthy about the fact that, once again, Israel and the Palestinians are displaying that they have the combined maturity level of a very immature four-year old; a child that is seemingly incapable of playing nicely with its friends, and it doesn’t want to share its toys with the other children in the sandbox.

When children in kindergarten act as antisocial as this an intervention is done quickly as it is now recognized that these traits are the first signs of an emerging personality that could, ultimately, develop into a sociopath. Socialization is something that children must learn, just as domesticated animals do, lest they turn feral and develop wild personalities, preventing them from interacting well with others of their own kind.

War is a disease, but even more than that, it is the symptom of a very serious disorder that signifies when there is something wrong with the individual committing the act. That is why murder and violent crime has always been something that has severe penalties in our “enlightened” society, and why death has been used as a severe penalty as far back as the first examples of the written law (the Code of Hammurabi).

Without even having to resort to the lessons of history (for those poor ignorant fools that haven’t learned their “letters” yet), the hypocrisy of our species never ceases to amaze me: humanity has the temerity to proclaim itself to be at the top of the pyramid and yet acts (consistently) as "primitive savages", demonstrating the worst qualities of the human species.

In short, there truly is something wrong when so many people seem so willing to surrender their lives when an enlightened, peaceful solution would be far more preferable and beneficial for all involved.

With the most deaths of Palestinians recorded in a single day since September 2004. Israel now seems to be on the brink of launching an all-out offensive (and it is offensive) move against Gaza, though they were ostensibly targeting Hamas leaders (the civilians … more than twenty of them … just happened to be in the way).

On its own that would have been more than enough, but not for Israel. Another IDF soldier has been captured (let’s be honest, folks, this isn’t kidnapping: these are POW’s). Israel says that it is at war. Now it has to expect to have some of its soldiers taken as prisoners, just as they have Palestinians as prisoners. Now they are preparing an even more “severe response” to the latest POW incident … and the countdown continues.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Saving Lives with Bits & Bytes

To help win the fight against cancer please donate your unused computer time to United Devices: seconds count in this race against disease.

Growing up I heard the phrase "cancer can be beaten" quite often in advertisements for the Canadian Cancer Society, as they campaigned to raise money to help find a cure for this insidious disease.

Decades later (I’m trying to come to grips with the idea that I’m going to be 38 in August and can refer to periods of time in my life with words like “decades”, and “quarter-century”) the disease is still here, but researchers are getting closer with every day. Advancements in the treatment of the various cancers and the knowledge of how to prevent them gives people a true hope that may not have been there only ten years ago.

Some of my strongest memories relate to people who have died from cancer, and one friend in particular who hasn’t. When still in grade school there was a family friend who retired, and then died barely six months later from an aggressive leukaemia that hadn’t been detected. My grandmother died an absolutely horrible death as a result of metastasised cancers (primary source misdiagnosed); not something anyone should have to experience. That was seventeen years ago, as I entered my third year of college.

Someone I went to university with, and who was only a few years older than me died several years ago, in 2000. Charles Bown was the best friend I had at university, and he died at the age of 37. I used to call him “Chuckles” because no matter what the situation, Charlie would have a big grin on his face and something positive to say.

Around the time that Chuckles succumbed to the evils of cancer, I made a new friend, over the Internet. When we first began corresponding the doctors had told her that she wouldn’t be able to attend her daughter’s high school graduation, which was a few months away. Not only did Saya attend that graduation, she recently attended her daughter’s graduation from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

One of the main reasons that Saya has been able to continue her battle, with some significant victories, is because of the cutting-edge treatments she received: stem cell therapy.

Cancer can be beaten.
It is true, but there are obstacles that must be overcome, one of which is old-fashioned ignorance. Another thing that researchers need is time. It takes time to go through all of the information available about each of the cells and bits of human “ity” that makes up this whacked out species that we are. One way to give these scientists some of that much-needed time is by signing up with United Devices.

UD turns the power of all the computers that are out there into a super-computer (not an original idea). By allocating the portion of your CPU that isn’t being used, your computer can contribute valuable research in the fight against disease. There are two main projects: Putting the human genome to work, and the cancer project.

This is the third computer that I’ve had United Devices installed on, and I can say with certainty, it operates seamlessly in the background and has no effect on the speed of your system. The UD client (as they call it) turns into a screen saver (cannot be changed), which allows you to see the molecule (or whatnot) that is being analysed … and it is really amazing.

Thanks to Decadent Tranquility (sic) for reminding me of this great cause. Join team ANDRAX.Net (after downloading the UD client and setting it up).

In memory of Charlie “Chuckles” Bown (1963-2000); and for Saya, who is very much alive due to the advancements in medical research: may she remain that way for many years to come.

Peer Pressure Redux

In my post entitled “Canada at 139: Growing Pains” I related the incident in high school that taught me about the lie of peer pressure. The exact words I used were: “Peer Pressure was a lie. Let me rephrase that: Peer Pressure is a manufactured construct used to excuse people from having to take responsibility for their actions. Peer Pressure is the ultimate “Not Me” excuse. Nobody is at fault when Peer Pressure is to blame.”

As what I was writing about at the time wasn’t entirely related to peer pressure I didn’t expand upon my personal beliefs regarding the issue, but some recent events compel me to do so now. Please bear in mind that this isn’t the result of some grand sociological or historical study; it is the result of my personal experiences: going to school with kids who were doing drugs, smoking, drinking, were involved in various crimes, and in many cases were unable to complete high school.

One of the most fundamental issues that peer pressure addresses is that of free will: are we, as human beings living lives directed by free will or are we predestined to make certain choices – some of which will ultimately lead to pain and suffering, and ultimately, death. If you want to follow a doctrine of predestination that is fine by me, but it removes virtually all accountability that we have as individuals, and leaves you needing some extra support in lieu of the spine that you are surrendering.

We live lives that are defined by the choices we have made and the results of those choices. Life is a series of decisions: do I skip breakfast in order to catch the bus, or risk being late? Do I pack a lunch or eat out? What if the bus I didn’t take ended up being in a terrible accident? Does that mean I somehow “cheated” death by not being on it? No, it means I had breakfast and was on a later bus. If I ended up on the bus in the accident, the question wouldn’t have been asked, unless I said (after the accident), “I should have stayed home for breakfast.”

If we second guess every decision that we make on the basis of “what if”, trying to imagine every conceivable possibility that could result from a decision, we would be paralysed, unable to make even the simplest choices for fear that some great catastrophe was about to beset us. That is no way to live, and nobody really wants to try to live that way (movies like “Final Destination” and the other “cheating death” flicks notwithstanding).

Since the American media has been somehow convinced that the world needs to know about every individual that worked within a fifty-mile radius of the twin towers on September 11th 2001, we have all heard the stories about how life throws curves at us when we are least expecting them (the “I shouldn’t be alive” specials that run, ad nausea, on the specialty channels, regaling us with the tales of certain death had a left turn been made instead of the usual right, and etc.).

Reality is more sobering, though some might be less willing to admit it than others, the truth is that we all know that life doesn’t work that way, but it makes for great television (in their opinion), and what’s more important after all, the truth or ratings? Hearing all of the stories of people who worked in the World Trade Centre and, for some reason that they couldn’t explain, they were either uncharacteristically late for work that day or they didn’t make it in at all. Whatever the cause, it ended up saving their lives.

Or did it? Is this an example of fate in action, or luck, or is it simply just the way things go sometimes? We also know that there were people who were supposed to be on the Titanic, but didn’t make the trip. Think about it this way (this happens to be a pet peeve of mine relating to advertising, but it serves as a good example): if someone says, “I did this, and X happened”, is that necessarily the case? No, it is an error in logic to assume causality.

Take this example, from the world of advertising: If you purchase this product, the Acme Automatic Window Cleaner today for $30, you will SAVE 30% off of the regular price, AND, today only, we will GIVE you another one FREE. This means you receive nearly $80 in merchandise for only $30, a savings of almost $50! … WRONG!!! This is such crap! The “item” is 30% off, so the “original” price is $39.90, but receiving the second for free doesn’t mean that you are “saving” $50. If you had decided to go into a store to purchase this “cleaner” and you paid full price, then you would pay $39.90.

This offer saves you $9.90, hardly the $50 in savings. While you may receive “$80 in merchandise” for a lesser price, to SAVE money means that you have to have something in your possession that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. If you are spending on something hat you don’t necessarily need, you are not saving.

Look at it this way: People die in accidents every day, and people avoid accidents every day. If someone working in the World Trade Centre had started their vacation on Monday, September 10, would that be considered “cheating death”, or merely being lucky? What about the poor schmuck who had been on vacation and returned to work on the Monday, only to be blown-up on the Tuesday; are they any less lucky than any of the other victims? Of course not: they are all equally dead (and, some would say, equally unlucky).

Predestination is a convenient way of pushing free will out of the picture; it lets us off the hook for anything wrong that we may do as, in the end, we were meant to do it from the beginning. All of the important decisions have been made for us, so we may as well sit back so we can wait and see how things turn out. Of course, the alternative to this spineless, reactive life is to be proactive and take on the challenges that we face. When we are faced with a decision that must be made, or any sort of choice, that is when we can fall under the influence of those in whose sphere of influence we have allowed ourselves to be pulled.

It is under the influence of other people’s personality that the issue of peer pressure comes to play its most sinister role. While we may allow ourselves to be swayed by the “peer group” that we want to be accepted by, we still must make the choices that are defined as “peer pressure”. Unless you are dealing with someone who has been raised without the benefit of any form of moral guidance, I would still contend that, in most cases, these “choices” would already be known to those being influenced by the “peer pressure” into making them as being bad choices.

We don’t have to think to hard about this to see examples all around us: we know that it’s wrong to cross the street when the light is red, but we do so, if we decide the risk is acceptable. People decide to drink to excess, and still get into their cars, even when drunk driving has been an illegal act for decades. Why would that choice be made? Are people being pressured to drive while intoxicated? Of course not, and that is the point entirely: just as we do not “have to be pressured” into doing something like smoking, nobody pressures somebody into driving while drunk. It is a choice, and part of the individual’s personality.

One of the best sources of examples for how people understand the ramifications of their choices even while making bad choices is seen through the cameras of the venerable reality TV series Cops. For years now this show has shown some of the stupidest people in the United States doing the most ludicrous things, quite often for no apparent reason.

This afternoon I happened to watch an old episode (the joys of cable) and heard the comment from an officer, “well, you wouldn’t jump off a bridge if your friends told you to, would you?” It may well be the most used comeback by parents to children that are denied something, but what is the real message? Just because somebody else does something doesn’t mean you should. In this case, people had been stealing things from a house that had been foreclosed on by a bank. The neighbours decided that this meant “garage sale”, without having to pay for anything. The police, not surprisingly, disagreed with this opinion.

The one woman that their attention was focused on made the mistake of using as her defence, “well, all of my neighbours were doing it”.

No, that’s not why she decided to steal. She decided to steal (and I’m using that word because it is an ugly word, harsher than “take things from the abandoned property”) because she was jealous of the fact that her neighbours might be getting something for free and if she didn’t do something she would miss out on an opportunity to get something for herself.

Peer pressure in an internal function of our gluttony and avarice, and our lust for the things that we presently don’t have (acceptance by a group included). It comes down to that question: if you knew you could get away with a crime, would you commit it? Some might answer, “well, only if someone wouldn’t get hurt”, but isn’t that the very definition of crime: there is a victim. Someone gets hurt. Others answer, “no, not even if I could get away with it”. Why, we ask, incredulous that someone would pass up such an opportunity, “because, it’s wrong”.

The truth about peer pressure is that we must exert our own pressure: we must become a sphere of influence that shapes the lives of those around us in ways that are positive. There is only one way that people can learn new (or better) ways to act, and that is through observing that behaviour in others. As children we first learn from our parents (or siblings) and our caregivers. It is as we grow older that it becomes vital to have powerful spheres of influence around to offset those that are less desirable, to provide that moral compass for future decisions.

When children grow up learning from positive role models and are themselves treated with respect they have the tools needed to face the challenges that peer pressure poses to them, and this will hopefully provide them with the ability to make the best choices in life. Ultimately, however, the choices are ours to make, and if we start playing the blame game, we all lose.

The same can be said for peer pressure: the next time you feel pressured to do something, push back. If it’s a question of friends not accepting you because you won’t do something stupid, dangerous, or something that might have a detrimental effect on the rest of your life (try getting into law school with a police record), you are more than likely better off without friends like that. Prisons are full of people waiting to befriend you, but does that mean you want to go there, just for the “sense of belonging” … didn’t think so.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

World Cup Finals: My Prediction

Against all better judgment (whatever), I'm going to post my (unpopular) choice for the outcome of the World Cup finale. The game is about to begin, the anthems have been performed, and the crowd in Berlin is going berserk ... but who will win?

Will Italy add to their collection of titles, or will France overcome the poor start that they had at the beginning of this tournament and emerge as the ultimate champions.

My choice: France will defeat Italy (I'm not going to suggest a score, but 3-1 sounds about right).

That's it ... nothing else. I'm either correct, or I should stick to music and other things that don't involve sports (well, that part I already know).

The game is now underway, so I shall end this here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sand Peace

It isn’t often that I post something and then regret having done so. This is one of those times. After posting the “sand” performance I went looking for more of this artist, Ilana Yahav, and was amazed at what I found, and dismayed that I had not practiced “due diligence” before making my original post. Had I done that, this … edit … wouldn’t be necessary.

The video below is the work of a peace activist, and is not only poignant and timely, it carries an important message that is difficult to miss (only those within the U.S. government would be able to miss it, but they miss so much, they wouldn’t notice). Please visit her website, and if you are in a position to attend a performance (or arrange one), please do so. If artists like this are not supported, the message of peace will not be spread to the next generation. At the end of her video clip (at the website) her sand says “the first next generation”.

Let this be the first next generation to know true peace.

My original post:

There are many words that can used to describe the current situation in Israel as tensions continue to increase over the missing soldier. With the death toll rising, it makes me wonder how many more will have to die before a single soldier is either returned alive (I hope) or, God forbid, dead.

They said on the news today that being a soldier meant, "knowing you were not abandoned". Does it also mean that the country will destroy itself in the process?

When I saw this short video I imagined that the performer had this future in mind when the final portion was conceived. It is a fitting tribute to peace, a peace that too many have already died for and even more have sacrificed their souls for.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Imagine: Dedicated to the people of Israel/Palestine

Sometimes it takes a memory to bring things back into context. Hearing John Lennon sing "Imagine" made the entire situation in the middle-east seem so small compared to how simple it all could be, if only we could imagine.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Canada at 139: Growing Pains

When the United States turns 230 on the 4th of July I’m quite sure that many Americans will consider their country to be a “mature” nation. There will be some merit to this belief. After all, the United States had to overcome the turbulent birth out of a revolution, a bloody and divisive civil war, and many years of internal domestic strife over the nation’s unpopular foreign policy during its unsuccessful prosecution of the war in a small, seemingly insignificant southeast-Asian nation called Vietnam.

As Canada observes its 139th birthday it is an observation marked with somewhat more sobriety than that which will be exercised by our neighbours to the south. Even if we decide to throw a party, and “go all out”, we will not surpass the largess that the 4th of July invites in its excesses. The 4th of July is a day revered by those “south of the border”, by the people who have bumper stickers with slogans like, “America, Love it or leave it”.

It is a sobering thought, in a way, considering that the United States is now considered one of the two “superpowers”, though some would argue that it is the only one. Regardless of that, as a superpower consider this: on the 4th of July the United States is the equivalent of a drunkard staggering around with a loaded gun … their finger pulling the trigger with the safety disengaged. Which brings up the issue of maturity.

Does a nation age in the same way as humans? If so, we are mere adolescents to the “adult” Americans (who are mere toddlers to the Austrians, or Poles), but history would tell us that this isn’t really the case at all. Canada is definitely experiencing growing pains at the moment, as evidenced by the political events of the past year, but all in all I’d have to say that as a nation we were doing quite well.

The way Canada has dealt with the United States since the contrived “war on terrorism” began in Iraq reminded me of my first day of high school. While in the boy’s room I was offered a joint from a guy in my homeroom. I didn’t know what to do (screaming in fear wasn’t an option since I was gutless, and “M”, name changed to protect me, was already about six feet tall), but I didn’t smoke … so I said, “no, thanks.”

Much to my surprise, M said, “no problem, man. Let me know if you change your mind.”

That was when I learned the most important lesson of my life (yes, LIFE): Peer Pressure was a lie. Let me rephrase that: Peer Pressure is a manufactured construct used to excuse people from having to take responsibility for their actions. Peer Pressure is the ultimate “Not Me” excuse. Nobody is at fault when Peer Pressure is to blame. The only problem is that Peer Pressure also explains the actions of Lemmings. You remember the Lemmings, don’t you? They are little rat-like critters that run, en masse, off the tops of cliffs, falling to their deaths in the ocean. That is the message of Peer Pressure: follow along and die in ignorance.

That is what Canada has said to the United States regarding the war on terrorism. “Yes, Mr. President, we believe that there are “evildoers”, and they must be “doed” with, but the evildoers that “doed” you, well, Mr. President, if you think they are all in Iraq, you’re a bloody idiot. Find some other allies to kill this time.”

Canada said no to going to war in Iraq because it was the right thing to do. It was the mature thing to do.

Hopefully we shall continue on this path in years to come.

Happy Canada Day!