Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Trouble with Remembrance

Once again the day that has been set aside for us to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom is upon us and I am left with an uneasy feeling: what, exactly, are we remembering these days?

While it has never fallen upon me to take up arms to defend my country (for which all Canadians should be grateful as my skills are surely best served without things like an M24 in my hands … though it does have an interesting appeal at times) I have always observed Remembrance Day with a sense of solemnity, making a point – wherever possible – to watch the services from the National Memorial which is always broadcast on television.

The thing that has triggered my question this day stems from the modern face of war and the ways in which we have managed to sweep aside the conflicts in the name of political expediency. We do not want to offend our neighbours to the south, I’m sure, so in the service today you won’t hear (I’m quite sure – this is being written before they take place) any condemnations of the “immoral” or “illegal” war that is currently taking place. You won’t hear a single word spoken about the war of “revenge” and “retribution” that has cost now more American lives than the acts of terrorism that, ostensibly, caused them to be started. God forbid we should remember those who have been killed in this unholy war.

When the various ministers pray today we will not hear them plead to God for the nations that posses the wherewithal to intercede in the ongoing genocide taking place in Darfur to extract their heads from their stinking self-interests and begin the job of serving humanity rather than paying lip-service to lobbyists representing the special interest groups that have dictated everything that appears on the government agenda.

So what are we remembering this November 11th? Those soldiers who were killed in the great war of royal insanity; a war triggered by the assassination of an insignificant member of a family significant only for the fact that democracy had not visited itself upon the “empire”. The fact that this sparked a conflagration that sucked in virtually the entire world is testament to the fact that humanity is virtually incapable of standing idly by when a good fight is taking place.

Are we remembering the 69th anniversary of Krystalnacht (Nov. 9th), the millions of Jews, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, homosexuals, disabled people and other “untermenschen” that the Nazis murdered in the concentration camps, or are we only remembering the soldiers? Frankly, I have never been able to remember the one without the other: the great sacrifice paid by the soldiers must be remembered, to be sure, but dare we forget the victims of what began as a democratically elected government?

The “police action” of Korea – a war that, to this day, technically has not officially ended (a cease fire doth not a treaty make).

Which (if we exclude Vietnam which Canada didn’t “officially” participate in) brings us to the “current” conflicts. The peace keeping efforts in which Canadians have died are numerous and, alas, truly worth remembering.

It has always made me smile (and proud to be Canadian) when I think that those blue-bereted UN Peacekeepers exist because of a Canadian proposal and that Canadians have served in virtually every peacekeeping mission since the inception of the force in 1956, at the suggestion of then diplomat and future Prime Minister of Canada, Lester Pearson.

Our nation has a proud one of being there when it counts, when we are outnumbered and outgunned; but time and again Canadian soldiers have fought with tremendous courage and valour that belies the size of the forces deployed. Not willing to be the sacrificial lambs tossed into the waiting jaws of death, Canadian servicemen consistently demonstrated that they were more than “up to the task” of dealing with the enemies that were laying in wait for them. The roles played by Canadians in WWI and WWII, in which a combined number of over 100,000 died, is a terrible reminder of the costs of war.

Perhaps on this Remembrance Day it would have been fitting for the Chaplin to have summoned the courage to speak words that truly reflect the gravitas of the times in which we live rather than serving up the piece of ecumenical pap that was broadcast across this great nation. In closing I am now going to do something that I do not normally do in this blog – I am going to openly pray. If this is offensive to you, scroll down to the end of the post to see the final pictures of the poppies (my own photos) that are included in this post.

Heavenly Father, we gather here today
to remember those who paid
the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in this land
with the freedoms that we enjoy on a daily basis.
Lord, we ask you to forgive us;
for we have squandered the great price
that these brave young men and women
offered through the letting of their own blood,
just as we often squander the gifts that
You have given to us when do not live
in peace with our neighbours.

We pray, Lord, that even while we remember
those who have fallen in past conflicts
You would raise up a force that would prevent
the further loss of life in places like Darfur, and that
You would put an end to the meaningless conflict
that is being fought in Iraq.

We pray for our Peacekeepers, Oh Lord,
not only in Afghanistan but wherever
their services may be needed,
even unto the ends of the earth.
Above all else, we pray for peace
in every corner of the world;
in all of Africa and Asia,
in all nations that see each other as enemy
rather than brother and sister,
and within each nation as well,
that every conflict may be settled by
the simple word of love.
This I pray in the precious name of Jesus,
Y’shua HaMoshiach; Amen.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Going Out on a Limb

I’ve been giving the subject of health care a great deal of thought lately. That is not only an introductory statement, it is a reflective comment regarding my current state of mind … a state of mind that has been heavily influenced by the circumstances that our system has been exerting upon one particular hospital in the Ottawa area.

It has always been my intention for there not to be any secrets here. That is one of the main reasons why I decided to fully disclose the fact that I am living with a mental illness: bi-polar affective disorder. There is a great difference between living with a mental illness and suffering from a disease; while there is no doubt that this illness has a powerful influence upon my life, it does not define me nor does it prevent me from pursuing the crafting of prose and the sculpting of sound with music.

This post, however, is not about my struggles to live with this illness; it has to do with the way the health care system has decided to deal with the people, like me, who have been diagnosed with treatable illnesses … illnesses that can be treated through out-patient programs that can, when all parties involved cooperate and participate, help to prevent the need for costly hospitalizations. I know that sounds like a fantastic claim, but it really isn’t – it all has to do with a very simple concept called Psychiatric Rehabilitation, or PSR for short.

The Royal Ottawa Hospital, now called the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Care Centre, has had a PSR Program for over twenty years … had is the operative word. Unfortunately the vision of the hospital has changed for the reason that has been invoked across this land: the almighty dollar. While our health care system is being praised in films, documentaries and politicians around the world we know the truth: if there aren’t serious changes made, and soon, the “universal care” that is offered to our citizens will not be worth the health cards that we carry in our pockets.

If the Royal Ottawa resists the urge to judge the value of a program by its operating cost it has the opportunity to become an exemplary provider of mental health care. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the road that the visionless Board has deemed worthy of following. The acronym “ROMHCC” could very well come to mean the following (unless there are some radical changes – for the better – in the near future):
R – Relentlessly reckless in its feckless quest to dismantle a once Royal institution
O – Obsessively obtuse as staff with PSR experience are forced out
M – Managerially Machiavellian approach to the “bottom line”
H – Hilarious incompetence displayed as essential services are handed over to inadequately funded (or non-existent) community programs
C – Consumer oriented services that purport to protect the rights of patients bit in the end results in a systematic subjugation of those rights
C – Consummately courteous as they ask you to bend over …!

For more information on Psychiatric Rehabilitation at the Royal Ottawa, please read this article.