I live with bipolar disorder. I've struggled, along with my doctors, to manage its symptoms, shifting moods and the related unpreditability.

I'm Canadian. Still, I do think I have some valid comments that have to do with the community of those impacted by mental illness and violence. A community I feel extends not only from Canada to the United States, but indeed around the world.

Watching the ongoing and perverted gun debate in America, I'm frustrated. I'm infuriated.

I am vastly disturbed by the continuing arguments that those with a mental illness are somehow largely responsible for gun violence. It's insulting to demonize people with mental illness and it's factually wrong. Greviously, the prevailing thinking in America is that keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who have any sort of history of mental illness (it possible to recover fully) is the one of the surestn ways to resolve this.

This is what I know. I have never been violent. I don't know anyone of the many people i have come to be acquainted with of having a history of violence. In fact, many studies have shown that there is no compelling scientific evidence to suggest that mental illness causes violence. The stereotype not only exists but is becoming more entrenched in the public mind.

I wonder how much of this thinking has filtered across the border into the thinking of Canadians. I have to believe that this stereotype has to be gaining traction in our country.

Our main concern should be the number of suicides committed with guns. Approximately 17,000 people in America use guns to take their own lives each year. Even in Canada, the number is approximately 1,000 annually.

It is hard not to believe that the great majority of these victims were suffering from a mental illness at the time they made the final choice.

How many would have been successful without access to firearms? I have to believe that the number would be drastically reduced. A gun is almost a guarantee of a life ended in a tragic moment of hopelessness and despair. An overdose of pills, slashed wrists and other methods, while serious and often successful, undisputedly have a greater opportunity for intervention and saving a life.

I have attempted suicide twice and surely if I had a gun at my disposal I would not be writing this.

Where's the outcry about these sad facts? Where is anyone bringing this issue to the public agenda? Does anyone really care?

It's time to focus on treating people with mental illness. It's not right to so egregiously cast a large shadow of blame and continue marginalizing the roughly 10% of citizens in both Canada and America who are living with mental illness.

It's shameful. It's wrong.


 
...and what can I say? I can say that's a great song by the Clash. And I can say that, although the USA is the reigning world power, it - they - still manage to bore the hell out of me. 


Why? Predictability.


Everything is like a badly written script from a bad movie. Right now, I've had enough of the presidential campaign. 42 days more to go. 42 days of bad acting and bad writing and bad reporting. Yippee!


I don't know about other people outside of the US but the painstaking scrutiny that these two candidates (and why can't there ever be a legitimate  3rd or 4th candidate? And why do people have to register to vote?) is stunningly numbing. Such as, why did some candidate use this phrase or word? Where do all these so-call knowledgeable media experts crawl out from?


I try to follow this campaign with some degree of interest and consistency but it's completely boring and repetitive. Today's word of choice was choice. Seems one candidate (I won't say which - you have a 50/50 chance) first used the word choice in his campaign.


This is news? How? The whole premise of an election is choice. You weigh whatever options you have and vote. Which is really just another word for choose. You make a choice.


So Americans have to make a choice. And I have to make a choice. To pay attention because no matter who's elected America is still the biggest fucking bully on the block.
 
Soon we approach the anniversary of the occupy movement, or at least the beginning of the movement on Wall Street, in the financial heart of the U.S. It's fair to ask now what did the movement of 99% accomplish if anything. I think that it did have an impact on many things, particular in America but there are still questions and issues to examine.

Occupy definitely brought to the public attention the gross inequality of the economic system in which most, a vast majority, is in the hands of a few people and institutions. I still recall how one wall street banker, after nearly bankrupting the bank that he presumably was the highest ranking official, was dismissed. He left that bank but not before receiving an approximately $10 million golden boot in the butt. Nice reward for abject failure, Although I don't know specifically if he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and moved to consulting of even a staff job in the White House.

Occupy helped to expose this kind of injustice. I guess this is what passes for democracy in the U.S., in my eyes one of the most undemocratic democracies in the world. 

But by raising these issues, the interwoven, near seamless links between big banks and the White House, it sparked a major uproar against the oligarchy. It educated thousands, if not millions, of people about this gross inequality. They put this on the political and politicians had to address these issues and answer, in one degree or another, them. Definitely, a shift in the political landscape.

The same happened in Canada, but to a lesser degree. Is this economic entanglement still in place in Canada? It appears to be business as usual, but then again the Harper government does not have a sterling track record of listening to the public. It much prefers playing the stern father, passing down wisdom without much, if any, debate. Well, take solace Canada, an election will roll around and they will be tested on this record and hopefully be put out of business.

Occupy also gave so many people hope that the system could change and that people have the power, if they speak loudly and in concert, to change these inequalities. Whether that remains in place is debatable but the seeds were planted. I hope they bloom in the future.

But what hasn't occupy done. My main criticism is that they have failed to keep the issues on the front pages. It seems the movement has after winter lost momentum and traction it gained. This seems like a pattern among grass roots organization - how does it keep up the fervor that brought it to the public. I may be wrong about this in other places but where I live the movement has indeed dwindled from a river to a stream. Bless those who are still dedicated and working away.

I also think the movement had a glorious opportunity to get folks involved who would never dream of demonstrating but agreed with many occupy issues. Getting out the suburbs, getting these people involved through doing something in suburbs through community events, townhall meetings among other ideas.

So after a year, the results are mixed. However, I hold out hope. But even that is tenuous.
 
Amazing. 


What else to say about the recent advertising about the cleanliness and economic benefits of tar sands development by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). While not quite reaching the level of saturation, these ads are frequent, maddening and astonishing. But I have to admit, it takes a lot of balls on the part of CAPP to actually promote the tar sands (I know they're actually called the oil sands or something but let's go with common nomenclature here) as somehow environmentally benign.


I could spend many sentences describing the environmental damage already done by this strip mining for oil but let's just say that common sense dictates that it's almost indescribable. This is a huge, billion dollar, water gulping piece of devastation that has been going on now for decades. My opinion admittedly but, again, I could spend oodles of space outlining what this disastrous process has wrought. But again let's agree that it's tremendous and it's already done.


What's done is done and it's in the past now.


Which is what I find most offensive about the CAPP/tar sand ads. They trumpet how new processes are cleaner, safer, more economically beneficial. OK, let's assume that from now on there will be no more environmental harm, let's assume the rose-coloured glasses CAPP wears are actually a glimpse into a reality I can't see. 


Great, no more pollution, no more ugly scarred, scraped hectares by the thousands, no more fresh water misused. Good for the oil industry for changing all of their ways of extraction, refinement and transportation (still sounds like a fairy tale though). That's the message of these ads - the oil industry developing (that's another hard word to swallow when it comes to the tar sands).


And whether you swallow that line of reasoning (another word that's hard to swallow when it comes to the tar sands) or you don't, it misses such a large question I am left agog at how little CAPP thinks of the intelligence of the average Canadian.


With decades of damage done, what are they going to do about cleaning up that mess. How are they going to go back years to reclaim land and water that essentially is lost. 


The environmental fight around the tar sands, isn't about the past - that's just ammunition now for those against further development. The battle is about what will, literally, happen on the ground in the years to come.


And I don't find any comfort in CAPP's vastly condescending propaganda.



 
Well a little more than a month since the last blog. Have i learned anything. A few things I suppose. 


It's not easy being friends when some undescribed torment arrives and neither can really figure out what that is. It's a sad thing but probably happens more often than we know. The question becomes how to resurrect something that is slipping away before it slips away forever. I take my share of the blame, in fact I probably deserve most of the blame. But when it feels like the world is crashing in on your head, I suppose it's difficult to be more than concerned and isolated about yourself rather than others. For this I apologize, as I must do.


I also wasn't kind as I would of liked this summer. Again that is something that just sort of a slipped away. The first person I wasn't kind with was myself. An no other kindness can really flow from that state. So my mission of exercising a more kind approach to humanity in general. However, I remain somehow committed to this, but must find a reasonable to jump start my engine. Amazing how quickly something can slip into the past if it's something that you let drift. I hope for better in the months ahead.


I read a book entitled 'The Now Effect' which made me wonder about my ability to actually put mindfulness into action in my life. Maybe this is a reflection of some personal turmoil that looms on my horizon. Hopefully, this will change and I can get back to focusing on each moment rather than counting the end of moments until these matters are resolved. Wish me luck, I hope that good luck will come to pass.


That's probably enough of an overview of my summer and my woes. Not a lot of fun and probably more than a little self indulgent. Sometimes a little self indulgence is a weight off my shoulders and that's about all the little nags of the summer.


Maybe. But there's still Enbridge to rail on about.
 
Trust us! Please trust Enbridge. What a trustworthy company Enbridge is. They are virtually begging us to see their environmental worth through their eyes.

Ok, so they’ve had a few mishaps. A little oil spill here, a big oil spill there. Nothing to be too concerned about because hey they’re learning from each of their mistakes.

The latest is a relatively small spill in a relatively rural area of Wisconsin. So this means it’s easier to contain. But who knows what will happen to the water table or the flora and fauna of the area. Sure you can spread some new topsoil, dig around hoping to get most of the oil, even plant some new pretty flowers, but it’s still an oil spill.

Enbridge is treating this as example of their care for the environment, with a quick response and a minor spill, at least in terms of barrels from the ruptured pipeline. Enbridge is treating as though it were a dry run for a larger spill, helping them learn how to best clean up their mistakes.

Heart warming.

And shouldn’t we all learn from their mistakes. What should we learn?

That we shouldn’t trust Enbridge – their pipelines already built, proposed pipelines (such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline), or their corporate mandate (remember they aren’t acting in the best interests of Canadians, not the best interests of our governments, but of their stock holders who only want to see profits rise). 

Not to mention their sickly sweet advertising campaign.

Not to mention their environmental track record, which is pretty oily, pretty ugly.

So what now Enbridge? Another spill is what Enbridge doesn’t need tarnishing their dim track record. The many disparate voices united against the Northern Gateway Pipeline in particular now has another example of an Enbridge accident to call for better environmental controls and a more stringent environmental analysis. 

Whatever Enbridge does now is superfluous. Another spill, and more questions raised. Will this stop Enbridge? Highly unlikely. But they can expect even stronger and larger protests against the inherently dangerous Northern Gateway Pipeline.

 
So I've been camped out in Vancouver for about a month. The question arises what is Vancouver all about? I dunno, I've only been here a month. But I have been here many times and it has that kind of home away from home 'je ne c'est quoi' for me. 

I guess that qualifies me to point out a few Vancouverish things that I have seen and remember. Though I don't really trust my memory, it makes things up if it doesn't have the real story handy. Odd but reliably unreliable. This is a list that I've picked up on and surely it isn't exhaustive:

1. Vancouver is one of the most physically beautiful cities I've been to. The mountains seem to rise out of the ocean. Parks and beaches are pretty much immaculate. Sunsets can be stunning. And it doesn't rain as much as outsiders seem to think. But it doesn't get hot here the way it does in the east.

2. Vancouver is a tattooed city. The most tattoos per capita in Canada but I'm just guessing here. People love to show them off, brag about them, explain them in great detail. I think a good tattoo should tell it's own story.

3. Culture and creativity seem to be generators that run Vancouver. Lots of artists, writers, musicians trying to break through. Aside from the touring acts that regularly pass through Vancouver, there are tons of record, as in vinyl, stores. So many in fact I can easily spend way too much time just browsing, purchasing just a few gems.

4. Vancouver has way too many people - well women - wearing yoga pants as a kind of ersatz reminder that Vancouver is filled with yoga studios These pants and tights are one of the main reasons that Vancouver was voted 3rd worst dressed city in the world (all apologies to those who eschew this anti-fashion style).

5. Vancouver chills, it doesn't sweat the details.



6. All Vancouverites know how to dole out the 'faux hug' - hardly any contact despite the requisite arms around you.


6. Vancouver has definite hippie attitude in some parts of the city and it is damn green both in scenery and the people's concern for their environment.


7. I still don't know if Vancouver has an actual summer as I know summer to be. Today for instance it's about 14 or 15 degrees and definite jacket and pants weather. In Ottawa from the end of May to the end of September I always wear shorts. That's a real summer.


8. Everyone should visit Vancouver should take an afternoon to just hang out in a cafe on Commercial Drive. It's worth the time.


There it is my month of impressions. Actually I have more but I had to stop sometime.
 
In the neighborhood where I am casually staying, a disturbance of the most disturbing kind occurred – a woman was raped. Not far from where I’m sitting right now, writing this. This is frightening enough for a man who knows women in this area, but must be petrifying for women in the vicinity. It was a brazen attack at dusk in an area with fairly high pedestrian traffic.

When I heard about this ugly attack, I realized a few things. 

First, as a man I will never be able to truly empathize with women who have been raped or women who feel vulnerable when something like this occurs to someone they know as a friend or an acquaintance. I can sympathize to an extent; I can wish that it never occurred; I can agree that it is vile and cowardly and contributes to the sense of insecurity on our streets. Even sympathizing feels somehow patronizing, though my feelings are genuine with compassion.

Second, again as man, I rarely feel threatened or ill-at-ease walking down any street at the darkest hours. I suppose I’m an imposing figure, standing 6 feet 2 inches about 210 pounds. I have watched with some sense of sadness as women have crossed the street to walk on the opposite side of the street. In fact, for a while I was insulted, angered at this, wanting to call out, “it’s okay, I’m on your side, I’m not going to hurt you.” 

But thing of it is, we humans are hard-wired in some ways. And self-preservation must rank at the top. If I were a woman, I would likely be taking the long route around me as well. Now it just saddens me.

Third and last, I’m compelled and shocked that we as a society, as a people, as a community still produce individuals who are capable of such monstrous acts. Stop the ride, I want to get off. But I can’t and I’m not really sure how we can prevent monstrous people from doing monstrous acts. 

We have an urge to lash out in anger, in blame but I don’t see what that does to prevent evil. So we re-examine the “culture” our culture produces. Do we ban certain types of films, certain graphic video games, censor books? I’m not certain creating an underground market for these things will do anything but cover up our feelings of fear or powerless.

I think a way out is as simple and as difficult as raising children to abide by a certain moral code – that there are some absolute rights and wrongs. Such as, you don’t steal someone’s humanity in a momentary burst of pleasure or surge of misdirected power.

Not a great response to the scourge of rape, or murder but when you feel your society dying from a thousand different cuts, we all should do something in response; we all share a responsibility to act.


 
If you could be a prime minister or president of one country for a day, what would you? Maintain the status quo and guzzle up the free and expensive food and beverage. Would you spend the day going over the books to find who’s lying about what. 

Or would you exercise some foresight and make one or two decisions that would be irreversible for about 50 years (hey this is pretend). What legacy from your day in office would you leave for the generations to come?

I’ve been thinking about this lately and if I ever am able to scale the mountain of power to the peak, I have some things I could do in the morning and then go for a run in the afternoon. This is my list not in any particular order of value or practicality.

1) I would make it mandatory for all schools to offer physical education every school day.
2) I would make it illegal for any man to run for run for any office for the next century. 

     Hey we’ve had patriarchy for a long time and look how screwed up the world is. I’d 
     particularly have pregnant women (for as long as they can) in key posts like national 
     defence, social and cultural programs and the environment because they would likely have a 
     much longer-term vision that current politicians lack.
3) In fact, I would limit the time in office to 6 years which could be 2 3-year terms.
4) I would introduce representative by population as an electoral reform.
5) I would stop all development of the tar sands and all the oil pipe projects surrounding it.
6) I would institute tax incentives (serious ones) to encourage to the use greener transportation.
7) I would create a mass transit development program, subsidize municipal transit departments 

     and make city bus travel cheap.
8) I would offer substantial subsidies to companies involved in creating renewable and clean 

     anything (well except for munitions) and take away subsidies for companies who insist in 
     taking resources that aren’t renewable or clean out of the ground, and leave behind a 
     huge environmental mess.
9) I would take Canada out of NAFTA because our water resources shouldn’t be used to 

     grow grass in a desert region like Arizona;
10) I would make higher education a right for all Canadians. 

That’s my list and it's more than 2 and I’ll probably think of a few others later on. Granted these changes won’t all take place over night, maybe never at all, and might take more than a morning to achieve. But at least I would get the ball rolling and perhaps others might see the world the same way I do.


More to the point, what would be on your list? Tell me, I’d like to know.


 
A few days ago, I wrote about the disingenuous (to be  kind) advertising campaign that Enbrdige has launched to bolster support for  their controversial proposed pipeline through northern B.C. and Alberta. This  pastel pastiche of nonsense, features a pipeline travelling blissfully through country side and communities bringing prosperity and happiness to all.
Interestingly, there are two versions of this ad – one tailored to B.C. (where,  as expected, most of the opposition is) and another for national audiences.
 
Recently, an animated editorial by Dan Murphy appeared on the Vancouver Province website which added a element of potential reality that the ads don’t address. Watch both for fairness sake if nothing else.

First the original Enbridge dubbed A Path to Prosperity
Dan Murphy rebuttal which might be called A Path to Danger
Agree or disagree with one or the other. Do as you like. What is really appalling is that the Vancouver Province pulled the editorial and it is not to be found anywhere but on Rabble.ca or on YouTube. This was apparently a reaction to pressure from Enbridge and that leads me to think that pressure came in the form of loss of advertising dollars. Is this freedom of press in Canada? Make up your own mind but if Enbridge has the power to influence editorial policy it's damned ominous.