decency and indecency

 

One is fueled by love,

which,

among other things,

includes altruism and respect…

the other is fueled
by fear,

which includes anger and greed.

In everything we do
every choice we make
we’re moving toward
either love

or
fear…

Love or fear.

There is no other direction.

 

*
With thanks to Elizabeth Kubler Ross… and John Lennon, whose wisdom I paraphrase.

 

appropriate, my foot

 

I don’t care for the word ‘appropriate’ or its variations. Unless we’re talking how sandals aren’t appropriate for hiking in Antarctica or coal is not an appropriate gift for a miner, I’d prefer it not be used… or, more accurately, overused.

For example, in the context of language, inappropriate  behaviour or messages, including those that, oh, I don’t know, threaten job security so an MPP in Ontario can get a date, let’s say, which is a very different thing than bringing coal to a miner. One is inappropriate, the other is pathetic.

See what I mean? Approprite/inappropirate are often words automatically used when other words would be more accurate.Words such as insensitive, racist, anti-semitic, sexist, unkind, or downright stupid and uninformed.

I’m not a fan of political correctness generally. I’m a fan of attempting to be a decent person, or as decent as one can be… and when one is not decent, to be the kind of person that owns up to that indecency by saying the indecency was wrong. Not inappropriate. Not politically incorrect. Just plain wrong.

The terms ‘political correctness’ and ‘appropriate behaviour’ suggest a sign of the times… the perception of a complicated era wherein complicated things need to be memorized. As if we should all make a list of Things To Say and Do in Various Situations and in the Presence of Certain People These Days, rather than acquiring the quality of giving a rat’s ass about people, generally.

It’s the difference between doing what’s decent versus doing what makes you appear to be decent.

I heard someone recently whinging about how things “used to be simpler’, that it “used to be okay” to say certain things, to raise a fist and make a joke about knocking a woman into next week… it’s a joke! Can’t you take a joke? It used to be okay to say these things. God. How is anybody supposed to know what’s appropriate anymore??

Here’s what’s getting lost in that argument… it was never appropriate.

Not in the good old days  when Jackie Gleason did it, not when Ricky Ricardo put Lucy over his knee because she blew the housekeeping budget. Not any time before or since or in the future has it ever or will it ever be okay to disrespect anyone or put your rights above theirs.

Still, it seems there are a few confused souls among us, so here’s a couple of pointers that I hope will help.

♦  If it comes up that you sent emails to someone threatening their job security unless they _________ [fill in the blank], and nobody wants to hang out with you anymore, do not grumble how times have changed. Because that suggests the problem is the times, not you. Be accurate, say that you are an ass, that you have no consideration for others and especially do not value or respect the people to whom you’ve written the emails.

♦  Stop hiding behind variations on the word appropriate.

♦  And spare me the scripted apologies designed to get you out of sticky wickets rather than taking the three minutes necessary to actually consider your actions.

♦  Consider the fact that women are people (they have been since 1929).

♦  Consider that anyone, regardless of gender, might appreciate (instead of platitudes and political correctness) the sense that their feelings matter and to not have to constantly explain what those feelings are and why they matter, not to mention worry about your feelings in the process.

Here’s an example:

You step on someone’s toe . They say ouch.

You can—

a)  be pissed off that they didn’t just keep quiet about it

b)  say oh don’t be so stupid, I didn’t hurt you

c)  sigh dramatically in the way of those who must occasionally throw the little people a crumb, and say fine, I’m soooorrreeee that I apparently stepped on your stupid toe, are you happy now?

d)  send flowers, chocolates, jewellery, money, in lieu of recognizing their feelings and then refer to the injured party as a liar when said ‘gifts’ don’t work their intended magic

or

e)  you can say (and actually mean it), oh, shit, did I step on your toe? What a moron I am, what a clutz. Sorry about that, are you okay?

 

Bottom line—  intention, sincerity, genuine respect for another person is much more than appropriate behaviour.

Way more than optics.

Language matters.

Intentions matter.

p.s. This particular rant is about the treatment of women, but with a bit of re-jigging and imagination, it would easily apply to the treatment by anyone, of  anyone, of any gender, class, culture, religion, hair colour or shoe size.

 

 

 

so the other day i had canada’s justice system explained to me

 

Still slightly gobsmacked after a conversation about our justice system with someone who knows how these things work, who is part of the system at a very high level (let’s call them Hank), during which conversation I was informed that the system is, in fact, designed to protect the accused… the onus being on the accuser to prove that a certain ‘thing’ occurred as alleged.

Okay…

I was also informed by Hank that, depending on which court the case is tried in (in this province that would be either the Superior Court of Justice or the Ontario Court of Justice), it’s up to the accused  as to whether or not they would *like* a jury. It’s also up to the accused as to whether or not they would *like* to take the stand. Or, I’m assuming, whether or not they’d like extra frothy froth on their latte.

The accuser (aka the alleged victim) has no such choice. Hmmm. So while they are repeatedly interrogated and grilled, dirty laundry hung out for all to see, the accused (aka the person who allegedly choked and punched them) is not asked a single question…. Have I got this right?

Hank nods. Yes indeedy, he says, repeating that it’s in order to protect the accused.  He goes on to say what a grand system it is too and if I’m ever accused of anything I’ll be darned pleased about it.

I’m sure I would be, I say, but something just doesn’t sit right. For example, it seems a tad unfair to the accuser (so often women it’s worth noting). Especially if the grilling gets into whacking territory.

Hank doesn’t comment on whacking. He winces instead. Then he explains (rather haughtily I think) that if we didn’t assume innocence for the accused until proven guilty, we’d be like Russia.

Or France, I add.

More wincing. (I’m pretty sure Hank is partial to French wine, croissants and the light in Provence.)

Or France, I say again…

Yes, yes. Or France. He admits that France (along with a number of other countries) subscribe to what is known as an Inquisitorial System, unlike Canada, which takes its model from the British Adversarial System, a system that allows the alleged aggressor to have frothy froth if they choose while the alleged choking victim who did some childish and stupid things in her past can just please sit there and explain why she can’t remember every detail of every day for the past fifteen years.

It’s called lying!  Hank says. He believes accusers whose can remember the choking but not the bikini are nothing but liars!!  He seems to enjoy the word,  insinuating the lying happens a lot. After all, he says, what’s to stop a woman saying whatever she wants?

Yeah, women get all the breaks, I say.

He doesn’t respond. And when I want to talk about the way trauma plays with memory Hank does not welcome this line of chat.

The worst thing he can think of happening, he tells me suddenly, is that an innocent person be found guilty. He says this with tremendous passion.

What about a guilty person who is found innocent? I ask. The question hangs in the air.

Finally, I mention the quite dandy idea of “a subset of judges with special training in the psychological dynamics of sexual assault” and while Hank agrees that it may not be an entirely bad thing he also says that it’s not entirely necessary. He also says Heather Mallick is crazy.

I disagree. Her piece last week is right on the money.

I ask Hank if it were his daughter that was in the accuser’s position, that is, a daughter who claims she was beaten and choked by a ‘date’, would he advise her to take the case to court?

He says he would not advise any such thing.

I regret not thinking at the time to ask him if it were his son who was in the accuser’s position, at the hands of, say a superior at work, a son who had been choked, threatened, punched. Would he advise his son to speak up or just put his tail between his legs and let it pass, keep going to work like a good boy. And if, after a dozen years when his son couldn’t keep it to himself any longer and spoke up for justice… but couldn’t remember every detail… couldn’t remember that, oh yeah, eleven years ago he accepted that invite to the boss’s backyard BBQ and even sent a thank you note…AFTER the (alleged) choking/punching incident… would you call your son a liar, Hank?

Would you??

And if you’d advise your son differently than your daughter… would you mind telling me why?

I’m curious. Plus, it’s not a small point. But even if the advice you were to give both your son and your daughter was the same, i.e. to let the accused (aka possibly known abusive person) go free and possibly do it again, and again… and again…  then would you mind telling me again about justice?

Because I think I missed something.

And you, Hank, you know about these things.

Oh, and, if anyone’s asking, I’ll have a little extra froth.

No one’s asking? Fine. Never mind….

scales

 

visitors

 

When people come to visit, I never know where to take them.

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Inevitably, we find ourselves at this diner or that café or the restaurant that does the excellent veggie naan even though the server is a pill.

Almost always we walk. Through the ravine, downtown, around the ‘hood, the beach. I point out the tree with windfall apples I use to make a crumble each October. And the place where once the kids and I ate pistachios and played Daniel Boone eating pistachios. It’s not a high end tour but there are almost always stories that spring from it… mine, the visiting people’s.

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We’ll go to the galleries of course. There are a lovely abundance of them here. The market. The bookstore. The emu farm.

A concert maybe. A slice of local theatre.

There’s a junk store I might think of taking them, depending on mood and whim and inclination, where you can barely move for the amount of crap and treasure and the owner’s hoarding instinct, which prevents him from ever wanting to sell anything. The only store where when you ask how much this is, you’re told it’s not for sale. You don’t go there to buy, you go there to do anthropological studies.

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If it’s summer we’ll paddle a rented kayak and have fries from the best chip truck in these parts or sit on a patio in a trailer park luncheonette and drink iced tea with some not too bad grilled cheese sarnies.

If it’s winter we might stay home and light a fire. I might make a feasty meal or maybe just keep it simple, make an omelette… I’ll mention that final scene in the movie Big Night and I’ll put on the CD and we’ll talk about first times… first omelettes, whatever…

We might drive. To see the xmas lights or the country lights.

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This is what I do… and sometimes I wonder: is it enough, these emus and sunsets? And then I wonder why I feel that way because when I visit someone this is exactly what I want. NOT the Eiffel Tower, not a string of organized entertainments, but the experience of actually living in a place… the small slices of everydayness.

(Although I will not decline a quick dash into the Louvre.)

So tell me… when visiting, what is it we want?

And by we I mean you.
  

 

 

 

stealing this one because it’s so good

 

I believe the correct term is ‘re-blogging’.

I’ve never done it before so I feel the need to make it very clear  that

                  —the following words are not mine!

They belong to the clever minds over at Telling the Flesh and rockstar dinosaur pirate princess but they are so very wonderful and so perfectly address the issue of ‘consent’, which for some reason seems to baffle certain folk to the point of collapsing empires…

And worse.

Anyway, they deserve to be shared.

______________

From Telling the Flesh

The news is full of stories about sexual assault, rape, and rape culture. Jian Ghomeshi. Steubenville. Rehtaeh Parsons. Dalhousie Dental School. Etc. Every day, almost, there’s another story. Rape culture is now on the agenda, people say. And sure, it’s great that people are talking. It’s great that the idea of rape culture is actually showing up in the mainstream media.

But it’s clear that a.) this conversation shouldn’t have had to happen on the backs of those who have suffered – in some cases, died; and b.) the whole notion of consent still seems to be a particular sticking point for many.

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why people have such a hard time with consent. To me, it’s simple. It’s straightforward. But for others it isn’t. And that’s where a handy analogy developed by rockstar dinosaur pirate princess comes in.

RDPP (for short) compares sex to tea, with brilliant results. Here’s just a sampling:

You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg fuck yes, I would fucking LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!*” then you know they want a cup of tea.

If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit –  don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.

If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?

They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.

If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.

Now, go read the rest, which you can find here.

___________

The above, with thanks, to Sonja Boon.

 

the art of nothing

 

I was googling the title to see if there were already a hundred things called this and it seems there are not. In the process I found a short film made by an actor posing as one Hans Freeberling, an artist installing a show about nothing. The gallery is empty. People come. They think it’s real, that the artist is real, and so they try not to scratch their wee wannabecultured noggins until, eventually, they make up Their Own Point for the point of the nothingness. Because there must be one, right??

As a satire, it’s gorgeous. Says so much about us. Most of which is questionable, but there’s this too: that faced with a blank canvas, real or metaphoric, we can choose to impose our own thoughts. This is a kind of art form in itself. Getting People To Think From Ground Zero, we might call it.

The lack of ‘something’ might also be compared to a one word poem. Or a single toilet cemented to a wall. I mean, we can have real discussions about these things. (I recently had a strangely satisfying time discussing the ‘poem’ balloon. One word. Discussion went along the lines of who says it has to have only two L’s and where’s the law about the emphasis remaining on the second syllable… and so on.)

There’s always the chance these chats will lead to… oh, something interesting or important even. Possibilities are always endless where conversation is concerned and, really, anything at all can be a prompt.

But because something serves as a prompt, or because it causes us to think in possibly new ways… is it art? And who gets to say?

And what isn’t  art?

And who gets to say?

I’m not looking for a definition. Or even an answer. Is there even an answer? Tons of opinions. And all manner of conversation and argument and (most sadly of all) very little light-heartedness about things, including toilets, so I’ve decided to stop asking. In fact this whole ramble is a digression.

**

What I meant to write about is nothing, the art of it.

Which leads me directly to my dad, a chap who would not have called himself an artist though he played with paint, on both canvas and walls. He built our first house then spent decades renovating the second. The garden too. Rockeries and rose beds. Our hedge was almost a topiary. If he wanted a fence, he’d go down to the beach, find some driftwood and make one. Then he’d make a driftwood coffee table, an end table, a floor lamp. He made bookshelves. A fireplace, a BBQ and a bird bath out of stone and in the rec room he painted a wall to wall, floor to ceiling mural of a favourite spot under a tree on a beach in Barbados. He included my mother’s striped beach bag hanging from a branch. (The people who bought the house after my parents died, said the mural was a selling point.) He built two patios and a car port, refashioned our front door, and the back one too, to look more Spanish, a style he liked. And then he began making the inside look more Spanish too. To his mind anyway.

He did all this after his day job, and on weekends. Mostly in Hawaiian shirts, paint splattered pants and shoes with no laces.

This was his thing, this making.

I used to wonder how he thought up all this stuff. How could a wall that looked perfectly fine to me in its bareness or with a few holiday pennants hammered on, to him scream: paint a beach scene!!! don’t forget the bag.

He did a lot of sitting in-between the making. This was all before busy-ness was invented, when people really were   busy, doing real things without an abundance of appliances and before nannies and dog-walkers. These ancient busy people, it seems, made time to sit, have a coffee, light a pipe, and if you were to join them, say, at the picnic table on the handmade patio, they wouldn’t talk about being busy, they would say something about squirrels or sedimentary rocks or have you noticed how many buds are on the apricot tree this year? You might be wearing pedal pushers and drinking Koolaid when you ask if there’s such as thing as UFOs and they might draw a few times on their pipe, think for a minute, let the smoke out nice and slow as they say could be, who the hell knows…

My dad would be surprised to learn that the most important thing he taught me was not to make sure the vice on my workbench was closed at night or how properly to wash a car, but how to love what you do, to do it as well as you can and, most importantly, to take time for the nothing. In fact, he’d be surprised to know he even did it.

Some of my favourite moments, those nothing ones. Still are. I realize in my own nothings that that’s where we re-fuel, where we find our next mural.

A whole different kind of art.

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it is not saying yes to a dream or illusion

[Our] ‘yes’ to life may initially be a passive ‘yes’, born of lassitude and of regrets, but it can eventually become a ‘yes’ of openness, of acceptance, a ‘yes’ of joy. This ‘yes’ to life, which springs from the deepest part of us, is not a naïve or idealistic ‘yes’’; it is not saying yes to a dream or illusion. It is a ‘yes’ to our deepest self, a ‘yes’ to our past, to our body, to our family, a ‘yes’ to our inner storms, our winters, our pain; a ‘yes’ also to the beauty of life, to sunshine, to fresh air, to running water, to children’s faces, to the song of birds. It is the ‘yes’, to our destiny and our growth. It is the ‘yes’ to our own true beauty, even if, at certain times, we cannot see it. 

~ from the beautiful spirit of Jean Vanier
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