Monday, June 19, 2006

If This Is society...

so·ci·e·ty, n. pl. so·ci·e·ties
1. The totality of social relationships among humans.
2. A group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture.
3. The institutions and culture of a distinct self-perpetuating group.
(source: www.dictionary.com)

Continuing my adventures in public transit, I took the GO train out of Toronto last weekend.

Now, summer weekends on the GO train are not fun for me. Saturday evenings are bad. There will always be lots of loud teenagers and families with young children who have the run of the train and use it. There will be drunk people and people making out and so on. Although I consider this bad behaviour in any public, enclosed space, it's still acceptable. People are in weekend relaxo mode and they slack off a little. They are less vigilant about their manners. But this weekend I ran into something new--people who were so obnoxious and rude that I wished they would do something that warranted use of the yellow bar (reserved for harassment, illness, etc.). It was a group of men coming home from a football game.

They were drunk. Whatever. They were loud. Whatever. They had a noisemaker that sounded, no exaggeration, like a French horn. Fine. What was so terrible about these guys? They sat and talked for the whole 30 minutes like they were in somebody's basement and no one else was in the house. The ran the gamut of proverbially expected (and mocked) North American male drunk talk.

That sort of talk may be fine at home, but on a public train where there are kids, etc., it's ridiculous. These guys swore, they spoke of women in the most degrading way (Dave--I don't care how you want to "do" Alisha from marketing), they were sexist, racist, homophobic and more.

I've always thought that taking public transit is a social thing to do. I mind my manners, and look out for people around me. And there are other people who do the same. But this group of guys was too much. They have made me re-think my "public transit as social" theory. If my theory is right, then I should have gone up to those guys and asked them to knock it off. Or maybe I should have walked by them and *accidentally* spilled something on one of them, or just tied their shoelaces together while they weren't looking.

But if my theory is wrong, and just sitting and letting my subconscious be polluted was the proper thing to do, I'm letting my membership in society lapse.

In the streets and in society I am almost invariably
cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean.
No amount of gold or respectability would in the least
redeem it,-- dining with the Governor or a member of Congress!!
But alone in the distant woods or fields,
in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits,
even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this,
when a villager would be thinking of his inn,
I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related,
and that cold and solitude are friends of mine. (Henry David Thoreau, Journal)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sharing Time

Okay. This is my second posting in less than 2 weeks. Time for a heavy trip.

I have just learned something new about my blogging self: I'm not one of those girls who can do it when there are other people in the room. I prefer to compose my bloggy messes in private.

Today I have been reading things. Some days I knit, some days I play video games, some days I do nothing but work, but today I read. There's a book I've been working on for the last 2 months. It's about, well, uh...here's the thing. It's mostly about Christianity and politics in the US. It's about how the right has coopted Christianity (in some pretty un-Christian ways) and how the left is wrong to quarantine itself from any stance that seems remotely right wing-ish.

What I'm finding interesting though, is the theme that runs through the book about a "consistent ethic of life." About how the US, and really all rich countries, need to focus on an ethic of life--of respecting all human lives in the kinds of laws passed, the kinds of practices condoned and in the way wealth is distributed. I was just reading about the death penalty, for instance. The argument in the book is that the death penalty is not consistent with an ethic of life, because a disproportionate number of people on death row come from poor backgrounds and are not white, and because taking a life does not bring another life back. Basically, the death penalty punishes the poor and the oppressed.

Then I was reading another article in the Walrus magazine by Mark Kingwell. He goes on about a bunch of stuff (and here I admit that I've not made it to the end of this article) but today I read his take on the American Dream (look ,see, it's so important that even I, a lowly Canadian, have the urge to capitalize it). And on how the American Dream is collapsing, in spite of the fact that it seems to be alive and well. The numbers on the gap between the richest and the poorest (in the US and around the world) as well as the tax and other burdens that are largely levvied on the poor and not the rich (who can afford such burdens) are so wild they are almost unbelievable. It's really crazy.

Anyhow, all this is to say that both of these men are helping me to articulate (very haltingly, I grant) the idea that a fair world, societies that take care of everyone and do the best they can to promote equality between all people, is a safer world for all people. Terror and fear work best when people are insecure and have lots of things to be terribly afraid of. And more desperate, lonely people in the world mean more people doing desperate lonely things.

I dunno what this means in practical terms exactly, except that all of the things that Canada is struggling with--universal health care, education (primary, secondary and post-secondary), providing for people without work, with few prospects, proving people with EI and welfare if they need it--all of these things are good things, that make people's lives better, and that make the world better. No bottom line can fix the problems that a social safety net that works for everyone can fix.

Or maybe I'm completely out to lunch. You get to decide, o reader.

Meanwhile, I'm gonna be thankful to have everything I have and drink a toast to the person who invented the roof (to quote, Linus, or Charlie Brown, or one of those other crazy Peanuts kids).

Make Poverty History campaign (If Sarah McLaughlin thinks it's a good idea, then it must be a good idea...)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bits & Pieces

In keeping with my pattern of posting once a month, here I go. This month, I've decided to reflect my lack of inspiration and passion in my blog, by talking about bits and pieces of this and that, and not really saying much at all. Of course, when I came up with idea on the GO train into work this morning I was bursting with ideas. Now I'm home at the end of the day and I'm tired and tired and repetitive and not so inspired. Enjoy!

I just figured out (I've known this for a while, but it sunk in for the first time today) that Stockwell Day is the Minister for Public Safety. Yikes. And to think that I voted for him to change his first name to Doris...

Things I Have Learned From Dr. Phil

Yes, I'm finally ready to 'fess up and face facts. Here is what Dr. Phil has taught me, good and bad, big, little and all:

1. Charisma will get you pretty durned far.

2. Never try to start selling your own brand of diet food unless you have expertise in a field related to human biology or chemistry.

3. Sometimes, people like to hear the truth.

4. Self-help usually means that you have the will to change but you need an external something (book, TV show, therapist or whatever) to guide you. Actual help that relies 100% on the self is quite rare, if not impossible.

5. A quick wit will get you pretty durned far.

6. It's good to be Oprah's friend.

7. It really helps to do your homework (or to have someone else do most of it for you and take really good notes that you can read over).

8. Patience, Kindness, Caring and Quiet Compassion don't make good TV.

9. A smart tie can make a boring dark suit interesting.

10. Some people still care enough to hope that TV show hosts are actually able to help people.

I like blue and green. I think they match.

Here's how to make my favourite cocktail:

1 oz creme de banane (banana liqueur)
1 oz Tequila Rose
1 oz cream or milk (I've tried soy milk, but I'll warn you that it tends to curdle a bit)

Put all three together in a shaker with ice. Shake. Pour into a martini glass or the fabulous receptacle of your choice. Voila!

I keep meaning to donate money to the Internaional Red Cross to support earthquake relief efforts in Indonesia. I keep forgetting. Why don't we all remember together? Donate to the International Red Cross online.