New Decade, New Direction

I just got back in from a quick wheel around the community. It is still warm enough (the sun is bright) to do a good wheel and not lose too much air out of my tires. However, based on the numbness of my fingertips it was chillier than I thought. But they are forecasting a drastic drop in temperatures in the next couple of days so I grab those outdoor moments when I can. Anybody that knows Calgary understands just how fickle our weather can be.

When I got back into the comfort of my condo I flipped on the news. Big mistake with the current conditions of the world these days. Between the fires of Australia, the craziness of the middle east, the insanity of Brexit and the twisted ideology sweeping across Canada flipping on the news was a huge mistake. So then I switched over to my computer monitor to hit some social media sites.

While catching up there I was quite please to see the 2020 “Best of Calgary” list has been released. The four nominees for “Best Civic Activist” were Jason Ribeiro, Mike Morrison, Mark Hopkins and Hannah Kost. One I know, two I’m aware of and the fourth was a new name to me. Regardless activism is in my blood so I pay attention to those and congratulate all four of them. Voting starts Jan 15th so Calgarians pay attention. If you visit the voting site you can really realize just how much of the City has changed. I would never even have thought of “Best Ice Cream or Gelato” shop, Best Coffee, Best Night Spot and the list went on. Calgary has moved a long way since the 80’s and I use to know every spot out there. I have lost touch with the City that I love.

I traditionally wrote a weekly “Monday Meanderings of the Mindless Myth” blog which was dedicated to advocacy and activism. I was beginning to feel like I was talking in a vacuum so I pulled back about two months ago. However in light of recent political events in Alberta I have come to the realization that now is not the time to back off. I am witnessing the continuing erosion of so many things my generation of activists fought for now is not the time to quit. There are four good nominees for the Best Civic Activists on the City list however they all lack history.

This being the first Monday of a new year in a new decade I am refocusing my energies and changing the direction of my blog. I am going to be examining advocacy and activism by decade rather than years. It has really been hammered home to me recently that the new generation of activists have little knowledge of why we are where we are. Rights are being eroded and many activists have no understanding, in part, because those rights were already here. They’ve never known anything else so how would they know what they are loosing.

A generational chart showing a dozen generations from the Lost Generation (1890) up to the most current Gen Alpha born since 2013
Where we fit in the demographics can often determine our commitment to activism

Education, healthcare, community inclusion, cultural protections, federal transfers, the Canada Pension Plan, and the list goes on are all under attack these days. These development made in the past sixty years are very generational and that is reflected in how we vote, who we put in power. The generation that fought for those programs are now becoming seniors just to discover so many things they fought for have been whittled away. Each generation has their own belief’s when it comes to politics. Where you fit on the political spectrum is usually dictated by the rights and programs your generation could access based on the work of the generation before you. The generation before me died on the battlefields of Europe so my generation would not have to face fascism and have access to a better standard of life than those that came out of the “Dirty Thirties“.

I want those four “Best Civic Activist” nominees to understand the ground their work is build upon. This is where words matter and being an “activist” should not be confused with advocacy or lobbying. Words are powerful and the power of an activist is found in the strength to their commitment. It is based on their understanding of the details that come from out history and that history could be as recent as ten year ago. It is often build on the graves of others.

A black and white picture of an elderly lady holding a sign reading "I can't believe I still have to protest this fucking shit"
A true activist does not let age dictate their commitment

So I am back with my Monday Meanderings but I will be adding more. From my perspective we are facing a provincial government that no longer cares about people. They have given repeated indications that all they care about is what they can impose or take away from us. And they can only impose if we, as the voters, don’t take a stand and speak out. We need to support our activists but we also have to be vocal. We have to let OUR politicians aware that they work for us, the VOTERS. So I am back and I am speaking out. I am here to remind people of the decades that went on before many of you arrived and not just what has happened in the last year. History is more than 365 days and civic involvement doesn’t end at the polling station. So until next time be loud, #WordsMatter…

If you have any questions or any matter of particular interest to you, leave a comment. Plus the “donation” button is meant to be more than decorative, with Kenney deleting so many supports for seniors and persons with disabilities I have just resorted to the times of the 50’s and 60’s. Except instead of a “begging bowl” I’ve gone upscale with technology and now present a “Donation” button…

A War is Raging

“Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome” – Rosa Parks

It is telling when I have to leave a link explaining who Rosa Parks is but, what to me is recent history, seems to be buried deep in the sands of time to younger generations. The tragedy of yet another hate motivated shooting at the California Synagogue on the last day of Passover has raised the spectre of Rosa Parks words in my mind.

What prompted me to speak out was the tweet of one of Calgary’s new generation of influencers, Jason Ribeiro. Jason’s tweet was referencing a two day old Globe and Mail report on the growth of hate groups in Canada. I believe Jason may have been referencing one of the victims, Lori Kaye as a member of the “Greatest Generation” (Silent Generation), that group of people who took a stand against fascism by standing up to it in World War 2. The generation that spawned the “baby-boomers”.

I have gotten to know Jason through my own involvement with social media. I am one of those baby-boomers who thrives in this new world using it extensively. As I have indicated before, living in a wheelchair limits one’s retirement activity however I have always been committed to life long learning and social media does the trick. Rather than spending hours on the golf course, hiking in the Kananaskis or kayaking down the Bow River I spend hours in front of my computer. That’s how I was introduced to Jason. I believe we are like minded in our belief around change and without a doubt Jason is pushing for change by advancing Calgary’s status in the world of industry.

I recently met Jason face to face and discovered he was much younger than I had thought (that an easier way of saying how old of a fart I am). There is a forty year span between the two of us. I believe we are both true activist with the best of the community at heart but I have 40 years of history on him. Jason is non-stop dealing with the issues of today from commerce to diversity. I consider myself an encyclopedia of activism history which brings me back to the Rosa Parks quote I started with. Hopefully I can use my experiences to provide some insights so Jason doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

One of the down sides of social media is the generational divide it has created between the baby-boomers and the Millenials. Most baby-boomers have reached that point in their life they worked so hard to attain, a positive retirement, something they have accomplished using 80’s thinking. Technology has changed the way people advance in todays society however to most baby-boomers social media is about checking their Facebook page for the newest pictures of their grandchildren, doing their banking or booking vacations.

Many of them still enjoy the feel of the local newspaper in their hand with their morning coffee. They have worked hard to reach the comfort of their “bubble zone” and the challenges of the new world is disturbing. Change is difficult for anyone but the discomfort of change can be avoided if one tunes out the negativity going on around them. One cannot slight them for that however it has certainly polarized the community. Their avoidance of that negativity is like putting fertilizer on already fertile ground for the growth of hate and bigotry. Recognition of that growth is expressed in the hopefulness of Jason’s tweet however Twitter is a messaging technique that is as useful to most baby-boomers as street maps are to a herd of cattle. To me that is a major problem: how do we live up to Rosa Parks quote when we are no longer communicating? How do we prepare our children (not saying Jason is a child but I am old enough to be his father) when we are using different communication tools? As baby-boomers I am of the belief that we have a responsibility to be mentors to the generations behind us.

I have had over 60 years of personal experience of living with the gains begun by the likes of Rosa Parks and I believe I have a responsibility to share those. I have 45 years of experience playing the game by the rules laid out by a system of advocacy that was based on educate, participate, coordinate and anticipate while most of what I received was placate. I spend 40 years in that choir but as the generational chasm widens that choir has become tone deaf. They are still waging a war with paper while not knowing the technology of today.

I don’t want my legacy to be tons of reports buried in some bureaucrats filing cabinet (and yes they are that old that they are still paper files and not digitized) with no action really happening except for the breeze created by the pats on the head. The “In Unison” is over 20 years old and continues to collect dust in some filing cabinet while government continue build bureaucracy’s that can meet regularly to “strategize”. The time for strategizing should be over and we should be deep into action. So now I use the tools of today and focus my energy by sharing the knowledge I have gained over fifty years with the Jason’s of the world.

In closing to those who see social media as “just another fad” there is a scary reality to it. Something as simple as a TV show like Supergirl develops plots and storylines based on fear and bigotry. This season has been focused on the distrust and hate of those that are different. Now it is an analogy but the message is there. The CW TV series has a Twitter following of over 684,000 people with a demographic viewing audience between 18 and 40 (last season over 2.36 million viewers). That is a lot of influence. The ripple effect of social media is wide and can be very insidious when responsible people don’t help put it in context. Bigot’s are not born, they are nurtured. We all have a part to play in support of Jason’s tweet posted above. Mine is now to help bridge that generational divide as a way to keep the hate war from raging on. Where is your role in this?

That’s my Monday morning rant so let the week begin. Again in cheap self promotion if you like what your reading hit the donate button. Dignity doesn’t pay the bills but when enough people make something as small as a $3 donation it can go a long way to filling the pantry or wheelchair maintenance. Those supports you think are there are a myth…

Have a good one…

My New Reality…

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” – Gaylord Nelson

Not sure what woke me up this morning, the construction, the heavy pounding of the rain (will this winter ever come to an end) or the sharp pulse moving up and down my arms like a 12 string classical guitar with all 12 strings out of tune.  Today is definitely a three pill day, narcotics be damned.  Growing up in a hospital you adopt the philosophy of better living through chemistry early.  On the upside I’m waking up.

Got a lucky break late morning with a few hours of sunshine so used the time wisely and hit the Save-On.  So I am well stocked in anticipation of the next four days of rain.  I have started paying more attention to the weather reports and less attention to the news (with the exception of the BC election) these days.  I know during the rainy time my body behaves like a badly tuned and out of sync garage band.  But again at least I woke up which is more than two good friends did in the last week.  Rest in peace Liz and Lance, your time is done and your suffering has past.  My condolences to their loved ones.

I have been putting a lot of thought into the CBC story I had shared recently.  I put so much thought into it I contacted the author, CBC’s Donna Carreiro.  More on that contact to come…meanwhile her article actually woke me up.  I started thinking of my own situation and did a bit of my own research.  My descent into wheelchair dependence was gradual with the biggest part happening after moving to BC.  A whole new set of medical professionals to get to know and me working from the assumption that the fallout of polio was understood.  For the record, I do not have polio.  Polio is a virus that runs its course, does its damage and then it’s gone.  The damage done is the outcome of polio, the residual is not polio.

No medical professional ever mentioned post-polio to me.  I was aware of it but with limited knowledge.  The closes medical rational I ever received for increasing wheelchair dependence plus symptoms like quicker to fatigue was the “strains of a life time of walking on crutches”.

gainpainThe idea that my medical team (I call it a team but it’s really a pathway of referrals so that health “administration” can call itself a system) wouldn’t understand polio never entered my mind.  When you’ve lived your entire life with polio you think everyone knows, you know the saying “can’t see the forest for the trees”.  This is the problem with assumption rather than critical thinking.

When I think about it I knew few people of my generation in 1967 who were aware of the devastation caused by Spanish Flu.  Fifty years later why should I expect those generations behind me be anymore aware of a disease we basically eradicated in Canada fifty years ago.  Some realizations can be painful but needed to avoid future pain.  I have now come to grips with the idea that post-polio has played a role in my advancing decrepitude.  After over forty years of fighting for inclusion and acceptance the posts have been moved and I have to adjust.  Welcome to the my world of accommodation…unfortunately I have watched while the BC Liberals have slowly eroded a good chunk of the advances made.Continue reading “My New Reality…”

And Yet We Judge!

As a user of Facebook, Twitter and many of the social media venues available today I see a wide variety of expressions.  To me nothing is more important than the ability to express ones self.  That does not translate into the right to denigrate others or make outrageous statements because you disagree with the ideology.  I will fight almost to the death over someones right to their belief with the understanding that my support is not dependent on my adoption of that belief.  The same way I don’t expect everyone to adopt my belief system.  I use social media to share my beliefs, not recruit converts.

Anybody who is familiar with any of these social media venues knows full well how atrocious some expression can be.  Lets face it with Twitter you only have 140 characters, not words, to make your point.  People get quite creative when it comes to getting their message out.  This is how slang happens.  According to a recent article in Time Magazine Merriam Webster in 2014 has added 150 new words to their collegiate dictionary and this includes additional definitions to old words.  Oxford Dictionary updates their online content every three months to include new words being used or words with additions to their definitions.

Our language is changing however this should not be a surprise to anyone.  The English language has been evolving (some would say devolving) for centuries.  I suspect if Geoffrey Chaucer showed up today he would need the assistance of a translator to maintain a conversation.

Will Smith's insight on emotional control
Will Smith’s insight on emotional control

So when I see my generational language police start commenting on how poorly the newest generation entering the workforce speak simply because they have adopted the current slang  of their peers I question.  Who are we to judge?  No wonder twenty year olds want little to do with the over fifty crowd.  The one’s in that demographic have often told me they are being spoken down to “all the time”.

This flashes me back to when I was that age.  I have a hard time imagining where our language would be if social media had existed.  Words like “cool”, “groovy”, “far-out”, etc. drove my parents nuts.  Those same words defined that generation.  They didn’t make us stupid, uneducated or lazy.  Most of my peers adopted the philosophy contained in the attached picture of Will Smith.  This didn’t make them renegades or outcasts, just a generation of people who were going to write their own rules or modify the existing ones to work for a changing world.

The same people who were condemning our language habits were also telling us how this “rock and roll” music was devil music.  As a generation we just wanted to be part of a community we could relate to.  We used or created the slang of the day.  I didn’t have somebody sitting there telling me “cool” was a weather term or that “far-out” was a descriptor of distance.  I was adopting terminology that made me a part of that generation.

I don’t mind the grammar police pointing out that I should be using “their” rather than “they’re” in context or the difference between “then” and “than”.  But I’m not going to judge somebody because of their desire to use terminology that is important to their generation.

Before you use social media to judge remember where we came from.  We are all part of a bigger community and as long as we segment ourselves we will have tragedies like the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo.  If we don’t start respecting each others role in the community we will just continue to perpetuate an environment rife with discord.  You want to correct my grammar fine but don’t ridicule me because I use the slang of a generation.

Just one man’s opinion!