An exchange of ideas for an effective, fair and fully functioning democratic

Freedom equals social responsibility plus individual accountability. Good government requires nothing more than these two factors, yet we democratic nations around the world neglect one or the other, in favour of a focus on the remaining ingredient. Capitalistic approaches shun social responsibility, preferring, instead, to lean on free markets to drive growth and success. Socialist approaches ignore the merits of individual accountability as a driving force in shaping good governance. Look to the American system to see the dynamics of the former ideology in play, or to much of the European continent to observe the emphasis on the latter concept. Both experience monumental failures and significant successes. This blog intends to explore alternative ideas and mechanisms to the either/or approach to freedom. We eagerly anticipate feedback, guest blogger articles, comments and ideas from you, the reader. Please take the time to register, as well, and, hopefully, we can not only share ideas, but work together to implement change!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Want To Be The Last Male Dinosaur

Today’s man wears designer suits, visits the massage parlour to relieve muscle aches and softens his delicate skin with an array of exquisite products. Yesterday’s man had leather skin on his neck, brawled, belched, and wore his workday blues every day.  Today’s man cries at tender movie scenes, attends his support group and cooks gourmet meals for his children.  Yesterday’s man knew nothing of healthy and boring diets, drank beer with his buddies after work every day and punched his friend on the shoulder to show he was there for him.  Yesterday’s man is a dinosaur, almost as extinct as the woolly mammoth.  I want to be the last male dinosaur.

When I awake before dawn, I want to hear the scratch of callouses on the wood floor when I walk in bare feet. I want to count the nicks and cuts on my hands and arms after a long day of labour (just so I will know that I have worked hard), and feel the ache in my back, without having to tell a masseuse about it.

This dinosaur wants to enjoy the wrinkles that age brings, without worrying which colour of manscara hides my age. As the last dinosaur, I will shave every other week, even if I feel like I don’t need it.

I want to put my tools to good use: to use my pliers to pull my own rotted tooth (or at least the one that is most rotted), to trim my toenails with side cutters, to use my tool chest as a footstool and my engine stand as a coffee table. To be sure that I get the most out of those tools, I need to fix my own car and my own house, instead of calling a specialist tradesman.

For fun, and to develop my own unique talents, I want to learn to burp the national anthem (using popcorn farts is baby work!). Every evening, I will watch Country Fried Home Videos and wish I had thought of doing that.  On nights when the CFHV show is not airing, I will watch, for the fortieth or fiftieth time, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour DVD.  I promise to laugh at every joke that Larry the Cable Guy tells.

Aging is for sissies.  Even though my brittle bones break easily now, I need to feel the hurt of a hockey body check, the pain of a torn knee in a football game. While waiting at the batter’s plate for the agonizingly slow arc of a softball pitch I long for the sting of a hardball smacking into my bare hands.

The old ways are the best. A real man feels the bite of a cold winter day, in an ice-fishing shack, while wearing his old work coveralls instead of a $600 snowsuit. 

The old clothes are the best, too.  Every five years, I need to remind myself to take my one suit out of the closet, just to reassure myself that it is still in style and still fits, sort of.

But even where it doesn’t fit, an old-style man knows that bigger is better, particularly when it applies to bellies, houses, trucks and tools. Loud is the only volume for voices, truck mufflers and parties. More is macho and “green” is the same as pink for real men.

A real man – a dinosaur man – does have feelings, though.  As the last male dinosaur, I feel that God wanted us to be Christian, and it is my duty to set anyone straight who thinks, wrongly, or who thinks that any other religion is acceptable.  I understand that the only definition of “gay’ is to be donned in that type of Christmas apparel, or to be happy.

I feel that it is unkind to talk with someone about her feelings, since that will only make her feel those feelings more.  A dinosaur should never talk about his or his partner’s feelings.

If a dinosaur man should never discuss his feelings (unless he feels that politicians are asses or feels that his football team is the best in the world), then he should, most certainly, never use Twitter to tell everyone that “OMG, I just did (this, or did that). Because everyone really shouldn’t care!  And, if Twitter is taboo, then Face Book is, too.  Unless it is used to show hilarious and embarrassing photos of friends. 

Although I want to be the last male dinosaur, modern living has forced me to make some concessions.  I still want to do another Dukes of Hazard car jump (but, this time, not in my Prius). I still can pull a fish out of the lake (so long as I do not have to bait the hook or kill a worm to do it).  Today, though, I put it back in the water, because it has the right to live. This autumn, I want to go deer hunting with my old best friend from my teenage years, but I will bring a camera instead of a gun. That way, I will not have to look into the brown, pained eyes of the dying buck as it kicks its last kick. To celebrate my spectacular shooting, I intend to eat a huge steak, but I hope that I never actually have to kill the steer that provided a slab of its flesh for me to gnaw on.

I do want to be the last male dinosaur, but I want to be a more modern fossil.  I want to improve me, and to teach my children and my grandchildren that a real dinosaur can be contemporary.

I will always stand up to the bully that is harassing someone weaker than he, and teach him the lesson that a real man doesn’t abuse someone else.

I love to see my sons hold the door open for a woman, not because she can’t do it herself, but because he wants to show consideration and deference to her. 

It is important to show my grandkids that we old dinosaurs were wrong when they looked after our greed, at the expense of others’ need.

I will learn from my son that any decent man always considers others’ feelings to be important, not his own.

Even though this modern dinosaur is an atheist, I want you to know that I believe that God may or may not exist, but who am I to judge those who believe differently than I do?

As the last dinosaur, I am surprised to learn that “gay” really is a great word for homosexual behaviour, if that really is what makes that person happy.  I also am amazed to I know that I accept that he or she is just as good a person or friend, whether he is gay or straight.

It brings a warm feeling to my heart to know that all of my children will help someone in need, even when it is inconvenient for them.  It is astonishing to know that this small dinosaur brain can absorb these new concepts.

In accepting that new concepts are not bad concepts, I will use Twitter to learn about a wonderful new idea or way of doing things, and to share my thoughts with others, who may enlighten me further. Then, I will sign on to my FaceBook account to communicate by hearing, not talking. 

Enlightened thinking allows this male fossil to understand my partner’s feelings better, and to get in touch with my own, so that I can be a better person.

I feel, for example, that responsible, considerate consumption is every man’s duty.

I am learning that we should treat everyone with the respect they deserve, and appreciate even the little things that this world offers – the pleasant and the unpleasant, too. 

And it brings me to tears to see prejudice, injustice, unfairness and inconsideration in any form, against any person.

I am, truly, the last male dinosaur.  Just colour me purple and call me Barney.

I Would Never Fight For My Country

I would never fight for my country.  There is no speck of soil, no fabric of flag and no bogus border that is worth shedding blood, taking a life, maiming another human. Such treasonous beliefs speak, for many, of a coward.

You are free to call me such.  I am now older, having seen the bulk of my years pass by, in a country where I can boast of freedoms and rights, privileges and advantages not afforded the majority of this earth.  Yet, I reiterate: I would not fight for my country now, nor would I have done so in my youth.    

Worldwide wars have been fought to claim turf, expand territory and assert proclaimed rights to new boundaries.  Millions have died in defence of a flag, in promotion of a religious cause, to spread a political ideology.  Man has fought and killed neighbours and friends, in the name of supporting another friend, or to pre-empt an anticipated attack or invasion.  Lies have been told, to woo the masses to follow the thrust of attack, to support the cause.  Merely desecrating a flag, insulting a leader or religious icon or denigrating a belief have been justifications for death and legitimized murder.

Yet, I have fought.  One on one, one on many.  I have fought thousands of times, sometimes for sport, sometimes to assist a friend, sometimes in the line of work.  So why would I refuse to fight for my country?

Warfare, in years long ago, was honourable.  There were no incidents of “friendly fire.”  There was always a righteous reason to do battle, made more righteous through victory.  There was no question that there was a moral side, and an immoral one. Gore and hideous wounds and slow painful deaths were remote, removed from our sensibilities.  We knew that communism was wrong, that oppressive colonizers (or rebellious colonies) should be thrust aside (or repressed), that dictators should be punished, that borders should be defended.  No media coverage tainted the purity of our battles.

Modern warfare meets none of the criteria for honour and dignity.  Our own forces commit immoral acts against prisoners of war and, more horrifically, against innocent women and children.  The moral high ground is capitulated, when mercenary aims become apparent.  The bright light of the camera illuminates atrocities initiated by our own allies.  Billions of dollars are redirected from humanitarian needs to fight war.  Politicians engage us in unjust undertakings, feeding us false information to garner our support, operate based on their own biases, and seek ways to line their pockets through unwarranted wars.

Yet, we judge the rest of the world, and find it flawed, according to our standards.  Our response? To force our will upon others, less illuminated than we are.

Public poll upon public poll reveal that we – the vast majority of us citizens – don’t agree with our government’s policies and practices.  Our civilization is corrupted by narcissistic greed, class disparity and corruption.  Those of us north of the 49th parallel look to the USA, and cannot fathom that, a mere forty-five years ago, blacks were considered less than human.  Yet, in our own nation, the residential school fiasco and Indian forced assimilation practices created our own unique world of racist values. Poverty is the hallmark of the disenfranchised – disenfranchised because of policies that denied opportunity for equality to millions.

The world looks to the west as the epitome of opportunity, yet hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are victimized by crime each year; millions in the USA. Murder is commonplace, and cities crumble as the American dream of home ownership is throttled.  We decry our wasted tax dollar, and demand more services than ever before.  We struggle to climb the socio-economic ladder, trodding on those less fortunate as we climb.

So why would I fight for my country?  I repeat: I would not.

Yet, I am fiercely proud of the society in which I live.  It is not a world of artificial borders and synthetic governments, however.  It is a world of people of every belief, each granted the right to hold those beliefs, in a country where the right to one’s opinion is engrained.  It is a venue where we see our flaws, and struggle, each day, to become better.  It is an environment where we are not only encouraged to be better, but are provided with the opportunity to learn and grow, and contribute to the growth of this planet.  It is a society where the individual matters, but each individual has a duty to care for those around him – the less fortunate and the blessed.  It is a culture that says that we can resent differences, abhor values that we view as unworthy, speak emphatically against ways of life and styles or mannerisms that we reject. Yet, it is a civilization in which we, in our hearts, would not trade away or relinquish the rights of others to look and be different, would not want our cultural diversity diluted, would not allow any of our neighbours to be deprived of choice and freedom, would not want a country where each of us was less than equivalent (yet not precisely equal) to every other citizen.

No, our country is not great.  Our country is not worth fighting for.  It is the people within those artificially immutable boundaries for whom I would fight.  I would fight for their right to choice, for their right to freedom.  I would lay down my life to fight for the right to embrace the world of differences that is our great nation.  No, I would not fight for my country, nor for the flag.  But I would breathe my last breath to defend my friends and neighbours, and their right to not be me, to not think like me, to not agree with me.

My country is not defined by a shoreline, or latitude and longitude.  It is defined by the wonderful collage of Canadians, from every corner of the world.  And it is this country of which I am proud, and would gladly defend.