Tag Archives: Empathy

The Culture of Me

There’s a disturbing trend that’s seemingly reaching every corner of the globe. A veritable tidal wave of populism, nationalism (particularly of the white variety), and protectionism is crashing down on the United States, the United Kingdom, and yes, even here in Canada.
At the root of the problem seems to be this notion that it’s every person for themselves That somehow if only everyone else would just get their shit together that everything would be okay. There are myriad problems with this attitude, but the first thing I notice it is that it does a wonderful job of highlighting a person’s privilege. There’s this attitude of, I’m okay, so why aren’t you okay? I got what I wanted, sorry about your luck, with an implied or sometimes even whisper-spoken “sucker” tacked onto the end.

Is this what we’ve become?

There’s a hole blown in the middle and everyone seems to have been forced to one side or the other, ready and primed to vote for the candidate who promises the loudest and with the most fervor that not only will you get dinner before sex but you’ll get a cigarette after as well. One thing is certain, someone is getting screwed and you don’t have to be a member of the party “for the people” or a very stable genius to figure out who.
True to my prediction in my last post, Doug Ford (a.k.a. Trump North, Trump Lite) took power in the province of Ontario and true to form he and his supporters have been wreaking havoc and showing their true colours. For the uninitiated, Doug Ford is the equivalent of a state governor (though how he got there is a little different and how the government behaves is a little different as well). Presently, he’s invoking the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document in which there is a bevy of rights bestowed to all the citizens of the Great White North. 
By Marc Lostracci [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
via Wikimedia Commons
However, in order to get the damn thing ratified back in 1982, there was a notwithstanding clause added. This allows a federal or provincial government to essentially override the Charter for some (but not all) of its guarantees. If invoked, it only applies for five years (during which time there will be an election) but it can be re-invoked after that indefinitely. Québec has invoked it a whack of times, but they were never on board with the Charter in the first place. 
In Ford’s case, a judge ruled that he violated a section of the Charter and that his legislation was therefore unconstitutional. He’s invoking the notwithstanding clause to get around the ruling he doesn’t like for legislation that no one voted on and he never even mentioned once on his campaign. You would think that if a citizen’s rights were being stripped it would be over something pretty egregious. You would think it would only be used in extraordinary circumstances. In #DoFo‘s case, you would be wrong. He wants to reduce the city council in Toronto by almost half – weeks before an election. Say what you want about the judge that ruled that by doing this he is violating a section of the Charter, using the notwithstanding clause to override this decision is akin to using a sledgehammer to drive a thumbtack into a sponge. 
In other words, he’s being a colossal ass hat. 
On top of that, he has promised to use the clause at every opportunity in the future. The clause shouldn’t even be a thing and should never be used. But, since it is and since it does, it should be used in the rarest of occasions. Is the size of Toronto’s city counsel extraordinary? Not even close. Do Ford or any of his lackey members of parliament care? Nope. They’re getting what they want and t’hell with the rest of you. If you are part of the 60% of those who voted (and the 75% of the total electorate) who didn’t want anything to do with them, I have a newsflash. They don’t care about you, and they sure as shit don’t care about your rights and freedoms.
As everyone knows, down in the U.S. it’s worse. You can’t even go 48-hours without hearing about how some level of government is abusing their power and giving a large portion of the population the shaft. For cryin’ in the sink, the Senate is all set to confirm a Supreme Court judge FOR LIFE who likely perjured himself during the confirmation hearings! For the love of God, I can’t figure out how anyone is okay with any of this, let alone millions of people.
Kevin McCoy [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Speaking of God, religion always seems to make its way into these conversations at some point, with those using The Good Book as a defense all trigger happy and ready to whip out a selection of examples that “prove” their point. 
Well, I can do that, too:

  • “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
  • “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7
  • “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
  • “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Galatians 5:14

Funny how you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the bible verses they cherry pick. And people wonder why atheism is growing at such a fast rate? When did caring about your neighbours become a bad thing? When did experiencing happiness over another person’s success give way to resentment? When did selfishness become the norm? When did we start allowing ourselves to be governed by such ineffectual, petty swindlers?

Shealah Craighead [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
By Andre Forget – Andrew Scheer
[CC0] via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve recently joined several Facebook groups dedicated to my immediate community. It’s a small village of a few thousand that sits within a bigger city of over a hundred thousand that sits within a bigger region of close to half a million people. These groups provide links to garage sales, buy or trade opportunities, local businesses, share success stories of the people that live within a few kilometers of me, give alerts to petty crime and other activities of concern, and are generally used as a forum to connect people who already share a small geographic space.

At first, the only posts I noticed were the ones that made me feel good about the community I choose to call home. After a while, however, it became clear that there will always be those who either don’t care, are ignorant (willfully or otherwise), or are generally insensitive and unempathetic toward anyone that doesn’t fit their specific definition of a model citizen. The bad news is those people tend to be loud. The good news is they also appear to be in the minority.
So, I’ll be doing my part in these groups to hopefully return the notion of being neighbourly to the mainstream consciousness, at least locally, but if you want an example of a community doing this on a larger scale, look no further than the Bangor Maine Police Department on Facebook. They are a shining example of community and compassion and if even a few people from all our neighbourhoods took a page out of their book we’d all be better off.
~ Andrew

Heavy Petting

This post should have been titled “The Magical Healing Powers of Domesticated Animals” but it just didn’t have the same Zing! to it so I apologize for using the snappier clickbait title that’s sure to illicit page views from horny teenagers who just aren’t quite ready to take their relationships to the next step.

The bartender from the kids’ ski lessons, Brianna (who factored into the post So I Stopped Wearing Socks almost a year ago) suggested the topic for this week and after my fat cat ripped open my finger with one of his claws I’ve decided to run with it.

In spite of all the blood drawn “playing” with their owners, pets of all kinds seem to have magical healing powers for their humans that cure of all sorts of ailments, particularly depression. Now, this isn’t a paper for a scientific journal or even a topic I’ve done any particular research for but it is somewhat interesting because I will swear up and down that I hate cats – but I’m not completely sure I do.

A little back story:

I never had a pet growing up but in my latter high school years my dad finally caved and allowed the family to get a dog. He was the cutest little red cocker spaniel and we named him Chester. In terms of intelligence, well, let’s just say he was the cutest little red cocker spaniel you’ve ever seen. I was only home for a couple years before leaving for university and my pet days were over. Fast forward to the early days of marriage and my wife really wanted a cat. Through a strange sequence of events we ended up keeping a couple cats that we were only supposed to be watching for a couple months. Through other events I won’t get into one of those cats is no longer with us, and after moving 6 hours away from home we ended up at the Humane Society picking up Oliver to keep the one cat we had left “from being lonely in the new house”.

Oliver had a giant scratch on his eyeball when we bought him and while that may have made some of us feel sorry for him. What it should have done was make it clear as day that this little bugger was a scrapper. Nevertheless we have had Oliver since 2006 and most of our furniture and carpet is still in tact.

In 2011, having gone through countless Bandaids for fingers, toes, and feet that Oliver had “playfully attacked” I suffered a pretty serious concussion. So serious, in fact, that my doctors told me that the next head injury could be my last one. In spite of my desire to behave normally I still got to spend weeks on the couch staring at nothing but a blank wall in a darkened room.

There is one day in particular that I remember vividly (one of the very few vivid memories I have of that time) and it ended up being a good day, thanks to my vicious claw ninja cat. There I was staring at my wall for the umpteenth day in a row and I was feeling pretty depressed about the whole thing. The traumatic brain injury was taking its toll and my emotions were becoming more and more difficult to control. It was scary, and I didn’t know when it would get better, if it ever would.

At that moment, just as the tears started to flow and blur the clock on the beige living room wall, my fat cat Oliver hopped up on to the couch; walked between my feet; stepped on my crotch – twice; kneaded my torso with his razor sharp talons; spun in two complete circles; plopped his hefty frame down with his little furry chin and smells-like-ass cat breath inches from face; closed his eyes; and started to purr. Suffice it to say this was not a common occurrence. In fact, in the 5+ years in which we had owned this cat he had never once shown me this much affection – and it was just what the doctor ordered.

It’s funny how that seems to work out, and I don’t mean funny “ha ha” or funny “strange” so much as I mean funny “interesting”. For all the levels of intellectual complexity that humans possess, when it comes to empathy our little feline and canine friends have us beat a thousand times over. This is an area that has been studied many times over and the results are clear: having a pet is good for your health.

Having a dog was nice when I didn’t have any responsibilities and there was my parents and siblings to look after it. As an adult I think it’s just one big hassle. As for cats, I’ve never been a fan of their attitude or having to clean up their damn litter boxes. That being said, when the world looks like it’s working against you both of those creatures will be by your side, no questions asked, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Now, some two and a half years after that post-concussion afternoon, The Fat One waits patiently on the couch for my laptop to get put away and an episode of Breaking Bad to begin so he can assume his rightful position lying on my chest, purring. I only wish it weren’t a coin toss over which end of his I preferred to have facing me.

~ Andrew