Archives for the month of: July, 2017

Warning: reading, thinking and writing about sexual abuse for four days straight could bring on some sort of general malaise. And here’s three reasons why….

1 – The numbers are staggering:

1 in 3 females and 1 in 5 males will be sexually assaulted in some way by the age of 18

3 out of 5 victims are threatened or physically coerced

90% of the time, the aggressor is someone the child knows

1 sex offender will abuse as many as 120 kids, unless yer a Jimmy Savile, who abused about 450

57% of First Nations women have been sexually assaulted in Canada

40% of children disclose being sexually assaulted

85% of the 1.5 million runaways in the USA are fleeing some form of abuse

2 – The judicial systems are often reprehensible in how they handle sexual abuse:

In Canada just three years ago, a judge asked a 19 year old female who had been raped over a bathroom sink at a house party, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” and then, not only acquitted the offender but, told him that he needed to tell his male friends to protect themselves and be careful…

Also in Canada, another judge let an offender go free even after his admission of guilt; because the judge could not believe that the victim didn’t say or do anything about the abuse for 9 years…

In Texas, there was a recent story of a judge who granted probation to an abuser because he said that the stigma the guy would have to live with as a registered sex offender was enough punishment, this after the offender admitted to raping his sister…

In the USA, Latvia and Belgium, to name a few, there are stories of Government officials, police and judges, who shut down investigations into pedophile rings, try to cover up evidence or give lenient sentences to offenders…

In some countries there are no laws prohibiting rape, child marriage or sexual assault, or there are laws that end up punishing the victims…

In the USA, child marriage is permitted in some states with reports of 10 year-old girls being married off to 31 year-old men, even though the legal age of consensual sex is 16…

And of course, who can forget the case of the Stanford swimmer, given a lenient six month sentence for rape because ‘alcohol had impaired his judgement’… he was let out after three months…..

And 3 – the ‘culture’ is more than a bit mind-boggling:

That there is a culture with overt or covert organizations is mind boggling enough. That it seems to be an open-secret is not…

Back in 2007, the FBI released logos they say pedophiles use(d) to covertly identify and recognize sexual preferences, with a small pink heart spiralled inside a larger one representing ‘girllover’, a small blue triangle spiralled inside a larger one representing ‘boylover’, and a variation of the boylover one to represent a ‘littleboy lover”…

There was a Dutch association that advocated for the social acceptance of pedophilia and the legalization of sexual relationships between adults and children, which was only dissolved in 2014…

There are stories of people being born into pedophile rings, with a woman who goes by the name of Kendall describing how she was born to be a sex slave (as in, that is why her parents conceived and gave birth to her), who then birthed three children of her own that were taken away from her because pedophiles bought them…

Kendall also spoke about the parties, the drugs and the sick games that the pedophiles engaged in, like hunting down children on an island and forcing children to sexually abuse or otherwise hurt each other…

There are tales of children being used, abused and killed in so-called satanic rituals…

There are accounts of religious orders covering up cases of sexual abuse, with one of the most notorious cover-ups being the Canadian Indian Residential School System…

As much as the mainstream media and alternative media cover these stories, there is still a lot of silence around the sexual abuse of children. Whether it’s victims not reporting it to parents or police for years or ever, or the abusers who ‘deny, deny, deny’, or the family and friends who don’t know what to do or say.

Yet, sexual violence permeates Western culture; from TV shows, movies, news and social media that normalize it on a daily basis, to sexist dress codes that reinforce rape culture. And this Western culture has been hell-bent on blaming the female for what happens to her against her will. It has been as easy as saying words out loud. That is all it takes to throw out a red-herring, cast a shadow of doubt or smear someone. At least, it works for rich politicians, entertainers and the like.

There are stories of pedophile-rings all over the world, that all seem to involve government officials, religious leaders, wealthy elite and famous people. It is plausible that what appear to be conspiracy theories and fake news have more than some truth to them. The people involved are smart and they’re rich, they have the means and would do whatever it takes to keep something like their pedophiliac-inclinations from mainstream knowledge.

What is truly mind-boggling is that people in positions of power and authority, people who can actually make a difference and above all else, as adults, are supposed to be there to protect the vulnerable, are the ones partaking in the damaging behaviour AND also enabling and perpetuating the horrors on children. But pedophiles and sexual abusers don’t actually see their victims as ‘people’, let alone children, the victims are merely objects to aid in physical and sexual gratification.

The blatant disregard and disrespect reminds me of Dumbo… when the circus clowns are putting the elephant in increasingly more dangerous situations and someone has the forethought to say “don’t hurt the little guy”… and another clown responds that elephants can’t get hurt because they’re made of rubber…

And it reminds me of what happened after school one day when I was 6, when a pedophile lured me off my quaint suburban street and did what he did. Afterwards, when he was pushing me out the door, he said that if I told anyone about it, everyone would know I was bad, and then he was going to have to kill my family and then he would kill me.

Thankfully, like Dumbo, I learned to fly. There is hope and help out there for victims and survivors of sexual abuse. And it must be said that there is help out there for abusers too. I dunno where I stand on punishment for the perpetrators. I learned many years after the fact that my father and his friends doled out vigilante justice all over the suburban pedophile, and while I understood the gesture, there were mixed feelings. In my book, while all actions should have consequences, an eye for an eye is just gonna leave everyone blind.

The Buddha asked that none of his belongings be made into relics, yet there are stupa’s all over Asia with bits and pieces of him in them. He also asked that no images or statues be made of him, yet people are rubbing his belly for good luck the world over. Buddhism has an interesting take on that I suppose.

En tout cas, for some reason that bit of religious study pops into my head when I think about sexism, feminism and gender. Or when I think about the general disrespect to and by women. Because no where does it state that women are not equal to men and should therefore be treated as ‘less than’, who have to earn or fight for the same equal rights as a man. I checked.

After wandering for days, musing on how to work with these concepts and constructs and come up with something that hasn’t been said before, I came across this and just thought, ­”yup”.

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It feels like it’s that simple. It doesn’t work this way, but wouldn’t it be great if upon being born, everyone was given the same respect and rights regardless of what was between their legs?

Interesting how the whole gender equality gap and such is only ever going to be ‘solved’ through the effort of all sides.  The whole “he for she” goes both ways. It’s all about respect. To help get in the mood, check out these songs. Because it is that simple.

Revolutionary Generation, Public Enemy – Fear of A Black Planet (1990)

This song from 1990 was way ahead of it’s time and is far as can be from the misogny associated with hip-hop.

Same Love, Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert – The Heist (2012)

Bold support of gay equality with pretty music and smart lyrics.

– I Believe, Stevie Wonder – Talking Book (1972)

Because. It’s Stevie. Wonder. … and cuz he never had to use the b-word to get his point across.

• PS •

– Behold A Lady, OutKast – The Love Below (2003)

Part of Andre3000’s Love Below, an ode to women and why they should be treated with respect.

enigma300ppiThe Enigma: There’s No Shine Like Mothers @wredfish

No doubt about it, we humin beans done been here a long time now. So long, that it feels like racism should have passed its “best before date”. Since there’s still so much racism everywhere, there are obviously a lot of racists out there. So, what’s it like being racist? Like, if someone is basing their discrimination on a stereotype, how many people outside that stereotype would it take to prove the stereotype wrong? It’s not one or two, so how many? What if 70% of the First Nations one passed on any given day weren’t “drunk and lazy”, would that be enough to put that stereotype to rest? And if one passed ten First Nations’ people and two of them were drunk and one was lazy, is that all it takes to make a stereotype and get some hatred going?

It can’t be easy to be a racist… to be afraid of people simply because of the colour of their skin… to feel threatened and scared because someone in their vicinity is different from them… to always feel angry, to always feel a burning hatred in the belly of their brain… to basically feel like who they are and what they are is based on the colour of their skin. That’s gotta suck.

There was that one time I was on the cusp of being racist. And it did suck. It happened during second year of university when I was researching First Nations’ education and came across the Residential School System. At the time I was still learning about all things native after finding out I had official “Indian” status and could carry a card to prove it. Being adopted (**) by a non-native family at the age of 8mths, I grew up in “white” middle-class suburbia with three older brothers and spent my formative years pretending I was a little boy like them. Anyhow, learning about the residential schools was shocking, and the more I read about how the students were treated the angrier I became. I became angry with my parents as I associated them with the white ruling class who were responsible for what happened to my native ancestors. And before long I started feeling angry in general, towards every white person.

As luck would have it though, I ran into my high school history teacher one night while I was out. He was that one teacher who made school bearable, who made learning Canadian history fun and interesting at a time when I didn’t care to learn anything. We were ‘friends’, as much as a student and teacher could be ‘friends’. He knew my brothers, he had met my parents somehow, and he was funny. So when I saw him that night, I laid into him without so much as a hello. “You never taught us about the residential school system! You never taught us about what really happened to the First Nations! What kind of teacher are you?” I railed at him. I dunno what else I ranted but he finally put his hand up and said “Eh, oh. Lemme tell you a story.” And he proceeded to tell me about how he had been up for a Rhodes Scholarship back in the day. Only the most prestigious award one could get as a student. He was actually offered the scholarship by the Rhodes selection committee, “if”, they said, he would take out all the references of what really happened to the First Nations in the paper he had submitted with his application. He said no, so they threw his paper in the trashcan and he didn’t get the scholarship.

When he finished telling the story, he looked at me with sad droopy eyes and said that he had wanted to teach me the truth, but he had to teach the curriculum. And just like that, all the anger I had been projecting at a group of people based soley on the colour of their skin, dissipated. I was flooded with memories of how my family had shown again and again that they were not racist, and I knew they didn’t even know about the residential school system, and then I remembered Dr Bryce, and of course, the Underground Railroad. Dr Peter Bryce was a non-native guy, hired by the Department of Indian Affairs in 1907 to report on the health conditions of the Residential School System in western Canada. He was the first to report that First Nations’ children were dying at alarming rates from tuberculosis, amongst other things. He suggested a few easy and cheap ways to prevent the deaths but his report was not only ignored, it was suppressed. The government didn’t want anything to change as the First Nations children were dying off fast and this would help solve the ‘Indian problem’. As a civil servant of the Government, he was legally prevented from doing or saying anything publicly, thus Dr Bryce waited until his contract was over in 1922 and then published his report as a book, condemning the treatment of the First Nations by the government. So, yeah, I know that not every white person is racist and I knew it back then, but still I found myself confused by the overwhelming emotions that had me looking at everybody with scorn and anger and disdain.

Maybe it’s easy to ask “how can someone be racist?” with an incredulous tone, but the seeds are everywhere. I was lucky that in my vulnerable state I had a chance meeting with someone I respected who was able to understand and respect my anger. But not everyone is that lucky. I could easily have crossed paths with someone who could have fueled the feelings of discontent and might have ended up in a very different place. So, the problem is not just that there is racism, the problem is how do we get rid of it in a way that doesn’t cause chaos? And how do we live with what Nina Simone angrily lamented in Mississippi Goddam, that it’s going to be “too slow”?

Racism is like an illness that won’t disappear overnight. Realistically, it’s going to take years, like reconciliation with the First Nations. Buuut, we can help it along. We can keep looking to the arts and the artists, who have been breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes for years. We seem to be strongly influenced by our media and our arts, which is why movies like “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”, “Do The Right Thing” and “Straight Outta Compton” are so powerful and important. Along with television shows like Degrassi, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Dear White People, they make us uncomfortable; they push boundaries, create new status quos and force people to look at themselves introspectively. We need to see the so-called minorities in the mainstream media rather than just in the news, to see them on television shows, just doing what they do rather than being a designated stereotype. We need to stop the whitewashing.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel either. I think most racists have been denied the truth and that’s caused a lot of negative feelings that they didn’t have to be carrying around. It’s not their fault and they deserve a chance to know and see the truth, and if after that they still wanna be racist, well… But holy crap if there’s actually going to be a race war! Cuz there’s a whole lotta people out there who wouldn’t know which side to be on, like me. I’m Ojibwa, Cree, Norwegian and French. Plus I don’t wanna ‘fight’ anyone because of the colour of their skin or mine. I don’t want to fight, pointe finale… Reminds me of that saying, what if they held a war and nobody came?

** PS: my apologies as it is not clear… I am what some call a Native Adoptee – not one of the sixties/seventies scoop babies. Both my biological parents were of First Nations ancestry – one Ojibewa and one Cree, going back (many) generations there is French on one side and Norwegian on the other, and there is some Scottish in there as well but I’m not sure where… I was given up at the age of 6mths, and adopted by my parents at 8 mths. They were told I was either Cherokee or Blackfoot so I referred to myself as a Cherryfoot. It was only at the age of 18 yrs that I learned which nation I was and that I had ‘official’ Native Status.  – August 17

Food. Glorious food. How I love it. I love toasted old grain bread generously covered in peanut butter with banana slices and a ‘lil bit o’honey drizzled over top. I love veggie burgers with cheese, lettuce, pickle and tomato, and I love love LOVE Montreal bakery bagels – do NOT ask me to choose a fav as I love Fairmount and St Viateur and St Lo with the même intensité. Yet, my relationship with food has been… convoluted. I’m no ‘foodie’ by any means, as I tend to see it as a way to not starve more than anything else, but I do like to enjoy not starving. I never really thought about it while I was growing up … you know, you have the same diet as your family for the most part, even if it includes lima beans. So, if they eat meat, you eat meat… even liver… even if it makes you want to vomit. I was actually so suburbanly naive; I didn’t know there were other diets available until I was in high school. It was only at the age of 15, working kitchen staff at a sleep-away summer camp, when I began to take control of what I was eating. A bit of an idealist back then, I became one of those “I don’t eat animals cuz they’re cute and I love them” vegetarians. Buuuuuut, I would eat spaghetti with meat sauce and spit out the meat whilst wearing leather kicks….

Now that I am so much older, and three years into my fourth attempt at some sort of vegetarian diet, I have realized there are many factors to consider when it comes to food. . . maybe too many factors. This past week’s research has been overwhelming, and somewhat paralyzing in terms of actually eating. And I dunno how far below the surface I’ve scratched. I knew some stuff, about pig farms and the methane seepage, inhumane treatment of animals, exploitation/etc of workers, and that almonds need a LOT of water. But now I know about how much conflicting info there is about GM foods, and I read about Asian workers basically being held captive on American fishing boats, who work 20 hours a day and are paid $6000 a year (compared to the $28k Americans make doing the same work). I read of a myriad of food fraud instances, such as how ground coffee has been cut with sawdust and ground acorns and roasted corn, how honey has been thinned with beet sugar and corn syrup and some antibiotic called chloramphenicol which is linked to fatal bone marrow disease, and of how a lot of what people are told is tuna is in fact some fish called escolar, or what is referred to as the ‘ex-lax fish’ because of the gastro havoc it causes and that said fish has been banned in China for the past 40 years due to its’ toxicity. I read that most of us have actually probably never tasted ‘real’ pure olive oil because the majority of what’s on the market has been mixed with soy or peanut oil; that baby food is cut with cement and chalk dust; that sugar has been laced with fertilizer; and, that, apparently, criminal organizations are targeting the food market, intercepting the supply chain and deliberately altering the food, to their monetary benefit of course.

Phew! As I write this, the least I can say is that it has left me hungry, as I dunno what to eat anymore. The advice frequently given by ‘experts’ is to buy at farmers markets, ask where the food came from and read the labels, looking for the ‘trusted’ logos and such. But with all the different issues, it feels as though I would need a cross referenced list of every thing I need to take into consideration, look for and ask. I don’t ask much of my food really, I just want to eat healthy and feel good, both physically and conscientiously. I don’t expect that my veggie burger is going to taste like the hamburgers I used to enjoy, but I do expect it to be made of what it says in the list of ingredients and that the company who made it treats their employees, and ingredients, with respect. I don’t want to be eating ‘blood cashews’ that drug addicts in Vietnam are being forced to shell, I don’t want to eat broccoli that has a massive carbon footprint because it was imported by plane or boat from thousands of miles away, and I don’t want to eat animals that have been confined to spaces so small they can’t stand up, lie down or turn around. I want to eat food that has been picked by workers who aren’t falling ill due to the sprayed herbicides and are getting fair wages, I want to eat food that isn’t going to give me cancer or otherwise make me sick, and I want to eat food that’s agriculturally sustainable. I also want to eat food that isn’t going to cause me to go into debt to purchase.

Truth is I’m a bit selfish, so giving up the life I have and moving to a farm and spending all day, every day, tending to food is not a viable option. I doubt I’m alone in wanting to shirk the responsibility of having to till the land, plant the seeds, water, weed, de-bug, harvest and only then getting to enjoy the fruits of the labour. Nor do we want to have to clear the land, build fences and stalls, get the animals, feed and otherwise take care of said animals, then slaughter ‘em when it’s time to bring home the bacon. Unlike other creatures, many of whom seem to exist to eat and procreate, and eat solely to exist and procreate, we humans want to do other things… like post pictures of our food on social media.

As eating 100% healthy, ethically and sustainably is pretty much impossible without buying the farm, the best advice I came across is to make food choices that align with one’s personal values, and to prioritize those. Because even though we may share some values, what’s important to one person is not going to be universal. Even amongst those who have similar diet preferences. For instance, I could be seen as a bit of a contradiction as I don’t eat any animal or dairy products except for eggs; I will kill those tiny flies n’skeeters that wander into my home or land on my body but can’t stand the thought of animals being killed; and I eat avocados on a regular basis, even though they may be associated with drug cartels and deforestation in Mexico, which I am against. Also, I live by the adage that anything is possible. For me, that includes the possibility that plants and trees could have as much consciousness as animals, albeit in a different way. I just figure if ‘experts’ got it wrong so many years ago regarding the world being flat, amongst other things, it’s possible the experts today don’t have the ability to detect the secret life of plants. En tout cas, I’ve realized that, like food activist and author Lierre Keith said: “There is nothing you can eat that doesn’t involve death. For something to live, something else has to die. Our only choices are the death that’s a part of life, or the death that’s killing the planet”. I choose life.

There might always be those who are more interested in making money than the health and safety of other beings or the planet. And the extent of what they will do to get that money could be pretty depraved. I have no doubt criminal organizations could be destroying the environment and playing with lives, just as I have no doubt that governments could be doing the same thing. Whether it’s through the lack of regulations, actively trying to find ingredients to put in foods that could help control the people or the population, or through the propaganda we’re force fed from an early age. Food is big money, in the USA alone $3trillion was spent on food in 2016. We are all consumers and we’re all affected by what goes on in the food industry to some extent. And if our food production isn’t sustainable, it won’t matter if one is vegetarian or not.

So now, I’ve adopted a traditionally Buddhist trait, which is to eat whatever is put before me, to a certain extent – I won’t eat lobster, or lima beans, or liver to name a few foods. (Buddhists are vegetarian but when monks wander with alms bowls, they eat whatever is put in them with much gratitude). It started last year at a dinner where there were no vegetarian options – everything had pork, chicken and beef in it. Exhausted, after working 5 straight 12-14 hour days with little food, my body did not object to the consumption of plates full of said pork, beef and chicken. And rather surprisingly, my mind did not object either. I believe all I could think about was how delicious it was and how grateful I was. My conscience wasn’t thrilled but I didn’t beat myself up over it. Since then, I’ve only been in a similar situation twice, anne frankly simply enjoyed the food.

In a world where there may or may not be any absolute truths, there are those who believe they know what is right and will try to convince others of their truths. I have no problem admitting I don’t know what the right thing is when it comes to food. I know what I like and after all this research feel like I know more about the food industry, but also can’t help but think how blissful ignorance is. For now, I have made a few changes, such as only buying eggs that come from free range chicken farms – they cost twice the price but they do taste better and it has alleviated much of the ethical dilemma I felt over eating them for the all-important B12 vitamin; I’m also reading labels differently, looking for places of origin and logos that are said to be associated with ensuring the product is what it says it is; and I’ve switched to free trade whole coffee beans. It’s a start and as Lao Tzu said: “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

Little changes may not seem like much as we figure out how to balance our ethical, environmental and political concerns with our desire to be physically healthy in this crazy world, but it reminds me of the story of the hummingbird. In the story, there’s a forest fire from which all the animals had fled. As they sat by the edge of a stream, watching the fire rage, feeling helpless and sad, they noticed a hummingbird fly over the fire and let a single drop of water fall. Then they watched as it returned to the stream, dip its beak in the water and fly back over the fire to let another drop of water fall again. The scared animals watched the tiny hummingbird do this for hours, murmuring how small the creature was, commenting how useless it was, until finally the bear boomed, “Hummingbird! What do you think you are doing?” The hummingbird hovered above the water for a moment and replied “I’m doing what I can”.

* according to the FDA (Federal Department of Agriculture in the USA): a 16oz jar of peanut butter can legally contain up to 136 insect fragments and four rodent hairs.