Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nevertheless, She Persisted


Anyone else still seething after watching Kirsten Powers shut down a CNN colleague over calling US Senator Kamala Harris “hysterical”? Watch the original interaction here and judge for yourself how “hysterical” Senator Harris was.

Ms Harris is not unstable nor at loose with a wandering womb, she is a well-educated, focused and intelligent Senator who was not only the first woman attorney general in California but the first Jamaican American, the first Asian American, the first Indian American and the first African American attorney general in California. Listen to her questions. She is not attacking Attorney General Sessions with loose founded accusations but asking questions like the dogged prosecutor she once was. Jeff Sessions, in turn, acts like the affronted southern gentleman who cannot understand  a simple question but then who wily tries to obfuscate the hearings by answering Senator Harris’ questions with tangential meanderings.

Hysteria was a 19th century medical term given to women who, among other things, had a “tendency to cause trouble”.

It is a term used today to shut women down.

Similar to how Senator Elizabeth Warren was told to “be quiet” after trying to read aloud a letter written by Coretta Scott King about, ironically, Jeff Sessions.

To me it is in the same vein as men calling women “girls”. In 2013 I blogged about this when I did a short stint as a sales clerk in a hardware store. I saw how guys didn’t like it when I turned the tables. I wrote: Last month at my day job, a twenty year old young man wished me and two other women, all three of us at least twice his age, a goodnight. He said: G’night girls. I responded back: G’night boy. He did a double take; he hasn’t done it since.

Ask yourself why women employees are usually called girls while male workers are always referred to as “men”.

I know that some of you may be saying that this is unimportant in the big scheme of things. To which I argue, so violence against women is trivial? Calling a woman hysterical, telling them to be quiet or calling a work colleague a girl sets the stage for disrespect. Disrespect says: you are not enough as you are, you are not in control of your faculties, you are immature, not smart, able or creative enough to be heard. It reinforces the implicit hierarchy in our society that states females, no matter what age they may be, are somehow less than, not quite up to par or of needing male guidance.

Disrespect dishonours boundaries. It invites condescending and paternalistic behaviour.  Disrespect is the precursor for an unspoken violence that threatens and sometimes acts on physical abuse. Disrespect is contagious and insidious. How often have you heard women themselves call other women bitches just because they are assertive and show leadership? How often do we quietly internalize the patriarchal hierarchy and silence ourselves?

We need to remember Senator Mitch McConnell’s unintentional rallying cry to feminist everywhere when he tried to condescendingly defend the silencing of Senator Warren. He said: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Yes, let us not be shut down. Let us all persist.



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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Earth Before Us


I sit on the waterfront as the earth rotates before me. I’m not being metaphoric; the world truly does spin in front of my feet—albeit a granite facsimile of one. The one metre sphere, carefully etched with the seven continents, sits on a bed of pressurized water. It is a gift from Germany celebrating our nations' friendship. The result is a free floating globe that fascinates and provokes people of all ages.

As I watch some boys play on the globe’s granite foundation. They splash and press their fingers upon the polished surface, tracing the coastlines with curiousity and perhaps even some awe. Others press harder with boyish determination. Their goal is to make the world momentarily stop and begin rotating in a new direction upon some other unseen axis. Amazingly it works. It’s a remarkable gift these Germans have given.

I think about the state of the world’s affairs as I watch the playful antics of these children. How often have we witnessed, maybe even been a part of, the altering of the earth’s natural course? We have diverted waterways; blown holes through mountains and dug deep into the earth’s core for minerals. We have polluted our global home with an oil obsession and an addiction to smart phones; corporate farming and a careless use of plastics. From smog to oil spills; plastic wastes to radiation leaks we are succeeding—with no real hardship on our part—to alter our world. Some would say destroy.

The granite globe continues to spin. Its imaginary axis—adjusted by countless of kids imposing their will—pierces through the heart of Russia and Tierra del Fuego. The world would face a very different reality if this were true. Here in Vancouver we’d be experiencing what our northern cousins currently endure: the decay of permafrost and eroding coastlines; the warming of waters and negative impacts to local wildlife. Melting icecaps and rising water levels—island nations dying.

This is what happens when you alter the earth’s natural balance.

More kids have come and gone as I sit in the sun and watch, as they say, the world go by. The earth continues to spin but with erratic consistency. It all depends on who holds the power, you see, whose hands direct the flow. The makers of the granite globe say that when left untouched, the sphere will eventually rotate around the Earth’s natural axis, the one pointed towards the Polar Star. Homeostatis, if you will.

I have yet to see this happen—too many muddling hands on my watch—but I hope it is true. Gives me hope, metaphors aside, for the real planet Earth.


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Supermarket Rage



Visiting my local supermarket to buy a well-earned—I woke up that morning, didn’t I?— macaroon, I approached the bakery counter with delicious anticipation. I was in no hurry and began enjoying the wait created by an off-in-dreamland clerk behind the display case. He was a young guy, probably no more than seventeen, and had that geeky-gangly way of boys who have yet to fit in their bodies. He was facing towards me, only a few feet away, in fact, but was off in wonderland—maybe dreaming of sex, video games or sports, perhaps all three— while half-heartedly packing some cream puffs. I gave him time. Like I said, I was in no hurry. But it was more than just the leisurely pace I had set for myself that made me patient. I felt akin to him.

There have been times in my on and off retail career where the last thing I wanted to do was serve a customer. It usually arose apropos of nothing. It was more like my daily quota of being at another’s beck and call had been reached, that one more “how can I help you” would have put me over-the-edge, created an indictable situation where there would be no turning back, no forgiveness given; no wry smiles shared. The problem, of course, is that it’s my job; so what do I do?

Over the years I have created various strategies for this problem but I have found the simplest is just to pretend I don’t see the customer. This not only gives me time to compose myself but also takes a small iota of power back—I’m the one in charge of my time, thank you very much, I’ll serve you when I am darn well ready to. Sure, it’s slightly passive-aggressive but as running out of the store in a wild rampage is generally out of the question, I figure it’s the least of my trespasses.

With this in mind, I gave the young feller some time. Who am I to complain if he was utilizing one of my yet to patented strategies... all the power to him. And, even if he was just traversing galaxies, he was having a pleasant moment in a humdrum job. So be it.

Then I was joined by another patron.

He was a man about my age, dressed in suit, tie and a stick, likely placed where the sun don’t shine. He looked at the kid, then at me, and with a smirk layered with a healthy dose of sarcasm commented that there seemed to be no one working that day. I shrugged and said, give him time, he’ll be here soon enough. His response was to bang the bell and yell: Hey! Hey!

You don’t have to be rude, I said.
Oh, f*ck off, said he.
And to my shame, I sunk to his level and told him to do the same. Supermarket rage at its finest.

I’ve experienced this type of impatience first hand when I worked for the Big Box hardware store. As a cashier I was often the butt of impatient sighs, not-so-subtle glares and continuous time checks on the wrist—and that, mind you, was when I was on the top of my game in speed and efficiency. (Go to The Modern-Day Renaissance Woman for a short but apt description of those who wait in line.) Some people, important people, that is, with important things to do, seem to consider standing in line for more than ten seconds a venal sin. But I feel it’s more than that. Supermarket rage is a symptom of a society failing to understand and be compassionate with the universality of the human condition.

I thought again of this incident at the supermarket after listening this past week to CBC Reads where five celebrities each defended a novel that they felt Canadians needed to read next. I was particularly struck by Humble The Poet’s defence of Fifteen Dogs.  In the book, several  dogs are gifted with human consciousness. What follows is the careful study of the human condition.Moreover, the poet argues that intelligence does not necessarily equate with evolution. It is a gift, he says, and a fleeting one at that.

"Everybody in this room has regrets, anxieties. Everybody in this room is struggling with the thoughts in their head, which ones they should believe [and] which ones they should not. Everybody in this room struggles with jealousy, irrespective of their race, their gender, their orientation, their economic background."

But what struck me most was when he defended the novel against the other books’ themes including that of climate change. He said, and I paraphrase, that to understand and begin resolving any of the issues that we face today is to know that we—humans—are the root cause. Only when we “know thyself” can we look at what internal changes need to be made to affect changes in our external environment.

What more needs to be said? Until we understand and have compassion for our (and everyone else’s) human frailties, we will, at the very least, descend into the inanities of supermarket rage and, at the most, continue to travel at breath neck speed into the tragedies of forced migration, violence and climate change. 

Our innermost issues are reflected in the world's problems. We cannot solve the latter without taking the time to look within.



If you like this blog, please "like" my FaceBook page and get notices on your timeline when a new article is posted. 
 
Also check out my newest blog, the Modern-Day Renaissance Woman where you will find excerpts my new book, Notes from the Bottom of the Box: The Search for Identity by a Modern-Day Renaissance Woman.