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when others say it better…

October 15, 2021

From Maggie Nelson’s beautiful novella Bluets:

  1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal.

2. And so I fell in love with a color-in this case, the color blue-as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under, in turns.

3. Well, and what of it? A voluntary delusion, you might say. That each blue object could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code meant for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse ever to be unfolded entirely but that contains the knowable universe. How could all the shreds of blue garbage bags stuck in brambles, or the bright blue tarps flapping over every shanty and fish stand in the world, be, in essence, the fingerprints of God? I will try to explain this.

4. I admit that I have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to simulate, or to provoke-take your pick-an apprehension of the divine. (This ought to arouse our suspicions.)

5. But first, let us consider a sort of case in reverse. IN 1867, after a long bout of solitude, the French poet Stephane Mallarme wrote to his friend Henri Cazalis: “These last months have been terrifying. My Thought has thought itself through and reached a Pure Idea. What the rest of me has suffered during that long agony, is indescribable.” Mallarme described this agony as a battle that took place on God’s “boney wing.” “I struggled with that creature of ancient and evil plumage-God-whom I unfortunately defeated and threw to earth,” he told Cezalis with exhausted satisfaction. Eventually Mallarme began replacing “le ciel” with “l’Azur” in his poems, in an effort to rinse references to the sky of religious connotations. “Fortunately,” he wrote Cezalis, “I am quite dead now.”

walking the beach…

October 7, 2021


Reading Didion. By the water. In the Toronto Beaches. Seeing Didion eye everywhere. Touching the cool. And the serene.

Two hundred sea gulls rise slowly, coming out of the shoreline fog further down in the bay, down where the water looks like molten steel. Where the water is deep, and churns upon itself.


We all like our technologies a lot more before we realized that we made a Faustian deal with the Devil. Plato wept at the knowledge that the new axes more easily felled the trees of Mt. Olympus. In his own lifetime he lamented how Mt. Olympus was radically changed from a lush and diverse forest to a pile of sand that not even a flower could grow upon. And Plato wrote of watching as the spring rains now washed all the sand to the sea.

And now, we can’t even walk along the beach without looking at our cellphones, clutched desperately in our hands.

Everyone with their own chalice, writing script, 120 characters at a time.


Sitting on the boardwalk; listening to the passing dramas…

The rich aging rockster – leather jacket, expensive jeans, boots – trying to impress the woman about the problems he is having with his garage door opener; from the woman’s expression she has no idea why she agreed to go for a walk with this man.

I pass another man, sitting on a bench, angrily venting to some woman. I hear “day pass”, I see a man broken beyond repair. In need of someone who can help make sense of his nightmares.

Toddlers run about, dressed as if they had just haplessly wondered out of a LL Bean catalogue, fall edition, 2021. White, clean, bathed daily.

I watch them run back from the edge of the water, happily clutching shells and other shiny objects, showing them to their Caribbean and Filipino nannies.


I watch the 30-something Grade 4 (maybe 5) teacher, standing on the beach, in front of his private school class of 14 kids (11 girls, 3 boys), animated and enthusiastically talking about some poem they have just read together – a poem about “waves”. And so everyone is watching the waves, entering into the rhythm of the poem. Maybe it was Virginia Wolf. At the end of her beautiful book, The Waves.

And in me too the wave rises. It swells; its arches its

back. I am aware once more of a new desire, something

rising beneath me like the proud horse whose rider first

spurs and then pulls him back. What enemy do we now

perceive advancing against us, you whom I ride now, as

we stand pawing this stretch of pavement? It is death.

Death is the enemy. It is death against whom I ride with

my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young

man’s, like Percival’s, when he galloped in India. I strike

spurs into my horse. Against you I will fling myself, un-

vanquished and unyielding, O Death!

But then, they are Grade 5, at most. So probably not.

The teacher wears a toque (in that hipster fashionable way), his beard is neatly trimmed (also fashionable), he reads his class notes off his iphone…

I assume they are here as part of the Minsitry of Education curriculum’s “nature studies” rubric requirements.

One of the boys, off to the side, absently picks up and tosses small stones back into Lake Ontario.

At first glance the teacher appears to be all the things we need in today’s public school classrooms – young men. It is a profession overwhelmingly female. He is enthusiastic. He is animated. He takes and gives questions. And for a few moments he has me fooled.

But with the flash of an eye he has no problem scolding one of the girls for not listening (the boy continues skipping rocks on the water), and then pretends to laugh along with her because you know, he’s just doing his job; and he asks her the very same question she had not already heard the first time around. What does she think about it?

It is a question he knows (and she knows) she cannot answer, because she was not listening.

A classic teacher checkmate moment. What a prick.


Later, on the walk home, a dad and his 2-year-old daughter are coming down the sidewalk, headed to the beach. The little girl’s eyes are gleaming as she looks at the playground just ahead of her. Moms are walking dogs. The sun is now shining.

The dad instructs her to grab his hand at the corner, practicing with her how to “look both ways,” before crossing the street. She laughs delightedly. Everything is still a wonderful game.

And I am thinking of Joan Didion, and scrambling for a pen, and kids are coming home from school, and the roofers are talking in Spanish, and men pass me are talking in Russian, and I am thinking about how Didion would have described it all impossibly better – if she were here and working with the same material.

bros talking about women (at the Olympics)…

July 30, 2021

Ya gotta hand it to the Toronto Star. (Toronto’s largest daily newspaper.)

I’ll hand it to them.

Today’s “above the fold” front-page story (though still placed under what the Star deemed to be the major story of the day “the financial problems of the Green Party.”) (For those who don’t know, Canada’s Green Party is in the throes of an existential crisis: the old guard neoliberals want to go the middle political ground; they want to enter into a menage with the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada. The younger guard is all about “get your heads out of your asses, the planet is about to go poof!” and actually want the party to campaign on real environmental issues. The crisis is real.

Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

Today’s Toronto Star’s junior headline was about all the Canadian women winning medals at the Tokyo Olympics and what did a middle-aged professional male journalist think about that? Toronto Star journalist Bruce Arthur was given this acclaimed privilege, to write a front-page Toronto Star opinion piece on what he thought about Canadian women in sport, especially when they are doing so much better than the men.

He also knows and writes about what this success means to Canadian women – especially girls – to see Canada’s women dominate the current collection of medals.


I do not know Bruce Arthur. All I know is what I see. And what I see (assuming the picture is current) is a little below-the-fold picture of a 40-something white man in trimmed goatee and glasses, attired in business casual, looking vaguely intellectual. It’s an overall look which suggests someone who once read a book and went to Journalism school.

His name is the only name we see. His bio-picture is golf-ball sized, and he is entirely over-shadowed by a collection of smiling faces – pictures of the ten women who had already won Olympic medals (while the men have won nothing).

These women are not named in the caption below their collection of social media-styled pictures.

The caption refers to them only as a collective – “Canadian women”.

Underneath, there is a sub-caption. It talks of Simone Biel’s mental heath problems.


I think this is all quite pretty ballsy of the Toronto Star.

The Star often pride itself for its small-L common sense suburban middle-class oriented feminism, race theory, and general do-goodery. Yet, here they are, slapping down the good-ole patriarchy, front and center, because some men appear to be feeling a wee insecure.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a cellphone app that you could use as an interpretive filter for such things – to help interpret all the advertising behind the newspaper stories?

What if you could look through this filter and see what the headline actually says: “here’s a middle-aged white man speaking in a middle-class middle-aged newspaper; this man is going to opine on the fact that some women are more successful than he is.

Bruce Arthur, a forty-something white man in a neatly trimmed goatee, wearing classes that make him look vaguely smart, is going to tell me – a fifty-something white man – what it all means.

And what does this mean for the future of Canada?

Arthur has divined the metals.

This is what he knows.


I feel like I have fallen through / into the script of the German TV drama, Dark.

What year are we in? 1986?

The Star (as it is colloquially known) tells me that it is Thursday, July 29, 2021. The opposite side of the top-of-fold banner tells me, today will be 24C, with a chance of thunderstorms.

As it turns out, all true statements. (Though I am not sure why Thursday has to appear in bold font. Are we going to confuse it with some other day?)


Arthur’s opinion piece opens with a “good for them, I guess” sensible office-man bravado regarding the women’s personal victories. Arthur admits (to me, rather reluctantly) that “yes, this also happened at the last Olympics,” (in case you were sensing an uneasy pattern); then Arthur adds a side-order of “but this time it’s worse;” for the women are winning at a much faster clip than they did four years ago.


(Paragraph 1-2): 1:1: I am told by Arthur this has all happened before. Five years ago in Rio. The women won 12 medals before any man had one. (Andre De Grasse’s Bronze.) That took 12 days to accomplish. The women are now at 10 medals and its only Day 5! Yikes! (They will have another gold in rowing before I posted this. 18 woman now have a medal.)


Toronto Star, morning edition, Thursday July 29, 2021.

Only 2 of the 10 medalists are named in the opening paragraphs – rowers Cailegh Filmer and Hillary Janssens. Some, like Judo Bronze winner Jessica Kimklait, have their names buried deep in the article. (And may we discuss the photograph of Ms Kimklait the Star decided to use? And most especially in comparison to the other winner’s photographs the Star decided to use.)

All of the winning women are in the accompanying collage, front and center in the paper, but you don’t know who’s who, and the newspaper doesn’t mention them by name. You find their names in paragraph four. Yet, even there, how Arthur reveals “who’s who,” you come away no more clearer of face and name than when I stared stupidly at the collection of pictures.


Here is how Arthur writes about Canada’s newest “most decorated Summer Olympian.”

“… , and Oleksiak’s bronze in the 200-metre freestyle to become Canada’s most decorated Summer Olympian at age 21.” It is an add on to a compounded sentence.

Never mind how badly worded that sentence is, Penny Oleksiak is her name!

Penny Oleksiak.

Most decorated Canadian Summer Olympian ever!


The writing only gets better.

Arthur’s next two sentences reminded me of reading high school essays of some Grade 9 or 10 boys. A certain sleuthing of meaning is involved.

Arthur writes: “The men’s 4×100 relay team finished fourth, and these can move in cycles.”


What moves in cycles? How often the men win the 4×100 swim relay? That this is all merely a temporary blip, and the Olympic men will be back in charge of medals soon? Are we being reminded of “cycles” for any other reason?


Ya’ll tipping yur hands boys. Who is going to take you seriously when you print sentences like that?

Whatever you Brude Arthur, as a white man, has to say about female Olympic athletes – when you can’t write and/or the two new (male) owners of the Toronto star can’t print proper English sentences on their front-page “opinion” pieces – isn’t exactly going to hold too many peoples’ intellectual attention.

Not only does Arthur and The Star appear to be sulking at all of the women’s success. They can’t even spell or grammar check their own arguments.


The writing gets worse.

Arthur admits that “Canada’s 14-year-old Summer McIntosh finished fourth in the 400-metre freestyle. So her “4th” matches (and blocks) the men’s “4th”.

“Right now,” Arthur concludes, “the women rule, and,” he further adds, “they stick together.” (my italics)


“Right now the women rule, and they stick together.”

Why would Arthur add ‘and the women stick together’?

Is that code for something? Is it a male dog-whistle meme?

Why say it?


(the story continues inside, on page A7.)

Now that we are off the front page, the story becomes about female inspiration – and how our female athletes have a responsibility to take on the motherly role of inspiring the next generation of female achievers.

“Winning women inspire future athletes”

Female Olympic medalists are to become supporter women. Highly motivated, indomitable, reverential – tops in their field – they will pour out across the land to meet and comfort aspiring girls everywhere – making Bruce Arthur and other middle-aged men proud.

They have already been transferred from winning athletes to future mothers and caregivers.


Over the next three paragraphs Arthur follows the journalism rules of building “interview and comment” paragraphs. Yet, throughout, he alludes to something ominous…something


as if just off center stage.

He suggests (to me) that the girls are somehow weak, and afraid. That they need to “support” each other.

“Everyone is very open about things,” Penny Oleksiak notes. “Everyone is very open about the things they struggle with.”

These “things” are not discussed.

Sure, they are getting all the medals, notes Arthur, but they still need to lean on each other in order to cope.

(The unspoken assumption is that you don’t see the men needing to do this!)

I would like to ask Arthur, “who/what does he think these mostly young athletic goddesses have to cope with?

Or, like Arthur, let us all just deftly sidestep everything we know about sexual trauma, eating disorders, performance anxiety, and young women in sport.


Paragraph 9 begins with Arthur admitting we can’t keep thinking of this Olympic women’s success as something “new.” They also did it the last time. In Rio.

(I’m sure that it is only a coincidence that more young women than men are entering post secondary education, that they are graduating in higher percentages than men. I’m sure it’s also just a coincidence that men are increasingly trolling women on social media platforms.)

As men, we can assume that women now rule, notes Arthur. We have to live with that.

“It’s all very hard to watch,” admits Arthur. “Just like it was hard watching in Rio.”


Here, in the middle pages, if you are still interested, the Olympic medalists have been dismissed as athletes and re-imagined as “inspirations.” The phrase “role modelling” is thrown about as to their best purposed post-Olympic futures.

Men love it when women model. Clothes, cleavage, tights, motherhood, inspiration – we do love of Mother Mary’s and our Mary Magdilans.

“As a nation we have a number of female role models,” highlights Anne Merklinger, CEO of “Own the Podium.” Merklinger recites recent Olympic highlights: Clara Hughes, Cindy Klassen, and current Minister of Employment and Workforce Development and Diability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough.

“Anything is possible,” Merklinger sings.


German women's gymnastics team takes a stand in full-body suits in Tokyo

Female Olympic athletes are now strong enough – they are a substantial financial contingent to the Olympic coffers – that they are increasingly taking on the Olympic Committee over the stripper panties they are expected to wear in their sport.

The sexualization of females in sport has long been commented upon. Of why we are motivated to expect young women – most under the age of 23 – to wear ass-crack revealing panties while they play volleyball or do their extraordinary gymnastics routines.

When the German women gymnastics team refused to wear Committee “approved” gymnasts outfits, preferring to perform in one-piece leotards that stretched to their ankles, the Olympic Committee was outraged, and fined each athlete $150 Euros. Outraged!

When the Norwegians women were fined, pop star Pink stepped up and said she would pay all of the fines herself.

Naturally, the Olympic Committee – headed by a 67-year-old German white man, Thomas Bach – responded with a “you’ll wear what you’re told to wear” reply.

(Somewhere an Afghani woman with a dark sense of humor just giggled.)

No prob, said some of the female stars. Suddenly big names were dropping out of the games. These women were ready to talk about their mental health, and willing to talk to the press about what really happens behind the Olympic podium.


Arthur gets out in front of these gender parity demands by reminding us that these are the “most progressive and equal Olympics we have seen.”

Plus, Arthur further notes, the Olympic Committee agreed to add more female sports; and those so-called fines – @$150 euros – were really more symbolic than real.

Sure, Arthur admits, there still isn’t gender parity at the Olympics – in opportunity or pay – but hey, you girls are still winning medals. Good for you!


He concludes that there will be even more Canadian female Olympic success at the next Olympics.

“And that may be what happens next. These games aren’t easy to watch, but Rio’s weren’t [either].”


10 things to know about Robert Mapplethorpe | Christie's

Joan Didion wrote an essay and a book of the same name (“Some Women”) back in 1989 which summed up well the state of bullshit still contained in the male gaze of the female model. She focussed her discussion on the female form in Robert Mappelthorpe’s photographs.

And in Bruce Arthur’s article I catch a whiff of the cow pasture.

“Let’s stand up applaud these amazing girls,” articles like this suggest, “but let’s not forget who’s really the strong ones here – so don’t get too cocky. Get your medals and then go back to striving to be good mothers.

Didion notes the echo of female foot-binding, as she watched young women struggle with the 5″ heels they had to wear for certain Vogue Magazine photo-shoots. Didion was herself fresh out of university and had landed a job at Vogue Magazine. “Modeling,” she realized, was a performance art.

Robert Mapplethorpe's Photographs | Vogue

It is a choreography between model and photographer – arranged so as to maximize profits for everyone involved, and for the magazine. The photographs, Didion realized, replicated old ideas of a “modern” woman. “There were the familiar domination and submission, the erotic discomforts of straps and leather and five-inch heels, of those shoes that cause the wearer’s flesh to wrinkle at the instep. There were doomed virgins (downcast eyes, clasped hands), and intimations of mortality, skin like marble, faces like masques, a supernatural radiance, the phosphorescent glow we sometimes attribute to angels, and to decaying flesh.”


In all her time at Vogue, Didion realizes (twenty years later) – it was only Yoko Ono who was strong enough and powerful enough to demand and receive 100% control over how she would be photographed.

That sounds pretty inspirational to me. That’s an idea I want my daughter to know. I want my daughter to know that story.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: The story behind the legendary photo of the  couple after their wedding | Vogue Paris
Yoko Ono and John Lennon and the creation of icons.

I also will want her to know the price Yoko Ono has paid for being Yoko Ono. We are not kind to women who step outside of the box.

John And Yoko Appear On Rolling Stone Cover In Photo Taken Day Of John's  Death - January 22, 1981


Arthur concludes by saying he’s okay with women ruling the Canadian podium. But I can’t help but hear a hollow wind. A flatulent wind.

He sees a future “where girls see women as strong, successful, independent, powerful and brave, and wants to be like that.”

Arthur says he can’t wait for that to happen.


Of course he can be in favor of something that will not happen in his lifetime. He may even believe that he is in favor of more female success. Why then the opening bars of male melancholy and a faint whiff of nostalgia cologne? Why was Arthur originally balking at the idea?

Why did he have to note women’s “fragile emotional states”? Why does he allude to a woman’s menstrual cycle? Why does he focus on their post-Olympic duty to be “inspirational”? Why does he only mention this duty? To take care of the girls coming up in the next generation of Olympic athletes.

Why did The Star’s editorial staff decide not to give names to the women on the front page? Why does the female wrestler

Yet, while I believe that handing out female Olympic medals sure as fuck is a lot better than some white man gravely handing out Purple Hearts; we need to admit that there is still have a long way to go.

Men like Arthur – thinking themselves “progressive” and allies to women – talk out of both sides of their mouth. And whether intentional or not, reveals how deep the patriarchy still is, and also how hard it still is, for men to simply congratulate women on their successes, and not then go on about it.

mass graves and political maturity

June 25, 2021

How do we celebrate Canada’s birthday next week in light of the residential school mass grave discoveries?

What does it mean now, to say, “I am Canadian?”

Do we have the maturity to honestly address this moment in our history?

The mass graves of children are evidence as Truth. The bodies of these children mark the location of a peoples’ oppression. In these bodies a boundary has been crossed. This is the fury aimed at an entire people.

What was this fury? Hatred of difference? Fear of difference? The government and the church’s eternal will to dominate?

How does one imagine the hate and justifications for killing school-aged children? How does one imagine being a child in these residential schools? To be despised, simply for who you are.

There is a great collective disorientation occurring in the revelation of school children being killed. In these mass graves our official history ruptures, revealing the hidden, or forgotten, violence lurking under the surface.

Now we are suspended in what historians call that ‘in-between space’. Between our official history carefully constructed for public consumption, and history as it really was.

Yet, Indigenous communities have always known this attempted genocide. They have always known what happened at residential schools. But they had no voice, no legal recourse, no rights. They were not seen as people.

This was the price they paid for the white man’s progress.  

How we address this truth – this homeopathic poison – will decide the psychic health of our nation for generations to come.

In the 1880’s John A. MacDonald stood up in Parliament and said he was doing everything in his power to starve out the Indians. Wilfred Laurier, leader of the official opposition (and future Prime Minister) jumped to his feet and declared “you’re not trying hard enough!”

Starvation of Indigenous communities was Parliamentary legislation into the 1920’s.

How do we mourn what we are not ready to confront?

Collective mourning is never easy. Politicians of all stripes will try to spin their agendas, give thoughts and prayers, try to get back to the business at hand as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile broken Indigenous men and women will continue to disproportionately fill our prisons, their children will continue to be placed in foster care, Indigenous communities will continue to have inadequate housing, no safe drinking water, no mental health support, no healing ceremonies.

We cannot continue to refuse to admit the truth of how our country was formed, or the price Indigenous nations paid in that formation.

Here, in the great Ottawa Valley, we continue to live on un-ceded Algonquin Nation territory. No treaty has ever been signed.

In this land of multimillion-dollar cottages, the federal government’s most recent offer to the Algonquins was $10/acre.

Let us not succumb to the endless feedback loop of helplessness-guilt-shame-aggressiveness. This loop does not motivate, but only conceals; distancing us from what happened and what to do about it.

We must have the maturity to move beyond the traditional idea of what it means to be “Canadian.” We must bear witness to what happened, listen with empathy, work in solidarity with Indigenous communities.

This is no easy ask. Our narcissistic defense mechanisms are deep and powerful. Our own despair and sense of loss can easily become the central catastrophe we experience, flooding out any empathy we may have for these children, their parents, their grandparents.

“How does one face a past,” asks Holocaust historian Eric Santner, “such as this one at a time such as this one and manage to avoid the two extremes: global disavowel of identification with ancestors on the one hand, revision of the past into a less abhorrent version, on the other.” (Stranded Objects, 151) How do we access this “in-between” space? How do we not close ourselves off from this suffering? How do we find resistance? Solidarity?

We instinctively want to go back to the moment before we heard this news, that fantasized moment just prior to mourning. We cannot go back, so we seek to blame someone – and in our dark corners of the mind we blame the victims – for having been different; for causing the problem in the first place.

This is our history, our present lived history, our future history.

There is no turning back from these extermination sites. A boundary has been crossed – there is no return – no nostalgia that will make this go away.

Until we acknowledge and agree to move forward with the guidance of Indigenous Nations in mourning and building a new future, we will always live in the shadow of this shame. Human value demands that we address this betrayal. Our defense mechanisms will scream at us to look the other way, blame those who are gone, elude critical reflection.

It is too easy to give way to psychic numbness; to allow patterns of violence to repeat themselves.

Without Indigenous guidance, we will continue to perpetuate a colonial perspective – of thinking we know what is best “for them.”

Patterns of behavior do not end simply because we are told we did something wrong.

We must make space to mourn, to lament for the dead.

This July 1, is not about celebration. What exactly, would we be celebrating about our homeland? This birthday is about mourning. It is about acknowledging that we have finally arrived at a collective cultural space where we can recognize the colonial cost of creating this nation-state.

This is about ridding ourselves of nostalgia, our conventional ideas about “being Canadians.” This is about being mature enough to say “this happened.” We bear witness. We live in solidarity.

Fly your Canada Day flag at half mast. Better yet, take it down. Be conscious of why you are taking it down.

And of what it will take to put it back up.

a thousand words…

June 13, 2021

This story is nothing new.

It’s a story playing out over a thousand spaces in eastern Ontario, and a millions other places around the world.

But, from my vantage point, what is new is that this story is usually is happening somewhere else. It’s usually someone else’s problem.

My father-in-law’s neighbors are the kind of people old local’s would describe as “hard working” or as “good people.” They are friendly and chatty when you meet them on a walk.

They bought an old 100 acre farm. They come from a long line of local settler farmers – offspring of those English and German and Polish peasants who were first brought to Canada and given 100 acres of “free Indian land” back in the 1800’s in exchange for which the peasants signed contracts with the government to clear their property of its forest within the first five years. If they failed to do this, the land would revert back to the ownership of the government (and they could then give it to someone else).

And beyond that story of his neighbor’s local heritage and peasant wisdom – pickling and canning and smoking meats and dealing with cow shit and cracked teats and a moody bull – is the fact that this was once all old growth forest (“all the way from Boston to Lake Superior” as one early explorer described it), and that it is located within the nation of the Algonquins – a once regional powerhouse – living in the great valley of the Ottawa River – their nation stretching south-eastward from the town of North Bay to the St. Lawrence River. They had treaties with the Mohawks and Ojibways and the Mississaugans and traded with various nations across eastern North America.

They have never signed a treaty with our federal government. The Supreme Court has noted, twice, that the Ottawa Valley still belongs to the Algonquins. In the latest rounds of treaty discussions the federal government offered the Algonquins $10/acre.

This offer, in this valley where the average “cottage” is now valued at more than a million dollars, where 100 acre properties regularly sell in the $5-700,000 range, and where even the market price for swampland is $100/acre. No one was surprised when the Algonquins’ response was ‘no thanks.’

They did not say the offer was an insult – that it was filled with colonial attitudes and deep-seated racism – because they didn’t have to. Everyone at the table already knew what was going on.

Anyway, my father-in-law’s neighbors are good people. They are trying their best to live off the grid, yet still make a living. After they settled into their new farm, cleared the old fields of stone and got some new fence up, they got themselves 20 head of cattle that they are currently raising organically. There is a hot niche market right now for organic beef, and they think they can find their small slice of life in that world.

You should know, at this point, that 99% of the meat we currently purchase (95% of which is bought in supermarkets) is factory-farmed beef.

If you don’t know what the term “factory farmed” means: it is that the meat is produced at a scale we typically associate with factory production: cattle by the thousands are crammed into feedlots so tightly they cannot turn around; they have been genetically modified to grow 3 times as fast as they did only 40 years ago; where they are then taken to slaughterhouses where they are rammed through killing lines that can harvest a thousand cattle an hour. These farms and slaughterhouses are located anywhere in the world. South African pork can be “harvested” in China and the meat sold in North America. I can get Argentinian steaks at my local butcher shop right here in my little small town in rural Ontario.

Climate science now knows that the “factory-farming industry” is the most polluting and carbon producing industry on the planet. This industry produces and slaughters and ships out the nearly 67 billion chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, and rabbits we will eat this year (not including fish). Factory farmed animals now make up 70% of all animals on earth – for next year’s 67 billion animals are already being produced as well). (Humans are the next largest number of mammals, at 26%; while “wild” animals make up the remaining 4%.)

All of the drinking water in America is contaminated with the hormones and the chemicals used to produce this much meat. 70% of all grains grown in the world are to feed these animals, and 80% of all fresh water consumption is used to produce this grain. In 1960 the average American ate 100 pounds of meat per year. Now it is 250.

Almost 1/2 of the carbon produced in the world is produced by the network known as factory-farming.

So it’s good – at least in the short term – that more people are trying to produce organic meat.

But, from the larger sustainability point of view – from the “what we need to do in order to save as much forest as possible before we cook ourselves to death” point of view – this is just more lost forest.

In the very dense 20 acre patch between my father-in-law’s property line and the currently existing pastures – a thread of forest that connects on its east end with 10,000 acres of forest – there must live 2,000 birds – and in this strip of forest forest we have seen deer, foxes, coyotes and the occasional elk.

This beast of a machine will remove this forest in probably about the next two days of work. It can cut, de-limb, cut into logs, and pile, a 200-year-old pine, in less than 15 seconds. (I have watched, 1/2 mesmerized, as its cuts through the base of trees like a knife through warm butter.)

There are no environmental rules, no bylaws up here that can prevent such a thing from happening. Our neighbors did not have to hold public consultations. They have committed no crime.

(Are you going to be the one who tells them they can’t do it? Do you have the right to tell someone what they can do with their own property? In this region that has voted for the Liberal Party only twice in federal elections since Confederation.)

Shall I also remind you that this region is one of the five poorest in all of Ontario, and in the top ten for all of Canada? You still want to tell our neighbors, who already make less than $50,000 a year (combined) that they have to stop trying to make a living by being organic cattle farmers?

Are you willing to financially compensate them in order that they keep smaller herds of cattle? (Or no cattle at all.) And what will you do when the big agro-businesses take you to court and accuse you of unfair trading practices?

So, another little patch of forest gets screwed. 50 acres here, 100 acres there – pretty soon you realize that 4 soccer fields of forest per second are destroyed around the world 24 hours a day – every day – all by someone just trying to make a living.

When German peasants revolted in 1520 against the privatization of property which coincided with the birth of modern capitalism, the German Prince’s simply had them shot. The peasants said the fields were for everyone, the forests were for everyone. All peasants had access to the creeks and rivers.

300,000 peasants were executed over the next two years, before the peasants succumbed to the state military apparatus. Should we now move in the reverse – should the state buy back these properties and allow them to recover? Should the state just seize these properties?

How would you justify this decision to our neighbors? And as my mother always states: “Who would “pay for it?”

I stand outside, under the moonlight, with my cat and I listen to owls hooting from this forest. Each owl deeper in the forest, responding to the one nearest. Like an owl echo that goes deeper and deeper into the darkness of the night. I write this little blog by a window where I hear the endless chatter of songbirds and the buzz of insects.


My father-in-law is going to try and negotiate a buffer zone along his property line. Everyone currently gets along as neighbors – but they come from very different worlds: City-rural, rich-not rich, vegan-meat eaters, retired-income earning…

This story is yet another in the long list of everything that is wrong with our current idea of economics.

Capitalism is a cancer that devoirs the planet in search of cheap resources; it turns people into competitors, who can only understand themselves as consumers. There are few options available to the average person. It is not like they can just option themselves out of having a roof, eating food, wearing clothes. My father-in-law’s neighbors are doing their very best to exist on the margins of the larger system as it is.

Capitalism ignores the rules of biodiversity and sustainability. We have been sold the promise of convenience and kitsch-filled happiness like a dealer sells opioids to homeless youth.

The philosopher Fredric Jameson noted that it is easier to see the end of the world than it is to see the end of capitalism.

The forest comes down so more cattle can be fed to which in turn we can continue to overeat fast-food beef (now the 3rd leading cause of cancer, after alcohol and smoking).

The cattle have no say in their lives.

The forest has no say in its existence.

The birds and animals will scatter into ever-shrinking spaces; the sound of the wind in the trees will disappear, along with the songbirds and the insects they feed on.

The Algonquins will continue to wait for their justice.

High quality propaganda…

May 14, 2021

If I was in marketing, I would love this commercial on so many levels.

The young healthy farmers, on beautiful sunny days, owning some of the great pasturelands of Canada, where cattle are few and free to roam, intermingling with the eco-system like they were herds of buffalo, each giving to the other, – the farmers, ultimately, “farmers of grass.”

You’d never know that cattle farming – 99% of which is done “factory” style, i.e., via factory farming – an industry now understood by climate scientists as the most polluting industry in the planet; an industry responsible for 65% of current deforestation (to grow more food to feed more cattle); an industry so toxic and nightmarish to animals that eleven states and Ontario have legal restrictions on journalists’ ability to report on their multiple infractions. It is even illegal to photograph factory cattle farms, not from inside, from the road, or from the air.

None of that is in this commercial.

Just grass-fed cattle roaming wild and free (under the watchful eye of a man on a horse). Simply beautiful!

This commercial is aspirational – it is what we want our cattle farms to be. We watch this commercial and we pretend that this is how our cattle are raised – humanely, sustainably – by wholesome young people in impeccably laundered and pressed “farm” clothes. They look solidly middle-class; their kids probably play hockey, or soccer.

There’s not even any meat in this commercial. Nary a burger. Not an 18-wheeler shipping cattle to the slaughterhouse. No electric cattle prods, broken legs (10-20% of cattle arrive at the slaughterhouse injured in some way), no panicked bawling cattle, realizing what lies before them as they are forced through ramps to electric hammers which may, or may not, kill them with its first blow to the head.

Fast food burgers are simply made, by wholesome healthy farmers, whose primary purpose is not cattle at all, but to raise prairie grasses, and be at one with nature.

Wonderful. Simply wonderful. Praise God.

This is just fucked!

May 10, 2021

Pretty astounding that when the Biden admin acknowledged on Friday that they would support the removal of “intellectual property” from the WTO designation for covid vaccines – a designation that had given corporations total power and control over the vaccines – how much vaccine they produced, whom they would sell the vaccines to, and for how much (highest bidder wins! Sorry African nations, central and South America, most of eastern Europe and south-east Asia) –

when Biden said this had to stop – that from now on any country who could make the vaccine had to be allowed to produce it without penalty –

it seemed pretty obvious to most rational people that the vaccines should not be sold to the highest bidder (in-the-middle-of-a-fucking-pandemic!), a bidding war that pitted the wealthier countries against each other; a bidding war that reflects what most North American politicians have done by putting the vaccines in rich neighborhoods first, –

even though the majority of essential workers had to continue to go to work (any worker labelled “essential” by politicians could not opt out of their work – they would not have access to unemployment insurance or covid support payments) – 95% of whom earn less than $15 an hour – have no sick leave options – and live in some of the most cramped housing situations of any group of people in America.

Trump then compounds this insult by de-regulating most of the factory-farming and slaughterhouse regulations – which, not surprisingly resulted in super-spreader events happening in slaughterhouses – if you are forced to work in a covid as the only option to pay your bills – what the fuck should we have expected to happen?

So, even though the vast majority of covid infections were happening in “essential worker” communities – both in the United States and Canada – the vaccines are still going, disproportionately, to the wealthy communities where the majority of people can already self-isolate with relative ease and with decently sized personal space (given the circumstances).

Like me! As soon as the virus started we left Chicago and came home to the farm in rural Ontario. Over the last 14 months we have had less than 10 cases of covid visit our community. That’s privilege! In its purest form.

An “essential worker” in Brampton came home with the virus. His wife is on ICU in a Toronto hospital. His 13-year-old daughter has already died! It’s obscene that I had access to the covid vaccine before this man did.

As we all know the ten richest Americans got exponentially richer during covid; while the vast majority of people saw their wages retreat, week by week. People now sit in food bank line ups for 8 hours, hoping for a bag of rice, or some spam in a can. 60% of Americans who rent, currently cannot pay. After government imposed rent and mortgage deferments end at the end of the summer, expect soon after (if there is no government intervention), a tsunami of bankruptcies and an explosion in homelessness.

When Biden acknowledged the intellectual property rights had to be dropped on the vaccines (reluctantly, I might add – he had to be persuaded by Sanders and Warren and others that this was the right thing to do, because apparently, it wasn’t yet “obvious” to him) that this corporate seizure of “life-and-death-for-maximized-profits” medicine, at the expense of the very future of humanity’s – when Biden suggested that it had to stop, Wall Street angrily reacted, and big pharma stock prices dropped on average 5% that very day.

Rather than Wall Street thanking big pharma for doing all the heavy lifting in finding a vaccine, big pharma was punished by losing billions of dollars in value.

Now big pharma is (obviously) doubly pissed at Biden.

Not only does he want to take away their gravy train monopoly – vaccines that could have produced billions in profits – he did not simultaneously tell Wall Street that big pharma stocks were off limits (at least for the time being).

(An aside: imagine what would have happened on Wall Street if Biden had ordered Wall Street to back off on big pharma stocks? I can already see Tucker Carlson’s forehead vein throbbing on command. There would have been seizures of rage from Republican Senators.)

And never, not once, did I see big corporate media talk in their news segments about the ethics of big pharma controlling the production, price, and distribution of the vaccines during a pandemic.

Why didn’t Prime Ministers and Presidents around the world simply say “fuck you” to big pharma and start making their own vaccines. We have factories right here in Canada which could have done so.

Not once did they talk about this legalized blackmail.

Half the world could get infected and die, but hey, profits are up, which is great for the stock market and the 1% of the population who control 95% of the stock, so who gives a fuck!?

In 1522, German peasants rose up in revolution when the German Princes banded together and decided to take all of the “commons” – the vast farmlands historically worked by the peasants – as their own private property, and the peasants would be forced to become minimum wage earners, working the private lands or re-located (forcibly) in the new factories of the Princes and their associates.

The Princes had to slaughter 300,000 peasants before the peasants stopped.

Do you think there is any difference between what happened 500 years ago and what has happened during covid?

If you think neoliberal politicians care any more about our impoverished “essential workers” than the powerful did regarding the peasants of 16th and 17th century Europe (what happened in Germany, happened everywhere over the next 200 years), you my friend are, at best naive, and at worst, an idiot.

When others say it best…

May 6, 2021

Why do I write?

Perhaps in order not to go mad. Or, on the contrary, to touch the bottom of madness.

Like Samuel Beckett, the survivor expresses himself “en désepoir de cause”—out of desperation.

Auschwitz was liberated 75 years ago today; one survivor tells his  harrowing tale for posterity - ABC News

Speaking of the solitude of the survivor, the great Yiddish and Hebrew poet and thinker Aaron Zeitlin address those—his father, his brother, his friends—who have died and left him: “You have abandoned me,” he says to them. “You are together, without me. I am here. Alone. And I make words.”

So do I, just like him. I also say words, write words, reluctantly.

There are easier occupations, far more pleasant ones. But for the survivor, writing is not a professions, but an occupation, a duty. Camus calls it “an honor.” As he puts it: “I entered literature through worship.” Others have said they did so through anger, through love. Speaking for myself, I would say—through silence.

It was by seeking, by probing silence that I began to discover the perils and power of the word. I never intended to be a philosopher, or a theologian. The only role I sought was that of witness. I believe that, having survived by chance, I was duty-bound to give meaning to my survival, to justify each moment of my life. I knew the story had to be told. Not to transmit an experience is to betray it. This is what Jewish tradition teaches us. But how to do this? “When Israel is in exile, so is the word,” says the Zohar. The word has deserted the meaning it was intended to convey—impossible to make them coincide. The displacement, the shift, is irrevocable.

This was never more true than right after the upheaval.[1] We all knew that we could never, never say what had to be said, that we could never express in words, coherent, intelligible words, our experience of madness on an absolute scale. The walk through flaming night, the silence before and after the selection, the monotonous praying of the condemned, the Kaddish of the dying, the fear and hunger of the sick, the shame and suffering, the haunted eyes, the demented stares. I thought I would never be able to speak of them. All words seemed inadequate, worn, foolish, lifeless, whereas I wanted them to be searing.

Allied forces knew about Holocaust two years before discovery of  concentration camps, secret documents reveal | The Independent | The  Independent

Where was I to discover a fresh vocabulary, a primeval language? The language of night was not human, it was primitive, almost animal—hoarse shouting, screams, muffled moaning, savage howling, the sound of beating. A brute strikes out wildly, a body falls. An officer raises his arm and a whole community walks toward a common grave. A soldier shrugs his shoulders, and a thousand families are torn apart, to be reunited only by death. This was the concentration camp language. It negated all other language and took its place. Rather than a link, it became a wall. Could it be surmounted. Could the reader be brought to the other side? I knew the answer was negative, and yet I knew that “no” had to become “yes.” It was the last wish of the dead.

The fear of forgetting remains the main obsession of all those who passed through the universe of the damned. The enemy counted on people’s incredulity and forgetfulness. How could one foil this plot? And if memory grew hollow, empty of substance, what would happen to all we had accumulated along the way? Remember, said the father to his son, and the son to his friend. Gather the names, the faces, the tears. We had all taken an oath: “If, by some miracle, I emerge alive, I will devote my life to testifying on behalf of those whose shadow will fall on mine forever and ever.”

That is why I write certain things rather than others—to remain faithful.

Of course, there are times of doubt for the survivor, times when one gives into weakness, or longs for comfort. I hear a voice within me telling me to stop mourning the past. I too want to sing of love and of its magic. I too want to celebrate the sun, and the dawn that heralds the sun. I would like to shout, and shout loudly: “Listen, listen well!” I too am capable of victory, do you hear? I too am open to laughter and joy! I want to stride, head high, my face unguarded, without having to point to the ashes over there on the horizon, without having to tamper with facts to hide their tragic ugliness. For a man born blind, God himself is blind, but look, I see, I am not blind.”

One feels like shouting this, but the shout turns into a murmur. One must make a choice; one must remain faithful. A big word, I know. Nevertheless, I use it, it suits me. Having written the things I have written, I feel I can afford no longer to play with words. If I say that the writer in me wants to remain loyal, it is because it is true. This sentiment moves all survivors; the owe nothing to anyone; but everything to the dead.

I owe them my roots and my memory. I am duty-bound to act as their emissary, transmitting the history of their disappearance, even if it disturbs, even if it brings pain. Not to do so would be to betray them, and thus myself. And since I am incapable of communicating their cry by shouting, I simply look at them. I see them and I write.

Holocaust survivors' stunning revenge plot revealed

(…) Jewish children—they haunt my writings. I see them again and again. I shall always see them. hounded, humiliated, bent like old men who surround them as thought o protect them, unable to do so. They are thirsty, the children, and there is no one to give them water. They are hungry, but there is no one to give them a crust of bread. They are afraid, and there is no one to reassure them.

They walk in the middle of the roads, the vagabonds. They are on the way to the station, and they will never return. In sealed cars, without air or food, they travel towards another world. They guess where they are going, they know it, and they keep silent. Tense, thoughtful, they listen to the wind, the call of death in the distance.

All these children, these old people, I see them. I never stop seeing them. I belong to them.

But they, to whom do they belong?

People tend to think that a murderer weakens when facing a child. The child reawakens the killer’s lost humanity. The killer can no longer kill the child before him, the child inside him.

But with us it happened differently. Our Jewish children had no effect upon the killers. Not upon the world. Nor upon God.

I think of them, I think of their childhood. Their childhood is a small Jewish town, and this town is no more. They frighten me; the reflect an image of myself, one that I pursue and run from at the same time—the image of a Jewish adolescent who knew no fear, except the fear of God, whose faith was whole, comforting, and not marked by anxiety.

No, I do not understand. And if I write, it is to warn the readers that he will not understand either. “You will not understand, you will not understand,” were the words heard everywhere during the reign of night. I can only echo them. you, who never lived under a sky of blood, will never know what it was like. Even if you read all the books ever written, even if you listen to all the testimonies ever given, you will remain on this side of the wall, you will view the agony and death of a people from afar, through the screen of a memory that is not your own.

And admission of impotence and guilt? I do not know. All I know is that Treblinka and Auschwitz cannot be told. And yet I have tried. God knows I have tried.

[…] After Auschwitz everything brings us back to Auschwitz. When I speak of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, when I invoke Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Akiba, it is the better to understand them in the light of Auschwitz.

[…] It is for them that I write, and yet the survivor may experience remorse. He has tried to bear witness; it was all in vain.

To Heil, or Not To Heil, When Traveling in the Third Reich

After the liberation, we had illusions. We were convinced that a new world would be built upon the ruins of Europe. A new civilization would see the light. No more wars, no more hate, no more intolerance, no fanaticism. Ann all this because the witness would speak. And speak they did, to no avail.

They will continue, for they cannot do otherwise. When man, in his grief, falls silent, Goethe says, then God gives him strength to sing his sorrows. From that moment on, he may no longer choose not to sing, whether his song is heard or not. What matters is to struggle against silence with words, or through another form of silence. What matters is to gather a smile here and there, a tear here and there, a word here and there, and this justify the faith placed in you, a long time ago, by so many victims.

Why do I write? To wrench those victims from oblivion.

To help the dead vanquish death.

Why I Write. by Elie Wiesel (Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate)

[1] The Holocaust

What do I know? (Not much…)

April 30, 2021

I don’t think any thinking Jewish person can ever, 100%, trust a goy.

There’s way too much water under the bridge for that.

Not after the 20th century. Not after Auschwitz.

Can my Jewish wife ever fully believe that if they came for her, would I lay down my life?

Can she ever trust a culture that has repeatedly come for her?

We’ve been together for fourteen years.

Do I really know what I would do?


My grandfather, a survivor of residential schools and a World War II veteran (Italy, France), once told me you don’t know anything about a person until you see them in a crisis.

When they have to lay their lives on the line.

Survival is a powerful instinct, he told me, while rocking on his porch chair, smoking his pipe..


In the 1880’s, Canadian Prime Minister John A. MacDonald stood up in the House of Parliament and proclaimed that “he was doing everything in his power to starve out the Indians.”

Wilfred Laurier, leader of the official opposition, and future Prime Minister himself, jumped to his feet and bellowed, “you’re not trying hard enough!”


What do I know about a real crisis?

I know even less about how I imagine I would react in a crisis.


Most Germans did not participate in the formation of the Jewish Ghettos, or in the forced migration of Jews into those ghettos, but they weren’t proud of themselves either.

They know what they let happen.

They know why they let it happen.


Currently, (even under grandpa Joe Biden), children continue to be forcibly taken from their parents at the US border with Mexico.

Washington backs all of the military regimes in Central America, yet pretends not to understand why all the Central American refugees are showing up at their border.

Pretending it’s the refugees’ fault.


We know the shameless go into politics, don’t we?

It’s why we aren’t surprised when they get caught in multi-billion dollar pension frauds, child sex rings (rape), and declarations of war.

They have no scruples and must always be beaten back with a baseball bat.


Imagine. We still kill people over a religion that is now 4,000 years old.

We remain so low-functioning that we still kill men over the color of their skin.

In the Italian civil wars of the Middle Ages, it was the White Hats against the Red Hats.

How are we any different?

As a species we act as dumb as a pail of nails.

There are too many idiots – stoked on power and cruelty – who get in the way of making it better for everyone else.

I’ve met some of these politicians.

I have been part of communities and organizations that have placed stacks of facts at their feet about best practices for eliminating homelessness, for addiction support, mental health, reducing violence. I have been told these reports have been thrown straight into the garbage.

They don’t care about the facts. They only care about privilege and power.

How smug they feel when they pass laws criminalizing homelessness.

Or addictions.


Did you know that according to the police and social workers and sex assault workers, only about 5% of all sexual assaults in Canada ever get reported to the police.

Only 5%.

Did you know that last year, 250,000 sexual assaults were reported to the police in Canada?


Of the total.

The other 4.75 million sexual assaults remained silent. And therefore never happened.


A central theme of Babylon Berlin is that when an economy has all but collapsed (Berlin, 1928-1930), no one can trust anyone.

The ghosts of Hobbes and Machiavelli haunt the streets – it’s every man (woman, child) for themselves.

When the Nazis kick down our door to take my wife to the gas chambers, what do I do?


Mental Breakdown.


Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi said there are no words, no language, no reason for what was encountered in World War II. An Auschwitz guard told him upon his arrival, “here, there is no why.”

There was only survival.

Jewish babies were clubbed to death by Nazi soldiers.

Primo Levi would later commit suicide.

Spring, (metaphorically speaking)

March 19, 2021

Within the Patriarchy that is our ‘western’ culture, a legacy of patriarchy – we should remind ourselves – that it has existed at the centers of power for at least the last 7,000 years.

This Epoch of the Patriarchy has been a good run, generally speaking, for men. For forever they have been kings and popes and generals and CEO’s. Power. Glory. Wealth. What’s not to like?

Massacre of the Innocents (Rubens) - Wikipedia
Ruben’s massacre of the innocents

Many kings, over many different times, made it law that they would be the first to sleep with virgin brides on their wedding day.

Some kings did it right in front of the congregation. (If you know anything about psychoanalysis, this rape-in-front-of-the-congregation (i.e., the bride and groom’s family) is laden with so much psychic shit (for the perpetrator, the victim, the mother, the father, the witnesses, the priest, the children) you don’t really know where to begin.)

The Holy Inquisition, I’ll remind you, lasted more than 600 years. Some of the Inquisitors wrote in their reports back to Rome about how much they enjoyed watching witches being flayed alive before then being burned on the stake.

In the Middle Ages packs of priests would storm nunneries and rape the nuns. Mass burnings of women were turned into town square spectacles; tickets were sold, temporary markets built to meet the demand of men who would travel from town to town to watch the witch burnings.

In war, the incidence of rape exponentially explodes, as men turn on women as quickly as they turn on each other.

burning at the stake | History & Facts | Britannica

The closer you get to the inner power sanctums of this patriarchy – religious, political, corporate – the more resistant the men will be to change.

The smarter men know that their historic privileges may be coming to an end, and the best they can do is perhaps delay the inevitable, at least until they have got everything they can take, out first. What do I mean by this? Here’s a recent example of what I mean when I say men will only give up power after they have first stripped the current system absolutely bare:

When state-level “social democrats” recently won all of the candidate seats for the Democratic Party in Nevada – all of them – meaning that the Nevada Democratic Party would only have “social democrat” candidates to put forward in the next midterms – the entire politburo of the Democratic Party in Nevada quit, and sent the entire bank account to the national office in Washington. The old democratic political machine in Nevada had been in place forever; no one wanted things to change.

The national office of the Democratic Party – which oversees the needs of the party all the way from the state districts to the House of Congress, the Senate, and the current President – has yet to respond (or return the money).

When the story went viral progressives from across the country began sending the Nevada Team money.

The National Democratic Party would actually prefer that the Nevada Democratic Party croudsource their funds, rather than return their money, or support the grassroots democratic process that is demanding real political change in America.

This is what I mean when I say men, just like George Bush did, would rather burn the place to the ground then give any space over to women (or Indigenous people, or Black people, or queer people, or any other non-white-heteronormative people).

It should come as no surprise that women are sexually harassed in the halls of politics – either in Canberra, Washington, Beijing, London, Moscow, Paris, Sao Paulo, Accra, or here in Ottawa. The last resort of all men – in their relations with women – overwhelmingly and always – has been physical violence. And especially sexual violence.

As a white man you can say that you know this, but you don’t know this. I don’t experience what it is like to be sexually harassed on a daily basis in every sector of my life. To know that you could be sexually assaulted at any time.

When a woman tells you what it’s like to live in the patriarchy – that her promotion may depend on whether she is willing to give head; that she prefers when the man delivering her dinner stays back from her; that she wants you to walk her home from the subway stop if she arrives after dark – that she gets felt up on every subway rush hour trip to a job where the men stare at her tits – don’t pretend you know what she is talking about, because you don’t.

When a Black man tells you what it is like to live in Chicago, or Toronto, or St. Louis, just be quiet and listen.

Don’t repress this information. Don’t deflect, transfer, dismiss. Know where you have been placed on the grid: privileged witness, historian, collaborator, bystander, victim, perpetrator.

Our denial or repression of women’s trauma is at the root of our ‘blaming the victim’, or our conflating mens’ pain with women’s trauma. How do you transfer (hide, repress, deflect) this knowledge, when you hear it?

What triggers the ecstasy of violence and power? Answer me that riddle. A narcissism so deep we’d rather drown on our own blood than share wealth and justice. Out here in the land of Freud’s Death Drive, we encounter the dystopia that rules many men’s souls. Especially those men eager to be alpha males. The elation of violence; primal, murky.

It is through this ancient patriarchy – the 7,000-year-old water we swim in, like fish – where we orient and interact with each other, mutually reinforce each other, conflict with each other, censor each other, judge each other.

My understanding of a woman’s sexual trauma is, at best, a muted understanding. We have all experienced a moment when someone tried to physically intimidate us – especially as young men. We understand that sort of violence, and can use that to empathize. But empathy is not the same as understanding.

My wife and I were held-up, at knife point, in Buenos Aires, which was frightening and disorienting. The desperate teenaged boys and their girlfriends, who looked as frightened as we were, made off with my empty knapsack.

But this mugging is not a daily threat, a routine gesture of power, a persistent leer, a “misunderstood” grope.

The male children in shows like Mad Men are the men in power positions today. They will not give up their privileges without a fight.

These men are massively insecure and don’t share well. When push comes to shove few of them believe in grassroots democracy or any social justice that potentially undermines their perceived privileges.

They’d rather be rats on the sinking ship, then being with those who want to insure there are lifeboats for everyone.

There are a lot of them, enough perhaps to take the whole planet down with them.

This doesn’t mean we don’t stand up to them.