Think for Yourself !

Michael RanieriB A (Arts) 1978, is the owner-operator of a small business in K-W for 5 years now, and is keenly interested in educational issues


Isn’t Canadian Culture Still Worth Preserving?
June / July 1992

In the last century, some of the world’s political/economic systems have undergone major transformations: There are no emperors left in China; Russia is in the midst of another major change; and the European Economic Community is getting closer to reality. The recent U.S. riots are a  confirmation of the change that is required with our neighbours, yet we Canadians meekly sit and wait for others to think for us.

We see a need for an end to racism, sexism, environmental abuse, economic abuse and the ridiculous absurdity of our bureaucracy that puts paperwork before human beings. What can you and I, as individuals, do about this?

My background includes relatives that both fled and supported Russian aristocracy and communism. Ultimately, there seems to be no difference in the outcome for either. They came to the land of opportunity only to find a culture in which money is all and everything. In this economically driven Canadian culture, money takes precedence over community, over the arts, research, entertainment and over the basic necessities of life – putting a roof over your head and being able to eat.

Our culture is dying – people are not supporting the original concepts of freedom and real democracy where all are treated equal.

I have a lot of sympathy for the unemployed and for the abuse the lower class in our society suffers. How can someone be sentenced and given a criminal record for stealing a pair of $12 shoes for their child, while an employee caught embezzling gets an internal “retraining” program ?

The Greeks had a number of words that they used to describe the various connotations of democracy. We have one that refuses to go away, where the “blue bloods” would tell people that they will do the thinking for them.

I have always been an “outsider”, not participating in politicking, but if we should be more concerned with appearances and not make problematic issues public, then one of the most frightening aspects of this is : how many policies and practices will be rubber stamped and never disclosed or discussed ?

Other cultures have valued ethics and consistent morality (that is not necessarily dictated) as an integral part of culture. Does it still exist anywhere other than in a few individuals ?

As a business person my philosophy has been based on mutual satisfaction – if I do business with you, we should BOTH be happy. Some days I feel like an alien when I explain this pretty simple concept to people.

The examples are endless, but that is not the point. When people came to North America they brought their idealism and energy to try to find a better way to live. It was always stressed that adaptability and flexibility are key components for healthy evolution. North America was the last great refuge for freedom, creativity and independence. It did grow and prosper, but often at the expense of women, third world countries, the environment and native cultures.

However, these “subcultures” have fought back. Is our country now turning on itself because there is nothing left?  We have forsaken the ideal of harmonic growth for advertising slogans.

Now is the time to start creating a sense of community: we cannot expect to be given jobs, we must be independent and start working outside of the confines that are holding us back. In a vacuum, culture can be created.

Support the Arts that you want to see, the ones you enjoy and derive satisfaction from. Participate in the things you can change and find others that agree.

Make mistakes as you try things out; for everything you try, a mistake will turn into the right stuff if you try hard enough.

Talk to people to whom you wouldn’t usually talk to – find out if they are the same or different. Work beside them and play beside them – see if you remember how !! Think for yourself – Create your own future !


Would You Choose the Lowest Bidder ?
September 1992

In my last article, I briefly looked at the global changes and the implications for Canadian culture and what you and I can do to affect change and not only be its result, with no control.

People in this culture do not seem to get together and have any directed effect as my main contention was that our society is so preoccupied by money (especially during our current economic climate) that the individual does not have any say i.e. does not have enough money except in their own back yard. So this time, let’s discuss an economic and business perspective.

My own business experience has shown that to award a tender to the lowest bidder, without taking other factors into account, is an absolutely absurd bureaucratic position to take and benefits nobody. Our own business’ policy has been to immediately dismiss the lowest bidder when we source goods for resale. Reason? Almost every business is goods and services, and the exact same business principles apply: the lowest bidder is a collection of the lowest bids from suppliers, subcontractors and other services. Even though purchasing and engineers specify minimum requirements, anybody in business knows how to get around this. No matter how many specifications you put out, there are suppliers who are constantly learning how to defeat this. Just as when I go to a restaurant, they all serve the same, sometimes at the same price, but I definitely have my favorites!

I could continue, but basically the point is this: a cost saving now almost always causes extra expense in the future. In our business we know that the lowest bidder has the weakest quality i.e. ‘just passes specs’, has the weakest after sales support, and has the most aggravating and unacceptable, but legally passable warranty service.

A natural consequence of this is poor business ethics and relations, and ultimately, low value.

People may argue that this is the reason for the rigors of the tendering process, but it simply doesn’t work for the good of all concerned. What about after the job is done? There are always callbacks! How much time and money would be wasted in a critical situation?

Purchasing a large amount of equipment from a manufacturer / supplier whose reputation within the industry is not favourable saying that we have saved money by getting the lowest price, without considering the supplier’s skill, competence, experience or ethics and long term accountability, then no value or real cost savings are achieved. Dealing with a reputable supplier overcomes a lot of costly measures.

Accompanying factors and consequences should be of concern in the original bidding. Long term and overall value cannot be specified in a bid request, hence the need for looking at experience, past track record and ongoing performance and satisfaction.

So little value is placed on people’s experience and quality! Customers who tells me they can buy a product we sell cheaper elsewhere sometimes don’t understand how a product can be called the same thing and sold as if it were, but not have any real quality in it, thus the customer is not getting the same thing!

The same analogy is true when it comes to people. Other cultures have acknowledged the need for higher value than just in commodities and the price.

Isn’t this similar to an argument where one has or has not the choice to pick the best available, whether it be goods, services or PEOPLE ?

Our culture has to begin to recognize this. Hopefully, businesses will value people above lowest cost. If everything is sold to the lowest bidder, we will be reduced to no community at all. Isn’t community the basis of culture?

Money ? !
October / November 1992

In my previous articles, I tried to express the idea that an individual’s day to day experiences or interaction with other people is what produces a community’s identity. It becomes a part of a larger cultural identity when one includes how groups of individuals, a community, view other groups of individuals. Regional, ethnic, political and religious differences all impart a personality that an individual either reflects or tries to incorporate, for better or worse.

This is my rather awkward way of saying that an individual can make his or her mark and change things. The change is felt by the community, and if there is a large enough influence, the whole culture is affected. It could be going round in a circle if it is a static culture, or it could be changing as in the case of Russia revolutionizing itself: from aristocracy to communism to a variant of democracy.

Think of how these cycles take place on a local level – concepts in education, the impact of technology, changing concepts of values and of working, and so on.

Certain things seem to start from global culture and exert their influence only one way – the community simply reacts. Federal / Provincial politics, the Legal System, the communications media and others are examples. We often have microcosms of these: municipal government, local community standards of acceptability and the reporting of local news and events. Even at this level, the individual is often passive and only still reacting to what is presented to them.

What I feel is the underlying and driving force behind all these global one way influences in our culture is M O N E Y .

One does not need to list how money seems to affect virtually everything. But I do think it is important to list how little effect the individual has on reversing or balancing the force of money in their lives.

Rather than be theoretical, I will take a look at money in my own business. For this purpose, numbers will be expressed as a percentage, but accurately reflects what I feel is an alarming drain on our local economy. (Incidentally, gross sales are between $500,000 and one million – just to give you an idea of what we are talking about)

77 % direct cost of goods sold
7 % GST
6.5% PST (some items are exempt or wholesale)
2 % waste, damaged goods, dead stock, theft, etc
0.5% bank charges: credit card “discount”, service fees, etc.(no loan)
5 % wages, salary
1 % rent, utilities, local services, etc
1 % miscellaneous

the first five items ( 93% ) represent money that originates in the community but leaves and may only partially be returned. The goods sold are not manufactured locally. The dealings represent the worst of business affairs – almost all take and no give. And we provide all the work !

In our particular business, the cost of goods sold is very high. One will notice that there is no profit and no retained earnings. We, and a lot of other small businesses, have not seen that for years. For some, this has encouraged fraud, theft and the bandit mentality. How many times do you hear complaints about the way businesses treat people now ? When your back is against the wall, there are very few alternatives. There is also no money set aside for training, development, consulting or anything that pertains to future or long term growth. It is a day-to-day survivalist mentality.

As an individual responsible for the cash flow of what I consider to be a sizeable amount of money, I have to worry about the little I and my employees can get out of it, never mind trying to balance the slate and make things fairer. I have tired so much of customers constantly haranguing us for lower prices when we fight Goliath, that I feel that they should see what it is like to come to work and daily be bargained down on the little mark-up we have. Our only true alternative at this point would be to substitute inferior goods, bait and switch or all the other horrors of sleazy salesmanship !

I find fewer and fewer people willing to be self-employed or entrepreneurial, few want to willingly engage themselves in such unequal business relations.

When are we going to do something about this ? Some feel it is already too late, and our culture has changed into one in decline, with people only profiting from other people’s misfortune or constrained relationships that never allow them to grow.

Do you think that ethical business is still possible or have we lost that too ?

Are you finding your friends, relatives and acquaintances have changed for the worse – stress, violence and manipulation seem to be the by-product of this state of affairs. Is this what you want ?

The ideas of freedom and self-determination and healthy competition now read like anarchist manifestos. This is how far we have strayed from original design and idealism. I find it hard to believe that the majority of people today want our current state of affairs, but I certainly have been called naive before.

Yet I don’t like what I see. I would rather be called naive and stupid than accept what I see. This is part of your community, your culture. Is this what you really want ? If you don’t say anything, nothing will change


Is Participatory Democracy Only a Slogan at Election Time ?
December 1992 / January 1993

Recently I was in the United States.  I watched a bit of the local TV new and read the city papers a few times.  A little incident caught my eye:

There was a problem in one part of the city.  Well, it seems that some of the people living in the “ghetto” (the word was never actually used, but certainly implied) were getting tired of having their area represented the way it was and treated the way it was.

Basically, they figured that they were  paying their fair share in taxes for services.  Ultimately, as time and incidents progressed, and when they looked at what  they were getting in return, they felt it was a “pretty raw deal” – a lot of money was going out to people and institutions outside the neighbourhood while a calculated fair percentage  of it was not returning as they reasoned it ought to (by simply comparing  other neighbourhoods’ treatment and their taxation levels and services).

Their neighbourhood needed basic improvements and the city had almost deliberately neglected them.  When  “outside” investment came in, it was strictly financial motivation and this helped accelerate deterioration in the neighbourhood (which reminds one of nasty foreign policies applied in third world countries ..).

The residents did not ask to be treated this way, yet were blamed for the outcome.  A wonderful ‘got-em no matter which way they turned‘ !

To make a long story short, they demanded that the city acknowledge and address their concerns.  Imagine my shock when the city quickly (and without confrontation or double-talk) agreed !

The city’s first step was to pressure the banks to make available  self directed business loans and to take risks at a lower profit margin and to lay off management control unless justified and agreed upon.  And further, zoning  changes would be partially directed by the neighbourhood (as opposed to the residents just being informed of, or having their opinion taken) and the city would let the neighbourhood have final say in changes.

I often see or hear of similar situations here, and I wonder if in my own little town things could be handled this way.  Imagine if someone or some group here tried to do things this way.

How differently would the outcome have been, in the case, for example, of building inspectors evicting a large number of people – who are simply trying to make a living and survive – from an “unsafe” building.

Had those people deliberately been encouraging such conditions?  Could the city have regarded the people involved with more consideration and not acted unilaterally ?

This is almost a repeat of the same scenario of the U.S. city, yet the outcome was completely different;  Or is there another angle I am not aware of ?

How would people respect such callous and uncalled for behaviour ?  Why can other cities improve conditions instead of blaming the people who are  trying ?  How can people’s trust in the ability of politicians and bureaucrats be maintained if they can’t  even use the little common sense and maybe some understanding in difficult times ?

Maybe it is time people started questioning adversarial tactics by the people who are in the public sector.  After all, we are their employer and do have some say … don’t we ?


Culture Should be Agreed Upon ; Defined by You and I
Why Isn’t it Now?

February / March 1993

My previous articles probably represent a consistent train of thought that is really only apparent to me! However, a lack of negative response has got me wondering .. And when I start wondering, I really wander in the wonder of it all!

Naming a column “Think for Yourself” is somewhat contradictory because it is one person’s opinion: mine. But .. I think my opinion largely does not influence anyone against their will and I (and you) should be free to express ourselves. Yet, I am sometimes made to suffer others’ opinions, laws, teachings, etc., and have no say in the matter. Lately, it has only got worse.

What is it that makes someone else’s opinion influence my life, whether I want it to or not? Is it this culture? Politics, religion, education, the working environment and your community are all cultural forces impinging on you and I, for better or for worse. I had previously stated that I think money has become the overriding (and negative) bottom line tying all these factors together. Let’s just ignore money for now (as if this were possible!) and look generally at culture (or the lack of an individual’s say in thereof).

Well, I’ve never had a reputation for acknowledging or accepting things the way they are, but what about you? Isn’t the right to question still available, or is culture so insular that questioning just falls on deaf ears and you get labelled the big complainer with a negative attitude?

* * * * * * *

If for one brief crazy moment, you had any wish you could, what would it be? In a directed poll taken recently (reported in Maclean’s), the number one answer was: inner peace and happiness. People favoured that over remaining young and healthy, over money, over sex (in that order). Why is this so?

Let’s take that one brief crazy moment and hold it a bit longer. Let’s pretend you really had a say in our cultural institutions. Do you think they’d be anything like the way they are now?

Would you keep the political system the way it is now?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing how this is the best place in the world to live and that things are getting better. My own poll with friends and relatives tell me that politics and the things we are told by our politicians and bureaucrats have about as much depth and concern as a very slick and expensive advertising campaign.

Would you keep organized religion the way it is now?

I consider myself to be a spiritual (for lack of a better adjective) person in my own way, but most religious institutions seem to have no soul (for lack of a better definition) in which to form a spiritual affinity with. I often politely argue about religion with others but dogma is often the ultimate answer to the ultimate questions. Dogma precludes my right to question and be equal to those who profess to have the answers. Somehow equality is always number two, behind a very frightening, vengeful and authoritarian #1.

Would you keep the educational system the way it is now?

Education now seems to be socialization: which is teaching coping skills to adjust in a culture that has been incapable of realizing ultimate standards for everybody to abide by and hold true. Coping does not address personal security and healthy evolutionary growth. Coping is not independence and self-reliance or teaching one to educate oneself. The double bind is that the freedom to be who you are is at odds with the narrow niche-filling needed by our corporations and government structures. And who creates education policies? Do you?

Creativity, the arts, self-discipline, entrepreneurial and independent thinking, productivity, self-expression, scientific and harmonious technical achievements and satisfying relations are some of the things that are formed through experience and opportunity and a mutual beneficial environment. Education in its ideal state could provide exposure to these concepts if the people teaching had themselves realized these abilities and were promoting them in action and by demonstration. Do you think that’s what’s on Teacher’s College application and today’s agenda?

Socialization produces value judgements by rote, the loss of spontaneity and the pressure to conform without merit or justification. To consider marking students on how well they participate as “team players”. Not one kid that I asked about this agreed: they cited peer pressure, being a teacher’s pet, disregard for the new kid in class or racial/ethnic/intellectual/physical individuality being subsumed. Parents were not consulted about these issues, so before blaming parents for non-participation shouldn’t we ask: how long has it been since we last listened to them? Do they actually need to be taught the right skills in order to ask the teachers the right questions? Then we are told our concerns are being addressed!

I do not impose my way of thinking on anyone, while others impose their thinking on me “for my good” (?)

I think valid political, religious and business qualifications come from those who have contributed and improved conditions for all those concerned. Or is this just an ideal that is marketed and taught but never really acted on? For me inner peace and happiness is derived partially from knowing that people whom I have entrusted authority and control over parts of my life are to be doing so in my (and theirs’ equally) best interest. And if we were to change positions, there would be no change in equality and no conflict would ensue.

In today’s society, I would certainly be one of the respondents who chose inner peace and happiness as a priority, because I don’t think my culture is providing it. Worse yet, I think that those who desire it are going to be branded “non-team players”, troublemakers, cowboys, etc., and penalized for it.

Unfortunately, I’m still confused as I can’t seem to find all these people who vote to keep things the way they are. Are we so afraid to say what we think in this culture?

If you were in charge for a day, is our present culture the one you would create? It is obvious that I would say NO, I would not keep much of what we have now. But am I the only one? If not, where are you, who are you .. and how are you now? What have you done lately to make the world a better place ?

April / May 1993
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last issue’s article asked why the average everyday person is not getting much say in contributing to our current definition of culture. Educational, religious and political institutions seem to be so incapable of being flexible and evolutionary (i.e. progress or betterment occurring) that most people’s lives seem to be a defensive reaction to culture rather than a contribution to and extension or creation of culture. Input into any of these institutions is often ignored, confused, bureaucratized or otherwise deflected. “Teflon” ethics and leadership seems to be a fact of life these days ! Immunity to criticism and lack of true accountability go hand in hand with self-interests in a hidden agenda.

I rarely call upon my formal education for any explanations, but one of the things that I learned was that it is a relatively simple process to produce apathy, helplessness, and confusion: If I were of a particularly selfish and destructive attitude, it would be an easy matter to create apathy. Let’s say I wanted to do this to my pet dog. All I have to do is send mixed signals – when my dog does more than move, I simply both punish and reward my dog for the exact same actions. Even in a dog, I will be able to confuse and sensitize the animal to the notion that anything it does is subject to arbitrary actions on my part. I have control – I am the dog’s master, and my dog simply does not know how to respond.

Anything it does to respond will not induce better behaviour on my part. It will soon learn not to respond.

People are certainly more complex, but the same principle holds true. Who are the ‘masters’ in my life ? What do I do when I see them treating me arbitrarily or without just cause ? Do I just sit there and take it ? Do I fight back ? Do I take it out on others around me ?

Due to recent events in my life where I felt I was treated like the dominated dog, I began to informally ask people whether they thought they had been in comparable situations and how and why these things could happen.

I talked to a policeman, I talked to a teacher, I talked to a small business owner, I talked to a youth, and I talked to others. The details are not important, but the agreement was almost always reached when we discussed how it was getting harder and harder to find out if people have any consistency or agreement on any fundamental values. What does our culture stand for and hold in high ideal ?

Kids in school are learning about hypocrisy and being noncommittal. Teachers have no direction and are caught between an inefficient bureaucracy and parents who want to blame them for their kid’s problems. Parents are insecure and doing anything to hold on to what is fast dissolving in front of their eyes.

Policemen/women are seeing criminals with more rights than their victims and an adversarial legal system that is only helping those who profit from others’ suffering. A legal “system” strangling any attempt to see fair and consistent justice be done. Judges are ruling on people’s lives as if they were no better than victims of a spelling mistake and complex interpretations of detached rulings and laws.

Governments are telling us we must pay for decisions made in our names, but which we had no say in. One friend’s answer was his religious faith – he has so completely given up on the idea that this world can be a good one, that it is only the potential of an afterlife that gives him any hope. How has possibility and potential been removed from everyday life ?

Business people are saying that the only way to survive is to take advantage of people’s ignorance and wait for opportunities – the community is there to take money from and to not put anything back in. This is not mutually productive, but more like a military attitude – divide, conquer, then abandon after the destruction.

I listen to politicians and the media who are quick to blame the “lazy” unemployed, blame the crack heads (and witness the allegations made towards the race of those associated with the ‘problem’), blame the lack of morals and say it is things like the recent legalization of explicit sex videos.

It’s funny, though you know that there aren’t many jobs, and when they catch a welfare cheat, he or she is surely and swiftly punished. But when someone defrauds others of over a million dollars, he is a victim of his own delusions and is sentenced to less than 2 years in jail. I recently heard of a high profile bankruptcy where the scuttlebutt is that the company’s main business was large scale heroin and cocaine importation. Not one word of this was in the media. If I heard it, they surely did too. And how come there were no lawyers saying that high profile WASP businessmen are responsible for bringing millions in destructive drugs into the area ? But it was easy to say it’s Jamaicans and Vietnamese that are responsible. And it’s all too easy to pick up kids for smoking a joint and blame them for our society’s problems.

How come on TV I can see people killing each other, but am told that people having healthy, fun and mutually satisfying physical relations is obscene ? Something I feel and enjoy is wrong, yet harming other people is something I am supposed to ignore or accept as entertainment ?

I tell people that I dropped out a long time ago and do not like the society I am in. I see a lot of wrong, but always thought that in my own world I could be free to make it a better one. I don’t feel any great urge to make people be like me, but I don’t want others to make me be like them, unless I want to. Mutual respect and tolerance are important ! I admire the people I have learned from and felt comfortable with, even though I have disagreed with them or not even hold the same values. I respect the fact that they at least have values. A diverse culture is healthy !

The answers to the problems we have are in acknowledging that we can no longer pretend that things are good. When I talked to a friend who came from another part of the world I asked him whether he thought it was better here or there .. he said that here he is better off financially or materially, but the way he said that people and community were better in his homeland, made me think that there has got to be a better way, because I know we are in danger of losing people like him. People, life and a positive, progressive culture are simply more important, attractive and healthy than all the things we have been substituting.

Hypocrisy, lack of anything to believe in, and anything for money is worse than any cancer or disaster. Our society is not immune to the toll these attitudes are taking. No government, no educational institute, no religion, no legal system, is capable of giving you the right to be happy, free and evolutionary. You as a person must create it for yourself and the community.

But do they have the right to take it away ? Is what we have now what we really want ? Think for yourself, do it yourself and be yourself !

June / July 1993
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My recent past seems to have been filled with either new or unresolved incidents that have been repeats of the same scenario – I, as an individual, am in situations where, what I thought were self-evident rights and truths are not valid.

My rights seem to be one-way obligations and my truths are said to be subject to a narrow set of laws that I had no say in creating, challenging or understanding. Additionally, even if I accept that it is the way it is, they seem to be fundamentally wrong and transcend what I think and my rights and truths as a human being. Has our society (or culture) gone too far from what I think is a part of me?

When I mentioned this to another person who is somewhat of an activist, he said that he can’t understand how things can be the way they are when we live in a democracy. I countered this by saying that we only live in a version of democracy. Canada is not like the United States where there is a history of individual freedom and rights. We have a parliamentary system that is made up of a watered down British system that is, in turn, a hold-over from the days of kings and queens. Does this even make sense at the end of the 20th century?

I recently heard of a government office, where there was a “challenge” to yet another horrible attempt to legislate, regulate and officiate the chain of authority. Basically, 2 people in the office wanted to move their desks closer together. The ‘boss’ was not sure whether he/she could delegate that authority. Three people spent an afternoon attempting to resolve this issue. Is this our legacy? These people are all reasonably high paid, pensioned, educated and otherwise protected. Do these 3 people even feel any affinity to the people on the streets who do not know the rules of this game and are told it is their fault that they are lazy and not working and that the afternoon of encounter group desk arranging is something they should pay for! I suspect new seminars and position papers are now going to be scheduled to deal with this thorny issue. The problem that created this buffoonery is then masked and confused even further.

While this represents an extreme, I then re-turned our conversation to a more lofty plane (we didn’t need to go through more examples). It seems that an overall cultural dictate produces the after-effect in yours and my lives. Look at the beginning: the next Prime Minister of Canada will not be elected by you and I. We will simply have candidates to choose from what have already been chosen by their party. Whoever wins will have exclusive and total control: over parliament, over their members, and over you and I. In the United States, a Democrat does not necessarily vote with their party. It is reported who voted which way on which bill and they are not kicked out of the party if they did not lock-step. In Germany, if the Green Party has 10% of the vote, there is 10% representation in their higher chambers. In Canada 10% is equal to 0%. But still, who says theirs, or our ways are better? (Their democracy is a little more homegrown though !)

I just know that it seems that I have no say, and our present system does not work. I can say I know when something is wrong and more energy is being spent attempting to hide or bandage the broken; I know when common sense and human values say it is time to replace or repair it properly. Our society has not been designed or encouraged to produce leaders – we are producing bureaucrats and mercenaries. We are unproductive and apathetic, waiting for someone to come up with answers that can only be found within. We are not encouraged to make our own way and be self-reliant. When one is happy, self-confident, enjoying life and looking forward to a future, you and I are harder to control! Do we need or want more incomprehensible and arbitrary rules that, at best, only serve vested interests at the expense of others?

I challenged my friend to come up with a Canadian example where political, religious, economic, educational or social model put the intrinsic value of the individual as paramount. We could not find it (except maybe in hurtin’ country and western songs!).

Religion seems to dictate that faith comes before your neighbour. I was raised in a Christian environment – denial of God was a bigger ‘sin’ than killing another human being! Needless to say, I cringe when I see any ideology incorporated into moral imperatives that I cannot question.

Politicians are unaccountable – patronage and abuse of power now are part of the job description. A radio phone-in show caller explained to a government minister how a new tax law put her out of business. The minister simply replied that he never considered it. My own business recently had money arbitrarily and without justification seized by Revenue Canada. After months of phone calls, letters, two meetings and an audit, the money was refunded with the exception of a $300 fine for not handing in a piece of paper on time.  No apology – no accountability – no acknowledgement.  Revenue Canada does not have the same rules as I do -in fact I am not allowed to even go to Court to defend myself.  I have repeatedly asked why, when a piece of paper is withheld by them in another situation (the printer had not provided the only forms accepted by them) that represents a lot of money owing to me, I cannot apply the same accountability. I am now a troublemaker for asking such questions. Will I be punished?

Worthy causes are often lobby groups that often only look after their own self-interests at the expense of others. I heard it explained that one of the biggest charities in Canada which is heavily involved in medical R&D does not actually want to find a “cure” because the size of the organization is too big to dismantle! While not all charities are anything close to this, what can an individual do in the shadow of such contradictions?

Locally, an elected politician tried to question certain practices in our system. I do not know this person and only know events from the media attention. However, I asked certain well-placed individuals their reaction to this person. Their ‘verdict’ was almost universal – this person’s character, motivation and beliefs were attacked, demeaned and under suspicion. Attack the individual, not the questions! With one exception, this person’s points of inquiry and requests for explanation were ignored. The one exception accepted the validity of the questions (while still maintaining the personal attack) but dismissed them as trivial and the charges were a necessary component in the scheme of things – a privilege of the politicians and necessary to implement the goals of the system. What are we handing over to our children?

I recently received an unsolicited resume from someone looking for work. The resume’s educational background was exceptional – national top 10% scoring in mathematics and seemingly well above average. Work history? Assembly line and McDonald’s.

What kind of culture does this to its young? What future does it have?

Racism, sexism, human rights violations, etc., all have their basis in denying truth and human values. Arbitrary and unequal enforcement of laws and rights is the first wrong step. But if we must have laws and enforcement, they should be simple, fair and not subject to arbitrary interpretation, collusion, deceit and without personal gain at the expense of others.

Where do you fit in?
What are you doing about it?
Children (and sometimes adults)
learn from what they see,
not what they are told.
Be like a kid again:
question everything, be guileless, be full of the future

Are You Exercising Your Rights and Freedoms ?
Volume 3 #2  1994

It is the policy of this writer to encourage and promote the voluntary exercising of these rights.  But, from time to time, the writer is forced to pursue other avenues in order to ensure that his own human rights are observed.

Every person, including the author, can and should be able to defend his / her /  my / your actions as we are supposedly equal members in this community.

This is also known as accountability and is based on mutual and equal disclosure.  If you want to know something about me, then you better tell me the same thing about yourself.  Shouldn’t we have the same set of rules for our ‘leaders’ and rulemakers?

Often when dealing with ‘higher’ authority, this is not the case.

There are some circumstances when I am now told authority excuses one from this bilateral agreement.  It is further complicated by an insistence that I am not capable of running my own life, especially in matters that do not  have anything to do with anything but myself.  The respect for laws and practices would be bound by my accountability to the same degree, etc., but can hardly be honoured when those in authority flagrantly abuse their obligations.

In these times, there seem to be different standards and different rules for different people.  This is what racism, sexism and other ‘isms’ were based on.  Invoking immunity, higher authority or treating me like a spanked child and saying it is for my own good should not be allowed unless truly defensible.  If your group of peers has one set of rules, and these are not the same rules imposed on me, then you would be accused of cheating and be dismissed, with charges against, simply on this point alone.  This is if we have even got as far as agreeing  that your rules are right!

In general it is time to question such antiquated concepts as “her majesty’s assets”, divine right, “management decision”, economic policy, the role of politicians and their agendas, etc.  In essence, calling on justification that only one side can use is WRONG !

While not meant to rain on anyone’s parade, it is acknowledged that in certain cultures, when practices are agreed upon by  a certain (willing?) membership, they may be allowed to practice such amongst the like-minded, but are not allowed to impose their will on those that they seek to subjugate / dominate and who unthreateningly oppose such control.  Women have understood this, racial / ethnic groups have understood this, the economically deprived have understood this, non-nuclear family groups/individuals have understood this, the politically deprived have understood this,  the poorly treated workers have understood this .. in fact, probably an overall majority and people that wish to get more out of life than a proscribed life have understood this.

When is it going to be time to practice true equality like I have been told to: I request full and absolute mutually conditional equality.  What goes for me, goes for you.

I don’t need a lawyer … I need justice
I don’t need a politician … I need a wise leader or at worst a representative who voices and reflects the concerns of the community
I don’t need a priest … I need a peer who is looking at more than the life I see in front of me
I don’t need a teacher … I need an educator who teaches me to learn about learning and not enforcing arbitrary socialization
I don’t need a counsellor, they have better things to do than try to take away what I already started off with … I need a community that says it is wrong to pay for advice and information that will be legislated in if I have a big enough lobby group

These people I may pick and choose from, just as they should of me.

I need REAL human values and REAL human rights that apply to one and all in their understanding, creation, implementation and resolution.

But even without any of that, because there are those who find that power and control (or whatever other ‘ism’ it is) are the only things on their agenda, I just want to be left alone and have it so that your rules and my rules are at least the same.

I come from a culture where this simple request is amazingly difficult to formulate and even dangerous to express in these times.  Try it and see


Volume 3 #3  1994

Sometimes when I sit down to write this column, I marvel at the contradiction(s).  Encouraging people  to think for themselves is somewhat an oxymoron -at best- suggestive of authoritarianism -at worst.   Who am I to even suggest anything.

The saving grace is that I am hopefully still entitled to my own opinion, and they are simply opinions because they don’t go any further than the page you are reading.  However, it is a far different case when you are subject to the enforcement of what is essentially still opinions couched in the rhetoric of cultural mandates.  It’s a one way street:  I have opinions, but others dictate their rules.  This is my long winded introduction to this issue’s topic.

My computer’s spell-checker could not find this word, possibly because it is a concept that the dictionary has yet to deal with.  If I were to add the definition for this term, it would be something along the lines of: “what is in common behind a lot of government management styles – in that one is increasingly seeing attempts by whatever philosophy is represented, that is possible to legislate cultural and moral behaviour among the governed, to the exclusion of people having a say in their own destiny”.

In Canada, we have a Parliamentary / Party system which precludes democracy.  Now this poses an interesting set of problems ..

We are told that in the matters of road building, public safety etc., we are best letting those who are chosen / appointed do the thinking for us.  Inefficient and subject to other problems as it is, it does seem to eventually get the job done, even if at horrible public expense.

However, enforcement and dictation of moral, ethical and public observance of cultural and social matters is not road building.

Are we that complaisant that we do not want any input into these matters, nor do we have any any concern as to  how these matters are arrived at ?

Governmentism” relies on an apathetic , uninvolved and detached, passive compliance.

We hear of mandates, but have no say in their origin.  We hear of opinion taking methods by advertising companies that are sophisticated enough to plot and interfere with behaviour, and they are even compensated as consultants.  We hear of rigid media injunctions that have made objectivity an accepted excuse when it may only be the controlled dissemination of selective bits of information.

One of the prime functions of governmentism seems to be to induce helplessness.  The inference is that you have  a measured amount of freedom, at the very same time it is taken away while saying it is good for you.  Patronising at best, destructive at worst, yet we say and do nothing.

It is my understanding that there is a group of people in Canada whose method of making decisions is through 100% consensual agreement.  While leaders are appointed they are simply spokespeople and fulfill  the requests of ALL concerned.  When 100% agreement cannot be reached, nothing is done.  This forces TRUE equality and completely avoids a top-down bureaucracy.

Almost impervious to corruption, it is a very effective way to manage a community.  Apparently, young and old, male and female, ethnic and racial differences, ownership and control are all very effectively balanced.  While not as simplistic as a paragraph can describe, there is no necessity for going beyond ‘golden rule’ sentiments and a completely oral representation that ALL understand.  Equality, freedom and governing are no longer contradictions and hypocritical.

While I am not personally involved in this community, it is also my understanding that this way of living is not allowed in Canada, or barely tolerated at best.  And as someone has pointed out to me, toleration is merely condescension

Governmentism does not allow for 100% mutual, consensual agreement and it appears that freedom only belongs to rhetoricicians and those who wish to make rules that they themselves do not follow.

When I think like this, I am ashamed to be a Canadian, but I am even more ashamed at those who do these things and those who stand by and do nothing.

The next time someone mentions freedom, democracy and Canada in the same sentence, try asking them what they are talking about and if they feel that it is reality rather than illusory propaganda.