Friday, September 22, 2017

A first step to levelling the playing field from centuries of colonialism...Justin Trudeau at the U.N

Prime Minister Trudeau hit a home run in the General Assembly earlier this week with his historic speech of atonement for the century-plus abuses of colonialism against the indigenous people of Canada. Of course, words alone will not bring a full measure of justice for the innumerable wrongs First Nations people have, are and will continue to endure. However, to take the podium in New York and to acknowledge the black hole that is Canada’s history on this file, and to risk the derision, scorn, jealousy and even contempt of world leaders and the home media suggests that the man is growing into the potential of his elected office.

As he correctly and appropriately pointed out in his address, this is not merely about righting those deplorable wrongs in Canada; it is also about focusing the world’s attention on the serious power abuses that are intrinsic to colonialism, a pattern and a history that is endemic to empires, dominions, satellite clusters of countries and the proposition that dictators can dictate the lives of people in their sphere of influence.

Whether colonialism is at the root of political empire building, or corporate aggrandizement, or religious dogma and domination, or financial buy-outs and mergers in which the most powerful take control of the playing field regardless of whether they offer the most effective, the best-designed and built, the most efficient or the most ethical products or services, top-down hierarchies that are indigenous to colonialism, like behemoths, proliferate the planet.

In the Canadian context, for a government, after 150 years of insouciant racism and avoidance of responsibility for the lives of the original people (who claim to have been here  for 15,000 years), to take the first step in a long-overdue journey is not only a monumental shift in national priorities; it is also so complex and encumbered a prospect that it will not be completed in the life of the current federal government, nor in the life of succeeding governments for the next century.

Clean drinking and bathing water inside safe and hygenic housing, safe and competent schools, access to effective health care and most importantly work with dignity…these are achieveable and measureable targets, dependent only on the vision, the will and the commitment of national leaders, in collaboration with indigenous bands and their respective leaders. A system of indigenous justice, designed and implemented by indigenous elders, along with the national observance of land treaties, and the implementation of those clauses that require shared planning, shared design and shared compensation from natural resource extraction, refining and distribution projects.

 Individual human rights and dignity, along with a profound respect for the environment (land, air, water) as honoured by indigenous people are all potential gifts from that community to the broader national community. And the sooner the national consciousness embraces this reality, the more healthy will be the lives of all Canadians.

And then, on the world stage, there is no country on the planet that has not, and does not still have to face a colonial history, with the so-called major players in North America and Europe being the originators and the sustainers of colonialism while many of the countries in the developing world are still struggling to get out from under the binding ropes and chains of their colonial masters. And the implications of this power imbalance continue to plague the world community, from processes that would acknowledge the monstrous effluent being emitted by developed countries and their corporation and the legitimate demand that those countries offset the costs of pollution control in the developing world, to the deplorable imbalance in arms production, sales, proliferation and the political implications of that implicit and “imposed” injustice.

It is not only individual human rights that the world community has to protect; it is also the national and tribal rights of indigenous peoples everywhere that have to be factored into the collective decision-making, process-design and collaborative execution on the large and threatening issues we face: the environment, the drug crisis, the military arms race, the economic divide within developed countries and between the developed world and the developing world.

Trudeau is positing a very different way of perceiving and hence of dealing with minorities, especially those minorities who have suffered, endured and suffered some more at the “hands” of the rich and the powerful. Imagine if the Trudeau theme had been emitted from the mouth of the American president, about indigenous peoples in Dakota and in New Mexico, and about African-Americans and Latinos. Imagine the degree of integrity and humility, the historic level, that would have been trumpeted by the U.S. media, if such an address had come from trump rather than the name-calling, bullying drivel that we all heard.

Although the Canadian leader has perched himself and his government on a very high and slender branch of a very brittle tree, a branch that reporters and pundits will be gleefully trying to break from the trunk of the tree. There is nothing more seductive to a journalist that the prospect of bringing a high-wire rock-star politician down from his precarious perch. And already, the National Post, in headlining all those topics not covered by the speech, and the CBC’s At Issue Panel, in pejoratively dubbing the speech “lobbying for that seat on the Security Council (Andrew Coyne) and castigating it for failing to address all the ‘hot-button’ issues of the day like North Korea, Putin, Syria, refugees and cyber-security (Althea Raj of Huffington Post).

If there ever were a time when the length and breadth of vision of both political leaders and reporters/editorialists needed to be raised off the floor of the mud-wrestling ring in which both Kim and trump are wallowing, it is now. And for Trudeau to deliver a speech that positions Canada, and the Canadian people, squarely in the world’s headlight, as a counterpoint to the racist, sexist, homophobic climate denier now occupying the Oval Office (just a side-bar of accomplishment for the Trudeau address), demonstrates that he may actually be starting to fill his father’s shoes, and the inflated shirt he has worn since romping out onto the political stage as a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Individual minority rights, while laudable and worthy of legal protection (in individual cases) will struggle for their rightful and respected place on the public agenda so long as minorities everywhere shoulder the mantle of “inferiority” (no matter how that badge is perceived).

So many different iterations of colonialism pervade the global culture:

·      Workers without labour rights and the organizations to advocate for their pay with dignity, their safety and security, their pensions and their access to health care are living a form of colonialism.

·      Even labour unions themselves are guilty of practicing a kind of reverse “colonialism” given their relentless, and now toothless, pursuit of new members, and their demeaning of employers who block union certification votes.

·      Small town politics and the players on that state continue to defer to the “founding families” or the most affluent, or the most “connected” in their granting of zoning amendments, building permits, disharges from minor offenses, street repairs, the restoration of services following a disaster like a hurricane, a large fire or an ice storm.

·       School boards, both public and private, as well as colleges and universities, whenever they can, defer to their own graduates when making staffing appointments, as if there were some “privilege” attached to “local” graduates, when we all know that new ideas, new perspectives and new ways of doing things will more likely assure the growth and evolution of the organizations. This is especially true when making appointments at the senior administrative level, thereby ensuring a narrowing and parochial approach, as compared with the promise of innovation.

·      Towns and cities, when prompted to ask neighbouring centres for some practical advice on files both are facing, will too often categorically refuse, preferring “local” approaches simply because they are local, and not because they are more effective. *

·      Ask anyone who has spent their school years moving from school to school, as part of their following their parents for whatever reason. So lonely and so isolated are most, and they have been for decades, that recently in Florida, one “outsider” student has implemented a welcoming program for new students. He has gathered some who see the wisdom and the compassion in his idea, and they now eat lunch, approach and welcome newcomers to their school as an act of student “citizenship”.

·      Watch the lethargic and almost relentlessly blocked integration of immigrants, refugees, and newcomers to most towns and cities, (or the reverse, a smothering of uber-“care” that leaves them no room to breathe) and the impediments to a successful orientation program for sponsors that takes place in many “welcoming” communities.

From a variety of perspectives, we are all living, simultaneously, on both sides of the colonial moat. We are, at one and the same time, dominant in parts of our lives and recessive and submissive in other parts. And the “divide” keeps us vacillating between feeling confident and feeling quite insecure. Whether the divide is generated by a physical symptom, a racial difference, an income divide, a linguistic divide (even one so mundane as a grammar divide), even a voice volume and enthusiasm divide will find some being rejected in select “fraternities” or “sororities.” In many North American towns and cities, there is a religious colonialism, pitting protestants against Catholics, Muslims against Jews, white supremacists against blacks, Jews and immigrants of all varieties.

The first and requisite act of levelling the playing field, after decades, or centuries of forcing it to favour the “dominant” agent is to acknowledge the pattern, the participation in the pattern and history of dominance, and to begin to “listen” (really listen) to the legitimate needs of the “colony” with a view to searching not merely for short-term accommodation but for long term and permanent reconciliation. And that process, regardless of where it begins, will inevitably take decades, if not longer.

Trudeau’s first, bold and courageous step this week offers a model for other agents who dominated and controlled the colonial world to begin to thaw their hardened and potentially arrogant arteries, let the gagged voices free, and begin a process, not of lip-service, but of real and authentic accommodation and collaboration. A process of reconciliation whose vibrations, like the rock tossed into the pool, can stretch out to the very edges of the world’s communal pool, and transform a world in which antagonisms, hatreds, feuds, and conflicts dominate to one in which processes that offer alternative dispute mechanisms can and will be learned, practiced, applied and continuing revised and researched.

The October 2017 edition of Reader’s Digest contains a quote from the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada (appointed in 2004), Justice Rosalie Abella, with which Trudeau would clearly concur, and with which the world’s highest ideals and aspirations comport:

These words are taken from a speech Madame Justice Abella delivered at Brandeis University:
“It is time to remind ourselves why we developed such a passionate and, we thought, unshakable commitment to democracy and human rights, to remember the three lessons we were supposed to have learned from the concentration camps of Europe:  indifference is injustice’s incubator; it’s not just what you stand for, it’s what you stand up for; and we can never forget how the world looks to those who are vulnerable.”

 *This scribe made a presentation of an original design of a “career retrofit” for unemployed tech workers in Ottawa early in this century. The program was designed in North Bay, some four hours to the north west of Canada’s capital. The first and most prominent question we faced in our presentation, so indelibly is it engraved on my memory was, “So why should a program from North Bay be implemented here and not one designed in Ottawa?” There were no reflections, questions or even criticism of the details of our design, just a rejection out of hand, because it did not originate in Ottawa.

Talk about colonialism!

Thursday, September 21, 2017


What is the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)?

When a nuclear bomb is detonated 400 km in the air over a populated area, gamma rays collide with electrons and ‘other stuff’ creating an energy surge that can with no warning and no direct harm to living creatures seriously damage or destroy so much of continental North America’s electrical infrastructure that life as we know it would come to a complete stop for months.

In The National Post, Barbara Kay, (on September 20 2017) writes:

And EMP attack could put the majority of transformers across  the country out of commission, which means rerouting from working transformers as we normally do in not possible….replacement time might be up to 33 months, according to an expert, Anthony Furey in his book, Pulse Attack, The real story behind the secret weapon that can destroy North America.

And yet, while politicians of all stripes in both the United States and Canada refuse to talk about EMP, Furey, through Ms Kay, estimates that a few hundred million dollars in metal Farrady cages (like tinfoil hats) over our utilities systems could preclude most potential destruction from EMP. Yet nothing is being done either to discuss the issue or to take steps to ameliorate any potential damage.

Naturally when first reading Ms Kay’s report, like anyone living under a rock for the last three quarters of a century, I was shocked, appalled and unnerved. I then passed the piece along to others who shared my shock. We have been given glimpses of the deep dark internet, that segment of the internet designed an implemented by the Pentagon’s sci-fi exhibitionists, who then admitted they had lost control of their own monster. We know of the preliminary glimpses of how the scientists envision the impact of rising global temperatures and cities around the world (2/3 of which are les than one meter above sea level) are discussing precautionary steps they might take to ward off the most serious impact. Weaponry now reduces military combat to an imitation of computer games controlled by operators thousands of miles from the combat theatre. We know that facial recognition on our “smart” phones is already here along with talking/responding/answering voice machines that have replaced most of what previously passed as research. Artificial intelligence and artificial environments are threatening to imitate the human imagination.

We also know that the speed of technological/digital innovation has so far outstripped legislation that would assure some measure of privacy and personal security that, like the income inequality gap, it is unlikely to be closed. Rogue states are adamantly pursuing nuclear weapon capability, as no doubt are all the Islamic terrorist networks. And digital platforms just yesterday were openly tasked with a two-hour deadline to remove all incendiary material from their websites by British Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

And now this, EMP, as a new alphabet icon, has blurted onto our radar screens to be mixed into the contemporary cultural, military, political, ideological and survival stew.

Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-four, Star Wars, and now comes the next iteration of danger…
·      in a world barely able to speak civilly to one another,
·      in a world in which thousands, if not millions of decent people have withdrawn from offering their names for public office and left the field to ‘fringe’ leaders whose empty ego craves attention in a narcissistic binge so far out of control that the gap between technology and limiting legislation looks like a sliver by comparison and
·      in a world addicted to measuring all success by dollars and the things only dollars can buy.

Although this rant evokes George Constanza’s pitiful rants, in Seinfeld, about how humanity is growing insensitive to his pleading need for a public telephone, there is a kind of desperation in the perception of a confluence of “storm surges” of the political/techno/military/fiscal/ego/pharma (think opiod and new drugs without clinical trials) variety that renders one a little agast. Meanwhile, markets actually quick-march into the stratosphere, housing prices soar in large urban areas, mammoths like Amazon  generate a frenzied competition for a second city location in North America (while their workers cry foul at their treatment by the company and the house prices in Seattle (Amazon #1) rise significantly and unemployment falls….and all the while, our political leaders bury their heads in the sands of flooded beaches, resort main streets and storm-torn islands and earthquake ripped sites like Mexico.

Galloping forces in divergent directions, without the appearance of strong, collaborative, mature and trust-worthy ship-of-state captains evoke wrecks like the Costa Concordia, whose captain was talking to his lover while his ship ran aground on sea shoals back in 2012 off Tuscany. Of course, it is an overly simplistic comparison, but an analogous and riveting one.

Ask yourself what is happening to the previously trusted, responsible and visionary compendium of historic decisions made by leaders whose competence and whose stability were the ballast when geopolitical seas rolled with war, and the threats of war and the ensuing need and demand for peace.

Institutions like NATO, the U,N., and the E.U. and the International Court at the Hague….these institutions were birthed from the ashes of the mid-twentieth century conflagration. Do we have to endure another (only this time sterile) EMP before we, collectively and individually) awaken to take responsibility for the dangers and the threats that now confront a world population fully exposed to both the opportunities of new connections and collaborations and the threats to which we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear.

The marketplace of ideas can no longer exclude topics like the EMP that the politicians consider too frightening for their voters to embrace. Little do they know that their careers will increasingly depend, not on their management of the information flow, but on the courage and integrity of their willingness to deal honestly and openly with such lethal threats.

It is the gap between what the politician considers “acceptable” as “politically correct” and the public’s intelligent and conscious awareness of their denials and avoidances of responsibilities (through a myriad of distractions) that could impale us on our own petard.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reflections on our thin veil of civilization and the threats of ubiquitous barbarity

You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilization from barbarism. I  tell you the division is a thread, sheet of glass. A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn. (John Buchan) (Saturn (Cronos) led his brothers and sisters in a revolt against his father for power.)

William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, is one of English literature’s testaments to the savagery of human nature. Both on the island where the British choir boys land after their plane crashes, and, ironically, in the ocean where the warship appears to evacuate them from their island “paradise”, violence reigns supreme. Competing ambitions, interests and ideologies enmeshed within an island and inside a global culture support, mirror, and underline each other’s energies. The pursuit of power in all of its many forms and iterations is pulsing in tension with the impulses to negotiate, compromise, collaborate and resolve….and, from Golding’s perspective, the winner is the savage.

Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. is set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of Southwest U.S. after a monstrous nuclear war. Since it appeared n 1960, it has never been out of print, a testament to the lingering angst that hovers over the west since the inception of the nuclear generation began. Both the Iran nuclear agreement and the North Korean persistence in its determination to join the nuclear club have brought the spectre of nuclear conflict into public consciousness in a way reminiscent of the early 1960’s when bomb shelters and school drills for children on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack (remember Cuba!) were high on the “richter” scale of personal and public fears.

Wars like the Korean, (still unresolved), Viet Nam, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other sites like Mali, Somalia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Chechnya as well as the several military engagements between Israel and the Palestinians have kept the stories, and the casualties of war relatively high on the scale of public issues for a long time.  They illustrate the evolution of killing technologies, spying devices and even unmanned bombers, operated from some office in Nevada, while dropping bombs on targets in Afghanistan, while keeping war on the front pages of our minds. While the “enemies” have changed, the drum-beat of the military answer to geopolitical conflict has rarely, if ever, been taken off the table by the major world powers.

Parallel to this theme of military conflict has been the political embrace of “human rights” as a hedge against ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, voter suppression, and the general abuse of power by those whose moral compass has failed them and consequently also those they “serve” has assumed a more prominent place in national and international affairs. Legislation like the 1964 Voter Registration Act, and the Canadian Charter of Rights (1981) have raised the hopes and the prospect of security somewhat for people who previously would have been powerless when denied their legitimate voice to participate in what are commonly known as modern democracies. 
In other parts of the world, however, human rights abuses continue unabated, except for the continuous, if peripheral watchful eye of agencies like Amnesty International. Dictators, too, have not exited the world stage, and the rise of Islamic terrorism has injected steroids into both the military and the security apparatus of major countries like the United State, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Australia, India, Japan and China.

As China seeks to play a larger role on the world stage, leaders in Bejing have dedicated considerable attention and resources to the growth of their military including the building of islands in the sea to serve as airbases for their military aircraft. Just yesterday, a display of modern Russian military might was presented to western correspondents in the sea off the coast of Syria, following two years of Russian bombing of ISIS installations in support of the Assad regime.

Since taking office, trump too has given voice (and cover) to the growth of military buildup in his own country and around the world, without having the full range of experience and the propensity to learn about the dangers of both build-up and deployment. So the spectre of a renewed arms race hangs over the Middle East, and more recently over the Far East, with the escalating missile firings by both North and South Korea.

Ironically, everyone in public life knows that the military is not an effective or lasting answer to any conflict, yet their actions continue to inject billions into the arms industry, both in design and in production and sales. Sales of guns to millions of American people inside the country have ballooned in this century, resulting in a virtual armed camp in many neighbourhoods, freeways, and places where people gather.

The National Rifle Association too has poured millions of dollars in lobbying efforts to stop any legislation designed to restrict private ownership even of high-powered assault weapons designed exclusively for use by the military. Neighbourhood, school, mall shootings, and shootings on other sites like military bases themselves, have risen to an epidemic level in the United States. Doubtless, the culture of a military nation, born of revolution and nurtured by a military post-secondary tradition for millions who chose voluntary enlistment over college or university, supplemented by those who were drafted, has infected every town and city. The idolizing of veterans, regardless of the original motives for combat, or the final results of those combats, contributes to a culture of honour for the military, far beyond its national and international positive impact.

The incursion of combative language including military metaphors, combat similes, winning/losing dichotomies and the inculcation of personal winning/losing achievements among the young for centuries has contributed much to the dangers of dependence on military might, and the dangers implicit in mishaps and accidents when the political rhetoric demands military action.

The argument that military might “insures” peace, because no enemy will be willing or eager to attack a superior military power is one that has found resonance among the American taxpayers for centuries. Naturally, it comes as no surprise that dictators also revert to military protection and military aggression to preserve and enhance their hold on power.

On a domestic scale, people who allegedly love, nurture and give birth to their children are among the most vile and least suspected perpetrators of a kind of violence that cuts through any veil of civility. Such activity has been enacted by both mothers and fathers, on both sons and daughters, and too much of this abuse has been inflicted out of some misguided belief in a kind of purist and perfectionistic morality, not unlike the honour killings that have befallen “wayward” children of East Indian parents except in degree. A similar kind of wanton violence has been inflicted far too often by mainly male spouses on their female partners, for such a wide range of motives, all of them beyond the pale of even a modicum of civilization.

Of course, gangs of drug dealers, street gangs, and private militias take violence as their primary communication method, inflicting as much death and bloodshed as they possibly can. In the last few years, increasing numbers of law enforcement officers have been caught on video inflicting physical abuse, sometimes even leading to the death of the target. The military weaponizing of law enforcement, shortly after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. has only exacerbated the frequency and level of intensity of these attacks, without eliminating the racist motive behind many of these incidents.

Are we humans inherently violent, with a paper-thin mascara of restraint, in order to be able to exercise other personal ambitions and goals, which, ironically, are also dependent on “bettering” another, whether a single person, or an organization? As Rousseau reminded us centuries ago, are we innocent at birth, and acquire both the desire for and the techniques of inflicting violence from our sociologizing among other humans, including our own families? The Christian theology of an original Fall, from innocence in the Garden of Eden, generating a need for redemption has contributed significantly to the notion of human evil. The anthropologists tell us that we are the only species which eats its own kind, and while such behaviour does not occur or find its way into our awareness frequently, it does occur, along with the murder of infants by their very troubled mothers.

We now know that much abusive behaviour is an expression of a need for power and control, much of which have been denied and out of reach for many young children. And this inappropriate need for power and control finds expression in our private homes as well as on our battlefields. Belief systems that begin with a foundation that we are all that we need to both survive and thrive, however, have often foundered on the public perception (supported by the Christian church) that such beliefs elevate humans above their need for God. Many have wondered and even asserted that such a counter-intuitive posture bruises if not rejects an unbounded, unrestricted love and acceptance from the deity. Institutional need for power and control over parishioners is not and cannot be removed from consideration as a primary impetus for man’s inhumanity. Rules, regulations, dogma and institutional theology have imposed a rigor beyond human capacity to comply, without the attendant responsibility for such abuse.
Of course, there have been innumerable theories, ranging from the rejection of altruism (Ayn Rand) to the elevation of empathy (most world religions) competing for the rights of explication, justification and leadership in world history. Words, stones, coins and other people have been, and remain, the primary agents of the seeding, nurturing and propagation of competing world views, for personal, family and national interests. And while the tension is unlikely to dissipate any time soon, the advocates for civilization continue to enter the debate under significant negative odds, given that the threat of global annihilation hangs like a cloud over all of our towns, cities and pastures.

Spectres of Armageddon have been sprinkled into the history and the theological literature, as part of the archetypal heritage of successive generations in various cultures. Eschatology is an integral component of Christian systematic theology, serving, it would seem, as an ultimate clincher to the arguments for the “purely disciplined life of the Christian pilgrim. Indeed, many still occupying pews in Christian churches are serving their time as insurance to ward off an afterlife of fire or ice, depending on one’s picture of Hell. Many have uttered those very words directly to this scribe, although they seemed universally unconscious of their vain efforts to negotiate, or even to bribe their God in that perceived leverage.

The Holocaust remains as the single most horrific act committed by humans against other humans, and the identical motivation (of the third Reich) today, armed with nuclear warheads and the missile technology to launch them, could well annhiliate millions. (Einstein writes that even a nuclear war would leave at last one-third of the world’s population still existing. Have the hydrogen bombs surpassed the atomic weapons with which he was familiar?) Clearly,

·      the manufacture and sale of highly sophisticated weapons lies at the core of the current U.S. administration’s policy manual (if there even is such a thing).
·      the list of countries to which sales have already been made, added to the list of countries the current president has publicly uttered the prospect of acquiring nuclear weapons (think South Korea and Japan for starters)
·      linked to the almost inconceivable notion that also blurted from his lips, “If we are going to have nuclear weapons, why not use them?...
·      welded to the Putin braggadocio ‘not to mess with Russia because we do have nuclear weapons….

These shadows may not add up to a conclusive prediction that human savagery will find nuclear expression. They do however demonstrate a kind of “deployment” of the threat as a way of intimidating enemies, in the geopolitical climate that is 2017. To many observers too, the early part of past centuries has too often witnessed some kind of military conflagration….and the question looms, is this century really very different?

Should either Iran or North Korea, or both, actually acquire a nuclear arsenal, what assurances does the rest of the world have that one or both would not “export” either the technology and the fissile material to manufacture nuclear weapons to a different agent, perhaps a terrorist group, which would then be beholden to their benefactor? Pakistan is reported and reputed to have already committed such an opportunistic and subversive and scurrilous act. (Dr. Khan remains under house arrest for the crime.)

Recently, military leaders in the United States have begun to speak publicly about the fragility of the veneer of civilization. It is that thin, porous, ethereal and precious veil comprised of politeness, respect, tolerance, collaboration, a shared vision of a shared future for children and grandchildren, arms reduction treaties, and the mechanisms to verify their authenticity and compliance that, metaphorically at least, flies on the wings of poets, orchestras, operas, movies and theatrical productions touring the world’s stages. And these, along with the glacial growth of international institutions like the  World Court, the International Criminal Court at the Hague, the United Nations and its several humanitarian arms and legs serving refugees, human rights and peace-keeping initiatives, give us whatever authentic hope we can grasp.

There is no hardware or software extant that can or will prevent war. There is no magic formula to which all nations subscribe that can or will head off those military incursions (like Crimea and Syria) and there is no church or religion that can or will forestall the human impulse for violence.
Indeed, much of human history sees human blood and treasure being shed in the cause of advancing a faith perspective or preventing the advance of armies of prosletytes beavering to convert “the unwashed,” the heretics, the savages, and the unclean who have no religion or the wrong religion.

Good words, exhorting humans to “turn swords into ploughshares” for example, have abounded for centuries, without churches or their adherents or leaders finding the combination of strategy, tactics, will and collaborative partners to provide the world with assurances of peace, or of minimal conflicts.

Living on the increasingly apparent precipice of the “existential” threat, as Israel claims it has been for decades, and as North Korea currently threatens North America, and as millions of soldiers have done and will do each time they don their nations’ uniform, is a prospect most face only when near a ‘natural’ death from a disease. And we all live in the “in-between” place of that land between our birth and our death, witnessing abhorrent acts of despicable violence, deceit, humiliation and abuse, often without the strength or the means to redress the situation. Nevertheless, we each also seek opportunities for reaching out to others in their time of trial and tribulation, whether that be emotional, physical financial, or professional. And in those miniscule acts of kindness, we not only find fire-fly-flickers of light and hope, we also re-ignite the fading light of hope, love, compassion and empathy in the minds and hearts of our friends.

According to the proverb, the man picking up a clam on the beach and tossing it into the sea, when asked what difference picking up that one clam makes, when there are thousands waiting to be picked up says, “Well, it makes a difference to this clam!”

Have we picked up any clams recently? It is not only good for the clam; it also restores the spirit of the picker!