Canada has been absorbing this week the revelation of the burials of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential Schools, many of them completely undocumented in our past, and mostly completely unknown to most Canadians. In an important sense every one of these children is a crime victim, the least of which is neglect the most serious of which is genocide. Worst of all, most of us had no clue that this burial ground even existed, although that’s just a little too convenient an excuse.
This week thousands of articles have been written on the subject, news stories broadcast on radio and television. There is much hand wringing and guilty statements about Settler privilege.
What I haven’t heard enough of, or even any of, is the genocide underway in Canada today across the country. Every day children are still being taken away from aboriginal families and forced into “care” where they are neglected, abused and abandoned, with many of these children dying while in care, or shortly after “aging” out of foster care. These kids are removed from families, single parent moms mostly, because of a system that still sees “drunken indians” instead of struggling people who have been largely dispossessed from their tribal history and context by colonial exploitation and continuing subjugation by the settler cultures.
The racial mess in the United States looks pretty grim and is painful to watch. We can be forgiven for being quietly thankful for Canada’s more inclusive society, which has avoided dramas like that in Ferguson, Mo. We are not the only ones to think this. In the recently released Social Progress Index, Canada is ranked second amongst all nations for its tolerance and inclusion.
Unfortunately, the truth is we have a far worse race problem than the United States. We just can’t see it very easily.
Terry Glavin, recently writing in the Ottawa Citizen, mocked the idea that the United States could learn from Canada’s example when it comes to racial harmony. To illustrate his point, he compared the conditions of the African-American community to Canada’s First Nations. If you judge a society by how it treats its most disadvantaged, Glavin found us wanting. Consider the accompanying table. By almost every measurable indicator, the Aboriginal population in Canada is treated worse and lives with more hardship than the African-American population. All these facts tell us one thing: Canada has a race problem, too.
How are we not choking on these numbers? For a country so self-satisfied with its image of progressive tolerance, how is this not a national crisis? Why are governments not falling on this issue?
Possibly it is because our Fergusons are hidden deep in the bush, accessible only by chartered float plane: 49 per cent of First Nations members live on remote reserves. Those who do live in urban centres are mostly confined to a few cities in the Prairies. Fewer than 40,000 live in Toronto, not even one per cent of the total population of the Greater Toronto Area. Our racial problems are literally over the horizon, out of sight and out of mind.
Or it could be because we simply do not see the forest for trees. We are distracted by the stories of corrupt band councils, or flooded reserves, or another missing Aboriginal woman. Some of us wring our hands, and a handful of activists protest. There are a couple of unread op-eds, and maybe a Twitter hashtag will skip around for a few days. But nothing changes. Yes, we admit there is a governance problem on the reserves. We might agree that “something” should be done about the missing and murdered women. In Ottawa a few policy wonks write fretful memos on land claims and pipelines. But collectively, we don’t say it out loud: “Canada has a race problem.”
If we don’t have a race problem then what do we blame? Our justice system, unable to even convene Aboriginal juries? Band administrators, like those in Attawapiskat, who defraud their own people? Our health care system that fails to provide Aboriginal communities with health outcomes on par with El Salvador? Politicians too craven to admit the reserve system has failed? Elders like Chief Ava Hill, cynically willing to let a child die this week from treatable cancer in order to promote Aboriginal rights? Aboriginal people themselves for not throwing out the leaders who serve them so poorly? Police forces too timid to grasp the nettle and confront unbridled criminality like the organized drug-smuggling gangs in Akwesasne? Federal bureaucrats for constructing a $7-billion welfare system that doesn’t work? The school system for only graduating 42 per cent of reserve students? Aboriginal men, who have pushed their community’s murder rate past Somalia’s? The media for not sufﬁciently or persistently reporting on these facts?
Or: us? For not paying attention. For believing our own hype about inclusion. For looking down our noses at America and ignorantly thinking, “That would never happen here.” For not acknowledging Canada has a race problem.
We do and it is bad. And it is not just with the Aboriginal peoples. For new immigrants and the black community the numbers are not as stark, but they tell a depressingly similar story.
If we want to fix this, the first step is to admit something is wrong. Start by saying it to yourself, but say it out loud: “Canada has a race problem.”
I believe that we should all pay attention to the people who make up our world. They are not invisible. Their pain should be all of our pain. Discrimination against one is discrimination against all.
The murder of black men by police authorities in the United States is not unique to America. We must learn to see it in our home cities and provinces. There are far too many black people murdered in Canada, indeed in British Columbia, by government which is supposed to represent all of us, not just the privileged few. I believe we should each put our bodies in harms way to protect the innocent, even protect the guilty. Being drunk should not be punishable by the death penalty. Being young and female and “other” should not be permission to kill or main or rape. Men must see women differently, and enforce a view that says that women own their own bodies, and have the right to choose to be treated any way that they damn well want.
I believe that everyone deserves equal treatment before a fair and just system of governance.
I believe that change begins with me, and I must do better than this. We all must do better than this. We must demand that our government stands up for the weak, the indigent, the powerless, the elderly, the young, the absolutely ordinary black man or woman, and for the rest of us as well.
Our sons and daughters, and grandchildren, and parents and grandparents are all waiting for us to stand up for them, with them, as them.
I can’t breathe. We can and will do better than this.
During this coronavirus I have been pretty much contributing very little or better said, nothing, to the blogosphere about the pandemic, and how it is affecting my life, or for that matter, how it affecting anybody or anything.
It’s not that I don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation. It is that this thing is a really, really big deal, and I don’t want to diminish its importance to anyone by failing to reflect just how important it really is, to me, and to the world around me.
To those out there who believe that the government is overstating the dangers of Covid 19, and they can cheerfully go on about their business without changing anything, well, thanks for less than nothing, since your ignorance may already be having a serious effect on the lives and well being of thousands of people, some right in your own neighbourhoods, some physically a long ways away. Like maybe even in other countries or even continents.
Like it or not, failing to self isolate yourself is reckless endangerment, and potentially, mass suicide/murder.
You see, normally I’m a skeptic when it comes to government health warnings, and generally dismiss most as merely propaganda to serve the interests of an overbearing nanny state.. Not this time, not now and not ever. This virus kills people, lots of people, including people like me, with immune deficits that mean infection will mean a ferocious battle for my very life.
If I’m really lucky, most people in my own area, Vancouver, British Columbia and Metro Vancouver will have been helping the Provincial and Federal governments by isolating themselves at home as much as is humanly possible, and help slow the disease so that by the time I get it, there will still be hospital resources available, and I’ll get whatever it is I need from medical treatment whether it includes Intensive Care, Respirators or other devices. Hopefully there won’t be so many of us sick at one time that the system simply collapses after being overwhelming by the demand created by our citizens being unwilling to do what it takes to flatten the curves, or plank it.
Because isolating ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean that people like me who are vulnerable in the extreme won’t get it. It might, if I get incredibly lucky, and it passes me by. But most scientists believe that eventually this virus will infect somewhere between 50 and 70% of people in the world. The only real question is whether or not society can slow down the spread to give medical professionals and researchers the time to effect solutions that will reduce the numbers of us that are going to die as a direct result of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Even if everybody does everything right, and socially isolate themselves, a lot of people are going to die from this disease. No matter what we do this is true. All ordinary people can do is take whatever precautions are available to allow treatment by skilled professionals to those of us who catch this damn thing, under circumstances that increase the odds of finding an effective treatment and a vaccine that stops it dead in its tracks.
Neither of these is guaranteed, but we have a hell of a lot better chance if we all follow the best advice. Stay at home and socially isolate yourselves. Help our front line defensive workers, like nurses, doctors, researchers survive and get their work done for all of us.
Don’t be stupid. Wake up. Sometimes you just have to listen, and do whatever the hell somebody who knows a lot more than do you, tell you. Now.
I was listening to a CBC podcast the other night, and there were a couple of people talking about their feelings about various famous authors and musicians. The conversation was really about whether or not our judgements about the behaviour of artists should influence how we feel about their art, and if we should decide to like or not like their art because we don’t agree with the conduct, opinions or morality of the artist.
My political opinions are progressive within the Canadian meaning of that word meaning that I tend to share and support the politics of liberal leaning parties, and instinctively tend to feel sympathetic and supportive of anyone who self identifies as an outsider, whether as result of ethnicity, race, gender, ethical, sexual and religious views, appearance, etcetera. Which generally means that I’m somewhat judgemental about other people who I perceive as judgemental against all those people I’ve previously mentioned. So I’m inclined to be pretty judgemental about myself, since I know perfectly well that my own behaviour over my life has failed at times to live up to my own ethical, moral and social standards.
So the questions being raised are important to me. Is it safe for me to listen to music I like or even love, if it has been created or performed by someone I judge to have behaved badly? Say, like Michael Jackson, who now appears to have been a pedophile. Should we erase all of our collective memories of his music and dance, and never moonwalk again? Should we ban any mentions about Sir John A. MacDonald, who, in addition to being a drunk, a racist about first nations peoples and their rights, an outright unapologetic sexist. The fact that our nation exists because this man, and other similarly flawed men founded it continues to be true, even if I don’t like it. History is made by flawed men and women. Music is sung by creepy assholes. Great classical art was drawn by perverts we wouldn’t allow in our living rooms.
Should we hide the Mona Lisa, because her painter was a narrow minded bigot who was probably gay but denied homesexuality over and over again to gain social acceptability, not to mention contracts that paid for his work and allowed him to survive in times we can barely imagine.
I found it fascinating that these two commentators came to the conclusion that excluding people from your life because they happen to have been flawed, made terrible mistakes in their relationships, or even committed heinous crimes, should not necessarily mean that you deny the value and beauty of their art as fruit of the poison tree. Doing so would deny human beings the ability to grow, to make amends and try to do and be better than their worst selves. Doing so could remove the incentive for people to change and reflect on their worst behaviours, and thereby learn something.
Should I forever hate my father because of what he inflicted on me as a child, even in the certainty that he committed himself to looking after my younger sister for most of his life after she became a quadriplegic in her early twenties. He did bad things when he was younger, but did amazing things that made her life possible when it had become impossible. So I try to hate the behaviour I judge offensive and admire his enormous contributions to my sister. So I will never forget either, but I judge him to have been a deeply flawed man who showed the capacity for love. I love my father, but see him clearly for all that he was in his life, not just those things that harmed others but also those things he did that contributed.
Which is how I think we should look at historical and living people alike. We should make every effort to be our better selves, no matter how damaged we are or have been in our pasts. We should be as transparent as we can be, without expecting it of others. Fight for equality, justice and freedom, but make allowance for human frailty, both for ourselves and for others.
The Pain Mastery Institute, which I’ve been blogging about for a couple of months, is shutting down due to financial considerations. Their courses have been useful to me but not nearly as useful as if they had survived long enough for me to get through the whole program.
The main thing I learned from the courses is that much of what is available for mastering chronic pain is drawn by observed people as they take actions or make decisions which assist them in managing their pain, or ameliorating the amount and intensity of pain.
While the course is gone, and the Institute website shut down, this doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning my pursuit of effective pain management strategies. So keep watch for my blog because I will coming back with a new approach soon.
Update on Intermittent Fasting
Starting on Monday this week I began a five day fast, which so far has been a bit frustrating and challenging. The second day and the third day I found myself absolutely starving, which is odd because up until now, fasting for three days a week, 36 hours, I have never been really hungry.
It takes a bit of a different strategy for longer fasts, like a five days on, four days off, but I’m learning and will be putting together a new primer based on somewhat longer fasts.
This has been a really sad and horrific week for me, and for many Canadians. 147 Canadian residents and citizens were killed this week by an airline shot out of the sky by Iran, either by mistake or by design. Either way, we have all lost so much and I can’t really even begin to make any sense of it. I am just sick over it, and I didn’t know anyone personally on the plane, although I do know some family members.
The Prime Minister of Canada has been highly visible in his demands for accountability for this disaster, both from Iran and the United States governments, who put into play the violent altercation that led to these deaths, whether by misadventure or by malice.
I don’t know whether to rage or to cry, or both. I’m not expecting any closure any time soon. Iran is virtually certain to lie through their teeth on this, and Trump will do no better. This is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved in the flight, and all of their country mourns their loss.
People who have been abused as children have a really hard time as adults, especially as young adults trying to formulate romantic relationships. Without a solid foundation established early in life, emotions can feel like quicksand and you soon feel like you are drowning. People become desperate for love and accept all sorts of inappropriate behavior that seems like it must be some kind of love, or it wouldn’t be so intense. So this is the story of one such person, after an abusive and destructive marriage
Even after years of counseling, he still feels the desperate self-criticism of his youth, pulling him back into depression and suicidal thoughts. At the end of his first marriage, he actually tried to kill himself by sleepwalking in front of a bus
The transit bus driver drove his bus into the side of a building to avoid hitting the patient, most likely saving his life.
He went to see a doctor after this because he felt that he was in danger because of his actions. He consciously knew that he was a danger to himself and potentially others, but so deeply depressed about losing his wife that he was wandering around in a complete daze.
This was despite the fact that the relationship was fundamentally dysfunctional, and she used and abused him virtually every day from the very first moment he laid eyes on her. His self-worth was so low that he actually believed that everything that ever went wrong was his fault. He allowed himself to be her emotional and physical servant, charged with somehow making her feel good about herself.
Although she was highly intelligent and won many academic awards she required constant affirmations of her intellect, and couldn’t accept any opposition to her opinions on any subject at all. To whatever degree he differed from her point of view, she called him out and accused him of trying to undermine her and make her look like an idiot to their friends or families. He also took on responsibility for taking care of every aspect of her life, including paying all the bills, providing her with funds to pay for her advanced education, and a constant stream of extravagant gifts. Their life together was one of extraordinary social adventures, with a stream of her unusual friends variously moving into and out of their home and their lives together.
They were together for nearly ten years and had a daughter. Their divorce was highly acrimonious and as a result of an emotional breakdown, she intimidated him into giving into virtually all of her demands, including extremely restrictive access to their infant daughter, who is now almost forty years of age.
Because of his blindness to her faults and unwillingness to acknowledge her abusive behavior, He simply was not in any position to provide adequate co-parenting to their daughter, who ended up with her being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by his ex-wife and her mother, who had previously done the same things to his ex-wife.
It wasn’t until their daughter ran away from her mother’s house to live on the streets that he became aware of all that she had gone through in her mother’s care.
The daughter suffers from multiple psychological disorders including acute anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD as a result of multiple sexual assaults starting with her grandmother as early as five or six years old. After she ran away, at thirteen years old, from her mother’s home when she came to live with his current partner and him. It was only then that he heard her story and got her into counseling. The road was very difficult, and they were not very successful in helping the daughter overcome her many conditions.
Never in all the years he had been married to his ex-wife did he realize how destructive her constant personal attacks and total narcissistic behavior had been to him. After he more or less recovered from his breakdown and hospitalization after their marital breakdown, he still blamed himself for everything that had gone wrong in their marriage.
But no more. His daughter suffers from many psychiatric and emotional defects, some of which would have been there no matter who raised her as a young child. She also has many physical disabilities including muscular and skeletal problems that have resulted in her living life in chronic pain, and incapable of independent mobility. She also had two children, which he had to have taken from her because she is incapable of providing the minimum care level necessary for their physical and emotional health. He doesn’t blame his ex-wife or her mother for all of it, as it would unfair to do so.
But what is fair to say is that without the abuse by her narcissistic mother and a grandmother who barely survived Nazi rule in Holland as a young girl before abusing her own daughter and granddaughter, their daughter didn’t have a chance at any reasonable life. Despite years of counseling himself, He still knows that he has blinders on regarding his ex-wife and still has hard time understanding what he allowed to happen in his marriage, or what really took place in all the years she had total control over their daughter’s care and custody.
He had even blamed himself for that restricted access, and his lack of involvement in his daughter’s life. The extreme anger his ex-wife expressed towards him made a more normalized co-parenting arrangement impossible. Even spending thousands of dollar on legal fees trying to get better custodial arrangements failed.
If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship and have gotten out, don’t try to deal with this all on your own. Find a good counselor and make every effort to deal with your own demons before they drag you into yet another dangerous quagmire.
Unfortunately, you may find yourself repeating your mistakes, over and over again. Learn to recognise the cycle of abuse in your own life, and take action to change your circumstances. Leave.
How has pain been a complex problem in your life? How has pain interacted with your movement, energy, sleep, social life, finances, identity, memory, and mood?
Mastering Pain Institute
After listening to and reading the materials in the 1st leasson of the Pain Mastery Class it asks the student to answer the above questions.
How has pain interacted with my movement? As pain from various causes has increased over the past few years I have observed that my ability and willingness to move has undergone an uncomfortable metamorphosis. Simple tasks like walking, bending over, picking up items, getting dressed, doing my toe nails, making the bed… etc. have all become much more difficult.
Neuropathic pain has combined with arthritis to make steering the car for long periods increasingly painful. I alternate from my left to my right hand constantly as I drive, because the pain builds up in each as it is used. Eventually the pain is too great in both hands and I have to take a break. The pain in my legs and feet make driving hard as well, and certainly limited my pleasure from doing so. Driving a car is one of my great pleasures, or, it used to be one of my great pleasures and it represented a kind of freedom that is now gradually disappearing from my life.
The same can be said for a lot of routine physical tasks, all the way from making the bed to cleaning the mirrors in my bathroom. I didn’t used to mind housework or gardening but it is now so painful to mow the lawn that I’d rather let it grow twice as long as I used to. These type of restrictions have inevitably reduced my freedom of movement, and my interest in and willingness to do routine, simple life tasks.
How has pain affected my energy? Anybody who suffers from chronic pain will attest to the fact that constant, unrelenting pain is exhausting. There is almost no time when I’m not tired and so sore I feel like I really just want to lay down and sleep for a while. Even a nap would seem like a relief, if I can sleep, that is.
The net available energy is a function of pain in my body. The more severe the pain becomes, the less energy I have. And not only to do life in general, but in having the interest and energy to participate in the things of life. A lack of energy is behind so many other deficits experience by people with chronic pain that it tends to blind us to how serious it actually is. Without sufficient energy to function properly nothing actually works the way it is supposed to work. How the hell am I supposed to do my job at work, when I hardly have enough energy to get there in the first place every day?
How does pain affect my sleep? To most of us with chronic pain sleep is seldom deep or really very restful. Not a single night of sleep goes by without being disrupted, again and again by waking fully or partially because of pain in the body. For me it is all sorts of different parts of the body and different types of pain, but it all hurts, and it all makes me awaken at some point during sleep. If I wonder why I’m so damned tired all the time, I simply have to remind myself that I really haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years.
I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but sleep apnea really isn’t the reason I’m awake half the night. It’s the pain, the pain. Snoring is a part of it. Blocked airways aggravates it. But pain causes sleep interruption, over and over again, every single time I go to sleep.
How does pain affect my social life? What social life? Who really has the energy to maintain a social group or friendships when you’re in constant pain? It takes energy I don’t have and mobility that is a constant struggle, simply to get out and visit with people. I’m no longer the happy go lucky guy I used to be. I try not to spread my pain around, or make my kids and grandkids suffer from my experience of pain. But I wonder if my increasing isolation from them is at least partly because I do longer know how to overcome my pain for long enough to actually properly engage with people.
And being socially isolated also increases my experience of pain, because lacking real human contact with others is not only uncomfortable, but it’s also actually harmful physically because it encourages inactivity and passiveness. Instead of getting out and doing things with the people I love, I stay at home, watching television, at least partly because it’s less painful than the alternatives of getting out of the house, and doing the things necessary to have a life.
How does being in pain affect my finances? This is one of the things that is most humiliating about being in pain. Instead of being vibrant and capable, I’m tentative and withdrawing from challenges. I used to love going to the office and taking on new challenges, meeting new people, creating new financial opportunities for myself, and for my staff. Now I have no staff, and I’ve been afraid for years of taking on jobs that I know I’m qualified to do because I’m afraid that I’m going to let them down, or worse, prove myself to be incapable of handling the physical and emotional demands of the work.
In addition, my increasing health problems cost a lot of money, which I am now having to pay with a lot less income, due to my reduced employment capabilities. I struggle to manage my prescription deductibles and copays. And that’s for the prescriptions, which doesn’t actually include any pain medications I can trust. Nothing the doctor has prescribed for pain has actually helped very much, if at all. I know that opioids would be more effective than OTC drugs but I also know that they are highly addictive, and have major other problems that I don’t need to add to my pain.
And being chronically short of money, as well as in pain, means that I can’t take advantage of one of the things I used to do a lot, which was going out to nice restaurants and have good meals with friends. Shortage of money means that I’m socially isolated by it, as well as by my resentment over finding myself in this situation. I never wanted to be dependant on anyone else but I find myself in a situation that make this every more a fact of life.
How does pain affect my sense of identity? Truthfully, I don’t really recognise myself any more. I no longer feel like the man I used to be, and I certainly don’t have the confidence I have always had. I’ve always thought of myself as a highly charged, somewhat hyperactive and oversexed Type A personality. If I had faults they were likely the faults of thinking that I could do anything, be anybody, accomplish anything. A little bit of humility probably wasn’t a bad thing for me to learn, but pain has driven me to distraction. The amount and persistence of pain has now reached proportions that are disabling my sense of self to a point of no return. I don’t actually know what it would look like for me to be me, the way I have always been. So damage to my sense of identity is a real cost of being a victim of chronic pain.
How does pain affect my memory? My partner says that I’ve become a lot more forgetful than previously. I’m not sharp anymore, and I don’t automatically pick up on things so quickly. I don’t think I’ve lost my marbles, but I get confused more easily and mix things up, despite my best efforts to not do so. It means I slow down, because I can no longer count on my memory for important information. I’m a lot more cautious than I used to be, if for no other reason than I hate being unable to remember even the simplest facts or common words.
I’ve always been a prodigious reader, at one point reading more than a book a day, not to mention newspaper and magazines. Now it takes me a week to read a novel, and a month to work through a non-fiction title, no matter how interested I am in the subject. I don’t remember names very well, I never did, but I’m also losing the ability to remember what books I’ve read or which ones I liked or didn’t like. I find myself half way through the first chapter of novels only to realize that I read the damned thing six month ago. So yes, memory is being affected negatively, if only because I’m so distracted by the constant pain interrupting the flow of my thoughts and feelings.
How does pain affect my mood? I was diagnosed as being bipolar when I was about thirty years old, after a major breakdown and depression. After being hospitalized for six months I came out of the hospital with somewhat better emotional management tools than I had previously. Relatively quickly I abandoned the prescriptions for bipolar I had been given, because they made me feel like I was living in a fog. And I reconciled myself to living with vivid emotional ups and downs. So depression and mania have long been a part of my nature, and my life. I’ve done well in managing to live a full life despite these problems, but now it feels like depression stalk me, without the accompanying manio to provide any balance to it.
There are two kinds of depression with which I struggle, one of which is a direct result of serious and chronic pain. It’s tough to get out of being depressed when you feel like you’re under a constant pressure cooker caused by physical and mental pain. This past weekend, in addition to chronic neuropathic pain in my hands and feet, arthritic pain in my shoulders, fingers, hands, I was also slayed by a serious migraine headache. I haven’t suffered from migraines on a regular basis for years, ever since I started practicing a form of self-hypnosis that seemed to be effective at shortening their duration, and eventually led me to being able to predict and prevent the worst of them.
Even that ability seems to be beyond my control these days, because it’s pretty hard to meditate when I’m in so much pain that I can hardly sit still.
I don’t know if this exercise in counting the ways that pain affects me is supposed to make me feel better, but it hasn’t yet. I also suppose that to defeat an enemy I first have to understand the enemy and all the territory it has staked out in my life. This is the exercise from Chapter 1 in my program to begin to manage my pain. I hope the next exercises don’t leave me here.