Magic And Loss

Death has been a rancorous beast in my life that has torn pieces out of my heart with its merciless teeth. As I approach the 19th anniversary of my father’s death on Oct. 28th. I am still broken. I do not wish to change that. My brokenness is a door for others to walk through so they might not feel alone. Compassion and understanding bloom high on this path to those who surrender their pride and let the mask of “I’m Over It” fall. It is both humbling and freeing. Around this time each year, I begin to dive into the things Creator has given to me to process this. He gave me art to give me life. I would be dead without it. This record has been one of the more pivotal works of art for me. Death, I hate you more than ever and I know you are not done with your feast. Creator, have mercy on those of us who mourn and grant wisdom to those too hardened to care or understand. May we all sow grace and love one another. Be with me in another season of magic and loss. In Coram Deo.

 

Advertisements

My Mom Has Been Dead For Two Years Now. Fuck.

 

mom

2 years ago, on July 27 – just days before her 62nd birthday, my mother left this world. My last moments with her conscious – while my sister went to discuss the situation with the surgeon – were spent restraining her. That was something I was trained to do at work and I fell quite naturally back into it. I am excellent in trauma situations. I get locked into my environment and go into harm reduction mode. I think I got that from my father. My mother’s body was riddled with infection due to complications from Diabetes and a heart attack. It haunts me that, in those last moments with her, she was someone I didn’t know anymore. The infection had hit her mental state. She was down to her base instincts. She wanted to get out. She was trying to rip the lines out of her skin and tip over anything in sight. Then, my sister and I, along with her surgeon had to make the difficult decision to let her go. Her body had defied odds over and over again for nearly a decade. She pulled through so many times that it took a bit for some people to realize that, this time, it was different. “Oh, I’m sure your Mom will be okay.” This was the end. Even for us, it was somewhat shocking. There was a peace, though, in understanding that my mother would suffer no more. It was hard to see her lose her husband, her leg, her foot, her eye and her life. It was infuriating to see some of her friends and family fail her. Shame. She was a fighter to the end. I had a cry tonight. I often do. I don’t really give a shit about the whole “alpha male thing”. I think that men that can’t connect with their tears aren’t tough or strong – they’re cowards. I don’t view being a man as hiding vulnerability. If I’m broken, I’m broken. That’s where I get my passion, compassion, creativity and my voice. I have no shame about that. I miss my parents. I don’t have peace with that. I don’t want another fucking year without them. Not one more. No counsellor or pill is going to change that. I live my life very openly and probably get written off and patronized for it. I don’t care. I’m not about plastic smiles and paper hearts. No thanks. I prefer to be real. I am not here on this earth to curate a version of myself that doesn’t exist. I miss my parents and I hate it. I don’t blame God or anyone else. It is what it is. Life isn’t something to be gotten on with. Both the hills and valleys make me who I am. I walk them in real time. This has been a long valley. I hate it. I miss you, Mom. I miss you, Dad (who died in 1997). How many more years do I have to go through this shit?

What Is To Be Done?

Domine Deus Noster Miserere Nobis (Lord, our God, Have Mercy On Us)

The sinful legacy of Genocidal White Colonization is decimating and slaughtering so many in places like New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Canada and the US. We have written our own sad tale of Apartheid and given it a different name. Colonization is the devil’s playground. We are seeing it before our eyes RIGHT NOW. The original seed of genocide built ALL of this. 1492. Wounded Knee. JFK. Rodney King. Residential Schools. Inequality. Medgar Evers. Iraq. Flint, Michigan. Columbine. John Lennon. Poverty. Sandy Hook. Occupy. Boston. Alton Sterling. Rape. Taber. Private Prisons. Oklahoma. Koreshi. Bundy. Philando Castile. Wall Street. Louis Riel. Sandra Bland. Shoal Lake. Attawapiskat. Dallas. Chapter after chapter in the saddest and longest book ever written. There is no rest. How long before the names and places are forgotten or erased? We are sowing a murderous quilt that just collects more patches and more patches of tragedy, loss and shame. We seem determined to cover the earth with it until no one is left. We are turning our world into a sacrifice zone – a vacuum for Darwin’s little game.

We build our Rome pretending it has a different ending. There is no time to truly mourn or learn anymore as some scramble to sweep it under the carpet while others, on ALL sides of the argument, kill more and more. And, now we can watch it on our phones. Soon, we may stream it on Netflix. More guns, more bombs, more dead children, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, artists, teachers, leaders, the homeless, the incarcerated, the comfortable, the uncomfortable, police and on and on. Voices are raised and silenced by the bullet. Every death fails to cancel out the last one. Every death plants a seed for the next one. No bullet, knife or bomb brings anyone back to life. It is very easy to help the oppressor. Be silent and a side is then taken. Creator, help us.

There is no just war. There is no just killing. There is no just revenge. There is no justice. You can have my life. I will not kill to save it. I hope I would die to stop another death. No human should decide when another’s life ends. What are we to do, Creator? What are our hearts to feel? What are our hands to do? How should we walk? How should we breath? How should we fight? How should we surrender? How should we pray? How are we to work? How are we to play? How are we to love? How are we to forgive? How are we to be forgiven? How are we to stand up and make a difference? How are we to not hate? How are we to see you in any of this, Creator? What home are we to make in this increasing ether of blame, denial, fear, lies, corruption, anger, tears, confusion and blood? What is to be done? What is to be done? What is to be done?

We have ignored our prophets at our own peril. We now hear them weeping. We chose not to listen. Our fable is crumbling. We stopped learning about our past, our present, our future, how to love, how to create and how to be. We built the alter of consumption. We placed bible verses on our golden calf to pretend it was different. Now, we consume each other.

My ancestors brought a new brand of death across the ocean to a people who never asked for it. We never repented and we never changed. We set a table for a feast never to come. One day, there will be no one left to sit at the table. And the table itself will ask, “why?” The revolution will not be televised, but our extinction will and there will be no one left to turn off the TV. We will murder the audience and, then, each other.

Our playhouse is being torn down. We are self-blinded Rome. We were warned and warned and warned. The manifest myth is burning to ashes before us. Rome ate itself. So may we. Give the earth back to the animals. We chose not to love Eden and deserved our banishment. We wear the crown of shame, but pretend it is not ours. No god, beast, spirit, object or magic did this. We did this with our own hands – over and over again. We took life and tuned it into death.

Domine Deus Noster Miserere Nobis

In Coram Deo

The rest is silence

I Am Consistently Terrified Of The North American Evangelical Mainstream

I am trying to imagine what it is like for an alarming percentage of my population to have an irrational and bigoted fear of my simple act of loving someone else in my own life. I am also trying to imagine what it might be like for those with fear claiming that they are, somehow, the persecuted ones because they don’t get to police millions of others’ relationships while their own is, apparently, perfect and exempt from the same scrutiny, cruelty and prejudice. I am trying to imagine what it is like to see, after an unspeakable tragedy like in Orlando, people claiming to love God and be about peace posting things on social media cherry-picking bible verses to support their ignorance and fear in a fashion that says, “see? I told you so. You deserved it”, etc. Sometimes, I wonder if a good chunk of North American evangelicals would like to do away with the entire gospels. I do not blame the many that leave the church in droves. I, myself, am constantly ashamed and discouraged of the Church in North America. DEEPLY so. I can’t believe the crap I am reading my own Facebook feed. I remain a follower of Christ despite so many who also do so. I can barely relate sometimes and it breaks my heart. I am so sorry to my many friends out there for the ample cruelty aimed your way on behalf of people in the North American Church. I am sorry for the cowards that cling to blaming it all on every other religion manageable. I am sorry that we so often don’t sow the love that we preach and turn our Bible into a pathetic how-fto book that reflects very little of the core wisdom, the love, the conviction and creativity in which it was written. Gee, why bother employing critical thinking, real exegesis and literacy to an important book when it can be manipulated to justify ignorant narrow-minded Victorian morality, bigotry, ignorance and b.s. gossiped around in religious communities and at dinner tables full of people who never bothered to understand any other point of view? I am sorry that so many North American evangelicals still seem to be addicted to colonization and cultural genocide. The North American Church is most certainly complicit in these shootings and there must be repentance. I am losing faith that it is possible, but I will do my best everyday to work towards that. I live on the periphery and am terrified of evangelical mainstream. I rarely see God there among a see of ignorance, fear and pride. I always hope that tragedies might bring out the better in us, but I am disappointed yet again. Peace, love and healing during this awful time. When will we ever learn? Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. In Coram Deo.

My Long Nightmare In The Alberta Health Care System

ahs mission statement

Five Years ago today, I was sitting in the waiting area of Westgrove Clinic in Spruce Grove. I had been in intense pain for over a year. In Winnipeg, I biked everywhere all year round, did yoga and ran 4-5 times a week. I was very active.  I began to experience some profound pain in my gut area and my doctor in Winkler, Manitoba was very concerned. Manitoba was on it fast and wanted to rectify the situation and, unlike, Alberta, were committed to giving me the best medical care while treating me with dignity, respect and the utmost professionalism. Unfortunately, I made the apparent mistake of moving to Alberta before they could continue. Alberta was an awful experience. A complete nightmare, in fact.

Basically, (and I don’t care if this is TMI for it is the Alberta Health Services that bears the blame) my intestines were falling out of my stomach and crushing my testicles every day. I slept, helped people move, exercised (in TREMENDOUS pain!), took the bus, biked, worked and walked around that way for a year and a half. Think about it. It is called an Inguinal Hernia and I had two of them.

Several people in my life within that time had their Inguinal Hernias diagnosed, addressed and operated on within a day or a month. My girlfriend’s uncle was up and running again in no time. His was diagnosed and operated on IN TWENTY FOUR HOURS. I walked into the office. My urologist (who they made me wait a year to see while Manitoba urgently had one for me in a few months out of deep concern) identified my condition, documented it down to its measurements and expressed that this should have been dealt with a very long time ago and should be fixed immediately. My clinic in Spruce Grove first tried to argue she was wrong. I called the urologist’s office about it and her assistant said that, sadly, she wasn’t surprised and that I should keep fighting for them to take it seriously. Really, Alberta? THIS is your high standard?

My clinic always seemed to want to do as little as possible. Then, they booked me for a surgeon and told me the wrong date. It was outside of town so I had to take yet another day off work (this clinic wasted many of my unpaid days off with fruitless appointments and bad communication), have another person take off work to drive me and, when I arrived there, they informed me my appointment had already happened. Not my fault! Of course, the surgeon arrived for my next rescheduled appointment blaming ME for the missed appointment! I had my urologist’s report in hand and he refused to look at it. He did the cough test which I had had many times in my life. I told him that that test would not work on my body and he didn’t care. Those hernias had been there since I was a kid, but suddenly became unbearable in the summer of 2010 when they became bigger. He barely touched me. He was so rude to me, told me I didn’t have a hernia and that I should “go home and be happy”! Again, this is POST-DIAGNOSIS and the urologist report in my hand had the actual measurements of both hernias. Why was this happening?

If I had the money I would gladly sue the U Of A Hospital, Dr. C in St. Albert, Dr. D and Westgrove Clinic for negligence and malpractice in a heartbeat. Dr. D actually fought to keep me from seeing a pain specialist so I could get help to function on a daily basis. I found this pain specialist while serving him at a drive-thru I worked at through a random conversation about my experience with Alberta Health Services. I hadn’t slept for three days because of my pain and I told him my doctor wasn’t addressing my concerns about it. He was concerned and not impressed. He ended up being one of the few medical professionals that seemed to be concerned about my well-being. You see how that would be a problem, right?

I tell people now that, in Alberta, I experienced American-style health care without any of their legal rights. The worst of both worlds! I had to phone the clinic and scream at my doctor’s secretary that “MY HERNIA NEEDS TO BE FIXED”! It was very frustrating that I was forced to do that. I then had another appointment with a different surgeon. This time, he paid attention and found the hernia IN SECONDS. A month later, he repaired it, but I now live with chronic pain and trauma from those awful years. What purpose did this awful experience serve?

This whole situation was horrifying. My mother told me that my experience in the Alberta Health Care System was, possibly, harder for me than losing my own father. My MOTHER said that! I had already left my home province while my mother was in critical care as I moved to Alberta. My uncle was looking for flights as I was on my way in case we were going to lose my mother! I moved to Alberta to be with my girlfriend. It was supposed to be a happy time. I certainly wasn’t moving there to spent endless fruitless hours in medical facilities!

This situation was extremely humbling and embarrassing to go through. It was hard on my girlfriend, too. Again… What was the point of these medical professionals making me suffer through all this? The pain was noticeable and hard to keep a secret. There were people around me that I was forced to be honest and vulnerable with doubting me and blaming ME for what was happening. People would have the nerve to tell me, “you need to take care of your health more”. I needed surgery! Even a blood relative had the nerve to say, “well I’VE never had any problems with the Alberta Health Care System”. So… I was going through all this on purpose, then? Was I stupid? What was the implication here?! That hurt me so much as I really look up to that person. For the first time in my life, I had a regular psychiatrist as this was very traumatizing for me. Why do so many people not get just how devastating life with completely preventable chronic pain really is?

I felt like I was being neglected and even abused. My pain specialist and psychiatrist were infuriated that I was being treated this way. They were being ignored when they tried to intervene on my behalf, too. Why? My psychiatrist finally ordered me off work (more of my life turned upside down thanks to this extended negligence and malpractice) because it was very difficult and humiliating for me to work while in so much pain and frustrating for my co-workers (who were absolute angels to me as I went through this with their understanding, encouragements and support). Being forced to live with this condition as I worked a full-time job and took transit was causing deep trauma in me. Again, the outcome of all this was two Inguinal Hernias operated on almost TWO YEARS after they should have been fixed. Why was I being denied proper care for so very long? What was the purpose of this negligence by medical professionals?

I came home to Manitoba absolutely shattered by that experience and the hurt it caused in my relationships. I was confused and tormented by the pain that I now get to live with. I am STILL processing it all. Are these the high standards of the Alberta Health Services? Is this what they strive for? Do these experiences reflect at all what it says in Alberta Health Services very own mission statement?

I was an empty shell of a man when I arrived home and there was no time to heal or process as my Mother’s health was already in trouble before I opened the front door to my house when I arrived home. I was dealing with enough before all these awful experiences. The next year, my poor mother went through so much weakness, pain and sickness as her body lost its ability to fight her disease. For a good chunk of that time, I was, essentially, her caregiver. She was always too proud to admit that to family and friends, so that became our little secret that I bore to the judgement of others – except for my neighbour who knew the truth. I got to, unfairly, play the part of the unemployed bum son at home. I did a heck of a lot for her. She would constantly tell me that she didn’t know what she would have done without me. I did not doubt she was grateful and I was glad that it worked out that I could be there for her last year. My training as a support care worker came in handy in many situations at home and right down to my last moment with my mother being conscious – restraining her from hurting herself from delirium from her sickness and infections. It was so hard to see her go through all that. She was tough as nails. She was an amazing mother and I really do miss her. All the time.

What am I to do with all this? Like I said, a lawsuit would be entirely appropriate, but the Alberta Health Services might just chew me up and spit me out immediately. My well-being or the oath doctors take wasn’t a real concern for them as their patient. Why would they offer me any compassion or compensation from a legal standpoint now? I lost so much thanks to them. Who answers for that? Who is accountable? Where is integrity in this situation? Honestly, I now have an inkling of what whistleblowers and rape victims might feel like about going public or going to the media about their experiences. I am scared I will be mocked, ignored, will be called a liar or crazy. Why do people wait so long to come forward? The answer should be really obvious. So many people are unfairly maligned and victimized further by telling the truth. I have already experienced that. It is humiliating.

Alberta Health Services deserves to answer for this. I deserve, in the very least, an apology. Also, I talked to so many people in Alberta with even more ridiculous and horrifying experiences than mine. This is MY life. I matter. I am not just a statistic. This SHATTERED me. Does it really matter in any way that other people in Alberta did NOT have this experience? I am a real person with a real life and not just someone that “fell through the cracks” in the system. Not good enough. My life matters just as much as anyone else’s. A reporter from CBC Alberta gave me an open invitation to report my story, but I have been terrified of the possible blowback I might get if I were to step forward. I may still do so. I am definitely going to write about it. I WILL make sure there is some way this story is told. I was thinking of making a shirt that says “I Am An Alberta Health Services Survivor” because that is EXACTLY how I feel. If their health care system is really so very perfect, why, then, do I live with trauma and pain from it? I tell people that the physical pain of the Conservative government’s austerity runs through my body. I really believe that. What was the point in refusing to treat my condition?

There is a reason why I have become a relentless voice against prejudice, inequality, poverty, prejudice and austerity. I experienced, for a much shorter time than so many others do, what it was like to be abused, ignored, labelled and oppressed by a system that claims to be for all but chose to leave me out. I will never, ever, ever forget how that feels. It was dehumanizing and devastating. There are consequences for injustices. I want answers. I want awareness. I want an apology. Ultimately, I want progress and I want justice. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else ever. This is only the beginning. I want people to know about this and I want it to stop. No one deserves to have been treated this way.

 

 

I’m Not A Sore Loser. The Manitoba Was Not A Game For Me. Get That Straight.

I am not a sore loser. I am a deeply concerned citizen who voted for we – not just me. North American Conservatives are known to do awful things with majority governments as they seem to love to ignore science and research, experts and important voices to justify ideology, regressive policies and imagined theocracies. This is where some of that fear of Socialism comes in as they often don’t want to see the budding totalitarian in the mirror. Stephen Harper was a shining example of this for all the world to see. He did so much worse than anything Selinger allegedly had done. FAR worse. I am very nervous right now. I want to expect better and respect the process. It’s just that there was a nauseating amount of Fraser Institute/Rebel-like propaganda and spin in this Manitoba election that FAR transcended normal media bias and really stretched the facts sometimes. Let’s stop pretending there wasn’t. Instead of discussing important issues like mincome, climate change and inequality, there this bizarre repetition of the 1% PST issue. CONSTANTLY – like a child with tunnel vision at a toy store! We had a lot of important things to talk about and we didn’t! This angers me! The 1% PST point didn’t create every problem that we have and repealing it won’t be the magic balm people are pretending it is! And, for goodness sake, let’s put to bed this cherry-picked and pathetic explanation of our province/city/society being like a “household” because Conservatives sure seem to love ignoring the people in the basement of their precious and extremely flawed allegory. Enough! The poor aren’t lazy! Our society has greased the rotting ladder they are trying to climb with social violence, racism, colonization, inequality, corporate tax fraud (the REAL welfare cheats) and climate denial. Stop being so irresponsible about this. THAT’S where the “laziness” comes in! Also, the cheap and sleazy Wab Kinew smear campaign was vile and very beneath you, Conservatives. Shame on you. I was disgusted. Smarten up! I am not just going to stand idly by if this goes south. Democracy is a heck of a lot more than marking an x on a lousy piece of paper and then expecting everything to just magically happen after that. No way. Expect to be accountable, Conservatives. You spun some big tales. Let’s see you make all these miracles happen. I can’t wait to see all the money come out of thin air. We’ll see, I guess. I see gray skies right now. 

On Faith, Christ, Art And My Artistic Dissent If Manitoba Enters A New Era Of Thatcherism Under Brian Pallister

It continues to perplex me deeply that I consistently can’t seem to reconcile the Christ of the Gospels to what I see in mainstream evangelicalism. I have thought about this a lot during Lent as we at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg work together through the Book of Luke – my favourite of the Gospels. The mainstream evangelical movement tends to look more like the Pharisees than the humble woman in Luke 7. I respect her more than almost anyone in the entire Bible. I walk among a great variety of people in my life (and on social networks) and I am continually blessed by the diversity of voices – atheists, agnostics, anarchists, activists, feminists, environmentalists, people of other faiths and so on. I choose to live on the fringes of the faith community because that is where I find some of the most beautiful people. It seems that that is where Christ would dwell quite often when his feet were on earthly ground. I see Him so much there even now. There are people marching, speaking out and engaging in civil action against much oppression, inequality and justice. Sometimes, I think throwing A wad of cash in the collection plate and mailing off a cheque to Africa is just buying away our personal responsibility to what is going on right here and right now. Suffering is suffering – regardless of where in the world it happens. It may seem sometimes that I am constantly at war with fundamentalism. I think it is very dangerous – at both ends of the spectrum. The thing is, I am constantly at war with myself, too, because I am committed to change. Fear, low self-esteem, weariness, anger, depression and frustration are constant obstacles. I will never stop learning. I choose to stay within the tension and keep out of the fake safe zone. This is not a boxing ring. We don’t get to go to our corners for a time out. Not while there are people starving, being abused, corporations are stealing from society, women are harassed and threatened as they walk into clinics, people of all genders are physically in danger for simply being in love, xenophobes are labelling all immigrants and refugees as dangerous, politicians and think tanks are blaming teachers, students, doctors, nurses, artists, public servants, the sick and poor for every financial ill under the sun and a ridiculous amount of bible thumpers, shamefully, are childishly trying to teach the world that the Bible is a book about sex, sex, sex and little else.

Creator has called me to be an ally and take up the cause of those suffering around me with the tools that I have. I am an artist. That is my expertise. That is my tool. That is what I am “doing”. That is my skill and I am very good at it. Working out my anger, frustration, confusion and sadness through art does not interfere with my faith. It IS my faith. It is my language. It is how Creator works through me. I am dead without it. Fuck whether I get rich or pay the rent doing it. Van Gogh died a penniless peasant. Is his work and skill meaningless as a result? I am honouring Creator’s mission in me. If I happen to ruffle some feathers by swearing or being controversial, that doesn’t contradict the fact that I am a follower of Christ. I am a sinner, too. Who isn’t? I would rather tell the truth and represent who I am and where I am right now. Creator has not asked me to sell the world a version of myself where I am complete and have all the answers neatly tied up in a bow. There is nothing mature or blessed about that. It is simply deception. Furthermore, the Bible isn’t a neat little workbook with instructions for each day. It is dense, frustrating and constantly contradicts itself. To paraphrase the words from a recent lecture by one of my former professors and a great teacher, Cameron McKenzie, “For both the left and the right, the Bible doesn’t get to say what we want it to say”. Wise, but tough words for someone like me who is passionate about the social gospel.

I still hold fast to the example of Christ. He guides me in what is fair and just. I am thankful for Grace because I sure as heck screw up a lot. That’s kind of how you learn, though. You mess up, you own it, learn from it and try to do better. This is the process that modern North American Conservatism seems to think it is above doing. Somehow (in their minds) them claiming and acting like they are the only moral voice in society exempts them from the hard work and humility of learning from their own mistakes and growing from it. It’s what makes me cringe as so often in Southern Manitoba (where I grew up) it is implied that a Christian should always vote Conservative. In so many ways, this is such a fallacy. Which brings me to my current concern – the Manitoba Provincial Election. I have friends running in the election and more power to them – regardless of their party affiliation. Much respect for being willing to serve and represent their constituents. It is a great joy for me to see my friend David Shepherd represent his riding for the NDP in Edmonton. I am so proud of him. I cannot, however, sit back silently as Manitoba “Progressive” Conservative Party leader Brian Pallister possibly slips into power because Southern Manitoba predictably and nauseatingly falls for the politics of fear and division yet again. The fear of Socialism is pretty ironic considering how one party tends to win every election there over and over again. In a REAL democracy, one shouldn’t be able to easily bet on the outcome of an election.

Mr. Pallister is already singing his predictable song of cutting spending because, you know HE is a “fiscal Conservative”. The cowardice of fiscal Conservatives is the tendency to go after anything public while turning a blind eye to corruption in the private sector (which tends to lead to deregulation, tax fraud and is the ideal recipe for corruption, really). Pallister is trying to assure us that he is not going to “swing the axe”, but he is already talking about streamlining spending in the educational system. He won’t stop. Of course he won’t. The cornerstone of such an ideology is to to blame all deficits and debts on social spending, welfare, the arts, humanities, education and health care. They claim to be all for the growth of the middle class, but in the same breath they unnecessarily bolster the power and overflowing gluttony of the upper class/big business with more tax cuts, etc. They hide behind it by championing small business. It’s smoke and mirrors.

My heart does not bleed for the oil sector right now. Only those on the front line deserve our ear and they are getting screwed over by their bosses who sit on all the subsidies and money they made through tax fraud over decades. Get real. Inequality always grows exponentially under Conservatives. Brian Pallister will be no exception. This all-fired rush to “eliminate the deficit” is selfish and misguided. It’s a glorified “perfect attendance award” at a school assembly for his opponents and colleagues to watch. It is not about the future and middle class workers. It is about legacy and ideology. The rewards come later after serving with fancy positions in tax-evading companies and exclusive memberships to high society and fancy clubs (Hello, Stephen Harper).

Conservatives use allegories about running a “household” but, conveniently, ignore massive parts of the household. Their numbers on economics are cherry-picked to an embarrassing level to justify the attitude that the poor “just aren’t working hard enough”. A healthy economy consists of the poor having jobs and money to contribute to the economy. It isn’t kissing the ass of those who are already doing well. Boutique tax cuts for a few upper class and middle class people are paid for off the backs of the rest of the economy who can barely get by as it is. They do NOTHING for the rest of us. As a party, the Progressive Conservatives consistently display their ignorance or willful blindness toward privilege, inequality and the continuing Canadian nightmare known as colonization. The Conservative ideology on taxation is pretty crooked. The Harper Government gleefully helped KPMG commit tax fraud (yes, that crooked deal was made with the HARPER GOVERNMENT – NOT the Trudeau Liberals!) while they chased around as many protest groups, non-profits and people on welfare as they could. Meanwhile, inexplicably, Conservative lapdog propaganda machine The Fraser Institute (amusingly referred to as “research” by many) putters along comfortably while collecting Canadians’ tax dollars. Exactly what public good does The Fraser Institute do? Why do they get to continue this fraudulent operation? Canadians should get a humongous tax rebate for the many years of their theft and consistently wasteful spread of misinformation to Canadians. It is criminal.

If the power-eager Thatcherite Brian Pallister does, indeed, become Manitoba’s premier in the near future, I plan to ramp up my dissent significantly. I have to. I know too many educators, health care practitioners, artists, social workers, public employees, vulnerable persons and ordinary struggling citizens not to. Social services and public life are not an unnecessary extravagance to be thrown on the chopping block at any government’s convenience so a party leader leader can brag how good he is with the piggy bank.

As far as Manitoba’s economy is concerned, I am going to go with the assessment of one of our country’s greatest voices, economist Jim Stanford. Here’s the truth on the matter. “Manitoba’s economy is the strongest of the non-oil-producing provinces and with oil falling, it could be the strongest province in Canada soon. So I think he’s done a very good job,” he added. “Even though Greg Selinger has had big political problems, of course, he’s struck I think, the sweet spot in managing the budget and the economy out there. No austerity on one hand, but prudent.” That’s a balance I want to see. This economy includes EVERYONE. Austerity leaves people out and it is ALWAYS those getting crushed under the wheels of privilege. I am not okay with that.

Yes, the Manitoba has had many growing pains and there have been trips along the way – just like every Liberal and Conservative government has. You want to talk about disunity? Let’s talk about what the Federal Conservatives went through during the Reform era! Have some integrity, Conservatives! We are all not idiots. We don’t forget. You want to talk about deficits? Take a look at the Harper Government who ran some of the biggest deficits in our country’s history. Where was your whining and complaining THEN? Where were are all your shitty, meaningless graphs from The Fraser Institute THEN? Unnecessary cuts have deep, lasting and EXPENSIVE consequences. Federal cuts to food inspection lead to the tragic consequences of the tainted meat scandal under Conservative agricultural minister Gerry Ritz. The Harper Government’s choice to take way regulation on so many of our bodies of water have lead to massive pollution and invasive species that will be irreversible or very expensive to even try to BEGIN to fix. Exactly how did that save us money?! Handing off bigger responsibilities because of our greed, laziness, carelessness and ignorance isn’t fiscal – it’s stupid. Cutting back funding for First Nations education and other needs was expensive and a tragic step backward for our nation as we try to move AWAY from colonization. Harper’s famous “apology” just becomes ever more meaningless as the actual FACTS continue to trickle out. The truth will out, indeed. The Harper Government’s “Economic Action Plan” was one expensive commercial with VERY little action or jobs as a result. Exactly how is that “fiscal”?

This brings me to the passion and responsibility that I feel right now as a recently resettled Manitoban. If we actually do enter another era of Prairie Thatcherism, I am ready to resist it and defend those most vulnerable to the deceptive and unforgiving hand that I believe Brian Pallister intends to play. I am not just going to sit by and allow his poisoned ideology infect everything around me. Never mind the deep concerns I have about his pending policies, I am embarrassed that my home province’s possible next premier is someone so detached from culture and current issues. He is already world-renowned and mocked for his pathetic big baby pouting about the “deception of Halloween” and his stupid comment about “Infidel Atheists” in a Christmas greeting several years ago. The challenge for me is to try to be fair in my dissent. I am sure that Brian Pallister is a nice guy to his family, friends and supporters. It is also important to honour the fact that he has served his voters and constituents for many years. The thing is, when people suffer under the consequences of needless austerity and the targeting of essential programs and services, the fact that someone is a “nice guy” is quite irrelevant. Many people claim that Stephen Harper was a nice guy. This does nothing to change some of the awful consequences of his decisions and policies of the last ten years.

The continuing challenge and conundrum is to not simply hate those whose leadership and policies we oppose. To be a truly effective voice, one has to consistently avoid participating in the social and even physical violence that we intend to protest and fight against. It is a misconception, though, that putting a sunshiny face on, turning away from, ignoring or not taking a stand among the injustice and inequality is a form of being peaceful, enlightened, “Christian” or mature. Hiding, distracting ourselves or being unconcerned are not the same as turning the other cheek. The truth of life is not that convenient. Those being crushed under the wheels of our privilege, comfort, fragile egos and our being tired of hearing about it are thrust into the battlefield without a choice. They don’t get to opt out. This isn’t a night of heated discussion for them. This is life. This is real. This is existence. They didn’t build this reality. We, as a society, built it together. There is no sitting this one out. Therefore, I will do what I can in solidarity to dwell within the tension with them. Fuck the safe corners. Christ didn’t stand in them. He walked among and loved those very people. That is who I want to be as much as I can.

I was an avid critic and opponent of the Harper Government’s policies when they were in power. In fact, I was already deeply concerned about Harper during the Reform Party era and the leadership race that put him as leader of the opposition. Much like I feel now with the possibility of Brian Pallister taking the reigns, I felt a deep and disturbing chill about Harper’s values and the kind of programs and people he would target to accomplish his agenda. It ended up being a much bigger nightmare than I could ever imagine. I am feeling the same way now. I am strapping in for a long fight if Brian Pallister becomes Premier of Manitoba.

This brings me to the next era of my own life as a man, a Christ-follower, an ally to many causes, a politically, economically and socially aware person, a dissenter on behalf of those who will not be heard and an artist. If the Progressive Conservative Party becomes the governing party in Manitoba, I will be excercising my voice as a citizen, a broadcaster and an artist. Yes, I am on the radio and am very vocal on social media and blogs. However, this will not be enough in this next stage of our province’s history. I intend to (beyond the musical projects I am already developing called “Guattari” and “Salo”) start a band called “Infidel A”. The name is symbolic for me of just how out of touch Brian Pallister is with modern culture. I want the name to be a constant reminder and a thorn in his side. I hope to see it on t-shirts, articles and show posters. The music will be somewhere in the vein of punk/post-punk influenced by Unwound, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Gang Of Four, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Mission Of Burma, Wire, Manic Street Preachers and The Clash. This will my social and political artistic outlet for advocacy, activism, awareness, support and dissent. I stand on the shoulders of many voices who have come before me; Karl Polanyi, Chris Hedges, Cornell West, Simone Weil, Joe Strummer, Helene Cixous, Leon Trotsky, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, several indigenous elders in my life who have taught me about wisdom and resistance by example and Christ himself. I cannot stand by while a man gives a soothing back rub to his own ideology while turning his back on so much that we need as a society. We will not reduced to a bunch of numbers and dollar values. People and humanities will not become disposable for the sake of profit and bragging rights. The comfortable WILL be afflicted and the afflicted will be comfortable. A fire burns deep within me and it may come to rage very soon. If this is a challenging season of dissent, then so be it. I am ready.
image

This Is Our Last Dance – David Bowie (1947-2016)

True elders and the wisest of teachers don’t ignore the vibrant, insightful youth that come after them. It is nauseatingly common these days to hear many blowhards slamming millennials, etc. for their perceived naivety or ignorance. The problem is, it is equally ignorant or naive for a baby boomer to claim to be able to see the world through the eyes of today’s youth. They don’t. David Bowie didn’t do that. He embraced each generation that came after him. He taught all of us so much, but he always kept an eye and ear open as well to the next generations and the peers all around him. Klaus Nomi, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Moby, Pixies, Scott Walker, Marc Bolan, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Maria Schneider, Kendrick Lamar… He never stopped looking, listening, encouraging, celebrating others and collaborating. He kept evolving, learning, sharing, creating, thinking and caring. 

My whole life has been drenched in his influence – how I sing, how I play, how I write, my faith, what I read, my view of love, life and so much more. As a lonely, shy boy who felt so invisible and very out of place in this world, David Bowie gave me a place where I belonged. It was okay to be different – to wonder, to dream, to see things a different way. I still feel as utterly out of place as ever, but his remarkable body of work and that iconic image in my mind of his enthusiastic wonder-filled laughter, that friendly smile and that sparkle in his eye provides me much inspiration, challenge, comfort, encouragement and confidence. 

There are just so many things in this world that exist because Bowie came first. So much. His legacy is everywhere. We are going to be discovering that for years to come. I can’t think of a single other figure that influenced so much in their time – music, fashion, film, literature, theatre, dance, philosophy, religion… What a loss. What a feast of a life lived fully in all its colourful, creative and visionary glory. To go out so bravely and quietly is an abrupt and shocking ending to a rich and beautiful life. On leaving, he gave this last opus, Blackstar/Lazarus, this ambitious and visionary work to now mourn and celebrate with. 

From Blackstar:
“Something happened on the day he died/Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside/Somebody Else took his place and bravely cried/I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar”

David Robert Jones died peacefully in his sleep after an 18-month long battle with cancer that most of the world never knew about. He was surrounded by his family and those who loved him. Outside, the rest of us form an ever-widening circle that will grow for a long time to come. There is no one to take his place. This, simply, is the final chapter in a story that won’t be written again. We will hold this one tightly, share it constantly and read it again and again. 

Farewell, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Major Tom, The Thin White Duke, Nathan Adler, Thomas Jerome Newton, Phillip Jeffries, Jareth The Goblin King, Vendice Partners, Major Celliers, John Blaylock and Lazarus. Thank you for everything and suffer no more. “We can be heroes forever and ever. What d’you say?”

  

This Is Our Last Dance – David Bowie (1947-2016)

True elders and the wisest of teachers don’t ignore the vibrant, insightful youth that come after them. It is nauseatingly common these days to hear many blowhards slamming millennials, etc. for their perceived naivety or ignorance. The problem is, it is equally ignorant or naive for a baby boomer to claim to be able to see the world through the eyes of today’s youth. They don’t. David Bowie didn’t do that. He embraced each generation that came after him. He taught all of us so much, but he always kept an eye and ear open as well to the next generations and the peers all around him. Klaus Nomi, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Moby, Pixies, Scott Walker, Marc Bolan, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Maria Schneider, Kendrick Lamar… He never stopped looking, listening, encouraging, celebrating others and collaborating. He kept evolving, learning, sharing, creating, thinking and caring. My whole life has been drenched in his influence – how I sing, how I play, how I write, my faith, what I read, my view of love, life and so much more. As a lonely, shy boy who felt so invisible and very out of place in this world, David Bowie gave me a place where I belonged. It was okay to be different – to wonder, to dream, to see things a different way. I still feel as utterly out of place as ever, but his remarkable body of work and that iconic image in my mind of his enthusiastic wonder-filled laughter, that friendly smile and that sparkle in his eye provides me much inspiration, challenge, comfort, encouragement and confidence. There are just so many things in this world that exist because Bowie came first. So much. His legacy is everywhere. We are going to be discovering that for years to come. I can’t think of a single other figure that influenced so much in their time – music, fashion, film, literature, theatre, dance, philosophy, religion… What a loss. What a feast of a life lived fully in all its colourful, creative and visionary glory. To go out so bravely and quietly is an abrupt and shocking ending to a rich and beautiful life. On leaving, he gave this last opus, Blackstar/Lazarus, this ambitious and visionary work to now mourn and celebrate with.

From Blackstar:
Something happened on the day he died/Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside/Somebody Else took his place and bravely cried/I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar

David Robert Jones, there is no one to take your place. This, simply, is the final chapter in a story that won’t be written again. We will hold this one tightly, share it constantly and read it again and again. Thank you for everything and suffer no more. “We can be heroes forever and ever. What d’you say?

image

 

 

My Social Media Network…

My Facebook page is an interesting creature. I am provocateur, ranter, lover of so many things, the town cryer, the comedian, the amateur economist, thinker, film buff, music obsessive, concerned citizen, passionate artist, pop culture fanatic, follower of Christ, frustrated by His followers, weeping and gnashing about the evils of this world and the man in the mirror and on and on. Some people curate their pages to make themselves look oh so stately and perfect. Sometimes, when they post links like “Ten things all amazing people do”, I wonder if this them telling us that is THEMSELVES. “Be like me, everyone.” I kind of think that’s B.S., but that is THEIR page. They can do what they want with it. My entire life, I have had people put me in boxes as to how they decide to view me. “Darren, you hate everything.” “Darren, you love everything.” They are BOTH very wrong. I am honest and my words can be potent. I am willing, as the expression goes, to be “damned for who I am”. I don’t pretend to be “past” things until I actually am. Some of you are very perceptive of that and have offered amazing encouragements. I appreciate that. I live my life out loud, but am also very introverted. I spend huge amounts of time alone, so you get more of me here than what some other people share. It doesn’t mean I am on here all the time – I just press the “share” button more than some. Politically, I have encountered tension with some of you. Why is that a concern? Don’t we live in a Democracy? I have been called out for some flowery language lately. Yes, this is a dichotomy as a man of faith, but sometimes even those words fail to express the vileness of the acts and attitudes I am struggling with and against. Let’s remember that the apostle Paul’s use of the term “like filthy rags” was, in Hebrew, something MUCH more crass (pretty much a four-letter word referring to excrement). I will try to do better on that as sound arguments try to steer away from foul language. Sometimes, raw emotion calls for raw words. It just happens that way. I make sure that my life is filled with a variety of people because I don’t want the illusion of having my back patted for everything I do. This makes my life more challenging, because I am EXTREMELY hard on myself. Very few people understand just how much. Most bullets that I fire went through my own skull first. So, if I ruffle some feathers and make you uncomfortable, I AM sorry. I know I can be provocative, but sometimes that is what is needed. As my life settles into a job, I get back on the radio, resume writing and get back on stage with music and acting, I imagine you will see less of my vitriol and passion here and more out there. Thank you for sticking around in my life on this weird little social network. I mean to learn, teach, share, love, mourn, struggle, inspire, be inspired, connect, challenge, create and discuss. Peace and love to my extremely varied Facebook network. ❤️