Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Violence In Our World.

Violence is the highest form of disrespect, and poverty is the highest form of violence.

I have been trying to write this for days. I have so many things running through my mind, and it's difficult to put it all together coherently, but I shall try to be as articulate and concise as possible.

On June 4, 2014 Justin Bourque, a 24-year-old from Moncton, New Brunswick killed 3 R.C.M.P. Officers, and attempted to kill 2 others in Moncton.

On October 20, 2014, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed when he was struck by a car while walking through a parking lot in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. The driver of the car, Martin Couture-Rouleau, was shot dead by police

Two days later, on October 22, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot to death as he stood guard duty at Canada's War Memorial in our Nation's Capital. Cpl Cirillo's assailant, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot to death inside the Parliament Building by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

Then, on Sunday, October 26, Jian Ghomeshi, a broadcast journalist and host of the popular CBC Radio program “Q,” was dismissed over allegations of sexual violence. (I admit, my already deep rooted trust issues have been greatly reinforced by this) While the deaths of Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo have been attributed to Islamic Terrorists and Justin Bourque has been labelled mentally unstable, what can explain the actions of Jian Ghomeshi? While I cannot personally find BDSM ​erotic, there are many who do, and I suppose “to each her/his own” applies to a point. Or does it? According to the Canadian Supreme Court, the law clearly states a person cannot consent to an assault that causes bodily harm. If a sexual activity causes bodily harm, a person cannot consent to it. Ghomeshi's accusers, all have stated his behaviour had ranged from slapping, choking and suffocating, to punching and biting, clearly in contravention of Canadian law.

Unfortunately, there is a deeper issue involved here, and that is the violence itself.

From a very young age many of us have learned that violence gets results. The school bully has only to inflict a beating on one victim, (usually a smaller, weaker student) with witnesses, and the bully's authority is established. Once the fear is instilled, the bully need only to THREATEN violence and others run away in fear. As well, many school officials
(certainly not all) such as teachers, either do not get involved, or tell the victims to stand up to the bully. Then, if that happens, the victim is punished by the teacher or principal for fighting. Clearly, the victim learns that they are the statue while everyone else, from the bully on up to the teachers, are the pigeons! (Again, this is not true in every case)

Children learn violence in their homes as well. This is not to say that they are beaten by their parents, most are not, but they are sometimes spanked, and most certainly they are reprimanded for misdeeds by parents with raised voices. Siblings and neighbours will resort to similar tactics in order to gain control. And there certainly ARE cases where children are beaten by a parent, or are witness to one parent beating the other.

As the child grows, she/he begins to become resentful of being victimized by others, often harbouring deep resentment, frustration, and anger for many years. Perhaps one day, as a teen, or young adult, this victim will lash out in retaliation, in an ill-conceived sense of “justice.” In some places, teens and pre-teens join gangs to give them an outlet for their anger.

By the time a victim of violence reaches adulthood, the patterns of violence are well established, and the cycle continues.

Let's now look at some other forms of violence besides the obvious physical contact.

Of course, verbal abuse is high on this list. Raising your voice in a debate or argument is an act of violence. Yes, we all do it, and it's generally accepted as standard practise, but deep down, it hurts and leaves resentment. It has reached the point where if I even HEAR someone raise their voice, I tighten up inside. Despite the nursery rhyme, words DO hurt. DEEPLY! Using words as labels can also be seen as violence. “Stupid,” “Retarded,” “Idiot...” are all labels of disrespect, and even when they go unheard by the people about whom they are spoken, (gossip) they can spread the belief that such words are harmless and acceptable.

Psychological violence is very prevalent in our society today. People who use veiled threats, criticism, intimidation, and/or manipulation to get their own way, or to control others, are behaving with violence. The child who cries in a department store because the desired toy has been refused is already learning this.

Gestures, such as a raised middle finger, are violent acts; not because they leave visible bruises, but because of the intended disrespect involved. Raising a clenched fist is clearly a precursor to violence.

Law enforcement and military personnel have often been accused of using excessive force, and there are plenty of You Tube videos and news reports as well as civil suits to verify this. Having friends and relatives who wear or have worn the uniforms however, I can say that not all can be painted with the same brush. Most are honest people doing a difficult and dangerous job. But those who are prone to violence can find purpose and an outlet for their violent nature in a uniform, especially the armed forces. Soldiers who are deployed to war zones are not often scrutinized for their behaviour as long as their aggression is not toward a superior or fellow soldier. Many people who grow up poor can find financial security in a military pension, and the “team” atmosphere is comforting for those who felt isolated in earlier life. The “terrorists” of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or ISIS are most often underprivileged, marginalized, and disenfranchised. As well, they are largely uneducated, and lack the necessary skills to question the truth of what they're told. (By this, I do not mean actually questioning their superiors, but rationally thinking about what they are told) They believe the rewards in the afterlife are worth their actions in this one!

But now for the reveal;
I too, am a man of violent nature.I have used aggressive language, gestures, and even my fists to express my anger and frustration. Am I proud of that? Did it make me feel better about myself? Did it make me feel superior to others? Not at all! Generally, I felt a great measure of guilt which added to the inner anger; an anger fuelled by violence I have experienced at the hands of others since my childhood. Not that there were a lot of fist fights, but certainly the usual childhood squabbles, name calling, and physical attacks from bullies. I thought when I started playing drums at age 14 that it would all change. I became angry when it didn't. Granted, I set myself up for failure by seeking ideals, but I believe the ideals of Peace and cooperation are well worth believing in.

Do I have all the answers? Certainly NOT! Do I have any of the answers? Perhaps, some... Is a world where we all get along and respect each other possible? Probably not, but it IS worth believing in and striving toward.
In the past, I have vowed to change, and be less violent in speech and thought, but the truth is, breaking such habits can be very difficult! It's very easy to slip back into old ways of thought and action. I know there are some of you reading this who are thinking, “What a hypocrite!” and I understand that, but just because I don't behave in a Peaceful manner doesn't mean I don't want Peace. It simply means I am not experiencing Peace... yet!

Reading this back to myself, I realize I have not been as articulate as I would have liked. I cannot write an essay as thought-provokingly as Jian Ghomeshi would have. However, he cannot, it seems, control his violent tendencies as well as the rest of us can. Ultimately, I long for a world, where Mr. Ghomeshi feels no need to act out such fantasies, for such fantasies would not have taken root in his mind.

In conclusion, I wish to apologize to any and all who have been hurt, offended, or otherwise put off due to my words or deeds. I know I often react too quickly, respond too vehemently, and stir the pot that need not be stirred. I may not always succeed, but I will always try to do better.

~Still Wandering...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sacred Places

The Indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America, as well as “Earth-Based” societies around the world, share the notion of our planet being a living organism and a Sacred Being; Mother Earth. She is the perfect balance to a male, Sky-Based, God. In fact, there are references to “Father Sky, Mother Earth” among certain First Nations.

When I was very young, probably five or six years of age, many of the old covered bridges in New Brunswick were demolished after newer, more modern structures put in to replace them. Often, the new bridges were placed geographically higher if possible to avoid being damaged or washed out during spring floods. One such bridge was McLaggan bridge, about four miles from my home. I didn't give it much thought throughout the years. Occasionally, as I was crossing it by car, I'd glance over to the place where the old bridge had been, but there was never any desire to explore thee area.
In the early part of this century, I purchased a digital camera and while home visiting, I stopped at a place near one end of the new bridge where it is mostly rock and pavement. In the nearly sixty years since the old bridge was removed, there really hasn't been a lot of growth and there is room to park a car and get out. I decided to stop and get some pictures of the river. It was the first time in over forty years I had stood on that spot.

The last time I was home, a couple of weeks ago, I felt compelled to go there again. This time, there was a cool breeze blowing down the valley, and as I stood there shivering, I looked down at the ground. I had expected to see garbage, the usual cast-offs from weekend under-age drinking or teen-aged couples seeking some alone time. There were a couple of food wrappers yes, but aside from that, it seemed it had been pretty much vacant for some time. There were some Pine cones, and a few bits of trees; the ends of limbs probably snapped off in high winds, and some moss growing on the rocky surface, but not much evidence of human visitation.

As that image returned to my mind this evening, I began to feel sad for this rocky ledge, high above the river below. I saw it as a place where once life had thrived and humans were common. Now, it seems lonely and alone. Suddenly, this place which had held no meaning for me, which I had also ignored for many years, became special and, dare I say, SACRED to me. I can understand the first inhabitants of this region, saying there were some places where “Good Medicine” happened. Places such as this have “Power,” and provide opportunity to build a Sacred Fire to offer Ceremonies to honour the Spirits of the Ancestors, and to Mother Earth Herself.

You can be certain I will visit this spot with each successive visit I make to my homeland; the land of my birth.

~Still Wandering

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recent Activities

Once again, a lifetime has passed since my last post.

Recently, I returned to the land of my birth to play Music and have some much needed downtime.

The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival was nothing short of SPECTACULAR! With the number of acts available, and the fact that I didn't arrive until the day before it ended, I missed a great deal of it, but what I DID manage to see was superb! Of course, I had to miss Aerosmith in the process. Big booooooo on that.

The reason I went of course, was to perform with Highway 125 at the Hoodoo House on Saturday night (Sept. 13) and I must say, it was an EXCELLENT way for us to cap off our summer season. I'd say if the room wasn't sold out, it was very close to being so. I'm very proud that my nephew Randy got to perform at the Galaxie Barracks tent. I hope this is the beginning of better things to come for him. Shortly after his show, Highway 125's Curtis Matheson took the Siemens Acoustic stage on the steps of 527 Queen St. Not what one would expect in a “stage” but it worked well and Curtis put on a tremendous solo show. I thoroughly enjoyed Ross Neilson's high energy performance with my buddy Karl Gans on drums. After our set I took a walk with two friends from school, Ellen-Anne Bubar, and Cyndy Hood.

Sunday saw me rehearsing for a reunion of a band I'd been a part of in the 1970s; Cozway. We hadn't performed together since 1977, so it was a real treat to have the opportunity to get together again and prepare for a show which took place on Saturday Sept 20. While the event was poorly attended due to lack of advertising and the fact that another event (a fundraiser for another former classmate who is dealing with some serious health issues) is coming up this weekend, it was a real blast to be on a stage again with the members of Cozway who have all continued to grow as Musicians.

The rest of the time I was on a much needed vacation. I took Mom out to dinner on her 91st birthday, after which we visited with my cousin Pat Dunphy. I was delighted to find that Pat's sister (and obviously also my cousin) Faye Noble and her husband Richard had arrived the previous day. After I dropped Mom back at her apartment, I managed to squeeze in an all-too-brief visit with my Cuzz, Roxi.

There were as well, the hours spent with special friends, new and old, but I spent most of my time revisiting those special places that have meant so much to me since I was a child. Of course, I didn't manage to get to them all, and the ones I did manage to get to held a strange sense of confusion for me. I found myself longing to linger for as long as possible; to hold onto the moment and savour the memories, while simultaneously feeling the need to rush to the next location and do the same.

The one moment that stood out as “defining” to me though, was when I participated in a Meditation for World Peace, led by my new friend, Coralee Cole. I've been meditating for years as a way to ground and centre myself, and I've done solo meditations on Peace, as well as group meditations on other subjects, but this was the first time I'd participated in a group meditation where I'd been born. Somehow, that location (Officer's Square in Fredericton) made it more meaningful. Thank you Coralee and the others for allowing me to share this special time with you.

~Still Wandering