A forum for comments on FASD, sharing, life challenges, politics and other things that bother us. By GrampaBrian, FASD Advocate (AKA Brian Philcox)

Archive for May, 2010

“Tell me what to do…”

If you are a fan of mystery shows, especially ones suitable for youngsters that don’t rely on gratuitous violence, car chases and endless shoot-em-ups, you’ve probably watched the TV show Monk, starring Tony Shaloub. He plays the OCD private detective who gets called in to help the hapless police in San Francisco.

In an early episode Monk plaintively called out to his police sergeant colleague and to his psychiatrist, "Tell me what to do." His assistant and constant hand-holder Sherona had quit temporarily so he was lost without her common sense guidance for the most banal, every day decisions.

I then began to wonder if that kind of cry for help is not typical of the malaise that seems to effect far too many people in countries like Canada and the US. Because so many of us don’t want to take on the responsibility of making the hard decisions in our own lives , we tend to succumb to a herd instinct and follow the guidance of demagogues. And we know who those so-called leaders have been.

There will always be those who have given up on political issues, complaining that nothing can be done, that the politicians are in the pockets of the corporatists, developers, and other power brokers. Yet, the reason why some politicians appear to be in the thrall of the power elites may be because the rest of us have been sitting on our hands. No one seems to get annoyed by anything the politicians do any more. Apart from the odd letter to the editor or a mini-rally organized by some special interest group, the rest of us just let the mess go on.

And, frankly, I don’t know how we can create an invigorated populace that will let the politicians know what we really want or need. Too many of us don’t even bother to vote any more. We have a prime minister who operates like a petty dictator in spite of the fact that of the 60-odd percent who actually voted, only 35% or so actually voted for him. A totally controlling ‘leader’ who stays in power because of the reluctance of an opposition to challenge him. 

Sure, I’ve written letters to political leaders and other elected officials but only occasionally do I even get an acknowledgment. What do we need to do to take charge of our own destiny? 

I Have Learned…

  • That it’s useless to yell when a whisper will do.
  • There is, almost always, more than one right answer.
  • Excellence is always achievable, perfection never.
  • Laughter is the best aphrodisiac.
  • Success is planned, failure is not.
  • 90% of communicating is listening.
  • Happiness shared is happiness doubled.
  • You can never do a wrong thing right.
  • The reason some people are so petty is… the stakes are so small.
  • If, at first, you do succeed, you need to try something harder.
  • The older I get, the more I want less.
  • Failure is just another form of feedback.
  • It’s always the right time to do the right thing.
  • These are the good old days.
  • Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get.
  • Success is not a destination, it’s the joyful journey along the way
  • Profit is not a purpose, it’s a result.
  • You can’t change direction unless you’re already on the move.
  • Every day I wake to the future.
  • If you’re not satisfied with what you have, be grateful for what you don’t have.
  • And finally, do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; just remember that what you have now was once among the things only hoped for.

    (from my list of lazer epigrins)

Our American Friends – Why We Are Different

 At the risk of , yet again, comparing ourselves as Canadians to our ever-dominant neighbour to the south, I have had some thoughts about how we are truly different from our friends there. 

Canadians often say they are different from Americans but usually have some difficulty in articulating just what that difference is. We certainly enjoy many of the same kinds of things — baseball, junk food, Facebook, and the like — but there are some cultural aspects that definitely do differentiate us. Let me also acknowledge that these comments  are both general and personal. Thinking about this the other day, I realized that I have as many American friends as Canadian. People I respect and have great affection for. At the same time, most Americans in my experience truly believe in their own xenophobic mythology

However, looking at the bigger political picture, I also admit that there are flaws on both sides of our common border. Let’s look at Canada first.

We have a parliamentary system that requires the leader and the senior ministers of the governing party to be present to respond to questions from the members of the opposition. Theoretically, this should keep everybody honest. Yet, our Prime Minister’s Office has become more imperious and controlling — especially since the days of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Even in a minority government we have seen our parliament prorogued twice in order to protect the backside of the governing party. And, currently, the Conservative Party, having garnered only about 35% of the popular vote in the last election can still stonewall investigations into the treatment of prisoners in the Afghanistan engagement. The PCs stay in power because the Liberals and the New Democrats, who should be on the same side of the political spectrum, can’t seem to abide each other  and are too fragmented to form a sensible alternative.

However, the House can knock the governing party out if the votes are there. The Liberals have no stomach for an election at the moment so we see a farcical charade go on each day that the house sits and the members jeer at each other during question period. Leaving theatre aside, the members can still work together in committee. The critical element is the fact that a majority vote in the House will carry the day.

In the US, a single Senator can hold up proceedings almost indefinitely. Watching the attempts of the Democratic majority over the past year or so has been an exercise in frustration. Observing Republicans and some Democrats go against the best interests of the public  because of the financial clout of corporate interests  is truly frightening. Is the voting public that gullible that they will let their representatives get away with that kind of behaviour? I’d like to think not but watching the antics of the ignorant and misinformed (e.g. Palin & the ‘Tea Party’ bigots) can be really depressing.

So we are countries of imperfect humans who can be fooled by others while thinking we are doing the right thing. That’s not the point of differentiation. Where we are truly different is in the way we think about ourselves. The American mythos is so pervasive that the typical American has absorbed it fully before leaving primary school and it tends to stick for the rest of his or her life. I have worked with Americans, shared business committee decisions with them and had many a sociable time with them. At no time did I ever sense that they felt inferior to any other nation. As far as most of these individuals were concerned, America is the most generous, most noble, most creative nation on earth and whatever America does is the best.

Because these Americans who have not been able to perceive any flaws in their institutions or way of life, they continue to think that whatever they do is for the good of humanity and their way is the best way.

Canadians on the other hand tend to think that others can do things well and even when we do something that is excellent, we know we can always learn from others and improve. 

Americans have a difficult time trying to figure out why there are so many groups, both foreign and domestic that don’t buy into the national mythology. Perhaps they feel that their business interests are more important than the well-being and safety of others. When the corporate interests  of American firms run into objections from other nations who prefer not to have their people exploited, the CIA will move in to disrupt the economy or the power structure of that country. Countries have learned not to mess with the US or the corporate investors will take any steps necessary to fulfill their ‘manifest destiny’ and be backed by the power brokers of the US.

So, are we different because we don’t have the economic clout to bully others? I don’t think so. The real difference is that we do not have a national mythology that imbues a sense of superiority which is dedicated to making everyone else like us. 

Shawanaga Revisited

 It was at least 8 or ten years ago that we were invited to speak to social & health workers at the Shawanaga First Nation Healing Centre in Nobel, just north of Parry Sound. The FASD organizer at the time had left just before we came up and the new person responsible for FASD issues seemed a little bewildered by the whole thing. Only six or seven workers showed up for a presentation we were still giving with overhead transparencies. However, we were warmly welcomed and we hoped we could return some day.

This past week was our return visit and and the current FASD manager had seen us present in Magnetawan the previous year and wanted us to do a workshop for the parents and social workers in her area. Crystal Nayanookeesic has a truly dedicated approach to her task and was able to get 34 social workers, educators, health workers and parents to come out for our day-long session.

We didn’t have the workshop on the reserve as we had expected but at the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centre’s local branch in Parry Sound. Unlike the headquarters of OFIFC in Toronto, this facility lacked the equipment and exceptional decor you find there. However, by arriving the night before, Bonnie & I managed to rearrange the tables and furniture in the curiously trapezoidal shaped hall so that all the participants would be able to see our powerpoint slides. The main glitch was the fact that none of the equipment there (and our own back-up speaker) wouldn’t work  so we had to resort to showing our video component on a television which meant everyone had to get up and move around so they could see and hear. Semper aliquot est.* 

Our session was on a Friday and started with a local elder doing a smudging ceremony. This ceremony is a very pleasant and traditional way of relaxing, clearing the mind and focusing on the issues at hand. The attendees were keen participants and had lots of very pertinent questions. Crystal felt we had met the needs of those who participated and was very pleased with the evaluations left behind. It was gratifying for us that most participants stayed to the very end of the session on a balmy Friday afternoon.

This workshop reinforced our sense that we need to broaden the scope of our work by creating a national organization that will allow greater communication among parents and professionals who need to share their experiences and strategies dealing with those often neglected individuals with FASD. The FASDO listserv and the FASDcan listserv is a start but a national organization with a staff in place would provide guidance and to act as a spokesperson to give our cause the authority and recognition it deserves.

*It’s always something.