Category Archives: Social Commentary

Social commentary

We can’t look away from bad news

We can’t look away from bad news

She watched one news story after another, disgusted by each one but didn’t turn the channel. Stories about animal abuse, fires destroying homes, a man killing his wife, a woman’s tirade in a store, gang wars, suicides, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions, AND the political poop show that dominates everything!

Her analysis of the world, “It’s all terrible!” Later today she’ll watch the news again for more of the same coverage.

The truth is humans have difficulty turning away from tragedy. People can be drawn towards drama, excited by debauchery and even envious of the person who stepped over the line and publicly lost their cool. We can be mesmerized by stories of misconduct and horrified but curious about mayhem.

Maybe we are hard-wired to watch what happens to others in order to protect ourselves from falling victim. It could be that we learn lessons from people’s behaviour and mistakes or, more realistically, the spectacle that surrounds us everyday has become entertainment.

Knowing our unwavering need to explore the darkest of human behaviour more news and TV programs cater to that taste. One local news story about a fire leads to a cluster of fire stories across the world. The gratuitous depictions of anger, sex, and a million ways to kill or die becomes normalized. We pay to watch these things.

Dressed up, news and other programs want us to believe we are informed. Instead, we remain largely ignorant but we do establish our place in a like-minded tribe.

Dressed down, or exposed for all it’s worth, the constant viewing of negative programs can erode our health, deep thinking and personal discernment.

Still we keep looking.

Are You Listening?

Are You Listening?

Over the course of a few months I began to assess my immediate and extended family, my spouse and my own abilities to listen. A social experiment of sorts, which focused on self-awareness and active listening skills. I would venture to guess that most people would label themselves as good listeners. Myself included.

First question:

How strong are my listening skills?

I noticed my own tendency to drift in thought or to interject in conversations. That happened mostly in my personal life but professionally I tended to stay on point with active listening. A distinction that needs work so as not to discriminate between who gets attention and where.

For the most part I enjoy different perspectives on life, relationships and world issues. I’m genuinely interested in knowing people better. However, certain family members are particularly good at hitting sensitive nerves so then ears can close and defensive shields go up. Still working on those trigger responses.

Overall, I would describe myself as a good listener with room for improvement.

Second question:

 Was my assumption that I was not being heard realistic?

I came to realize others were not offering the same degree of listening time, presence and genuine interest as I gave them. So, I began to conduct random post analysis of natural conversations.

When opportunities arose for my family and spouse to talk freely about a topic I would listen carefully. I’m pretty sure that my verbal and non-verbal cues demonstrated interest. (Absent of any triggering episodes)

Curiously, when I began to share my thoughts I noticed a distinct difference in most people’s capabilities to listen. It was as if a switch went off and all the energy that propelled them forward to talk about their topics had been expended and there was nothing left for listening.

Here’s what I experienced:

No eye contact

Quick to acknowledge  other people, things and/or pets,  without apology, while I was speaking

Interrupted to passionately impose their own opinion and raised voice to be heard

Completely ignored topic(s) and deflected to what they wanted to talk about (“That’s like me….”)

Picked up phones in the middle of a conversation to scan Twitter, or check incoming email

Got up to leave or go do something else ( Their excuse: ” Oh, I thought you were finished talking” or “I just needed to….)

Silent: Asked no questions to better understand points, nor used words like, “Really?” or “Uh, huh.”

Body language showed disinterest and they lacked empathy

To counteract their apparent disinterest I stopped mid-sentence just to see what would happen. Some people were oblivious to the odd stop and other’s were jarred out of their mind fog enough to offer a faint bit of interest….and then it was gone again.

I also experimented with what I’ll call, “Goldfish Attention Span” talking. I kept speech short with simple words. Still no signs of life or interest. I tried being more animated in tone and body to command the stage, as it were. That worked a bit but I still wasn’t getting active listening beyond that point.

After observing their inability to be attentive I would transition back to something I know they like to talk about and miraculously they were engaged again.

Maybe I’m too boring. Maybe I talk too much. Maybe what I’m talking about is over their heads. Maybe listening is easier when it’s catchy comments or profanity laced dialogue. Maybe they are self-centered or rude. Maybe WE struggle with being present.

OR

Maybe listening skills need to be developed and consistently improved upon in order to be effectively applied to our personal and business relationships.

Check out these Tips on Active Listening:

MindTools Article and Video

Active Listening Hear What People Are Really Saying

Plus:

Dr John Gottman’s Top 10 Skills for Active Listening

  1. Focus on being interested, not interesting
  2. Start by asking questions
  3. Look for commonalities
  4. Tune in with all your attention
  5. Communicate that you are listening with a nod/sound
  6. Paraphrase what the speaker says
  7. Validate the speakers emotions
  8. Maintain eye contact
  9. Let go of your agenda
  10. Turn off the TV or anything else that is distracting

 

Racist Ranter – Fire Her?

Racist Ranter – Fire Her?

After watching the video of a BC woman unleashing all sorts of racial insults at a group of men in a Lethbridge restaurant I understood fully why her employer was reported to have fired her. Whether their decision will stand remains to be seen, but I too would feel compelled to do something. If firing or a leave of absence (with an expectation of counselling to deal with her issues) is within my power then one or the other is going to happen.

I don’t care that she wasn’t at her place of work when she decided to be verbally abusive to these men. I also don’t care if she felt provoked or justified. It matters little to me that she may have been under the influence of alcohol or not. The fact is it’s unacceptable behaviour.

This woman needs help. She is consumed by fear which is the foundation for her racist rants, defensiveness and judgements. Her narrow view of people – who in her mind “aren’t Canadian” – is now played out for all the world to see.

When she rises up to declare, “I’m a Canadian woman who won’t be talked down to by you”, we are privy to another layer of her anger. In her mind all their women ( Syrian women) are mistreated, disrespected and without a voice and she’s not going allow them to do that to her. This may be her own experiences with being disempowered coming to light.

If there was any honor she thought she was defending it was not found in her rant. If at the core she doesn’t believe immigrants respect our country, traditions, values or even other people she has also not demonstrated RESPECT. She has become what she hates and looks outside of herself to find blame. All of this is not only self-destructive but has escalated to triggers experienced in public. She is fortunate that nobody responded with physical violence.

It is for all of these reasons that I go back to my point that until she receives assistance I would not want her at my place of work. We don’t live or work in a cultural bubble. We are both challenged and fortunate to live with diversity in this country.

I’m trying to see her through the lens of pain instead of a racist, verbally abusive person spewing profanity at other human beings. I’m also aware she was not the only one involved in this confrontation. So, to guide me towards that end I turned to a quote by Marshall B. Rosenberg,

When we listen for feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters.

The Rise of Hate

The Rise of Hate

Hate tweets, hate speech, hate videos, hate vlogs and blogs, Hate appears to be on the rise.

Haters see themselves as only being honest or sticking it to politically correct losers, and they’re proudly displaying their middle finger in defiance. Having a strong opinion doesn’t make a person a Hater but how they consistently deliver their opinion can.

Haters feel powerful as their tribe grows stronger. Laughing amongst themselves and rolling their eyes about things like harassment, violence and the suffering of others. They are not supportive of campaigns by marginalized groups who dream of better treatment. They blame Feminism, immigrants, other countries, news outlets, and a plethora of individuals for everything they can possibly think of.

They have created divisions between allies, community, friends, family and even life partners as they become accustomed to treating others poorly. These people have forgotten how to be kind except when they are patting the back of, or shaking hands with, their own hate club members. They feel energized after writing or vocalizing their worst possible thoughts which says more about who they are than about those they target. Issues can’t be debated without insult or dismissive statements, and they take no responsibility for their behaviour.

Haters come from all walks of life but one commonality is the need to belong and be heard – they long to be relevant. On Twitter – a haven for Haters – you will see Actors finding a new audience for outrageously angry rants. Comedians who trade humour for cruelty, so-called Leaders being bullies, and so many others who have found a way to dispense often meaningless drivel. (And let’s not forget Armchair Politicians)

Their message, “You Are Not OK but I am! We are!” A mantra every narcissist, hate group or aggressor identifies with.

Haters don’t tend to sit down or connect in any way with the people they rant about. They expend little to no effort to learn more about a person or group in order to find some common ground. (Which is possible) They are content to be hostile. Slowly these people, who once may have had some compassion or common sense, get eaten alive by negativity without ever knowing they were prey.

It is entirely possible that they have low self-worth; even if they want to tell people otherwise. They can’t be fine in the mind because hate kills happiness, love, empathy and cooperation. Look into the eyes of someone who leads with love, practices tolerance and has a true interest in others. Now look at the eyes of someone who is disgusted by another person, cruel, impatient and disinterested. Eyes are the windows to our soul.

We can learn from someone who has keenly considered the impact of their words and whose intention is to do right by others as opposed to the person whose intent is to crush them. It doesn’t take intelligence to put together a few characters to curse, or demean another person using infantile speech, but it can irrevocably change things.

Historically, we have seen how fear can grow, and that fear became uncontrolled anger and that anger boiled up to hate. Such feelings rose up to cause division between people who were once neighbours and friends. It began with a statement against a person,people or belief, then moved onto propaganda that was written and distributed. The manufacturing of hate produced large quantities of rumour and suspicion which then culminated into civil unrest. People’s actions or feelings seemed innocuous at first but HATE always acts as a catalyst for war in one form or another. 

Weinstein and Common Traits of a Sexual Harasser

Weinstein and Common Traits of a Sexual Harasser

How people respond to sexual harassment is a true test of their understanding of what it is and its impact. How people have and will respond to Harvey Weinstein’s story is a testimony to their own integrity. —————–

According to the BC Human Rights Clinic, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace can be defined by the following key elements:

  1. Conduct of a sexual nature which is gender based,
  2. Conduct that is unwelcome, and
  3. Conduct that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job- related consequences.

Note, while women typically experience sexual harassment more often than men, sexual harassment can and does happen to men.  It can also occur between two people of the same-sex. 

As we wade through the media storm that surrounds Mr. Weinstein it becomes apparent that there were many victims and many non-innocent bystanders. If we set aside the finger-pointing that is happening right now it might be prudent to explore some of the common traits, beliefs and behaviours of a sexual harassers. I’m no expert but there does seem to be some commonality…

The Harasser has:

  1. A Skewed Perception

Their fantasy world has taken over reality and hijacked any sensibility that others may possess. Their desire plus the need for emotional and physical control over another person is so intoxicating that they are drawn to more experiences. Their perception of conversations and events can be radically different from the recollections of victims but that doesn’t mean they are delusional. They still have the ability to observe their behaviours even if they don’t want to fully acknowledge their conduct.

  1. Access to Power

Though sexual harassment can be perpetrated by anyone, at any time, it is particularly difficult when the person is in a position of power. Whether they be an Owner, CEO, Manager or Supervisor, if the individual has the ability to decide the fate of someone’s life/job there is added pressure on the victim to evaluate the situation and choose next moves very carefully. When someone knows they can, “grab’em by the pussy”, grope a breast, steal a kiss or aggressively ask for sexual favours – simply because of their position of power – then they cease to be a competent, respected member of the business team, let alone a respectful member of society.

  1. Felt Justified

Women deserve it. Despite gender evolution there are people who have failed to develop, preferring to stay entrenched in outdated thinking. There’s also an ever-increasing production of material  that will ensure men still believe that women like abuse, are weak but sexually driven and should acquiesce to the wishes of males. These men feel justified in their actions against women and when confronted they demand that others just “get over it.” In their minds women are objects and obstacles not persons. Because of that perception it is difficult to open their mind and change the story, it’s all they know.

  1. A Lack of Consequences

How many years can go by before a man like Weinstein – who committed harassment, intimidation, and assault – would be held accountable? Apparently, more years than most of us imagined. Multiple people and agencies turned a blind eye or yielded under pressure in order to protect themselves and a man who didn’t deserve an ounce of loyalty or respect. Like all predators he positioned himself (no pun intended) like a fox in a hens cage. He found ways to mask his crimes by supporting causes and individuals that make him appear to be something he’s not – a classic distraction from his truth.

Where does that leave us?

The impact of sexual harassment in the workplace is buried in a toxic soup of abuse, lies, cover-ups, resentment, anger and hurt. Good employees leave while other employees, who are willing to comply or tough it out, work in conflict and suspicion. Nobody is safe in a work culture that rewards bad or criminal behaviour. To sell your soul to the devil in business is easier for some than others but make no mistake a soul is damaged.

Our only hope of changing the tide of harassment is to start with ourselves and our children. In my next blog post I want to open up a larger discussion and hear from others about what we can do to reduce the incidences of sexual harassment.

 

Road Flaggers Injured – Dangerous Job

Road Flaggers Injured – Dangerous Job

Two road flaggers were injured in Vancouver after a woman driving an SUV appears to have deliberately run into them. Caught on video it is apparent this driver lost control of her senses and simply drove over the flagger – later down the road she struck the second worker.

This isn’t the first time flaggers have been injured or even killed on the job and each time we see quotes about how this incident raises concerns about flagger’s safety or comments like the driver was experiencing road rage. I always find it annoying to hear or read these observations because with each new case of flagger injury or death it appears as if we are incapable of finding a solution to the problem.

Yes, Road Flaggers have a necessary and dangerous job but the majority of that danger is preventable. It is time for a multipronged approach that clearly has their safety in mind and stiffer penalties for anyone who’s road rage causes harm to others.

The BC Flagging Association and other representatives need to have the applicable levels of government and the public listen to their ideas on how their members can be safe on the job. Also, our justice system should be taking the issue of road rage very seriously – it is time to be accountable!

Frustrated by the time it is taking to bring charges against this driver, some flaggers had proposed a possible blockage of major bridges in protest. I get that level of frustration. I understand that maybe this will release some angst and bring a very important issue out where it should be, highly visible. My only concern again would be for their safety.

For now, the only thing I can do to support these workers is acknowledge flaggers with a quick wave or smile as I drive through construction zones.  I can be reminded as I drive by that they are keeping me safe and they have a family that would like to see them come home.

Wounded Elephant Crushes Trophy Hunter – Karma?

Wounded Elephant Crushes Trophy Hunter – Karma?

A friend of mine told me about the story of a trophy hunter by the name of Thuenis Botha. She had seen pictures of him and his various trophy kills on Facebook but the story she wanted to share with me was about him being crushed by an elephant. It was hard for either of us to have any sympathy for him and in fact we both felt his death was just karma.

Story: Wounded Elephant Crushes and Kills Trophy Hunter

I sponsor elephants in Kenya through The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust so you can’t expect me to care for someone who knowingly goes out to harm them. For the life of me I will never understand the mindset of someone who kills a living being for sport.

The only thing I can figure is that this type of human being is at the lower end of the intelligence spectrum meaning that things boil down to a simplistic understanding of their world. They have little regard for the impact they are having on species and the environment. I also believe this type of person is obsessed with self, lacks compassion for other beings and only feels powerful when he/she can kill a defenseless animal. It is a sport based on status, a pissing contest of sorts that allows for bragging rights at the end. Useless, absolutely useless.

Make no mistake this is big business and, as we have seen in the past, extinction of animals is entirely possible when things are left to greedy hunters and corrupt governments. Hiding behind words like conservation and land management people like Mr. Botha see money through the barrel of their gun.

My mind returns to this elephant that likely saved her herd from further threat. She died in a way that if we were talking about a human being we would have called her brave. Just like a human her instinct was to protect her family and like humans her family will grieve the loss. And that’s another thing…

I find it puzzling that we like to think of ourselves as so superior and believe we are the only species that has the capacity to evolve – to become sentient beings. If we were capable of going from blobs of cells, to walking upright, establishing communication, creating family units and so on, why do we assume other species are not evolving too?

By studying other species in the wild, like primates, elephants and cetaceans, we have learned more about their evolution, intelligence, feelings and the many traits we share. One common thing in all of us is the need to protect those we care about.

Yes, I feel absolutely a sense of calm when I say Mr. Botha’s death was a good one. I don’t see his career as a big game hunter as something that should be aspired to or protected.

The grief I feel is for the elephant family that will never forget one of their own.

It is time to end trophy hunting and call it like it is— a cowardly, barbaric act in the name of sport.

 

2017 BC Elections Debate – My take on politics

2017 BC Elections Debate – My take on politics

As I watched the first British Columbia Election 2017 debate with Green Leader Andrew Weaver, Liberal Leader Christy Clark and NDP Leader John Horgan I was reminded why I didn’t explore Politics as a potential career path. BC’s Provincial Election has kicked off and with that comes campaign strategizing, back stabbing, hand shaking, fake smiling and noise making.

There is no doubt this is a big job representing the people, developing and amending policies and programs – among other things. Any decisions made can be felt far and wide and boy do we feel it! When it comes to politics it takes a special breed of people to run for election and an even stronger contingent of people willing to put their trust in their representative.

Truth vs. Fiction and The reality of certain decisions

I believe most legislators don’t have an understanding about what is really happening at the ground level. That is because they are reliant on individuals willing to contact their offices and they receive stats and second-hand information from representatives who oversee programs on behalf of the government. It’s hard to be everywhere.

In my industry alone so many of the governments decisions have negatively impacted the working environment – resulting in more workers leaving our industry and/or increased leaves of absence. It has most certainly impeded services to clients but you won’t hear a peep about that.

Instead a glowing shout out by Premier Clark about job creation will override the reality that people fall through the cracks in employment services every day.   Through this current numbers driven model of service many in our industry will argue that we Don’t have the luxury of placing people first – especially when it comes to supporting those who need it most.

Fudging numbers and spinning stories is what makes for interesting campaigns and if we don’t know better we’ll assume what our representatives are saying is the truth. The real truth is that politicians likely know – or learn rather quickly – that facts are buried in between fiction. They have figured out that people vote based on their own values and immediate needs and pay basic attention to everything else.

Sometimes it’s so hard to know what is going on and other times it’s glaringly obvious

In this debate I heard repeated reference to the NDP in the 90’s which doesn’t mean much to me now. I believe every individual,  party or company has the ability to evolve so why dredge up the past…show me what you got for 2017 and beyond!

The Green party keeps talking about corporations as if they are the bad guys. Not all corporations are bad. Yes, keep them under control as it pertains to political influence but  remember corporations provide jobs and aren’t we all grateful for that? Corporations donate to various charities so would you prefer they make less and therefore contribute less? Why not choose partnerships with innovative and responsible corporations so that you can spend less time mining my pocket to pay for things?

Here’s where I might offend a few people: I don’t think every taxpayer should have to pay for childcare. I have always felt that if you bring a child in this world you better be prepared to take care of it for the long-term. Of course, if you become a single parent raising children or the primary financial contributor to the home loses employment then that is a different story. The unforeseen often dictates changes – support should then be made available. Here again is where I think we need to be more innovative in our approach to such issues and assessment of need can be a part of that approach.

Polls, Trolls and Tripe don’t help much

Politicians on the campaign trail have still not understood that a large majority of voters hate negative campaigning. Although as we have seen south of the border, and in previous Canadian campaigns, mud slinging can happen. Getting out to vote should be made more attractive as we can’t take anything for granted.

My advice to candidates

John Horgan – Shut down the 90’s talk right away if anyone mentions it and share very clearly how the party has grown and will proceed. It’s not so much your personal reputation or presentation you have to worry about its the past mistakes that linger. No matter what you say that is the hurdle you face.

Christy Clark – Stop relying on “job loss and kids future fund being depleted”  as a threat if we vote for someone else. Give me a better reason to trust in your ability to know what’s really happening to people like seniors, youth at risk and persons with disabilities along with the infrastructure of this province.

Andrew Weaver – You are talking too fast. Slow it down, stop saying “we have a plan” and find a way to  spell it out better in the short time you have. Don’t dump on corporations because you are losing a whole host of voters that way. Find a way to make Green a word that doesn’t make people think the economy will be negatively impacted. We already know the environmental piece, focus listeners on other issues of importance.

Wow! I’m exhausted even writing about this! Yup, a future in politics is probably not for me and I still don’t know which way I will vote.

 

 

Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Happy International Women’s Day! The significance of International Women’s Day may be different depending on where you live, how old you are and how you are treated but its value is not diminished.

According to the Oxford Dictionary EQUALITY is, The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.”

Do you feel that as a woman you have attained equality? OR If you are a man reading this blog post, Do you think that the women and girls in your life have equal status, rights and opportunities?

It is because of the obstacles still positioned in front of women that such an event becomes important. History – as we are taught – has not been very good at recording the stories of women. Their role in the development of our countries has been largely ignored. With this in mind, the organization of women has become necessary since the early 1900’s.

We do have so much to celebrate in life but this is one day when women can feel less alone with their challenges. It is good to honor each other and those that came before us.

There was a time when a women’s appearance in a public space was mostly limited to being on the arm of her man. Oh, have the times changed.

There are those that will question why we would need to gather and celebrate women.

It is because their achievements – despite what has been stacked against them – need validation. It is because the faces we see today may inspire the next generation of women to reach their full potential. The testimony we hear today may shape tomorrows laws. There can be one defining moment in a girls or woman’s life when she feels most powerful and it might be TODAY that such an experience occurs.

 

Status of Women Canada

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