Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking forward to 2017

Hello everyone,

It's been a very long time since I posted!  2016 was a little much!  Had to withdraw from some things.

I'll be here in 2017 tho'!

And wish everyone a far, far better New Year!

Why's Woman

Sunday, April 3, 2016

War Memorials ... What are We to Remember?

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you all well.

This post is on a rather different topic than usual. On Apr 2, 2016, I wrote to our Mayor and Councillors.

A report to Community and Protective Services Committee on Wednesday, March 3 - LAVIII Public Art Monument - recommends funding up to $100,000 to be "drawn from the City of London Public Art Acquisition Reserve Fund" for purchase of a LAV war vehicle, to become a war memorial at Wolseley Barracks.

In my own opinion, an object phrased as having "unsurpassed lethality" and described as "formidable and dominates the battlefield" is not an art piece.  Those phrases come directly from the General Dynamics website, advertising the merits of their products.

I urge all members of City Council to vote against spending City funds to purchase a weapon to be used as a war memorial.

Ursula Franklin once wrote that "violence is resourcelessness".  She has written and spoken about "the futility of war and the connection between peace and social justice", and has been an active member of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.

I'm sure she would challenge London Council to come up with a more resourceful way to remember soldiers killed in war ... and perhaps to come up with a memorial that indicates that the lives sacrificed by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were related to lives lost and livelihoods destroyed of the people in that country.

War is not a series of isolated soldiers.  Canadian lives lost in a war elsewhere do not give us permission to forget the people of that other country.

A thoughtful expression of it being wrong to spend any money on such a vehicle for a monument is in Larry Cornies article, printed in Saturday's London National Post (er Free Press)  ... but, notably, not on the website.  I urge you to read it and consider.

Another London Free Press article reported that all members of CPSC voted for this.
I hope that all Councillors next week will vote against City funds to purchase a lethal weapon for a monument, and will request that any monument meet Franklin's challenge.

One councillor wrote back to let me know he had recused his vote at Committee because he is in the Canadian Armed Forces.  I wrote him back, of course.  

My late father was in the British army for 14 years, about 1937 to 1951, serving in Egypt, Malta, and what was for his time Palestine.  My Dad almost never spoke about his time in the army, but I remember turning around one time when a war movie was on tv and he had tears in his eyes.  He said sometimes, when a news item came on, that people never thought what war did to the people living in the country where the fighting happened.  My mother's first fiance was a Canadian pilot, killed within the first year of WWII.  Dad never bothered her to get rid of his photo, which she kept in the bottom drawer of the dining room buffet; I still have that photo.

So, in my experience, remembering soldiers and people of the war zone is connected.  I hadn't even recalled these things until the recent news items ... and have seldom had a reaction to anything as viscerally as the thought of another memorial tank.  (And I hate those guns pointed out from Provost by the river forks.)

Thanks for the ear everyone,

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Critics of LAV memorial stir political discomfort before Tuesday decision

Monday, March 28, 2016

Preserve, within a wild sanctuary

Good morning!

I hope this musing finds you well.  And that you've had some time over this past Easter weekend to do something you enjoyed.

... It may be that all one needs to write is some inspiration from the voices waiting inside Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (my copy being the 1955 edition, by coincidence, the year I was born).

Hoping for some concrete ideas about the word "sanctuary" I turned to the only quotation indexed to that word:

Preserve, within a wild sanctuary, an inaccessible valley of reveries.
from a Certain Measure (1943)
by Ellen Glasgow (1874-1945)

Not even sure what it means!  Why can she not get to the reveries - the dreams?

But there's a sensibility I like.

She's instructing us to keep those (as yet?) dreams safe, inside a wild sanctuary.

Implying that our dreams are wild?  That our dreams are fresh, new, unexplored ... not everyday and overused?

Thinking this much about a single line ... it's rather like figuring out poetry, which I admit I've never like to do.  Perhaps I'm finally old enough to tackle poetry?  It's been rather fun this morning thinking on Glasgow's words.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Monday, February 22, 2016

The world does not run just fine without you


I hope this note finds you well.  And doing something interesting that counters the long February ... that lone February 29th  must surely equal 5 days in any other month!

Without expecting to, I've been reading about how to be an activist.  A friend recommended a book with a title as long as many a 19th century classic: Blueprint for Revolution: how to use rice pudding, Lego men, and other nonviolent techniques to galvanize communities overthrow dictators, or simply change the world.

Author Srdja Popovic touches on all those things and more as he recounts his own experiences with the Serbian revolution, and going on to train people from other countries in how to focus on goals and bring them about.  His experience is mostly with people whose countries are under the thumbs of political tyrants, and the movement is toward democracy.  The dangers of such situations are real; the consequences of mistakes can be fatal.

His focus is on "big picture" things, important things like having a clear idea of what your goal is, defining your group's "brand", figuring out the biggest audience you can get on your side because they already agree with something you agree with, using nonviolence and humour, beginning with actions that are small and achievable, following through ... and other things like making sure any action has the details planned and people assigned to carry out the details.

Reading, I knew that what he said was important, and correct ... and I also had some nagging feelings of distress. 

Where were the people?  Particularly, where were the women?  I think he cites only two examples where women are the leaders of actions. 

And although I recognize that his "how-to" book is a sort of "meta" how-to" - and forgive the term "meta"! - I would have liked him to at least mention some of the resources that give the how-to organize and carry through the individual events that lead to the big change. 

There were few references to change other than political governance.  Where were the references to environment, gender, social justice, economy, city bylaws, school board rules ... all sorts of things where the ordinary people (Hobbits, in his reference) make so many changes?

Just a note on Hobbits, characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's books.  Popovic is not the first person to refer to Hobbits when he describes how people can come from everyday lives to make change.

A Canadian woman,Bobbi Speck, became a leader in the 1969 fight against an expressway that was to be built through a neighbourhood in her home city of Toronto.  She was in the late stages of pregnancy and then a new mother when she and others went door to door, met with city council, and did all sorts of organizing work. At some later date she had a chance to note that:

" ... And life can seemingly return to normal, but the little people are forever changed.  This is the theme of The Hobbit and the trilogy by R.R. Tolkien, and this is something we know in our hearts without being told."  [Speck]

This quotation, given in Elizabeth May's (2006) book, How to Change the World in Your Spare Time, is just one place where May emphasizes the power of individual people, and that we become more powerful by doing because it helps us recognize just how much we do know.

"The first step of engagement will leave you feeling empowered.  Moreover, any notion you may have had that the world runs just fine without your help may be shattered. ... it becomes increasingly clear that those in power are not very competent.  It becomes obvious that you know more about the subject than those who are regulating an industry or making zoning decisions.  [May]

Elizabeth's book is a how-to that advises how to handle details of many types of activities that make up the big picture of change.  She stresses the utility of humour, and the necessity of kindness, clarity, and nonviolence in actions. 

I only recently found out that she lived in Muriel Duckworth's home in Halifax, during at least part of her time at university.  Muriel was one of the founding members of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and someone I met and knew during my two years living in Halifax in the mid 1980s. 

I've met Elizabeth May only once here in London, Ontario ... and, as you see, my blog is named after her book.  Knowing that two of my most important influences had not only met each other but were long-time friends and colleagues, was a pure sit down and cry moment.  Totally soggy, throat swollen, and completely good ... knowing I was truly connected to not only a big picture but a big, many-coloured, many-peopled, vision.

Well, this post drifted from where I thought it would go!  I'd intended to make a few more notes on non-violence stuff and activism from The Transition Companion and mention more about Voice of Women, and the Raging Grannies ... mostly to say that Popovic's book might be a most recent one, but it sure isn't the only one, and I prefer the inclusivity of my other references.

The world needs us all.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Risk Doing Something


I hope this note finds you well.

My husband and I were talking this morning ... about some online criticism Prime Minister Trudeau has gotten for "selfies".  Quite a few of the comments don't seem to realize that Trudeau is not the one taking the selfies; rather, others want him in their selfies.

Selfies are not the point tho'.  More to the point is that use of media is an essential tool in how politicians work these days.  As my husband said, [former prime minister] "Harper had a travelling hairdresser. If that doesn't tell you something about attention to image, nothing can!"

And if activists on fronts of environment, poverty, food security or anything else are going to get their messages out and - more important perhaps - if  they, if we are going to communicate with others, engage, others ... well, I guess we have to learn how to use media in ways that keep us ahead of the politicians and lobbyists on whatever the "other side" is in our cause.

 I suppose I'll come kicking and screaming to more media.  I hate having to learn new technologies and their individual quirks and ways of screwing up.  And I'll always say that getting people knitting together in a room is a great way to ensure that things get talked about and to make sure everyone knows what she (or he) is going to do once out of that room.

Underlying whatever methods are used to get people in touch and doing, is the simple fact that there are a lot of things to be done!  And, to quote further from something my husband wrote down:

"Tough times are not the times you want to go into a shell. This is the time to be optimistic, daring, out there, step up, stand out, say good things and be present. Turtles aren't going to bring Canada anything new... and foreign bigness is just going to rob us of what's left of our vision. If we want our economy to be our economy, we may well have to reboot it all from the ground up. That means that everyone who has a sense of industry and commerce needs to be industrious and commercial and risk doing something

That's as far as I've gotten today with this train of thought. 

Hope your own day goes well.  Best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Guelph Organics Conference a good place for conversation about why GMO has got to go!


Happy New Year!  I hope that 2016 will be a healthy, happy, interesting time for you.

Barbara Kingsolver points out in her book Small Wonder that "a sound-bite culture can't discuss science very well". To talk about genetic engineering requires conversations about biodiversity, land rights, toxins and health, and respect for a "commons" of life.  It requires respect for farmers, researchers and all observers of the complexities of growth and selection.  The 35th Guelph Organics Conference will be held January 29 - 31 ( and is a wonderful place to have conversations.   

I mention the conference because there's been a series of articles in our local London Free Press newspaper (one of the Sun Media papers).  

Recently, a LFPress editorial advocated insecticides that threaten food security. LFPress also praised research into an alfalfa splice and speculated it could be a magic bullet for drought resistance, without mentioning existing drought-resistant seed and farmers who know how to hybridize.  Then, LFPress gave space to advocacy of rice genetically modified to provide Vitamin A, without mention that more Vitamin A can come into the diet from leafy vegetables. 

The same pro-genetic modification of seed article also quoted people who commented that the "louder", activists are "winning" the public relations battle to turn the public against genetic modification of seed. It's a funny praise, in a way, for low budget organizations in their opposition to world-market-dominating, billion dollar, agri-chemical companies!

Who's put the pressure on our local newspaper?  Are the same articles published all across the Sun Media "family" of newspapers? 

I'll leave you with a bit more from Barbara Kingsolver.  Every essay in her book Small Wonder is worth reading and pondering.  The essay quoted below - A Fist in the Eye of God - is a an education and a philosophy in itself, well worth reading and talking about.

Kind regards,

Why's Woman

[when someone asks] "In two hundred words or less, can you explain to me why I should be nervous about genetic engineering?" I tell them, "Sit down, I'll make you a cup of tea, and then get ready for more than two hundred words."

A sound-bite culture can't discuss science very well. Exactly what we're losing when we reduce biodiversity, the causes and consequences of global warming - these traumas can't be adequately summarized in an evening news wrap-up. Arguments in favor of genetically engineered food, in contrast, are dangerously simple: A magazine ad for an agribusiness touts its benevolent plan to "feed the world's hungry with our vitamin-engineered rice!" To which I could add in reply my own snappy motto: "If you thought that first free hit of heroin was a good idea..." But before you can really decide whether or not you agree, you may need the five hundred words above and a few thousand more. If so, then sit down, have a cup of tea, and bear with me. This is important.
               Barbara Kingsolver, in essay A Fist in the Eye of God, in Small Wonder,