Archive for July, 2013

The Ominous Omnibus – my thoughts on Bill C-10

Posted in just opinionated, Rants with tags , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by idnami

It is no secret that I strongly disapprove of our current government. Stephen Harper is the reason I started taking any interest whatsoever in politics because I looked into his icy blue eyes in 2008 and decided I didn’t want that man running my country. This opinion has been strongly reinforced by the fact that I’m daily inundated with convincing indications that the Harper Conservatives are taking Canada in a very bad direction.

But I thought there must be some reason they’ve been voted in twice. So I’ve been actively seeking Harper-positive people to tell me why this is. Trouble was, I didn’t think I knew any.

But it turns out I do! So I asked him to send me any pro-Harper information he came across and asked his opinion of Bill C-10, that being one of my biggest beefs with this government. I’m not alone on that.

He very kindly explained why he is for it. Harsher penalties for crime would mean fewer criminals on the streets. Not giving special consideration to first nations and immigrants from troubled countries puts everyone on equal footing. Fair enough.

I would have no problem with this… if it worked. However, prolonged incarceration doesn’t serve as either as a deterrent to first offenses or repeated ones. You can threaten the death penalty for theft but a person will still steal food if they are hungry enough. A rapist or child molester knows there are penalties for their acts. The idea that this knowledge will stop them from their wrongdoing fails to acknowledge the mental illness that makes them not care.

This obviously doesn’t apply to absolutely every case but the causes for the majority of crime are poverty, desperation, lack of options and mental illness. And when I say lack of options I don’t mean you had no choice but to steal a car. I mean that you were given no good reason not to. Why should disenfranchised people care what society wants when society clearly doesn’t give a damn what they need? And for many, the prison lifestyle is preferable to the free lifestyle. At least you are guaranteed food and shelter.

So now we have a crime bill that basically says to these people, “You have committed a crime and you must be punished by being fed, clothed and housed on the taxpayer dime even longer. Take that, miscreant!”

I grew up around a lot of lower class people who turned to crime early in life. Some of them have been in and out of prison since their teens. So it’s a mindset I’m extremely familiar with. And due to my familiarity with it, I can definitively say that the prison system’s main contribution to preventing crime is separating the criminal from society. But the criminal mind, and the resentment towards society that leads to criminal acts (especially violent ones) thrives in prison.

And why should that surprise us? If you want to change someone’s thinking do you confine them with a bunch of other people who think the same way and can teach them better tricks?

The truth is our entire sense of justice is messed up and outdated, based on emotional, revenge based thinking rather than rational, solution oriented thinking. We seek to punish misdeeds with the very erroneous idea that people will “learn their lesson” and emerge contrite and somehow cleansed of the urges and mindsets that put them there in the first place.

Making punishments harsher doesn’t scare criminals enough to stop them, as evidenced by the ineffectiveness of methods used in centuries past. Did the threat of hanging or transportation keep England, for example, from being absolutely riddled with crime? No it didn’t. It wasn’t effective as a deterrent and it didn’t keep the public safe. So if the threat of death or indentured exile didn’t stop crime, why would extra jail time?

This is assuming we catch them at all. Harsher penalties do create incentive to take extra precautions against being caught.

So we are treating the symptom and not the disease, and we aren’t even doing a very good job of that. It’s obvious that the root problems need to be addressed, but that is way harder without overhauling our entire society.

Can we reduce poverty, disenfranchisement and racism? Can we incorporate an emphasis on mental health into routine medical care? Can we change the pervasive, ingrained attitudes that allow rape culture to flourish? Can we hold society as a whole accountable for the people it produces?

I really mean that last one, not that there’s much anyone can do about it. Irresponsible parenting, indifferent teaching, negligent medical care, race and gender hate, stubborn ignorance, religious fanaticism, bigotry and generally mean-spirited attitudes are largely responsible for producing criminals in the first place. And responsible for all that is the unthinking, uncaring, selfish, shortsighted, terrified stupidity of the human animal. That’s you and me, pal. If we could bring ourselves to actually treat each other as we want to be treated we could probably weed out a lot of criminal tendencies.

But mostly we don’t, so we’re doomed. But is a vengeful, punishment based justice system our best option?  Even Texas doesn’t think so, and that’s saying something. They tried it. It cost them tons of money and their crime rate dropped at half the rate of the national average.

So they tried a more rational, statistically viable approach. They invested in drug treatment, mental health programs, and improved probation and parole programs. And it worked. They still have people in prison, even on death row, but far fewer. And their crime rate is far lower. It’s cheaper too!

This goes against our instincts. When we hear of horrific violent crimes our primal, animal brains scream for blood. But going against our instincts, rising above our primal urges is what enabled us to build civilization to begin with.

So what I don’t get is why our government thinks we have the money to burn on a way of doing things that has already been proved a bad mistake. Bill C-10 and the thinking behind it could cost us the opportunity to prevent crime at the root level, ruin more lives, destroy civil liberties and still not accomplish its objective of a safer society. I rarely point to America as a positive role model, but in this case, I’m with Texas.

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A letter from a bird

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by idnami

Swainson's-Hawk-0031

Hawks are circling me.

Since I’ve been working as a print production coordinator I see them every day, sometimes as many as 7 at once. Initially they were just lazily soaring blips in the sky. I started carrying binoculars with me so I could get a better look.

A little over a month ago I posted on Facebook that one had flown by so close I saw it poop. A friend of mine responded wondering about the significance of these birds being in my life. I responded by saying that the area around my new job abounded with ground squirrels, which is what they eat, so that was probably why.

Of course I do have a solid occulty/shamanistic/witchy streak that wanted there to be greater significance but at the time I was trying to be pragmatic.

Since then it feels increasingly like they are trying to get my attention. They’ve been getting closer and closer, so that I could clearly see their beak shape and wing markings. Finally the other day one was circling the parking lot when I was outside. It was gliding very slowly and finally hovered directly over my head for a moment, not 5 feet above, right between me and the sun.

The light shone through its wing feathers. I could see individual spots in the patterns of its markings, imperfections where the feathers were a bit ragged along the edges of its wings. Its shadow must have looked like a mask over my face. It hovered perfectly still for a long moment before gliding away.

And I said to it, “Ok, I’m listening. Can I have a feather to confirm?”

Now at this point I should mention that this isn’t the first relationship of this type I’ve had with birds. It happened with eagles one summer. Ironically despite about eight or nine sightings I never recognized what they were, I thought they were hawks! It got to the point where one visited me in a dream. It spread its wings out and turned its head to one side like the E Pluribus Unum symbol on the U.S. dollar bill. It was as if it was saying. “Eagle. EAGLE. Get it?”

Not a hawk.

Not a hawk.

The high point of that time was riding my bike around the reservoir when this great swooshing shadow flew over my head close enough that it ruffled my hair. I stopped and looked back and there was a massive golden eagle (which I still didn’t recognize! I had to look it up after) perched on a chain link fence. I very gently set my bike down and slowly approached it. When I was about 10 feet away it flicked a wing at me as if saying, “That’s close enough.”

I stood looking at it for a long time. It sat perfectly still on the fence. Several minutes passed and I was beginning to contemplate leaving the bird in peace and continuing my ride. Then it spread its wings and swooped directly toward me. Before I could do more than flinch it snatched a mouse from the grass three feet in front of me and gobbled it whole before flying back to the fence. It was so close I could see the mouse’s tail whip around in the bird’s talons and hear it scream.

So that was really cool. Especially when I read that golden eagles tend to be highly intolerant of humans.

Anyway back to here and now and the hawks.

I collect feathers. The oldest one I have is an owl feather that was given to me by a Seneca pipe carrier named Jenny Running Wolf when I was 16. Every time I am honoured with a new feather, life changes in interesting ways.

Anyway, the very next day after asking Hawk for a feather, what do you think I found under a tree, sparkling with raindrops from a shower that had passed leaving a radiantly blue sky? A 10 inch long wing feather of course!

Now, as I said I have tried to be pragmatic in my thinking. In an area that abounds with hawks one is not unlikely to find a feather sooner or later if one keeps their eyes open. Could still be pure coincidence right?

That evening I met my boyfriend in a park for a picnic. I’d been keeping him updated about the hawks because we are both kind of nature geeks. So I pulled out the feather to show him. And at that moment who comes soaring over the trees? Yup. My new friend Hawk.

Of course my more skeptical readers will continue to insist that this is all coincidence and that birds don’t talk to people. And this is because they have no imagination.

However, in case I were still inclined to doubt, yesterday I was doing tarot readings at a carnival. An absolutely delightful woman from the spoken word scene happened to be here. Her name is Orunamamu. She is black with the awesomest southern accent and a silver star on her tooth that flashes when she talks. She wears eccentric clothing and crazy hats and is about 80 years old. Her business card says “Storyteller/Raconteur” and she is just the most fun old lady ever. I want to grow up to be just like her.

She sat down at my table to rest and without any kind of preamble she grabs my hand and says, “If you ever find a feather, a soft and tickly feather, pick it up! Put it in your pocket. A feather is a letter from a bird!”

I threw back my head and laughed at that… and saw a graceful, soaring shadow cross the sun.

The insidiousness of rape culture – Or, why porcupines don’t have cell phones

Posted in Rants with tags , , , on July 17, 2013 by idnami

I am writing this to kill time while I wait for the cops to arrive. Calm down, I’m fine.

It shames me to admit (and shames me more that I feel shamed!) that I have been the victim of persistent sexual harassment for upwards of 3 years. The shame comes not from my state of victimhood. That just makes me resentful. No, the shame comes from never having taken decisive action to free myself from it until now, because I’m a feminist and should damn well know better.

So, many years ago I met a man who seemed nice and knew all manner of cool things about stuff like the wilderness and spelunking and the profusion of edible plants that grow wild in urban settings. He brought me a huge quartz crystal cluster he had knocked off the wall of a cave himself, and asked me out on a date.

I was not especially attracted to him but welcomed the rare chance to have a nice dinner bought for me and spend an evening talking with a person with such an impressive array of knowledge. It all went well until he tried to kiss me and I tried to gently explain that I wasn’t into it. Let’s just say he wasn’t a gentleman about it and after quite a blistering verbal outburst we parted ways and I didn’t see him for several years. Like a decade.

We wound up meeting again and he apologized for his behaviour that night. We were both involved in some of the same projects and exchanged numbers. I helped him write and publish an article on food sovereignty and created promo materials for a workshop he was giving. We became Facebook and coffee shop friends.

I had done an art nude photo shoot that I was pretty proud of and ill-advisedly gave him the link to some of the pictures. And then the 3 am messages started happening.

I should be clear that this guy becomes a completely different person when he drinks. At first the messages were fairly… vanilla? And I thought, “He’s drunk again. Meh.” The most disturbing part was that the messages woke me up when my phone beeped. As a person who has sleep issues I didn’t appreciate this, and I let him know it. But nonetheless, every few weeks he’d do it again. But I did not feel violated, I felt annoyed.

The messages became increasingly graphic and sexual and there began to be an insulting element to them, describing certain nasty things he’d like to do to my body while also taking shots at my weight. And all the time I made allowances for him, because I liked him as a person, in person and sober. So I just kept calmly asking him not to message me in the middle of the night.

He was eventually ostracised from a group we were working with and he was angry about it. The threatening way that he spoke of the people responsible started to freak me out. I heard a violence and malevolence in his voice that suddenly connected the man I knew in person to the scary 3 am pervert.

Around this time he lost all filters. The messages started to come every night. He would tell me how he was touching himself while looking at my pictures. On my phone, in my inbox, on my wall. And I finally lost it and told him straight out to stop contacting me, period. And he turned that vicious, scary language on me. I stood my ground, blocked him on Facebook but drew the line at changing my phone number to escape it. This was last November and for awhile things were quiet. And lately it’s happening again.

Around the same time I found out that I wasn’t the only one. I now know of at least 3 other women he has done this to. But only with me has he persisted. Sometimes a few months will pass, sometimes only a week, but it doesn’t stop. Hence the cops are coming to take my statement.

So why in fuck’s name did I not call them before now? I told myself it was because I didn’t want the hassle just over some annoying text messages. If I were more honest I would say it’s because I’m fairly convinced that the cops won’t stop him, and that involving them will provoke him. So life should get pretty interesting after tonight.

But that right there is the fucked up thing! That right there is why I am talking about this in the context of rape culture despite the man never having laid a hand on me. Because I, an empowered feminist with martial arts training sufficient to handle that motherfucker, have instead protected a man who assaults me whenever he likes in the one way I can’t defend myself against. When I see his name on my phone my heart begins to pound. If I forget to turn off my ringer I get a whole night without sleep as I lie in bed and rage at the presumption, the entitlement, the sheer twisted arrogance of a man who thinks a woman’s no does not apply to him.

And this is a huge problem in our culture. Not only that we have men so poorly raised and educated that they think this behaviour is somehow acceptable, but also that we have women who do know better minimizing the impact it has on us, pretending we aren’t scared, offended, shamed, just to keep the peace. Because I didn’t want to bug the police with my little problem. Because I was scared that doing so would only make him worse.

Now take that minimization of the issue, take that fear of reprisals, and multiply it by a very large number and we see why so many victims of sexual assault never come forward. Because there are those who would say I was asking for it when I sent him those pictures, even when I let him buy me dinner when I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to sleep with him. And to those people I say, get bent.

But not every woman has the confidence to stand in the face of such accusation and say, “Yes but I still said no.”  If I wear a short skirt, if I flirt, if I am a nude model and don’t mind who sees, if I let you buy me dinner or have a few too many at a party I’m fair game?

I don’t care if you jerk off to my picture. I just don’t want to hear about it.

I’d be interested in the breakdown of cost to see just what services I owe a man. If I let you buy me one drink do I owe you oral? No? How about three? Does dinner buy you penetration? Does dessert buy you anal? Do sexy clothes that I wear for me automatically mean I want you? 

And if you treat me as an object to be bought or simply taken and there are no consequences, why would you ever stop? If I let you rape my mind at will, deprive me of sleep and peace, force me to look at your disgusting thoughts every time I pick up my phone because now I have to archive every message as evidence, am I asking for it then?

No. And consequences are coming.

I may be accused of victim blaming, in my acknowledgement that I have not taken action to end this before now. It is not intended to imply that any victim of any form of assault is at fault for having been assaulted, but only to show how crucial it is that we do come forward when it happens. That responsibility lies with us. It is sometimes the only power we have in the situation and I wish I had used it sooner.

I’ve been a very bad porcupine. I have not posed a great enough danger that the predator backed off. That changes now. I invoke the protection I’m entitled to, to show him what he is not entitled to, from me or any woman. And I won’t lie, I’m kind of scared.

But when have I ever let that stop me, once I’m also good and mad?

Never.

Psychic: What it is and what it ain’t.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2013 by idnami

So apparently some people don’t read very well. A number of people not only missed the final admonition of my last post, but also the entire point of that article, and pelted me with smug demands for proof or cited Sylvia Browne’s incorrect reading of Amanda Berry’s death as though that discredits the entire subject.

I don’t remember saying I wanted skeptics to take me seriously. I believe what I said was I’d really like opinionated motherfuckers to mind their own goddamn business and not feel the need to air their cleverness every time ideas they personally don’t credit come up. That was my argument. Not, “Psychics are the real deal.” But, “Please put a cork in your tiresome noisehole and show some respect for a differing viewpoint.”

Regardless of any arguments to the contrary, I’ve experienced the world in a certain way my entire life. I really don’t appreciate being told that my experience of the world is invalid. And if you think it is, again, shut the fuck up. I seriously don’t care.

I had to get that off my chest. What follows is some personal experiences with this ability, including benefits and problems, and some “anecdotal evidence.” Also why Sylvia Browne being wrong about Amanda Berry may be the result of compassion rather than charlatanism.

Upon careful reading, everything below is all over the goddamn map. I could write a whole post about any topic I address here, but I just want to be done with this post because I there’s other stuff I want to write about.

So, my personal experience has been since early childhood that I caught on to things many others did not. I never thought there was anything abnormal in my level of perception. I thought everyone else was playing dumb, because it was explained to me very early on that there are some things that aren’t polite to talk about, like a person’s weight.

So I really didn’t think about it too much and whenever someone looked at me funny for something I said, I figured were were in “That’s rude” territory and not, “How the fuck did you know that?” territory.

Part of this can be attributed to an extreme sensitivity to body language, microexpressions, minute changes in vocal inflections etc. There is nothing supernatural about this.

I really don’t like the word “supernatural” at all. Nature is nature. Nothing violates the laws of nature, even things we find difficult to explain because they perhaps run on laws we aren’t yet familiar with. All of our knowledge of natural law could fit on a tiny speck spinning around a much larger speck which is itself dwarfed by a great multitude of other specks all separated by unfathomable distances in fucking space! We haven’t even figured Earth out yet but you think you know something about the universe?

milky way

Ranting again. Sorry.

Anyway, I took up tarot and eventually went pro, because I tend to be right on most things. Not only in that vague “could apply to anyone” way but in pretty damn specific ways also. More on that later.

Every psychic’s talents run in different directions. For example, my primary ability is reading personalities. I can conjecture likely outcomes of situations based on the people involved and what they are likely to do. And sometimes I think I’m straight making shit up and wind up prophesying precisely what will happen. It’s fucking weird and even I don’t get why that is.

Other people are better at finding lost objects or missing people, something I am no good at. This brings me to another point.

Something people like to do a lot when a person claims psychic awareness is to demand that you provide perfect, detailed and flawless information and be 100% correct every time. The fact that nobody can do this does not, once again, mean we are all fakes.

It’s for the same reason you can’t run as fast as a cheetah or jump as high as Superman. Because we live in a body which imposes limits on your abilities for your own good. Imagine having to walk around knowing everything everyone was thinking and every detail of reality all the time. You’d go insane by age 3.

Which brings me to Sylvia Browne. I’m not a fan of her, but her misread of such a high profile case is a good example of a problem that any professional reader deals with. You will be wrong sometimes. Or you may be right but for one reason or other you feel it would be more harmful to tell than not to.

I am so glad I have never faced the terrified mother of an abducted child. Because let’s suppose that Sylvia actually knew that the girl was still alive, saw Amanda being repeatedly raped, held in a windowless room, giving birth to the child of the monster who imprisoned her. But what she can’t see is where or who has her.

 Do you tell that to a mother when you aren’t able to access the information to do anything about it? Give her even more reasons to be frantic for her daughter but nothing that can help?  So instead you say the girl is dead so the mother can have closure and if you turn out to be wrong and they are reunited, the result is only joy.

amanda

I want to be clear that I’m conjecturing here. I can already hear the barrage of frothing wrath that will come for even kinda sticking up for Sylvia Browne. But I maintain that whether she was wrong or simply lying about what she saw, she did less harm than she might have.

Because this is not an exact science. People want advice about things sometimes and you do the best you can and if you are talented you mostly help. But that can be a scary tightrope to walk at times.

Something does worry  me is when I actually do not know if I am being clairvoyant or telepathic. A client was being stolen from and generally messed with but she didn’t know who it was. While trying to get an answer out of the tarot the image of a green alligator kept popping into my head. It was really insistent and finally I said, “This is really weird but does a green alligator have any bearing on this situation?”

I am not a crook.

I am not a crook.

At this point I expected her to look at me like I was nuts but she said, “My niece collects alligator things. Figurines and stuffed toys and things like that. She’s around a lot because I live with her mother and she was wearing a green alligator t-shirt last time she was over. And she hates me.”

It was only sometime later that I wondered, what if I picked up on the woman’s suspicions about the girl and not the objective truth of the situation? If I was being clairvoyant right there, we nailed our man. If I was reading her mind I may have just strengthened completely unfounded suspicions and exacerbated family static.

But the girl sounded like a bitch to me, so I was probably right.

There is one experience which convinced me that I’m not all crazy and lucky guesses. Once I took an aura reading workshop. We were all given paper and crayons and told to draw the person at the front of the room. The instructor told us that we may all see different things and not to worry about it. This seemed to me like a strong argument in favour of this aura thing being bullshit.

I kept seeing this blue tornado shape over her head so I drew it. As far as I know no one was looking at anyone else’s drawings so it was really odd when 8 out of 12 of us all drew the same tornado thing. The best part was when it was my turn to be drawn I concentrated really hard on having horns growing out of my head. All but one person drew two little spiky projections on my head! And all of them called them antennae and speculated that I was the spiritual descendant of extra terrestrials because new agers are fucking crazy.

However, what I now know is that we have an energy field which extends well outside the physical body, that this can be perceived without special equipment, and that it can be manipulated at will. Also that if 11 out of 12 people see the same invisible thing, it’s probably there.

Here are some things that psychic is not. Don’t ask me to do any of these things:

Read your mind on command. Because fuck you.

Tell you the winning lottery numbers. Obviously if I knew that I’d be chilling on a beach made of diamond dust instead of droning in an office.

Provide perfect, complete information.

Guess your birthday or your address or any stupid parlour tricks like that.

Read you without my cards. I can sometimes do it but I am rambling and unfocused as hell.

Also don’t act as though my inability to do any of those things discredits the entire practice. If you can’t do calculus it doesn’t mean you can’t fill out a tax return or add up your purchases at a grocery store.

All of these are claims that many will scoff at, and that’s fair enough. However they are my experiences. I am either insane, or a liar, or the real goddamn deal. If you know me you know which of those is likely. If you don’t, I am prepared for your soundoffs in the comments.