Friday, 13 December 2019

Clear and Present Danger

I've written many posts on this subject but there's always something more to say.

This week, yet another family was in ruins after a man allegedly killed his estranged wife and their two children, and then drove 50 kilometers away to kill himself.  He had been charged with assaulting his wife in 2018 but was acquitted.  One of the conditions of his release, however, was that he sign a peace bond that included a clause to not contact his partner for a year.

It has been shown time and again that peace bonds, restraining orders, or any similar legal document, do not work in many cases.  Men who feel that their power and/or control is being threatened don't care about a piece of paper.  They will track down the person whom they believe is responsible for their perceived humiliation and take out their frustrations on them, often with fatal results.

What's worse is there are serial offenders who take every chance they get to act again, particularly after they've been released from prison on bail or on probation.  In India, where sexual crimes are rampant, a woman was burned to death after her alleged rapist was released from prison on bail and he got four of his buddies to help him.

It's frightening to me because I or friends of mine could've been statistics.  I've been a passenger in a vehicle where the driver threatened to crash the vehicle if he didn't get the last word in a disagreement.  I was stalked for months after leaving a toxic relationship.  I heard it said that if a jilted man saw his ex-partner with her new boyfriend in the street, he'd run them down with his car.

In this age of increasing divisiveness and hatred, women seem to be bearing the brunt of it.  Women in positions of power are not respected (or paid) as much as their male counterparts.  Some countries are clawing back women's rights and denying access to abortion and prenatal medical care.  In the state of Ohio, an anti-abortion bill proposes that doctors will be required to "re-implant" an ectopic pregnancy - a procedure that is medically impossible.

Women everywhere need to keep the pressure on, despite the risks.  Or else the patriarchal culture will continue unchanged while women are forced back into being little more than objects for men to have their way with.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Weathering the Changes

I'm old enough to remember when the seasons felt "real".

The first winter snows arrived in late November or early December and there was almost always snow on the ground during the Christmas holidays.  By mid-winter, the snow in our yard was often deep enough so that I could step up onto the first branch of a fully grown maple tree.  Snowdrifts along our street came up to my father's chest.  Sometimes there was a brief thaw in late January or early February, but for the most part the temperatures were consistently cold until the beginning of March.

Summer was warm and friendly.  One could spend hours outside without care.  I remember many an adventurous afternoon of biking around the neighbourhood with friends, bird-watching, or wading in the lake.  Evenings were spent chasing fireflies, although the mosquitoes would eventually chase everyone indoors.

Today it's quite different.

Now, winter is hardly winter at all.  The gray of November seems to drag on ever longer, and we're lucky to have snow on Christmas.  Rainy days in January are becoming common.  Temperatures fluctuate so quickly that we can have snow one day, rain the next, and then icy cold that freezes sidewalks and makes traveling anywhere a risky exercise.

The transition from spring to summer seems to happen overnight as we're socked with above-average temperatures beginning in June.  Heat waves are occurring more frequently, to the extent where many people can't even venture outdoors for more than a few minutes unless they're slathered from head to toe in sun-blocking creams.  In July it can be hotter in Canada than it is in Florida.  Nights are no longer quiet because everyone has their air conditioners running.  The fireflies have all but vanished, as have many birds that once graced our yard.

So many people cry out "Climate change is a hoax!"  However it's clear that something is happening.  The seasons that we knew as children no longer exist.  Weather patterns are becoming less predictable.  The wildlife that we enjoyed is disappearing.

Too many governments seem hell-bent on destroying precious resources in the name of progress, and at the same time denying that what they do has an effect on the climate.  As I write this, the rain forests of Brazil are burning because the country's president authorized it for development.  The United States government has removed environmental protections on national parks for fossil fuel exploitation.  Meanwhile several Caribbean islands have been flattened by hurricanes in recent years: storms made more powerful by rising sea temperatures.  Island countries in the Pacific are slowly being eroded by higher than normal tides.

This is why young people are angry.  This is why people are marching in the streets and demanding that governments live up to their climate promises.  The longer we wait, the less of the earth we know will survive long term.

It's so sad that many people don't seem to care.  "We'll adapt," they say.  Yes, we can adapt.  Humans are the most adaptable species on the planet; that's how we became so successful.  But it'll cost much more in money, effort, and lives to do so later rather than take preventative measures now.  And we won't have anywhere near the ecological diversity.  That would be a tragedy.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Climate of Hatred

By this time everyone knows of a young woman from Sweden named Greta Thunberg who has taken numerous world leaders and politicians to task for not acting on their climate promises.  She and those who have acted before her - Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Xiye Bastida-Patrick among others - have unfortunately received backlash and hatred for their activism.

Too young to know better. Should be in school. Manipulated by those around them. Mentally unstable. Being used as a pawn. Indoctrinated under false pretenses.

It's sickening to me that so many grown adults see fit to attack children because of their own misguided bias or that they feel so threatened.

In one thread under the #HowDareYou Twitter hashtag, one particular tweet caught my attention.  Someone was asking "Where is the evidence?" when presented with statements about climate change.  I responded by linking to over half a dozen articles, including stories about how Pacific islands are disappearing, coral reefs are dying, and warmer oceans are fueling more powerful storms.

One response was a tweet that featured a large yellow banner with the word FAKE in the centre.  Others spewed vitriol about how climate change was all a hoax, lies, and alarmist.

A man whom I've known since high school, from an affluent community and well-educated, has recently decided to enter politics, running as a candidate for the People's Party of Canada.  One of his reasons was because he hates "climate alarmism".  When I asked him to clarify and tell me if he believed in climate change or not, he refused to answer.

Not answering is still an answer.  With regret I had to unfollow him.

If people were to use the energy they put into their hatred for more constructive purposes, the world would certainly be a better place than it is now.  Thanks to certain politicians and prominent people, however, hate has been normalized and it will continue to do damage for a long time to come.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

The same could be said about caring.  More people need to care about the world and educate themselves instead of hating what they don't or won't understand.

Monday, 2 September 2019

The Underlying Cause

There has been yet another shooting in the United States that has left several people dead. Once again everyone is debating on how to deal with the aftermath and what to do in order to prevent a recurrence.  More than likely, nothing will change.

I've been asking myself the question: what is the real cause of these events? Most believe that it's a combination of several things.  The high availability of guns, lax regulations for possessing guns, not enough checks and balances that would prevent unsuitable people from owning them.

What if the reason goes deeper than that?  Some people have placed the blame on mental illness.  While it's true that a number of those who perpetrated mass shootings were mentally ill, not all were.  Violence in media and video games has been blamed as well.  While the media can negatively influence those who have some form of mental condition, it's not the sole factor.

One mass shooter posted on social media that he felt left out because he couldn't get a girlfriend.  Another wrote that he believed that white people were being destroyed by the influx of non-white immigrants.  The suspect in the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting had financial difficulties.  The most recent perpetrator had been fired from his job only hours before his rampage.

The common denominator here seems to be anger and hatred.  Anger toward a world that doesn't fulfill their needs or conform to their perceptions of what it should be.  Hatred toward certain people in the world and casting blame for their own failures upon them.  Not to mention the inability or unwillingness to adjust themselves to a world that is constantly changing.

Sadly, the only way they could deal with their emotions was to kill.

The anger is growing.  From political leaders who rile up their supporters with Mark Antony style rhetoric, to common people who believe that their ideals are being threatened by change.  If not dealt with soon, there will be an inevitable explosion that will threaten to tear us all apart.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Limitations to Acting Out

Many of us remember what's it's like to be a kid having "acting out" games, whether it was playing house or cops-and-robbers.  That play acting has translated into many types of games, from Dungeons and Dragons to The Sims. There's one subject however that is unacceptable in any game.

One of the Dungeons and Dragons forums of which I am a member recently contained a (now-deleted) thread about how many game masters should immediately ban any players who sought to act out sexual assault.  By convention, consensual scenes are usually done in the "fade to black" scenario; anything other than that has no place at a game table.

For the most part the comments were supportive but of course there were a few dissenters, predictably male players.

"All right, so if I'm ever stuck in one of your boring games, I know how to get out of it."

"Fifty percent of the players I know, including myself, have or are raping in Dungeons and Dragons.  It's cool and it's fun, okay, but the really funny part when we usually cry from laughing is when we torture with raw supreme fantasy.  Those are some of my best moments, when everyone finds out a new kind of sick torture."

"It's a fantasy role playing game. Why is killing okay but raping isn't?"

Most role-playing games are built on the trope of Good Versus Evil.  If the character you play is a good person, it's expected that you perform good acts.  Wipe out the squad of goblins that's terrorizing a village.  Hunt down the Black Knight who is trying to take over the kingdom.  That sort of thing.  In rare games where the players and the Game Master have agreed that their characters will be evil, the tone will change accordingly, but there are still rules that should be followed.

One person was quick to point out that people who fantasize about such things often end up doing so in reality. "One guy I knew was known for playing characters who would go out of their way to assault NPCs.  Five years later he was picked up by the police for, guess what."

I've heard the excuse many times about how men who role-play sexual assault in games are merely channeling their fantasies in a productive manner.  Wrong.  Like real-life bedroom role-play, such a thing requires the consent of all involved, from the Game Master on down.  Otherwise it makes players uncomfortable and might even dissuade them from further play in the future.

I'm no stranger to this myself.  In my very first role-playing game experience, my character was captured and assaulted.  To add insult to injury, the child she bore as a result of that assault turned evil despite her efforts to raise it properly, and became a recurring villain of the piece.  Eventually the game fell apart; the Game Master had too many work commitments at the time, and I was tired of having my character taken advantage of.  It was a relief.

A good Game Master builds drama within the campaign by having consequences for all of the characters' actions.  Wiping out the goblin squad might attract the attention of a larger force of goblins that is nearby.  Bringing down the Black Knight might cause an even worse evil to fill that void.  But there should be consequences to negative actions too.  The rules state that certain types of characters lose their powers if they commit acts that are against their code, for example.

Therefore there should also be rules that if a character commits an act beyond what is considered acceptable in game, that character is punished accordingly.  The player should be talked to, or even removed from the game entirely if applicable.  No exceptions.  Only then will players realize that they can't get away with it.

The following was suggested by a player who had attended a recent convention.

"The X/O Method. Each player gets a blank index card with an X on one side and an O on the other.  If someone gets really into character and gets upset they can flash the "O" to let everyone know that they are okay and it's all part of the character.  It a player gets uncomfortable for any reason at any time they can throw the "X" card. If they do, everything stops and gets retconned [reversed and replayed] immediately.  Anyone who doesn't abide by this is not welcome at our table."

Good call.