Friday, 11 August 2017

Medical Breakdown

So I wasted a few hours this morning by trying to visit our local CLSC.

For those outside of Quebec: In order to reduce the pressure on hospital emergency rooms, the government instituted the CLSC system, which is a series of medical clinics staffed with doctors, nurses, psychologists, and other specialists.  Its purpose is to treat non-urgent cases more locally so that people won't have to go to the hospital.  Each CLSC serves a particular area; ours happens to be located just around the corner.

However due to recent "restructuring" the local CSLC is no longer running the daily walk-in clinic that they used to have on weekday mornings.  Now, only people who actually have a file with a doctor there will be admitted by appointment.  So they are referring people to another walk-in clinic called Azur which is 3 km away.

I went to Azur which informed me that I have to call ahead for an appointment for a consultation.  I immediately made said call on my cellphone only for an automated system to tell me that there were no more openings for the day (this was at 10:30 AM) and to call back at 4 PM for an appointment that evening (which I couldn't do, having already had plans).  The receptionist said ruefully that the CLSC is still sending people there even though Azur asked them to stop.  So I'll have to get up before 7 AM on Monday to call Azur for an appointment.

Where are those without a GP supposed to go if they have a problem?  I haven't had a GP for almost a year; my previous one retired and I only found out after not receiving an expected follow-up of some tests.  Although I am registered on the government web site for people who have no GP, I am still waiting to hear back from them.

I have several issues that will eventually require professional intervention, but with no GP to follow up with, how will I know what I need to do?  Going to an emergency room will solve nothing as being a non-urgent case I would probably wait for 16-24 hours or longer, only to be told to see a GP that I do not have.

The current Quebec government is in serious denial about how bad things really are.  The health minister is supposedly a doctor himself, but all he has done is institute a series of draconian cutbacks that have caused hospitals to close beds and prevent facilities from being used to their fullest.  Even at the best of times, there are wait lists for months to get such things as MRI scans and biopsies.

There will come a point where people will die before needed treatment becomes available.  In fact, it's already happening. In January of 2016 a man died because a surgeon was prevented from operating on him due to a cost-cutting administrative decision a few months prior.

Perhaps that's the government's plan, to have the oldest and/or sickest die prematurely so that money will be saved that would otherwise be spent in treating them.

I've said it before: If you live in Quebec, don't get sick.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What is Love, Really?

Many philosophers and scientists over the centuries have tried to determine what love really is.  Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, "Tell me, where is fancy bred; or in the heart, or in the head? How begot, how nourished?"

The ongoing debate over LBGT people and whether their relationships are a threat to heterosexuals has me shaking my head in disgust.  It should be no business of anyone's to worry about what goes on in a private home between two consenting adults.  And yet LBGT people have been marginalized, threatened, and worse.

I am reminded of the Star Trek The Next Generation episode, "The Host" in which Dr. Crusher has a romance with a male Trill - a humanoid who has a symbiotic relationship with a worm-like creature inside the belly.  When the Trill is badly injured, the symbiont is forced to transfer to Cmdr. Riker temporarily, and then to a new Trill host which happens to be female.  Dr. Crusher balks at continuing their affair, saying: "Perhaps it is a human failing, but we are not accustomed to these kinds of changes.  I can't keep up.  How long will you have this host?  What would the next one be?  I can't live with that kind of uncertainty.  Perhaps, someday, our ability to love won't be so limited."

It seems that, indeed, some people are limited in their ability to love and understand others.  Homosexuality, divorce, adultery - all these "sins" have broken friendships, torn apart families, and embittered too many people to count.

It has been postulated that love is not an emotion but a state of mind.  "Because love, it's not an emotion.  Love is a promise," states The Doctor in the episode "Death in Heaven".  Blogger Karla McLaren wrote:  "Those things we've learned to equate with love – the longing, the physical attraction, the shared hobbies, the desire, the yearning, the lust, the projections, the addictive cycles, the passions – those things move and change and fluctuate in the way emotions do, but they're not love, because love is utterly stable and utterly unaffected by any emotion."

How else can people stay together long-term?  Without the stability of true love, the relationship can't last.  The emotional high of infatuation and lust is short-lived, addictive, and ultimately unsatisfying.  It's little wonder that some get bored with their relationships and seek another high elsewhere, leaving bewildered ex-partners in their wake - they couldn't stay long enough to allow love to cement.

I once overheard someone tell their relative who had cheated on his wife, "Have your fling but go back to your spouse!"  Cheating is easy but going back isn't, because it involves a great deal of work in rebuilding the broken trust and love, if there was any there to begin with.

Of course there is the other side of the coin where couples stay together "for the sake of the kids" or for other reasons, despite their unhappiness with the situation.  In such cases they need to take a close look at themselves and determine what is really keeping them together.  If there is no love, what's the point of maintaining a farce?

Here's hoping that someday we will all have a better understanding of what love is, and its relevance in our world and to each other.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Unhealthy Attention

What's the matter with people who radically change themselves for the worse?  Do they want their 15 minutes of fame?  Do they have some deep-seated mental issues?  Or are they being pressured into it?

A model who goes by the name of Martina Big had her breasts enlarged to the size of cantaloupe melons, and as if that weren't enough, went on to have injections that turned her skin as dark as a Carribbean native.

Bobbi-Jo Westley weighs over 500 pounds, and she wants to put on more weight just to have "the biggest hips" even though she knows this will most likely kill her.

Several women from various places around the world have spent a lot of money on surgeries just so that they can resemble Barbie dolls.  Model Pixee Fox even went so far as to have several of her ribs removed in her quest for the smallest waist.

This phenomenon isn't limited to women either.  There are men who are turning to surgery and radical body-shaping in order to attain the "ideal" form.  Singer Michael Jackson had several facial surgeries, and over time his skin became more and more white; there are conflicting stories over whether this was due to purposeful bleaching or a skin condition called vitiligo.

From the time we are children we are bombarded with products that extol the ideal form, from the TV shows we see to the clothes we wear.  Comic-book and animated characters, dolls, and action figures, are often highly disproportionate.  Ads for wrinkle-reducing creams, weight-loss programs, and impotence medication dominate the media.

Clothing retailers are constantly redrawing their size charts, and there are some who don't even produce clothing for people who don't conform to a certain size or body type.  Overweight people are shamed; fat is undesirable.  As an example: I am of average build and I am within the healthy weight range for my height.  However I was shocked a few years ago when I went to buy a pair of shorts and discovered that the "medium" size, which I had worn for years, no longer fit me even though my weight had not changed significantly.

All this causes the massive misconception that if we don't like the bodies we are born with, there is something fundamentally wrong with us that must be rectified.  There are an increasing number of people out there who purposely and dangerously alter themselves in pursuit of this imaginary ideal.  Many have died.  A society that creates an environment where people feel that they must take extraordinary measures to change their looks is not a healthy society.

(Of course there's the flip side of the coin where the morbidly obese turn to gastric bypass surgery and tightly controlled diet regimens, but this alteration is to save their lives and not for any frivolous reason.)

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


A letter written to this morning's local newspaper caught my attention. The writer criticized a columnist's decision to poke fun at the political situation in the U.S. in a recent piece, and then continued, "Love [Trump] or hate him, he was elected fair and square.  He has earned the right to govern and face the voters in 2020 based on his record."

I completely disagree.

More and more evidence is coming to light that the 2016 U.S. federal election was neither fair nor square.

In Florida, election employees were allegedly caught filling out stacks of stolen absentee ballots.

A pattern of voter registration irregularities was being investigated in Pennsylvania and other states.

In Michigan, thousands of ballot papers were reported to be missing because of broken polling machines.

Not to mention the embattled investigation into alleged Russian hacking, which has already cost several investigators their jobs.  Why would the President fire the director of the FBI unless he had something to hide?

The current President of the U.S. has earned nothing.  He has spent his entire life riding on wealth and privilege, and has a marked disdain for anyone who lacks either.  Time and again during his campaign, and even during his time so far in office, he has denigrated, mocked, and even fired anyone who dared to question him.  He has medieval attitudes toward women, the disabled, and many other groups.  The reason he ran for President in the first place was to prove that he could, not because he genuinely believed that he would be a good leader.

This is not the kind of person who is fit to lead a country.

And yet millions of people voted for him because they were duped by his inflammatory rhetoric or they were too disgusted by the alternatives.  When I listened to the election results on the news, I was physically ill.  How could so many people have been so stupid?

Now, whenever I see anyone on my social media feeds who says "give him a chance" or "he was elected fairly", I block them.  I will not engage in debate with people whom I already know will never change their minds.  They have been thoroughly brainwashed into believing that a person who cares about nothing other than himself can govern.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Marching Toward a Failing Society

On my mother's bookshelf is a series of books entitled "The Great Ideas Program" by Mortimer Adler and Peter Wolff (pub. Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1959).  Part of the preface reads as follows:

" high school we are told that we must begin to think how we are going to earn a living, and the prerequisites that are supposed to prepare us for that activity become more and more the ingredients of our educational diet. ... What is missing is education to be human beings, education to make the most of our human powers, education for our responsibilities as members of a democratic society..."

One of the books that I studied in university was The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (pub. Simon & Schuster, 1987).  In a chapter about books, Bloom writes: "...whatever the cause, our students have lost the practise of and the taste for reading. ... I began asking my large introductory classes ... what books really count for them. Most are silent, puzzled by the question."

For over 50 years the educational system has been gradually failing.  Both my parents were high school teachers for 35 years and were witnesses to this failing first hand, as in their later years they had students who could not spell or do math adequately.  Other colleagues of theirs were reduced to having students draw pictures instead of writing essays. In high school.

The result of this educational failing is a population that does not understand the world around them, who are unaccepting of new ideas, and who think in terms of self instead of community.

One need go no farther than certain places in the United States, where there are people who believe that a woman can stop her period by gluing her labia shut, who claim that earthquakes happen when people swear a pact to the Devil, or who call on others to promote anarchy.

In a 2006 episode of the sci-fi show Doctor Who, there is this wonderful line: "You want weapons?  We're in a library!  Books!  The best weapons in the world!  This room's the greatest arsenal we could have - arm yourselves!"

Books such as the aforementioned Great Ideas Program, or "An Incomplete Education" by Judy Jones and William Wilson (pub. Ballantine Books, 1987, 1995, 2006) attempt to redress the educational gaps by offering reading lists, citing historical examples, and inviting discourse.  They should be a must on anyone's shelf.  If more people were willing to educate themselves, we would have a better society.

The philosopher and scientist Aristotle wrote: "If there is some end of the things we do... will not knowledge of it, have a great influence on life?  Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should?  If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is."