Saturday, 28 March 2015

Victim Thinking

While my husband and I were sitting in a candlelit room observing Earth Hour, a memory surfaced of an old friend of mine.  We'd grown up together in the same neighbourhood but our lives diverged radically after she made a number of bad decisions that set her life on a course of upheaval.  To this day she has failed to accept the consequences of her youthful actions and continues to make bad choices, all the while blaming everyone else for her problems.

A post I read on Facebook on a similar topic coined the term "Victim Thinking".  It's about blaming the other person.  You were not responsible for whatever happened; it was always someone else's fault.  The cost for doing this however is giving away your power. You just become a feather on the wind, unable to control your own destination.

For the rest of us, the difficulty is in pointing out such thinking because then it becomes "blaming the victim". When we try to discuss boundaries and where they might be, and what appropriate behavior might be, almost always there's someone to insist that we shouldn't blame the victim.  We're all too quick to fall into some form of victim thought.

Our culture sells it to us.  In books, movies, and television shows, someone or something is always chasing us, attacking us, hurting us, or taking things from us.  This is why most of these media are about revenge. The more horrible things that happen, the more the hero seems to be justified in his response.  It's not even about getting even, it's about giving worse back.

Victim thinking justifies revenge, atrocities, political shenanigans of all types.  It's "us" vs. "them".  It's an abdication of personal responsibility, a projection of one's own failure onto someone else.  And there is no shortage of targets: gays, women, people of colour, the elderly, the sick, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Planned Parenthood, tree-huggers, special needs children, anyone who is different... pick one.

Sometimes circumstances do happen. Natural disasters, break-ins, auto accidents, illness, loss of income, etc.  Those are situations you would rather not have to deal with.  If they happen to you, you have been a victim.  If you take responsibility for dealing with them, you are no longer a victim, you are a survivor.  That's personal responsibility.  If you don't take responsibility for your own well-being, you have nothing to give to anyone else.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


The social and political situation around here is just getting so ridiculous that I think I'll just have to resort to describing Quebec as follows (taking a page from Hatta' Squirrel):

The Quebec people are white wool endangered French bagel baking poutine eating wine guzzling square-headed hockey loving tête à claques listening to Marie Mai, street protesting Stanley Cup rioting pastagaters and busters of English parrots, pothole filling corrupt construction workers speaking French on the job, political foot-in-mouth referendum questioning smoked-meat eating Tam-Tam playing on
ski hills with Laurentian foliage.

All sarcasm aside, Quebec is a beautiful place with rolling hills, green river valleys, and communities with hundreds of years of history.  Unfortunately it's being spoiled by lingual and religious feuding as well as bipartisan politics.  For the last 47 years there has been a political movement that wants to separate Quebec from Canada, just so that the "pure" French people can have freedom from the "English oppressors".  However they conveniently forget the fact that without the English, Quebec would not have become the economic powerhouse that it was following World War I.

After the initial surge of the separatist movement and the adoption of laws to promote French at the expense of other languages, scores of English-run businesses and individuals left the province.  The economy tanked and has never fully recovered.  Today the English speakers who remain are subject to all manner of indignities:

  • Services can be refused if one doesn't speak French.
  • English lettering on signs must be half the size of the French letters. 
  • An official language police force busts restaurants for having "Pasta" on the menu and pet stores for having parrots that speak English.
  • Toy stores must have French versions of all toys and games.
  • Employees of companies with more than a certain number of workers must speak French in the workplace or else.
  • Web sites of businesses based in Quebec must have a French version.

On top of all that, upcoming generations of young people won't understand how lucky they are to be in a place with the kind of opportunities they have.  Students "strike" in protest against every proposed tuition fee increase, forgetting that even with a modest increase Quebec still has the lowest tuition fees in all of Canada. Those same students will also protest governmental austerity measures and other related plans.

I often ask myself why I stay here.

The more time that has gone by, the harder it has been to find a convincing answer.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Hating is Not Living

I haven't had the inspiration to write a blog for a week now.  My personal life is effectively at a standstill until either my husband or I gain employment - otherwise it's same old, same old.  Also there's so much horrible stuff happening in world news lately that one doesn't know where to begin: Islamic State, corporate failures, plane crashes, inane politics.

However, this morning I got to thinking.  The basis of a lot of the problems in the world today is fear or hatred.  People talk about their god and whom others are allowed to spend time with in the same breath.  Or they go on about an illness and their belief that praying to their god instead of seeing a doctor will help sort things out.

People who are afraid of loving are not living.  People who are afraid of death are not living.  People who are hurting often spread their hurt around to other people, believing it to be justified.  That's not living.  If they truly believe that their deity is a way to heal the world, why aren't they healing?  More importantly, why aren't they working to heal others?

The world is full of crazies who rant about invisible beings whose purpose is to torture us for eternity if we don't follow their myriad "rules".  There are just as many crazies who spout political, religious, or ideological delusions and believe that rational thinking and education are the enemy.

It's depressing.

We have the resources to feed, clothe, and educate everyone.  This world could be a paradise.  Instead we build more weapons and invent more ways of killing, then grab the microphone and preach more hatred and justification for using those weapons.  All while children go hungry, seniors die in poverty, and millions lack basic necessities.  What kind of insanity are we perpetuating?

I'll bet that our future leaders will look back and say "What the heck were they thinking?"  We have the power to change the world for the better but we lack the will and refuse to believe in the possibilities.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Lack of Empathy

A post yesterday by one of my Facebook acquaintances got me thinking.  Given all the problems in the world right now, what seems to be wrong with us is that empathy is strongly lacking.  Many would rather fight with each other and with alleged enemies instead of supporting each other.  We see it everywhere.

One obvious example is the huge political rift in the United States.  The Republican Party has essentially been hijacked by extremists, fanatics, and war-mongers.  Their focus seems to be polarization as a means to an end.  Also involved are media moguls who use their channels for broadcasting stupidity and hatred.  (Fox News, anyone?)

Anyone who is not white, Christian, and straight gets demonized (even the President of the country!).  People who are poor, elderly, sick, or different are attacked.  This is all clearly sociopathic behaviour, and the definition of a sociopath is a person who does not care about others.  There are far too many of these on this planet who are committed to an endless war on humanity.  To them, empathy is a weakness.

The answer is, of course, compassion.  Caring, generosity, contribution.  Isn't that what the religious types are supposed to preach?  Isn't that simply common sense?  If we can find a way to make that more attractive than the alternative of pretending we're Clint Eastwood chasing the bad guys, the world will be a far better place.

If we don't, we will destroy ourselves.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Luck of the Irish

Today is the celebration of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  He supposedly banished snakes from Ireland (modern research suggests that there were no snakes in Ireland to begin with). Another story goes that his staff grew into a living tree when it was planted in the ground.

I consider myself one sixty-fourth Irish by virtue of my 5x great-grandfather Samuel Archibald who was born in Ireland but came to New Hampshire with his parents in approximately 1720.  He and all but two of his siblings fled the burgeoning chaos of the American Revolution and settled in Nova Scotia, where they wed into other prominent Nova Scotia families such as Waddell and Blanchard.

Modern researchers have identified over twelve thousand descendants of the Archibald family.  Many became doctors, lawyers, and prominent political figures, such as Sir Adams George Archibald, who became Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia and is considered one of the Fathers of Confederation.

Although the Irish connection in my family is small I still celebrate it.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Lessons of Star Trek

Today's rant was written by science-fiction author David Gerrold, who (among other things) penned the script for the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" as well as story outlines for a number of other episodes of the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I've re-posted it with permission.

If you're a Star Trek fan, that's great.
Of all the televisions hows ever made, Star Trek - especially the original series - was ambitious and ground-breaking and thought-provoking in all the right ways. But more than that, it was one of the few shows that was unabashedly optimistic about humanity.
No, not just that we could go to the stars in glorious ships and and have marvelous computers and replicators and sliding doors and personal flip-open communicators - although all that stuff is cool - no, the real message of Trek is that we can get along with each other.
The failure of all those who have made Trek since then has been to make Trek about finding villains and kicking the crap out of them.
In the original series, we discovered new civilizations - AND MADE FRIENDS WITH THEM. Sometimes it wasn't easy, but that was the excitement of the challenge. "To seek out new life and new civilizations ... "
And even though it was delivered as a heavy-handed bit of merchandising, the concept of IDIC was a brilliant expression. Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations. It was the idea that in diversity we find strength, we discover the myriad possibilities before us.
In recent years, some people have decided that Trek represents conservative values. No. What are you trying to do with that assertion? Cause Gene Roddenberry to come screaming out of the grave to pound you into the sand? Roddenberry was an unabashed, unashamed, unconditional liberal. He had his flaws as a man, but his politics were profoundly progressive.
The multi-racial casting of Trek was a breakthrough for American television. It was not only the most important aspect of Star Trek, it continues today to represent the idea that judging a human being by skin color or ethnicity or even religion is so illogical as to make a Vulcan raise his eyebrow in disbelief.
Okay, that almost goes without saying.
But here's the thing - I've seen Trek fans declare war on other Trek fans. I've seen Trek fans attack episodes, films, producers, directors, actors, writers, effects men, musicians, etc. for not being pure enough, for not making Star Trek the way they think it should have been made.
Okay, look - if you're disappointed in an episode or a film or a book, okay, fine - that's because you brought expectations to it. Not just expectations, you wanted it to be the very best possible.
Guess what? So did the producers, directors, actors, writers, costumers, makeup people, prop men, sound men, lighting men, grips, FX men, editors, post-production people, etc. Everyone. Nobody sets out to make a bad movie or TV show. Everyone always aspires to do their very best, even in the worst of circumstances.
But I've seen so-called "fans" (quotation marks deliberate) engage in jihad-like behavior because for one reason or another, they've decided that a person on Star Trek's production team, in whatever capacity, is "the enemy."
F*** off. No, I mean it. F*** off.
There's something unique about Star Trek. Almost everyone who gets the privilege of working on Star Trek is a Star Trek fan, eager to work on the show, recognizing that it is a privilege. The fact that we've gotten paid for the privilege is icing on the cake - we're Star Trek fans too. We don't have to do Star Trek, nobody is forcing us, we're there because we want to do Star Trek, because we love Star Trek, because we love what it represents.
Of all the TV shows and movies in the science fiction genre, Star Trek is the only one that promises us a future where we will have lives we love living, where we will all have opportunities and possibilities and dreams within reach.
If you're a fan - if you consider yourself a fan - yes, thank you. Fans made Star Trek possible. Fans kept the show alive. Fans have continued to make Star Trek a phenomenon unparalleled in television history.
But being a fan is not a license to be an asshole. It is not permission to appoint yourself a judge of other people. It is not. It is only - ONLY - the opportunity to be a fan, to watch the show, to collect the toys and memorabilia, to read the books, to be an enthusiastic part of the audience. That's it.
Personal attacks of any kind, on anyone who was part of the team, on anyone who contributed - on anyone who still wants to contribute - are not part of the Star Trek philosophy.
Okay, yeah, we're all just human beings. We make mistakes. We stumble and bumble and fumble our way through life - but when we have the opportunity to choose, we can choose to celebrate what's possible or we can choose to wallow in regret, bitterness, frustration, anger, pettiness, hatred, rage, or any of those other delicious emotions that keep us from being our best.
We always have that choice. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. Sometimes, if we see that, we can learn from the mistakes, the wrong paths taken. Great - that's part of Star Trek too.
But nowhere in Star Trek, nowhere in the fandom that surrounds Star Trek, is there a justification for behaving like an asshole. Star Trek at its best was about NOT behaving like an asshole. And its best fans are the ones who seek to emulate that.
In my not-so-humble opinion.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

No Abuse Day Here

Today is Mother's Day in the United Kingdom but for some people it's anything but a happy occasion.  An acquaintance of mine on a Facebook support group for victims of emotional abuse posted a rant about how her entire family accused her of being the "crazy" one when in fact she was the only sane one of the bunch.

"My narcissistic mother just died. Left me nothing but a horrible letter. My brother used it as an excuse to contact me. He said he was worried about me then proceeded to offload ALL his problems. I empathized and comforted him. He then tried to make digs how he had it worse than me and always tried to help me. I lost my temper because it was the other way around. I helped him endlessly. All he did was beat and torture me as a child, and emotional abuse since.

I tried to confront him about his abuse. He laughed at me and called me a nutcase. Told me I was a nasty person and the same as my mother. I've realized he is exactly like her. It's sad what made him like that but the difference is I was abused by my mother, father, and brother. I didn't abuse anyone. I spent most of my life being a counselor to them all and a punch bag. They all denied abuse and told me it was in my head and I was a bad person. They all told everyone else I had issues so as not to blow the whistle on their public image of being wonderful.  I was allowed no boundaries - no privacy, no thoughts of my own, no respect, no emotional or physical safety.

I am sick of all the "worship your parents" crap. I'm sick of hearing things like "stop blaming your parents". Always from people who don't have a clue what it's like to have a disordered family.  I'm sick of the narcs/psychos brainwashed minions/fan club.  They believe them and condemn the abused. How quick some people are to judge people they don't even know and get their pitchforks out!  I had my mother's friends lecturing me as a kid. I was too terrified of her to tell them of the beatings and psychological abuse.
Those people are enablers!

They haven't won. I spent years introspecting, thinking it was me, trying to love and please them, even feel sorry for them. No more.  I blocked my brother's number. He'll now be telling everyone I'm mentally ill and abandoned him when our mother died and most will believe it. I just wanted him to be accountable and show some remorse for his wicked abuse of me. Show he was human!

I'll be okay. I recognize now that I'm perfectly sane, full of love, and strong as several oxen. People have said to me in the past, "Your parents must have brought you up right."  No, I correct them. I taught myself and looked after myself.

I don't care who sees this. I did nothing wrong and I didn't take my abuse experience out on others. No child deserves abuse, or adult for that matter.  Not all abused end up abusers or needy or weak or cruel. Most of us have incredible strength and compassion and if we feel the effects of abuse deeply it is testament to just how sane we are!  A healthy mind will NEVER understand a disordered and abusive person's mind."

Moral of the story?  Keep living.  If you're an abuse victim, don't let anyone tell you that you asked for it or you need to change your habits.  Enforce your boundaries.  We survivors must give ourselves the love they never did.  The abusers are accountable, not us.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Best Montreal Dog Parks

Spring is on the way and both people and their pets are itching to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Like humans, dogs are social creatures and need to run and play with their own kind.  The streets can be dangerous for walking, and schoolyards and most parks are forbidden because of dogs' tendencies to tear up grass and leave their excrement behind.  They need their own space; therefore an important facility that every community should have readily available is a dog park.  The following is a selection of some of the best dog parks in the Montreal area.

Parc Saint-Benoit, 521 Sauvé Rd West, Cartierville
Hours: 6 AM to 11 PM daily.  Fee of $10 yearly.
Amenities: Parking, fenced, tables and benches, waste bag dispensers, water fountain.
This is a large enclosed grassy park that is maintained by both the city and park members, and is open to well-mannered dogs with any city dog license.  Dogs are allowed in for a trial visit before fee payment.

Parc de Rouen/Parc des Royaux, 2183 De Lorimier Ave, Montreal
Web site:
Hours: 7 AM to 11 PM daily.  No fees.
Amenities: Handicapped accessible, tables and benches.
This park was recently renamed because it's on the site of the former Delorimier Downs baseball stadium where Jackie Robinson and the Montreal Royals once played.  It's a neighborhood park lit by spotlights at each end, with a surface that's grassy in summer and packed snow in winter.  Access is through a double-gated entrance, and an adjacent playground and skate park makes it more family friendly. Photo courtesy

Percy-Walters Park, Redpath Rd and Dr. Penfield Ave, Montreal
Web site:
Hours: Dawn to dusk.  No fees.
Amenities: Fenced, tables, water fountain.
This location was once the property of Scots-Quebec politician Sir John Rose who built a large house on the land; in 1943 the house was demolished and the land converted into a park. It contains a grassed area as well as a treed hilly slope for exploring.  Residents have noted that the grassy area tends to get muddy in spring and after large amounts of rainfall.

Trenholme Park, 6800 Sherbrooke St West, Notre-Dame-de-Grace
Hours: 7 AM to 11 PM daily.  No fees.
Amenities: Handicapped accessible, fenced, tables, waste bag dispensers, water fountain.
Named for Thomas Trenholme, the town mayor of Notre-Dame-De-Grace who oversaw the town's incorporation into Montreal; it was once a section of his dairy farm.  The park is large and in addition to the fenced-in dog run it contains a soccer field, baseball diamond, and playground equipment for family fun.  Photo courtesy 

Angrignon Park, 3400 Des Trinitaires Blvd, LaSalle
Hours: 24 hours but dawn to dusk preferred.  No fees.
Amenities: Parking, fenced, tables and benches, waste bag dispensers.
The city gradually acquired the land for 97-hectare park from 1926 to 1944 with the intention of turning it into a zoo, but the project failed and the land became a city park.  It's easily accessible from the Angrignon metro station and is divided into three sections, one of which contains the fenced dog run.  Locals recommend to keep dogs on-leash in the non-fenced section and to stay on the gravel trails because of wooded areas where poison ivy is known to grow.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Facial Coverings

In the wake of the Quebec student protests of 2012 a law was passed that enabled the police to preemptively arrest protesters if they wore facial coverings.  At the time I felt this was going a bit too far, but by the same token, if you support a certain cause why cover your face in the first place?  The only reason a person would cover themselves was if they were planning to cause some sort of trouble and didn't want to be easily identified.  Criminals often wear masks when committing crimes, after all.

Now we have a case of a Muslim woman who wants to become a Canadian citizen but refuses to remove her face-covering niqab for the citizenship oath.  She called it "mandatory" for her faith and "integral to the modesty that a Muslim woman must show."  Well I know several Muslim women who wear just a hijab and they feel perfectly at ease with that, so the niqab hardly seems "mandatory".

In 2011 there was a niqab ban put in place which caused a huge controversy, and the then-immigration minister said: "This (the citizenship oath) is an act of public witness, you are standing up in front of your fellow citizens making a solemn commitment to be loyal to the country... I do not know how you can do that from behind a kind of a mask."

Several days ago, that ban was struck down by a federal judge.  The Prime Minister's office is appealing the decision.

My opinion on the matter is this: in Canada we need to have our faces uncovered when having photos taken for an official ID like a medical card, driver's licence, or passport.  It's only fair to have one's face uncovered when taking the citizenship oath.  Allow the woman to take the oath in a separate room and/or with a female officiant present but the niqab should be removed for such.  Religion has nothing to do with it.

If you won't uncover your face for such an important step, sorry, you don't qualify.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Parental Interference

One of the many jobs of a parent is to guide their children toward being a well-informed and responsible adult.  Unfortunately many parents take it to the extreme of trying to mould their children into versions of themselves, or into the kind of people they themselves wanted to be when they were younger.  Often this entails keeping the children ignorant of information that they will need, or steering them away from their dreams in favour of the "proper" way.

The following quotes speak for themselves:

"My parents would always do room searches where they'd go through my stuff and take anything they didn't agree with, and break any CD's that they didn't think were Christian. I tried to hide things behind bookshelves. I even tried to create a hole in my wall. But nothing worked. I remember getting in trouble for leaning up against my friend at church. The youth pastor said we were acting like lesbians, and my mom said I was ruining her reputation."

"Recently I've encountered a problem that I believe this is the solution to.  My little ones have been asking to read the Harry Potter books, and of course I'm happy for them to be reading, but I don't want them turning into witches!  Why not make some slight changes so these books are family friendly?  This story has all the adventure of JKR's books; but will not lead your children astray.  I may not be a professional writer but I think I am being given the talent to pull this off in service of a greater mission."

"When I was six I expressed a desire to go into nursing.  My grandmother was a nurse's aide and loved the job although she never glossed over how hard it was.  However my parents strenuously dissuaded me, saying that nursing offered insufficient pay for the amount of work, plus there was a chance of catching some disease.  My mother said I had to choose an acceptable profession because she didn't want me to end up scrubbing other people's floors."

When parents become too forceful in their attempts to mould their children (particularly teenagers) it only causes more rebellion.  In extreme cases, this can break up a family.  Sometimes people need to step back a bit and allow their young to make mistakes and learn from them.  Otherwise their lives will be full of resentment and painful experiences.

On the other hand, there are people who just make bad decisions no matter what, but that's another topic.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


My friends and family all know that I don't drive.  The issue comes up in conversation once in a while, especially if I happen to mention the difficulties involved in taking public transit.  I am well aware of how convenient it is to be able to operate a vehicle but it was a personal choice for me to not do so.

In the 1970s sitcom "Laverne and Shirley" there was an episode in which the subject of driving came up, and Laverne admitted that she was afraid to try driving.  This prompted Shirley to holler out the window for the neighbours to hear: "Laverne de Fazio is afraid to drive!"  Embarrassed by the revelation of her secret, Laverne gets her revenge by going to the window and hollering, "Shirley Feeney stuffs socks in her bra!!"

I also have faced the ridicule and the insistent explanations of why driving is an important skill.  I also have felt abject terror when sitting behind the controls of a machine that is capable of crippling or killing another human (or myself) given a moment's inattention.  When I was thirteen I was hit by a car and sent to hospital, an event that shook me to my core and made me realize how dangerous driving can be.

Not to mention that the city of Montreal is notorious for having terrible drivers, and I see this frequently: they run lights, fail to signal, make illegal turns, speed, and more.  My husband and I once witnessed a driver slaloming around the poles that delineate the bike path that passes our house.  Since our street is long and straight it occasionally becomes a 2 AM drag strip in the summer.

I often wonder why there aren't physical limiters on cars like there are (supposedly) on transport trucks.  Why build a car that's capable of 180 kph or more when the speed limit on most highways is 110?  As noted in an episode of The Simpsons, people want to feel powerful and in control of something.  "People don't want cars named after hungry old Greek broads!  They want names like Mustang and Cheetah: vicious animal names."

Let me say something: I have power.  I have the power to control my own life and not have to worry about license and registration fees, the price of gasoline, maintenance, parking tickets, traffic, or accidents.  The inconvenience of not having a vehicle is well worth the peace of mind and the money in the bank.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Living with Disorder

I strongly suspect that our eight-year-old daughter "Missy" has ADHD.  We're in the process of having her evaluated but that takes time, and in the meantime I'm looking into resources that might help us cope.

Some of the signs are clear.  She gets distracted or loses focus too easily, so her schoolteacher has provided her with an anti-noise headset so that she can concentrate on her work.  She often will blurt out what's on her mind, demand that something be done, or interrupt a conversation.  This has caused much tension between her and the people around her.

She also dislikes transitions, ignores clear instructions, and gets extremely upset when redirected.  Attempts at correction have often been futile: she repeats bad behaviour even after being disciplined for it.  Due to serious behaviour-related incidents she has been banned from going to two of her friends' houses.  For her most recent birthday party, seven kids were invited but only two showed up.  That was a huge indication for me that she needs help.

There's no doubt that she's intelligent.  She's performing above average in all of her classes.  Unfortunately her lack of social control has caused her to become an outcast among her peers and a target for bullying.  Last summer we had no choice but to avoid our local community swimming pool because two of the main instigators happened to be there and I didn't want to have a scene.

What concerns me most is that Missy doesn't seem to understand the consequences of her actions even after being disciplined.  Time-outs never worked.  Removal of privileges results in a full-blown temper tantrum along with denials, threats, and slamming doors.

The worst happened when she lost her best friend "Angie" for the second time in six months.  As previously mentioned Missy was banned from playing with Angie due to bad behaviour.  After much effort on my part to patch things up with the parents, Angie was allowed to play at our house.  However one afternoon after school Missy was rude to Angie's mother (I didn't hear what was said though), who immediately cancelled an invitation to Angie's birthday party and reinstated the play ban.  At this rate, Missy won't have any friends left at all.  I am always the one who has to reach out on her behalf; none of her supposed friends ever call us.

I'm seriously considering home-schooling next year because it appears that she can't handle the social pressures.