Sunday, 22 November 2015

Terror and Grief

Have been thinking a lot lately about the recent attacks on Paris and the way people from all around the world have responded to it. Watching social media feeds, listening to people talk, following the news coverage, responses have ranged from a violent backlash against the Syrian refugees and Muslims in general, to a redoubled determination to reach out to and provide aid for those same people.

What struck me hardest was the hate. In the days following the attack, and even now over a week later, the degree of hate being spewed across my Facebook page rattled me. The hate--hate directed not at Islamic radicals, but at all Muslims and particularly those fleeing the same types of radicals who orchestrated the attack in Paris--shook me even deeper than the attacks themselves. Because what we should be fearing isn't refugees, or Muslims, or terrorists. What we (humanity) should fear is extreme hatred, no matter what form it takes, or who it's directed at. Responding to an act of extreme hatred with extreme hatred is self-defeating. Hate begets hate. And that's not just some hippy-dippy love-your-fellow-man theory--that's something that has been demonstrated in history again and again.

In trying to understand this outpouring of (in many cases misdirected) hate I am now framing peoples' reactions to the horrifying attack within the context of grief. When faced with a tragedy, it is natural to grieve, and when grieving, it is natural to go through the five stages of shock and denial, anger, depression and detachment, dialogue and bargaining, and acceptance. What I would like to think is that at least some of what I was seeing drift across my newsfeeds was not hate for the sake of hate, but a natural phase in the cycle of grief--the shock, denial, and anger that one goes through when grappling with the loss of life.  I would like to think that a portion of these expressions of hate were expressions of the anger of grief, and therefore a necessary part of the process in moving towards acceptance, and something more positive.

Of course, the question then becomes is it possible to authentically grieve for people you did not know? Can you grieve when the loss is not personally your own? Does the cycle of grief still apply? I think so, though my feeling is that that cycle is significantly abbreviated for those of us not directly touched by a tragedy.

In the end, I suppose it might not matter whether the hateful words people speak and the actions they commit in the wake of November 13ths attacks stem from a place of grief, or from a place of actual hatred. The damage done is the same. But for me--grief, I can understand. I can forgive things said and done in grief. I cannot find it in me, however, to forgive anything stemming from pure unthinking hate.

To leave on a note of hope, and healing:

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Takakkaw Falls

Felt like brutalizing a piece of paper with a pencil this evening:

Not really meant to be an accurate representation, but I used the image on the right as inspiration 

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Barrel Organ

We all have peripheral images left over from childhood storybooks of monkeys turning cranks on boxes from which cheerful organ music piped. One type of organ operated in this way was the barrel organ, which consisted of bellows and one or more tiers of pipes housed in a (usually highly ornamented) box. The music was created by the turning of wood "barrels" or cylinders which were encoded with music using an array of pins and staples.
("Detail of barrel organ (1)" by Chmee2, Wikimedia Commons)
Amazing what you can make music out of, isn't it? While the playing of this device doesn't require great musical talent--just a steady arm, the composing of music on one of these barrels is quite complex, so hats off to those who did and still do create their own barrels.

But, on to what I really wanted to share:

 First, this guy, because he's awesome

And second some historic images of barrel organs and their grinders. I find these fascinating, as they show a type of street performing you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere in the world today (though organ grinder hobbyists do still exist, as is evidenced by the awesome dude above). These images show a quirky array of people, many of them seeming a bit rough around the edges, which really makes you wonder about their stories. How did they come by their barrel organs? Were they all hand-made, or inherited? If not, what sort of a business investment is a barrel organ? How much would that have set you back in the early 1900's? Were these people wacky free-spirits, or hard-working individuals desperate for a few coins in an over-saturated job market? Literature from the time depicts them as almost exclusively as vagabond extortionists, however as with any profession, I'd imagine the personal histories of those involved were as varied and colorful as the instruments they played. 

Organ Grinder, 1922. Toronto Public Library X 65-211
Eugene Atget's Organ Grinder

Children with Organ Grinder in New York
The scene with the organ grinder and the Gypsy girl 
Organ Grinder With Monkey, Ohio County Public Library, W.C. Brown Photo 83

"An organ grinder at Mtskheta" by N_Creatures, Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Pro-life vs. Pro-choice : Perspective

Long time no blog, dawg. Not gonna make excuses, except that Christmas happened, and appraisal season is coming up, and I've been battling off the winter blues, and and and. . .


So, today's rumination of choice is on the pro-life versus pro-choice debate. Typically, I have avoided getting into discussions about this topic, as everyone and their dog seems to have very strong opinions, and will fight tooth and claw for one side or the other.

The truth is, I don't really have a strong opinion. If it came down to it, I would fall on the "pro-choice" side of the spectrum, as I believe ultimately what a woman does with her body should be her own to decide. But I don't feel the need to back that belief up with philosophy, constitutional babble, feminist rage, or the typical series of "what if's " (what if she was raped? what if giving birth would kill the mother? what if she cannot afford to raise the child?).

It is not that there is no validity in these arguments -- there is. However, from my perspective, these discussions tend to take away from the reality of the choice in pro-choice.

By turning the topic into a matter of philosophy or politics, putting it in the drawing room or on the political platform, the emotional impact of the choice is drained away, and you might as well be discussing taxation or smoking pipes and rambling abstractly about ethics.

"Pro-choice" is often used in feminist hands as a sort of weapon, another blade from the armory. Again this distracts from the reality of the choice -- "pro-choice" becomes more of a tagline or a battlecry, than something centered on a real decision to be made.

As to the "what ifs", I find them irrelevant. Certainly, they play a role in how the choice might come to be made, but they make weak pillars when upholding the right to make that choice, because they take something that is very real, and throw it into the realm of the hypothetical.

What I'm trying to get at here is that it is easy to lose track of the choice in pro-choice when everyone gets caught up in picking sides and debating themselves blue in the face.

Yes, I believe every woman should have the right to choose. I am happy to live in a country where abortion is legally an option for me. But if it came right down to it, and I found myself with an unwanted pregnancy, would I choose abortion?

 I honestly don't know.

If I were thinking just in terms of philosophy, politics, or what I believe about women's rights, I'd go for it in an instant. But when faced with such a choice, none of that really matters, does it?

And, for that matter, the choice of whether to bring a life into the world, or hold it back, is one that exists independently of the law. Abortions were performed before safe medical procedures were ever invented, and abortions would continue even without governmental approval and proper medical support.

Strip away the philosophy and the politics, the question of a woman's rights and the "what ifs", and you are left with a choice, the same choice women have been making for centuries.

And it is, and always will be the most difficult--and most important--decision a woman can make.