Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I need to get my rant on’ edition

We have now been away from home for a week. We have been very comfortable staying at my friend Joe’s house we are missing home like crazy. I have not had much time to blog but that doesn’t mean some things are making me crazy!

First up, the shootings in Newton, Conn:

Mass shootings are a feminist issue. Our patriarchal society is not only bad for women it affects men as well. As much as women’s roles are reified within patriarchy, men’s roles are also proscribed and circumscribed. Patriarchy demands that men be strong and fearless. While women can be emotional,[1] it is not acceptable for men. So what does this mean for men who cannot conform for whatever reason? How are they to navigate a world in which they do not fit? In the most recent mass shooting in the US, there have been calls for stricter gun control if you are on the left of the political spectrum and more guns if you happen to be a Republican.[2] There have also been discussions about mental health and how the lack of treatment in the US may be a contributing factor. While certainly these perspectives are important, I would argue that it is patriarchy along with its defined roles for men and women that is really at the core of the problem.

Then of course the NRA fuck heads have to weigh in after their self-imposed week of silence.[3] Fearful of the cries for increased gun control and what it might mean for their sick obsession, they proposed that Congress should immediately appropriate funds for an armed guard at every school. Seriously folks, their solution to mass shootings is to put yet another gun into the mix. I have never heard of a more stupid idea. What the US needs is less guns, particularly assault rifles which are only meant to kill large numbers of people quickly.

If all that is not enough, conservative writer Charlotte Allen, blames feminism for the shootings. She notes that there were no male personnel in the school and hypothesizes that if there had been some burly men there they could have rushed the shooter. Seriously. How could someone even think this let alone write it? Plus she gets it wrong: there was an adult male in the school, the shooter.


Religion is the next thing grating on my nerves these days. At my brother-in-law’s funeral yesterday the religiosity was over the top. His brother-in-law who apparently is a Christian minister performed it. This man actually tried to conflate Christmas and the birth of Christ with his death. It was beyond ridiculous. I am not sure why people who were not religious in life are celebrated with prayer and psalms. It makes no sense to me. My brother-in-law was an educated man; I highly doubt he was at all religious. In fact, what people said they most admired about him were his critical thinking skills and the ability to question that which many of us take for granted. As the minister was trying to comfort people with bible passages, I felt like I was in the middle of a cult. Religion pisses me off. Historically it has been the main cause of war and heartbreak all over the world. The current world political environment in which we live has conflict driven almost exclusively by religion. Organized religion belongs in the past.


It is fucking cold here – minus 20 and snow. It hurts to go outside. The roads are shit because of all the snow. It is precisely because of this kind of weather that I never, ever want to live here again.

Then there are the drivers. The other day a bus actually tried to not let me merge. I couldn’t believe it. I had to race a bus! There were over 60 accidents yesterday because people don’t drive for the road conditions. These people live here and should know how to drive in the snow!


[1] Even though there are consequences for emotional vulnerability.

[2] Seriously some of these reactionary dinosaurs think that arming teachers is the answer!

[3] It was really big of them.

Save the Fraser Declaration Day

Today is the third anniversary of the Save the Fraser Declaration which has been signed by a coalition of Aboriginal groups in BC. Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson, even declared today, December 13, 2012, Save the Fraser Declaration Day in Vancouver. An excerpt from the Declaration lays out exactly what they plan to do to stop the Northern Gateway Pipeline:

We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.

It is so clear and succinct.

There are so many reasons to oppose this pipeline it is hard to know where to begin. The process underway is inherently racist and does not provide any meaningful consultation with First Nations. Today on BC Almanac, a caller related an anecdote about a First Nations Elder testifying at one of the hearings. Apparently he was continually interrupted to put his answers in the appropriate, legalistic language being used at the hearings. A request to have someone help him with this was denied. If the process itself is a barrier to participation how can there be any meaningful dialogue?

Another major issue with this pipeline is that we are shipping unprocessed bitumen out of the country without processing it. This means jobs that could be created here are being shipped out of the country along with the bitumen. This has been a perennial problem in our ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ approach to research development/exploitation. We always seem to sell out our resources to the highest bidder.

Opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline will be huge in BC. Not only will the government have to manage Aboriginal opposition, the environmental lobby will also be out in full force to stop it. The pipeline is not a wedge issue though as most British Columbians are well aware of the project and many oppose it. In fact, I don’t think I have met one person who supports it. Given the dictatorial nature of our Federal Government, I can also imagine that they will try to ram the pipeline through BC regardless of our opposition. This will not go over well in this province. We have a long and storied tradition of effective opposition that has stopped other projects. Given the excerpt from the declaration above, I can imagine an Oka like standoff in Northern BC. And I will support it. I would even be prepared to go and stand shoulder to shoulder with First Nations.

Kayla Bourque redux

There has been a lot interesting comment on Kayla Bourque’s situation. Some of the comments I have received show a great deal of anger and misunderstanding of how our legal system works and the role personality disorders play in mental health. There are no easy answers in this type of situation however we must be mindful that fear and emotion do not drive the discussion.

Personality disorders fall on Axis II of the DSM. Wikipedia defines personality disorders as: “are a class of personality types and enduring behaviors associated with significant distress or disability, which appear to deviate from social expectations particularly in relating to other humans” (emphasis mine). I find it quite interesting that personality disorders are defined as behaviors that deviate from social expectations. It makes sense though when you realize that some behaviors, which may well be maladaptive in our society, may be extremely adaptive in other cultures.[1] Bourque has been diagnosed as having anti-social and sociopathic personality disorder. Human beings turn out as social creatures because our parents or caregivers nurture us and meet our needs. When a child fails to attach in a meaningful way they can, like dogs and cats, become feral. This may well be part of what happened to Bourque in a Romanian orphanage. When Canadians adopted children from these places many experts warned that these children may well be quite damaged and struggle in our society. I am sure there are far more successes than Kayla Bourques who came out of those places. I suspect that there is a necessary set of conditions that causes someone to become an animal killer. If Bourque had attached as an infant she may well have still struggled to some extent.

Personality disorders differ from mental illnesses, as they are innate. Mental illness is something that, in many cases, can be transient either through treatment or time. Personality disorders are with people for life. Sometimes the debilitating effects can be mitigated through intensive counselling and education however the prognosis is quite poor. Bourque really does not understand that what she has done is wrong. She is a predator. Given the opportunity she will likely kill someone as research has shown where the path she is on will lead. Will counselling help Bourque? I don’t think it is likely. She lacks compassion and empathy.

Our legal system is pretty clear on how this will play out. Canadian citizens have rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Amongst those rights is the right ‘not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.’ Our legal system is a reactionary; a crime is committed, a person arrested and charged. There are no provisions to lock someone up because they might commit a crime. So as much as our knee-jerk reaction is to want to lock her up forever we simply cannot justify it.

I commend the judge in this case who is taking the time to craft a set of parole conditions that will keep the public safe. In all likelihood Bourque will not be able to abide by these strict conditions and will end up back in jail. Once her parole is over she will no longer have restrictions on her liberty. It will then be up to the police to track her movements and hopefully keep society safe. I am sure this will come at significant cost to taxpayers. Personally, I think it will be money well spent.

[1] Now before anyone assumes that I think it is adaptive to kill and torture animals, I am not saying that in any way.