Monthly Archives: August 2014

What makes a winner?

Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are winners.

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I think most of us agree that certain traits such as courage, integrity and humility are essential for making it through the challenges of a competition while still retaining and maintaining one’s dignity as well as the dignity of one’s fellows.

But quite often, what makes a winner really depends on the situation.

Sometimes, it’s about enduring the challenges over a long legendary course of rugged terrain; while at other times the shorter, less-noteworthy path may lead you to victory.

And sometimes, the winning strategy is about respectfully bowing out of the race, thereby leaving a vacuum to be filled by the perceived main competitor – it’s a strategy I like to refer to as the “victory vacuum”.

I have to say that I’m disappointed Sheryl Rooth took herself off the roster of Ward 4 councillor hopefuls; I’m disappointed because Sheryl brought a different dimension to the race for Ward 4.

As someone with years of involvement in improving the community, Sheryl’s concern and insight into community issues will be sorely missed by other candidates; of course, I’m sure Sheryl will be available to offer advice when it is needed by Ward 4 residents and Londoners in general.

But I honestly don’t think a victory vacuum is needed in Ward 4.

This is my sincere conviction, because I have been hearing from more and more voters how they are simply done with Stephen Orser and his ridiculous political posturing…well, it’s more like contorting, actually.

Mr. Orser has spent eight long years on council, so it’s become very clear to voters that if he hasn’t done much yet to improve the ward’s socio-economic status, he won’t be doing much in the next four years…

Perhaps you may say I’m a naïve newcomer to the political arena, but I’ve been living in this wonderful ward for more than 15 years and have become keenly aware of the sentiment towards Mr. Orser’s buildup of civic sediment.

According to the media and political observers, my candidacy is nothing more than an afterthought.

Maybe that’s because I’m a relative newcomer to this wild world of municipal politics, or perhaps it’s because I lack a community organizer reputation – not that such a reputation always means that much anyways…I can point out plenty of community organizers who enter politics but simply lack the business acumen and ability to deliver under intense pressure.

What’s interesting about me being new on the scene, is that the future – and past – of this country, province and city depend on the hard work and vision of newcomers! (See The London Plan  for the significant addition of immigrants to the workforce in the coming years).

Being a newcomer means having a fresh and unadulterated perspective on what can add vitality to the ward, and what additions will simply detract from what’s already good in Ward 4. Moreover, having a lot of experience doesn’t really mean squat, as the academics say, because there’s no one with more political experience in the ward than Stephen Orser…

I applaud Sheryl’s move, because she did what she thought was right for the ward.

Even though I disagree, I believe she has the mark of a true winner.

– Paul

My apology to Emi Koyama

On Friday, August 15, I posted an entry to my blog entitled: The world’s oldest profession?

I unknowingly misquoted social justice activist and writer Emi Koyama, stating that Koyama was opposed to Bill C-36 and is in favour of having addicts and other vulnerable members of society languish in prostitution.

This is simply not true.

To read the official apology, click here.

Not a black and white issue

“I have, indeed, been taking offense all my life because I enjoyed it and felt it was beautiful. It is not only pleasurable, it is also esthetically satisfying to feel offended.”

– Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Question: Do all those who cry out bloody murder over “systemic racism” understand that I, as a black man, can also face such discrimination?

I hope that everyone realizes I can’t hide behind my skin.

So I am very sensitive to this issue, I just don’t think we’re stuck in some 1960s time-warp when racism was still normative and where Black Americans and Canadians in certain areas, such as Nova Scotia, had almost zero opportunities for upward social mobility.

In The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, the illustrious liberal historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. references another luminary of the social sciences, Jamaican-born Orlando Patterson, to refute the claims of rampant systemic racism in America:

“The sociological truths,” writes Orlando Patterson, “are that America, while still flawed in its race relations…is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to a great number of black persons that any other society, including all those of Africa; and has gone through a dramatic change in its attitude toward miscegenation over the past 25 years.”

And this was in 1991, before the election of a non-white president and many other minorities to positions of political power, not to mention the commercial and academic accomplishments of countless people!

So perhaps the cop who shot Michael Brown was a rogue element, or even an operative of the KKK, as was the case in Florida. Or, maybe something else went down which warranted the shooting – we simply don’t know enough right now, other than the fact that Brown was a thief whose death has spurned a dual response of violent and peaceful protests.

Did he deserve to get killed? No. Was it an act of racism? No, with a touch of “let’s see”. Was the shooting an act of deadly force? Obviously. Was it a disproportionate response? Let’s see after the FBI, the White House investigator and other investigations conclude. I have taken the position that the shooting was not a disproportionate response, let’s see if I’m right about that. If I’m wrong, I will gladly admit it.

One of the major problems I have encountered with all this “discussion” over the shooting, the looting and the race baiting, is that there is no discussion at all…too bad…just a lot of Uncle Tom calling, the constant refrain of systemic racism and yeah…on and on…

Therefore, this will be my last post on this incident/issue, because I want to get back to what really matters for Ward 4.

By the way, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a historic museum in Dresden, Ontario (Chatham-Kent) and is named after Josiah Henson, a former slave that came to Canada on the Underground Railroad. I think he’d be proud of me if he were alive today for speaking out against the criminality of many young black males in the U.S. and some in Canada (Jane and Finch, Scarborough).

Why is it considered verboten for me to criticize the unlawful actions of young black males? Like I said, I’m black too, and want to see things improve, but how will that happen if the victim mentality reigns supreme?

Can I not be a role model for these young men by demonstrating tough love? Sometimes certain people need to be told straight up: You’re a thug. You’re an addict; how can I help you? For others, such words will be too much, and they may feel rejected. It’s really on a case by case basis. I feel safe to assume that Michael Brown needed a bit more coaxing. It is a tragedy that he never found the help that he needed.

The point is, white police racism – whether perceived or real – didn’t influence Mr. Brown to rob a store in his own community. And I used the word “deviant” because that’s what I learned in sociology at Western. Actually the gangsta mentality is a contra-culture in sociological terms. Why do I say that? Because despite 40 years of advances from the civil rights era there’s been a paradigm shift where many young black males are missing the mark, enamored by hip-hop culture that glorifies prison, drugs, denigration of women and negative lyrical music.

And as a black male I have a right to speak out about it. (Check out Adam Carolla speaking about the issue of too many black fathers not raising their families – Adam is white, by the way, and I have absolutely no problem with his comments, except some of the crass language).

There are no real black leaders of substance like Dr. Martin Luther King because he’s been replaced by the likes of Al Sharpton, a man who once incited days of rioting within Brooklyn’s Crown Heights Jewish community that led to the murder of a religious Jew and a non-Jewish man who was mistaken for being Jewish. Al will talk about the merits of MLK but then exacerbate an issue like this to the point to where it becomes incitement and lends credence to the violence that is going on in Ferguson.

I will discuss some of my ideas about effectively dealing with at-risk youth issues and deviant behaviour in the future – I don’t want Michael Brown’s death to be a launching pad for publicizing my goals.

It’s been an interesting 72-hours under “Twitter fire”. Thank you all for your comments, criticisms and even irrationality (I’m referring to someone who said that “all whites should be shamed right now”).

It helps me understand what’s going on with some people and how deeply certain people receive opinion as if it is fact, whether through CNN, blogs or the cultural zeitgeist.

Time for me to get back to business…

– Paul

Deviants and Demigods

I have to admit it, I made a mistake.

Instead of expressing my thoughts about the Michael Brown shooting on my blog, I tweeted a message that was considered by many to be incendiary, fascistic and just down right disrespectful to the dead – of course, one shouldn’t be concerned about the living, even as they cower in a state of fear from rioters who are destroying their businesses and robbing them of their inalienable right to security.

As much as I appreciate Twitter, when it comes to communicating it’s pretty much the equivalent of a knock at the door with a quick “hello, how do you do?” The blog post would have been a much better idea, as it constitutes an invitation to sit down, have some tea and hear the other person for a little while.

There is one major point that must preface any discussion related to race and violence: we live in an era where victimhood is next to godliness. Once someone is established as the victim, whether due to the facts or the colour of his or her skin, he becomes morally incorruptible. He embodies all of the good which the evils of European colonialism submerged into a cauldron of despair. Western masochism is a veritable religion which needs its victims, its idols (see the work of Pascal Bruckner on the psychological-historical roots of political correctness).

All the rules change when a young black man is killed by a police officer. And when that young man is unarmed, the conclusion is clear: before us lies another sacrificial lamb slaughtered on the altar of racist authoritarianism.

Now although witness testimony varies drastically, in addition to the versions offered by the police and Brown’s friends – trustworthy, upstanding youth who accompanied Brown the day he died as he strong-armed a defenseless convenience store clerk, violently grabbing him by his shirt collar and pushing him away “gangsta stylez” – Brown has to be innocent, because he was unarmed.

Never mind the fact that the police and a witness saw Brown wrestling with the officer in a police cruiser before the shooting, there’s an autopsy which shows Brown had no bruises. But millions of people all over the world experience violent altercations every day and don’t necessarily wind up with a bruise – never mind that though…

What exactly transpired before the shooting? What actions and words were exchanged between the cop and the victim? Did the victim threaten the cop’s life, or someone else’s? Did the victim try to grab the officer’s gun?

The answers to these questions lie in how much we believe in the incorruptible nature of the victim, i.e. all those who are offended by the terms “deviant behaviour” “thief” and “gangster” cannot believe these terms apply to Brown, because he’s now dead. In the meantime, I don’t hear condemnations from these people about the rioting…why not? Is it because they derive a certain pleasure in the experience of righteous indignation, as has been observed by writers such as Dostoevsky and others who appreciated the often cunning nature of victimhood?

I apologize for stopping so abruptly, but I have to get back to my campaign, so I will pick up with this two-part post tomorrow.

– Paul

The world’s oldest “profession”?

Opponents of Bill C-36 or the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, argue that such legislation will make prostituted persons’ safety more tenuous by driving prostitution underground and forcing sex “workers” to lower their standards to be competitive, i.e. not use condoms. I put quotations around “work” because I honestly question how selling one’s body and often assisting someone to cheat on their significant other is equated with intellectually creative and challenging forms of manual labour which add to the economy and the health of a society – sorry, not all forms of money-making earn the appellation of “work”.

Another argument against the bill is that people have a right to take up the world’s oldest oppression if they so choose; truth is, it’s not so much an argument as it is a reflection of a mentality which is more concerned with an unabashed “freedom” than eliminating harm to free human beings.

Whenever I hear this latter contention, I think about the fact that I can drink copious amounts of alcohol, consistently eat ridiculous amounts of unhealthy food and practice other forms of “freedom” if I so choose…of course, that doesn’t mean my behaviour is justified or even excusable in practically any context.

I am running for city council because I want to improve the overall context within which prostituted people live and provide them with productive forms of social recourse.

Among rehabilitation programs and other programs for vulnerable individuals, the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) represents a stellar example of a brave, grassroots initiative, offering counselling, advocacy and other services for abused women, free of charge.

Megan Robinson-Walker, executive director of the LAWC, is leading the fight for Bill C-36 and against the normalization of the “sex trade” – whenever my wife hears that term, she inevitably asks: “What exactly are they trading? Stocks? Bonds? Where is their Return On Investment (ROI)?”

Criminalizing the pimps and johns is exactly the point of this bill. As Megan told the media last month:  “Hopefully we will end the demand. Ultimately in the long run, the goal is to abolish prostitution.”

When I contacted Megan about whether the LAWC gets any municipal funding she told me that her organization receives only $3,400 in city funding to provide a group “for women at their end stage in our program.”

She said the group is called the Women’s Support Group and that it helps women make connections with other women before they leave the LAWC.

“It’s not a lot of money, but $3,400 actually goes a long way in helping us provide service. With that funding, we are able to provide four groups per year,” she told me. “That is pretty important to the women that attend. We provide the women with transportation, childcare for their children and snacks plus, a facilitator to help bring speakers in and plan the meetings. It’s a 12-week group, once a week for 12 weeks for three hours and offered four times per year.”

I’ve got to say that Megan is pretty humble about the whole thing…I mean $3,400 a year from the city for helping abused women!!

As someone who personally saw members of his family and his own mother sustain years of verbal abuse and intimidation by men, I don’t believe that amount of money is sufficient. And given how much money the city would like to take from taxpayers for a largely unwanted performing arts centre, it’s clear that the vision for a better future is sorely lacking at city hall – not with everyone, of course.

Megan, on the other hand, has clear vision about what our community needs: direct improvement of the lives of struggling single mothers and other women, who, for various reasons, need such support.

Our community grows by supporting these kinds of centres that empower women to take back their autonomy. Bill C-36 assists in this process by allowing women – as well as men and transgendered individuals – the opportunity to turn to the police and community service workers without the fear of being criminalized – I can’t help but think about women involved in prostitution in the Old East Village and across London who are under the thumbs of unscrupulous pimps and violent johns.

I remember years ago, I was sitting in a political science class of mine at Western when an argument about being in favour of legalizing prostitution came up. I responded to one student who was in favour of its legalization by asking him: “Can you see your sister, mother or grandmother engaged in this line of work?” The class went silent and there wasn’t a single rhetorical response thereafter.

The anti-social construct centered on prostitution has often been focused on the women for partaking. But it’s actually the men who initiate the violence and abuse. Yes, the women make themselves available, but it’s the alluring sense of financial stability that’s proselytized by the pimps and solicited by the johns, which usually traps the women in such sexual exploitation. Bill C-36 is meant to remedy these gross violations of women’s rights.

Moreover, sexual exploitation doesn’t just involve women; our children are also being exploited against their will. That’s why this bill is so important for London as well as other municipalities because it also protects the future of our children who can be exploited by those who wish to harm them.

I find it pathetically ironic that Ward 4 incumbent Stephen Orser’s personal webmaster is a buddy of his who allegedly runs a porn site – remember this from late May? The councillor turns a blind eye to this kind of sexual exploitation and thinks this sort of personal/professional affiliation is somehow acceptable. How can he address the real prostitution issues in our ward and elsewhere with such lurid relationships in the background?

And it’s Helmer for the Wynne?

The controversy surrounding Kathleen Wynne’s scheduled appearance at Ward 4 city council candidate Jesse Helmer’s fundraiser has brought an interesting Jewish legal concept to the forefront of my mind: Marit Ayin, literally, appearance to the eye.

I think the concept of marit ayin – when an action is intended as ‘A’ but may appear as ‘B’ – really sums up why the premier’s visit to Mr. Helmer’s campaign seems like much more than a friendly visit, as he told the media and expressed on Twitter.

But before I continue talking about a concept in Jewish Law, I would like to point out that I am against the conflation of religious and secular law and am extremely pleased with the separation of church and state – just to be clear.

Getting back to my point, if the premier was attending a BBQ at the Helmer residence, or visiting him in the hospital, I wouldn’t be posting this entry.

But when the most powerful politician in the province plans to attend your fundraising event, you’re essentially using “political steroids” to generate name recognition and funding; an unfair advantage in a municipal arena that is community-based, and where the individual actions of the candidate counts more than their political associations. By the way, Mr. Helmer is highly involved in the community and has a much sexier web presence than yours truly, so I’m not sure why the premier’s appearance is even necessary.

With the premier’s endorsement of a city council candidate comes the danger of provincial political priorities making an incursion into the municipal fray. And there is sometimes very little ground for the two to share. Although that’s not always the case, London-specific issues must be decided from a municipally-based perspective. It is notable that Ms. Wynne is going to be in London to address a conference of more than 1,500 municipal politicians and staffers who will be coming to London for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference beginning August 17.

This is our immediate environment and we can’t have our priorities subsumed under the macro-rubric of the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP or others.

This is not a histrionic reaction couched in observational terms – I’m merely saying that we must safeguard the distinct borders of influence if we wish to steer the ship in the right direction, which as Londoners, is our exclusive purview.

As one constituent – who wished to remain anonymous – told me in an email: “She [Kathleen Wynne] is definitely interfering in municipal politics. I’m not surprised at all.  She is no different than the slouch she replaced.”

And that’s another major problem here: the tarnished reputation of the Liberals – tarnished because of a flagrant lack of accountability and remorse. I’m speaking about Ms. Wynne’s predecessor, Dalton McGuilty, I mean McGuinty.

Whether it be the gas plant scandal, as I mentioned to the Metro paper, Ornge, eHealth and other mismanaged projects, the Liberals are sorely lacking the integrity factor.

Over the last decade, the Liberal party has become, to paraphrase the Scarface character Frank Lopez, a chazzer; that is, a pig that don’t fly straight.

– Paul

What a great program!!

Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have had a wonderful time hosting two extraordinary participants on the YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange Program – our daughter is currently in Quebec and she looks forward to sharing some of her experiences in an upcoming post.

Check out this latest podcast to hear about the wonderful life-changing experiences these two young ladies are having, working and being immersed in English while enjoying the sights and people of Ward 4 and the City of London!

My head wasn’t cut off in the original shot…anyone know how to fix that? LOL

But seriously, we have thoroughly enjoyed hosting these two fine young ladies and look forward to more of these kinds of initiatives in Ward 4.

Eloise & Celia

Eloise & Celia

The proud participants!

The proud participants!