Where the Children Sleep

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Over here, the children sleep,

In warm and comfy beds,

They dream of games and food and joy,

And peace is in their heads.

Will they see their friends at school?

Will they see a parade?

Will their parents yell today?

Or will their anger fade?

Over there, the children sleep,

On ground filthy and cold,

Will they have the same tomorrow?

Perchance will they be sold?

Will they have friends remaining,

When the bombs somehow bring peace?

Will their parents hold them tight,

or dying will they cease?

Yet we continue on our way,

Dividing here and there,

With more than enough to go around,

And make it ‘us’, everywhere.

Around the world, the children sleep,

The darkening night away,

And do they dream in that deep sleep,

About a better day?

 

-Brad OH Inc.

Advertisements

Rhapsody

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Civil discourse these days has become pretty uncommon. You’ll rarely hear a debate that doesn’t soon slip into name calling and paranoid wailing.

It’s both sides.

Everyone is simply too afraid. Afraid of everything, yet somehow afraid of all the wrong things.

That fear is the problem, and it stunts any level of intelligent discourse by wheeling us into knee-jerk reactions and assumptions—making our conclusions for us. When angry and afraid, you go with what you know: Red or Blue.

That’s the thing about political thought however, it never quite fits into a single definition. Try as they may, there is no binary option that can capture the nuance of human belief—of our values.

Values, now there’s a word that’s thrown around a lot in politics, yet never really utilized the way it should be. Values, after all, are what it really comes down to. The truth of it is, I strongly suspect that a measure of fundamental values would show a far less divided picture of humanity than a typical measure of political preferences.

Behind the rhetoric and uproar, there do remain basic rights and wrongs, and obvious decencies which I still believe the vast majority of people can agree upon. These are values which go beyond culture and language.

They are innate to us, and are denied only by the most wretched of deviants, or those desperate souls who by poverty or avarice have found themselves denied entirely of their moral compass.

What would happen then, if people were to put aside their labels and colours—the brand names of political philosophy—and turn away from their hot button issues to discuss instead the basic values they hold dear.

No loose terms like freedom here. Tell me what that really means.

What do you love?

What do you fear?

What do you hate?

Do you realize the last answer is most likely the twisted spawn of some unknowable combination of the former two?

Or that the second closely follows the first?

Really though. If the world at large could manage such civil debate for a while—I mean really keep it going, get deep, and avoid falling back into the ‘yeah but’ type thinking which somehow convinces us that the forces of reality must in the end overwhelm the deepest of truths—what might be the result?

And what would you have to say?

-Brad OH Inc.

On Misanthropy

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Misanthropy

[mis-an-thruh-pee, miz-]

noun

  1. hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind.

I’ve been accused of it before, and I can certainly see where the assumption might stem from. After all, I spend a fair bit of my time on this blog ranting about the failings, shortcomings, and general depravity that are the human condition.

In truth though, I really don’t consider myself a misanthrope. I’m seldom shocked by people’s endless travesties, nor occasional decencies. But the distrust part is probably fair—the endless flow of disappointment and decay witnessed on any social media or news channel should be enough to ingrain a deep-seated distrust of people in anyone paying even an iota of attention.

It’s the distrust though, and not the hatred or dislike, which serves as the base of any misanthropy I might exhibit. Maybe disappointment is the more accurate word. To me, the categories seem to border on mutually exclusive.

To hate or even dislike humankind, one would expect little of them, and demand even less. For me, it is the opposite.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I find myself harbouring an unshakeable love and optimism for humanity. I believe in our potential whole-heartedly, and am in awe to imagine the heights of virtue, justice, and wonder we could aspire to if only unburdened of our pride and avarice.

It is this hope for and faith in our potential which keeps my outlook on the dark side—my gestating joy clouded constantly by the disappointment of reality and our inability to rise above the pettiness and fearful indecency which has mired us in the same patterns our entire existence.

This dismal divide has been the guiding force behind most of my writing, and continues to be the driving factor behind many of my choices and actions. It is a subtle push, a shivering hope, that we may eventually see the day that humankind ceases to fear, and stands no longer in dereliction of our innate potential, but rise instead to be the glorious, luminous beings that are and always have been our truest nature.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Brad OH Inc. Super-Challenge!

Today, I’m being lazy. Don’t judge me. Lazy, and, I suppose, there’s a lingering sense of deja-vu. I find myself wondering what to say, in a time when it’s all been said, and nothing has changed.

So instead, I leave it to my intrepid readers to do the math, connect the dots…all that jazz.

Below, I’ve re-shared two former articles. It is up to you, the reader, to find what dreadfully ubiquitous themes might tie them together.

The Polarizing Debate Around Gun Control

Nobody wants to get shot. That, at the least, is something I believe we can all agree on. Wanting other people to get shot might be a different story, but let’s take what we can get.

There is virtually no one out there eager to catch a bullet when walking down the street—or to see their loved ones do so.

If we can agree on something as simple as that, one might assume we could find some basic consensus on how to handle guns in contemporary society.

Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Fortunately, we here at Brad OH Inc. are an ambitious and defiantly tenacious lot, and today, that’s just what we intend to do. So sit down, strap in, and fasten up your bullet proof vests, because today, we are getting to the heart of the debate over gun control!

The most basic breakdown of opinions here are the classic and time-tested notions of right, and left. The conservatives argue in favour of free access to guns—usually on account of the good ole’ second amendment. The liberals, meanwhile, tend to go the other way—as they so often do—pushing for tighter gun control. This, presumably, goes back to the notion of not wanting to get shot.

But beyond this, things begin to get a little bit murky. I believe however, that if we truly break this whole debacle down to its very essence, we might best steal a line from ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (Source) in saying that ‘what we’ve got here is, failure to communicate’.

I want to introduce a new theme here, because I think it affords us a very important tool with which to explore this debate. I want to talk about the concept of ‘Polarity Management’.

‘Polarity Management’ (Source) describes a process by which we can more effectively analyze all sides of a debate—ideally finding a bit of common ground. In essence, ‘Polarity Management’ is a means of viewing typically entrenched positions which usually go nowhere—such as this one. ‘Polarities’ refer to the opposite ends of a single, connected issue. The key here is that one affects the other directly—it is not simply one problem to solve, but an imperative interaction that must be understood. Polarities are related, and persist over time—thus they must be managed, not solved.

The problem is that we tend to treat these as ‘either/ or’ scenarios—closing off debate, and freezing out both understanding and context. But dynamic issues such as these seldom reflect one single value or quality—no simple right or wrong. They are the result of multiple, interrelated factors.

An easy example of this is rain and sunshine. You may prefer either one, but without the other, your preference becomes a dreadful imposition. Too much sun leads to droughts, and too much rain leads to flooding. You need a balance, and that is why in any issue regarding polarities, we need communication, and then compromise.

Once we’ve identified an issue as a polarity, we can proceed to explore the balance between each side—the positives brought by each end, and the negatives they bring as well. This allows us to better understand how the opposing views of the issue interact with one another, and ideally find the crucial balance necessary to manage them.

I admit already—taking this approach to gun control with any shred of optimism is a tall order, but what the hell…let’s give it a go. To strip it all down to parts, the debate around the issue of gun control essentially amounts to two wildly opposing views:

1) The right to bear arms is protected by the second amendment, and must not be infringed in any way.

2) Gun ownership presents a significant risk to the public good, and should be curtailed, if not eliminated.

Now certainly, there are few who would fully align themselves with either extreme viewpoint, yet those are the sides as purported, so let’s consider them in turn.

Much of the argument from the (typically) Conservative crowd favoring access to firearms makes an appeal to safety—believing that arming ourselves for self-defence is an inalienable right, and that we must have the ability to purchase and carry guns in order to protects ourselves from others which might do so surreptitiously. This certainly makes some sense. After all, there is plenty of merit to the old adage against bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Of course, the better solution is to avoid entering a gun fight, or being anywhere in its vicinity. This isn’t always easy, and may even be a tad unrealistic depending on where you happen to be located. Further, the argument is often made that ‘if we make guns illegal, then only criminals will have guns’. This is a self-serving tautology to be sure, but it does a fair job of illustrating the impotent terror which might come from being left defenseless in a world full of armed lunatics.

On the other end of the spectrum, we find the (typically) Liberal crowd, who heavily favor significant controls on gun ownership, including but not limited to restrictions, background checks, and waiting periods.

This side argues that due to the potential of guns to inflict serious injury and death, access to them must be well regulated in order to avoid such weapons falling into the hands of those who would use them either unjustly, or in ignorance.

Much of the force from the ‘Right to Bear Arms’ side tends to focus on an appeal to the second amendment (Link), which guarantees to citizens that: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The ‘right to bear arms’ was initially created as an assurance that the people of America were free and able to raise a standing militia to oppose the government should it become oppressive. This is understandably justified in light of the fact that it’s exactly how America became a nation in the American Revolution against the British. But taking up arms against the government now is—sadly perhaps—a foolish and ignoble idea. The Second Amendment notion of armed war against the government is not only invalid, it’s infantile. It’s also the legal equivalent of demanding the ‘Terrorism’ trump card.

Finally, it must be noted here that even within that sacred amendment, the qualifier ‘Well-regulated’ managed to make the cut. Never was there any suggestion of handing out missile-launchers to every civilian. Handguns for self-defence may be deemed reasonable, but if you are equipped to fight an army, you are more likely to start a war.

At this point, we can see some weakness in the notion of free access to guns for all. There are few who would support selling firearms to people on a terrorist watch list, or violent offenders—and those few should certainly be ashamed of their stupidity.

But accepting some control hardly means encouraging complete control, and it may certainly be argued that the more difficult it is for citizens to legally access firearms for self-defence, the more prone they are to victimization by those who will harbor no such qualms. Further, it is a defensible case to argue that unless a restriction is demonstrably proven to be in the best interests of the citizens, then a government has no right whatsoever to enforce it. While I expect the vast majority of people who would favor that position would have a hard time defending it if pressed, it’s something to consider.

So where does this leave us? We can see strengths and weaknesses on both sides: With no control, we are inundated with guns and seduced by their increasing fetishization. With complete gun control however, we are cast into perceived subservience, and potentially left helpless against criminals who continue to arm themselves.

So here we are. Gun deaths are increasing, distrust of police/ government is growing, and America continues to have a depressing hang-up about guns being inherent to their self-worth (Source). Further, we’ve now seen that the extreme polarity of either side could potentially prove disastrous. Because we can now better understand the best intentions (public safety) of both sides, as well as the inherent risks of each extreme (uncontrolled carnage), we may find that we are better equipped to find a position of compromise.

We need balance and informed decision making. Both opinions have valuable insights—but we must actively work towards a greater and more comprehensive understanding of the issue if we ever hope to manage it. People, left with no hope, will always find ways to be violent and get what they need. We must give them hope for an achievable way if we intend to avoid strife. In the end, it is education and empathy, not arms, which shall assure the future safety of our citizenry.

-Brad OH Inc.

On the Fear of Big Government

Government infringement into personal life is a serious concern to a great many people—and the stripping away of civil liberties such as privacy is a trend which continues to show the detached relationship government has with its citizenry. With such gross violations becoming a regular trend, it’s no wonder we still toil under the outdated notion that ‘big government’ needs to be held in check.

But make no mistake about it people, this is no reason to hate big government; just bad government. In the 1980 presidential race against Jimmy Carter, it was the infernal idiot Ronald Reagan who promised to “get government off our backs” (Source). After taking office, Reagan followed through dutifully on his promise—shattering the government’s role in protecting families, citizens, and the environment. Business, of course, flourished.

This push by Reagan to reduce the size of government was founded on claims of a fictional ‘welfare queen’ getting rich off the tax dollars of the electorate, and the general claim—as off-putting now as it was then for a man seeking public office—that “Government is not a solution to our problem. Government is the problem” (Source).

This toxic line of thinking heralded in an era of anti-government dialogue which effectively allowed rights to shrink away as powers were handed off to the corporations. Social programs were cut, and people suffered. The fictional ‘welfare queens’ theorized by Reagan have been fully realized in the decades since, as corporations are given increasingly large portions of the communal pie: receiving corporate tax breaks, bailouts in place of bankruptcy, and taking eagerly the keys of governance from the discredited and disenfranchised democratic system.

Ever since then, people have been treating government like it’s a dirty word—perhaps because it so often acts like several of them. But fear of government is irrationally motivated, and exercised for all the wrong reasons. It serves only to allow government abuse of citizens. People must remember that proper governance is there to protect them, from exactly the sort of threats which corporate governance has become. We should not fear government; we should utilize and control it to our own empowerment.

Of course, the government has to remember this as well.

The very notion of democratic government is anchored firmly in the concept of representation for the people—and this includes all people, not merely the drivers of the economy. In this era of ever growing population and incredible scientific potential, the ‘free’ market has proven itself a failed notion. But let’s hope that from this mistake we’ve learned at least not to store the meat with the dogs for safe keeping.

It’s the government’s job to put these lessons into action: protecting and promoting the healthy growth of society. This is the primary and most fundamental function of any government which has a legitimate claim to authority, but the vilification of big government started with Reagan has led to a very different objective for government institutions.

By reducing government programs, the general citizenry has been left out of the conversation, while political control has been corralled into the realm of economic growth. The corporations which now run the economic and social systems are malignant automatons. For all the time humans have piddled away fearing robots or advanced and indignant AI’s, they miss that they have not only created such in the corporate human, but also given it the keys to the driver’s seat of our society.

If such a threat came from metal clad robots or from outer space, the entire world would be clamoring for government intervention. Instead, it is claimed to be ‘capitalist’ and a product of the ‘free’ market, and the electorate has bowed their heads in well-rehearsed reverence for their reckless and self-serving overlords.

The point cannot be stressed enough: it is the function of government–elected by and representative of the people—to reign in these brutes, to protect natural resources that rightly belong to all, and to ensure that whether or not commercial entities deign to send our jobs overseas (leaving all save the CEO’s destitute), the people of this and all other countries are provided for from the resulting bounty.

These are the needs of a society, and the job of the government. To fear such is the sole result of misinformed and malicious propaganda. What we have now is not a democratic government, and this needs to change. If we are to find our way out of these difficult times, it must be faith in government—true government—which is the light on our path. This is our salvation—for to fear all government is to leave ourselves alone in the dark, looking to the wolves for solace.

-Brad OH Inc.

Apostrophe

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Time and distance on your side,

More than you’ll ever know,

As memories release their grasp,

 New hopes begin to grow,

Yet truth presides, over your mind,

No matter where you go,

And is that shame, upon your brow,

To ever say it’s so?

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Brian Clark

Today, the Edmonton Writers’ Group will be in the Presentation Room of the Enterprise Square EPL Branch in downtown Edmonton from 1:00pm-5:00pm, selling and singing copies of our new anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve local authors, unified only by the common theme of their current hometown, Edmonton, AB. Ranging from simple domestic interactions, to futuristic sci-fi adventures, to deep psychological introspections, these stories take a look at Edmonton from viewpoints as different as the writers themselves. This anthology is a love letter to our hometown, and demonstrates our incredibly varied approaches to literature, and to life.

As a gesture of our gratitude, all proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library, which has been gracious enough to host our humble group at the Capilano branch for over a decade and a half.

Click the Image to buy ‘Edmonton: Unbound

To celebrate this release, we have an interview with one of the ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ authors, Brian Clark.

  1. What was your initial inspiration for the stories you included in this anthology, and how have they changed from their original conception?

Brian Clark: ‘Hunting Harley’ started almost 4 years ago with the words “dart player chic” I found scrolling through my file of ideas, tips & phrases that resonate.  It seemed to me that the phrase belonged in a romance so I started to write the “Jean” character as a girlfriend for the dart player guy.  The story evolved into a sort of soap opera structure weaving a romance, a crime and motor cycle workshop.  I floated the piece before members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group and it became clear that the story was too busy to be fully coherent.  The result was that I dropped the romance element, brought forward the crime story and used the workshop as a location where the characters interacted.

‘The Letter’ was written specifically for the Edmonton: Unbound project and came to me pretty much fully formed.  I had used the main character before in an unpublished story so she seemed like an old friend.  The full first draft was written in a single 75 minute sitting.  In a subsequent session, I added a couple of paragraphs near the middle and worked on the last paragraph.  A third outing added the historical research and all I had left to do was the line editing.

  1. What events in your background led you to want to write?

Brian Clark: Early in my working life, I wrote letters for a living but those were always under the tight editorial control of others.  When I retired, I developed an urge to say what I think.  I wrote for the newsletter of a non profit organisation for a while, but again the editorial guidelines felt restricting.  Thus I ended up writing fluffy fiction with, I hope, an underbelly of gentle social comment.

  1. What difficulties did you encounter while writing these stories, other than finding the time to do it?

Brian Clark: This is an easy question.  By a long way, my biggest challenge is always getting my work into the format needed by the editors.  On a couple of occasions, I was thankful for the computer assistance of my daughter.

  1. How are your life experiences / career / hobbies reflected in your stories?

Brian Clark: Being older, the people in my life, my friends tend to also be seniors so I think that contributes to my attraction to mature characters.  All my adult life I have listened to Bruce Springsteen and I love the way he writes tight characters and stories and leaves the listener to draw their own conclusions about the underlying social conditions.  I aspire to do something similar.

After my workout at the YMCA, I usually hang out in the locker room and drink coffee with other retirees.  I enjoy hearing their stories about their lives and frustrations.  I am sure some those help provide colour to my stories.

  1. Are you a writer who plots out all the different angles, or are you more free-form. Why do you think you write this way?

Brian Clark: I am fairly disciplined when writing characters and I am becoming more so when describing settings.  With plots, I take a much more free-form approach.  I have around a dozen part written stories and perhaps as many as a hundred orphan paragraphs that may or may not end up in a finished work.

Why I write this way is a more difficult question.  When I was a child I wanted to eat my dessert first because that’s what I enjoyed the most.  With writing, I am able to indulge myself and write the bits that come easily to me.  I take the view that every first draft, every fragment is perfect because its only purpose is to exist.  Once I have something written down I can and do change it or ignore it.

Brian Clark’s stories, “The Letter” and “Hunting Harley”, are featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

-Brad OH Inc.

Playing by the Rules

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Tennessee Williams once wrote, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

It’s a terrible approach, and apt to get you killed.

Of course, there’s another thematically similar, yet significantly different expression from an unknown source, “You’ll end up really disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them.”

Pretty disparate points of view, to be sure.

Why is this?

It presents a strange conundrum. People, in general, try to be good. This can certainly be disputed, and there’s no doubt there does exist some number of people who are simply, downright rotten. But we can all agree on our strong dislike of those jerks, so let’s not hang ourselves on that point.

As a very broad rule, I believe it can be argued that people tend to try their best to play by the rules. For the most part, we do try. We try to be honest, to do the right thing, and to stick within the general moral boundaries of the society in which we reside.

That brings us to the topic of these so-called ‘rules’, and just where we tend to go wrong. In its simplest form, the problem is that the rules are agreed upon by all, but interpreted by the individual. Each in his or her own heart decides in the moment what is right. Therein lies the issue.

All red tape and political shenanigans aside, it’s not the most difficult task to agree on a simple set of principles behind which almost all of us may stand. The most fundamental values are very similar on every side. No one really wants innocent people to get shot, or children to be hurt, or women to be victimized, or minorities to be afraid. Admittedly, this is a broad generalization, and in this wide world there is no shortage of morally bankrupt imbeciles, but once again, we’re talking about the general population here—not those creeps.

I do believe you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would object to any of the simple values above, nor to a litany of others we could easily agree on.

The problem then, becomes how we define these ‘rules’ in the moment, and how we react to prevent these things from happening.

When it comes to immediate interpretation, it’s an easy thing to draw exceptions based on personal mindsets, current context, or any other number of feeble yet potent personal justifications. This is wrong in every scenario. It is by drawing these distinctions for our own actions that the entire social contract begins to break down. If we cannot expect decency from our neighbour, even the best of us will falter in our application of decency ourselves.

The other side of the coin, then, is how we react to prevent these universally defined tragedies. This bit is a little more complex, and happens to be where we find the concept of political polarities. More often than not, our reactions or views on prevention are defined not by logic, values, or virtue, but rather by who we surround ourselves with, and what we are told.

Let’s use the simple example of not wanting innocent people to get shot. No matter if you are on the far right or the far left of the political spectrum, the prevention of needless death is a fairly ubiquitous desire. The response is something entirely different.

To use somewhat hyperbolic examples for the purposes of this argument, we will say that the left tends to prefer the elimination of guns, while the right prefers their propagation—arguing that the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Both are reasonable interpretations on the surface, and both are driven by the shared value of not wanting innocent people to get hurt. That last bit is essential here.

The same—or a very similar—analogy can be made for gender neutral washrooms, minimum wages, and most any other issue being dragged across the fetid political landscape at any given moment.

Is there any solution to this madness? That’s a far more complex question. When it comes to the universal interpretation of rules, I suppose that’s where lawyers come in. If they are up to the job, then the courts can handle those who think they’re an exception.

What about the reactions? Well, as established, this tends to be a matter of what we’ve learned. If we are taught that guns protect, we’ll favour increasing ownership. If we’re taught that guns kill, we’ll tend to favour prohibition, or something in that vein. Neither approach is unreasonable on the surface, but both require a great deal more investigation, testing, and above all—knowledge.

That’s what it all comes down to in the end, as it always does. Education, and access to accurate, replicable data is one of the—if not the absolute—keys to finding a clear and actionable way to fixing the dreadful state of our society.

Sadly, in a world where science and fact are as viciously disputed as all the rest of these issues, we find ourselves in dire straights indeed.

To teach the wrong thing, or anything motivated by a pre-defined political agenda, is propaganda. And, considering where we get the vast majority of our information, this tends to be the case more often than not. Access to legitimate, unbiased information is among the only changes that can set us back on the right course. The final question then, becomes how?

That, unfortunately, is a question above my station. So, I turn it over to you the readers—what do you think? Is education truly the key to solving these problems? Is unbiased education still possible at this point? If not, what other options do we have? Weigh in by posting your comment below!

-Brad OH Inc.