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The Big Picture


 

To Alberta Views (one of my favorite magazines!)

I am concerned about the biased view presented in your Jan/Feb issue concerning the pipeline debate.  Bias in a writer is natural, and difficult, if not impossible, to prevent.  I have lived a long time and have learned that peoples’ realities are dependent on their position in life.  What is real to the radical environmentalist is not real to the labourer who lives and works in an oil or gas town.  A person’s viewpoint is formed by his or her background and position in life, particularly the current situation.  I believe that the closer one is to the front line, or center of the situation viewed, the more focussed and informed one is of the problems involved, and therefore of the alternatives for problem-solving.

However, the further away one is from the front line, the more able s/he is to see the big picture.

What is lacking in the pipeline debate is the big picture.  As I read the pros and cons of the pipeline divide, I learned a lot that I didn’t know before.  I rely on Alberta Views to inform me, particularly about front line concerns.  However, my jaundiced and somewhat cynical mind thinks, “They’re not addressing the big picture.”  Perhaps the writers  are too close to see the full context of the issue.  I try to see the big picture, and I have lived simply for the last six decades, hoping that our country can move forward to a more sustainable future.  I question what is presented on all sides of a debate.  I ask, “Where is this person coming from?  What parts of the big picture does s/he bring?  What parts does s/he not comprehend?  What is missing from this analysis?”

This forces me to listen, to read, to think, and to learn.  I examine my responses to see if these learned opinions will cause me to change my behaviour and attitudes.  The big picture in which climate change is embedded includes economic structures, government regulations, capitalism, how governments are funded, the Canadian constitution, treaties with indigenous nations, population growth, global financial agreements, war and violence across the world, immigration, poverty, economic inequality, diverse religions, and societal attitudes to gender roles. All these factors are part of my big picture.  There are no minimally palatable  solutions within the pipeline debates, or to changes in individual’s viewpoints, feelings, and thoughts.  Most Canadians appear to build their lives upon the central belief that the bottom line is measured in financial terms, and money matters more than anything else.  I hear others claim that our current situation is more important than historical evidence, or future dreams.

The debate is complicated, and will not be resolved within the life span of any democratically elected government.  Nor within my lifetime.  Sad.  Sadder still for my great grand children.

 

g Picture 1

Almost there!


I will continue to find a way to do this… now to find my settings, or preferences, or another page that will allow me to do what I want.

 


How do I add a new page to my website, Words By Montgomery, wherein I will write a separate blog called Ripe When Wrinkled?  I tried to add it to my profile, and it accepted 2 other sites I manage, but since I haven’t established my page and accompanying blog, it didn’t have a  URL.  I’m in a loop that seems endless.  Besides, I want it to be accessible without readers going to Words By Montgomery first.  I have tried to open a new website called Ripe When Wrinkled through blogger.com, but it hasn’t worked.  Help please!


 

I just finished reading a provocative article in the May 2017 issue of CCPA (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) The Monitor, which is called Views of Canada.  In it, an indigenous writer, Tara Williamson, writes about the current move toward reconciliation as just another attempt by white settlers to assuage their guilt at forcing assimilation on the first peoples of this land.  She writes “If reconciliation were actually about making amends from the past it would involve actions that accounted for the ongoing legacy of colonization.  We would be having conversations about land repatriation.  We would talk about dismantling structural inequities.  You would give us back our children:”.  (CCPA The Monitor, May 2017, p. 22)

Harsh words.  Hard for us settlers to hear and understand, let alone accept.  Land repatriation won’t happen.  No elected government would ever support that, and I don’t think any government anywhere (nor in recorded history) has ever repatriated land.  Armed struggle and revolution is the only way that land has been redistributed.  Yet there is truth in Williamson’s words.  So what now?

What would Jesus do?  Did he live in a land that had been stolen from its inhabitants?  Oh, yes, the Romans ruled Israel during Jesus’ lifetime.  Yet he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who is my neighbor?  What would it mean to love first nations people as we love ourselves?

How would we see land use and land ownership differently?  The early Jewish people believed they were stewards of the land, not owners.  Could we get back to that?  What would it take for our society to change from land ownership to land stewardship?  Would the banks suddenly stop collecting interest on mortgages?  Are the environmentalists who believe in land respect and stewardship in line with aboriginals?  Do aboriginals and environmentalists work together?

As I weeded my back yard I realized I would not give my land away, not to anyone, no matter what colour their skin or their needs.

“Terra Nullius” is one of the principles followed by the European settlers.  It means “land belonging to no one”.  That belief justified making the Indian tribes who lived on the land invisible, despite their initial welcome to newcomers and their principles of “sharing the land”.  The key words are “belonging to”.  Land ownership is at the heart of settler mentality and colonization.  After all, most of our European ancestors came to the new world as impoverished tenants with no resources, and they came because of the promise of free land upon which to start over.  Are we willing to look at that?  Is land ownership just another of the structural inequities that we must examine?  Could “terra nullius” also mean “land belonging to no one yet everyone upon it”?

Without a common understanding of the land and our place upon it, and without an agreement to live in love and respect for all our neighbours, reconciliation is just a word.


I bought ‘Away’ at a thrift store, because I always browse the book section when I visit a thrift store.  I had heard of Jane Urquhart so picked this up.  ‘Away’ was one of her earlier books, and it just grabbed me and kept me spellbound while I read it.  This could be because of my Irish heritage, or maybe my desire to be a better writer, or perhaps the combination of dreaminess and rugged poverty.  I thought of others who have mined their families for historical myth and fact.  Sad and brave people.  Our ancestors.  The early settlers, searching for a place to start anew and to grow their own food and be sustained in safety.  I had tears frequently.

Another of Jane Urquhart’s books was ‘The Stone Carvers’, which I read mostly on the weekend of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.  The Stone Carvers tells the story of a broken family of settlers, whose children were raised by a woodcarver father and a distressed mother.  Eventually the brother and sister move to become carvers of the Vimy memorial, but that doesn’t happen until near the end of the book.  Leading up to that is a tale of loss and pain, of love and despair.  Magical, which Urguhart is so good at displaying,

When I read her book ‘Night Stages’ I was carried away again to Ireland, but not a part that I have visited.  It also makes me want to visit Gander Nfld to see the mural at the airport.  This book was well-researched.  I thought a lot about marriage and mistresses, and sibling rivalry.  Sad.  However, one part I wrote into my journal, because she tells the legend of Oisin. She writes how Oisin thought he had been asleep for only 3 days, and he wanted to find his hunting companions.  St. Patrick met him and told him he had been asleep for three centuries, and his companions were long dead.  It had been a long time since the wars.  Oisin wept.  Patrick said, “I will instruct my monks to write down your stories and those of your kin, so they will not be lost.  for your world has been vanquished my my world, and will never come back.”  (P. 155)

This part moved me to tears, because I thought about the First Nations desire for restoration and our settler need for reconciliation.  This is sadness.  Acceptance of loss.  Sorrow.


Another book I read was historical fiction, set in China before the communist revolution.  The Russian Concubine was a great read, entertaining as well as informative.  It followed two women, a mother and daughter, and taught me about the expatriate community in one of the larger Chinese towns.  Very good, and I can’t recall who wrote it.  Based on fact, I’m sure, but the characters were cleverly developed and gripped me with the intensity of young love.  The teen-aged daughter seemed totally real, disclosing her thoughts which often were in opposition to her behavior.  She could be a brat at times.

 


I love to read, as well as write.  I’ve taken a few good fiction books to the little library box down the block.  I can’t recall who wrote “Tiger Hills”, but it was a great read.  It also taught me about narcissism, because the protagonist, Devi, infuriated me.  I looked up the definition of narcissist online the next day.  Narcissism: a distorted self-image – the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes – only listens to herself – lacks empathy – who changes the topic, gets defensive, or gets mad at you when you try to talk about difficulties you’ve been experiencing.  The desire to sustain a relationship can quickly fade.  1. unilateral listening  2. it’s all about me   3. the rules don’t apply to me  4. your concerns are really criticisms of me  and I hate being criticized  5. I’m right.  You’re wrong.  So when things are wrong between us it’s always your fault.

How well a person listens is a primary indicator of mental health or narcissism.  Disparaging or ignoring others’ input suggests narcissistic patterns.  Excessive altruism invites co-dependency and enabling behaviours.  The ability to hear both oneself and the other is bi-lateral listening.  That’s healthy.

I copies this from my journal, written on May 3rd.  I find that writing about the books I read is a great way to remember them.