A Toronto Transformation

Politics

Inspiring Women: Grace Lee Boggs & Naomi Klein

Well happy new year, pals! I hope you all had wonderful holidays with plenty of R&R. As you may recall, it always takes me a few days of getting a feel for the new year to decide what my new year’s resolutions will be, and 2015 has been no different.

Last year’s resolution to not become betrothed was such a smashing success that this year, I thought I’d try my hand at being resolute again!

As I’ve said before, I think it’s so important for people to be engaged in what’s going on in the world outside our own front doors, and if I want to be able to discuss current events and important issues, I should do a little civic homework beyond skimming the paper or tuning in to the CBC over breakfast.

To that end, I’m diving into Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. I’ve just read the first few pages, and I can tell already that this book is going to scare me, and maybe break my heart a little, but as far as I’m concerned, more of us should be frightened and heartbroken over the state of the planet and how little we’re willing to give up to save it and ourselves. But I’m hoping I’ll also find some inspiration for potential solutions. All is not lost, but we can’t be voices for change if our heads are buried in the (tar)sand(s).

Sand is very muffling.

And speaking of voices for change, last week the Moth podcast introduced me to the incredible Grace Lee Boggs. I dare you to listen to this hilarious, sharp 97-year-old (at the time of the recording) talk about her life as an unstoppable activist and her relationship with her “physically and politically attractive” husband without falling totally in love with her.  She talks about him being a “solutionary,” a visionary organizer who “proposed things people didn’t know they could do until someone told them they could do it” and about how that’s the sort of thing we need in the world today.

Immediately after l finished listening to it, I went online to order a copy of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, because I just had to know more about this fantastic philosopher and her contributions to every major social movement in the United States for the past 70 years, and in my Googling, I was sad to learn that the 99-year-old has been in hospice since September. There is a campaign to support her in her final transition as she lives out her last days. If you have a couple extra bucks to throw her way, funds are being collected here. And, if you’re in Toronto and would be interested in watching the documentary about her, let me know as I’m toying with the idea of setting up a screening of it and sending the funds her way if there’s some interest!

So I guess that’s my real New Year’s resolution: to be more like Naomi Klein and Grace Lee Boggs, to do my homework and be more of a “solutionary.”

(Also to go to bed earlier, bulk up my savings and keep my apartment tidier, you know, if there’s time)

What are your resolutions for 2015?

Being Silent

Fabulous Hanna, over at Excelsior Lady wrote a beautiful, thoughtful post last week about letting go of judgmental habits and looking inwards to our own attitudes and actions rather than trying to force that growth and change on others, (or at least that’s how I understood her post) because as she most emphatically states: “There is no point in trying to control anyone else.”

She goes on to say that this is why she doesn’t get involved in discussions or debates surrounding hot-button political issues such as gun control, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, or religion. As she explains it: “I have absolutely no right to tell anyone else what to do with their life, and the same goes for them…We cannot keep assuming what’s best for ourselves is also best for everyone else.”

It is a lovely and empathetic way to look at things and I admire her very much for recognizing and articulating that simply trying to impose our values onto others without listening to what they actually need as opposed to what we assume they need does not work.

It is for exactly this reason that I think it’s so important for people not to remain silent about these issues. Because the idea of just living and letting live is beautiful, and yes, sometimes it feels absolutely futile and/or presumptuous to try to change a mind, but at some point in reality, that will crash up against the rights and freedoms we believe in. The written-down, lawed-up rights and freedoms that are necessary for society to function.

There will come a point when something impacts us so directly, so obviously, that we won’t be able to ignore it or keep our opinions to ourselves and we’ll wish we’d lent our voices to the cause earlier.

This doesn’t mean screaming our unfounded opinions at the top of our lungs without regard for anyone else’s experience. It means educating ourselves as much as possible about the issues and the laws that shape the world around us. It means listening and participating in discussions and, possibly most importantly, asking questions to do just this. It means carefully considering the opposing viewpoint. It means seeking compromise.

And yes, sometimes it means smiling, agreeing to disagree and moving on.

I think many of us are afraid to add to the noise surrounding these issues,  to chime in or make our voices heard if we aren’t sure we have all of the information or are saying quite the right thing, but sometimes saying the wrong thing and having someone explain why it’s wrong or just explain a different perspective to you is the best way to learn more about an issue.

It’s not someone else’s job to make decisions for us and build the society we want. It’s up to us to demand and make the changes necessary to build that society. The one where, as much as possible, people can live and let live.

But we won’t get there if we’re afraid of discussion.

And we won’t change the status quo by being silent.

Dear Rob Ford,

Dear Rob Ford,

Being the recipient of a guilty verdict is never fun. It’s embarrassing to be removed from office for conflict of interest, although frankly, I don’t really see how it’s less embarrassing than your defence of not bothering to learn the rules that govern council either before or even after becoming our mayor.

It does lend fuel to my theory that, in fact, you hate being the mayor of Toronto. So here’s what I propose: Instead of trying to battering-ram your way back into office? Stop. Don’t appeal. Just look at this as a grand opportunity to stop being the mayor of a city whose citizens you so clearly despise.

Just think of the benefits:

No one would be outraged when you refused to participate in Pride

When you make useless proclamations about ridding the city of graffiti for good, no one will hear you and immediately graffiti your face all over town.

You won’t have to worry about being accosted by terrifying comedy show hosts warrior princesses.

You wouldn’t be too busy to keep your eyes on the road while driving.

Imagine it.

You could relax, throw on a comfy jersy, maybe take up yoga and let the constant expression of confused rage on your face melt away and do the thing you clearly love more than running the city: coach football.

Although you will have to come up with a new way to transport the team.

Insert “Gravy Train” joke here.

My Sunday Spent Being an Extra

empty mojito glasses and pitchers

In my past life, Sunday afternoon  could typically find me curled up on the couch with a crochet hook beside a pile of 90s sitcom DVDs. That is, if I wasn’t on assignment covering, say, a scarecrow festival.

Heady stuff, I know.

These days Sundays are a little less predictable.

This particular Sunday, for example, some girlfriends and I had just settled in for a cozy afternoon of boardgames, sweaters and cookies, when one of the ladies got a call from an actor friend asking if we’d mind being extras in a short film bar scene.

He promised free drinks.

One closetful of clothes strewn across my bed and about a stick of eyeliner later, four of us snap, crackle, stomped our stilletos through the autumn leaves to a basement bar downtown.

Turns out, being an extra? Not so glamourous.

Despite the excellent backstory I came up with for myself involving my character and a terribly flirty off-camera coffee table, there was something decidedly unnatural about dancing on cue with a roomful of strangers while pretending to drink alcohol.

Yeah. Turns out the free drinks were club soda and cranberry juice.

Fortunately, we brought our own wine.

What can I say? We’re method.

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