Friday, December 31, 2010

Out With the Old? same old same old more like it.....

In less than two weeks into the new year will be the one year anniversary of the devastating Haiti earthquake and in this last year what has been accomplished?

There are warehouses full of relief gear such as portable water purification units, clothing, tools and all sorts of other imaginable things that if let out to the agencies to distribute and organize would be wonderful assets for short and long-term recovery.

That there is right now a huge cholera outbreak and still hundreds of thousands almost a year later living in tents makes me wonder where the fuck are the brains of those who run this corrupt little country? Are your needs to be rich that great that you would rather see your countrymen and women and children literally live in shit so you can drive a Benz 4X4? Is your need for baksheesh that fucking great??? How much more do you need?

I am so disgusted with the state of some countries, with those MEN, yes men, who run these countries.....running them into the ground more like it. Where the hell is the UN stepping in to say enough is enough - open up the warehouses, stop trying to extort the aid agencies and please allow them to do their work? Yeah, that is right, the UN is male-dominated too.....hmmmm....sorry boys but I call bullshit on your entitlement and diplomatic immunity.

Haiti was the first place to divest itself of black slavery (1791-1804) but what has happened since emancipation? Haiti has had since then to unfuck itself so why now, almost one year after a disaster of unimaginable proportions is a status quo allowed to deprive its citizens of the very basic needs of life? Why are these bandits allowed to continue the legacy of the "docs"? I am sickened.

I think back to disasters past that I have covered as a reporter, those disasters that I also in part experienced and the one thing, the one truism that was always painfully there was that unlike those whose suffering I was covering, I could leave their area, go back to a comfort zone and feel somewhat normal.

But do I? Feel normal? What the hell is that? As long as I am painfully aware, months and years later as to what has not been accomplished? Yes, I will remain angry. When I see how simple it is to rectify or rather help and not for huge amounts of money - shit - it makes me bristle to no end. If some folks took the time to step out of their comfort zones and instead of sending donations just instead traveled to some of these would be so many voices out there saying hey wtf is going on?

I heard the excuses this past year with regards to sending assistance to Pakistan in the wake of the most devastating floods - excuses that yes, in some ways made sense regarding corruption in that country and the possibility of funds trickling into the hands of the Taleban but where do we as those who want to help, genuinely help, where do we make a stand and how do we do as such?

Or better yet, who are we to judge? Charity, assistance - whatever......does it have to have benchmarks? Rules? Purposes?

Aid is is about time that those of us who can provide it speak up and force so-called governments to hear our voices and accept our manpower....set aside egos for crying out loud. This world, this precious world - I wonder on this new year's eve just what it holds.....for me - perhaps a semblance of promise for so as long as some folks read these words and maybe put into action in their own lives a proactive sense of caring and doing, then maybe there is hope in this world.

Hey, one street, one hood, one city, one province, one country, one continent and one world - yes.....Feliz Ano Nuevo.

Addition made on January 3rd - here is a link to a disturbing article run in November of 2010 regarding the horrible state in Haiti, focusing on the high instance of rape.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black Water - Thin Ice

There is a road in my neighbourhood that is not really a road but rather part of an original dike established after the great flood of 1950, a massive thrusting of the mighty Red River that engulfed an entire city, humbling its citizenry, reminding them that there are some forces that are far more powerful than those of mankind.

Water is a force unto itself, a powerful element and one that not only are we made of but one that we need to survive for without it we dry up and eventually perish. Over the millennia we have worshipped it and tried to tame it but in the end the force of water always wins.

And so it was last Saturday that the Red claimed a life. Two brothers who had just moved to the area were off on an adventure as only excited children can embark upon. The ice was not yet thick enough and they both fell into the icy, treacherous waters.

A young man happened to be driving by and was able to rescue the older brother but it was little 6 year-old Nathaniel who would be lost.

The Police Dive Team was deployed the next day in what would now be a recovery mission, a heart-breaking one indeed that due to zero visibility would yield no results. Imagine being in a black, cold space feeling your way around branches and other detritus, your only "security" being a line you are tethered are encased in a dry suit, with two heavy tanks are literally flying blind and all the time wondering just what it is you may be feeling in those cold, swirling currents. On average a diver will spend between 45 minutes to an hour in this black, icy void.

By Wednesday on the eighth of December the search was called off as conditions were deemed too dangerous to continue the operation.

The river at present is running higher than normal so it is a guessing game right now as to where little Nathaniel may be. The curves of the river and the dense brush that is underwater both serve as two forces unto themselves. He could be trapped in the underbrush or by the vagaries of the currents he could be further down river. Optimists want to believe that he will be found not too far from where he fell through the ice.

This is where we come to today's events......another team is continuing the search under the auspices of the Manitoba Search and Rescue and Canadian Amphibious Search Team - Central Region. The mood at the staging area is sombre, the temperature with the wind chill a miserable -35 Centigrade. Warming tents have been set up and the community of Point Douglas has rallied around to feed and assist in whatever small ways possible these dedicated volunteers who are putting their lives at risk to bring closure to a grieving family.

I walked down that lonely dike road last night because I had to see for myself where it had happened. I could see the flashing lights under the ice that the police team had put into place last weekend......blinking away randomly they were eerie given that this is the season of festive lights. The wreath with the Teddy Bear placed lovingly near one of the bridge buttresses, a lone sentinel of grief, was a stark reminder of what had recently taken place.

As I trudged home, legs and hands going numb from the biting cold I could not help but think of the fragile little boy, his body suspended somewhere in that black void.

I was not going to go to the staging area today but I changed my mind as that old siren call of the journalist was too strong to resist but there was another reason, several actually, that drove me to make that frigid journey today for you see I am a trained rescue diver and divemaster, albeit one who works not in cold water but who has worked in recovery in the tropics and yes, I have been through a recovery operation.

One can watch on the telly all they like about operations involving danger and the recovery of bodies and other various human tragedies and think to themselves "what is the big deal?" Yes, there are folks like that out there who by virtue of never having had to deal with this sort of scenario really have little clue as to the emotions going through the mind of one who has to set aside sadness in order to do a job that is trying under any circumstances.

That this is the recovery (hopefully) of a child makes it all the more difficult to take. I do not envy any of these individuals today and I wish them all the best in their sorrowful task but the pragmatist in me knows that no matter how well-coordinated this effort is, in the end it will be the River and several mitigating factors that will determine the final outcome.

All one can do is hope for the best.

Link to an updated article posted January 30th, 2011

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fear is the Mind-Killer

I have been grappling with for quite sometime now several notions as to why our society seems to be on this crazy downwards trajectory. For the longest time I had been unable to pinpoint an exact reason and then I realized that one cannot look at a perceived collective mania as emanating from an absolute but rather as something that has been festering for decades. And I speak not just to the political lunacy but of an overall malaise that I have observed in my last year or so back in the land of the big PX. (military store reference where being back home means you can have everything you have missed materially or otherwise)

One thing is for certain however and I believe that this is true for just about anything we can encounter in life and that is the existence of the monster that is called "fear". All fear needs to sustain itself is more fear and in these days of uncertainty and rapid changes the monster called FEAR has an unlimited food supply and there seems to be no shortage of individuals willing to exploit this situation for their own gains, whatever they may be although I could hazard some damned good guesses as to what kinds of gains could be made.

I was cooking the other night at a local eatery, a "live" production of sorts and invariably after rambling on about some of my foreign food experiences, and yes a few had gathered around to hear my tales, one woman expressed the one word that makes me bristle when talking about travel to Mexico (or almost anywhere these days) and that is "safety". I knew that a frown crossed my face, perhaps too quickly, so I immediately apologized to her after uttering the phrase "what a bunch of shit!". She asked me why and I launched into a my diatribe regarding the fear-mongering of late that to me serves to discourage folks from leaving their immediate environs. After adding some sidebars as to other experiences in places like Bosnia, Kosovo and Guatemala she looked at me and said innocently, but seriously, "is there anything you are scared of?" Without hesitation I said "BEING POOR, truly poor but let us not discount being in constant FEAR for it is fear that I find so limiting and crippling these days and with so many folks, including you, in that fear is stopping you from engaging in an adventure that you so obviously have a desire to pursue."

Yes, that is more or less what I said.....but there are other fears too that can be just as insidious in their own right and these are unfounded fears based on lack of communication, low self-esteem - of being left out perhaps, misperceptions - many of these can be drawn to that one notion of EGO.....I ain't no buddhist philosopher but I do know that ego has been the downfall of many and yes, including myself at times.....having confidence is one thing but not recognizing that sometimes one has to shut up and just listen? Wow, that can be hard at times especially if one is fearful of the great whatevers being generated by some who should perhaps in their own right should shut up as well as they know not of what they speak.

Some games are not mere games - not when it comes to the often-times fragile human psyche. And these days there are just too many games being played and it leads me to ask the one question of why and more so what are the gains to be had in terms of generating and fostering a culture of fear?

Conspiracy Theory buffs would say that the notion of "control" is at the front and centre regarding a fear-based culture. Keep folks scared enough, keep them within sight toiling away and buying more crap for their homes that they seem reticent to leave and you have a willing set of pawns who will buy into whatever notions are being peddled by the power-brokers. Perhaps the present political climate in the United States would be a great example of this theory - connect the dots right? All connected dots lead to key individuals and groups that while they may look disparate on the outside philosophically there seems to be one agenda and that is one of unbridled profiteering. I believe the term these days is New World Order.

The cynic in me would rather not address or give credence to conspiracy theories but rather speak to other aspects of the fear malaise.

We are a superstitious bunch regardless as to how progressive we may believe ourselves to be compared to say certain tribal malcontents who still insist on murdering women because they are witches. And when I say "tribal" I do not mean the obvious inferences for what are we humans but a fractious bunch of "tribes" fighting over turf, assets and power. We, in our pampered and entitled society, we are a bunch of scared little children who would rather have our agenda for living dictated to us rather than us shaping an overall worldwide agenda that at the outset may seem daunting but if for just one moment there was an event or perhaps in a holistic way, a collective will to foment positive change - wow, that could be something incredible.

So there it is, my confession of unbridled idealism......yes, child-like sometimes on my part these desires to see "progress", foment dialogue open to all, eradicate suffering that should not exist in a modern world like the suffering that comes with not having clean water or a reliable food goes back to my initial expression of "real" poverty being my primary fear for I have witnessed it but by the same token I have seen far more dignity, honesty and spirit in the eyes of those whose daily struggles are usually swept aside by those whose fears do not even come close to being "real" that is a loaded statement to be sure but in the greater scheme of life as it exists on this planet what some in our privileged society deem as being worthy of being fearful of - sorry, but I am wont to yell out SNAP OUT OF IT!!! You/we have it good.

Or do we?

We live in a society where anxiety disorders are part and parcel of an active, worry-filled life. We worry about everything even if some of those worries will most likely never affect us. We are told, spoon-fed even, what to fear and that the great boogie-Man is lurking around every corner when in reality we are our own boogie-men......yes, we are our own worst "enemy" so to speak.

Fear is the mind-killer because unbridled, unjustified fear ( how can one justify a particular fear construct if they have never really experienced it?) stymies or retards those very thought processes that are key to problem-solving, discovering, exploring and yes, even living fully as not just a citizen of one microcosm but a citizen of this planet, the only one thus far that we can live on.

This is why above all else I truly fear the notion of such for it limits me from perhaps achieving great things, wonderful things and in turn being able to share those successes and foster intellectual and community growth.

Stop feeding the monsters people......they are more than sated, they are engorged and ready to implode.....