Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beware of 2012

Still life 03

“The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012, which is said to be the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar. Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae related to this date have been proposed.”  (

We’re beginning to see the heating up of fervour—and fear—regarding a new time for an apocalyptic catastrophe for planet earth and its people. We always have to have one, don’t we? Y2K—although not astrologically based—kept the world on tenterhooks for a few years. Christian literalism has always been tempted by the lure of numerology to find predictive meaning in the unexplained co-incidents that are inevitable and can be interpreted a thousand different ways. Similarly, astronomical convergences lend themselves to prophetic interpretations: the exact moment when the moon covers the sun is interpreted as being a more significant moment than others, as are solstices and equinoxes.

To see how we’re being prepared to be afraid from now until December 21, 2012 (winter solstice meets 12/12), click on Here you’ll find the Mayan Calendar theories that form the basis for this new apocalyptic disaster schedule. Here you’ll read how Sweden, Norway, Russia and the George Bush family are preparing to survive the holocaust. Here you’ll see amateur science bend reality to fit fantasy. Why anyone but a fool would want to survive for a month longer than others after the earth has been decimated is not addressed, however.

In my childhood, end-times interpretation was used to frighten me into making what my elders considered to be the right choices . . . "get born again so you don’t get caught out when the rapture happens, which could well be tomorrow." These recent predictions of “the end” don’t seem to have a discernable purpose however, unless it is to get me to spend a lot of money to secure myself and my family by building a bunker and stocking it with a year’s supply of food. We shouldn’t easily dismiss the possibility that end-times predictions astrologically based are economically driven.

The future cannot be predicted, just as the past cannot be erased. Futures can be shaped however, at least in the microcosmic sense, by people who have their wits about them and are focused on the realities around them. End time predictions blunt the application of our potential by telling us, basically, that we live under the cloud of predistination, fatalism and inevitability.

In short, I predict catastrophes aplenty in 2012. But they won’t have anything to do with the cycles of the Mayan calendar, the convergence of the planes of galaxies or the coincidences of dates and numbers. 2012’s catastrophes will be caused—like 2011’s—by the colossal waste of human potential; the splurging of scarce resources in end games that are illusions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

 Still Life 1

Still life 2

Ordnung ist nicht alles, aber ohne Ordnung ist alles nichts. Order isn’t everything, but without it, you have nothing. This teutonic proverb probably rings most true with junior high school teachers. I’ve experienced it myself, of course, wrestling with restless, acned teenagers who had no interest whatsoever in knowing the easy method for finding the square root of a number.

I could, of course, blame my frustration with the disorder that surrounds me on my Germanic genes, but that would be an excuse. The establishment and maintenance of order in the world has been a preoccupation of western civilization generally since who knows when. The Teutons, maybe?

In a piece of fiction I’ve been working on, a decent and idealistic young man is felled by a stray bullet. His parents agonize over the reasons behind such a meaningless event as parents will naturally do but the conclusions they will come to are as yet unclear. It’s wrestling with the chaos of possibilities that’s preoccupying me at the moment.

And that’s led me to read a bit about chaos theory. By definition, it’s "the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behaviour is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences." A junior high school classroom is a complex system and it takes little to set it off, so it’s unpredictable. But so is the weather, a church congregation, an ocean, a nation, humanity itself, you name it.

The classic paradigm in chaos theory is the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Tibet setting off a chain reaction that changes the course of a tornado in Texas. Somebody farts in a junior high classroom and you may as well pack up and call it a day. A man in Tunisia posts a photo on the internet and the Middle East erupts into rebellion.

 It’s a tough problem, knowing when and how necessary order is to be established and maintained. Important as “orderliness skills” may be, though, it seems much more urgent that we learn how to live well in a universe that was created to be chaotic, that we learn to remain real and genuine when the world displays its “disorderly” side.

Ordnung ist nicht alles, aber ohne Ordnung ist alles nichts. This is not wisdom; it’s the expression of a pernicious neurosis. A neurosis that manifests itself in the lust for power and control . . . and will in the end be overthrown at great cost by the fanning of butterfly wings in a far country.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The enigmatic "NOT"

Indian Paintbrush

We may never know why Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda selected the KAIROS application out of a pile of applications CIDA had approved and reversed the decision by scribbling an uninitialled “NOT” in the pertinent sentence of the decision. Does it lie in the list of organizations that coordinate ecological and human rights efforts through KAIROS, i.e. who is or isn’t on this list?

The Anglican Church of Canada

The Christian Reformed Church in North America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Presbyterian Church in Canada

The United Church of Canada

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Canadian Religious Conference

The Mennonite Central Committee of Canada

The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF)

Or is it the mandate itself?

“The 2009-2013 proposal was developed within two priority sectors of CIDA: promoting good governance (human rights) and advancing ecological sustainability (reducing the impact of climate change and addressing land degradation). It was approved at every level of CIDA before being declined on November 30” (MCC News Release written by Peter Heidebrecht:

Nor will we know why the process used to terminate the relationship between CIDA and KAIROS was so embarrassing to the government that Oda lied about it to a parliamentary committee, or why the pressure built up to the point where the government decided that the best way out was to tell the truth (sort of) and at least get the brownie points for confession.

The meat of the question is not the “not.” The nub is the work of CIDA, which is the taxpayers’ arm for allotting federal money to worthwhile development projects in have-not countries, particularly whether or not KAIROS is a reasonable organization for doing such work, and whether or not it merits the right to spend taxpayer dollars in fulfilling its mandate. CIDA believes it is; Bev Oda thinks it isn’t.

We taxpayers have a right to know why it isn’t—we are, after all putting dollars into its member organizations on the understanding that they and their human rights/ecology umbrella are doing good work. If Oda knows something that we don’t know that makes KAIROS ineligible for our confidence, she needs to tell us.

I have a suspicion that it goes to an ideological viewpoint that might be damaging to electability if it were to be expressed publicly. I’ve looked at KAIROS with its mandate in mind, and I can’t find a reason to separate it from other organizations receiving CIDA funding. If you want to see more on this, take a quick look at, or, or

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wanted: Steady supply of Sodium Thiopental

Real books - headed for the museum?

“States are scrambling to find enough sodium thiopental after its sole U.S. manufacturer ceased production and some overseas supplies dried up.”

Sodium thiopental is an anaesthetic drug which has been used in a cocktail to effect executions. Lethal injection, it’s generally called. Lately, it’s been used straight-up in massive dosage for reasons I don’t fully understand, nor do I need to. The drug is also used in tiny doses in general anaesthesia and the induction of comas for medical reasons.

It’s in short supply, and you have to go beyond the Yahoo News story above to find out why. The drug was developed in the 1930s by Abbott Laboratories. Abbott Laboratories later moved its medical drug development and manufacture into a branch company called Hospira. It’s Hospira’s decision to cease manufacturing the drug that is responsible for the current shortage. In a statement last September, Hospira said:

"Hospira manufactures this product because it improves or saves lives, and the company markets it solely for use as indicated on the product labeling. The drug is not indicated for capital punishment, and Hospira does not support its use in this procedure."{McKinley, Jesse (28 September 2010). Judges Question California's Motivation on Execution". New York Times.}

I’m not finished my review of Tongue Screws and Testimonies yet, and my journey through the massive Martyrs Mirror in preparation for the review has left me shaken once again by a knowledge that there are humans in the world who can look another human in the eye while they methodically take away his or her life. The cruelty under which many of the Anabaptist martyrs died leaves me with the distinct impression that given license to kill, a mass of humanity would emerge from the cracks and line up for the opportunity to inflict cruelty and death on others.

And then I read about the shortage of sodium thiopental in the USA and these suspicions are reinforced. And I remember that in a recent interview with Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Harper said, “I believe that there are circumstances where capital punishment is justified,” and I wonder if humanity is always just one careless slip away from barbarism.

Even though we’re still struggling as a nation to recover from the most recent recession, our current government is gearing up to build prisons so that harsher and longer penalties can be applied. I would wager that they’d get far more bang for the buck if they put that money into evening sports, recreation, arts programs for junior high-aged kids.

A wise person probably came up with the following definition as advice to the republican/conservative thinkers of the world: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." (Rita Mae Brown?) Are you listening, Stephen Harper?

Meanwhile, there’s a tremendous economic opportunity out there for some Canadian laboratory. Produce sodium thiopental for the US capital punishment market. Maybe their folly can help drag us out of the recession!