Sam won’t have to face this winter…

I haven’t managed to shake my sadness, since I learned of Sam’s death — by drowning. I heard he left a note saying he’d had a good life. I could say ‘I’m not sure why I’m sad’ — but that would be a lie. I’m not alone in that sadness — he was well known and well-liked.  But for me it’s at least partly about aging. Sam Sueshi Miya was 84. But I thought he was “only” my age — 73.

Sam was cool. He was what some would call “a character”.  A witty and very observant artist. You could see a certain sensitivity in his glance. He was not above a little flirtation. And he was not enjoying aging.

We had talked about a few things that most young people don’t talk about, like fearing the approaching winter: “those damn Toronto sidewalks”, for one. This is urban Toronto, and they don’t clear the sidewalks. It bugs me, because I’m from Montreal where they do. It’s easy there to walk in the winter.

It’s challenging to walk in winter here, if you’re “elderly” — or if you have a lot to lose by a fall. Like me, with my beloved stainless steel hip — the best thing since the internet. But if my wondrous mechanical joint breaks, that’s major surgery, lots of pain, and months of recovery. Or like Sam, with his difficulty in walking, his “previously mended” body — He had already been through long recovery from some pretty significant accidents. Walking was difficult for him in the best of weather. It was getting harder every year to face Toronto’s winter.

When a young person falls on an icy sidewalk, it might become an anecdote. If an elderly person falls, it can mean the end of life.

Trying to arouse interest or concern on the subject makes me feel old and tired. I think the only people under 60 at all interested are those who use wheelchairs,  or those who’ve experienced a temporary vulnerability like a broken leg — or someone pushing a stroller.

But you’ll always hear the objections to the costs (tax dollars). I wonder if a ‘big picture’ analysis might help. How much might be saved by fewer falls, fewer emergency room visits, fewer deaths in hospital from pneumonia — resulting from those falls. Are these recorded in studies? Does “StatsCan” analyze such data? Does anyone under 60 ever think about it? Not in Toronto, apparently.

There were 27,415 Toronto emergency department visits by seniors in the 2004-5 period. The peak period: December and January. How many tax dollars might we save by doing the sidewalks?

And Sam. I can’t say for sure he killed himself because of the sidewalks. But I know clearing them would have made life more livable for him. For me too.

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Posted in aging, Montreal, Sam Sueshi Miya, Toronto | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Height: Adjusting to reality!

Despite my weariness with nimby* types at such events, I attended a public meeting the other night in Roncesvalles Village to consider a potential 8-storey office building. The design is striking, modern, interesting architecture, “out of character” for the neighbourhood.

“Out of character” is one of the objections easy to anticipate. Many really want their aesthetic environment to remain the same (usually within their own narrow time frame). But as one of the neighbours commented, ‘world class cities’ like London have wonderful, dramatic newer architecture amidst the urban antiquities. Of course they do. Would New Yorkers not want their Guggenheim? If we reject change, at which era should we stop evolving?

Bring it on, I say. Offices will complement the large number of residential condo developments we’ve been through in recent times. It will mean more people can walk or bike to work. We need more density, more walkability, and some new, exciting architecture amongst the old.

The first voices to speak (and one in particular) expressed the usual strong, negative sentiments, in tones that suggested confidence they were speaking for “the community”. It was the classic “nimby” message.

But, unlike all previous meetings I’ve attended, new voices spoke up for change, for progress, for newer values: mixed-use; walkability; densification, and getting people out of cars. Jane Jacobs must have been smiling in her grave. Not just one or two, but perhaps a half dozen spoke — articulate, knowledgeable, aware of the issues, and diplomatic. For once, it was exciting instead of depressing.

In the end it seemed a majority understood the need for change, regeneration, economic investment. They recognize Roncy as not just an “urban village” – but as part of a bigger picture, not an isolated precious little jewel that must be protected, as is, forever. Contrary to my negative expectation, many of the newer arrivals seem to ‘get’ that bigger picture.

At most meetings, I hear strong concerns about heavy car traffic on our neighbourhood roads. Many of those cars are out specifically because of poor walkability – a byproduct of density and ‘mixed-use’ development. The objectors imagine that building eight floors of offices will increase the car traffic. On the contrary, it is more likely to increase the proportion of people who can bike or walk to work – or take the streetcar right to the door. This we need.

The height of buildings is another big issue locally. As an urbanite to the core, I have no problem with height, per se. Height, like “beauty”, is a relative thing. Development can happen only two ways: vertically or horizontally. When the property or footprint is small, the building must be higher.   Development is unprofitable otherwise. And if we don’t want to keep covering green spaces, then we need to ‘go up’. A height of eight stories is not, after all, a skyscraper.

The neighbourhood objected strenuously to height in the case of Turner & Porter’s redevelopment, so now a different developer will construct a shorter building instead – but with a bigger footprint. The profitability of such projects is, after all, fairly straightforward arithmetic.

When we contemplate the bigger picture – 50-100,000 new residents a year arriving in Toronto – the logical direction of most development should be high, mixed-use, and preferably ‘green’. There simply isn’t space to expand horizontally, and expand we must.

We need to stop judging proposals on the self-centered basis of what we want to see when we look out our own window. Solving bigger-picture problems is also in our own interest. We also need to keep reminding ourselves there’s a bigger historical event taking place out there – the urbanization of the human race. They have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is up.

If we find it too overwhelming to think of the big picture, surely we can at least think about those newcomers we need, and our own next generation.   If we don’t develop a lot more density, they will not be able to afford Toronto at all, let alone our beloved neighbourhood – unless we can all leave them a sizeable inheritance!

 

* “not in my back yard”

Related reading:
http://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/newsletters/26_2/contemporary.html
http://www.jasonballinteriors.com/blog/lessons-from-amsterdam-part-1
Posted in affordable housing, densification, Roncesvalles Village, sustainability, urban life, walkability | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrating differences

Toronto just hosted World Pride Week 2014, and I’m feeling proud to be Canadian. Especially in Ontario, where not only have we just elected our first female premier, but she’s openly gay, and behaves as if it’s the norm. Now that’s leadership. And that’s progress. But we do need to keep a sharp eye on the opposition – those who are still ‘shocked and appalled’ and work steadily at resisting change.

But for the moment, I’ll indulge in the celebration, happy for my gay friends and relatives. I’ll block on sadness for the friends who didn’t make it to this day. This level of enlightenment might have saved their lives. It was an exciting week, a reminder of reasons for optimism. People came from all over the world for this Pride week and the biggest Pride Parade Toronto has ever seen*. Even my own daughter marched, representing the drop-in for people without homes, where she works.

The other night because of Pride Week, we enjoyed a panel discussion in one of Toronto’s trendy young neighbourhoods. The panelists were a bouquet of LGBT/’two-spirit’/’racialized’ experts. They were exploring historical and current issues from their varied perspectives on a somewhat academic level. At times though, I could have sworn I sensed a little “my oppression is worse than yours” message. Is that because we’ve come such a long way?

I found it interesting that virtually all the panelists expressed some negative feelings about Pride Week and its level of commercialism. Some also felt it creates a false optimism I’m sympathetic to those concerns, yet events like Pride contribute so much to reducing fear of differences. As with most public celebrations, we are reminded of how much we humans have in common.

Over the decades, my own awareness of “gay” has expanded to include an apparently endless variety of sexual orientations and gender identities – a spectrum. And why not?. When we stop thinking in conventional paradigms like black-and-white, gay-or-straight, we begin to realize that’s all mythology, a story we tell ourselves.   The human reality is an infinite rainbow of differences, with no such thing as “normal”.

It’s those very differences that make our lives richer – something to celebrate. Events like ‘Pride’ provoke world-changing conversations that wouldn’t happen without them, moving society forward. That’s part of their beauty. They are also a kind of ‘marker’ of the progress we’ve seen.

There is no other official celebration of differences, the way we celebrate the country, or Christmas, for example. And Toronto is a city of differences. Pride comes close to that – another reason to enjoy the party. And when it’s over, we carry on working for change – maybe with some brand new activists. Maybe spread the pride to more places where fear and terror now dominate.

Meanwhile, how sweet it is to watch my neighbour’s daughter strolling slowly down our shady street, hand in hand with her girlfriend. Unconcerned. That alone deserves a celebration.

 

*   http://www.straight.com/life/583386/mr-gay-canada-2014-coquitlams-christepher-wee-advocates-diversity-social-education

** http://worldpridetoronto.com/about/history/1969-1979

Posted in gender, Inclusion, Pride, social change, Toronto, urban life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shoot!! Or, maybe talk?

It’s almost a year since an 18-year-old boy, Sammy Yatim, was shot to death by a Toronto police officer. He was alone in a streetcar. With a 3” knife. I guess they thought that heavy, iron streetcar couldn’t contain him.

That same week in Montreal, police in a 20-hour ‘standoff’ finally convinced a fellow to hand himself over – unshot, undead! What alternative method did they use? Talk.

So what do we know about Sammy? We know he was jobless, homeless, 18, in conflict with his father over using marijuana. We know he was a recent arrival from Syria. Any one of these factors could have been enough stress to produce a psychotic breakdown in a boy his age. Witnesses say he had a knife in one hand, and his penis in the other, with a “not here” look in his eyes.   All told, sounds like an obvious ‘psychotic episode’. Family members say he had no history of mental illness. But distress more often arises around that age. Which is why we more often see a psychotic breakdown in young people who’ve gone away to university for example, leaving home for the first time and beginning more intimidating academic life, minus their usual supports.

He was a distressed boy, expected to solve his own problems – an unfair expectation at the best of times. I imagine shelter and a hug would have done wonders. From what we know about mental illness, Sammy could easily have been just entering a state of psychosis, brought on by the stress he was feeling. He certainly had more than enough to cope with.

On the Toronto Police Service website, on “Mental Health Issues”, we find what appears to be ‘advice’ on how to handle such situations, with links to further information. It appears optional. And the advice conflicts with comments of a police trainer during one past inquest.   “You shoot until the threat is gone,” he said and “there is no magic-bullet alternative to firearms” ** Pretty simplistic.

Constable James Forcillo was charged with second degree murder, and will be tried in 2015. The evidence I most want to hear: the streetcar operator’s version of events. I hope he will still be alive and well, memory intact, and his evidence not at all influenced.

Meanwhile, of past inquests into police shootings, Ontario’s Ombudsman André Marin has said that recommendations have been virtually identical over the past 20 years. He has commented about the definition of insanity being to keep repeating the same behavior and expect different outcomes***. Let’s hope something really new and meaningful comes out of this investigation. Like implementation of clear new procedural guidelines – not only for handling someone in mental distress, but for assessing situations from point A. Changes should include a new training curriculum with significant time spent on compassionate, competent handling of such crises.

Among other things, the police need to know they are not here to protect merely ‘middle-class -4th-generation-Canadians-in perfect mental-and-physical-health’.

The horror story here is that it’s too often the ‘protectors’ from whom we need protection.   Is it possibly because Toronto Police Services are immature, like Toronto? As with people, and groups of people, cities take time to mature, and so do their police. It’s a sign of maturity to be able to admit you are wrong, just as it is a sign of maturity to be able to laugh at yourself, to take yourself less seriously. Are we finally, in Toronto, beginning to enter that era in our history?

I suggest a hopeful sign would be if Toronto implements the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

 

* http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/community/mentalhealth.php

** http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/editorials/rewriting-the-tragic-script-when-police-confront-the-mentally-ill/article13744211/

*** http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Newsroom/Ombudsman-in-the-News/2013/Ombudsman-steps-into-yet-another-hornet’s-nest–Di.aspx

Posted in compassion, homelessness, mental illness, police shooting, Sammy Yatim, Toronto Police | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

As much as I love the Red Rocket….

When I ride any distance on the streetcar, I find myself ‘writing’ in my mind. There is something about riding the Rocket that puts me in touch with my creative flow.

But much as I love the Red Rocket* I have to admit inflexibility interferes with efficiency and speed. It drives a lot of people crazy, and the thought of using Toronto Transit causes eye-rolling.

Sometimes our past comes back to haunt us. A system as anchored as Toronto’s streetcars, is no longer the latest and greatest – now that our population has increased and urbanized as it has. It’s hard to ignore the interruptions of transferring – often with a long wait in between — from the streetcar to a bus or to a different streetcar line, or perhaps to a subway. The system was built long ago. It is a patchwork.

When I try to imagine a ‘perfect’ transit system, if there is one, I imagine something more like that of Bogota**, created more recently, with modern, electric buses in a massive, efficient system. It operates a little like a subway system – without the expensive restrictions (like tunnels!) Of course they began essentially with no system to stand in the way of progress.

Ideally, in the best of all possible worlds, we would start over from scratch. But it isn’t the best of all possible worlds, and that’s not going to happen. What we could do is augment the current system on a massive scale, with smaller electric or hybrid buses, essentially ‘darting everywhere’.

As it is, the system is slow. It is unpredictable. It is frustrating. But we need people to leave their cars and use public transit, urgently. They’d be more willing to do that if they knew they could ‘hop off, hop on” – another bus always right there.

Subways take far too long to build, and cost far too much. While I like LRTs, tracks are too inflexible. I think the same analysis would apply in most cities. If we ever hit another economic boom, we can talk about subways. But getting a better system up and running should be our first goal.

* Toronto’s streetcars

** www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/07/10/world/0710BOGOTA_index.html

Posted in sustainability, Toronto, Toronto Transit, urban life, urban planning, world class city | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The late, great Alternative Grounds

Those of you who knew me well at Alternative Grounds are familiar with my predisposition for analyzing just about anything that moves.  And since life is always moving, I figure it’s fair game.  You also knew that I like to ‘blog it out’ – which is probably my equivalent to the ‘talking it through’ that some people do.

Since the Grounds closed, between houseguests and dinners and ice storms and such, I’ve continued to analyze the ‘café situation’*.   At least a half dozen times I’ve started to blog it out, and stopped.   And here I go again.

I started this new Ground-less* era assuming that I’d pick a new café, and eventually get used to it.  Many of the old ‘regulars’ have managed to do just that.  But it hasn’t happened for me, and I’m slowly beginning to understand why.  I needed to play around with a few questions in my mind, exploring my café life from different angles and perspectives.

What had AG meant to me all those years?  How much of my attachment was the friends I saw there regularly?  How much the variety of customers?  What about the staff?  And the aesthetic – old vintage kitchen tables and mis-matched chairs? What was happening for me there most mornings as I tapped intermittently on my keyboard?  And how much of that was different from what others were getting.

Starting with basics, one of my young friends from AG pointed out to me that where I sat most of the time probably meant I noticed everyone who came in.  That was true most of the time, and it now seems obvious that the steady sprinkling of certain ‘regulars’ who breezed in and out without sitting down, were like spices in a meal.  They did often pause for a chat on the way out and it is amazing how much of a relationship happens over years, just from snippets. And those who did sit  awhile provoked many a piece of writing or reflection in me, or ideas I could play with on ‘social justice’ issues, or other activism that occurred in that metaphorical idea incubator.

Friends – I mean people with whom I also had a relationship outside the café – tended to come in for awhile, read their paper, do a crossword,  perhaps discuss the latest political story, go through their emails, or make a date.  They were content with perhaps an hour, then moved on to other activities.  Their relationship with the café was different from my own.   Friends and relatives who never went to ‘the Grounds’ expressed puzzlement at my attachment to it, and how much of my perspective was impacted by that place.  To them it was a mystery.

Many customers were there for hours because of the free wireless network, focused on their computers, in solitude, only engaging in conversations during smoking breaks.   You could almost see them as a tiny ‘sub-culture’.  Then there were those who’d have a half hour ‘game break’ – perhaps a mid-morning game of chess or cribbage, then back to work again.

Then there were the ever evolving and changing staff members — each and every one unique and distinctly memorable.  Actors, musicians, students, doctors of Chinese medicine!!  Yes, really.  Being such a long time ‘regular’, I did develop a relatively open, sometimes close relationship with some.  They were young, creative, smart and interesting.  They kept me up to date, and on my toes.  For me, as an ‘older’ member of society, they were the proverbial breath of fresh air, and another ‘sub-culture’ to be moved and changed by.  I came to feel that if the future is in their hands, it will be interesting and perhaps even exciting.

From them I learned about a newer generation’s cares and concerns, quests, and joys.  They increased my passion on affordable housing, as they found it harder to afford the neighbourhood.  They were not typical youths.   They were not afraid to be ‘different’ and seemed to comfortably welcome  ‘unusual people of all kinds.   They provided a general culture of generosity and kindness at the café, with their welcoming, inclusive spirit – a kind of “Sure, whatever…. ”

Many exceptional people came – some well known – enjoying the unpretentious anonymity there.  Everyone experienced the delicious relaxation of feeling accepted as they are.   They also understood that accepting differences was their job too.

For me, endlessly fascinated by people, this was a world of incredible riches.  And as someone who spends half her waking hours in the world of ideas,  it is amazing to me that there were always smart, thoughtful people willing to explore an idea, or provide intelligent feedback and argument.

So where are we now?  We have scattered – and most have adjusted – to a handful of cafés: Roncy’s Bean, Timothy’s, Lit, Ideal, Bell Jar.   For me, not so much.   At All That Jazz, the aesthetic is neat-and-tidy-and-middle-class professionals; the tables are in neat rows, and I never see a homeless person, or anyone ‘writing a book’ or composing a symphony, or drawing a comic strip, or running after a little one.   I suggested shifting a few of the tables – into a more relaxed, user-friendly arrangement, I thought.  I think I just created confusion.  If I keep coming back, I may try again….

The ‘groups’ I’ve seen here, appear to be people on schedules.  They may be a group having a meeting, or neat and tidy friends who meet here every Thursday.  If there’s a mothers’ group, they must have forgotten the kids somewhere.  There is no toy box, no box of children’s books.  It’s nice to see the ‘Zen’ group Friday mornings, but from my perspective they really are a neat-and-tidy’ group too – in disguise.   I’m okay with people needing neat, tidy places.  But I have my needs too: I find chaos stimulates my lateral thinking best.

Hmmmm.  I seem to have a thing about neat and tidy – in fact some discomfort with  it.  And an aversion to people for whom it is important.   If I get in touch with that a little deeper, I realize I am actually threatened by it, and in my mind it is associated with judgmental people.  Part of my problem?

It suddenly strikes me that a person probably can’t be very critical or judgmental if they’re comfortable in a messy atmosphere, tables with dried coffee spills, toilets that sometimes don’t function.  I did know people over the 18 years or so, who disliked Alternative Grounds’ chaotic messiness.   They frequented other tidier cafés, or stayed home.  That could have been an important element in the atmosphere – which depends so much on who shows up.

I, on the other hand,  miss the un-coordinated kitchen tables, the messy, sometimes chaotic atmosphere.  I should work on that, I suppose; but I think a better approach for me might be to vary my cafés: visit a different one each day, or maybe each week.  Perhaps Mondays at Ideal, Tuesdays at Lit, Fridays at …Jazz?

Talking about ‘scheduled’,  one of the neighbours just bustled into Jazz trailing two little boys, to grab a coffee on her way to the kids’ hockey practice.  She made a joke about my being here even on a Saturday morning – a concept she clearly finds amusing.  She has made comments before, like “Your home away from home?” She’s a nice person, a good neighbour, and a very smart executive in a huge bank.  She always smiles when she comments.  Just not the sort of person you’d bump into at Alternative Grounds.  Organized.  Purposeful.  Productive.   And I felt, once again, why am I here?  Another opportunity to practice not caring what others think?

I think that what I experienced every day at Alternative Grounds might be akin to an artist’s palette: oh the endless dreams that might be created out of that mess.  And how I loved that mess.

Could I be feeling a Part Two coming on…..  Or is it time to ‘pull the plug’ (on the Alternative Grounds blog?)

https://worldclasscity.ca/2013/12/02/good-bye-alternative-grounds/

Posted in Alternative Grounds, community, Inclusion, Roncesvalles Village, urban life, world class city | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Brave parents & progress

I’ve just finished reading a special chapter in a special book* – and it still shimmers in my consciousness.   Chapter One – Dancing in the eye of the Storm – was written by Kathy Witterick, someone I’m proud to call a friend. She is a co-parent with David Stocker** in a family you might have heard about.   Certainly, many regulars at the late, lamented Alternative Grounds would recognize them.

They were talked about around the world – often angrily, emotionally, judgmentally, critically – when the Toronto Star published an article** on their approach to parenting what I think of as ‘gender-free’ children.

People would stop them in the street, lecturing them right in front of the children. When I remember the anger of strangers around the world accusing them of inflicting a harmful ‘experiment’ on their children, my mind instantly goes to a memory I have of Jonbenet Ramsey, the miniature ‘beauty queen’ of front pages in the 90s, murdered at 6 years of age.  In all the newspaper or television coverage, I don’t think I ever saw a picture of her as a ‘gender-free’ (i.e. ‘natural’) child.  Quite the opposite: she was — along with countless other tiny, innocent American princesses — obviously being groomed to role-play ultimate “feminity”, as early as possible after birth.

JONBENET RAMSEY

 Ultimate Femininity

Now I do believe parents who gender-stamp their kids don’t intend anything anti-social or destructive.   I believe they just don’t know any better.  I imagine they just feel that if their daughter is female, they should do everything they can to ensure she is among the best in that role.   And role it is — for the most part learned, not biologically determined.  We don’t think of that as a harmful experiment, for the simple reason that ‘we’ve always done it’, so we don’t look at it objectively.

As Kathy Witterick says, “Children should learn that the gender status quo changes based on historical period, geography, family environment, community, culture and context.”  So social context has a huge impact.  Our role as “female” varies.  Likewise, how any given individual feels about gender depends on his or her own experience – and reaction to it.

I wish someone told me this when, as a 20-year-old, I totally believed that my 17-year-old brother would learn to drive easily and that I, being female, would find it difficult.   Starting around puberty, I became increasingly frustrated with my gender ‘limitations’ and a resulting sense of general unfairness in life.  This kind of powerlessness often produces depression and self-defeating behavior in people, and so it did with me, in a classic example of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’.

When I remember those days – the ‘fabulous fifties’ – I am torn between laughter and tears.  Those memories are balanced by the 70s – when I had the luxury of going back to school full time.   At the forefront of social awareness – and my own education – were women’s rights, the history of it all.   And above all, opportunities like we women had never experienced.    Life seemed full of the excitement and potential. We were changing, and I was confident we would keep changing. My mother, who didn’t work because father felt it would make him look bad, didn’t live to see those changes.

Often referred to as a “women’s libber”, I didn’t care.  What I was learning about women, ‘the movement’, the history, and theories in both women’s studies and psychology, were all so exciting.  I was sure the human race was in a progressive trajectory that would make all things possible – above all that people would be free to be the unique beings that they are.  Certainly, it should be possible to raise children unhindered by social attitudes towards their gender.  I certainly came out of it ‘determined’ to raise my own children with the confidence of ‘equality’, and the new career opportunities.  No doubt in my mind that they wouldn’t have to be a nurse, secretary or teacher.  No, astronauts and presidents, should they choose to be.  But naiveté goes hand in hand with optimism.  (Probably of necessity).  I didn’t anticipate a backlash.

A little pocket of learning does not a revolution make. I guess all the social changes, perhaps personified in Woodstock, some counter-culture ‘in your face’ attitudes, then in “change” periodicals like Ms. Magazine, provoked a steadily increasing negative reaction.  Social change has to happen more subtly, more gradually, so the rest of society won’t feel threatened or angry.  Eventually, the reaction was overtly hostile, and people with alternative ideas and dreams stopped being open about it.  I guess that’s always a bad sign – when people don’t speak out, debate, or challenge power — in a supposed democracy.

Having won legal “equality” we made the mistake of taking further progress for granted.   We didn’t anticipate that Hollywood and television would influence a new over-sexualization of our children.  Much of it in the name of “freedom of speech”.  Instead of instilling in the next generation pride  and confidence in one’s unique qualities.

We didn’t even get it, when the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, begun in 1971 as a feminist lobby group, shape-shifted subtly into more of a poverty action group.  Movements or trends are sometimes hi-jacked by well-intentioned people with a somewhat different agenda.

I was reminded of all this when I read Kathy’s chapter.  Social values, of course, don’t just change, and remain changed.  For that to happen, they have to be actively transmitted to every generation.  That doesn’t happen if a movement goes virtually underground.

In the heady days of the women’s movement, people, partners, parents, changed their behavior spontaneously and openly, at least in urban areas, in universities, and in a few laws.  But as the backlash became more overt in their criticism and disapproval, many in the new movement lost some confidence.  Even those who understood the need for change, and wanted to raise their children with a broadened consciousness, did so much more subtly and cautiously.   Experimental living and schooling and programs of the seventies and eighties reverted to a diminished shadow, buried under shouts about ‘saving hardworking taxpayers dollars’.  We’re still hearing those shouts.

Huge cutbacks in spending for social programs, education, housing, and so on, occurred.  Almost any kind of ‘study’ or ‘experimentation’ in living became sneered at.  So when Kathy and David, in this reactionary period, dared to go public with their intelligent child-rearing approach, I wasn’t that surprised at some of the vitriol that rose up.  Just disappointed, once again.  The low proportion of thoughtful or encouraging reactions seemed to me to be another depressing indication of a ‘dumbed-down’ western world.  Or perhaps it’s always been relatively narrow-minded and un-receptive to different perspectives – just a little more so these days.

It’s a scary time to be open about any ‘alternative’ perspective, so I doubly admire those who do.  It’s essential to have some with that courage, if society is to evolve.  And as George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change.”

I am inspired by all this, and ask myself: “What can I do more courageously to support this need for change?”  Until I figure that out, I’ll keep on blogging.

* Chasing Rainbows: exploring gender fluid parenting.  Ed. Fiona Joy Green and May Friedman.  Demeter Press, 2013.

** http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/math-matters

***http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2011/05/27/how_star_story_about_genderless_baby_went_viral.html

Posted in David Stocker, gender, Kathy Witterick, parenting, progressive, social change | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment