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The blog life is certainly not the blaaaahg life…time goes by so quickly I’m mildly shocked when I look and see that close to two weeks have passed since my last post. Perhaps I should be making excuses, but really there are only two – I haven’t sat down and written – Just Do It! goes the post-new-year dieter’s mantra – and I’ve been preparing for the birth of a second blog which I got up and running today. May seem a bit traitorsome to some, a little narcistic to others (I mean, how much more could I have to say), but the second blog, at http://bosqueternosa.wordpress.com is the culmination of a writing project I’ve been working on for a few months for the Bosqueterno S.A. organization here in Monteverde.

Rather than explain that too much (since I have spoken about Bosqueterno and my writing job numerous times on this blog) , I’ll ask you to go there and check out the sweet newness of it, the innocence, the hope lingering in its postlessness. And, as the first little communique pleads, make a comment, ask a question, request something – anything! It’ll be so exciting for those of us behind the wordpress dashboard to get an early response.

I’ve been getting all my little cloud forest ducks in a row waiting to put together the blog – write the script, get approval from the Bosqueterno board, find the pictures, focus, sign up for blog (with its many design decisions to be made) – the next step is to keep filling it in with all that approved written fodder, and then to prepare a powerpoint presentation. This is meant to accompany the blog, teaching local guides, teachers and Monteverde Reserve employees about the unique history of the Bosqueterno S.A. land that has been left in the wet dust of the Bosqueterno de los Niños, a more well-known local reserve owned by the Monteverde Conservation League, and the big Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve that leases the Bosqueterno land. Now that I’ve got lots of photos digitalized, the rest is just writing, posting and editing, and eventually speaking, which is the easiest part for me.

In the meantime….

Went and saw Costa Rican rocker Pato Barraza – at our new fav bar Mata ‘e Caña – was a good night of latin rock, a bitta reggae, seeing some friends…will head out again tonight, after I finish this, to do some salsa dancing with Roberto and the local band, Los Maletines – who play a very sweet Cuban salsa and more. Roberto is still here, tho we keep talking about him leaving, but now that the weather on the mountain has got calmer, hotter, and sunnier, he’s loath to go…but the day will arrive soon. In the meantime, bailamos!

I spent a wonderful evening at my friend Turid Forsyth’s with two German friends of hers, Sepp and Reto. They are keen hikers and so I shared some of my hiking knowledge of the area, made some recommendations on how to get over to the volcano Arenal by foot – if you have a few days and the equipment, you can walk the Tapir Trail that Wolf created (which appears in the last chapter of Walking with Wolf); or you can go over to the Monteverde Conservation League’s San Gerardo Research Station, spend the night keeping an eye out for a good nocturnal lava-lit eruption from the volcano, and then keep walking down to Lake Arenal, but permission from the League is necessary – you pay for your room and board at the station which is inexpensive. The problem arises when the League insists that you have two guides to accompany you on your hike through their land to the lake. When Sepp and Reto went to set this up, there weren’t two guides available and the League wouldn’t allow them through without.

So option three is to go to the Mirador, on the far side of Santa Elena, and hike on the horse trails there. Which is what they did in the end, making the trip down to the lakeside in five hours. If the weather is good like we’ve had these days, you are blessed with a spectacular scene, the lake and volcano right in front of you all the way.  

Over the years, the volcanos here in Costa Rica have done some damage, and there have been some nasty earthquakes as well, but while this sweet world spins around us with a minimum of pain these days, elsewhere people are really suffering. That incredibly destructive earthquake hit Haiti this last week – not just one assault, but a few – and so for a few short moments, the world’s sympathy, money and thoughts are with the Haitians. One must ask how one half of a small island could sustain such injury while the other half, the Dominican Republic, could  escape basically unscathed. One must ask how much more pain and destruction one colony of people can survive – even a people as strong as the Haitians – descendants of slaves who stood their ground against the huge powers of the time (France, Spain, Britain, the US) to become the first independant black nation in the western world.  And one must ask if there is any justice, truly, in this world.

I’ve been following on the internet (since we live without television – only Costa Rican papers, which tend to be rather lightweight, and radio, which Roberto feeds on) – and I have to say I’ve learned a new appreciation of Facebook – which can be seen as an addiction, a kind of social drunken cyber-cocktail party without the juice, as a never-ending game of mind-wasting solitaire, as many things –  but what it has shown me lately is that it is an agent for sharing information – especially the kind that the mainstream media doesn’t indulge in. Marshall McLuhan, famous Canadian media theorist from the days when the reality of what television would really mean one day was just  mist on the horizon, said that the medium would be the message… and that what we were fed and how we were fed it would influence our collective thinking. That has definitely come to pass, and now the Facehood, amongst other cyber-social-networking schemes, has brought us the ability to share information that the powers don’t want to necessarily give us, which the media isn’t telling because they are owned by corporations with agendas. Alternative media may not be the absolute truth all the time either, but it gives us the sensation of a little thorn in our sides, poking, making us question – just what the hell is going on? And giving us the opportunity to dig deeper, just like the old Mother Jones, New Internationalist, and Utne Reader mags of yesteryore.

Some of us are drawn there naturally, some of us have to be provoked. As long as we continue to question authority, at least we might arrive somewhere where truth prevails. Not necessarily, because truth can be ethereal at times, but we each have the ability, and the source, in our hearts to search for it.  And from there, if we are paying attention, and have the luxury of choice in our lives, we can choose to follow the road that feels right – or turns left. Hold on to the light, Haiti, hopefully the help that is coming your way will be without strings or strong ropes attached and will help you not just rebuild, but be stronger than ever before.

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walking the road

I spend much of my time in Costa Rica. When I’m there I have very little exposure to North American news and culture. The big scandals and important world events show up in the newspapers and on cable TV, but I have to make a real effort to see them and without any context I often don’t understand what’s going on. In Costa Rica, if we walk into Cahuita from the jungle to watch an important soccer match or to get groceries, Roberto always gets a couple of newspapers to consume till the next town trip. If we stay in a hotel in San Jose with television, we devour lots of news and movies. In Monteverde it’s the radio. The world comes to me in fits and starts.

big city

When I’m in Canada, I’m constantly on the internet, listening to CBC on the radio, watching TVs that are mounted everywhere it would seem, talking about it all with friends – I’m full of what’s going on,  listening to the buzz of pop-culture and politics, and caught up in the latest media diet.

And so – how nuts  is this world? There are the horrid images of crimes and tragedies that bombard us, played over and over again until a new one replaces them. Just as disturbing are the outrageous lives that we are voyeurs of, the excess of wealth and celebrity that plays in stark contrast to the devastation of war and poverty. 

hmmmm

 

 

After awhile a person can lose their perspective and  get real confused about what is of real importance or not, and whose lives seem to be of more value or interest. Television obscures reality from both ends – for those of us consuming the edited fodder, and for those who live their lives feeding us what they think we should know.

 

water peace

When I get away from the media, I feel myself slow down and my breathing changes. My exasperation builds when I’m paying too much attention. I’m aware that the extreme stuff is still happening when I’m oblivious, but I don’t have to think about it when the images aren’t in my face. I can concentrate on choosing what I think are more valuable issues to fill my brain with.  I feel a very different sense of tranquility when I’m living in the jungle or the bush, and it’s not just because of the beauty, power and peace of my natural surroundings.

Because I’m savvy to this huge media cloud that threatens my own truth-o-meter while telling me the-way-it-supposedly-is, and my awareness is peaked when I return to my North American life after chilling in my less-hooked-up life in the tropics, I admit that I react more to what I hear, see or read. For a brief while upon my reintroduction to North American culture, I am still thinking straight before I become blurry once again. It makes me worry for children who consume massive amounts of television, much more than we were allowed in our day – and really, we only watched nice shows like Red Skelton and Ed Sullivan.

tv watching

 

 

What is considered important, normal and reasonable, that is, what is reality in the developing brains of children today?

 

 

 

Lately there have been a few conversations on television  that have blown my mind, some by celebrities who I basically respect. Is it my imagination or are the wealthy celebrities having a little backlash to the New Order for the Common Good as suggested (if not yet implemented) by Obama (and in the new documentary by Michael Moore.) In the last week I heard Oprah and Barbra Streisand sit together and talk about just being poor girls at heart – “if you are raised poor, you’ll always be a poor girl at heart”. And in the next breath, Barbra declared how Oprah needed to go to Spain and join her at a restaurant which I happen to know is considered one of the most expensive in the world. I appreciate that they may cherish memories of the simple life and insecurities might follow them from their humble beginnings, but these women are so beyond not even just rich anymore, it is staggering. I don’t understand how they can’t just shake their heads in disbelief at how ridiculously wealthy they are rather than claiming to still think in terms of food stamps. Maybe they could start a new fad – instead of adopting children from the third world, they could adopt whole countries and share their wealth that way since they have more money than many countries’ GNP. I know I know, Oprah does lotsa good I’m sure, probably Barbra too, but there is also a disconnect going on that grates me.

vintage motel

A year or two ago, I remember catching a moment of Oprah on a roadtrip with her sidekick Gayle and they had to stay in a regular motel – the family-run kind that my family certainly would be staying in (with great excitement) on the one night of the holiday when my parents let us stay in a motel instead of camping. The kind that millions use gracefully and billions more would be happy for the opportunity of visiting one day.  Oprah whined and fussed about having to be there so much that I remember feeling embarrassed for the motel owners. She almost kissed the tiled floor in the lobby of the Ramada or Hyatt  or whatever upscale hotel she was in the following night. I guess it was honest of her producers to keep these scenes in her show, but anyone I know who saw this bit came away shaking their heads.

oprah fav things

My personal biggest beef with Oprah is her love of “stuff” and her desire to share “her favourite things” with the world. I guess with all the thousands of shows she’s done and the experts she’s met, she hasn’t figured out that consumerism is one of the biggest threats to the planet. Promoting more and more stuff and sharing the satisfaction she feels in accumulation of it also grates me.

I guess she won’t be putting Walking with Wolf on her bookclub list any time soon!

whoopi

Another day, I saw Whoopi defending wealthy folks who do good work with their cash, not wanting to be lumped in with the wealthy folk who don’t. This was in reaction to Michael Moore’s  Capitalism: A Love Story. There were many things she could have said about the doc, and the issues it raised, but that was her reaction.  Of course it was only a day or two later that she defended the convicted-rapist-escapist Roman Polanski – it wasn’t really “rape-rape” (read the court transcript and decide). How would she look at the case if he wasn’t a fellow celebrity? I’ve always really liked Whoopi as both an entertainer and a smart out-spoken woman, but I’m questioning if she and I are on the same planet these days.

can you blame them

Then there’s the foofarah of David Letterman’s admitted trysts with female employees. Does anyone really think this stuff DOESN’T go on? If we hear that there was actual harassment as opposed to mutual consent or jobs lost because of refusing to partake – well, that is different. At this point, doesn’t one expect to hear these stories about celebrities (that alone your neighbours?)…and if you were going to marry one, would you truly be surprised if this happened? And in a celebrity-driven-universe, don’t you expect underlings to want to have their moment with the great ones? Perhaps personal morals aren’t what they used to be, but certainly in moments of idol worship, what else do you expect. I’m sure Cleopatra had the pick-of-her-groupies too.

flood line

My favorite response to Letterman’s situation was Craig Ferguson, the recovering alcoholic Scots-funny man who’s show follows Letterman’s, saying, “If we are now holding our late-night talk show hosts  to the same moral accountability as our politicians and clergymen, I’m out. I’m gone.” Those standards obviously aren’t always being met by the latter gang  but don’t we have more reason to be concerned about their behaviour and how it affects our daily lives?  Some things are just more important than others.

oscar and rebound

I seldom write about this stuff, but it has been in my face these last couple weeks as autumn comes on. I’ve been in my house, writing, staying warm, trying not to spend money.  I’m letting myself be distracted from my work to see what is going on out there on the glamorous side of the world (while tsunamis, earthquakes and wars continue to terrorize those in other hemispheres). My head is spinning from the absurdity of what I hear, my heart breaks for those who suffer in this lop-sided world, my body reminds me to leave all this behind, go outside and breathe before I’m grated raw.

kath & K

I really appreciate the wonderful, down-to-earth, thoughtful people I’m lucky enough to have as friends and the time I spend with them reminds me that there is still something in the middle, a “normal” class, that crosses economic lines but is based on humane notions of accountability.  I thank my friends for making it through life with kindness and humour even when we struggle (and I thank them for providing the photo-track to this blog.)

freda & mike

peace trevor

 

 

And then  Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. May he get the support he needs to live up to the challenge of making this world a better place, starting in Washington.

I can turn off the TV now… I’ll go grate some cheese instead.

Last night I went to a screening of Michael Moore’s latest tell-em-like-it-is (but don’t bore em and do make em laugh) documentary called Capitalism: A Love Story. As happens with each film MM produces, I got riled by the audacity of the greedy and pissed by the injustice that exists around us, but encouraged by the fact that truth is being spoken in a way that makes it accessible to millions. I also laughed to tears cuz in the end you just have to laugh or you’ll die disgusted and that’s no way to go.

capitalism_a_love_story_m[1]I’m so thankful that there is someone out there making documentaries like this, explaining how complicated our politico-social systems are and how deliberate is every motion by the powers-that-be to protect their interests. Mike examines why the “little people” fall into line rather than fight back. He explores all this in films that are entertaining yet shocking, which will keep the raised-on-TV-n-fast-food-nation watching when they otherwise might have given up at the first dialogue over 45 seconds and gone to get a chili dog. People pay more attention and learn easier when they are happy and endorphin-filled (Hello Sesame Street).

From the opening montage of images comparing the fall of the Roman Empire with the present state of the American Empire – bound to follow the way of all beasts that went before – you know you are in for a Moore-a-coaster ride through the good, the bad and the ugly.  I obviously agree with Mike’s politics and gleefully watch him presenting ideas I have understood all my adult life. I love that he calls greed what it is and takes on that hallowed, perverted system of Capitalism. Although I would venture that the Religious Right and the Tea Party gang would defend to the death the right to make money and bear arms for all, they often seem to leave their compassion on the donation plate at their church. Mike interviews his Catholic “moral superiors” and they didn’t pull punches – they all agree that the basic creed of capitalism does not bless the poor but instead feeds the rich, is immoral and radically evil, at least the way it has been practiced in the last thirty years since Wall Street took over Washington with the help of that all-American cowboy, Ronald Reagan. 

mike moore

There are so many great moments in the film that all I can do is say go see it. Michael wrapping crime scene tape around the headquarters of Goldman Sachs in New York City and calling the corporate criminals out to face their punishment is priceless. In his films Mike runs around America like an overweight but tireless referee, blowing his whistle, trying to get the teams to follow the rules, play nice and be fair. When I met him briefly a couple of years ago in Traverse City Michigan, I told him “take care of yourself”. I still worry about his health. We need him.

I was real moved by the family in Miami who returned to their home after the bank had tossed them out – made me want to get a ticket and go to Florida and meet these warriors. According to the text at the end of the film, they are still there. They managed to rage against the machine by gaining the strength and support of their neighbors who can see their own fragile futures in this one family’s crisis. That’s the message – that the 99% of the nation who aren’t part of the 1% who are basically controlling the economics, politics, media and future of the country needs to stay together and fight the fight for and with each other. Here in Canada, ditto.

2 little leaves Two lonely isolated Canadian souls

multi-leafed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beauty of diversity and what happens when individuals join forcesorange trees

lake trees

 

And we all work together for the common good…

 

 

 

close gang

Spent a perfect few days in Mattawa with great friends last week. The kind of people you know would be there for you whenever you needed them. Smart folks, generally outraged like me by the injustices of the world but who self-medicate with love and laughter.

leo at fire

 

We spent a beautiful afternoon on Carney Lake where not a wisp of breeze rippled the water or rattled a leaf. We couldn’t get ourselves to make a move and leave until dark. We ate too much of course. And, a group of game-players all, we indulged in our new addiction, Quiddler.

 

quiddler

My sister sent me this card game for my birthday – for Scrabble players it satisfies the need to madly arrange letters into words, for card players it has a rummy-kind of feel to it. It was extremely flexible as the group ebbed and flowed in numbers and you could get distracted yet not miss anything. Our little crowd of Quiddlers gave it 18 thumbs up.

liily eyes

The time is flying by and I’ve got lots of writing to do as well as a couple of book presentations. I just booked my flight to Costa Rica for November 23. In Capitalism: A Love Story, there are some interviews with airplane pilots, those professionals whose hands we put our lives in when we head into the skies. The ones Michael talked with were making less than $20,000 a year – a paltry sum for people with such a responsibility. Turns out that many are nourishing themselves with food stamps and donating plasma to make extra dollars. Gives a new slant to the dangers of flying – I hope I won’t have images of hungry, light-headed, disgruntled captains driving my airship south. Perhaps I’ll pack a lunch bag to give to them – oh right, won’t get that past security. IMG_4271

I just finished watching Michael Moore’s new film, Slacker Uprising.  As of today, September 23, 2008, you can go online and download it for free at http://slackeruprising.com  I intended on working on a couple of articles today for publications in England, but I got sidetracked by Mike – again. I always find his movies interesting and moving. And again I marvel at his prowess in making captivating documentaries with a message – you can call it propaganda, but that’s okay. As is part of his message, we are inundated with propaganda daily in a media that supports the powers that be, making sure their message is being spread far and wide. One of the first things he talks about in Slacker Uprising is the responsibility of the media to investigate beyond the walls of controlled information, ask the difficult questions, dig up the facts, and disseminate truth. Which is exactly what wasn’t done in the months leading up to the second invasion of Iraq (or probably in the build up to any military performance) – instead the mass media supported the United States heading into a war based on lies. And further to Mike’s message is that this work of seeking and supporting the spread of truth should always be protected by the famous First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States – the freedom of religion, expression, the press, and speech .

 

Mike started a movement in the weeks prior to the 2004 presidential election when he saw John Kerry and the Democrats’ campaign floundering. This film records the Slacker Uprising Tour that he embarked on, organizing events in sixty cities to see that the truth about the war in Iraq and the antics of the Bush administration would be heard. The slackers referred to are the youths of America who are uninterested in politics and can’t be bothered putting down their playstations and ipods long enough to vote – with reason they have lost faith in government and fail to understand that their vote can still count in making real change. On his mission to get them up, reinspired, and moving to the ballot box, Mike was joined along the way by musicians, actors, politicians, parents of fallen soldiers, and war veterans opposed to the insanity of this war. He has now released this new film, without a doubt timed so that its message will be seen and heard far and wide before the coming presidential election amd hopefully rile up the masses to get out the vote. It is the first full-length film to be made available for free on the internet. Mike has become a master at editing film clips into a powerful, flowing instructional video for an angry society and giving the public the alternative facts from what they are being fed on CNN and Fox. He is equally as skilled at getting publicity, both by his own actions (free download throughout North America? – the attention he’ll get just for doing the download will serve his purpose) and by the ensuing media reaction to his documented outcry. 

 

Slacker Uprising shows the opposition to the war that is omnipresent, as well as the outrage from both sides of the issue, including those who believe that he, Michael, is the devil, not Bush.  To me you don’t need to see mothers crying about their children who died in Iraq to be against war, but obviously those are powerful images. Mike employs them. As the father of a soldier says in SU, people would be “supporting our troops” more by bringing them home then sending more into Iraq. To be against the war is not to be abandoning the young men and women who are fighting for corporate and entrenched political interests in Iraq or Afghanistan, it would be demanding a saner approach to solving conflicts than throwing usually young, usually poor citizens into that so often deadly arena. There are people who continue to make huge amounts of money as war rages on, and it generally isn’t their sons and daughters who are dying. 

 

Of course much of Mike’s films are edits taken out of context and he pieces together each film in a very deliberate way. But every newscast that we digest is prepared in just the same way, night after night, deliberate information sent streaming into each home in the country. Here in Canada we are only marginally ahead in the fairness and non-partisanship of our media. Mike isn’t looking to be president, he is simply asking that people think and seek and stand and vote. As Joan Baez says in SU, she believes his best quality is his compassion. I have found that the people who spend their lives doing difficult but important work on behalf of the less fortunate or powerless or voiceless, must be driven by compassion – as well as a sense of outrage. And hopefully are blessed with a big sense of humour for their own sakes. Michael Moore obviously has all of this. As Michael Moore states so eloquently in Slackers Uprising, it is not what we look like or what we own that we should be judged by, but by how we treat the poor, the less-able, the disadvantaged.

 

I am one of those with believes that war is not the answer. Perhaps peace takes more work, but war is generally waged at the price to the poor and for the benefit of the rich. Wolf Guindon is one of those who stood up for his conscience as a young man at nineteen years of age and went to jail for refusing to register for the draft. He took this action in peace time, in 1948 and 49 when the US was between wars, but he did not believe in what the military was standing for and therefore would not support it.  As he says in Walking with Wolf, it was reasonable to believe that American taxes and its military should be used for promoting peace and helping the poor and hungry in the world, but not preparing to enter into and raise the level of armed conflicts outside of the border of their own country. Wolf, along with three young Quaker men from the Rockwell family in Fairhope, Alabama, spent four months of a one-year sentence in prison. Their incarceration was followed by their move from the U.S. to Costa Rica, a country which had just abolished its army following its own internal conflicts. Pacifism is a central tenet of Quakerism. It is one of the beliefs that draws me to the Friends.

 

I happened to meet Michael Moore last year. I was in Traverse City, Michigan with my friend Cocky.  We went to visit her brother but also to attend the film festival there.  Mike started and supports that festival and was present at the various screenings. On a beautiful warm summer’s evening, Cocky and I went to the opening party of the festival, mingling with the pretty people of Traverse City. Mike arrived himself half way through the evening, obviously exhausted, and I have to say, not looking well but pale, short of breath, and obviously too overweight.  One of the men we were with went over and asked him if he’d like a plate of food as he collapsed into a chair. He said that he would and soon a plate was put in front of him which he tried to eat while being smothered by the pressing crowd. A couple of hours later, we were walking by his car just as Michael Moore was coming to get into it.  Cocky spoke up and thanked him for making the great films he does. I piped up, “And take care of yourself Mike”, as I’m quite convinced this man is going to drop over dead if he doesn’t look after his own health. We need him as few manage to get done what he does in spreading the truth to the masses – but he is just a mortal like the rest of us, moving into a time of his life when health issues become serious, and I truly fear for him.

 

He thanked us and then noticed the man with us, the one who had brought him that plate of food. Somehow, in the crush of fans and media and film buffs all wanting to get near him, he had actually noticed this man who had quietly brought the food to him. He stepped back as he was entering the car, and walked over to the guy, saying, “Thanks man for bringing me that food. That was real kind of you.” He shook his hand warmly and then got in his car. That moment cemented for me the image of Michael Moore as a real human being who speaks the truth with compassion, who is paying attention, and who believes in doing the right thing and taking the moment, or lifetime, to just do it.

 

In Slacker Uprising there are performances or speeches by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Eddie Vendor, Rosanne Barr (never my favorite but her sarcasm here was priceless), Viggo Mortensen (who mentioned Canada in a positive light), and another of my great heroes, Steve Earle (see my blog post Steve and the Hammer). Steve sang Rich Man’s War, another in a long line of anti-war, anti-insanity songs that he has written. When he sings, or even talks, it gives me shivers, because he poetically and musically always speaks the truth. All of these people, along with the thousands who filled the arenas on the Slacker Uprising Tour, are committed to the future, dedicated to finding better ways to solve conflicts that don’t involve killing young people and destroying environments, speaking up against the powers who control and profit by the military mentality. I sure hope that in both the American election in November and the Canadian federal election in October, that the compassionate ones will win – those who care for the poor, who don’t support sending them to war against other poor people to do some rich man’s dirty work, who believe in demanding that politicians and corporate barons take care of the world not use it as a playground for profit and power games…and who believe that speaking the truth is the only way we will ever really begin to solve anything.

 

    

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