The irony, the hypocrisy

Mob ruleThere’s a letter on the council consent agenda that will either make you shake your head in wonder at the brash irony of it, or laughing at a writer who plays a fawning Rudy Giuliani to Saunderson’s Trump.

It’s from Claire Tucker-Reid, the co-chair of the former Central Park Steering Committee (SPSC; our current mayor was the other), the committee that can be argued to be the cause of this recent and expensive turmoil that led to the town wasting more than $8 million of your money on a vindictive judicial inquiry (or, as some believe, a vendetta). The inquiry enriched lawyers but did nothing for the rest of us. Sure, we got 300-plus mostly generic or irrelevant recommendations, but can we fix the potholes with them? With $8 million we could have.

The letter’s author is also a self-professed member of the small, disruptive, special-interest lobbying group “Better Together Collingwood” (which was neither better than nor together with the rest of the community) that tried to bully council through mob rule into giving the YMCA a $35 million handout back in 2012.

And to top it off, she was the “campaign chair Mayor Saunderson, for the last 2 municipal elections.” No conflicts there, right?

You might recall that the SPSC had its own conflicts, not least from having an employee of a developer who made a competing proposal to build a rec facility as a voting member. It had a YMCA representative voting. What about the personal relationships between the writer and the former director of the PRC? Didn’t the inquiry rail on about how personal or business relationships were “hidden conflicts” even though they weren’t legally recognized as such?

If you accept the conclusions of the judicial inquiry that conflicts of interest exist outside the legal requirements of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, then from what I see, this letter is pretty hypocritical. But there has long been a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do block of Saunderson supporters for whom such considerations of fairness or transparency do not apply.

What about the committee’s refusal to share critical information with council six or more months before the final report was presented? And failed to share its meeting minutes with council, thus keeping council in the dark about its machinations. This knowledge might have caused council to shut the committee down much earlier because it had failed in its mandate (to develop a partnership), or at the very least it should have changed the nature of both the committee and the discussion around building a recplex.

Examining their activities, I find it hard not to conclude that the  CPSC acted in a secretive and deceptive manner. But I digress.

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The Cancer Diaries, Part 19

I was fortunate in being able to get my tooth fixed within 48 hours of losing a portion of it. I hadn’t expected to be able to see my dentist for at least a week, maybe even more, but there was an opening, a cancellation, and I grabbed it. I had a vision of having to spend a week or more eschewing tough or crunchy foods to avoid having another piece of enamel break away from around the old filling. No morning muesli, no peanuts or crunchy peanut butter, nothing too chewy or crusty like the sort of bread I prefer, no olives in case one had a fragment of pit in it. Sigh. Thinking about that on top of my daily drive to treatment made me rather tetchy. But I was spared the distress and now have a repaired tooth. Tip of my hat to Dr. Kemp and his staff.

Still, I was feeling a bit low, over the weekend. Not depressed; just off my feed. Sluggish, tired, lacking my usual oomph. Not sure if it’s a side effect of treatment, the grey, dreary weather, or my general lack of deep sleep. I am missing our usual morning walks, our cups of tea together, and our chatting. Susan and I normally walk our dog 2-4 km every morning after breakfast, often into the parks or along our trails, but since I’m off for early treatment, I don’t get to join her. It’s not just the exercise I miss, but the enjoyment of being with her, and the calming effect of walking in the woods or by the water, or just the pleasure of walking around my small home town. And I regularly play online games with a friend out of province, often daily (when time and circumstances permit), but of late he’s been recovering from eye surgery and unable to play, so even the fun of that stress relief has been missing. At least I still have my books to read.

To top it all off, I’ve had a bit of upset stomach/bowels this weekend, possibly a side effect of the radiation, although it seems a bit early for that. Might be food, or stress-related, too.

Controlling one’s bladder and bowels is the first step we make towards independence as a human; a significant milestone in our development. It is the moment we, as a species, can metaphorically start to leave the nest, and not be entirely dependent on others. Anything affecting that control later in life, let alone losing it, has a deep psychological effect. It feels like we’ve fallen back a step, become dependent again.  That only adds to the stress and anxiety of having cancer.

And now I begin my second week of daily radiation treatments.

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On growing old

De Senectute“We truly can’t praise the love and pursuit of wisdom enough,” wrote Marcus Tullius Cicero in one of his last works, How to Grow Old (De Senectute; aka On Aging or On Old Age), “since it allows a person to enjoy every stage of life free from worry.”

“Ancient wisdom for the second half of life,” is how Philip Freeman subtitles his translation of Cicero’s little book in his 2016 Princeton University edition. Cicero wrote his essay (not really a book as we think of them today) in 44 BCE, when he was already 62 years old. I’ve been reading Cicero again of late, searching for his wisdom as I, too age, and deal with the physical and medical complaints of aging. Freeman is a good translator, too; able to turn Cicero’s words into a readable, modern text.

I admit I guffawed a bit thinking of how Cicero’s praise for the lifelong pursuit of knowledge and wisdom compared with the current state of deliberate ignorance, conspiracies, QAnon piffle, the plethora of fake news among the rightwing, and the glut of pseudoscience in our modern world. From wingnut anti-GMO cultists to anti-maskers, homeopaths to anti-vaxxers, flat earthers to birthers, the ignorati in the White House to the banal plodders on Collingwood Council, we live in an age where knowledge is suspect, experts vilified,  truth denied, and wisdom is as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth.

There are, will always be, those who aggressively avoid learning and reading, comfortable in their self-perpetuating stupidity. For whom the concept of “lifelong learning” ended in childhood. It’s just unfortunate for the rest of us that some of them are in government.

But Cicero wasn’t writing about politics, although he had a lot to say about politics in many other works. Reading his thoughts about governance, ethics, duty, and responsibility is always inspiring. To those who actually read, that is; admittedly a shrinking class in the Age of Ignorance (how many of our local councillors actually know who Ccicero was, let alone have read him?). But in De Senectute he was writing about how to grow old gracefully, calmly and stoically, without despair, yet still active and engaged. He didn’t want the latter part of life to be seen as merely an end, but rather as a continued opportunity to live, learn, and grow.
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I’m Struggling With Julian Jaynes

Julian JaynesI first came across Julian Jaynes and his controversial (or at least provocative) book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, back in the late 1970s. I bought a copy, and read part of it, but my life was in a bit of turmoil back then, and I didn’t get too far along in it. Over the years, the book left my shelves, possibly given away or traded in. It wasn’t until two years ago that I came across a used copy (the 1990 revised edition with Jaynes’ extensive afterword) at a stand in Kensington Market. I decided I should make another attempt, and bought it.

For the past several months, I’ve been slowly reading the book (one of many I read simultaneously, as is my wont), taking time to consider his ideas, statements, and hypotheses as seriously and completely as my limited, non-academic background in these areas allows. It hasn’t been easy. Of course, I’ve been somewhat distracted by other books and personal issues, but still…

Jaynes’ hypothesis is that consciousness is a later development in human history, one that occurred almost simultaneously with the development of civilization, and that it arose in humans through both language and the physiological separation of, and communication between, the two halves of our brains (the bicameral brain). The latter was heard as ghostly voices or the voices of the gods.

This is from the Julian Jaynes Society website:

Jaynes asserts that consciousness did not arise far back in human evolution but is a learned process based on metaphorical language. Prior to the development of consciousness, Jaynes argues humans operated under a previous mentality he called the bicameral (‘two-chambered’) mind. In the place of an internal dialogue, bicameral people experienced auditory hallucinations directing their actions, similar to the command hallucinations experienced by many people who hear voices today. These hallucinations were interpreted as the voices of chiefs, rulers, or the gods.

The site further adds, “Dating the development of consciousness (as Jaynes carefully defines it) to around the end of the second millennium B.C. [sic] in Greece and Mesopotamia. The transition occurred at different times in other parts of the world.” Wikipedia adds,

…his theory has four separate hypotheses: consciousness is based on and accessed by language; the non-conscious bicameral mind is based on verbal hallucinations; the breakdown of bicameral mind precedes consciousness, but the dating is variable; the ‘double brain’ of bicamerality is not today’s functional lateralization of the cerebral hemispheres. He also expanded on the impact of consciousness on imagination and memory, notions of The Self, emotions, anxiety, guilt, and sexuality.

Interesting hypothesis, even if it somewhat baffles me. However, I am fascinated by the nature and origins of consciousness, how we define it, where it comes from, where it is located within us, and its future. I am reading other related books in my efforts to understand it (including some works on the simulation theory, superintelligence, and the consciousness of octopodes).

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The Cancer Diaries, Part 18

Radiation treatment, 2nd session

radiation machinery or linear accelerator (LINAC)Same process as the first one, albeit a little shorter time to get ready since I already knew what was expected of me, and what items to disrobe. No hiccups or delays. I lie down, get positioned by the therapists, then the bed moves back towards the machinery (the linear accelerator, or LINAC).
Like some hulking scifi machinery, the arms swivel, the X-ray panels extend, and they slowly rotate over my abdomen. their work done, these panels retract and the radiation machinery is positioned. It, too, rotates around me. And then it’s done, and the bed extends back into the room so I can dismount and get dressed. Took perhaps 15 minutes total. Stopped in the hospital atrium for a cup of coffee before driving home. Am on disc 10 of the 35-CD Don Quixote audiobook. Traffic was moderate, weather fair both ways.

No treatments over the weekend; next one on Monday. I can relax a bit, read, play computer games, watch movies, cook meals, and walk the dog with Susan. I’ll need to fill up the car sometime this weekend, but nothing else is pressing.

Radiation treatment, 3rd session

Easy drive in and out. Got my schedule for next week when I registered; same times as this week. Same process as before: the brief X-ray followed by the “rapid arc” zap, overview on Mondays after the session.

The hospital was running late, and didn’t get to see me until around 20-30 minutes later than scheduled. Which, with a full bladder, can be a long, fidgety time. However, I chatted for a short time with one of the ladies in the waiting room, and who also came from Collingwood.
After my treatment, I was shuffled into another waiting room to sit and read for 30 or so more minutes before a nurse came to get me. As usual, I brought books to keep me occupied. Three others in the waiting room, including two men my age or older, spent their time staring at their phones. Which simply looks sad and lonely. At least reading a book feels like I’m doing something positive and engaging with my mind.
The nurse took me down the hall to a separate exam room to discuss my treatment so far, although at this point I had little to say about any effects, so it was a short discussion. She mentioned what I might expect in future, but every patient is different, so I may not feel the same effects as some others.

We spoke about a few odds and ends like getting my bone scan results, possible side effects from the hormones later in the treatment, and making sure my diet had enough calcium because radiation can cause bone loss. Eschewed the coffee this time and drove straight back home. Am on disc 12 of the audiobook.

Dec 1: A considerable snowfall overnight and continuing with high winds through Tuesday made me worry about the drive under those conditions. Local streets were not cleared when I was ready, and I wasn’t sure about the highway or the more dangerous areas. I chose to postpone this treatment session and not risk the potentially challenging or dangerous drive. Winter driving here will present a challenge for me. Took my final Bicalutamide table today. No more hormones until the next Lupron shot, in 2021.

The oncologist called me today while I was shovelling snow. I wasn’t able to talk much, but she did tell me my scans all came back fine. I was relieved the cancer had not spread to my bones. I had a glass of wine later to celebrate. Okay, I had two, but only from the box. I am saving the best bottle for when I have finally finished my treatments. I finished reading John Le Carre’s Agent Running in the Field today.

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No Enemies; No Accomplishments

Have you ever read this poem? I hadn’t, until recently. But now it makes sense. Take a moment…

No Enemies

You have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.

As Wikipedia tells us, Charles Mackay (27 March 1814 – 24 December 1889) was a Scottish poet, journalist, author, anthologist, novelist, and songwriter, remembered mainly for his 1841 book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, a copy of which I have buried somewhere on my bookshelves. His other works are pretty much forgotten today.

You might have also have heard his poem spoken while watching the Netflix series, The Crown, season four. In it, Gillian Anderson, playing “the Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher, responds to the Queen’s question about creating political enemies by reciting the poem from memory. Thatcher says, in effect, “bring them on; I’ve earned them.”

I was thinking of that poem and what it meant to have political enemies as I read in the local media* the petty, insulting, Trump-like spume from our own council around the recent Judicial Inquiry report coupled with the fumbling attempts to justifiy the egregious cost.

Enemies, as Mackay tells us, are what to expect when you work hard, do good, and stand up for your beliefs. And, it seems, my former council sure has its enemies at the table today. I doubt the current council has any because they’d have to stand for something or actually do something first.

From their comments in local media, I doubt any of those quoted actually read the report fully, let alone bothered to question any of what was, in my opinion, a flawed process and pre-determined outcome in which guilt would be assigned to those “enemies.” Our council, it strikes me, used the interview not to discuss moving forward or anything constructive, but merely to vent and bloviate (while clearly mis-informed about some salient facts, too**). How very Trump-like they have become. Since when did every councillor get to speak for the municipality? Are their personal opinions now official statements, no matter how ill-informed?

But then, I wondered, how many at the table are even capable of reading anything even a fraction as long as the contentious report, let alone comprehend or analyse it? Few if any, I suspect.

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