A few random thoughts on mental illness and suicide

Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King. Parry (Williams), who is homeless and mentally ill, retells the story of the Fisher King and the Holy Grail.

In light of all the ignorant and shitty things being said in the wake of Robin Williams’s incredibly sad passing, I want to say a few things of my own to offset all the ignorance and bullshit. This may be rough and disjointed, but here goes:

Suicide is not an act of cowardice. One of the weird paradoxes of clinical depression is that it tends to cause thoughts of suicide, but also tends to inhibit the depressed person from acting out those thoughts by leaving that person exhausted and devoid of will. Just being alive under those circumstances is an incredible act of courage, so wanting out isn’t “cowardly”, but rather quite understandable. At the same time, it can also be grisly and horrifying just to contemplate…yes, even under those circumstances.

When I was depressed, I was constantly exhausted, yet constantly filled with anxiety, with a sensation of burning in my veins. I had panic attacks, which made me want to flee whatever place I was in, but sapped my physical strength so that I could hardly move. This painful paradox led to a lot of suicidal ideation for me. When my boyfriend took me to Niagara Falls, I couldn’t cross a high bridge without thinking of how much easier it would all be if I only found the courage to step over the railing and let myself fall through the cool air into the waters of the drainage canal, 70 metres below. Yes, I measured the drop…by tossing a stone and timing the splash, then calculating the distance based on acceleration due to gravity. And whenever I passed a railroad track and saw a freight train coming, I felt an almost magnetic pull toward it, and a horrific urge to lay my burning neck down on the nice, cool rail. It was like the world’s most perverse physics class.

These thoughts of suicide brought me no relief; on the contrary, they contributed to the horror and exhaustion of an already gruesome battle. I did not want to die. I only wanted the pain to end. The fact that my illness was suggesting its own “cure” in such a dire manner was a terrifying experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

I wasn’t being weak when I had suicidal thoughts. It took great strength to resist them, but it would have taken even greater strength to act them out!

The reason why some people on antidepressants commit suicide? Disinhibition. Prozac is legendary for giving depressed people back the energy the disease has sapped from them. It is also notorious for giving them the energy to take their own lives, where the depression had taken that away. This is why some people who are apparently recovering well on antidepressants “unexpectedly” take their own lives. Before prescribing any drug, a psychiatrist must ask them: Have you ever thought of suicide, or tried to commit it? If the answer is yes, any disinhibiting antidepressant is contraindicated.

I had suicidal ideations. I was so paralyzed by my illness that I couldn’t ask for help even though I needed it desperately. I should have seen a psychiatrist, should have gone on medication. Interestingly, one of the books I kept reading and rereading obsessively at the time was Colette Dowling’s You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way?, which was about how antidepressants help treat the chemical imbalances of the brain that cause depression. But I never found the inner wherewithal to call my doctor or ask for a psychiatric referral. I never went on medication. I ended up toughing the illness out, and eventually the grey fog lifted. But when I later learned how many meds are tied to suicide in patients who appeared to be getting better, I wondered if I hadn’t somehow dodged a bullet. After all, Prozac was very much in fashion back then…

No, going on medication isn’t a sign of weakness either. Nor does it have anything to do with a conspiracy to “dope” us all into submission. The right medication(s) can save sanity and lives. The problem lies not with antidepressants, but rather with careless prescribing. And since a lot of doctors here in Ontario are overstressed and overextended themselves, with patient demand outstripping the physician supply, it’s all too easy for prescribing mistakes to happen. Especially if Big Pharma companies aggressively promote the latest drugs to doctors in an effort to boost sales.

And, give me a fucking break, Lionel Fucking Tiger, psychiatric meds are also NOT about “feminizing” boys. Antidepressants are not made of estrogen! A kid who can’t sit still in class, listening and learning, is not a boy being a boy, but a troubled youngster in need of help. If a girl acted that way, everybody would see that there was something wrong with her; sex changes NOTHING. Nobody can succeed in life by simply being left to run amuck. Anyone who thinks medication can’t make a positive difference to troubled kids has never been one, seen one, or had to deal with one. So please, spare me the pop-psych bullshit about the “need” to “bring back masculinity” by avoiding “emasculating” drugs like antidepressants or Ritalin. Masculinity never even left the building, and to equate it with madness is an insult to men, just as equating femininity with tameness is an insult to women.

No, genius and madness do not go hand in hand, either. Being exceptionally bright doesn’t make you crazy. Neither does being crazy mean that you are automatically gifted with rare and incredible insights. Yes, sometimes the two coincide in the same person. But to claim that this correlation somehow equals causation is like saying that having brown hair causes you to also have blue eyes, or vice versa. Plenty of people have the one, but not the other. And the fact that some people have both simply means that mental illness can happen to anyone, even the best of us.

When I was depressed, my normally high intelligence felt remote, like it had abandoned me. My usual creativity was dead and gone. I had trouble carrying out a lot of mental tasks that would ordinarily have been easy for me. I felt guilty and stupid all the time. Later, when the fog lifted, I got those faculties back. But when I was in the fog, even just walking to work or school took all the strength I had. By day’s end, I barely had the energy to lift a fork. It was like my brain had died and gone to hell. I was definitely no genius when I was sick.

Normality is not boring; it is a blessing. My only fear is that it will desert me without warning again, as it has repeatedly done in the past. I have been healthy for twenty years now. It is work, but it isn’t half as effortful as simply trying to survive while in the grip of a major depression.

And finally: No, mentally ill people are NOT in need of a good pep talk. You can’t jolly them out of it. Believe me, my former boyfriend tried. All it did was make me feel worse. And the trip to Niagara Falls, which was meant to cheer me up? It only fueled my depression and anxiety. That city is the worst place in the world to take a depressed person who also gets panic attacks. Especially if, like me, you are already afraid of heights even when you’re perfectly well. And the fact that I found no cheer in the tawdry, tacky tourist attractions made me feel like a total wet blanket on my boyfriend and his buddies, who were determined to have a good time even if I couldn’t.

Don’t try to talk a mentally ill person out of being ill. You can’t do that. All you can do, at the end of the day, is listen. Offering to do just that is often enough. And yet, too many people can’t even do that. It’s because they can’t fathom how badly a depressed friend needs someone else who is willing to hear it. If you’ve never been depressed, how on Earth would you know? So don’t presume to know anything. Don’t try to tell your sick friend anything. Ask.

You have no idea how much your friend is dying to tell.

Quotable: Naomi Wolf on Gaza

Come see me eat nipples!

Y’okay. Now that we’ve got the silliness out of our systems (and the deliberately bad English translations of Bollywood dance numbers), let’s talk a bit about nipples.

Perhaps you’ve seen the Tata Top, and heard of #FreeTheNipple? Yeah, boobs are in the news again. And it’s all because female mammaries are (a) sexualized, and (b) CENSORED.

Oh yeah, and also because (b) is a direct outgrowth of (a). And vice versa.

And because the Puritans are dead, but small-p puritanism still lives in the US, and Canada too, by extension. Even though it’s legal for women to go topless up here, and has been for decades, most of us won’t do it unless we’re strictly among people we love and trust.

And some of us — me, for instance — won’t even do it in our own backyards.

Granted, I have sound health reasons for not taking advantage of our liberal clothing laws. I’m a natural redhead, and that means fair skin that burns easily. I don’t tan for shit, and I don’t want skin cancer, either. So when it gets hot, I tend to run for cover. And let my big, baggy ol’ t-shirts be my shady tents, especially if it’s too hot for bras.

But even if sunburn weren’t an issue, I’d still be reluctant to go out in a bikini top. Never mind one that’s cleverly colored (and printed) to look like bare breasts.

Now, why do you suppose that is?

Well, for starters, I’m very well endowed. Not bragging, but not ashamed of what I’ve got either. I love my bazookas, even though they complicate my life no end.

And yes, they do complicate it. I’ve been sexually harassed even while fully clothed. By strangers. By acquaintances. By people I thought I could trust. And this has been going on for as long as I’ve had boobs at all. Even tiny, barely-budding ones, at the age of 10. Know what that means? It means that for the past 36 years, I’ve been covering up in a vain and useless attempt to ward off unwanted attention, comments, grabs, and general grossness.

It’s like me having boobs gives random guys some kind of licence to get all yucky with ‘em. And that’s why I can’t have a simple, uncomplicated, happy affection for my gazongas.

And it’s not just me. In fact, it’s not even just women who’ve had to face this sort of creepy censorious/sexualized treatment of their bodies. As Scout Willis found out, men once had to fight for the right to go shirtless in public on hot days. And I recall reading that in Spain, during the Franco dictatorship, newspapers had to hire photo-retouchers just to paint undershirts on prizefighters in the sports section, lest Spanish ladies have their modesty offended by the sight of — gasp! — male nipples.

Well, my modesty isn’t offended by the sight of a man’s bare chest. I’ll gladly look at attractive ones, and even think to myself that cool dude so-and-so sure looks hot with his shirt off. I like guys; love them, even. So why should my modesty be affected by the sight of one running around half naked?

In fact, as I’ve pointed out before, what some call “modesty” is nothing more than our right not to be sexually molested. It exists no matter what we wear, how we act, or where we go. But by putting the onus on women to “keep modest” so as not to be molested, it puts the burden on the wrong person. If I could be harassed (as in fact I was) while wearing a puffy coat, baggy jeans, and Doc Martens — and not a speck of makeup — then clearly what I’m wearing or not wearing is not the issue. (For the record, I’ve also been left strangely unmolested while wearing miniskirts.) The blame should be on the harasser, not the harassed. And since I didn’t harass myself, but guys harassed me — gee, you don’t suppose maybe guys could do with a bit of educating, do you?

Nah, of course not. Men are all perfect. Rape culture doesn’t apply to them. Their bodies aren’t sexualized like ours are. It’s we women who have to cover up, worry about how we look, and second-guess ourselves constantly. We have to do it all for them, so they never have to do it for themselves.

And that, pardon the expression, really chafes my tits.

So, here’s my radical thought for the day: Guys, remember that your forefathers had to fight for the right to walk around half-naked where others could see them. And remember, too, that even though your right to seminudity is fully legal and unremarkable, hordes of women aren’t running after you, catcalling you and pawing your body, no matter how effin’ gorgeous it is. There’s a reason for that: We got Nice Girl training. We are taught from an early age not to be rude, forward and unmannerly. But more than that, we know how gross we’d feel if someone did that to us. And we don’t view you as our property. We don’t think you’re there for us to just wipe ourselves on. We think you have a right to be left in peace — to not be touched unless you make it clear that you want us touching you.

And if you reciprocate, and stop making such an idiotic fuss about our boobs, you might in fact be making this world a much better — and cooler — place.

No, of COURSE misogyny is not a problem anymore. Silly ladies!

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Awwww. Isn’t that a cute widdle hammy-wamster? It sure is. A pity that what it stands for isn’t nearly so adorable.

Yes, folks, I’m talking about misogyny today. The M-word. The one that half the population fears, and the other half doesn’t seem to know exists.

The half of the population that fears it isn’t all women. Some lucky ladies are so privileged that they can’t even see misogyny, much less how it affects them, how narrowly it circumscribes every aspect of their lives. The half that fears it is a mixed bag of genders, but what we have that the other half doesn’t is the wits to recognize the monster behind that cute widdle fuzzy golden face. And to dread it, knowing that we are up for one helluva fight.

What must it be like to live on the other side? The privileged side, the one that doesn’t even see the problem? The side that is mostly, but not all, male? The side that has internalized misogyny so the boys will like them better?

Well, here are some clues.

How about the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, who don’t seem to see a problem if a religious doctor privileges private “conscience” over a woman’s basic human right to complete medical care? Ontario is a big province, and not all of us live in cities where, if one doctor refuses to treat us, we can simply flip through the vast phone book until we find another who will. In rural and northern areas, women often have to travel many miles just to see a doctor at all. What happens if that doctor is one of those who say “Nope, I don’t do abortions or birth control, because God won’t love me if I do”? Where else do you go, when you have to get on a small airplane and fly hundreds of miles south just to see THAT useless halfwit?

Why, you just go home, to your kitchen, like a good little lady. Stay barefoot and pregnant and out of sight. That’s where you go.

But wait, that’s how it is for the half of us with the wits to know and fear misogyny. We’re still trying to figure out how that other half lives. The kind that says we belong in concentration camps and that only a few of us should be kept alive, in semi-starvation, for breeding purposes. Can’t forget about them, can we? After all, they dominate our world, whether we realize it or not.

Oh yeah…about that concentration-camps thing. Did you know Elliot Rodger’s grandfather was among the first to photograph the victims of Bergen-Belsen? I only found that out today, while looking for links to insert in the above paragraph. But wow, that’s one helluva clue. I can see through this that to live on the other side is to be possessed of a very twisted and minimal sense of human decency…and no sense of irony whatsofuckingEVER.

And for those who think there’s no connection between a young suicidal megalomaniac, Nazi death camps, and doctors who refuse to treat women as fully adult, autonomous human beings, capable of making their own medical decisions and with a right to expect doctors to abide by them, let me remind you here and now that the Nazis didn’t believe in abortion either. And that they rewarded women for bearing lots of children, Quiverfull-style.

My own paternal grandmother got a Mother’s Cross for having four children — and the irony of that hit home when my grandpa dared to complain about how Germany had gone to shit since the Nazis were in power. He got called up on the carpet by the Gestapo, and the first words out of the officer’s mouth were “Sie haben vier Kinder…” (“You have four children…”)

It was a straight-up death threat. The Gestapo man was saying, in not so many words, that if my grandpa wanted his four acceptably-German children to live, he’d better shut the fuck up about the Nazis. If he’d made good on that threat, my dad would not be here today, and neither would I.

And, mind you, these were the same Nazis who set up “life camps” for unwed mothers to spawn the next generation of “pure”, “Aryan” denizens of the “Thousand-Year Reich”.

I’m sorry, I’m not doing a very good job at all of getting how these misogynists think, am I? It’s all hurting my poor widdle lady-brain. And so early in the morning, too.

Guess I’d better toddle off to my kitchen and start cooking lunch, now.

“The Price of the World Cup” — dead children?

A Danish journalist has uncovered some shocking allegations about how the Brazilian cities where the World Cup matches are currently underway have chosen to “clean” their streets of homeless people, especially street kids. It forms part of an overall critical look at how the neo-corporatist World Cup agenda has run roughshod over the locals in those cities. Everything from cablecars being built over favelas where people have lived for decades, to insufferable gentrification, to allegations of death squads roaming the streets, gets an airing here. It really puts the lie to the common canard that Brazil is a “racial democracy”, since most of the suffering has been borne by the poor and non-white people of the land.

And the allegations of state-sanctioned murder squads, if true, signify a shocking holdover from the days of the US-backed military fascist dictatorship that seized power in a not-so-bloodless coup in 1964 and later murdered the legitimately elected president, João Goulart. The same that also kidnapped and tortured the current president, Dilma Rousseff, when she was a young Marxist guerrilla. Those kidnappers, torturers and murderers cut their teeth on homeless people even before the coup that unseated Goulart, receiving instruction in their ugly craft from US police and military officers and spies. And their methods clearly live on in the municipal police and armed forces of present-day Brazil. Remember this?

Dan Mitrione, the police torture instructor discussed in this short clip, was fictionalized slightly (as “Philip Michael Santore”) for the movie State of Siege. Before his posting to Uruguay, where he was captured and eventually executed by the Tupamaro guerrillas, Mitrione spent time in Brazil…and there is a memorably horrifying scene in that same movie showing naked men — beggars yanked off the streets — being tortured and electrocuted on stage in a massive lecture hall filled with military and police officers. Those same officers have not been cleansed out of the Brazilian police and armed forces; on the contrary, their methods have survived and flourished with complete impunity. In other words: In Brazil, Dan Mitrione still lives.

Every Brazilian who’s been asked about how they feel about the World Cup seems to say the same thing, whether it’s expats interviewed by the Deutsche Welle in Germany, or my Brazilian friends here on the other side of the pond. They love soccer, but they hate the World Cup and all the upheaval it brings, from gentrification to an uptick in child prostitution on the streets…and of course, death squads. All agree that the money spent on building and renovating big stadiums was a waste, and that it should have gone to social programs. Healthcare, education, social housing. And that street people and favela dwellers should not have been expelled and killed, as they apparently have been. But it would appear that local mayors — or perhaps we should say, local death-squad capos — disagree. Bullets are so much cheaper than giving some “worthless” street kid an education, food, a home, and a good job. Somehow, human beings just don’t merit that kind of consideration when there are big bucks at play on the soccer field.

It is shocking that a president who was once a victim of this same insanity could turn a blind eye to its continuation four decades later. Let’s hope that Dilma finally does something about this. Just don’t look for anything to start happening while the World Cup is still on.

A few random thoughts on yesterday’s Ontario election

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So, the Ontario Liberals have formed our new government. And it’s a majority. We now have our first elected woman premier (who is also our first elected out gay premier). Tim Hudak was handed his Not-So-Progressive Conservative ass, and has resigned in the wake of his resounding defeat. Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath, who led the provincial NDP — supposedly the most progressive of the three mainstream parties — got handed an object lesson in how NOT to win new friends and influence people. People who neglected to vote got just what they deserved, too: NOTHING.

And I, who swore over a decade ago never again to hold my nose and vote for a Liberal when the party lost to Ernie Eves and his nasty band of Harrisite leftovers (of which Hudak was one), have voted for a Liberal. I did not hold my nose this time.

And I’m not even sorry.

I didn’t leave the NDP; they left me. And they did it right around the time that Andrea Horwath decided it was clever to court the business vote and maybe pick off a few disgruntled SupposiTories, and throw the real, long-time NDPers under the big orange bus. And to cap off the ignominy, the provincial New Democrats ignored my demands to be taken off their call list, and instead deluged me with donation requests by phone and e-mail, as well as robocalls trying to rope me into an “unscripted” town-hall that I had no desire to take part in. I was pissed as hell over that. And yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I finally took my frustrations out in the only way I knew. I voted for the local Liberal in my riding. And he won.

And that’s why I’m not sorry. My riding is a swing riding; it could go either way in any given election, and vacillates between Lib and Con. An NDP vote would be wasted here, and doubly so under the circumstances. The Liberal I voted for unseated the Conservative doofus who’d been squatting uselessly in Queen’s Park on our supposed behalf, making idiotic proposals to attract more tourists to our area by building covered bridges. Yeah, that’s right: he was shooting for The Bridges of Madison County. Only this is NOT Madison County, and it doesn’t have a lengthy tradition of covered bridges to preserve, let alone add to. But hey — wouldn’t it have looked cute? Guess that would have created maybe a couple dozen of those million new jobs Timmy promised us. No wait, that would be public-sector jobs. And Timmy was for chopping 100,000 of those. He seemed to think that with fewer taxes to pay and less accountability than ever, the private sector would pick up the slack. Since when has it ever done that? Since, oh, about NEVER. The only thing that trickles down from Uncle Miltie Friedman’s economics is raw sewage — and, if you have the misfortune to live and work in Alberta, tar-sands waste.

And Ontario voters, those who showed up yesterday at any rate, aren’t stupid. You can’t piss on our heads out here and tell us it’s raining. Which is what Tim Hudak was trying to do. And Andrea Horwath, too. The one was handed a harsh lesson in how not to do economics, and the other, in how not to do progressive politics. On both counts, they are bullets that I chose to dodge. As for the Greens, they’ve long been off the progressive radar here, because their environmental solution boils down to too much capitalism and not enough socialism. And again, Ontario voters not being stupid, we know that that’s not enough to keep our province clean and healthy. Trying to appeal to the goodness of a businessman’s heart is a losing proposition, because they don’t have one. Big Business will almost always pay only the merest of lip service to progressive causes, and very rarely do things differently out of a knowledge that the common good is also good for business. If you don’t believe me, watch The Corporation. If corporations are legally persons, then the kind of persons they are is diagnosably psychopathic. (And just think: That’s who Andrea Horwath was trying to court, too. Oy.)

So, all bullet-dodging and ass-handing aside, what was this election about?

In the end, the “surprising” Liberal majority tells me that there was something more at work here than just avoiding the worst and punishing their fellow-travellers for jumping on the dumb populist bandwagon. Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga (and the longest-serving mayor in the country), nailed it when she picked Kathleen Wynne for her endorsement. Hurricane Hazel is no lightweight; she shepherded her city through the great train derailment of 1979, when she was newly elected, and Mississauga was newly amalgamated. It could have been the kiss of death for her, but it proved to be her finest hour, because that was when she proved not only her political mettle, but her unswerving dedication to her constituents. Hazel McCallion has never lied or played her people false. She always stood up for them, and that’s why they kept voting for her, term after term after term. So her recommendation bore some weight with me. And lots of other Ontarians too, it seems.

And then there was the Globe & Mail’s editorial board. They all endorsed Wynne too, in a consensus that took time and thought to reach, only to have orders come down from on high to throw their weight behind Hudak instead. Now, those board members were not idiots, either. Whoever told them they were going with Hudak was. But then, the Grope & Flail has always endorsed the Tories, so I guess that was to be expected. Even though the party leader was a complete twit, it didn’t matter; tradition is tradition. And the editorial high command ended up mopping egg yolks out of their beards for that.

But then, is that really so shocking? Ontarians can’t afford to vote based on tradition anymore. And neither can politicians rely on conventional, traditional strategies for roping them in. The conservative base is aging and dying. They can’t be counted on in the numbers they once had. And that’s a good thing for progressives, even in this ludicrous first-past-the-post system we have. Because we younger voters of Generations X and Y are informed by grassroots movements like Occupy, Uncut, and the 99%. We are restless, and we don’t give a hang for party loyalty when the parties betray us. We are the untapped progressive vein that the traditional party strategists are missing. They think we’ll fall for some right-wing yutz when, in fact, we are much further to the left than any of the big parties. And we are the ones with an increasing power to force the most progressive candidates to the top. In this case, it was Kathleen Wynne…who ran as a Liberal, but sounded a lot more like a New Democrat than the NDP did. For me, she was a no-brainer choice.

My polling station was surprisingly busy, given that I live in a fairly small town. Line-ups are uncommon on voting day at any station here. Usually you’re in and out in less than five minutes. But yesterday, I found myself waiting behind another woman, who was waiting for yet another woman to vote. I wonder if we all voted for the same candidate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did! I smelled motivation in the air…and desperation in the Conservative camp, which indeed there was. Maybe my single vote wasn’t much on its own, but then again, lots of others were probably thinking the same thing. And, quite possibly, that was what put our local Liberal very soundly over the top, with several thousand votes over the incumbent Conservative doofus. If you vote, you can still make a difference; if not, you might just end up getting not the government you want, but the one you deserve.

And now that that’s all over, it’s time for the next step: holding all the new electees’ feet to the fire, as well as those of the losers, and making sure they don’t get away with more of the same old. Which is to say, politics by, of and for the money, rather than by, of and for the people. We have to make sure they don’t go throwing a “surprise” austerity budget at us. Let’s hope they’re learning a thing or two from the Eurocrisis, and specifically, the French, who are throwing debt out the window in favor of the public interest. Ontarians should get a referendum on whether a “balanced budget” is really a worthwhile priority, instead of an inflexible law. It’s time to scrap the legacy of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves once and for all. No more tax cuts for big business, and no more austerity budgets to appease the suits. For that, we’ll need concerted action.

And a lot more of it than just dutifully turning out on election day.

“Not All Men” is still too many

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Not all men are like Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who stabbed three roommates to death before going out on a shooting spree motivated by an unholy cocktail of misogyny, mental illness, and frustration at his “incel” status and his failure at picking up women.

Not all men are like this bunch of hooligans, who took potshots at some young women just for not having sex with them.

Not all men are like Marc Lépine, who went on an antifeminist crusade with a Ruger, killing 14 women and wounding several other people.

Not all men are like the boys who harassed me on an almost daily basis when I was between the ages of 12 and 17 — the same ages which, according to Julie Lalonde, demarcate the age bracket in which the greatest number of males will commit sexual assault.

Not all men are like the stoned-looking weirdo who sat masturbating in his car in broad daylight while asking me for directions to a street just a few blocks from where I lived during my student days in Kingston.

Not all men are like the older man who rudely propositioned me behind the wheel of his car when I was 20, grabbing my hand and sticking my finger in his mouth and telling me he wished it were my nipple.

Not all men are like the young guy who pulled up to the curb next to me in Toronto and tried to get me into his car, thinking I was for sale just because I was female and walking alone.

Not all men are harassers, rapists, murderers or creeps. But tell that to any woman who’s ever had a too-close encounter with one of them. “Not all men” is cold comfort to an awful lot of women.

“Not all men” is no comfort to me. I still have trust problems thanks to all those guys who made my life a shitpile over the course of my formative years.

“Not all men” is no comfort to one who was a student, and volunteering at the Queen’s Women’s Centre, when the Montréal Massacre went down. I remember how so many of the victims were in exactly my own age bracket then, too. It’s no comfort to me, because I went to school — and the Women’s Centre — terrified that I could have been next. And if not me, then maybe some other young woman I knew.

“Not all men” are why I keep saying “No thanks, I’d rather walk” when offered a ride by a “kindly” male stranger — or even a “nice” guy I know. “Not all men” are why I walk away when I see a car with a male driver slowing down as it approaches me. “Not all men” are why I walk faster if there’s a man directly behind me on the sidewalk. “Not all men” are why I flip the bird at any guy who can’t take a polite hint when I want to be left alone.

No, of course not all men are like that. Not even a majority are. At least I hope so. But I honestly don’t know. I’m not the one to tell, because I have run into way too many who were like that.

“Not all men” still covers an awful lot of men.

“Not all men” is still just too damn many, because NO man should be like that.

Michael Geist on the erosion of privacy in Canada

A very important talk from three days ago, and an hour and a quarter well spent if you care how much privacy you really have online (spoiler: virtually none). And the worst part is, all this spying and spooking is about to be enshrined in a law that you, the citizen, did NOT get to vote on.

Why the Venezuelan protests are doomed to fail, AGAIN

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“I’m so proud of your peaceful work!” Silly señora, wake up and smell the cafecito…

So, you think the opposition protests are popular? You think they’ll succeed, and that gringo intervention will be welcomed? Think again. Survey sez…EPIC FAIL!

A survey by International Consulting Services (ICS) found that 85.3% of Venezuelans disagree with the protests mounted by sectors of the Venezuelan far-right.

These violent actions, which involve roadblocks, have caused damage to state institutions, destruction, and closures of public roads and services, as part of a putschist plan against the government.

Simón Córdoba, representative of the consulting firm, told VTV that the survey, conducted between February 17 and 24, also showed that 81.6% of Venezuelans consider the opposition protests to have been violent.

91.3% of those surveyed said that preservation of peace and democracy are “very important”, while 54.8% stated that democracy is guaranteed.

52.3% of respondents affirmed that freedom of expression in Venezuela is very well guaranteed, while 54.2% said that human rights are supported.

65.2% say that the actions of the police have been in line with the law.

The ICS survey reached 1400 homes, has a margin of error of 2.7%, and a reliability rating of 95%.

Translation mine.

So, to recap…4 out of 5 Venezuelans don’t believe those “peaceful” protests are peaceful at all, and don’t agree with those mounting them. That means that not only Maduro supporters, but a fair chunk of the opposition and those of no particular political affiliation are against what’s happening in the streets right now. A clear majority also think the police have been acting for the most part appropriately, and democracy and freedom of expression prevail in Maduro’s supposedly “fascist” land.

You can argue against it all you like, but the people have spoken. Venezuela will not be falling into the hands of the gringos or their puppets anytime soon.

A letter from Venezuela

Just some more video of the Venezuelan opposition making shit up as they go along, with the ever-complicit local corporate media along for the ride. Nothing to see here, folks.

While browsing Aporrea this morning, I came upon this open letter in the opinion section. The author, Leopoldo Alberto Cook Antonorsi, addresses it “to a foreign friend”, whom he does not name. I think it’s worth translating in its entirety, as it sets straight the very crooked picture the media have painted of Venezuela in the last week or so. Here it is, complete and unabridged:

You are concerned about Venezuela, and I understand the sincerity of your position. The short time in which we have exchanged [messages] has allowed me to know you, to see your inner light. But I think you have formed an opinion on the basis of erroneous information, or at least incomplete.

You say that in Venezuela, violence rules, corruption, repression. That is what the international media show. I propose that you verify each piece of information that you see. There is a simple procedure, in the case of photographs:

1. Save the image.
2. Using Google, select Images.
3. Once there, click the icon of the camera on the search bar.
4. Insert the image you saved earlier, search for it, and you will see similar images with their sources.

In these past few days we have seen, as if it were here and now, images of past repression (the Caracas Metropolitan Police, which has not existed for years), or from other places (Egypt, for example). There are laboratories dedicated to this dirty war. They are divulging a lot of false information, presented in a manner well studied by specialists in human comportment, to hook people into their [political] sentiments.

I tell you, yes, there are opposition protests, which began as peaceful ones, and there are many well-meaning people there. But the acts of violence which have taken place, have come from the opposition, from the most fascist group, have caused serious damage in the millions of dollars, and about a hundred of them have been identified and detained. The opposition say that they are infiltrating vandals. So now the big question: Why do the opposition demand that we free them, if they are infiltrators?

Leopoldo López, with a large putschist budget, called the people to the streets in a tone of violence, with the consequences of recent disorder and three deaths. Why do Álvaro Uribe and the US government defend him?

Now I ask you, knowing that your are progressive and sincere:

Have you investigated the levels of nutrition and health in the people of Venezuela, how they have improved in the last 15 years? Have you observed the growth in primary healthcare services?

Have you investigated the indices of education, how illiteracy has been eradicated, how there are fewer school drop-outs, how millions of adults have completed their high school diplomas and are now at university? Have you seen how the people are now more awake, more alert?

Have you investigated how they are resolving the housing deficit in our country, with the construction of new homes and the remodeling of entire neighborhoods?

Have you investigated the level of political participation, how in 15 years we have had 19 elections (of which the Revolution has won 18), with an electoral system which has been internationally praised as one of the best in the world? How many elections have their been during this period in the country where you live and in other “developed” ones?

Have you investigated the antecedents of the leaders of the Venezuelan opposition? I’ll give you some facts: Investigate the fascist organization “Tradition, Family and Property”. Investigate the political history of Venezuela from 1960 to 1998. Have you investigated the financing which opposition political organizations in Venezuela receive, in dollars from the US government and its institutions?

On top of all this, what is the fundamental contradiction? What is it that bothers the US about the Venezuelan revolution? (Because that is the opposition principle, which directs the entire campaign against Venezuela.) Have you asked yourself that? Yesterday, a US congressman said it very clearly: “We have to send troops to Venezuela to guarantee the flow of oil.” The part about the supposed repression, freedoms, etc., etc., is pure pantomime. Their interest is our natural resources, but Latin America is not their backyard, like before.

It’s true that there is an asymmetry with respect to the international “market”. In Venezuela, basic products and services are accessible to the majority, the price indices are well below the international levels. This generates a pressure toward the contraband of extraction. Anti-patriotic sectors illegally hoard tonnes of products of first necessity to sell them out of country. For that reason there is a scarcity of goods, because insensible persons think more of themselves and not of others, and prefer to send products abroad.

Also, the US is investing millions of dollars to cause an imbalance in our economic system. It is fueling speculation, hoarding, financing the “businessmen” with dollars so that they have an income even though they aren’t selling anything.

On the other hand, the Bolivarian government has seen the greatest growth in earnings. Have you investigated what are the indices of acceptable earnings where you live? Because in Venezuela, it has risen 30%, which is excessive in any other country. But did you know that here, there are gains in earnings of 100%, 1,000%, even 10,000%? That is immoral.

As for insecurity, I sincerely believe it has been exaggerated. I don’t deny it, and we are working to bring it down. But it is not worse than in Mexico or Colombia, or El Salvador, or even some parts of the US. But the media influence opinion a great deal. In particular, I go out at night a lot, to workers’ meetings, the movies, on walks, etc., and I can tell you that insecurity has been “maximized”. But there is a real element of insecurity, a part stemming from materialist mentality, which has inculcated capitalism in us, another part artificially financed by the US. They are financing armed gangs, of “thugs” and demobilized paramilitaries, to cause fear, insecurity, in such a way as to raise the statistics of insecurity.

Yes, there is corruption, and we don’t like it. But have you analyzed the actions of the opposition? Their leaders? They are the most corrupt. It’s no consolation to choose the lesser evil, but human nature is like that. We have to fight continually against corruption, there is no perfect government. I don’t ask you to support the revolution because it is “less” corrupt. I ask you to look at the big picture. Inside the process, we have many criticisms, but we are clear on the general direction, which is the option that benefits the majority. We have to work for that and not let others decide for us.

Persecution and torture? We don’t have those (except for a few, which we reject). Investigate the 100 “students” recently detained (there are another 75 estimated to be roaming free). Which of them alleges he was tortured? I saw a video on your Facebook wall in which a demonstrator is talking to some police. Did they repress her? No, in Venezuela we even respect insolence. I don’t know if you saw the video of a demonstrator spitting in the face of a National Guard officer, and the guard remained impassive. Those are the orders: patience, respect even if there is disrespect on the part of the other. Political persecutions? Wrong. In Venezuela, there is freedom of political organization. What is going on is that those sectors, being right-wing, and some even fascist, have no people, and are seeking power through the violent route. It’s true that there are “political” prisoners, on the part of the Revolution as well as the opposition, for corruption or common crimes. But those are not political prisoners, they are politicians in prison.

Finally, there is much information on the Internet, much of it prepared by ill-intentioned laboratories, whose objective is the toppling of a legitimate government which reflects the interests of large groups of power, which has favored the great majority of the Venezuelan people.

For that reason, I ask you to verify very closely the information you receive, and don’t propagate it unless you are sure of its veracity. If you do that, then hopefully in the near future we will see you in the ranks of those who, from an objective position, support us (with due criticisms, but from the people), in a process of the elevation of the human conscience, with its right and wrong answers, so that our political actions are in line with our spiritual thinking.

A sincere hug.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

As you can see, the writer doesn’t paint a too rosy picture of his homeland, but he isn’t willing to stand idly by and let foreigners besmirch it, either. Especially not foreigners with imperialistic interests at stake — or worse, locals who identify with those foreign imperial interests at the expense of their own fellow Venezuelans.

And better still, he advises all those who have been swayed by horror stories from Venezuela to verify the things they’ve seen. Something it would behoove us all to keep in mind the next time we see some sensational trash being flung through the air, whether from up here or from down there. After all, the Mighty Wurlitzer never sleeps…and neither should we who strive to hold it accountable.