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.

I miss you, Robin Williams.

And I can think of no better antidote to the grief than to look back on some of the funniest moments….all the funnier because they’re real. Like his candid observations on booze and pot:

Or cocaine:

“Anything that makes you paranoid and impotent — gimme more o’ dat!”

Thanks for all the uncontrollable laughs, Robin. And all the compassion and sweetness, too.

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Music for a Sunday: There’s nothing more to it…

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Wankers of the Week: Crappy Nagasaki Day!

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Crappy weekend, everyone! And a very crappy Nagasaki Day to one and all. Also — hooray! — it’s Shark Week again. And there’s a veritable Sharknado of stoooopid swirling out there. And here’s who was in the thick of it this week, in no particular order:

1. Janet Fucking Bloomfield. First cracker out of the box is the self-styled Judgy Bitch (an accurate nym if ever there was one), making up ridiculous quotes and then sticking them in the mouth of Jessica Valenti because the latter had the temerity to make fun of the Menz Rightz Bowel Movement (a movement which richly deserves all the fun we can make of it, because its proponents are no fun otherwise). Much harassment ensued. And oh yeah, this shameless panderer to sexist males also has a penchant for calling other women whores. As though flat-out lying makes one a paragon of feminine virtue. PS: Oh yeah, and she’s a pedophile apologist too! Bet you feel real big for beating up on abused children, eh Jan? As long as your own kids aren’t among those statistics, who cares, right?

2. Roman Fucking Shapiro. Genocide? There’s an app for that. Or at least there was, until Google took it out of their Android store. Oh, and if you don’t like it, and don’t think the Israelis are the good guys here? Well, Romey says fuck you, too. Such a nice boy!

3. Elie Fucking Wiesel. Riddle me this: How and when did he go from Nobel Peace Prize winner to genocide advocate and dehumanizer of all Palestinians? I honestly have no answer for this, just as I have no answer for why they ever awarded that prize to Henry Fucking Kissinger…whom Elie is starting to resemble more and more, as far as ideologies go.

4. Kurt Fucking Schlichter. Why?

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That’s why. Apparently, one inhumane butcher is worth more than 1.8 million human beings, because REASONS. Oh wait, no reasons. Just the tacit assumption that there really is such a thing as racial superiority, because some fiction book says God made some snowflakes specialer than others.

5. Paul Fucking Gair. Just because someone’s parents are heterosexual, doesn’t mean they owe it to said parents to not be gay. Things like that are pretty much out of anyone’s voluntary control. And if you object to so many gay people existing, blame their straight parents…for conceiving them.

6. Rand Fucking Paul. Run! Run! The Mexicans are coming! And they’re bringing pots of pozole! The horror! The HORROR!!!

7. Rick Fucking Scarborough. God doesn’t nuke people. PEOPLE nuke people. And really: Over gay people? What kind of self-righteous idiot does that? Oh, right…one who thinks he’s God. Rick, why can’t you just think you’re Napoleon, instead? That way, you could always just go invade Russia.

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8. John Fucking Hagee. And speaking of idiots who think they’re God, there’s this one, who thinks poor people should be “allowed” to starve. I have a better idea: How about we put this guy on a radical diet, like the one Israel is currently enforcing on Palestine? He’s certainly fat and parasitical enough…and won’t this planet feel lighter without him on it?

9. Peter Fucking Steinmetz, again. How the hell does one become a brain scientist and yet still wind up so goddamn fucking stupid as to think that it’s ever okay to carry a loaded gun to an airport — a place which any terrorist would be delighted to shoot up, just to buy coffee, AND point it at someone while shifting it? Doesn’t that all kind of defeat the purpose of showing that “open carry is safe, you fucking libruls”?

10. Bill Fucking Whatcott. How much longer, O Lord, before this one falls out of the closet? And what will he do when none of those gay guys he has made a ludicrous career of bashing want to sleep with his sorry, bigoted, mothball-reeking ass?

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11. Paul Fucking Elam. Oh, you da big man, promising to hit women much smaller than yourself and call that “proportional”. Guess “Bash a Violent Bitch Month” is now all year round, eh? And I bet that “violent bitch” actually just means “uppity woman who dares to contradict me, me, ME!” I hope the local police where you live are taking notes, because what you’re writing sure sounds like threats to me.

12. Charlie Fucking Beck. How the hell does one forget that one bought a horse off one’s own daughter? I don’t know, ask the chief of the LAPD; he’s the forgetful one. With memory lapses like that, it’s a wonder that no one has questioned his ability to head a rather large city police force.

13. Ann Fucking Coulter. Well, it’s finally happened. Right-wing nutjobs, even the worst of them, are scrambling to distance themselves from something asinine that she said. And her condition is about to be downgraded from idiotic to brain-dead. Sucks to be you, Coultergeist!

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14. Mike Fucking Duffy. How the hell does a stunningly mediocre TV reporter end up being such a big fish that he gets lowly janitors fired from Ottawa hospitals for complaining that he treated them like shit when he was in for heart surgery? Oh, I don’t know…probably the same way he was made a senator, and then proceeded to get away with $90,000 worth of stinking corruption.

15. Dinesh Fucking D’Souza. How the hell does one “invent” a border crisis? Simple. By being so deeply in political and personal disgrace that one becomes desperate to pin any tail at all on a cardboard-cutout donkey. How else?

16. Jerry Fucking Hill. Do dogs read Craigslist? Can they even give consent? I dunno. All I know that Dog is God spelled backwards, and yup, that seems about right.

17. Craig Fucking Beemer. Hate having to pay a minimum wage? Don’t want to cut into your profits so that your wait-staff can eke out a miserable living? Well, there’s nothing like pitting the customers against them for that! Special dishonorable mention to manager-lackey Craig Fucking Orcutt for trying to spin this nose-thumbing as “protecting the employees”, too. Shame on both of you!

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18. Candace Fuckingn Maxymowich. A SupposiTory “youth leader”, promoting abstinence-only sex-ed? Congratulations, Candy…you’re about to become the least popular girl on campus. But hey! Good on you for taking a principled stance and promoting the type of sex-ed that leads to the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world!

19. Sibusiso Barnabas Fucking Dlamini. Trade unionists and human rights leaders should be strangled when they get back to Swaziland? Sign the petition at the link, people. And pass it on.

20. Kim Fucking Kardashian. I don’t know what scares me more: that some idiot publisher agreed that her boring-ass selfies were worth putting out in book form, or that there are so many other idiots out there who would be willing to buy such a book. And no, Kim, not all women stand in front of the mirror taking pictures of their own arses. That’s just you, continually proving to the world what a vapid moron you are.

21. Brian Fucking Knyoch. There’s no such thing as “close to drinking water quality”, especially not in mine tailings ponds. That shit is TOXIC. And if you feel so confident that it’s drinkable, fine — YOU drink it. I’ll just stand over here and watch you slowly turn blue. Deal?

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22 and 23. Anna Fucking Zubkova and Rob Fucking Freeman. I don’t know which is worse: him for being an idiot white supremacist who actually thinks that white people are “under attack” for their whiteness (where? WHERE???), or her for being dumb and blinkered enough to stay married to this troll once she found out just what he was.

24. Jason Fucking Kenney. Speaking of trolls: How very like him to insinuate that Justin Trudeau must support terrorism because he’s visited a local mosque (which was only linked to a so-called “terror matrix” AFTER his visit). And how very like him to do it using his own parliamentary e-mail address. Will no one strip this noisome brat of his internet privileges? After all, he did visit a mosque tied to actual antisemitic propaganda…

25. Sean Fucking Hannity. And how very like the Baby Jesus to be better at dishing out juvenile insults than taking them. I could hear his whining, pouting, and itty-bitty foot-stomping right through the tweeter…ha, ha.

26. Rush Fucking Limbaugh. Also, how very like the Pigman to think that liberals would be interested in joining the anti-choice movement over the mere prospect of having a gay child. Considering that liberals are far more likely to be supportive parents to one than any conservaturd, AND still support abortion rights no matter what, it’s gonna be a long, lonely wait for the anti-choicers, who are notably anti-LGBT as well as sexist.

27. Rob Fucking Ford. Why?

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That’s why. He’s racist as shit, but he’s not afraid to say Bumbaclot. Even if he IS one himself. Caribana was great in spite of his presence, not because of it.

28. Glenn Fucking Beck. Yes, Biff, you did say stupid things at FUX Snooze. But you haven’t stopped saying them. In fact, what you’re saying now is often even stupider. Even when you’re finally getting around to this little thing called Honesty, ur STILL doin it rong.

29. Joan Fucking Rivers. Nice to know that she’s mellowing so well in her old age. Oh, what am I saying? She’s turning into one helluva mean old bat. And no, Joan, the people of Gaza did NOT deserve to die. Most of them are already displaced by Israelis. Your inhumanitarian streak is hereby duly noted.

30. Todd Fucking Rokita. For those who don’t know the score, it’s like this: Central American immigrant kids infected with Ebola fever: 0. Native-born US-Americans infected with Ebola in Africa: 2, both recovering. Africans with Ebola: Over 1000, most of them deceased. Native-born US-Americans infected with Ebola in the US: 0. Probability that Todd Fucking Rokita is a xenophobic moron: 100%. Odds that he’ll die of dumbth: 0, unfortunately.

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And finally, to all the woman-hating Twitter trolls of #tcot. Congratulations, you dumb fuckers all have piss-poor reading comprehension. Nobody was asking you to pay for Jessica Valenti’s tampons; she was looking for info so she could write a story about how other countries do things better for women than the US. And congratulations, also, on being part of that extremely misogynous problem. It’s a wonder your own mothers haven’t disowned you.

Good night, and get fucked!

Quotable: Naomi Wolf on Gaza

The “most moral army in world” shits all over Gaza. Literally.

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Israeli troops may have (momentarily) withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, but they haven’t really left it. Traces of them still cling to everything they’ve occupied, and not in a good way:

When Ahmed Owedat returned to his home 18 days after Israeli soldiers took it over in the middle of the night, he was greeted with an overpowering stench.

He picked through the wreckage of his possessions thrown from upstairs windows to find that the departing troops had left a number of messages. One came from piles of faeces on his tiled floors and in wastepaper baskets, and a plastic bottle filled with urine.

If that was not clear enough, the words “Fuck Hamas” had been carved into a concrete wall in the staircase. “Burn Gaza down” and “Good Arab = dead Arab” were engraved on a coffee table. The star of David was drawn in blue in a bedroom.

[...]

A handful of plastic chairs had their seats ripped open, through which the occupying soldiers defecated, he said. Gaping holes had been blown in four ground-floor external walls, and there was damage from shelling to the top floor. There, in the living room, diagrams had been drawn on the walls, showing buildings and palm trees in the village, with figures that Owedat thought represented their distance from the border.

“I have no money to fix this,” he said, claiming that his life savings of $10,000 (£6,000) were missing from his apartment. But at least it could be repaired, he acknowledged, gesturing through the broken glass at a wasteland stretching towards the Israel-Gaza border 3km away. “Every house between here and there has been destroyed.”

Charming. Didn’t any of their mothers toilet-train these little terrorists? Couldn’t they at least find a bathroom to do their business in? Did they wash their hands afterwards, or just wipe them down on the curtains? And where were their superior officers when these bandits robbed Ahmed of his life savings? Sucking hummus made by settlers in the Occupied Territories off their thumbs, no doubt.

Yeah, these guys have all the maturity of a diaper-dragging two-year-old. It’s a wonder they can hold a rifle straight. Doesn’t give me much confidence in their ability to wage “surgical” strikes if they can’t even clean up after themselves. Or be trusted to leave a cash stash where they found it. Land is not the only thing these guys are in the business of stealing, it seems.

And how does this “most moral army in the world” treat the children of Gaza? Like this:

Half an hour’s drive north, a similar picture was found at Beit Hanoun girls’ school, taken over by the IDF following the ground operation. Broken glass and rubble littered the floors and stairs. Tables and desks were covered in the abandoned detritus of an occupying army: hardened bread rolls, empty tins of hummus, desiccated olives, cans of energy drinks, bullet casings. Flies buzzed around the rotting food.

Here too, said the school’s caretaker, Fayez, who didn’t want to give his full name, soldiers had defecated in bins and cardboard boxes, and urinated in water bottles. “You will be fucked here” and “Don’t forget it’s time for you to die” were chalked in English on blackboards.

The Guardian notes that the new school year is slated to begin in a little over two weeks. Not much time to repair the damage and clean up the mess, in other words. Assuming that Israel doesn’t start bombing all over again, and smash that school to rubble this time, those girls will be seeing that those “moral” Israeli soldiers are all slobbering for the chance to rape and kill them. And they’ll also be smelling the lingering stench of their ordure.

The Guardian also notes that “The Israel Defence Forces did not respond to a request for comment.” Could it because they haven’t yet made up a hasbaratic “explanation” for why their brave, brave boys felt compelled to shit all over innocent people’s homes and schools?

Golly, talk about leading by example. Yep, that squeaky-clean “only democracy in the Middle East” is sure adept at persuading those barbarous Arabs of its nobility and virtue!

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The Internationale kills fascists at U of T

Wow. Amazing what one little song can do…especially when it’s sung by socialist students in the face of a bunch of whiny cowards, eh?

Comrades from the Revolutionary Student Movement, the Proletarian Feminist Front, and the Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee confronted reactionary Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) as they gathered to spread their message of misogyny this past Tuesday at the University of Toronto.

MRAs, organized under the dubiously-named “Canadian Association For Equality” were completely unprepared for the opposition they must inevitably face. After facing the organized resistance of the comrades, who disrupted the meeting by shouting slogans, heckling, and singing “The Internationale”, the MRAs disbanded their meeting and attempted to relocate and reconvene. The comrades pursued them, again forcing an end to their event.

After dispersing entirely, the MRAs scattered like cockroaches and found a hidden corner of the campus in which to collectively lick their wounds. Laughably, they have even attempted to use this fact as evidence that their event was not shut down!

So, there you go. The Internationale, like Woody Guthrie’s famous guitar, really does kill fascists.

As for the MRAs, perhaps they’d like to ask the Mexicans if they can borrow THIS song as THEIR anthem:

Only…oops! It’s a song celebrating the defeat of Victoriano Huerta. The pot-smoking “cockroach” is believed to be either the debauched corrupto Huerta himself, or his beetle-black presidential car, which was famous for belching clouds of smoke and not running very well.

Guess those guys are gonna have to keep looking for a stirring tune of their own, eh?

Stupid Sex Tricks: Russian Chatroulette

Ever have one of those nights where you’re bored out of your skull, so much so that you’ll take your chances on a random video chat with some strange person who is probably whacking off as you speak? Yeah, me neither. But I guess all these Russkies had just such a night, and got trolled by this dude. Who had his hands full…of everything but what you’d expect. (Stick around for the end, and you’ll see him get trolled right back!)

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It was 100 years ago today…

Canada’s part in World War I began at the same time as Britain’s: on August 4, 1914, when the latter declared war on Germany after what was considered an “insufficient” response by Germany to a British order not to violate Belgium’s neutrality by passing through it en route to France, against whom Germany had declared war just the previous day.

Contrary to Sir Robert Borden’s claims that it was a war “not for lust of conquest, not for greed of possessions”, it was very much a clash of imperial interests. One has only to look at how many of the key players in the whole ungodly mess were emperors, and how many of them had recently annexed territory that wasn’t theirs (Austria-Hungary), or were claiming to “defend” the same, with an eye to annexing it themselves (Romanov Russia). And one has only to look at how many key players lost their emperors around the war’s end to realize that imperialism-disguised-as-honor was a load of bullshit that the common folk of those lands were no longer buying.

And Canada? Well, we’re still wrestling with that one. We’re no longer “Children of Empire”, a phrase that fell out of fashion after the end of the second world war — a war made inevitable by the unsettled animosities of the first, and especially by the ruinous conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. But back then, according to official accounts, “our boys” were all gung-ho for king and (distant, overseas) country. There was the usual clichéd appeal to honor and glory on this side of the Atlantic, and Anglo-Canadian enlistees were quick to sign on. (Non-Anglo immigrants and their sons, not so much. Especially not those who happened to be German. Perhaps because theirs was a kind of third-class citizenship to begin with, and because on top of this bigotry, they faced a lot of persecution from snobby twits with English names, and so felt, with justification, that the glorious British imperial cause was not worth dying for? Oh, probably.)

And speaking of clichéd appeals, if you were to have a drinking game based on the use of the word “gallant” (often in conjunction with “little Serbia”) in news and propaganda of the day, you’d have died of alcohol poisoning. The British Empire actually couldn’t have cared less about “gallant little” Serbia back in 1908, when it was first annexed by Kaiser Franz Josef. It was just some barbarous little backwater in the Balkans, its annexation largely ignored for a full five years. And it quickly fell by the wayside in the clash of imperialists, aside from its usefulness as a propagandist’s talking point. After all, you couldn’t sell imperial wars as a “noble cause” if you didn’t have a gallant little thing to squabble over, now, could you?

When I was 18 and obsessively devouring Rilla of Ingleside, a sequel to the Anne of Green Gables books (Rilla being the youngest daughter of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe), I was blown away by all the noble turns of phrase in the passages describing the war. Those phrases, I now know, were not actually the author’s own, but were simply passed along without analysis or criticism. Although L.M. Montgomery was supportive of the war effort in her capacity as a dutiful Presbyterian minister’s wife, she privately agonized and suffered many doubts. Knowing where those howlers come from might not lessen my enjoyment of the overall story (which is, after all, just that of a teenage girl at home, looking on in helpless frustration and fear as her brothers, school chums and boyfriend get caught up in all this imperial background noise), but it kills my willingness to believe that there was anything at all noble about the war. The hearts of the boys and young men who went, yes, they were noble. As were the hearts of the families, friends and girls they left behind. But the emperor-kings and the countries they squabbled over, with no regard whatsoever for the millions of lives their imperialism would cost? Ugh. The wartime saying “lions led by donkeys” is most applicable here.

And frankly, the sheer brutality of the trenches, the barbed wire, the machine guns and the gas-shells is the very opposite of nobility and gallantry, and the destroyer of both. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) got its first official mentions in those days, when it was known as “shell shock” — a bit of a misnomer, since there was a lot more than just shelling to demoralize and destroy the minds of soldiers and civilian casualties alike.

Propaganda initiatives also played a devastating role in the barbarity, ushering in the modern era of psychological warfare. One of the most ignoble of these was the White Feather campaign, in which the “manhood” of those reluctant to enlist and fight was impugned, and women were brainwashed (by a British admiral, no less) into doing the impugning. (The irony of a big, brave man of the elites sending women to do his warmongering work of calling frightened lower-class boys sissies should not be lost on anyone. Neither should that of upper-class suffragists being man-talked into abandoning their work of campaigning for the vote in order to promote a most undemocratic, sexist and classist imperial war!)

While World War I may have given Canada an opportunity to prove its collective mettle (especially at Vimy Ridge, where Canadians notably triumphed after British and French forces both failed), I tend now to regard it as an opportunity largely lost. This country could have gone the same way as Germany and Russia in throwing off the yoke of royalty and empire, and it still has not. And we have been dragged into every bloody mess our “commonwealth” overlords have made ever since. In that sense, the real fight hasn’t ended yet…even now, 100 years after the first time we got dragooned into one of Britain’s imperial disasters. Our democracy and institutions are poorer for it.

Where our collective mettle has done much more for us, it has tended to be in peacetime, at home, and with challenges to the human-rights abuses of our colonial elites. The patriation of our constitution in 1982, along with the attachment of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was the real marker of our coming of age. And yet our so-called government will not honor or even recognize it, preferring instead to point back to the myth of Vimy Ridge while trampling human rights here and now. We still have so much work to do on this front, and it won’t be glamorous. No bugles will call us to this battle from “sad shires”, only the increasingly atomized and isolated voices of the powerless. And I fear that they will not be heard.

I am bracing myself for a fresh onslaught of “patriotic” tripe about how we “came into our own” 100 years ago when we answered a distant foreign call to war in the affirmative, instead of standing up in opposition to it, like a country that has truly come of age. Once I used to believe the noble lie; no longer. And I’m not holding my breath for much in the way of serious analysis. If there is one thing that “noble” and “gallant” propaganda does very well, it is to drown out all criticism of empires and the twits who run them.

Music for a Sunday: Thought that I was young…

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