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Archive for January, 2012

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 3

Posted by Keen Observer on January 31, 2012

So, presuming no one is bored at my rambling yet, I shall continue…

I spent some time adrift after leaving school sans degree.  This was in 1991, when I should have convocated as a teacher, as did many of my friends.  Instead, I was somewhat aimless.  Employment prospects poor, I didn’t quite know what to do.  I didn’t much care about other things, either.  I had my first brush with what might be called depression, though it was never diagnosed as such.  I scared my family by doing a very good impression of a rock for about eight hours uninterrupted one day.

I almost left university, I should say.  With nothing better to do, I went back in the fall to take classes towards a degree in English Literature.  That kept me occupied somewhat, and I was exposed to ideas further left than my usual ones, especially in the person of a poet I met in one of my classes, one with certain…issues, let’s say.  I absorbed some of these ideas and reflected them back to the world.  I learned a higher level of analytical reading and presentation.  I honed my writing skills.  I thought about doing graduate work, but it really didn’t appeal to me, and I had certain…limitations imposed because of my math/physics grades.  I stayed out of politics, mostly, but I voted every election.  One can argue that it is a citizen’s highest civic duty, but it was never something I let slide past me, even if all I did was spoil a ballot.

During this time also, I did spend some time with my poet friend and her circle.  Except for rare circumstances, I never really felt part of the group, though.  I didn’t really understand why, except that I knew at a recognisable level that they were not my people.  Different ideas.  Diff’rent strokes.  Different aims and beliefs.  At most levels, except for occasional literary discussions, I could not relate to them as a group.  The thought of “conservatism” still left me cold, believing as I did what the media and my acquaintances told me about it and the PC Party of Canada (or Saskatchewan). and I largely considered myself a centrist or centre-left kind of guy.  I had not yet realised that I was being fed news pablum, but I did have a sense that there were gaps of some sort (at least on a subconscious level).

I ultimately finished that degree in 1994, but again had no idea what to do with it.  No job, no prospects.  Unsure.  My cousin got married that year, and the wedding was in Sydney, NS.  I went, invited as relative and MC.  Did not distinguish myself, but it was somewhat life-changing.  I had taken geology as an elective, and I got to see out east some things discussed in class, and I began to understand the story the earth tells, if you know how to read it.  This intrigued me to the point that I wanted to learn more, and so I re-enrolled upon my return:  something finally excited me.

Something else excited me:  my sister’s best friend, freshly graduated from high school.  For some reason at that ceremony, something changed relative indifference to strong attraction, to the point that while far away from Saskatoon, I kept thinking about her at fairly regular intervals.  There’s much more detail, but for my purposes now, I had something else to occupy my mind.  We started dating that fall, despite some initial reluctance on my part, and she was central to my life for 16 years, and still currently has a peripheral–but significant–effect on it.

I had goals again; I was excited; I had things to do.  With new things to keep me engaged in my life, I again started following politics more closely.  I again kept being unsure of myself.  I questioned my agnosticism.  I kept thinking things the government did were a bit stupid; in my house, however, criticising the provincial NDP government was not generally wise.  Based on things I understood at the time, the federal government, Liberal-run, seemed to be going OK, so I had no complaints.  Quebec separatism frequently came up as a topic.  For that, I saw little reason in appeasement, even with my French-Canadian heritage, so in that regard I was on the opposite side of my supposed party.  I would be unhappy with the breaking of Confederation, but I just could not see how they could be so stupid about it.  How little did I know at the time, but the press seemed not interested in portraying the true nature of the complaints, as I have now come to understand them.

I finished my geology degree program, which is where I developed a grounding in the historical temperature record.  This (among other reasons that would take up other posts completely) informed my resistance to climate change as having any human-caused component, something that set me apart from most people for a long time.  I worked as a well-site geologist for about 4 years after that, which also let me to be exposed to a larger world of ideas, including those of surprisingly-educated rig workers.

During this time, I found a left-leaning blog, one of those at right on the main page of this blog:  grrlmeetsworld.  In it (I can’t remember how I found it) the writer recounted her own political journey from US Southern Christian right to a leftist doing grad work at my university.  It interested me, and it was interesting to read how she stopped adhering to the politics she had grown up around.  A lot of the change seemed to be propelled by the Christian part of the politicking, to which I could somewhat relate, but in the other direction.  I even commented there a few times, even after moving to Calgary.  But that’s getting ahead.  I learned a lot from her, some of which she might not appreciate, but some things continued to leave me confused.

The rigs were also the milieu in which I was when the attacks of 9/11 happened.  Clear as day are some of my memories around that time, though others from that time have deteriorated.  I was just coming on shift shortly after the first plane hit.  Oddly, it just seemed like a run-of-the-mill disaster to be watched with ghoulish interest.  And I was watching as the second plane hit.  My first reaction was, “Oh. My. God.” There was no mistaking that for an accident.  My second reaction was, “Those stupid, stupid fuckers.”  I had no doubt in my mind who was responsible, at least in broad form, and I knew they had just changed the world in an instant.  I also knew that hell was coming for them.

(to be continued…)

Posted in Alberta, American, Canadian, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion, science, World | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 3

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 2

Posted by Keen Observer on January 31, 2012

[Note:  rather a lot of this was written in early March 2011, but it sat for some time before I got back to it.  A new friend’s feedback encouraged me.]

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I might always have been a conservative, without really realising it.  I’m still trying to figure that out.  But I almost never voted Conservative.  I think, except maybe for once, I never voted NDP.  I was usually voting Liberal, both federally and provincially.  Largely, that was due to my family, my school, and my Church, but I could never bring myself to swing further left than that.

When I moved to Calgary, I joined a riding that was so deep blue, no vote of mine would make a difference.  So I voted Libertarian federally and Wild Rose Alliance provincially (in their first election).  I plan to vote WRA again.  With Prentice gone (what a jack-off), I voted CPC in the last election without feeling too sullied, but I doubt it made a difference.  There was no Libertarian candidate this time around, so no  worries there.

That’s where I stand now, but how did I get here?

I remember developing interest in news and politics somewhat in elementary school.  As something we did on a weekly basis, Fridays I think, we did posters or quizzes on “current events”.  That kind of opened up the world to me a little bit, which heretofore I hadn’t much cared about.  I don’t think I took sides then, or anything.  It was largely a regurgitation exercise, and I believed something that appeared in print or on TV.  They weren’t trying to teach us much in the way of critical thinking or analysis, just summary and repetition.

I vaguely remember from that time the Iranian hostage crisis, for example, and feeling proud that Canadians had a hand in getting some of the Americans out.    I remember reading crappy Canadian history books in class that ended with the Diefenbaker prime-ministership.  And I remember having a very strong interest in military history, partly due to a love of airplanes (the best planes were fighter planes).  Unfortunately, most of the military history available to me was American and European, rather than anything Canadian.  I forget how old I was when I learned who Laura Secord really is or that we burned the White House (assuming it was us and not just British forces stationed here).

My interest in news, history, and current events carried on through my high-school life (and, indeed, continues today).  My perception of it changed over the years, though.  In high school I spent a couple of years in Air Cadets.  I generally enjoyed the experience, and I probably would have gone forward with a career in the military, but all I was interested in at the time was flying, and when I realised in grade ten that I needed glasses, that killed that hope for me.  I didn’t re-join cadets the following year, either.  I still kind of regret that, even though my excuse at the time was that it was taking too much time away from my academics.  Purely a rationalisation, I think now, because I didn’t need to work at all hard in school.  I maintained, though, my interest in and support of our military.  I attended air shows and went to other military displays.  It was in elementary school where I developed a sense of nationalism, and I was always somewhat offended that promoting Canadian nationalism was seen as being “too American”.  It was in the vein of “all problems and wars are the result of being too nationalistic”, or some other simplistic bullshit.  To my shame I largely kept quiet on that subject, but I was also quietly proud.

My interest in firearms arose largely from Scouts, believe it or not.  At camp one year, it was the first time I fired a rifle (or firearm of any type).  It was a simple .22LR of some variety with open sights; I don’t remember if it had the usual 5-round magazine, but I expect it did.  I was able, on the camp range, to hit small targets at 50 yards or so (eg the plastic boxes the ammo came in) and see them fly up with fragments.  I found that exciting, but it was also a little scary to me, because I understood that these tools can be dangerous also.  I don’t recall if I ever had any position on gun control before then or not.  I doubt it.  Even after that, I kind of waffled somewhat, because I held the belief for some time that restricting access to firearms could be a good thing.  Eventually, however, I realised that “gun control” should only ever mean “tight groupings” and “hitting your target”.  Sure, require licenses and maybe background checks, but the licenses shouldn’t be overly restrictive or difficult to obtain.  Otherwise, there really shouldn’t be any restrictions, except perhaps for certain types of military-grade hardware.  And there should be more education about and promotion of firearms in the general population.  But going beyond this is another post.

[Tangent] Castle Doctrine:  enact one.  Enough said.  It’s just getting stupider out there. [Edit: the CPC has made some changes to current laws, but they’re not enough.]

Property rights:  enact them.  Enough said. [/Tangent]

In high school I was still surrounded by largely leftist politics.  Fortunately, it was mostly charity-based, but there was a lot that wasn’t.  At one point I was peer- and parent-pressured into getting a youth membership in the federal Liberal party to help push through an openly pro-life candidate’s nomination/election as party leader .  He didn’t win, but it wasn’t a surprise.  I got to join the others on a moral high horse that our consciences were salved by our actions, except I always felt a vague sense of unease about it.  At this remove, I’m not quite sure why, but I think I had some sort of sense that it wasn’t right.  At any rate, I always had a sense that I was out of step with those around me, but I really didn’t know why.

University provided a more-broad opportunity to interact with the world.  Living in a university city meant that I and most of the college-bound people from my high school ended up staying close to home and relatively intact as a group.  So their influence shadowed me, and my circle of friends didn’t expand much, as there was no need.  But again, there was exposure to new, and enhanced opportunities for independent research.  Universities tend to lean left, and ours was no exception, but if you looked, you could see alternate viewpoints.  They conflicted with “my” world-view, though, so I tended to ignore them.  I suspect, however, that some of what I was exposed to stuck with me, whether I willed it or not.

I attempted initially to become a teacher, but I chose a science-based curriculum (I had been somewhat inspired to become a physics teacher).  This is a general dichotomy, as teachers and their unions tend to frown on rational thought, but science requires it.  During my third year of study, I was on a practicum replacement in a rural high school at the same time that a province-wide strike vote was being held by the union.  This opened my eyes in a way nothing else had, as we student teachers were inside the teachers’ lounge and treated as colleagues.  I saw the profession’s warts and was disheartened.  Between this and the struggle get my science/math grades up (I, stupidly, chose the real curriculum, rather than the one intended for teachers, and lacking proper study skills and too stubborn to get help, could not deal with the more advanced courses), I did not enter the 4th and final year of the program, instead burning the remainder of my scholarship on classes I enjoyed (literature of various types).  I took the following year off to figure out what to do with myself, as the plans I had no longer worked for me.  This is, of course, all by-the-by, insofar as the thesis of this post goes, but it does help frame my experiences.

Around this time, I acquired a female friend from a rural area that resulted in several things: a more intimate exposure to ideas that were not the same as those with which I was raised; and forced acknowledgement that my friends had some flaws that from some perspectives might be viewed as problematic.  I make no claim to perfection myself, but these were the types of flaws that break friendships, either sooner or later.  Challenging ideas and removing blinkers were additional contributions to modifying what I believed politically; it also turned out that my problems with the Church became more crystalline-clear, and at the end of my 4th year of university,  I left both it and the Church.  Perhaps ironically, my female friend returned to the Church…an even exchange.  So, my voyage continued, ideas meshing, fighting, losing, and triumphing.

(more to come…)

Posted in Canadian, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion, science | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 2