Saturday, August 29, 2015

Blue-Eyed Fundamentalists

As the polls for the 2015 election show that the Conservative Party of Canada is falling clearly out of the lead, the legacy of their tenure in power is settling hard on them. The problem for Stephen Harper during this campaign is that rather than hitting the hustings he has treated Canada to the hermetically isolated behaviour that he reserves for an environmental summit. (Sorry... summits)

Many people, including Conservative touchstones such as Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, have indicated that the CPC has done Canada and conservatism a disservice during their term in power and during their various iterations as the Reform Party, Canadian Alliance and in power. The only ones who seem not to be speaking against him are those who are candidates for the Conservative Party in this election but they are not speaking at all.

The Harper government has been more guarded about its fundamentalist leanings and roots as approached and assumed power. Rather than becoming more moderate, their caution and discretion on issues that would draw the ire of voters (abortion) has been channelled into other areas, but good governance and leadership has not been one of those areas.  Ponder the following:

"The fundamentalist seeks to bring down ... freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, women's rights, pluralism...
The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties...

Salman Rushdie, 2001

Rushdie's words remain remarkably precise in describing fundamentalists and their inability or outright refusal to deal with the world in a manner that is flexible, tolerant and reflects a leadership approach or that integrates listening, reflecting and critical thought.  If you treated Rushdie's assessment as a checklist, Stephen Harper's Conservative Party has clearly met every requirement.

Consider the Harper government's:
-muting of scientists,
-the prorogation in 2008 when he tried to cut funding to other political parties (which he succeeded in doing after getting a majority); his party's ploys to basically cheat in elections and its dismantling of the mandate of Elections Canada, for catching them,
-his government's refusal to be held accountable over Afghanistan, spending and the undermining of programs and institutions that have been central to our understanding and attachment of this country,
-funding cuts to women's organizations throughout Canada, tying foreign aid to the insistence not to teach or support birth control and,
-the xenophobia that has guided immigration and refugee policy over the last ten years.
This is a far from comprehensive list.

Harper has demonstrated himself to be on the wrong side of countless issues, including - everyone's favorite no-brainer for 2015 - vaccination education. He has done battle with the Supreme Court, only to have his knuckles rapped time and again, but he continues to insist that he has a divine right to define Canada despite his inability to look beyond his beliefs and acknowledge the evidence that would guide a more worthy leader of this country.

Some people might muse and gossip about religious fundamentalism being central to Harper's rule and perhaps it is inappropriate to question his faith when pluralism would and ought to accommodate that. However, he has made it clear and clearer again that he has been and will continue to be fundamentalist in his antipathy toward the things that we, quite frankly, take for granted. We could continue to take Canada for granted as what we have perceive it to be and it now only was and NOT EXERCISE OUR RIGHT TO VOTE. Harper, with his not so quiet assault on suffrage, would be quite happy with that and on October 20 he will be rolling out a new "team" to proceed without interruption.
We deserve better and if we feel unable to vote FOR something, then it will be quite appropriate to vote AGAINST this government. I assure you that there is something quite positive in that course of action.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nurturing the Creator

A few days ago I came across a rather familiar quote that had been recycled into an article about automation, "it is easier to destroy... than create..."

The ellipses leave out references to "jobs," but the modified phrase says a lot about the world we are living in.  As I pondered the phrase, it was easy to conjure variations about how it is easier to critique, easier to edit, hate and countless other variations on the phrase that provide a bit more encouragement to play it safe.

The creative urge lingers in most of us though, and we have doubts about those occasions when the creative impulse is ignored or muted in some way.  There is self-consciousness about the arrogance of referring to oneself as a creator, especially if you speak the word and make it much easier for a listener to attribute a capital "C" to the term. There is probably a priming aspect of daring to say the word that many of us fear giving breath to unless whispered in the privacy of the shower or some other solitary space.

As someone who can recall a childhood of doubt about having anything resembling an imagination or a creative impulse when staring at the blank page in Art class, whether it was Grade Three or Eight or struggling to capture anything other than my clearest thought with the words that came together in my head, it was easy to doubt that there was anything there - wherever the imagination was - worth tapping into, excavating and curating for anybody else to see, read or listen to. Actually there was plenty to be satisfied with in achieving "merely" that.

The doubt though, is firmly rooted in everyone and is likely the conjoined twin of the creativity that we are reluctant to engage with. You could ask yourself if there are any occasions when doubt looms its head that your are at least attempting something that you are deeply invested in, if not expressing yourself with. In all likelihood, it is the matter of confronting that conjoined pair that renders us reluctant. When first invited to visit or tap into our creativity, it is probably still a raw and unformed entity, bearing no resemblance to the mythological wellspring that so many famous, rich and successful artists have been able to steadily draw upon. We tend to overlook the troubled tortured ones, unless we have a fatal fascination with drummers, alcoholic one hit wonder novelists and pantheons of tragic 33- or 27-year-olds. The stakes are high, but the situation is not as precarious as it appears based on the more famous anecdotes of artistic discovery.

There is the need to separate doubt from creativity and perhaps it is an involved and complex task. Those entwined bedfellows need to be separated time and again. The reality may be that that completely separating them would be dangerous. Imagine the art of someone who proceeded with absolutely no doubt about their talent or the quality of whatever they churned out?

Those are the terms of battle whenever you try to create. The doubt is - in all likelihood - an intrinsic part of your creativity, or central to the history of your efforts to access and nurture your creativity. Doubt needs to be tamed or muted long enough and often enough to wedge that gate open and allow you the receptivity or productivity required to achieve something that resonates with you as a piece that has been invested with your soul and the life experience that you have accumulated to this point of your life. Given the myth of god-given talent visiting only a few of us on this earth and the doubt that so many other people voice when you embark on the process or, daresay, the dream, it is important to thicken the skin, bolster the spine and remain open in the pursuit of your art or self-expression.

It is vital to keep stimulating your senses with the material that you can draw upon in your pursuit. As someone who has spent my adult life trapped between passions for photography and writing it has been difficult to make up my mind a commit entirely to one.  After years of trying to make up my mind, I have decided that it is a matter of keeping a balance between the two. With the camera the doubts can be overcome quickly and on a basis of every few minutes as I pause and regard my surroundings with an open eye.  When writing there is the task of integrating ideas, thoughts and sources from far beyond the place where I sit and look within rather than beyond.  I also look to structure and build something that requires more planning and consideration.  Thanks to the differences between those two passions, I can find stimulation for either medium from more sources and I am that much more motivated at this time of my life to examine creativity from a broader perspective that applies to both pursuits rather than narrowing my vision to one area.

It is vital to recognize new inspirations as soon as we encounter them and capture them in whatever way we can to work with them. In some cases, it is valuable to look into the approaches of other artists and investigate their artist statements, their strategies or daily routines and adopt similar approaches if they work for you.

There are other inspirations as well. In my case, photo galleries, the written word, an immersion into a peace of music that takes you mentally to a certain place of inspiration, contemplation or the adrenalin to produce are just a few forms of inspiration that work for me and I know that each can serve me in the pursuit of continuing a work that I am in the middle of.

The more important thing is to build yourself up on a regular basis acknowledge that doubt is there, do battle with it as it is express within or by others who may be inclined to ridicule you or suggest that there is something futile in trying to create or that your work is not entirely original.  All of the voices that fire their bull shit at you, including your own, are eroding you and it is tempting to give into them or find a cheap or approach to help you mute the doubts. Faced with that cacophony and the temptation, it is vital to reward yourself.  It is probably best to reward yourself after achieving a certain milestone in the process rather than treat yourself beforehand. There will be some satisfaction in the achievement of those little milestones, especially if you knock it out of the park every once in a while. There will be reward in the work itself, but it never hurts to throw yourself a bone as well.

You have to get to it, though.