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we move to canadalaura khttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05524593142290489958noreply@blogger.comBlogger6624125
Updated: 14 min 24 sec ago

what i'm reading: your heart is a muscle the size of a fist, by sunil yapa

13 hours 10 min ago
If only Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist could be required reading. Everyone who has ever scoffed cynically at protesters. Everyone who has ever seen a mainstream news report showing a burning car, over and over and over, but not showing tens of thousands of peaceful protesters, and looked no deeper. Everyone who has ever denied police violence against peaceful, law-abiding citizens, or assumed that police violence is necessary to maintain order at protests. Every one of these people should read this book.

In this impressive debut novel, author Sunil Yapa takes us into the so-called "Battle of Seattle" -- the protests against the World Trade Organization summit in that city in 1999. But the time and place could be any of the G8 or the G10 or the G20 summits -- any of the meetings where the ruling elite side-step the democratic process as they carve up the world for global capitalism.

The reader sees the mass protests through the eyes of many different characters: activists, cops, delegates, restless world travelers. People in grief, people with secrets, people searching. Activists who have different motivations and different levels of experience and commitment. Cops who care deeply about their city and its people, cops who care about power and revenge. A delegate who believes the WTO is the answer to world hunger and poverty, and wants his third-world country at the table. The action takes place in a single day, and by the time the day is over, every character will be profoundly changed by the experience.

The politics of the book are obvious, but woven naturally into the fabric of the story. Most of the characters feel fully realized; rarely is anyone a billboard for an idea. The author does an especially excellent job of articulating how it feels to join a mass protest -- the deep love, solidarity, and sense of belonging it can create. He also portrays police violence fully and in horrifying detail -- a story that needs to be told.

My required-reading daydream dissolves in the light of day. The people who most need to read this book won't read it, and if they did, wouldn't believe it. They would accuse the author of fabricating and exaggerating. For better and worse, The Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is authentic, and genuine, and true. An excellent read for people who care.

what i'm reading: the evil hours, a biography of post-traumatic stress disorder

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 05:00
The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an outstanding book -- meticulously researched, but written in a compelling, accessible style, and with great humanity and compassion.

Author David J. Morris unearths the social and cultural history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the US. He surveys the potential treatments. He explores the role of social justice in our understanding of PTSD.

But above all, Morris confronts the meaning of trauma, in society and in his own life. Morris was a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq. After narrowly escaping death, he returned home questioning everything he thought he knew -- and eventually having to face the reality of his own trauma. Morris' dual role as both researcher and subject give this book a unique power as history, social science, and personal essay.

People have known for centuries, for millennia, that traumatic events produce after-effects, but different cultures in different eras have explained those effects in different ways. The modern history of trauma is linked to the carnage of 20th Century war. And our current understanding of PTSD owes everything to the Vietnam War, and the experience of returning veterans who publicly opposed the war.

In this way, the history of PTSD encompasses a history of 1960s and 1970s peace activism, especially of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group that began a sea-change in the culture of the United States. As a student of peace, I found this part fascinating.

Taking this even further, Morris links PTSD and social justice. Powerless and marginalized people are more likely to be traumatized by one or more of the four principal causes of PTSD: war, genocide, torture, rape. Taking a social and cultural perspective forces us to confront a world that causes these traumas. In this view, PTSD is not so much an illness as a moral condition brought on by the worst of human society.

The United States Veterans Administration (VA) sees it quite differently. To the VA, PTSD is strictly a medical condition. And this matters greatly, because research about PTSD is almost entirely funded and controlled by the VA. Explaining trauma as purely medical or biological doesn't address the causes at all. In fact, it does the opposite -- it normalizes PTSD as a natural consequence of unavoidable circumstances.

As for treatment, Morris surveys what's out there and finds most of it useless. VA hospitals and insurance companies prefer therapies that can be "manualized" -- made uniform, with a certain number of treatments and little or no emotional engagement from the therapist. Statistically, these types of therapies appear to be useful -- until one learns that the numbers don't include all the patients who drop out! Talk about cooking the books: everyone for whom the treatment isn't working or, in many cases, is actually worsening their symptoms, is simply ignored.

Morris himself feels that therapeutic talks with an empathetic person with some training goes further than neuroscience can. "What they [the VA] seem to want instead," Morris writes, "is mass-produced, scalable, scripted therapies that make for compelling PowerPoint slides."

Readers of this blog may know that I have PTSD. Much of The Evil Hours brought a shock of recognition -- the feeling that someone else is expressing your own thoughts, saying exactly what you've been thinking all along. Morris perfectly articulates how trauma plays out in one's life, the depths of change it brings about.

Morris writes: "We are born in debt, owing the world a death. This is the shadow that darkens every cradle. Trauma is what happens when you catch a surprise glimpse of that darkness.”

In the immediate aftermath of my own trauma, while trying to write about my experience, this is exactly the image I fixated on. We are, all of us, dancing on the edge of a great precipice, usually unaware of how terrifyingly close we are to that edge. Then something happens, and we understand it, not in some theoretical way, but immediately and profoundly, perhaps in a way humans are not equipped to understand. We talk about "the fragility of life" but we don't know what that is -- until we do. Then we spend a lifetime trying to live with the knowledge.

"One of the paradoxes of trauma," writes Morris, "is that it happens in a moment, but it can consume a lifetime. The choice of how much time it is permitted to consume is usually in the hands of the survivor."

The Evil Hours may be very useful for people who are figuring out how to stop PTSD from consuming any more of their lives. It is certainly a must-read for anyone interested in the effects of trauma on the human mind.

fun with bag signs: in which i am photographed removing garbage from my neighbourhood

Sat, 09/17/2016 - 08:00
Are there bag signs where you live?

In Mississauga and perhaps most suburban places, people put up bag signs advertising services. The signs are cheap to buy and easy to post. They are also illegal. To me, they are the Nexus of Evil: advertising plus visual pollution plus polyethylene waste.

I have called 311 to complain about these signs in my neighbourhood, and if the City has someone available, they will sometimes dispatch a crew to remove the signs. Presumably this crew is also doing other outdoor maintenance, or perhaps they are driving around removing bag signs, which would be awesome.

Allan and I also remove these signs ourselves. When we lived in a house, we would throw the signs in the garage until enough had collected, then bundle up the vinyl for trash and the metal frames for recycling. Now, while we're out with our dogs, we'll just put the whole thing in a public trash barrel.

This morning while I was out with Diego, I slipped the vinyl off a bag sign, crumbled it up, and threw it in the trash. As I turned the corner, I noticed a car parked across the street, the driver removing something from the trunk. Then he walked towards me, carrying a sign.

Diego and I watched as he pushed the metal frame into the ground. I said, "You know that's illegal, right?"

Sign man said, "Are you a city councilor or a police?"

Me: "No, I'm a resident of this neighbourhood and you are polluting it."

Signman: "It is only for a few days, then I will come back and remove it." Ha!

Me: "That doesn't matter. It's illegal. As soon as you walk away, I'm going to remove it."

Signman: "You cannot do that. Only a city councilor or police can do that."

Me: "That's incorrect. I've called the City and they said it was fine to remove these any time."

Signman: "If you remove this sign, I will take your picture and I will sue you!"

Actual Photo of Me Throwing Out the SignMe: "Great! Excellent. I will give you my name and phone number right now. Let's exchange phone numbers and you can sue me."

Signman: "I don't want your name and number! I will take your picture!"

Now, I am not a lawyer, but I think it might be difficult to sue someone if you only have their photo, but not their name.

Me: "Ok, get ready." He backed up -- I assume because of Diego's presence -- and I stepped forward to slip the vinyl off the frame.

He took out his cell phone, and I smiled and posed with the crumpled sign. I normally hate being photographed, but this was fun.

As Diego and I walked away with the sign, Signman shouted after me, "See you in court!"

"See you there," I said. "Have a nice day!"