Sunday, 21 September 2014

Our Trip to The Climate War's Ground Zero

Guest writer Darren Aronofsky writes on the blog today.

Our Trip to The Climate War's Ground Zero

Darren Aronofsky and Tim Moen went to the Los Angeles area, which exist overtop of the bones of dead first peoples and an ecosystem crushed to dust on a land mass about the size of the sinking Maldives. This is a journal of their journey.

Even before there was a script for my last film, Noah, I was interested in the environmental message in scripture. Man and woman are kicked out of paradise; 10 generations later the land is so filled with violence that God destroys Creation in order to begin again. Stewardship vs. dominion became a big theme in the film.
In representing the fallen prediluvian world that garners God’s ire, my team and I researched the parts of today’s modern world that are most violated by the hand of man.
We quickly narrowed in on Los Angeles. Air quality from down here is often called the dirtiest in the world. Some quick image searches made us realize we wanted to represent this destruction in our film. For every movie produced from America's  tinseltown enough boob jobs, rhinoplasties, crushed dreams, hypocrisy, carbon emissions and self-importance is generated to fill Yankee Stadium every two days. The scale is massive and the walls of our offices were quickly covered with images of the destruction. They made me want to go and see it with my own eyes.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, organized the trip with his team. He asked if there was anyone I would like to invite and so I emailed Tim Moen, whom I’ve known a bit over the years. Tim wrote back right away and said the trip sounded fascinating and he would love to join.
What follows is a journal I kept during the journey.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
7:30 a.m.
We wake at the crack of dawn for a hike through the glacier carved Yosemite Valley. High in the Sierra Nevada mountain chain it is one of the greatest views I have ever witnessed. Summer is starting to retreat and the morning air is already nippy. Looking up at the majestic water fall I wondered how long it would be before God turned the tap off.

Yosemite national park. Little did we know the devastation that would await us.
I take inventory of the beauty knowing that in a few hours I’ll be in Los Angeles, the main city servicing California's movie industry. I have seen photos and read articles about the environmental damage. But I wonder what it will feel like to actually finally be there.
2 p.m.
The first thing you notice on the turboprop out of Mariposa to LA is that everyone is wearing low v-necks and scarves. 
The one guy who stands out is a red-headed guy with delicate glasses and a bushy bright beard reading a book called Tinseltown Dreams. He’s carrying a violin case, but I am corrected when he tells me it’s a baritone ukulele. Turns out he’s a locally renowned political folk singer heading north to reunite with his wife and two young children. His wife works for Universal, an American Movie company that was among the first to operate around the tar pits of La Brea. 
He’s immediately on the back foot when I mention that I am going down there with the Sierra Club. I ask him why. He thinks they’ve made up their mind about the Movie industry and his wife informs him that it’s not as bad as everyone is saying.
Then I find out that David Suzuki is his hero. Not so long ago, David Suzuki had gone to the Los Angeles and compared the devastation to Hiroshima.  It set off a media storm.
I’m wondering how my new travelling companion is going to come to terms with the rift between his wife and his hero.
Stuffed into the pouch on the back of the seat in front of me is the local newspaper. The cover story is about how the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, a majority of inmates have committed victimless crimes. That’s nearly 2.1 million people. The other statistic that sticks out in the article is only 12 percent of the US is African-American but they make up 40 percent of the prison population.

When you land in LA, a city of 3.8 million, you immediately are overwhelmed by the enormity of the airport that locals dub 'LAX'. It’s nearly as modern as anything in Canada with Starbucks, a top-of-the-line gift shop. I was expecting something more drab and urban. 
I'm disappointed when a guy with a neck scarf tells me that there is no Tim Hortons, although Burger King just merged with Tims because of our favourable tax rate so maybe there is hope for these people yet. The times they are a changing…
7 p.m.

Michael Brune and myself at the Pembina Institute welcome. (Niko Tavernise)
So now, here we are, Michael, Tim and myself sitting with Erin Flanagan of the Pembina Institute, one of the organizations that movie companies still engage with because their science is irrefutable.
She tells us how little the federal and state governments have done to regulate the movie industry. In fact, they’ve done everything in their power to make the process easier, by eliminating most oversight and regulation.
Plastic pollution is a real problem along the coast yet they have only banned plastic bags about a month ago. Tim's community Fort McMurray banned bags 4 years ago and they aren't anywhere near a delicate coast line. It is really too bad we didn't come to show these people a different way much earlier.  Is it to little to late?
The government penalizes less than 1 percent of litter violations. Someone puts it aptly: It is all corrupt. Someone else says it doesn’t feel like America, feels more like Somalia. 
Thursday,  August 21
7 a.m.
We’re up early for a tour of the studios hosted by Universal, the American movie company.

The American movie industry exists overtop of an area of first peoples ancestry and beautiful flora and fauna the size of the sinking Maldives. In order to access the real estate required, the forests must be clear cut, the flora and fauna must be bulldozed, creating a radically different landscape and with countless  mini-tailings ponds, or as they describe them "swimming pools" where they don't seem to mind letting their children swim in chemical laden water.

Even most movie companies acknowledge the disruption caused by urbanization; that is one reason why they have developed environmental activism. On the surface, environmental activism appears less disruptive than its alternative, but this is only an illusion.
Environmental activism requires expending an incredible amount of energy and carbon emissions around the world to criticize polluters while simultaneously polluting and offering no real solutions. While it preserves the veneer of good intentions, the result on the planet is devastating. The demonization and lobbying reinforces a paradigm of domination and a power struggle ensues that artificially divides people and keeps them fighting while the ruling classes make out like bandits and no solutions are generated. And this environmental activism industry is only beginning.

Mastadon Drowning in LA Tar

The other hidden cost of environmental activism is the opportunity cost of expending all this energy, time and pollution in an activity that solves nothing. Imagine what could be accomplished if these people got engineering degrees or entered the marketplace to offer people much needed energy efficient products.
Michael keeps his cool until he sees Neil Young and Daryl Hannah exit their diesel burning bus fresh off a world tour of Rock and Roll activism. He tells us about the devastating consequences of this hyperbole entering the public consciousness. He’s stunned at the irresponsibility of these two.
Movie companies contend that hyperbolic rhetoric has always entered the public discourse. This, in fact, is one of their big arguments and it works well to confuse base lines. But no one can deny that the quality of the air and water has changed in southern California. In fact, the movie companies have supplied expensive finger wagging and shaming for the local communities. But still, the air and water quality hasn't improved. And in some places, celebrities offer judgemental rhetoric weekly and yet things continue to get worse.

There are over 3000 of these hidden pump jacks sucking oil out of the ground to feed LA's addiction to  polluting the planet with motor vehicles and hyperbole.
We join Universal for a presentation at their offices. Everyone in Hollywood has a presentation. The fight for our planet is waged over PowerPoint and misdirection.
The slides they present are filled with inconsistencies and data manipulation. I am surprised they feel comfortable showing data like this. As compared to Erin’s information last night this is laughable. We start to argue some points but they are overly defensive and their answers are circular. 
“We will look into that,” seems to be the failsafe. At a certain point I can’t take it anymore and I ask them if they believe in the science. They all immediately shake their heads yes. I ask them how can they resolve that with what they are doing.  Circular answers again.
To access the real estate necessary for the movie industry the forests must be clear cut, the flora and fauna must be bulldozed to make way for a radically different landscape replete with mini-talings ponds they fondly refer to as swimming pools.
Let’s take their arguments around bird deaths. On the one hand they criticize Canadian oil sands operations when around 1000 birds died one year from landing in tailing ponds. On the other hand they remain silent on the nearly billion bird deaths per year windows cause. In fact their offices, vehicles, and skyscrapers seem replete with these destructive devices. They point out that without windows our lives would be pretty bleak. When asked about carcinogenic toxins that permeate the LA valley they point out that in Northern Alberta the oil sands may be linked to 3 unexpected cancer cases in an aboriginal community.
They are fair arguments, I guess, but not when you put it up against accusations of their toxic environment exposing infants to a lifetime exposure limit of carcinogens by the age of two months they seem to fall short. Not to mention the not so subtle misdirection of the celebrity industry to point some questionable cases of industry related cancer in first nations communities in Canada while simultaneously standing on the bones of murdered first peoples who were slaughtered to make way for SoCal progress. Hey look over there...somebody needs our pomposity to solve a problem. What? Never mind that our yard is far worse, you've got a piece of litter there.
There’s no real discussion here.
I was so stunned by the shabbiness of their arguments that it made me wonder how powerful this multibillion-dollar industry is. If this is the best information these guys can script, if these are the most impressive minds they can send out to meet with the head of the Sierra Club, either they:
a) don’t take us seriously
b) have no fucking defense.
2 p.m.
There is not even a law in California that the urban blights of LA or San Diego or San Fransisco must be reclaimed to the pristine wilderness it was. After a lunch with vegan options we take a tour of Universal studios to see animatronic distraction and tour the surrounding landscape.
How does one replace millennia of pristine growth?  The results are comedic.
To begin, they just bulldoze everything. Then they lay down miles and miles of asphalt effectively removing any hope of anything living ever growing there again.
The landscape looks something like a dystopian future where the bloods and crips play engage in 3 way warfare with the police state. It doesn’t come near to replicating the diversity we see in the untouched wilderness.

This is what is called the “sunshine" state.
The great irony is when we start to discuss mini tailing ponds or "swimming pools". They are by products of industry affluence and over 43,000 of these toxic bird and bug killing pools exist in LA. They don't just kill bugs and birds they also kill kids. In America over 3000 children die annually from these needless death trap tributes to Hollywood excess.
When we ask why they protect their jobs but not their children, it’s the same answer: “We’ll look into it.”
We end the tour on a hill overlooking a East LA. It’s the closest we can get because of safety issues. The US drug war has reduced these streets to a wasteland of violence. Drug war, climate war, war on terror. War never ends, not even on Christmas and New Year’s. The mining of souls, crushed dreams and exploited minorities  happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and they project that this will be going on till at least 2070 when leaders are predicted to finally pull their heads out of their asses.

7 p.m.
We join the Reverend Al Shaprton a civil rights activist for dinner. He is grounded and realistic. Some would call him stubborn for holding out against lucrative job offers. He tells us about numerous lobbying positions he's been offered but he doesn't want to sell out.

Tim listening intently to Sharpton.
The day just gets more upsetting when we hear about minority and immigrant rights in America. 
It’s funny because as a Canadian you somehow always think America is on the right side of the issues. But their impoverished minorities are constantly under siege. There are policies to deport refugee children and an overall strategy to remove them from their land in the same way they removed the buffalo. Listening to some American red necks talk about the border one imagines the spirit of Buffalo Bill Cody alive and well here, there aren't many natives or buffalo left to kill but refugee children are aplenty.
On top of that, America has no real equivalent to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and no comprehensive air and water protections in Los Angeles. Over the recent decades the American constitution has been run over rough shod. It’s stunning. 
The government wants corporations to regulate its citizens. All that fighting for independence from Britain and they appear to be less free than us British subjects . That didn’t work out so well.
Friday, August 23
6 a.m.
We meet celebrity-turned-activist Russel Brand and make our way to Beverly Hills, a celebrity town which originally grew food for people and now serves the egos of the elite. The Spanish used to grow lima beans in this region.   
One can get to Hollywood by bus or taxi but the main mode of transportation is BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. 

Beverly Hills glutony on full display.
Brand offers us some of the local medicine called heroine. Tradition claims it can helps fight the vacuum created by lack of maternal attachment. Brand doesn’t tell us to inject it slowly, to savor it. I shoot it up like Bubble Yum. A bad mistake. The burning in my veins is unlike anything I can identify and it’s overpowering. I’m warned the worst thing I can do is resist. So I muscle through.
Since heroine comes from a plant that grows in war torn Afghanistan, there is some concern that perhaps we are contributing to a toxic cycle of drone bombing.
A few years ago they stopped hiring writers here. It seems every bartender and waitress is a writer. In fact, all creativity and artistic endeavours have been suspended lately to put out corporate Hollywood schlock that feeds the unending appetites of Americans. I wonder about the artisans; could they file a class action suit? Even in New York City, where the natural artscape has long since vanished, we can safely act on broadway or find off broadway theater houses. Centuries of art development does not compare to the recent devastation in Los Angeles.
We talk to some young actors and hipsters who explain how they can’t pass on their traditional way of life to their children. They cannot teach their children to express creativity, uniqueness, provocative ideas. They can’t wear avante garde fashion or make plaid shirts look cool because the celebrities and corporate Hollywood ruin everything.
Movie companies remind us that hyperbolic propaganda leaked into the public long before they arrived. But something has changed. Not a soul we meet thinks their art is safe. Everyone agrees there is more sickness than ever. 
For a moment of levity, Tim was challenged by Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau to do the ALS ice water bucket challenge. Tim decides it would be great to do down there to call attention to the recent drought spurred on by all the global warming causing emissions coming from this epicentre of environmental and socioeconomic destruction. We invite the community to participate. Tim joins Al Sharpton and Russell Brand on a hill in front of the late-day sun over the Hollywood hills. I get into director mode and help line up the shot. Everyone gives a good cheer as the ice rains down.

Tim talking with some local firefighters about the drought. He's told they've had to resort to urinating on fires. One more unintended consequence of movie industry activity.
The sun is setting as we pass over the Los Angeles squalor. From this view what blows me away is how much smog is coming out of the city. Its a sobering moment as I think of the lives cut short and the suffering this human activity creates.

Saturday, August 23
7 a.m.
Dweezle Zappa (his real name), a member of the celebritocracy, take us to Culver City, a small hamlet on traditional aboriginal grounds that is smack in the middle of a bunch of oil fields. 
We pass by many of the estimated 3000 pump jacks located throughout the Los Angeles area sometimes right in back yards enroute to where some of the worlds dirtiest oil is produced in Placerita.  

Inglewood oil fields from the air. The price of greed is environmental devastation.
I am stunned by the Culver Cities handsome buildings, by its modern pre-school and elderly center. They put most other city community centers to shame. But here’s the catch: Look closely and you see that most of these buildings were built by oil companies. There is so much money, so much greed, it’s hard to find anyone who is completely clean.
But there is still right and wrong. And when there’s this much money and this much power against people who have been on the defensive for over five centuries, battles must be picked. We can't force our oil and celebrity addicted southern neighbours to buy much cleaner and more ethical Canadian oil.
I keep thinking about kindergarten. One of the first lessons we learn is to clean up our mess. The movie companies, celebrities and citizens of LA have reclaimed 0 percent of what they’ve annihilated. 
Anyone can see from the ground or air that it’s a big fucking mess. No one really argues with the massive amount of pollution and toxins. No one really argues with the greenhouse gas stats. They continue to emit more greenhouse gases than all the oil sands combined and don't even produce anything useful...unless you somehow count the Transformers series useful.
Yet the movie companies and the governments of California and America want to expand. They want to expand when the technology to clean up what they’ve already done doesn’t exist. 
It is time to slow down and study what is happening. It is not time to expand.
Driving back to the airport I can’t help to think about the Old Testament God and his pact with Noah and Noah’s family. Believe it wholeheartedly or look at it as a founding myth of Western culture. Either way, the message is the same: If you take care of creation everything will be in balance. But if you destroy creation you destroy yourselves.
Join the and help us fight Hollywood blight and take back this planet.

*note - this was satire which imagines a role reversal of this article

Friday, 29 August 2014

Kids and Guns

Growing up on a farm in Northern Alberta I learned to drive and to shoot at an early age. I'm sure that what I was allowed to do probably broke one law or another, but I'm going to make the case that I am better off for having parents that taught me how to use potentially dangerous tools.

My dad didn't throw me into a truck at the age of 12 and say, "Take her for a rip down the highway." He did however sit me on his lap while we drove on an open farm field and let me steer. After I got the hang of steering he showed me how to work the pedals and I started driving around the open field with him sitting beside me, "Woo-Hoo!" By the time I was 14 I was driving the farm truck within the confines of our family farm, contributing to the work and feeling pretty good about myself.

My education with guns wasn't appreciably different. My dad didn't give me a high powered rifle as a 10 year old but I did get a pump action BB gun to shoot pop cans with. Over time as I demonstrated safety and gained my parents trust I graduated to a pellet gun, then a .22 caliber rifle and as an older teen I was shooting a high powered hunting rifle. I had a lot of adventures in the woods, gun in my hand and loyal dog Bernie by my side.

I always felt like my parents did me a great service by teaching me to use these tools and building up my confidence. They aren't irresponsible people, on the contrary I'd say what they did was very responsible. I was privileged to have been able to learn and own these tools as part of my childhood and I wish that more people had the opportunity to live on a farm and learn to use these tools. I suspect that maybe people wouldn't feel so powerless in their lives as adults if they had been able to experience the kind of freedom, responsibility, accomplishment and personal power that comes from learning and mastering these tools.

I have teenage children and while they have missed out by not growing up on a farm I have endeavoured to do my best as their dad and teach them how to drive and how to shoot. In the same way my dad helped me along in safe baby steps I've helped them along. Driving will obviously make the lives of my kids a whole lot better but it may not be clear to a lot of people how spending time at the range or in the wild learning how to shoot can also make their lives better.

My party posted a picture of my daughter and I (with her permission) at the range to promote the idea that firearms ownership and education is an important part of living in a free society. Immediately I was hit with a series of ugly and disgusting tweets by someone who thought I deserved to be shot by my daughter and that it would be completely hilarious. This wasn't a one tweet knee jerk reaction, this was a tirade of increasingly ugly hate levelled at me and from my perspective more at my daughter. If my daughter accidentally killed me with her car or a gun its not me who would suffer horribly but her.
My 16 year old daughter and I at the range. Shoots one bullet per trigger pull and holds 5 bullets total. Notice her trigger discipline and sense of confidence.

It was shocking to experience that level of vitriol over what I considered to be an innocent and happy day at the range. I can understand that guns are shocking and scary to people that have never been around them or used them, and Hollywood certainly doesn't help paint a realistic picture of violence and responsible gun ownership, but this issue calls for level headed, objective consideration.

Critics of gun ownership and self-defence rights portray gun owners as nuts who imagine an invasion or doomsday scenario is coming, or that someday they may have to rise up and water the tree of liberty with blood! That is not the case with me. I benefited from learning how to shoot and so has my daughter.

Experiencing first hand how powerful a gun in you own hands actually is or how powerful your own body is when using martial arts techniques under the instruction of a mature and knowledgeable instructor is valuable education on many levels. In my experience kids who receive this type of instruction become less infatuated with violence, respect their own personal power, gain confidence in themselves, understand the need for discipline, walk taller, and project a sense of power and humility that makes them both far less likely to be a bully and far less likely to be the victim of a bully.

My kids are almost adults now. I've taught them how to drive and how to shoot. I don't expect my kids will own guns anytime soon and that is fine with me, its their choice and gun ownership isn't for everyone, it comes with certain responsibilities and obligations that cut into time and resources. I've done my part to create responsible and productive citizens of the world. I trust my kids aren't going to kill anybody if they choose to drive or shoot because they have received responsible education in these matters and society will be better off because of it.

I'd like to address the tragedy of the 9 year old girl who accidentally killed her instructor with an Uzi set to fully automatic. There were a number of lapses of judgement in this case that should not have occurred. I would certainly not be comfortable putting an automatic weapon in the hands of a 9 year old. Pellet guns and .22 caliber single action rifles are far more appropriate at that age when it comes to fire arms education in my opinion. It is akin to allowing a 9 year old to drive a pickup truck in an open field by themselves and then getting run over by them. Go-karts or small ATV's are a better place to start kids learning to handle motorized vehicles.

When kids run-over and kill siblings or parents with vehicles it is usually framed as a tragic accident. There aren't hateful diatribes against automobile enthusiasts, or calls to ban automobile ownership for everyone except government employees. There aren't people expressing joy when automobile owners are killed by their own vehicle. This tells me that most of the rhetoric around guns is purely driven by emotion and ignorance.

The fact that Switzerland has a military grade rifle in almost every home and Chicago is a legislated gun-free zone ought to tell you at the very least that guns aren't the root cause of violence. I'm not a gun enthusiast, I don't enjoy shooting the way some people do, I go to the range like I go the gym - begrudgingly and not enough. I do recognize that societies tend to be better off when good people are armed and trained. In fact I consider it a requisite for a just and free society for good guys to be able to wield protective force against aggressors and I think that the more people that receive the kind of education my kids and I received, the more civil a society becomes.

People who decry gun ownership and criticize me for educating my kids fail to understand the ways in which they hypocritically contribute to a more violent and uncivil society. They have no problem asking for a state to be an umbrella corporation whose sole monopoly purpose and only tool is using force against its citizen. They fail to understand that every law they cry for from this umbrella corp is a threat to shoot someone dead for non-compliance. Think this is a hyperbolic statement? You can test it by simply disobeying any inane law and refusing to obey law enforcement. Will they start to escalate force to get compliance or will they leave you alone? If you match their escalation of force with equal and opposite protective force how do you think it will end?

The irony of the anti-gun crowd is that they can't have the society they themselves want without some individuals threatening to use guns against other individuals. They are actually very pro-gun violence, as long as the violence comes from the state. I don't think it is an accident that proponents of big government also tend to be people who have never received training or exposure to firearms. This is why they are so cavalier about asking other people from the state to use firearms to aggress against their fellow citizens. If you want to have the state use force on your behalf you should at least have the integrity to be willing to pick up the gun yourself and point it at the people doing the thing you hate. People who have grown up shooting guns tend to understand the serious power they represent and respect that power by not demanding others use it on their behalf.

The anti-gun crowd quick to decry the militarization of police never having considered that perhaps its dangerous to be a cop because of the policies they ask police to enforce, that perhaps advocating for big government is exactly what is leading to police militarization. They never consider that perhaps continuing to ask law enforcement to use more and more force against people they signed up to protect is creating the very conditions they fear so much.

Libertarians believe that force ought to be used ONLY protectively and not to control and force people and so we are the only party that can claim to consistently be anti-gun violence. We only ask government to do what we ourselves have the right and the willingness to do - protect individuals from aggression.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

10 Lessons I Learned Running for Parliament

I recently ran for Member of Parliament in the by-election in my riding of Fort McMurray - Athabasca. One year ago I would have scoffed at anyone who predicted that I would be involved in politics let alone running in an election. In my mind politics was at worst the antithesis to every good thing in the world and at best a necessary evil required for peaceful individuals to produce good in the world. Fast-forward to present day where I now find myself the leader of a rapidly growing federal political party preparing to sweep Canada off its feet and change the face of federal politics.

How did I get here? It has been a surreal roller coaster ride. Within weeks of being convinced that perhaps I should consider running in the 2015 Federal election our MP resigned. I consulted with my supporters and my family and decided that it would be a good learning experience to run in the by-election. Within a couple weeks of announcing my candidacy our team created a meme that circulated the world, CNN called me for an interview, I appeared on Fox Business, I was lampooned on ThisHour Has 22 Minutes and Gawker, was highlighted on Reason Magazines blog and made appearances on numerous radio programs. Shortly after that I was nominated and subsequently elected Leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada. Unfortunately the popularity and acclaim I seemed to achieve in certain circles didn't translate to many people in my riding knowing much of anything about me or my party and I finished with a disappointing 3% of the vote.

While I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm becoming everything I hate in this world, let me share with you some of the lessons I learned during my short time in the political arena.

1) People Are Afraid

Fear is everywhere in the political process and informs almost every decision. People vote for a particular political party because they are afraid that their sacred issues won't be addressed otherwise. If you're afraid about what will happen to poor people or the environment you tend to vote left and if you're afraid of external threats and the ability to gather resources you tend to vote right.

I had many people from both sides of the political spectrum secretly support me and tell me they agree with me but they had to remain in the closet politically for fear of what would happen to them socially if they came out. If you achieve a certain amount of success and prestige in a group I suppose there may be a price to pay socially for challenging the narrative of that group. I had open and ardent supporters who flipped at the last minute because, as much as they wanted me to win, they wanted another party to lose more...if the bad party won it would be their worst fears realized.

2) Politicians are Incentivized to Foment Fear

Telling people everything is probably going to be alright, the world is getting better, and pointing out at all the beauty everywhere is not likely to get you any votes. When you run for office you are presenting yourself as a solution to a problem. The more horrendous the problem appears and the more afraid people are of that problem the more appealing you look when you present yourself as the solution. I continuously found myself tempted to point out all the ways my opponents policies would result in catastrophe, even though I knew it probably wouldn't really make any real difference who won the election.

3) Politicians are Incentivized to Deliver Meaningless Platitudes

Each party and political movement seems to have their own catch phrases and jargon that are essentially sentiments devoid of any real meaning. On the left if you say the word "sustainable" you evoke a positive emotional response even though everybody has a different standard, definition, and vision of what that word actually means. On the right if you say the words "National Security" it evokes a positive emotional response that is similarly devoid of any meaning. If you try and flesh out idea's and opinions in concrete rational terms you face immediate criticism, its best to just make meaningless appeals to emotion.

At one debate I attended I tried to flesh out some concrete ideas about how to improve healthcare. A prominent figure stepped up to the open mic and in dramatic Charlton Heston-esque fashion said, "You can pry MY universal healthcare from my COLD...DEAD...HANDS!!" Boom...drops the mic...requisite audience applause for the grand-standing. I thought about going through a reasoned response that tried to address his statement, that was itself devoid of any discernable content, and deliver a nuanced outline of a plan moving forward, but in the end I looked at the audience and said stupidly, "I'm a paramedic, I deliver healthcare I don't take it away." To which audience members nodded their agreement, I had won them back...without saying anything meaningful.

4) Politicians are Incentivized to be Fake

Politicians, almost by definition, are required to not have any personal opinions and to completely erase themselves and take on the aggregate personality of their constituents in order to win votes and get elected. This means that rationally in order to win an election you must value power and prestige more than integrity, you can't have any compunction about deception, you have to tell people what they want to hear, and sympathy for your political victims will be a handicap. Sociopaths have a decided advantage in the political arena. Popularity is everything if you want to get elected. and if you are trying to change the status quo then you have to say unpopular things.

One example I faced is that I'm a secular person and at times it would have been much more comfortable for me to outright lie, or dodge questions about this and talk about my theological training in Bible College to make people think I'm religious without actually lying and thus be more attractive to more people that would vote for me. I could go on and on about the many times I was tempted to erase myself in order to garner popularity and avoid discomfort. I promised myself and my family that I wouldn't do that. My end game is to create a better world for my kids not win a popularity contest.

Then again it would be a lot easier to change the world if I was the king of it...hmmm...

5) People Project Themselves onto Politicians

I was asked over variations of the same question over and over again; "This is my problem, how are your going to fix it?"  People that come to public forums and make pleas to politicians all seem to share a common feeling of powerlessness. People want us to be a saviour who is there for them and cares deeply for them and we are more than happy to accept their complete dependency on us to solve their problems, that's kinda how we get the job. We talk as if we know how to solve their problems. We suddenly become experts at road building, administering healthcare, and food production. 

It was actually very disturbing to me on a visceral level the degree to which people projected both their powerlessness and their hopes and dreams onto me as I would stand in front of them. Something about it felt wrong. It was as if they saw me as something other than human. If people liked me I became an infallible hero who carried all their hopes and dreams, if I worried them I became a treacherous super villain capable of destroying everything they hold dear. Politicians seem to be demi-gods in the mind of many people.

As a side note there is an incredible temptation to start to believe ones own hype that I suspect isn't all that healthy - for anybody.

6) People are Apathetic About Politics

Only about 15% of eligible voters in my riding took the time to vote in the by-election. That means 85% elected to do other things; spend time with family, watch TV, go on vacation, go to work, drink beer. Many critics deride this apathy and try and shame these individuals as everything that is wrong with this country, I disagree. I don't think people are resistant to making the world better through voting so much as they are just attracted to doing things that actually make their world better.

Almost everybody I talked to was frustrated and fed up with politics. It doesn't seem to be the case that apathetic voters don't care about what is going on in the country, they seem to care a great deal, its just that they've come to notice that voting doesn't seem to do much. People who at one point really cared about election results would campaign vehemently for their candidate and would get one of two possible results; a) their candidate loses after all that work and effort, or b) their candidate wins and through no fault of their own is unable to live up to the hype. I suspect that at a certain point people who care just decide they'd rather see what's on TV than rinse and repeat a cycle of disappointment.

Perhaps a cure for voter apathy would be to give everyone a default vote of libertarian, the only party whose goal is to use no initiatory force, that way if they want a government to initiate force on their behalf they will have to go vote...that may seem bias, and it is, but you have to admit it does make a lot of sense ;)

7) Political Debates Amount to a Family Argument 

Generally speaking I've noticed that those who lean left identify more with what might be classified traditionally as maternal interests; sharing resources, keeping a clean environment, looking after those who can't look after themselves, including and accepting everybody. Those people who identify themselves on the right politically tend to identify more with paternal issues; boundary enforcement, protecting people they care about, gathering and trading resources effectively, encouraging self-sufficiency.

It seems to me that an individual's political identity has more to do with their childhood environment than it has to do with critically thinking from first principles. Whenever I hear people argue about politics all I hear is, "I want mommy in charge" or "I want daddy in charge." It is now hard for me not to view political debates as anything more than grown-up children arguing about who the best parent is.

8) Real Change Has to Come From the Fringes

Because of all the dynamics I've described, I can't imagine how political parties can do anything other than engage in popularity contests. Trudeau can't promote gun rights anymore than Harper can promote ending marijuana prohibition even if that's how they personally feel, they'd lose their jobs. Nope, they are relegated to parroting party lines that their supporters expect and that are meaningless enough not to offend their base. There is no way for an up and comer in any of these parties to go off script with innovative and completely outside the box thinking. It is hard to imagine anybody who is actually able to solve problems and provide value being attracted to a mainstream political party.

While I didn't come close to getting elected, I do have reason to believe that I made a much bigger difference to the political landscape than the numbers would reflect. Anecdotal reports I was receiving suggested that other campaigns were having to consider how to respond to my ideas and challenges. The big parties are like big cumbersome monsters that strike with slow, predictably narrow rhetoric and aren't used to having a nimble opponent exploiting weaknesses they never realized they had. It is relatively easy for a little guy like me to break away little chunks of their party than it is for them to come close to doing any damage to mine.

9) There is Hope For Humanity

A recent survey suggests that millenials  identify as socially liberal and fiscally conservative which is another way of saying that they don't see the world as a power struggle between mommy and daddy. Millennials rightly reject partisan lines that would require them to sacrifice principles in the name of political expedience. You can be against gun control and against drug prohibition. You can be anti-corporatism and pro-free market. You can be a fundamentalist Christian and be against interfering with two men getting married. You can be an ardent environmentalist while rejecting the notion that big government is the best way forward. You can be pro-law & order and pro-maximum individual freedom.

More and more young people are rejecting politics as we know it. The amount of information freely available is increasing and the ability to propagandize is decreasing. Young people are skeptical of the idea that society is best organized by a group of individuals who, by virtue of winning a popularity contest, we grant a monopoly on force and ask them to use that force to solve our every problem. During my campaign I received messages from various young people who are upgrading democracy and taking personal power in their own lives in all sorts of innovative ways; using crypto-currency like Bitcoin to make central banks obsolete, developing new types of automatic contracts like Etherium with built in dispute resolution mechanisms to diminish their dependence on centralized justice systems, building and selling escape pods in Galts Gulch to people looking to find community away from a meddling state. The list of ways young people are finding solutions to make monolithic institutions irrelevant is virtually endless and it gives me hope for my kids.

10) Focusing on Collecting Votes Doesn't Change The World

The universe emerges from the bottom up. Government is an emergent property of the beliefs and actions of individuals in society. Humans pre-existed the idea of government not the other way around. The more I found myself focusing on winning votes and gaining popularity the more I hated how the words coming out of my mouth sounded and the more I found that people were being attracted to their own caricature of my message. The more I imagined change occurred from the top down the less integrity I acted with.

Change can only occur from challenging the status quo, and elections can only be won by appealing to the status quo. Research shows that societal paradigms shift when a tipping point of 10% of people adopt an unshakeable belief. I've got kids so I want a societal upgrade more than I want to be king. Other politicians can focus on getting elected. Once my party and I win 10% of hearts and minds it really doesn't matter to me which politicians get in front of the new parade. Then again maybe deep in the hearts of voters the status quo has changed and they're are just waiting for politicians to catch up.