Category Archives: Society, Culture, Politics & Religion

Parenting and Political Affiliation… is there a connection?

So one day I was Stumbling and I came across this:

Diagram by Mkandlez via Flickr Creative Commons License

Now, I love a good political diagram. LOVE. What with all the info and summary of huge ideas and over simplification and stuff. You know, boiling down all the complication of the world into a picture. Awesome. (I kid. I actually think this diagram was very very well done and very interesting.)

But as I was looking at this one, something interesting caught my eye. It talks about parenting. And puts parenting characteristics on a diagram about political beliefs.

It makes the assertion that Society/Culture which leans to the right or tends to be conservative is linked with parenting which is “strict” and where the relationship with the child is based on “respect and fear”. This (again according to the diagram) leads to “self-reliance, morality, discipline” and “builds character” resulting in a “self-reliant” adult.

On the other side, the left or liberal is associated with parenting where the parent is “nurturing” and the the relationship is built on “respect and trust”. This leads to “openness, empathy, reflection” and “creates potential” resulting in a “fulfilled adult”.

Now, before we totally pull this to shreds, I think the intention is to draw parallels with certain societal values and how they relate to parenting values. Let’s be real. This is a diagram meant to illustrate large, over arching concepts… not one that is meant to be applied to every individual as an assertion of what is. We all know that parents, families and their values come in a wide array of different packages. I have always asserted on this blog that every family/child/situation is different and people should parent according to those circumstances.

But isn’t it interesting to see politics and parenting theory linked in this way? Especially after all the hubub of the “Tiger Mother” stuff, which would probably fall under the “strict” and “respect and fear” paradigm. I mean, as much as I see some serious over simplification with this diagram, I also see the connection it is drawing. It makes sense to me that the values that impact how we parent would also impact our political beliefs. Except that what our values are, as individuals, don’t often fit into perfect categories. But I think it is still a concept worth exploring.

If the society values “survival of the fittest” it would make sense to raise children based on that concept.. trying to raise children to be as self reliant and tough as possible. (The argument of course of the other side is that children raised in a very strict environment with their freedom to choose limited may not be self-reliant because they haven’t had the practice making their own decisions and facing challenges. ) On the other hand, if the society values “one for all and all for one”, then raising children to be open and empathetic becomes much more important.

There has been a lot of talk about shifts in parenting style from that more traditional, strict, “reward and punishment” type parenting to a much more nurturing and “protection and communication” style. Perhaps that has more to do with shifts in society’s values more then one style being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ relative to what you value in society and when what you value in society changes, so does what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

What is even more interesting is that I feel that some of the even newer parenting approaches- slow parenting, free range parenting, RIE approach (all of which have both similarities to each other but also very big difference, so please don’t think I am lumping them all together) don’t seem to fit with either of these categories. They seem to value different things. They are less concerned with ‘protecting’ our children and more concerned with providing children with the space and opportunity to lead their own experience in life. (Not that those approaches don’t have a healthy respect for safety). They are also less inclined to a strict approach that would interfere with child’s opportunity to make their own choices. So do these approaches signal a totally different political approach as well. A less bi-partisan, more nuanced approach? Overall, I think society is moving the direction of a less bi-partisan approach in general. There is a lot more nuance in politics then their used to be.

I don’t know.. I am just thinking as a write. I don’t really have a thesis or answer or conclusion here.. other then huh. I haven’t really every connected parenting and politics in my brain before. A wonder, actually, as I am deeply passionate about both!

But now I wonder what you think… so tell me!

Additional Information about the above diagram:

Left vs Right: A view of the political Spectrum

A concept-map exploring the Left vs Right political spectrum. A collaboration between David McCandless and information artist Stefanie Posavec, taken from my book The Visual Miscellaneum (out Nov 10th).

THIS IS THE EUROPEAN & UK VERSION WHERE RED=LEFT WING. BLUE=RIGHT WING.

From my book The Visual Miscellaeum (HarperCollins, Nov 2009)
www.harpercollins.com/book/pre-order.aspx?isbn13=97800617…

Making things from scratch and cultural shifts

Photo by hello-julie via Flickr Creative Commons License

I have been doing a lot of knitting lately. I learned how to knit a year or two before Audrey was born and go through phases of knitting lots to knitting very little. (I recently finished a sweater that it took me 2 years to make!) I love knitting. I love that it is calming and relaxing. I love feeling that I have made something from just yarn and sticks. I love figuring out what my next project will be and picking out yarns and colours. Going into the knitting store and brushing my hand against all my yarn choices. Looking for softness.

I joke that I knit because I am not a crafty person. I like having a plan, a pattern, and instructions to follow. No good can come of me picking up a paintbrush. But knitting I can do. Other then music and writing, it is the only art I feel capable of.

But I have been frustrated lately. Because knitting is also DARN EXPENSIVE. One ball of yarn can cost between $4 and $15 dollars, depending on what the yarn is made of. And most projects take somewhere between 4 and 10 balls of yarn. (For the record, not all ‘balls of yarn’ are created equal… some have less or more yarn, measured both in weight and in yardage.) For example, I really want to make this pattern I saw on Ravelry (if you knit and you social media, you must get on Ravelry… great patterns and forums and all kinds of stuff. Besides, I have no friends there, so it be great if you could join me. I am lonley.) It is essentially a really cool scarf. The yarn I want to knit with is about $9 a ball and I would need about 3 balls to do this projects, which means the scarf would cost me $30. For. a. scarf. I could go to any store tomorrow and find a scarf for $10. The materials for that sweater it took me two years to make? About $80. That’s a pretty darn expensive sweater.

Yes, I could buy less expensive yarn. I am a yarn snob. I don’t do acrylic. (If anyone wants to sell me on why I should use acrylic, other then cost.. please do. I would like to hear from others what they feel the benefits are.) I like natural fibers. And I often go for things like bamboo, organic cotton, alpaca and wool. The yarn I want to knit this project from is cashmere, merino and microfiber. But I figure that a) if I am going to spend the time I want it to be nice and b) why would I spend the time and money if the quality of the yarn is going to be less then something I would buy. And I like soft yarn.

All of this has gotten me thinking about the shift from craft and making your own as something that people who couldn’t afford to buy did, to something that the only those with the time and money can do. We aren’t rich at all, but I know we are lucky in comparison to most and we have enough money that I can invest some in a craft I love. Though I have to be careful to not go on a yarn binge. But not that many years ago, the poor made their own and the rich bought. Now, we are facing a switch in that. Obviously there are very few people out there making 100% of their clothing, ect., so it is not like those who knit or sew no longer shop for clothing. So that is an other part of the shift. These types of crafts are no longer done to fill a need, but a want. And a want for a rewarding activity more then the end result.

Fabric is expensive. Yarn is expensive. Heck, organic produce is expensive.

The other part of this is of course the time. Making your own takes a lot of time and many at the low end of the income brackets have even less time then your average middle income earner.

So all these home arts; knitting, sewing, cooking, growing… are becoming the domain of the rich rather then the poor, when some 60 years ago this was the exact opposite.

I am not really sure what I think about this, except, “huh”. It seems ‘wrong’ somehow that it is more expensive to make something then to buy it. But it is also wrong how few things we repair rather then replace. Certainly there are ways around the high cost of raw materials for making things; I have heard a lot about fabric and yarn recycling… essentially going to a thrift store and buying and old sweater and unraveling it and then using the yarn to knit something new. I should try this. I do think there are still people out there that get creative with getting their hands on materials to make and repair things, just as there are still people darning their own socks because they need to.

And I get the economics behind why it is expensive. My little ball of yarn, wrapped neatly in its package, costs more because I buy it 4, 5, 10 balls at a time. Rather then a huge garment manufacturer making sweaters for some big store in the millions. You know, economy of scale stuff.

But that also goes to show the ‘real’ cost of making the goods that we get so cheap. That sweater I bought at Superstore was $25 because the materials were probably bought and manufactured in a less affluent country at a much lower cost- at the expense of that country and its people. The environmental movement has brought that concept of real cost to the discussion, but it applies to the social and economic impacts as well as the environmental.

Anyway, again, I am not sure what I think should be done or what this all means. Its just a bunch of ideas swirling around in my head while I knit.

Religion in Daycare and the recent changes in Quebec

On Facebook the other day (yes, amoment2think has its own Facebook page!) I shared an article via PhdinParenting (which I believe Annie wrote). It is about a recent announcement from the provincial government of Quebec that they will no longer provide subsidies for daycare’s which provide religious instruction. Here is an other article about the issue via the National Post to take a look at: Quebec Toddlers Can See Religious Symbols but Can’t Have them Explained. Take a read and then head back here.

So, as I mentioned on Facebook, I have been puzzling my thoughts on this all week. First some background. Quebec has a publicly subsidized daycare program, unlike the rest of the Canadian provinces. Other Canadian provinces subsidize some proportion of low income households, but does not guarantee $7/day daycare for all like Quebec does. (I’m jealous!) Also, many provinces provide some financial support to some religious primary and secondary schools via separate school board systems. (See some information via Wikipedia here.) Alberta has a “Public”, “Separate” (aka Catholic) and a “Charter” school system, all which receive some public funding. I know when we vote we indicate if we support the public or separate school system and I assume this has an impact on funding. This article via CBC is a great overview to the issues. Obviously, this is a much much bigger issue. And one that has been going on for a very long time. This change in policy in Quebec is just a catalyst to bring it all up again. Not to mention that Quebec has a unique culture and language and there are often debates there about culture, religion, language and the role of government.

Here are the issues as I see it:

1) Separation of Church and State

In theory, there is suppose to be a separation of Church and State. But in reality, that is not the case. Based on the articles I read in doing a bit of research into this issue, the Canadian Constitution does provide provisions for Catholic school boards in some Canadian provinces. Not to mention the non-secular experience of many students in Public primary and secondary schools across North America. (This post from Parenting Is Political about just that issue is very much worth a read.)

The question remains, to what extend should the government be funding education which is linked to religious instruction? Particularly if that funding funds some religious denominations and not others.

2) Tax dollars funding of Religious instruction

Further to that point, the natural extension is that if the government is funding religious education then, we, as tax payers are funding religious education. And, as I discussed in this post, there is a pretty negative view of religion in general in much of our society right now. So if you happen to be someone who believes that religion is all indoctrination and brainwashing- then reasonably you may be pretty upset that your tax dollars go to fund that. Or, if you are comfortable with religion, but question the teaching of it to children, preferring that religious education wait until they can make their own decisions; or prefer that if children are to be taught religion that they be taught a wide range of religions in a neutral manner and have the opportunity to make their own decisions about that information; again, this use of tax dollars may be concerning. If, on the other hand, you believe that religion is central to some peoples lives and/or cultural heritage or if you tend to be very supportive of religious education, you might be more inclined to not take issue with that use of your tax dollars.

3) Accommodation of Diversity

The next issue is to what extent should our government support diversity when it comes to religious education. What I think is interesting about the Quebec daycare case is that it involves daycare’s which are run by a diversity of religious organizations; Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant. Unlike the Catholic primary and secondary school issue, where only one religious group is being supported in the education system, these daycare’s represent a diversity of religious organizations. Is allowing religious education to be a part of (very) early childhood education part of the reasonable accommodation of diversity? Particularly when all religions are welcome to be represented, so long as they have enough families who want to enroll their children in the program.

4) Parental Choice in how their children should be educated

So what is wrong with parents choosing to send their kids to religiously affiliated daycare’s with some component of religious education? If all religions can receive public funding and parents have full choice as to where to send their child and there are lots of daycare spots which are secular as well, then what does it matter? Is it hurting anyone? What is the harm? Part of the Quebec’s government’s argument is that it negatively impacts children’s ability to integrate into Quebec society. I find this argument odd. How is understanding and learning about your families religious background having a negative impact on integration into society? Furthermore, isn’t part of the value of Canadian style multiculturalism that people here are like a mosaic. Many people retain their cultural identity while fully participating in Canadian society.

5) Societal values regarding a secular society

I think what this really comes down to is our values around a secular society. Part of what got me thinking about this issue so much is wondering if the government has any right in dictating secular education? If parents want their children to receive particular religious education as a part of their educational curriculum, who is the government to say that that is not appropriate? Is that any more appropriate then the government dictating that children should receive a particular religious education? If there are parents out there that want to send their toddlers to a Catholic/Jewish/Muslim/Protestant/Buddhist/whatever Daycare, why should the government withdraw the funding for that? And as a taxpayer, why should I have say over how an other parent wants to raise their kid? So long as there is equal access to the service…

And I know, there is the argument that if parents want their toddler in a religious daycare program then they could pay for a private one (do they have those in Quebec?) But really that just means that the rich can choose how their child is educated but the poor can’t.

I really don’t know on this one. I do believe in parents having choice. And trusting in their choice. You know what is best for your kid and I know what is best for my kid. What business does the government have in imposing secularism in our lives? At the same time, our education system, which in Quebec includes the daycare system, is the business of the government. How we educate out kids with public funds is very much the governments business, and the government has to make decisions to that effect based on the values of the society. If Quebec’s political culture is one where secularism is a core value, then perhaps it is appropriate to dictate that in the education system. Although, if that is the case, I certainly hope that goes far enough to prevent the type of non-secular activity as described by Parenting is Political— if the government is not going to let  religions provide religious education in their own daycare’s then let’s hope children from non-Christian religions do not have to feel alienated by our non-secular-secular public system. I think my major concern over all this that is should be one way or the other; either all religions have equal access to public funds for education from Daycare on to High school OR all Daycares, Primary and Secondary schools are truly secular. Or all teach a wide range of religious beliefs and practices. From my understanding, Quebec is trying to move towards all schools being truly secular. I wonder what those secular schools look like this time of year.

I can no longer avoid the topic

Photo by David Oliva under Flickr's Creative Commons License

God.

More and more Christmas is a secular holiday. Or rather, I should say, a commercial holiday. That is not true for everyone and I think more and more people are trying to resist the commercialization of it and focus on family, love, peace, you know.. the good stuff, which may or may not include a religious aspect to the holiday. Anyway, my point is that regardless of the secular-ness or non-secular-ness of Christmas, there is a lot of talk about religion around the holidays.

After years and year of considering myself agnostic, I am beginning to question my own beliefs.  We started going to Church this year for the community, the singing, the space and time to reflect on the week, the space and time to think about others and their experiences and their struggles. In the process of that we have found a particular church with a particular perspective and it has caused me to question my view of religion.

As a result, I also find myself paying attention more to what people say about religion and even, disagreeing with some of the criticism. Odd, because even five years ago I would listen and find myself disagreeing with those who seemed to pull religion into everything, trying to thrust their opinions on others. I still disagree with thrusting of opinions on anyone, but I also find myself defending the value of religion in my head. So I thought I would write it out.

I am not going to suggest that religion is all good. It isn’t. One of the reasons I became agnostic is that I strongly feel that all kinds of religions have been used by people in horrible, terrible ways resulting in pain, suffering, death and torture. Quite honestly, religion has given bad people the ability to claim their actions to be moral, ethical and right when they are far from those things as possible.

I think regardless of how religion currently fits (or doesn’t fit) in our society, if we are honest, religion was one of the earliest forms of government. It has the ability for some people to claim authority and the right to make decisions. It defines groups of people and makes clear who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’. There is this concept out there (that ironically I heard about at Church) that people can function in groups of up to a maximum of 150. It is called Dunbar’s Law. From Wikipedia, “Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group.” From this perspective, religion was an early tool for establishing the types of rules and laws required when people started to live in larger and larger groups. Religion may be useful for this purpose, but it also means that religion has often been used to control and impose authoritarian order, which in our democratic society is generally frowned upon. And it has been used to exclude people, for a large number of reasons; ethnic background, language, geographical origin; the exclusion of women from positions of authority. In the current context is has been used to exclude people from the homosexual and transgendered community. I strongly disagree with this aspect of the way some religious communities operate.

On a related note, I just really can not wrap my head around the concept of ‘chosen’ people. No God I would want to follow would choose some people over others to know the ‘truth’ and exclude others as ‘heathens’. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

And then you have individuals or groups of individuals within the Church (across many different religious groups) who use their power and office within the church to exploit others. You all know what I am talking about, I won’t go into detail.

All these reasons and more are why I have chosen to identify as agnostic since I was a teenager. Because I felt like I just couldn’t buy in, given the history (not that all these bad things have stopped) of organized religion. Because I felt by associating myself with Christianity I was condoning the bad behavior, past-present-future.

You might be wondering, so why am I not an atheist? I choose to be agnostic because I also can not believe that there isn’t some kind of higher power. Not a guy with a long white beard who sits on the clouds ready with lightning bolt. Not a god in the literal, physical, tangible sense. But a power, a meaning, a energy which is beyond us. I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe there are things beyond our ability to understand. I believe the world, the universe, holds a kind of mystery and awe that only seems to make sense to me within the concept of a higher power. And I believe that some people don’t believe this, which is just fine too.

I don’t believe that some people are ‘right’ and some people are ‘wrong’ when it comes to religion. I believe that all religions have the potential to support people to have good, moral lives. All religions have aspects of Truth. I believe we live in a world where what is good and moral is not black and white and we are just trying to do the best we can.

I reject some of the main questions posed to religion. Why would a benevolent God allow bad things to happen to good people? I reject the question. If God is not a sentient being then the question is irrelevant. If God is a spirit, a power, an energy… then the question itself becomes absurd, in my opinion. To me, the concept of God and ‘Mother Nature’ is very similar. Why do forest fires start by lightening, killing trees? So renewal can occur. God does not judge individuals, God just is. (Which is why, by the way, I always find it utterly absurd when people pray to win a game show, for example… if I am wrong and God is a sentient being I am pretty sure God could care less if you win a game. I’m just sayin’.) God is a force in our lives and that force can be healing. It is that force that connects us. And that force, when we listen to it, can encourage us to do good. Or at least good to the best of our abilities.

Anyway, enough spouting on about my beliefs. What I have learned this year by going to Church is that my views, beliefs and values do to fit into the Christian faith. Not all Christians would agree with me, but my view points are valued with the religious community I belong to. I can dislike a lot of things about organized religion, but I can also be a part of a organized religious community that represents my views. And that doesn’t mean I have to agree with 100% of what is said. As I have discussed in an earlier post, I am becoming more comfortable with ambiguity. I can identify myself as Christian, without condoning the bad ways in which many Christians have behaved. (And not just Christians; there are many people from many religions whom have behaved badly under the auspices of their religion.)

Religion is not what makes people do bad things. Religion itself is not bad or good. People do bad things regardless and then use whatever they can to empower themselves and justify their behaviour. Religion is not worthless just because bad people have claimed themselves to be religious.

What religion can offer is the opportunity to believe in something greater then yourself. To trust. To forgive. To reflect.  To connect with supportive people. To be a part of a community that is actively engaged in doing good things. And true, you don’t need religion to have these things in your life. There are millions of people out there that reflect, forgive, believe, trust, connect and actively engaged in doing good in many many other ways outside of religion.

But what bothers me is the implication that religion is worthless. Or all lies. Or without any value. It is meaningful to me. It is meaningful to millions and millions of people. Many different religions are meaningful to millions and millions and millions of people. It is not all bad. Not every community is the same. Not every religious community is the same. Not every Church is heavy on the judgment. Sometimes you just need to find the one that feels right to you. Or not. But don’t discount the positive impact that religion can have on some peoples lives. Do not dismiss all those who count themselves as religious as deluded, ignorant and crazy. And don’t blame a belief in something higher when blame should really fall to individuals for bad things and bad things ignored.

Religion is what we make of it. Disagree, criticize or get angry at specific aspects of religious thoughts or practices. But don’t discount it completely. It may not hold value for you, but it does for others.

Thank you New Canadians

I love supporting small, family run businesses. It makes me feel good to support them because I know the money is re-invested into their families, rather then going to thousands of nameless shareholders. And I have been thinking about them a lot lately. Because I have come to realize more and more, that those small family run businesses are often run by families whom are first generation Canadians.

Many of these entrepreneurs are highly educated professionals in their home countries. They get in to Canada partly because of those professional qualifications. And when they get here, they have to jump through so many hoops, they often find it near impossible to work in their field of expertise.

Which is so frustrating. I understand that we need to ensure that they have the same knowledge and skills as Canadian trained professionals. But there is very little support in place to help them jump through the hoops of Canadian accreditation. Not to mention get support them to find employment once they are accredited.

So many of them, being the amazingly bright people that they are, go into one of the hardest fields to make a living in- running their own business. Sometimes that is a taxi cab, sometimes a restaurant, sometimes a little corner grocery store or gas station. They run franchises. They run independent businesses. They do it all. Some of them go on to run big, successful, businesses that expand and grow. Some of them keep their businesses small.

They take all the intelligence and dedication and hardworking attitude and apply it to their businesses. Running your own business is hard. It is a 24/7 job.

And instead of being bitter about a country that doesn’t recognize their foreign education, they are some of the most warm, kinda, welcoming people. I love going into a little restaurant or grocery store run by new Canadians. Their customer services skills are wonderful. They make amazing food and provide too notch services. They do it with a smile and a hello. They do it all with pride. They know they are doing something important.

And more then just providing great restaurants, stores and services, I feel that these businesses contribute to the cultural fabric of our city. I love that within 5 minutes of our house there are small family run businesses run by Greek, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Lebanese and Afghani families. All with their own stories to tell.

Next time you are in your favourite small, family run business, whether they are immigrants or not, I encourage you to thank them. And then ask them their story. And thank them again. Make no mistake- the Canadian economy runs on small businesses and New Canadians run some of the best.

ControverSunday: Digital Privacy

Happy Sunday all! Welcome to our now monthly installment of ControverSunday. Novembers topic? Digital Privacy! Yeah!

This topic was suggested by Ginger over at Ramble Ramble and Noddleknobs and essentially, the question is whether or not one is able to have digital privacy for their children (or themselves). With the prevalence of Facebooks and blogs and twitter, ect… many of our kids have an online presense before they are 2 years old. What will this mean for our kids growing up in this environment

Want to join us in talking about this topic? Awesome. Go over to Accidents and grab the badge. Write up your post ASAP (cause we are all trying really really hard to post on time on Sunday) and then come back hear to provide a link. Voila. You are then a part of the official ControverSunday team.

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Check out these other awesome ControverSunday posts!

Ramble Ramble

The Arbolog

Tortoise on the Loose

The Cheeseblog

Now your in the world

Our lady of perpetual bread crumbs

Accidents will happen

Okay, now for the topic at hand. Wow is this a big one. I mean, really truly, this could be like 10 posts. Or one 5000 word post. I promise I won’t to that to you.

So I am going to try and narrow the discussion to what I think about the most regarding this subject. But I will say quite honestly, I am a bit torn on this issue. I really do see both sides and I don’t know what to do. To give some background… my ‘ground rules’ for Audrey’s digital presence are as follows:

a) Facebook: pretty fair game. There is a lot of info about Audrey on Facebook, but both my husband and I have pretty strict privacy settings. And we are not the type to have every ‘acquaintance’ as a ‘friend’ on facebook. People we actually know only.

b) Twitter, Blog: I try to just share my first name and Audrey’s first name. I haven’t mentioned my husbands first name. And I don’t like to share pictures. (As much I really want to sometimes, you know, being a proud mama and all. Plus, my kid is really cute.) But I find over time I become more and more laid back about this too.

Which leads me into my first point of discussion:

1) It ain’t going away

Let’s be honest, people are often anxious about new technology and new ways of communicating. Anxiety usually turns to fear and a bit of paranoia. But if we are realistic, social media is not going away. And social media makes our lives very public. Sure, it is possible to not have Facebook, not have Twitter, not be on Linkedin, not be online. But you may still have an online presence. Many places put names and e-mail addresses for their staff on their websites. Or you might have been in attendance at a meeting that published their meeting minutes to the internet. Or a friend might mention you on Facebook, maybe even put up a picture. Most people can be found with 5 minutes, an internet connection, and a search engine. Or someone might hack into a company or (even worse) your bank’s computer system and have access to a lot of information on you. So do we need to be aware of this and watching for signs of identity theft? Yes. But can we ever prevent or control everything that goes on the internet related to us? No.

So I think it is kinda naive and futile to try and stem the tide of the reality of our world being digital. The world is digital. Now we need to find a way to manage that.

2) My kid doesn’t have a say right now

On the other hand. When it comes to my kid what I think about and question is if I have a right to put her life online. I write this blog, so to some extent I think the answer to that question is yes. But I do think there is a very big responsibility there for me to protect and guard my child’s online image. I do think, when I write something, if it is something that is appropriate to share with the world or not. It is not just about if something might embarrass her when she is older (really, how different is that from sharing embarrassing pictures at her wedding or something). It is more about what do I have the right to share and what is private and hers to decide what to share. As she gets older, I suspect I will be asking that more and more. Really. Her image, her information, her story is hers, not mine. And she can’t tell me right now what her thoughts are about my sharing them. I write this blog anyway. But not without being aware of this issue and reflecting on it as I write.

3) It’s all about awareness and management

In the end, I really think it is all about awareness and managing your own (or your children… until they are old enough to manage their own) image. Having a digital presence? That is inevitable. So rather then my digital presence being dictated by someone else, I want to manage my own. I want to be out there being who I am. And when Audrey is old enough, she can be out there being who she is. But I am going to work to talk with her and educate her about implications. To make sure she keeps her digital image clean. She can be real, but we will talk about long term implications for her career if she puts up pictures of herself at a party or bad mouths her boss, for example. As well as how people treat each other online and what is not appropriate (online bullying for example). And about how to stay safe by not sharing too much personal information to protect against identity theft or having a stalker be able to determine her whereabouts.

That being said, I think by the time she is a young adult, the world is going to be more accepting of people living their real lives online. I know there are stories now of people getting fired or not hired because of something their boss or the recruiter found on Facebook. But really, if they won’t hire you because you have a picture of being drunk at a party? What young person hasn’t been drunk at a party? Who hasn’t disliked a boss they had at some point in their career? Yes, we need to be aware of what we say online, but more and more I think people will realize that everyone has skeletons in their closets, whether they put them on Facebook or not.

So what does this mean for Audrey growing up with a digital presence. It means she is going to live in a very different world. It means it is incumbent on myself and my husband to help her learn about what that means. And it means I am going to try to not close myself off to these new forms of technology and communication as I hear some people doing. Because how can I help Audrey learn the implications if I don’t understand what is happening myself?

Okay. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you think.

Random thoughts about bullying

(*Okay, every time I re-read this post to edit it seems to get longer and longer as I add things to try and clarify and no cause a misunderstanding. I give up. I am just going to accept that I can avoid the fact that someone will probably take this the wrong way. But they are my thoughts, so cest la vive! I am posting.)

This topic, spurred on by recent press, has done the blog circuit. And as per usual, I am late to the party. But that has never stopped me before, why should it stop me now?

Let me be clear, first off, that no one, no child, adolescent or adult, deserves to be tormented based on their sexual orientation, race, religious beliefs, political beliefs, moral beliefs, age, family situation, abilities or lack of ability, color of their skin, money in their bank account or location of their home. Not cool.

That being said, there are a couple things that bother me about this whole discussion that I have seen surrounding this issue. The solutions I have been hearing and the way we paint the picture about what is happening says something, I think, about what our expectations are for social interaction and what we value as good. First off:

1) What is wrong with being alone?

Remember how I have said that I think our experiences deeply impact how we view life? Well, I can tell you that during my childhood I experienced pretty much the same thing over and over again when it came to social interaction. I would join a ‘group’, said group would love me, then one person would decide they don’t like me and I was ousted from the group. Wash, rinse and repeat throughout elementary, junior high and high school. Now I am sure I wasn’t not totally innocent in this cycle- I had/have a tendency to be bossy (just ask my poor husband) among other personality faults that I am sure contributed to this, but none the less… This continued until the last year of high school where I said ‘screw em’ and spent most lunch hours in the library reading, as books didn’t tend to turn on you after a couple of months. Now that sounds like sour grapes, but I can tell you that experience did a lot to help me become the person I am– a person I quite like.

My point is that it bothers me that every time we talk about a kid alone on the playground we assume that that is a bad thing. What I can tell you is that as much as it sucked to teased and ousted as I was sometimes, there is a certain strength that comes from realizing you are okay on your own. You don’t need someone else to make you happy. You can enjoy your time by yourself. I truly believe it is one of lives great lessons that we all have to realize that happiness comes from within, not from validation from the people around you.

Don’t get me wrong, we all still need friends. It is not like I want to trivialize the pain of being cast out socially or to suggest everyone should sign themselves up for such an experience. But I guess I wish we didn’t stereotype and label the ‘loners’. I have always been the type to have a small handful of close friends rather then a long laundry list. There is nothing wrong with this. There is nothing wrong with being alone. I think this tendency to portray those with fewer friends negatively makes the situation worse. You don’t need to have 250 friends on facebook to prove that you are worthwhile as a person. You are worthwhile as a person because you are. And you like yourself because you have good qualities. Period. There is nothing wrong with being the kid with just a few friends.

2) Growing Pains

While I agree with the frustration I have read from some who have experienced quite sever forms of bullying in their childhood that they don’t want the experience to be brushed off as ‘just a part of growing up’ or ‘character building’, I do think we need to accept as a society that we all go through crap throughout our lives. Life is not meant to be easy. In fact, I would argue that when it comes to emotional trauma, most of us are very lucky living in North America and not in some war zone somewhere. Imagine the trauma those kids go through. This doesn’t make bullying okay. I REPEAT: that doesn’t make bullying okay or something we should just grin and bare. I am not saying that meaning to put experiences on a scale from bad to worse and therefore down play the pain of being bullied. But it does mean that we are who we are today because of our experiences. I am always so inspired by people who have been able to use very painful and horrible experiences to give them strength and purpose, rather then continuing to let themselves be victimized by the experience.

I do think we need to change our expectations about life– bad things, upsetting things, hard things and heartbreaking things will happen to all of us. It is what we do with them that matters. I think we spend too much time trying to avoid pain and not enough time dealing, facing and making the best out of pain.

3) Not everyone likes me and a I willing to bet that not everyone likes you.

Let’s be really honest here. There are people that don’t like me. And there are people I don’t like. I am willing to bet there are people that don’t like you. That is life. Sometimes our reasons for not liking someone are reasonable ones; someone who is unkind, not genuine, not interested in the same things, self involved, ect. And sometimes our reasons are not reasonable; we don’t like how they dress, we don’t understand them because they are different from us, we have made an incorrect assumption about them, or we are threatened or jealous or whatever. As much as I wish this weren’t the case, some people don’t like people because of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, mental health or ethnicity. And, to be quite honest there are also people who are just plain jerks. I believe every human being has good within them, but people writ large- well there are a lot of not nice people out there.

But none of those things justify bullying. What they do speak to, however, the reality of life. Humans are social creatures. And by social, I don’t mean just pleasant socializing. I mean we work to establish social structure. And part of social structure is hierarchy, rules, control and authority. I know that many social movements try to fight against this, and I am all for changing up the rules of society so that authority and power is not concentrated among one gender, race, age, religious group, ect. But to deny that power, authority and control are not fundamental features of social interaction, that aren’t going away, is naive in my opinion.

No one knows this more then a teenage girl. The typically stereotype of a bully is the boy who threatens and steals everyone’s lunch money. But when it comes to threats, intimidation and manipulation, teenage girls wrote the book.

4) Solutions.

My point in sharing my thoughts on all of the above has to do with what I think the solutions are to the problem of bullying. A lot of what I have seen talked about seem to want to create a world where everyone likes everyone, no one is teased, ever. Where all the kids hold hands and sing kumbiaya. But to me, this is so not the solution, because it goes against behaviours that are totally natural. Kids, teenagers and adults alike work within a complex system of social structure. Trying to get humans to all be nice to each other- well it just isn’t going to happen. Call me a cynic. So, do we just throw our hands up and give up when it comes to bullying?

No. But I think we need to change our expectations and focus on the real issue. First off, our expectations should not be that everyone will get along and no one will get left out, teased, or pushed aside. We have a tendency in North America to try and shield our children from all possible forms of pain or hurt– and it just isn’t a realistic expectation– those emotions and experiences are part of life. I would argue, in fact, that experiencing bad things makes you appreciate the good things in life.

That being said, what we can expect, both of our kids and ourselves, that we learn to communicate and interact with each other in a way that is respectful. You can dislike someone without being cruel. I believe the real issue here is all about confidence and maturity. What bully’s, their victims and the silent bystandards have in common is a lack of confidence. Bully’s bully to build themselves up and try to gain power. Victims have a hard time standing up to bully’s because they feel powerless. And bystandards are afraid to say anything because they don’t want to bully to turn on them. And let’s be really honest here- the victims and the bullies both need help and support. Happy, confident, well adjusted people don’t tend to bully. My issue is that our societies reaction to bullying- to try and get everyone to like each other and play with each other and to pepper our kids with ‘good work’ and ‘you are awesome’ to build them up only makes the situation worse. Because it takes away the opportunity for our kids to develop true self-esteem. The kind of self-esteem that can only come from within. The kind of self-esteem that lets you, well not avoid the hurt that can come from someone not liking you or saying an unkind word, not let that shake your confidence in the value of yourself.

The more people who have inner strength and true self confidence, the less bullying there will be. There will still be teasing, unkind words, feeling left out, and all the other feelings that come with social interaction. But there will be less crossing the line. The question is, how do we get there?

Questions for the #NoNestle Boycotters

So this week is International No Nestle week as a part of the 30+ years of Nestle boycotting. Last night there was a #NoNestle twitter party, with lots and lots of tweets on the evilness oh Nestle. First off, brilliant move making NoNestle week during Halloween, brilliant.

I have been quietly paying attention to Nestle Boycott for probably the last year. Truth be told, most people don’t hear about until they have kids. Mostly, because some of the strongest boycotters are also breastfeeding advocates. As I said last night in a tweet, I am still very much on the fence. That’s right folks. This is a once in a blue moon situation where I don’t know exactly what my opinion is. Shocking. Usually I am just bubbling with opinions and on this one all I can muster is a: huh.

So I thought I would share some of my thoughts and then ask the boycotters some questions. (I hope some of them make there way over here, I will send out some tweets). Please don’t misinterpretation my pondering for arguments against the boycott– I really truly don’t know. But my ponderings do represent skepticism– which is something I hope to resolve. Through discussion I am hoping to figure out where I really stand on this issue.

First my thoughts:

There are a lot of companies out there that do bad bad things. Because it is in their economic interest and because governments are not strict enough. And many of those companies do even more bad things overseas because those governments are even less strict- caught between a rock and hard place of desperately needing investment and still wanting to protect their people (well, some governments anyway care about this…) So I really really don’t doubt Nestle is a bad bad company. As are others. I also don’t doubt that if you were to put all the companies on a scale from “good corporate citizens” to “bad bad corporate citizens”, Nestle would be hanging out with a large large handful of others in the bad bad category.

So I guess, what my real question is is why Nestle and not any (or all) of the other large large handful of companies? Pharmaceutical companies give out samples to doctors and market their drugs, resulting in more and more people being on prescriptions instead of focusing on a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just formula buying into our health care system. Coke and Pepsi sponsor schools and then fill vending machines and school cafeterias with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) rather then healthy drinks like water or milk. Not to mention Coke and Pepsi aggressively market in many developing countries, where people drink their products rather then water. Just about every maker of processed food puts too much salt and added sugar in their meals, including toddler meals. Chocolate and coffee are two industries where many many of the players are getting supply in ways that harm the people of those countries and the environment. (But there are good options for ‘direct trade’ (a step beyond fair trade) for both.) And I am sure Nestle isn’t the only company controlling water supply and degrading the environment. I live in a Oil town, enough said.

Which brings us to Question 1:

So why boycott Nestle and not all these other companies? Why not turn the Nestle boycott into a boycott against all the worst of the worst unethical companies? (Although with the challenge of all Nestle’s brands causes to even know what your buying, could you imagine multiplying that by 10 or 15 or 50 companies?)

The other thing I have been thinking about is the boycott in relation to breastfeeding support. While I know the boycott is about more then just formula- Nestle has no shortage of bad corporate behaviors- the boycotters themselves are largely breastfeeding advocates- at least the most vocal ones. So I think it is hard to claim that this isn’t about formula. I get the Nestle does not adhere to the WHO code for Breastmilk substitutes. I don’t think any of the formula companies do (correct me if I am wrong). There are parts of the code I am 100% behind- like not giving out samples at hospitals, doctors offices, ect. I am good with formula companies not sending me formula in the mail or sponsoring a big banner on the top of a breastfeeding information article on the web or having their own breastfeeding support hot-line.  Seriously, that is all just crazy and inappropriately aggressive marketing.   They shouldn’t be able to claim their product is as good or better then breast milk. It ain’t. I am all for truth in advertising. But it is the instore stuff that bothers me. Because I think it is insulting to women to think anyone is going to be rolling her cart down the grocery store, a happy breastfeeding Momma, see a can of formula on sale and think “well hell, it is on sale, I might as well give up this whole breastfeeding thing.” It is my opinion that any women who is swayed by a can of formula on sale is already lacking the support she needs to be successful at breastfeeding- the issue is that lack of support, not the sale on formula. So while I can get down with most of the code, I get bothered by the concept and implications of formula as a ‘controlled substance’ and the idea that women are just sheep to marketing. And I wonder if the effort spend on boycott is not better spend on breastfeeding support.

Then again, many of the strongest Nestle boycotters also put a ton of effort into advocating for better breastfeeding support, so why does it have to be one or the other? Many of them do both. Why not Boycott Nestle?

Question 2: Why shift the blame from lack of support for breastfeeding Moms (adequate maternity leave, access to lactation consultants, ect.) to a company that makes a product? Does the Nestle boycott not take our focus on what really needs to change? Their marketing wouldn’t be as successful if we cut the supply. Their methods work because so many women struggle to breastfeed and don’t have the support to make it work.

Lastly, if we are really honest with ourselves, acts of protests like boycotting are about more then just what we are boycotting against. They are part of a desire to connect and belong with a group of people united behind a cause. Boycotting Nestle says something about who you are and what you stand for. It is a personal statement as much as it is a political choice. And when it comes right down to it- I am not sure I fit in. Before I made my way online I thought I was pretty crunchy- I have discovered I am not in comparison to the people online. And while I have a lot of respect for a lot of the boycotter bloggers- I don’t fit into the club. Or do I? After reading this post over at Sorta Crunchy about why formula feeders should support the boycott, I don’t know. She has a point.

Question 3: Who is a Nestle boycott-er? What similarities unite those that boycott and what does it mean to say you are a Nestle boycott-er? What personal statement are you making?

Additional Reading: If you are on the fence to and want some more info before you jump into this conversation, here are some posts to check out.

Annie from Phd in Parenting. (Ton of stuff on her blog, just liked to the most recent.)

Baby Milk Action

I also tried to find some thing about the ‘other side’ to represent thoughts of someone who doesn’t boycott Nestle and why- I couldn’t find anything. But if anyone has a good link to suggest- let me know. I am all for a balanced approach and hearing out both sides.

*Edited* Oh ooo I found this one: The Mom Slant about the boycott in relation to Halloween. Thank goodness for twitter.

Okay- now I want to hear your thoughts.

*Edit #2* Annie from PhD in Parenting has written a post responding to my questions. (Thank you Annie!) Check it out here. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on it, as well as the questions I presented. If you are following the boycott, why? If not, why not?

Inspired by Politics?

This last Monday Calgary elected a new Mayor; Naheed Nenshi. If you follow me on twitter you can probably guess that I am pretty happy about this- he was my vote. The whole things got me thinking about politics and leadership and I thought I would share some of my random thoughts.

First up, let me tell you how weird it felt to vote for the winner. That doesn’t often happen for me. I live in Alberta. Which, for those of you who don’t live in Canada, is kinda like living in Texas. Alberta = conservative. The stereotype of Alberta is red neck, gun carrying, cow boy boot wearing, pull yourself up by your boot straps, go it alone, get the government out of my pocket book and my oil rigs, lock the bad guys up in jail and throw away the key, not in my backyard, don’t tell me what to do, kinda people. Now, this sterotype is far from the truth, but I will certainly admit to its general validity as a representation of the political culture in Alberta. Anyway, back to my point. Since I have a tendency to be pretty left of centre, living in Alberta means protest voting only. Provincially and Federally, we have been voting pretty much the same for, well, as long as I can remember. The elections are decided before the first ballot is cast. Right of center, fiscally conservative, socially conservative. Really, the elections are just a futile exercise.

But not this time! I got to vote for the winner. And more than that, I knew going to the polling station that even if Nenshi didn’t win, that my vote would count because it was going to be close. All the polls leading up to the vote showed a 3 way tie between the top runners. Exciting!

What was even more exciting was that people really got inspired by this race. On the day of the vote our entire office wore purple (Nenshi’s colour) to work. That’s right, we were excited enough and wanted to show our support to wear a particular colour. We were all talking to friends and family trying to convince them to vote Nenshi. This was a Civic Election, but all counts usually the one people pay the least attention to- and yet everyone was talking.

A politician that is inspiring is a rarity. Love them or hate them. The really inspiring politician in Canada that I know of was Pierre Trudeau. In the US, it is Obama. Not everyone agrees with these leaders, but they both got people really engaged in politics. Which is what we need both sides of the border. Nenshi, albiet on a smaller scale, has done this in Calgary. People VOTED. A lot of people. Voter turnout almost doubled and much of that was lead by young people, people who don’t traditionally vote. We know now, after Nenshi’s win, that many of those young people voted to vote for Nenshi.

What we need is more leaders who can get people inspired and engaged in politics.

The other thing I thought was so interesting is what voting for Nenshi says about the changing culture of Calgary. Yes, Calgary still has elements of that conservative political culture that I was talking about. But Calgary’s culture is also young, innovative, entrepreneurial, risk taking, vibrant and not interested in the status quo or the ‘old boys club’. Calgary is a city where people go out to fancy places to eat wearing jeans. Calgarians are not particularly fussed about hierarchy. Calgarians are highly educated and highly skilled. We like the grassroots. We are diverse. Nenshi represents all these things.

Post election there was a lot of talk about Calgary (with its redneck reputation) electing the first Muslim Mayor in Canada. But to me, that wasn’t what this race was about. It bothers me that this got so much focus. I am all for diversity in politics, I want politicians to reflect the diversity that exists in Canada. But we voted for Nenshi not as a vote for diversity, but a vote for someone who is well educated, well spoken, experienced, and has new and innovative ideas. The bigger story, I think, is that is shows the changing face of Calgary. It is hard to describe, but it is a shift between two sides of a similar coin that represent Calgary’s culture. Electing Nenshi doesn’t mean that Calgary isn’t still a fiscally and socially conservative oil town, but it is shift to focusing on the entreprenurial, grassroots, innovative and risk taking side of us. The part of us that wants something new and rejects authority.

Still, this vote represents a change for Calgary. For a long time our civic government has focused on urban sprawl, roads, parking and development. With Nenshi we are looking at the focus changing to vibrant urban communities, public transit, housing, culture and sustainability. I can’t wait!

ControverSunday Topic for November 7th: Digital Privacy

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Okay, so this month I will post the topic a couple weeks ahead, but going forward, as per Jen’s suggestion, I will post the topic for the next month like the day after ControverSunday.

You people really don’t like polls do you? Huh. I love polls. I got out of my way to do them sometimes. I believe they are all kinds of awesome. But you, my faithful readers, you don’t like them.

4 people voted in the poll re: our ControverSunday topic this time around. 3 of those people voted for Digital Privacy. So Digital Privacy it is! The question, as put by the lovely Ginger of Ramble Ramble and Noodle Knobs suggested this topic and put it this way:

“digital privacy–is it a myth or can it be accomplished, new study that 82% of toddlers have an online presence–is this creepy, and/or how do you think this will affect these kids growing up?”

Here is an article re: that study that Ginger is mentioning.

So. Mark your Calendars and sharpen your typing fingers. November 7th! Get ready to share your take/perspective/thoughts on the digital privacy of our kids.

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