Thursday, April 14, 2011

Election time...

I've been around a few elections over the last few years, and they have all been surrounded by passion and excitement.  I was in Latin America for two incredibly important elections.  The first was the United States Presidential race.  I remember sitting in a little restaurant in the mountain city of Quetzaltanengo in Guatemala, the kind local owner and I watching the night unfold on CNN Espanol.  I remember how we both watched with intense interest, and debated with one another in broken Spanish, both of us knowing how much was at stake.  Not long after I was in El Salvador leading up to the Presidential elections where the people were mobilizing to elect a new government.  The right wing party that dominated politics in El Salvador since the end of the war were about to be replaced democratically by the very Marxist Guerilla group that they fought against in the 1980's.  Then there was Honduras, where I was part of a human rights delegation during a more or less staged election put on by a de facto coup d'etat regime.  The former two elections were examples of peoples movements utilizing democracy to bring about significant change, the latter was an example of democracy being manipulated by powerful forces from above.  It is now election time in Canada, and I feel that Canadian democracy lies somewhere in between the examples listed above. 

I often express my indignation towards the establishment in my writing, or even more so when I talk to people.  I frequently criticize the politics of Canada and the Canadian government, I certainly criticize our electoral system.  In fact, I don't believe that what we have here in Canada is actually a democracy, but rather some twisted representation of what a democracy should be.  For these reasons I'm sometimes called a radical, or often a socialist or perhaps a tree hugger (the latter two are apparently synonymous in contemporary ideological groupings).  I will probably reinforce this label by declaring that I will be voting for the Green party this election - the only political party with a sustainable vision for the future.  What is certain is that I am not a radical but a pragmatist.  I believe in democracy and I believe that an organized democracy is the only way to bring about the changes that this country and this world need.  I believe this because I have seen it happen, especially in Latin America.  That is why despite my cynicism, I believe that elections are incredibly important.  There is so much at stake.  The longer that we neglect our duty to vote, the further we move away from a democracy and the harder it will be to salvage democracy when things start to get difficult - which is inevitable the way things are going.

Since this is my personal blog I'll now use this opportunity to push my own strong political views upon my readers.  In the near future I will be writing about the problems with Canadian democracy and why our current system does not work.  In the meantime, I strongly encourage people to vote Green.  For every vote that the Green party receives they gain legitimacy as a party in the public eye, and the only reason they have not gained a strong sense of legitimacy thus far (as was made clear by their exclusion in the leaders debates) is because they raise important issues that the other political parties do not want to address.  The Green party is the only party that will actively work to change our electoral system to make your individual vote worth more, so that there is a government in parliament representative of the entire population of Canada.  And they are the only party that will provide an active voice for the environment, at a time when Canada is becoming known around the world as one of the least-environmentally friendly developed countries.  Anyone who cares about the future of this country and this world should vote Green.

Monday, April 11, 2011


My friends jokingly call me a nomad, I wonder how much truth there is behind it. I don't follow the seasons intentionally or at least not consciously, but I always seem to be returning to Canada just as the last of the cold fades away, and then I leave again as it returns.
The other night I suddenly found that I was very warm in my apartment, so I opened my bedroom window before falling asleep. My room is on the tenth floor and the cool, fresh breeze gently blew against my head as I lay close to the window. I dreamt that night of many things, but I remember distinctly the sounds of nature. I believe I was on a lake, perhaps in a canoe, the details are blurry. There was a crashing thunder, louder than I had ever heard before, and somehow that thunder created a perfect setting in my dream, and the characters (who have all now faded from my memory) fit in perfectly. The images of their unrecognizable faces posing as the sound of thunder crashed behind them is vivid in my mind.
I awoke from my dream early in the morning to a heightened humidity in the air and the sound of light rain against the windows. Within seconds of realizing that I was awake thunder struck and the rain came pouring down. I pulled my blinds open all of the way and the low light of a cloudy morning sky filled my room. The thunder struck again, over and over, and I knew that spring had finally shown itself fully, and it felt good.
Spring in Ontario is one of the greatest times of the year. It is nature rewarding us in the grandest way for enduring the long and tolling winter. I arrived from a tropical climate just one month ago, and I missed most of the winter. But I arrived to the worst of it, and I got a good sense of the gloom that this long winter invoked. I grew up here after all, I know how difficult it can be. But the distinct four seasons that accompany this land are like no other, and each one is so powerful and moving that even after 27 years I am still left awed by the greatness of each season. The sweltering summer where the heat is almost unbearable fades into the crisp fall where everything becomes magnificently orange and red. Slowly everything dies and the nomadic creatures of the land head south and the cold, desolate winter sets in. The winter seems to last the longest, its pinnacle hitting just as people begin to come restless with the cold and wet streets. It becomes unbearable and people begin to question their ability to endure this harsh climate, when suddenly the air warms slightly, clouds fill the sky, and thunder announces the arrival of spring as the rain washes away the winter and our sad dispositions flow down the drains.
The rain eventually stopped that day and the clouds began to break, slowly the sun revealed itself until by mid afternoon its beams had dried the land and were warming the air. I had to get outside so I threw on a sweater, passing by my heavy winter jacket in the closet with a sigh of relief, and decided to head downtown to meet some friends. We went for a stroll in the city, walking around for the first time in t-shirts – always an incredible feeling. The streets were crowded with people, their toques and scarves replaced by smiles and energetic conversations. Somehow everyone’s eyes seemed to have come alive, as if their spirits had been hibernating for the long winter. We found a cafe and a patio and sat in the late afternoon sun, chatting and enjoying the awakened city.
It is the days like these that make the long winters worthwhile; that remind us of how incredible this land really is. I'm glad I was able to experience the transition from winter to spring, it is always a great way to find that appreciation for my home city that can so easily be lost when I leave. Slowly the days will become longer and warmer, and the cycle will repeat itself over the year. I wonder if I will ever experience that full cycle again.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Traveling and constantly changing my surroundings has become an important part of my life, but being home has really put things into perspective.  I started this blog three years ago when I decided to leave Canada with no particular destination in mind.  The adventures that followed shaped the person that I am today and no doubt helped me to grow as an individual and as a human being.  When I first left, I had the intention of truly finding some sort of personal truth, some state of enlightenment.  I’ve come to realize that this is a life long process and that the wisdom that I seek comes from a variety of experiences, not just travel, but also being in touch with ones roots.  Being back around the people that I grew up with and the places where I came of age has been surprisingly invigorating and has helped me to make some sense of all the experience that I have gained over the last few years.  My roots are my original connection to this world, and I once took that for granted.  So as much as I promote indefinite travel and alternative lifestyles, I also believe that returning to ones roots is a vital part of what makes us human, and is something that acts as a reminder of who we really are.  Perhaps I will leave again, in fact it is quite likely, but it will be so with a greater appreciation for my roots.  There is a saying that says "Those that wander are not necessarily lost", but I know now that as I continue traveling, were it not for my roots, I would indeed be lost.