How Do You Tell An Election Is Coming? . . .

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both”
–Benjamin Franklin

Pictured above are the ‘three wise men’. These are the people who are running for the highest office in land as we move closer to another federal fiasco. And we get to pay for it–somewhere around 300 million (estimated)dollars. And yet we don’t even have a say regarding how it goes or what it looks like. I agree we are extremely fortunate to have the right to participate in a free election system. But I do wonder about how democratic it is. If federal elections were fought with integrity, respect and adherence to ethical values I might feel differently but they are not. There was a time when being in politics was honourable. Now, however, the public perception has changed quite dramatically. Today many of us see politicians as crooks first, thieves a close second and greedy a closing third. Most of the rules, integrity and truth will be replaced by innuendo, unsubstantiated lies and false information. Not many of the candidates will answer debate questions directly. Fewer still are likely to answer questions and making comments using a form of political double speak that only shows up at election time. PR teams will make huge amounts of money putting together film clips for TV ads consisting of comments made by someone’s opponent and usually taken or used out of context. Their only goal is to discredit the other candidate(s) rather than talk about what they plan to do that is different and creative. It’s called the Socratic method meaning destroying someone’s credibility usually destroys the message they bring. They don’t campaign on their records much anymore because they don’t have much of a record to speak about.

So we have to endure watching or listening to a smug and arrogant PM, whose act is wearing thin with people and who has lost most of what little respect he had gained a few years back. He makes his way through question period by making sarcastic remarks to the joy of his backbenchers who hoot and holler like a bunch of drunken teenagers at a backyard BBQ or we witness the opposition party leader carrying on with righteous indignation about something designed to catch the PM in a lie or a slip up of some kind. Does any work ever get done in question period by the way? To think that Parliament Hill was once the legacy of what thousands of men and women gave their lives for. It’s more like a circus than a once revered political centre piece illustrating our freedom.

So what to do?
1. Attack ads need to be banned-period.
2. Political ads should only speak about what the politician is going to do to improve the quality of our lives.
3. No more cheap shots at trying to disparage or denigrate opponents.
4. No candidate should be able to publicize a montage of clips and pieces of tape put together from five or six different activities that may be, in some instances, years and years old.

I want to hear why I should vote for someone based on their platform–what are they going to do about specific issues. Otherwise shut up.

I always think about what our kids are learning about the political process. If they are old enough to be interested in politics what can we tell them about what they hear and witness when most of it is about the latest scandal of some kind. It certainly doesn’t give them a warm and rosy feeling about state security, competence or confidence in the political system that we are trying to sell them on. Perhaps these pillars of government might start to wonder about why some of our young are turning to other ideologies. Perhaps they have lost confidence in what they see.

But the two major indicators that an election is coming closer are these.
Sometime in the 8 months to a year preceding an election we usually start to see the faces of the chief candidates on television or internet with greater frequency. They are photographed glad handing in places where they otherwise wouldn’t go. All of a sudden they have lots of time to be out looking concerned or sounding tough on certain issues. They start to plant the seeds of doubt. They start talking about how much they care about this and that and how important it is to …?

The other tip off is that all of a sudden there is all kinds of money for this program and that program and they drag out the old favourites like subsidized day care, taking better care of our seniors, homeless programs and how they are going to wipe out poverty and lower taxes or at least not raise them. They promise something for everyone. They start throwing money around as if they had it. In essence they end up giving us back our own money and then tell us how grateful we should be that they can do this for us. They want us to believe that they are the only ones who can balance a budget or because of their prowess as fiscal managers they can now throw us a few bones (if they get re-elected that is). I always find it remarkable that they promise all this money but won’t/can’t tell us how they will pay for the promises. Nor will they commit to when this will happen. To me if they can’t give us this information then they should not be able to promise it. Tell us how or shut up about it. And by the way where is Justin Trudeau? Has anyone seen or heard from him?

Read the quote from Ben Franklin again and then ask yourself who just proposed that very thing the other day with the idea that this was going to make us safer–it was Steven Harper. Why wasn’t he concerned three years ago? Because it’s election time.

We are the only folks who can force a change in how we conduct our elections. It really is up to us.

That’s how I see it anyways,

All the best, James

Please contact me with comments pro/con at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com OR visit my web site at jamescloughley.com

There Comes A Time When You Need To . . .

PatrickHenryHughes

January 28, 2015

This article is a continuation of a blog I wrote in 2013. It tells of a family but more about a man and his son and their story. I wanted to provide an update about what they have been doing that shows that their story is very real-that it is a way of life for them and that they live what we see.

Patrick Henry Hughes was born with no eyes and his basic structural bones and joints were all but useless in terms of he being able to walk, climb and be a ‘normal’ kid. Most parents would have been destroyed by this but this remarkable family didn’t let that happen to them. Truthfully, Patrick’s father stated he was devastated by this. He realized that his dreams for his son and all they would do together were gone before any of it could be started. But instead of feeling sorry for himself and his wife and family not to mention Patrick himself, they all banned together to provide Patrick with the best life experience they could provide him given the ‘limits’ that Patrick faced.

Patrick has gone on to graduate from the University of Louisville (magna cum laude), has produced two CD’s, much of it being his own music, has given concerts (he was playing piano at 9 months of age and is an accomplished piano and trumpet player) all over the world, has become an international speaker with an excellent motivational and spiritual message and has appeared on all the top rated day time TV shows. He has chosen to celebrate his God given gifts and to realize his potential and skills. He will not be defined by his circumstances but rather sees himself as fortunate. I believe this philosophy to be a great gift from his parents–especially his father who refused to feel angry and somehow cheated out of his lost dreams. Patrick’s father stepped up when most would have stepped back. He taught Patrick many lessons by how he conducted himself. He became Patrick’s role model and he gave from his heart. Patrick had a great dad–an outstanding teacher and mentor–one he could surely count on and a dad who loved him unconditionally. That’s who a dad is and what a dad does.

(Original copy from October 22, 2013)

There comes a time when circumstances demand we get out of ourselves and share who we are and what we have to offer to the world instead of constantly looking for what the world owes us. We have become such an ego-centric society. This remarkable real life story of Patrick Henry Hughes should command us, especially those of us with kids, to look at what and how we determine our priorities. Do we need to re-assess that list somewhat?

At a time when men all over the world are second guessing their role as a parent and as a father along comes a video that truly says what being a father is really all about. If you have any doubts please watch this life changing video. It will be one of the best 6 minutes you have spent in a long time. The quality of the clip isn’t great but the message is very clear. It leaves no doubt about the responsibility men need to share when thinking about being a ‘dad.’ It’s not glamorous and it’s not medal worthy but it is absolute. If you have taken the time to participate in creating a life then you have a responsibility to stay around and make sure that the life you helped create has every chance of thriving. This is not negotiable and it is not to be debated. It is what it is.

“There comes a point in life when fun no longer means clubbing, drinking, or being out until 4am, or thinking about yourself.
But now fun means Disney movies, family dinners, bedtime stories, long cuddles, a messy house, sleeping by 10pm and hearing little voices say, “I love you.” Becoming a parent doesn’t necessarily change you. But it does help you realize that the little people that YOU created deserve the very best of your time.”
True and pure love is the basis of this clip. Spend the time it takes and you’ll see the world to be a different place.

Finally a resource for single moms and dads

Finally a resource for single moms and dads

Please check out “A Man’s Work Is Never Done . . . ” Read it and then pass it on to those who you think would appreciate some guidance when mentoring their sons through the transition from boyhood to manhood. This is a great resource for single moms, single dads, grandparents and other family members who struggle with how to help a fatherless young man in their lives become all he can be in a rapidly changing world.

Which Box Best Suits You?

A Wooden Box
Credit for the image to youtube.com

“A box is just a box”

Perhaps because I’m getting older I see these kinds of pronouncements with a great deal of skepticism. ‘A box is just a box’ has a different meaning to me than most I guess and it’s not a place that I feel very comfortable in. I don’t like being told what I have to do and what I need or don’t need and I certainly don’t like being told what I should think.

Zbigniew Brzezinski is a Polish American, a political scientist, geostrategist and scholar who has served many Presidents including Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter right up to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The point is he is a man who still thinks ‘outside the box’. He is a visionary who, had people of influence paid more attention to back then–had they been more receptive and willing to look at a ‘different’ picture, could have helped to design a much different world than we have now. At least from a political point of view. Better? Worse? Whose to say for sure but it would have been different from the world that we see falling apart around us and are seemingly at a loss to determine how to fix. Last week I wrote about the comparison to other major empires of history and how we are on the same course as they were. This week my message is one of more hopeful solutions and possible outcomes. What did Zbigniew Brzezinski do differently? He thought and worked ‘outside the box.’ This is where I hope we go for our answers instead of depending on the same old approaches that have not proved very fruitful.

In our world today we still try to solve our domestic and worldly problems by throwing money at them and by ‘studying’ them to death. After a while studying things becomes a convenient political way of not making a decision or taking a stand on or against anything. It’s almost like saying ‘we don’t have any other ideas’. Studies are often a time and resource thief more often used for political purposes than for the good of the people who fund them. We let time decide many of our challenges rather than our ingenuity and creativity. We have become reactionary rather than proactive. Global warming has to be a leading example of that.

Our system has become one that is more and more dependent on ‘in the box’ thinking with a whole lot of hope tossed in the mix while our political and business leaders continue to gather wealth and power.

If we consider our education system, for instance, we see that we operate our schools using a very old, weary, unproductive and unchallenging grading system that actually hinders a child’s progress. Thinking outside the box would mean allowing a student to advance at their own speed studying topics and interests that excited them. Instead we tell them what they should be interested in and can’t understand why some don’t succeed. We punish them for being brilliant at something by holding them back from what they are passionate about. Our system is geared to teach those in the middle of the pack and ignore the students who are brilliant or fall short of the IQ needed to handle the subject matter. We need to get away from the ‘talking head’ at the front of the room and begin to take advantage of the teaching benefits of hands-on technology. Learning needs to be fun and for too many it is not. For some in this fast paced technological age school is downright boring and poses no challenges.

We are told that we are more free now than at any other time in our history and yet we have produced more laws to shape behaviour than at any other time. There is an illusion of freedom but our courts are full of frivolous lawsuits and petty complaints that could be handled outside the court system by a three person panel designed to select only those suits or complaints that actually suggest a legitimate need to be heard. Too often the courts are used by those hoping for a huge settlement that would guarantee an early retirement. A triage system comes to mind thereby freeing up valuable court time on matters that really have merit. We have more laws which, by their very nature, curtail our freedoms in the name of political correctness. Certainly our safety and our rights need to be safe guarded but can we actually be told and punished because we don’t wear a helmet? Common sense would tell us that wearing a helmet is the right thing to do but we make it a law.

We are told what side of the street to park on; we are told to shovel our side walks; we are told and our kids are told when and where and how to play in the ‘public’ park and what we can’t do there anymore.

We are told we cannot pray at school and many other public venues and we cannot speak our minds if that ruffles some feathers a little bit. Yet other groups are allowed to do what we are not allowed to do all in the name of political correctness. We are punished for non-compliance even though we have not had a say in how some of these ‘laws’ are conceived.

We spend millions of dollars housing a seat of government to impress who? to do what? Outside the box thinking suggests that, with technology today our representatives should be in their constituency office taking care of business instead of the paying public having to deal with an assistant. I voted for someone specific so I want to see him/her face to face when I got something that needs to be dealt with. Our representatives can deal face to face with their counterparts in Ottawa or wherever they are seated by Skype or emails. It would save hundreds of millions of dollars because our members wouldn’t have two housing allowances to cover plus all of the other expenses that includes things like security and housing costs hydro, gas, maintenance and so on. Sitting members have assistants who do much of the work behind the scenes anyway and ‘Question Period’ in the House is not only a waste of time but a true embarrassment as well. They can vote by encrypted email. It is no more dangerous than the robocalls people received during the last federal election or the discrepancies at some of the polling stations. In fact it may be more beneficial (meaning honest) this way.

Our families are becoming dangerously close to being irrelevant. Children can sue their parents and be ‘divorced’ from them. What does that mean anyway? The legal system, especially, when it deals with the rights of family, parenting and custody issues needs a dramatic overhaul and a new vision of what it means to be a part of a family. The family structure is close to defaulting. We need to be thinking outside the box when considering absentee fathers, for instance, and instead of punishing them when they can’t afford to pay support by jailing them or restricting their contact with their kids we need to come up with some ways to help mom make ends meet and also encourage dad to remain in touch with and accessible to his children. Perhaps tax credits at the end of the year to put some money back into dad’s pocket so he can afford to see and provide for his kids.

Pharmaceutical companies are telling us what drugs we need to take for all the new ‘diseases’ we are contracting. Meanwhile the side affects of these medications are lengthy and often worse than the illness they are supposed to be treating. Outside the box thinking might be as simple as having a regulatory body that doesn’t actually gain financially with the release of every new medication. The DSM5R, unless there is a newer one, is the ‘newest’ revised edition of the ‘bible’ that the psychiatrists use to determine whether a mental health diagnosis is warranted or not. Over the last few years mental health illnesses seem to have grown at an enormous pace to the point that most of us have some kind of mental health disorder according to this book. And make no mistake-there is a medication to treat it somewhere. There cannot be a virtually incestuous relationship that exists between the pharmaceutical industry and the medical treatment monopoly. Yet they do function in this manner, hand in hand and almost independently. They govern and discipline their members ‘in-house’ for instance. Outside the box thinking would allow chiropractors and health food/supplement producers to become recognized, legitimized and regulated as part of the bigger medical treatment system that would provide more options and at a lesser cost for governments as well as the public who don’t have medical insurance plans or any other coverage.

There is the media which has almost carte-blanche these days to put anything on the screen in prime time that supposes to provide good wholesome entertainment for our youth and younger ones. It really is about slaughter and mayhem dressed up in someones rights to produce it. At least have the good taste to put it on during the hours that our little people aren’t as exposed to it. The more ‘T and A’–blood and guts that can be jammed into an hour the better I guess.

We as citizens-as voters-as caring parents need to start thinking outside the box when we are deciding what kind of civil society we want to participate in. We can either continue to be ‘boxed in’ and told how to live our lives or we can decide to think outside the box and seek new approaches to old problems that haven’t been solved as yet.

WHAT KIND OF BOX SUITS YOU BEST? . . . LET ME KNOW.

Anyways, that’s how I see it–James

Please send me your comments pro/con. You can contact me at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

OR through my web page at: jamescloughley.com

If you are interested in knowing more about fatherless sons and what you can do to re-build those damaged relationships you can find out more on my web site as well. My book is called: ‘A Man’s Work Is Never Done: A Novel About Mentoring Our Sons’

You Tell Me . . . What Would You Have Done?

Student Group At Graduation

Just when I thought that it was safe to watch the news again another major story hit the pages and here we go again. Each year I gather up all the instances of “what were they thinking” type stories but I couldn’t wait to write that article so here are my thoughts.

This one deals with 13 idiots who managed to get themselves suspended from Dentistry School at Dalhousie University for making statements that can only be described as depraved, stupid, dangerous, embarrassing–not only for themselves but for the school they represent and for men in general. This was a hateful act and seemingly perpetrated with a total lack of caring, respect or sensitivity toward fellow students and female faculty. It is these types of ridiculous and abhorrent behaviours that give the rest of us, men, such a bad rap. Please. We are not represented by these morons. They do not speak for the rest of us nor do they act on our behalf.

But as bad as this is/was I think that the University needs to take the greater hit. First of all they should have acted immediately on the evidence that had been presented. There is no doubt regarding ‘did they or didn’t they.’ The complaints were made. The documents were produced on facebook-really? The culprits were positively identified. Apparently one of the men was actually remorseful for what he had added to the process to the point where he was suicidal. I don’t know if that is true or not but ‘gee’ is that supposed to somehow absolve him of what he did? Once the trigger is pulled it is really too late to recall the bullet. Once the words are out there it is really difficult to recall them as well. Perhaps the time to consider this would have been before not after the words had gotten out. Did any of these rocket scientists stop to think long enough about what might happen and how this would be accepted by those females it was meant to impress?

So the University had a golden opportunity to do the right thing. They needed to act decisively and quickly sending a message that was unequivocal–‘This type of behaviour, under any circumstances, will not be tolerated by the school, its faculty or the students who respect the rules and guidelines of the institution. Such instances will be dealt with quickly and definitively.’ Period. These thirteen pillars of good judgement needed to be suspended the moment all doubt had been removed regarding what happened and which persons were involved. They could have been invited to return to complete their degrees after the other students had completed theirs and they were no longer attending school. In the last while we have heard a great deal about women who claimed to have been assaulted and how difficult it was or has been to come forward. The greater complaint has been around the length of time it has taken some to come forward. A quick and straight ahead action by the University could have gone a long way to establishing a safer and more supportive environment for females or males who have been abused to come forward and share their experiences. Perhaps, then, a message would have been sent that said, ‘you can feel more confident you will be heard,supported and not judged.’ This wishy-washy ‘process’ they have going is a cop out for what needs to be done. Some are board with it and some don’t want anything to do with it. What now? Shame on the University for taking the less demanding and seemingly less controversial road.

They really dropped the ball here and more importantly they had a chance to send a message to young men that this type of behaviour is not funny, it is not cool and will not be tolerated so don’t come here expecting that somehow it will be. To an outsider such as myself it sure looks like the inmates are running the asylum. There needs to be consequences to the decisions we make both pro and con. That is also a message that our educational system is not sending our kids. It sure isn’t being taught at home as often as it needs to be. Suspending these guys falls woefully short of what was called for here given the history of other universities in the area.

The missed opportunity to send our young and women a very important learning point was extremely regrettable. It’s no wonder this keeps happening. We are not demonstrating an example that works.

Anyways, that’s the way I see it–Jim

If you have any comments or want to share any other ideas please contact me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com OR through my web site: jamescloughley.com

Please pass this article along to your friends–thanks

It Seems We Haven’t Learned This Lesson Yet . . .

Wildfire

There’s a storm coming. Are we willing to do what it takes to get through it?

I recently had an opportunity to see the first two instalments of the “Hunger Games”. I must say that I was impressed with the writing and the story telling but what chilled me most was the similarity to what is actually happening in our time–right now. We are not that far removed from what is portrayed on the screen.

I wouldn’t call me an alarmist or anything but one of the first thoughts that I experienced watching these movies was how we may not have learned as much from history as we thought. Aren’t we supposed to learn from history and then use those insights to prevent our world from imploding? We are not supposed to repeat the mistakes of those who have gone before us. Yet here we are. Like it or not–see it or not–the truth seems to indicate that we are teetering on the brink of extinction as a species. The evidence is clearly evident for all to see. Environments are failing, diseases long since conquered are returning with a vengeance, our economy is more about smoke and mirrors and we are fiddling while Rome burns. Personally I am very concerned for my children and their children. I fear that we are about to leave them with the same mess that faced Rome all those centuries ago. The similarities between the two empires are staggering.

Here are some quick peeks at what could be coming. Unless a radical change in perspective is undertaken, we will find it difficult to avoid a similar fate to that of other great empires. We need to change how we think about what we are doing and how and why we are doing it. The current system could work but only if it were run with the best interests of all and not just a few in mind. This is not a slam at capitalism. Entrepreneurs need to be rewarded for their talents, skills and risk taking. No question there. But entrepreneurs don’t work in a vacuum. They still have to rely on ‘ordinary’ folks to make the overall dream come true. Currently, how are those ‘ordinary’ folks benefiting and to what degree? Perhaps sharing a bit more of the proverbial ‘sandbox’ with the other kids would be a good place to start.

In no particular order: (the following points are the basis for the fall of Rome)
1. The most influential system, that is the one with the greatest impact and the one that would be the most difficult to change, would be the political system. It is now almost completely controlled by wealth. By money.This money buys lobbyists, Super Pacs and leverage. They have influence. The very rich have removed themselves from the immediate limelight but pull the strings and push the buttons from the shadows. Citizens of ordinary means NEVER get elected to the upper political strata. Wealth and influence continue to amass for a few who are protected almost entirely now.

In the U.S. consider the near collapse of the government because of the political in-fighting over medicare. The wealthy did not want to give up that much power–financial power–to appease the masses. I could never figure out why 42 million people who now have medical coverage for their families was a bad thing? How is it OK that the wealthy can have as much medical care for anything at any cost and at any time but if a working stiff has a child who needs some serious surgery of some kind he really has to choose between having his child not have the surgery or going bankrupt? He could easily lose his home? I don’t begrudge the wealthy their medical care just make sure that the other citizens can have some similar care for their families as well and at a cost they can actually afford.

2. Our families are deteriorating. I have written about this for a time now. Much of what I thought would happen is beginning to happen. That doesn’t make me a seer of any kind. I just paid attention to what was/is going on. Again, it is evident for all to see if you look. Our families for the most part, and there are always those exceptions that create hope, are falling apart. We have more single parents than at any time prior. Most of these (80%) are single moms. Fathers are walking away from their homes and families because they are disillusioned, confused, angry, hopeless and so on. The rules are changing so fast that men can’t keep up with the rate of change. We have no idea any more of what is expected of us. But rather than be included in the solution-finding discussions men are castigated and jailed especially by those groups who do not have the best interest of all at heart. There is far too much anger and venom flying around to be helpful.

3. Our moral and value systems have been rendered virtually non-existent. If we look at advertising, the entertainment business or at what passes for entertainment now and the hedonistic life styles that many live we see that most of our standards have deteriorated dramatically. We have decided that recreational pot smoking is OK. Wow–that really is stupid. Remember our kids are watching all of this. What we are doing now will become their ‘normal.’ We are their teachers and how they treat each other is what they have learned by watching adults. What we are seeing from our children right now is exactly what you would expect. Then we wonder why our children struggle with rules, order, entitlement, respect for themselves and others. Why are suicide rates so high among our children? Is it any wonder that, with fathers gone from the household, mom doing double duty just to keep a roof over the family and food on the table that there is a dramatic lack of respect especially when we look at how men and women are portrayed as sexual objects. Rome objectified their women too. In today’s world this objectification is often of their own (men and women both) choosing or with parental consent. The lure of riches beyond belief can be a very powerful inducement I guess. But what are we really selling or selling off?

4. Speaking of that, we have sold out to the big health care companies and the pharmaceutical industry. We have allowed the creation of a two-tier system of health care. We have finally fixed a cost value on a human life and yet no one seems to notice or care about that. There is a set of ‘rules’ for how the rich will be treated and the type of care that the less fortunate can expect.

5. The same holds true for the legal profession. If you have enough money you can get away with murder–literally. There are definitely different consequences for similar behaviours if you are graced by money and/or are well connected. It’s a two tier system as well.

6. There is a gross amount of financial resources spent on waging war to protect the interests of the wealthy on other peoples land. When war is waged it means that the few industries set up to provide war machinery and supplies get ready to drive the dollars to the bank three times a day. What would happen if there was war declared and NO ONE-NO ONE showed up? They might be forced to sit around a table and talk about what to do next. The world cannot afford what it costs to wage war at least not at today’s prices. Most of the time someone (usually the folks with no political power) have to sacrifice something to pay the freight for war. However, sacrifice enough and people finally get peeved and decide, perhaps, that it’s time they were heard. Anarchy takes hold and suddenly the laws of the land become non-productive. Just witness the number of militia groups that continue to grow and flourish. You can follow that anger and violence right down to the street levels in any of our cities. They used to call this revolution or civil disobedience. Now its called ‘our rights’and political correctness. Now you have a war within the boundaries of your own country. What does that cost in dollars and cents not to mention in terms of patriotism and unity.

7. The educational system has been re-claimed by wealthy folks. Sure there are bursaries and scholarships and student loans available but higher education should be available to all. That’s how civilizations secure their futures. Well educated masses. It is in the creativity that national pride and ingenuity are produced and maintained. Currently higher education is basically for the rich. It will become or is becoming the unseen line in the sand. The haves and the have nots. That line in the sand will determine our fate as a species. I wonder how many kids could go to a good school for the cost of two battleships and a squadron of brand new fighter jets designed to kill as many folks in a foreign country as possible.

Of course we, meaning this current generation wont experience much of what is possibly to come but our children are likely to see some of this taking place and their children will for sure. Should we be concerned about something that seems so far away? Only if we want to affect a change in the quality of their lives. There is still time to alter the course we are charting but it needs immediate attention and to do that we really need to take off our blinders.

Anyways, that’s how I see it–all the best, Jim

I am always interested to read your feedback and/or your comments so please send them along to me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com or go to my web page–jamescloughley.com and go to ‘contact us’. Thanks for your interest

Are We Governed By Nature Or Nurture? Big Pharma Says It Should Be . . .

Smiling Politician

“I don’t trust people who smile all the time and I don’t trust anyone who suggests that I should trust them.”–jc

Years ago when I first became interested with the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate I was fascinated to see how many folks believed that behaviour and such was completely driven by the nurturing aspect of our lives. The researchers and the scientists said that parents and society were solely responsible where ‘little Billys’ behaviour was concerned. But then numerous studies were undertaken to show how boys played with trucks and girls played with dolls if left to their own devices and that’s the way that nature had planned things. Case closed. Then supervising people such as parents and/or other care givers were asked to switch the toys and reward altered choices, interests and behaviours and so on. This was supposed to prove definitively that behaviour was nurture driven.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it, the pharmaceutical industry has really taken over the drive to make some sense of this whole debate. They have the money and the expertise to do it but they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy at the best of times and selfish beyond compare. Have they funded or been responsible for amazing breakthroughs? They sure have. Have they put out huge sums of money? Yes they have. They have also profited in a huge way. I understand wanting to recover the costs of research and development but immediately upon release? One begins to question the presence of an ulterior motive? I doubt that pharmas’ generosity is strictly about benevolence. What of those who can’t afford thousands of dollars a month to stay alive? The rich can pay but the poor can’t so they die? Not a great social business model. But there they are standing out in front of us on TV every day extolling the benefits of the newest drug to hit the market with a list of side effects as long or longer than the symptoms that will be relieved when you take their medication. It is all presented to us by folks with big happy smiles on their faces asking us to trust them and their latest concoction. I find it difficult to trust anyone who smiles all the time now. My first reaction is ‘what are they hiding?’

The pharmaceutical industry has always been involved in the addiction/mental health debate. For years the two camps have managed to stay clear of each other in terms of treatment modalities, theories, approaches and funding but with shrinking budgets in the health care field the need to save money has become the driving force in the type of treatment that clients receive. The debate is now driven by no other reasonable hypothesis. For the last few years the move has been to ‘combine’ the two fields and thus save a great deal of money on duplicate services, office spaces, office staff, less need for ER services–now it’s called ‘urgent care’. You may have an urgent need but that doesn’t translate into receiving urgent care. Good luck with that one.

I will admit that when the debate about whether or not mental health services and addiction services should be amalgamated into one ‘umbrella service’ I was on the side that said that does make some sense certainly from a fiscal point of view. Having worked for a lengthy time in the addiction services field I have changed my mind. There is the chicken and the egg thing going on here that is becoming more difficult to reconcile especially with all the ‘new’ medicinal treatment options available for our mental health clients. Does someone have a mental health disorder and then start to abuse drugs and alcohol because of that disorder or does the disorder ‘develop’ because of the alcohol and drug use? The DSM, which is the ‘bible’ used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental health disorders has grown substantially over the last ten years and now includes an addiction as being classified a mental health disorder. There are pills now to help alleviate some of the symptoms. The point is treatment for an addiction is becoming more of an issue to be treated by taking a medication than a problem that can be treated without the use of medication and have as much success. Do we treat the disorder and then the addiction or the other way around. Some say both at the same time but that troubles me some because that means that a client is trying to get used to a new medication that may of may not work well and at the same time we are expecting that client will be able to remain abstinent. Well if he could remain abstinent he wouldn’t need to be treated with medication for an addiction. If he/she uses alcohol during the time they are taking their medication for the mental health disorder that, in itself, poses a serious health risk. The other question is how much of the ‘mental health’ disorder is created by the stress, anxiety, lack of sleep and trauma caused by the substance use and would it begin to dissipate if/when the use was dealt with successfully?

These are questions that have no clear cut answers as yet. I don’t believe that we need to be making judgements regarding the quality of peoples lives without more substantiated proof beyond the acknowledgement that it makes fiscal sense and therefore we should do it. Pharma should not be the driving force. Obviously their influence in the debate is tainted a bit by their desire to have it become a medication based treatment approach. I would like to see a day when treatment for mental health disorders are treated chemically, if needed, and the addictions component is treated using a CBT-Cognitive Behavioural Treatment approach meaning more Life Skills Training and behaviourally directed approaches with less chemical intervention. But the system has been there and the pharmaceutical/medical field didn’t want to stay there so here we are with neither side of this getting anything close to what they really need to make a difference in the quality of their lives. The focus needs to be on functionality and not just existence and symptom management.

So when management comes to you with a smile, asking you to trust them and they are talking about encouraging transparency (it has become another word for duplicity) in the system, be sure to check your BS meter before jumping in.

Anyways, that’s how I see it–Jim

As always comments are welcome. You can connect with me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com OR jamescloughley.com

Is It Possible To Make The Right Choice But The Wrong Decision?

Quote From Nelson Mandella

I understand the freedom of speech thing and certainly agree to it’s demands and expectations. But doesn’t that freedom also come with the need to utilize some kind of filter as well? Is this where our ethics and morals come into play? That filter would include those life lessons we learned as kids growing up. Those, hopefully, were the ones we were taught by our parents and grandparents. Do we need to check them more often to see if they still fit with our present view of the world we live in? Should we check our ‘rules for living’ more often to be sure that they are still relevant, respectful of others and yet satisfy our need to be free to speak our minds.

Recently, a punchline from the upcoming crossover show featuring ‘The Simpsons and The Family Guy’ made reference to one of the characters’ sister being raped. It was delivered in the context of a comedy show and, I guess, was meant to be funny in some way. It seems when statements like this are made they are often seen as ‘satirical’ and therefore are rendered acceptable and no one has to account for the fallout or the lack of class with which they were initially delivered. Such is the case, it seems, with Seth MacFarlanes’joke’. But this example is indicative of how bored and boring we have become that we need to try to humorize a tragic event in someone’s life and portray it as funny. It’s not just this classless example, however, but where we are going as a society in general. It demonstrates how our ethical or moral compasses have been dramatically affected and that appears to be OK. Some even dare to call it progress or evolution of the species. The most disturbing thing is that our kids are so ready to idolize those who are ‘outside the box’.

In the past comics of the day were able to take a situation and through creativity and imagination paint a mental image for us that that we could laugh at. They were masters of body language and facial expressions. They understood that timing was everything. Today comics really only need to know how to use foul language and a bit of slapstick and away they go. Somehow the words ‘f—‘; ‘motherf—–‘; ‘cock——‘ have become funny and it seems that the more a ‘comedian or comedienne’ uses these words the funnier they think they will be. Listen to kids on the street or in a public place and you will hear how important these’heroes’ have become-how much influence they hold. Our kids are listening and learning from these pillars of the community.

On a another stage how ethical is it for politicians to create a double standard for accountability demonstrating it is OK to steal from taxpayers with little or no blow back but if it were you or I who did something illegal we would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in a heart beat. How ethical is it for a government department to withhold or claw back benefits to our soldiers and their families and at the same time award huge bonuses to the managers in those departments for doing a job that they get paid to do in the first place. The problem with ethics is that most folks want you to live by them but they often struggle when called upon to follow the same rules. There always seems to be an exception or a rationalization in there somewhere.

So what does all this mean? We,as parents, are expected to raise our children with a sense of respect and acceptance of others and their pursuit of the same standards we hold so dear. Freedom of speech is one of those rites. I get that. But what I don’t get is how that can morph into mocking others and trivializing certain behavior by saying “oh that’s just the way he/she is” and have it be alright. When is it OK to ignore certain ethical standards we expect others to live by? When is it OK to rationalize a response to questionable behavior? How do we teach our children to be ethical and what that means? If it’s OK to satirize or disparage or minimize certain groups of people then what do our kids learn from us about treating other groups of people? Is it OK to cheat or steal from others who have more than we do? On it goes. Getting back to Seth MacFarlane and the ugly reference he made. Regardless of what he was trying to say or do it’s was not OK and it’s a much bigger deal than just a lapse in good taste and judgement. It happens far too often. We need to step up and say enough is enough. We need to make sure that our kids are getting the right messages and that it isn’t cool to be someone who would try to get a laugh at anyone elses’ expense. How do we help our children formulate and maintain their ‘rules for living?’

Is it possible to make the right choice but the wrong decision? Yes it is. The decision to have our children begin to hear a different message than the one being offered by the shameless politicians, greedy corporations and those who have no moral compass is the right choice. Long overdue actually. We need to become our children’s teachers again. We need to educate them regarding the value of ethics and moral standards of behavior and how they can benefit from that. To do that WE need to begin to ‘live’ our lessons-to mentor and to lead by example.

We do need to “change the world” when it comes to how we choose to live our lives and how we treat others that we share this world with.

It is the wrong decision to do this if our kids don’t want to buy in and we force our decisions on them regardless how they feel. Yes it is. Force vs. Education. Isn’t that taking away their right to free speech?

Anyways, that’s how I see it–JIm

I welcome your opinion pro or con. Please contact me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com or by commenting on the WordPress site. YOu can also contact me by going to me web site: jamescloughley.com

Stop! Hey Someone Stole Christmas. Where Did It Go?

Nativity Scene

It was here a while ago and now it’s gone.

Honest–I’m not a ‘bah humbug’ kind of guy. What I would like to know, however, is where has Christmas gone–it’s like someone stole it and none of us noticed. What happened to the old carols–you remember the ones sung by people who could actually sing. What I hear more of these days are rappers who have done some awful things to such beautiful music. Or carols sung by people who hit notes at decibels so unbelievable that I swear they could crack the crystal in grandmas’ china cabinet. Children are in danger of forgetting what those songs mean and the significance of how they connect us to all the other folks who celebrate Christmas around the world. If there is one event in the year that has the potential of drawing us a little closer together it is this celebration and it is dying off. Lists of things are the new weapons supporting the takeover by those who see capitalism and consumerism as the new ‘Gods’. Kids, instead of being thankful and grateful for the gifts they receive are disappointed and upset they didn’t get it all. I don’t hear children talking about ‘the Christmas Story’ much anymore. In many schools it is ‘not acceptable behavior’ to publicly recite or discuss the stories of Christmas. Where has Christmas gone? More importantly why have we allowed it to go that way? It is our tradition and an integral part of our culture and our heritage and we just gave it up to people who were offended.

It has been pushed aside in favour of bigger and longer sales. Christmas is all about the money now. The shopping season starts somewhere around the first week of November with some stores having their Christmas decorations displayed earlier. Some radio stations play ramped up almost unrecognisable ‘Christmas’ music 24 hours a day. We now have the beginning of a new Christmas language. How does ‘re-gifting’ really work and how does it feel to have something you worked hard to provide suddenly become next years ‘gift’ to somebody else?? Well Merry Christmas to you too.

In Ferguson, Missouri we know that people rioted then looted from their own neighbors and business people. Some of those hard working business people will never be able to recover the losses and will likely have to close up shop. But hey–Merry Christmas.

And then we have the folks who got into a fist fight in a store, with little kids watching, where Black Friday was taking a firm grip on everyone’s nerves and sanity. It seems they were fighting over the last ‘big screen’ TV on the shelf. Outside people were physically fighting over parking spaces. Hey Merry Christmas to you guys as well.

In the Middle East the Canadian military is or was busy flying over land, that is not ours, bombing people into oblivion who may or may not be our adversaries. We killed who knows how many innocent people (mostly because bombs don’t discriminate between the good guys and the not so good guys) who had nothing else to do but find a way to live through another day in that forsaken place. Our leaders want us to believe that we are over there trying to defend the rights of the citizens who live there and to protect a non existing democracy. Meanwhile over here our government is giving away or trading away our rights in exchange for votes in the next federal election. We can no longer recite the Lords Prayer in schools or most public places. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone. Well not to offend anyone but if you don’t like our way of life why not just leave us alone. No hard feelings. If it’s better where you are from then why are you here? Oh, by the way–Merry Christmas.

So because of the combination of political correctness, greedy self serving politicians, misguided parents who are still trying to ‘buy’ their kids respect by substituting goods for real relationships and people who are centered on just what is good for themselves, Christmas has taken the hit and has, almost, been pushed off the world stage by those who could care less about tradition, culture, heritage and good will among ‘men’. Kids have, again, been forgotten when it comes to having the opportunity to share with others, to give to those who have less, to honor tradition and history, to consider the world as a bigger place then just the three feet that surround them. What a shame.

The bright spot, oddly enough, is that now, more than at any other time, the U.S. is recognised as #1 in the world when it comes to generous donations to domestic and world charities and giving to those who have little. Apparently some 65% of Americans give to support and help others. That includes food banks, shelters and supplying warm clothing for the homeless. All is not lost after all.

So how do we transfer that idea of helping and sharing to our children when we can’t seem to include it in our day to day living experiences. Perhaps we could to teach it by being a living example. Maybe we start by not bombing other people in the name of trying to help them; giving that last sale item to someone else. Really what’s the big deal or allowing that other person to have the last parking spot. Perhaps we could start by saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone and anyone we encounter. Maybe it will just feel a bit more like the Christmas times we used to celebrate when we were kids. It would be a start and who knows what would happen next.

Anyways, that’s how I see it. All the best and MERRY CHRISTMAS to all that read this article.

Please pass this along to others and send any and all comments to me at jamescloughley.com OR jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

Were These Parents For Real Or Was I Just Hearing Things?

Having Kids . .. Quote

There are times when I just happen to overhear conversations between folks and I can’t resist wondering what are they talking about? Did I just hear what I thought I heard? I don’t mean to get all judgemental on people but I can’t understand the rationale of some parents when they are talking about their kids and some of the decisions they make regarding the use of alcohol and drugs. On one occasion a father and a mother were discussing a particular holiday function that their 16 year old son was hosting. The question was whether or not they should allow him to drink at the gathering since it was going to be at their home. The rationale was that they would rather have him drinking and celebrating in their own home than be out ‘there’ taking needless risks with the police and/or perhaps being in a car under the influence and running the risk of being in an accident. My inner voice was screaming “are you guys out of your freakin’ minds?

I couldn’t leave it alone and so I began to search around to see what other parents might do and, to my surprise, there were a few that saw it the same way albeit for a multitude of reasons. There were those who wanted to ‘teach’ him how to respect alcohol and not to let it get out of hand. Another person said that it would be fun to party with his son and bring him into the realm of manhood the right way. I remember this same argument a father put forth for having his son visit a prostitute at 18 in order to initiate him properly. Wow!! And then there was the mom, not too long ago, who had ordered a couple of exotic dancers to ‘crash’ her son’s party to provide a bit of ‘light’ entertainment. He was 16 I believe. We may need re-visit the whole argument around needing a licence to drive a car but how easy it is for anyone to create a human life.

So let’s look at the upside of this question. First of all there is ah-ah-gee I just can’t see an upside. My answer is quite simply NO. No it is not OK for anyone who is under age to be drinking at home or anywhere else for that matter. Especially when his/her parents are saying it’s OK.They are the adults-they should know better. What is it they want their kids to learn from this?

Why ‘NO’?

1. The obvious one is that it is illegal regardless of where it happens especially if ‘Junior’s friends’ are also drinking.
2. If anything should happen and someone gets hurt the parents would certainly be eligible for a giant lawsuit and criminal charges.
3. What kind of a message does it send the kids who attend the party? In this case 16 year olds about the reasoning and the respect for the law.
4. This relaxing of the rules of law also points out that it’s OK to defy the law as long as it happens behind closed doors and that it is OK to ignore the laws of the land if Dad says so.
5. It goes to show the parents inconsistency and hypocrisy. It says it is OK to make exceptions to the law if it suits our own needs. Dangerous for a kid to hear this message at any time.
6. How does a kid that old learn to trust his parents when the rules can be bent at any time and its OK.
7. If its OK to use alcohol prematurely then is it OK to gamble or use drugs or employ the services of a sex trade worker or be a bit more than forceful when encountering a young woman who is unsure about what she is doing or about to do? Does ‘No’ really mean ‘No’ in this case? It must be ‘OK’ if its happening behind closed doors. Right?

The part of this that I found hard to comprehend was the reasons parents came up with to allow ‘Junior’ to drink openly in the house. The one thing that most parents made clear was there could be no drug use. I guess they missed the discussion at Parents School about how alcohol is a drug as well. Parents, especially Dad, thought it would be cool to party with his son. He thought that it would be like a male bonding experience. NO it is not! What it is is a misguided attempt to stay close to ‘Junior’ and feel as though he is cool in his kids eyes and the eyes of ‘Junior’s’ friends. ‘Junior’ doesn’t need more friends. What he needs is a father who loves his kid enough to say ‘NO’ you cannot drink at the party. He needs to set some boundaries about what is acceptable and why. If ‘Junior’ threatens to go elsewhere and drink then help him understand the ramifications of that decision and that there are consequences to those decisions as well. Then Dad needs to be consistent should it come time to be so. The trick is not to make the consequences so unrealistic that a major crisis occurs but strong enough for ‘Junior’ to understand what is expected of him. He might be angry for awhile but he will come to understand there are rules for living that he needs to adhere to just like everyone else. The earlier this practice begins the easier it becomes and the more trust is likely built between sons and father/parents. Another reason I heard a great deal was the concern about being old enough to make those decisions for himself. The truth is more likely he is not mature enough to understand the nature of the situation and he likely doesn’t possess the maturity to handle the situation with anything other than self serving thoughts and feelings.

–‘Junior’ needs his parents to be his parents an not to be his friends.
–He needs consistency from his parents so that the same messages are being heard all the time–no exceptions and no ‘extraordinary’ circumstances.
–He needs to see his parents model appropriate behaviour when they are having a few.
–He needs to be encouraged to have some respect for the laws of the land. He doesn’t have to like them but he does have to learn to live with them.

Anyways, that’s how I see it–Jim

Please send me your comments whether you agree or not. I’m always interested in hearing from people who take the time to read my articles, give them some thought and then let me know how they feel about what they read. Pass this on to your friends as well–thanks

Contact me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com OR jamescloughley.com

What Part Am I Not Getting? Help Wanted

Young Dad Holding Baby Son

” Western thinking is failing because it’s complacent arrogance prevents it from seeing the extent of its failure”
–Edward DeBono

Here I am again–I feel like the village idiot. I’m just not ‘getting it’. This week, in Toronto, a group called C.A.F.E. or Canadian Association for Equality was opening a Center for Men and Families. I admit that I don’t know much more about this outfit than has been written in the papers. What I do know, for certain, is that I have studied men’s issues, their complexity and scope for quite some time. I also know that a place where men of all ages can go for advocacy, support and an educated ear is/was sorely needed. Then the other shoe fell and the elation that was mine turned to disappointment. At least one of the T.O. papers were quite sceptical about the ‘how, what and who’of it all. It seemed that all was not well among some of the women’s groups who thought that this was opportunistic, not really what it was purported to be and was against women’s rights. Basically a replay of the ‘old days.’ A front for a group who would use the same tactics and focus to return to a time when men were kings and women were subjugated.

In all I read I didn’t see or get that view. If there is proof of other things going on-if there is something else happening that we, the public interest, needs to know then please share it with us so that we can become better informed. If this outfit isn’t who or what they say they are then it wont take long to figure that out and most men, I believe, would stay away in droves. Donations, fund raising efforts and contributions would all but dry up. The ‘problem’ would take care of itself.

Back in the 20’s when the women’s movement began to catch hold there were accusations, tactics and comments used by groups of men who had absolutely no desire to share their spotlight with women. Women had their place, said many of these men of those days, and the public eye was not it. But courageous women fought through under the most hazardous and gut wrenching times to survive, grow and become much more relevant in more modern times. I say good for them because what they did and what they accomplished was not only good for women but it was helpful to many free thinking and progressive men as well.

What I don’t get, then, is why all this negativity? Don’t men deserve the same opportunities to health, welfare, fairness both legally and socially, equality, full custodial opportunities, learning opportunities and support networks. Why is it any less important for men to enjoy these same possibilities? I don’t want to be argumentative here. I’m just trying to understand what the difference is. We–men–are not the enemy nor are we the cause of all the unfairness in the world. Having worked in the public service as a Social Service Worker for over 20 years I could repeat stories about the unfairness of the system that favoured women as well but getting into a he said/she said and she did that too situation is just unproductive here or anywhere for that matter.

The issues that surround men and the difficulties that men are having adapting to the ‘new world’ are well known. The issues connected to fatherlessness are also well known especially where they relate to most social indicators: public violence, teen suicide rates, disproportionate mental health issues, sexual violence and assault, teenage pregnancies, learning challenges and high drop out rates, increased incidence of rape, and dramatic increases in substance use. Men are also victims of domestic violence but these incidents are vastly under-reported so they receive little if any public scrutiny. I would have thought that any attempt by men to begin to address these and other important issues which, hopefully, would improve the safety and well being of women would have been welcomed and applauded. Finally men will have a chance to talk about much of this stuff and receive a fair hearing. It is important that these messages come from other men who understand the importance of seeing and treating all human beings in an equal way. That’s the message that needs to be heard. Having these issues out in the light of day can do nothing but make it a safer and more equitable place for all of us–men AND women.

Equality always comes with a price attached to it. If we are all fighting to be heard and to be treated equally then we will all have to pay a price for the privilege. I don’t know what that price will be. I just know that it will need to be paid by ALL of us. If equality is really the goal then we should each have the same right to advocate for a fair and just system but not at the expense of gains realized by others. There is no gain if someone loses something in the process.

I confess I’m a little tired of being labelled a misogynist if I don’t agree with all the points that some of the women’s groups are putting out there. The fact is I don’t agree with all that is said. For instance the legal system needs a top to bottom overhaul when it comes to custodial and support issues. If fairness and equality are the goals and honest change is sought then this is the place to start.

In any large, growing movement there is always going to be the ‘haters’–those who are radical and militant. Both sides of this discussion have those ‘haters’ in their midst. Let’s leave them out of the effort to attain some equality, respect and good will so that the work we do will provide some change and some progress that will feed us to do bigger things.

Anyways, that’s the way I see it–all the best and thanks for coming out–Jim

Please send me your comments pro or con–let me know what you are thinking

Contact me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com OR jamescloughley.com

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