Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Proletariat

Christmas is here, which is the season of giving and receiving as well as the season of excess. I was thinking about the people I work with and how we are all part of the proletariat in true Marxist terms. We spent the entire Christmas season putting on parties for those that made more money than us. We made them prime rib and lobster tails and crab and steaks and anything else they desired. Our company never gave us a Christmas party, in fact they gave us nothing but hours and work and dirty dishes.
As a cook I make a semi decent wage for my efforts but the people who support  me make next to nothing. I watch the woman that washes dishes during the day for eleven dollars an hour and wonder how she does it with a teenage daughter to support and the insane rental prices in Whitehorse. The dishwasher that makes my life easier at night is from Zimbabwe. She has been in Canada a year and she works two very hard jobs at the age of 58. She does housekeeping for eight hours then comes to my kitchen and washes dishes for another five. I know she is so tired some nights and I asked her how she does it and she tells me that for most of her life in Zimbabwe she spent endless hours hauling firewood and water and she is accustomed to hard work.
I wonder how many people with their cushy well paid jobs think about these people who are working to give them a nice Christmas party. There are so many out there struggling just to pay the necessities of life. Maybe it is the season to think about that. Cheers!

Monday, October 24, 2011

On Reincarnation

I believe in reincarnation. As some famous dead guy said, " I find it no more miraculous to have been born many times than to have been born once." Christianity wants us to believe that we have one kick at the can and we should be without sin or we don't go to heaven. Having people believe in sin is a good way to control them. Buddhists on the other hand believe we have many turns in the "life school" to learn what we need. Karma is the ultimate leveler of the playing field. Whatever we put out there we get back. It is cause and effect, very simple and very effective. So every asshole deed we do we will get back at some point. Every good deed we do we will also get back. It is a concept with beautiful symmetry, it is simple and fair. People have said to me that they don't "believe" in karma. Again it is not that crazy an idea. We know in Physics that there is cause and effect. So why would our actions not have an effect? The world would be a kinder place if more people did believe in karma. So many people bully their way through life taking what they want and stepping on the necks of others to get it. At times we would love to seek revenge on these people but ultimately the universe will take care of them.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Government is the New Elite

Whitehorse is a government town. We have the Feds in their big fancy building downtown and we have our Territorial Government as well. There was a time when working for the Government was not a sought after career but that has now changed. I listen to people around me telling me how they are working toward securing that government job.
How did it happen that having a public sector job is a sought after career choice? Is being a government employee the new elite? It seems that in the North it is. I guess because of the strength of unions, jobs with government are the best bet in a flailing economy. It once was the ideal to own your own business but that is no longer the case.
I work in a hotel and I listen to people I work with saying how they are going to go about securing that government job. I can't blame them. They work in an industry without benefits or any sort of security. But there is also this thread of pride in the fact that we don't have one of "those" jobs. We mock the government types that come in for lunch. We talk about how spoiled they are. On election day they all got off work early so they could vote. The polls didn't close until 8pm and government shuts down at 5 but I guess 3 hours was not enough to make it to the polls.
My feeling is that people who work in government really do not understand the real world. They are coddled and given such a sense of security that when a new government comes into power they all fret about what benefits they will lose. They don't understand that the rest of us live with uncertainty every day.
It has become a point of pride for me not to work for the government. I often think about applying but I am not sure I would even survive that process. I have heard that you can take a class on how to go through the application and interview process for a Govt job. They teach you how to say all the right things to ensure success. This makes no sense to me. They are not even getting a sense of who they are interviewing if everyone has been coached to say what they want to hear. I guess that is the first step in becoming a govt drone though. Say what is expected and act like all the other drones so that you can join the hive.
A friend at work told me how someone she knew was taking a year sabbatical from her govt job and she asked who was going to replace her. The woman said no one. We laughed about this. If I took a year off from my job I would certainly have to be replaced because I actually produce something in my job. Not everyone does apparently.
I must admit that I and my fellow workers feel a bit superior to the Govvies even though we make a pittance in comparison and we have no benefits or security. We feel like we haven't sold out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Far Can Social Media Go?

I am now Facebook free and so far there have been no side effects. People are assuming that I quit because I spent too much time on it but that is not the case. I didn't spend a lot of time on it because frankly it was kind of boring. People post everything they are doing all day long. I am surprised I haven't read 'feet in stirrups, just waiting for my pap smear.' But give it time.....
One part of social media that really gives me pause is how invasive it is. If someone posts something that offends someone else they can report that person and some faceless facebook cop will delete the post. It happened to a friend of mine. He had put up some pro life video of a baby at so many weeks and what it looks like. It was promptly taken down. This bothers me. I may not agree with him but I do have the choice to ignore it. That is the cyber equivalent of the nosy neighbour who cannot help sticking their nose into everything you do on your property.
 I also don't like how they constantly change it. They put up a new feature that tells people what you are doing on Facebook. If you are wasting time playing some dumb game everyone is informed of it. I don't like that lack of control over my own profile page.
I recently discovered from a friend of mine that the government uses Facebook to monitor illegal activities. My friend was contacted by social services because her underage son was posting drinking pictures. This scared the hell out of me. Now social media is being used to judge how well you are parenting? Who doesn't have a 17 year old kid that has been caught drinking? My fear is that this is just the beginning.
I enjoy freedom too much to be cool with this type of Big Brother monitoring.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Leaving Facebook

I have decided to leave Facebook. I read an article recently that said those that give up all methods of instantaneous cyber social networking are doing a radical thing. I guess because I am old enough to remember a world without cell phones and internet I don't think it is a radical act. Quitting your job to go and volunteer for an aid agency in Africa is a radical act, leaving Facebook is not.
I watch people at work constantly texting and I wonder what is so interesting about the day to day minutiae of our lives that we have to constantly be sharing it. I don't carry a cell phone at all and when asked by a business or a person what my cell phone number is I am met with a look of shock when I tell them I don't have one. They probably just think I am a dinosaur and maybe I am.  There is something oddly liberating about not being wired constantly. A truly radical act would be to give up internet altogether. I am not there yet, but maybe in time.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I have been turned on to zazen practice recently when a friend recommended a book called Hardcore Zen. I liked the style of the writer. He was completely self deprecating about his life and his journey from a punk rocker to a Zen Master. I have read so many books over the years about different spiritual practices and ideas. I spent some time in a forest Wat with Thai Buddhist monks trying to learn about meditation but this book struck me as so practical and cutting through all the bullshit to get to the heart of practicing Zazen as a real person in the real world.
So much about Buddhism speaks to me. The middle way is something I have thought to be right for a long time. Our society reveres extremists be it in business or sports or any other avenue of human endeavour. We admire the workaholics who spend most of their waking hours trying to be "successful." We are taught that this is the way life should be. If we can achieve some level of financial security and have all those "things" then life is good. We admire that extreme athlete that pushes their body beyond what is a normal level. Buddhism teaches us that this is NOT the way to live life. This is not healthy and this is not what we should strive for.
Even in zazen practice doing too much is not beneficial. Some sects believe that sitting for hours will get you closer to enlightenment or whatever you want to call it. However, this too is false. Moderation in all things is key.
Yesterday I began meditation practice once again. I sat Zazen and was immediately disturbed by phone calls. This morning I sat zazen for 13 minutes. It is not a lot but it was enough for me this morning. Master Nishijima whose lectures I have been watching online, said that the beginners zen practice is no different than a master's zen practice. There is no competition in Buddhism, there is no better or worse. This is a heartening philosophy for someone whose legs are cramping and mind is wandering as I try and sit zazen for a short time. All that matters is consistency of practice. Doing it every single day is the key and not something that is very easy. Nishijima began zazen practice at 16 and did not miss a day, he is now in his 80's.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bitter Old Women

Why do so many women reach the "golden" years with such bitterness? They look at their life, not as the sum of their experiences, but as a huge pile of regret like forgotten, unwashed laundry. "If I had left the marriage sooner, "if I had gone to school," "if I had not married that man," "if I had been born in a different era; if, if if.
Regret is a huge rock tied to your ankle that sinks you deeper and deeper into that morass of hopelessness. Nothing can change those choices, those mistakes, those very human decisions that fill in the lines of your life. The only thing that changes is how you decipher the code.
To become old women who think our lives were a wasted mess is to deprive ourselves of the wisdom gained through hardship.
Regret is bitter and foul tasting. We should look in the mirror every morning and spit out that foul taste. We should run our fingers over the lines in our face and be cognizant that every line speaks to our experience.
We should celebrate our saggy breasts and loose skin because they are who we have become. We should strive to fend off that dark visitor called regret that threatens to visit us in the waning years of our life. We should celebrate the good times and remember all we have gained from the bad. We should lead the way with our children, not through criticism, contempt and jealousy but with wisdom and good humour. We should become spirited, foolish old wisdom women who look to the past and say, "Yes! I made it!"