Remember the days when as elementary and/or high school students we were made (forced?) to stand in front of our peers and speak about a topic we may have been passionate about? That was something I wish would return in this world of (un)social media. Sweaty palms, dry throat and the hope that you did not mix up your cue cards (for the younger readers, we actually wrote out our speeches long-hand on small lined cards that would fit in our hands. No I-pads!).
I have to say, I was a pretty decent public speaker (I actually was the class winner one year which meant I just had to speak in front of a larger audience in the school gym, leading to even sweatier palms and a drier throat;)). However, I recall in high school when I knew I was beat one year in the speech competition. I cannot even recollect the subject matter for my speech, nor do I recall my classmate’s name who had the winning speech. I just remember the topic, or should I say individual they chose to speak on… Terry Fox.
Fox needs a permanent and significant place in the psyche of all Canadians
Canadian notes of currency have been receiving a facelift recently and that transformation will continue over the coming months and years. The transformation began with the $10 bank note in 2018 with civil rights activist Viola Desmond becoming the first person who was not a monarch nor a dead politician to be the face of any denomination of Canadian currency. We now have a new monarch – King Charles III – who will adorn not only our coins but also the $20 bill.
Next in line is a redesign of the $5 bill. Canadians have known this has been coming for a number of years. The government has narrowed down the list of worthy candidates to ten. Among those, I believe that Terry Fox stands out above the others.
Every poll that I have read seems to support my belief. The people of Canada, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, province of residence, etc. etc., have spoken loud and clear. Terry Fox should be the new face on Canada’s $5 bill. With all due respect to the other candidates that have been put forth by the government, this is a no-brainer. Terry Fox crosses all cultural, social, political and economic lines. Why do I say this? Because cancer does not discriminate. The disease has touched young and old; male and female; wealthy and poor; people of all races and religions. Terry Fox shone a bright light on that fact when he undertook the seemingly impossible task of running across our vast nation – on one leg – during his Marathon of Hope.
Our world has become divided in many ways but I am old enough to recall when a curly-headed young man found a way to unite our country and captivate not only Canada but the world.
Terry’s goal was to raise awareness of the impact of a disease that took his right leg in 1977 at the tender age of 18. Just over three years later he was undertaking what most would perceive as the unfathomable – even on two legs. Fox would attempt to run across the entire country from Newfoundland to British Columbia. He would run the equivalent of one marathon (26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers) every day!
Born in Winnipeg but raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Terry set specific goals for his seemingly impossible journey across Canada. First, he wanted to raise awareness of the toll cancer had taken not in his life but in the lives of Canadians (especially children) from coast-to-coast. He wanted to be the voice for all those touched by the disease. The second goal was to raise one single dollar for every Canadian man, woman and child. At the time Canada was a growing country that boasted a population of 24 million.
Ultimately, Canadians know the story did not end with Terry reaching his home province of British Columbia but instead ended on the Trans-Canada Highway near Thunder Bay, when cancer resurfaced in Terry’s body. I remember how heartbreaking it was to watch Terry be interviewed as he was being transported away on a gurney. His anguish at having his Marathon of Hope halted and the voice he had given all cancer victims seemingly silenced, came through loud and clear.
Despite the physical end to Terry’s run across Canada it was not the end to his impact on Canada – it was in fact the beginning. Canadians dug deep and helped Terry realize and surpass the goal of $24 million raised to support cancer research.
That was just the first chapter of a legacy that Terry has left for our nation long after he succumbed to cancer on June 28, 1981. To date the Terry Fox Foundation is closing in on $1 billion raised for cancer research. The Foundation website states that 10,000 events have contributed to 1,300 research projects. Over 60 nations have hosted Terry Fox runs over the past four decades.
Terry deserves a permanent place in Canada’s history that goes beyond a statue or plaque. Given how much money the foundation that bears his name has raised to combat the disease that took his life, nothing would be more fitting than to have Terry’s determined and courageous image staring back at all Canadians when they pull a fiver out of their wallet.
In the words of Terry “Even, if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going.”.
Let’s start this edition of One Dad With a Blog by playing a little game that seems to be popular with the younger generation these days – two truths and a lie. See if you can spot the lie.
Men are the victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) at a rate that is significant when compared to women
The gender pay gap is statistically insignificant
Race appears to play no significant role in officer-involved shootings in the USA
Well, which one of the statements is the lie? This is my gotcha’ red pill moment. All three of the statements above are true! (cue the calls for my head because I must be a sexist and a racist for doing nothing more than stating the truth). I am not making any claims about the relationship between the facts above and the possible reasons why these statements may be true (not in this post anyway). I am just laying bare the facts. What I am trying to say is that, we should not believe everything we read, hear or see on any subject. That line of thought was a staple of what was imparted upon me by my parents and educators (and later in life by my peers). This is the essence of critical thought.
Ironically, in an age where fact-checking has become infinitely more simple and less time-consuming, we now spend less effort engaging in checking the validity of any claim. I am not sure why this may be true, other than my belief that finding out the truth may challenge our core beliefs on some issues. Some people will always choose the blue pill (for those who miss the red pill/blue pill comparison check out The Matrix. Awesome movie by the way!)
To show that I am not just making statements and expecting the reader to believe them (remember, don’t believe everything you read) I will provide some statistical background on each of the three statements from the beginning of this post.
Statement: Males are the victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) at a rate that is significant when compared to females
Let me start by saying that I am not diminishing the plight of women who have been subjected to abuse at the hands of a partner. That is not the purpose of this exercise. I am just challenging the widely held belief that women are almost always the victim of intimate partner violence. This is statistically just not true. Numbers on IPV gathered by the Canadian and American governments make it clear that men are often victims.
Based on 2018 Statistics Canada numbers these are the facts on IPV for those in intimate relationships (IPV statistics – Canada) :
23% of women vs. 17% of men were victims of physical abuse
43% of women vs. 35% of men were the victims of psychological abuse
12% of women vs. 2% of men were the victims of sexual abuse
The irony is that the government is still presenting a blue pill reality despite the data. The statement in the report which preceded the numbers listed above was “More specifically, women were significantly more likely than men to have experienced any form of IPV”. The word “significantly” is the one with which I would take issue. Looking at the numbers, especially the first two, I find it hard to say that those represent “significant” differences. Further, why are we playing the victim Olympics rather than recognizing that ALL of those individuals listed in the data are victims regardless of gender?
Taking a look at US numbers, a similar picture is painted – men are the victims of IPV at a far greater rate than what the narrative in society would suggest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks statistics on IPV and those numbers essentially mirror the data from the Canadian government (IPV statistics – USA) .
The graphic below from the CDC gives a snapshot of the situation in the States.
Again, my purpose in presenting these facts is not meant to minimize the terrible reality that abused women face but rather to illustrate that IPV should not be seen as the gender-based issue as we are repeatedly told it is by the media and government. We can quibble over use of language like “significant” but the horrific truth that IPV victims share is a truth which is not any less significant for male victims than it is for female victims.
(Author’s note: I am not an “anecdotes over statistics” guy but I have witnessed males in my life who have been physically abused by their partners. This is one reason why I chose this topic.)
Statement: The gender pay gap is statistically insignificant
This statement is a little more difficult to prove than the previous one on IPV. There is a lot of nuance to this discussion but in the end it comes down to the methodology used by those who believe the gender pay gap (reported as 23 cents on the dollar in North America by gender pay gap believers). Simply put, the methodology used to arrive at the 23 cent gap would not pass the standard of a first-year economics class in university.
Let me explain the methodology in the simplest terms. Those who support the gender pay gap come to the 23 cent number by averaging the earnings of all men against that of all women. The variables which are left out of the calculation are wide-ranging and include:
number of hours worked
part-time vs. full-time worked
parental leave dynamics
Again, the statement I made is not an analysis of why men more often choose disciplines in post-secondary institutions which often lead to higher-earning fields or why women are more likely to take parental leave more often versus men or to work fewer hours. Rather, it is just a statement of the facts that the gap between male and female wages is not one which is based on gender by any significant measure. The article in the following link by Christina Hoff Sommers (aka The Factual Feminist) is from 2012 but it illustrates some of the points I made above. (Wage Gap Myth Exposed)
The idea that women are paid 23 cents on the dollar less than their male counterparts doing exactly the same work when all variables such as tenure, education, hours worked, etc. are accounted for is just not a reasonable statement. Simply put, it is not true. Some will provide anecdotal evidence as proof that there is a sizeable gender pay gap but the statistical analysis should trump any exception that is presented. Also, there is legislation in North America – the Pay Equity Act in Canada and the Equality Act in the USA – that makes it illegal to discriminate against workers based on gender.
Statement:Race appears to play no significant role in officer-involved shootings in the USA
This is one that will surely raise the most eyebrows among readers. We are constantly being bombarded by the media about incidents involving the use of deadly force by police on people within the black community. Like the two previous statements, my goal is not to get to the bottom of why use of deadly force occurs I am just trying to counter the narrative that seems to paint a picture that young black men are being “hunted” by police in the USA.
To support my statement I will lean on a study conducted by Roland G. Fryer Jr., a professor of Economics at Harvard University. Fryer conducted his study using data from police departments in California, Colorado, Florida, Texas and Washington. The data collected from these police departments was for the years between 2000 – 2015 inclusive. Worth noting, Fryer is a black man who grew up in Texas.
Fryer is an academic rock star. He is the youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard and the first to win the John Bates Clark medal awarded to the most promising American economist under 40. He often stated that the data exposed conflicts between the two parts of himself – the southern black man and the economist. How could what he saw and was told growing up be in stark conflict with the statistical data?
All Fryer could do was analyze and present his findings. That is what an economist does. His study found that although blacks were more likely to be subjected to non-lethal uses of force by police (eg. pushing, striking, use of taser or pepper spray) they were no more likely to be the victims of lethal force than their white counterparts. In fact, with the data from Houston, the results indicated that blacks were 20 per cent less likely to be killed in an officer-involved shooting than whites and Hispanics. The following link is a great unvarnished read on Roland Fryers’ research (Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings)
I am not trying to dispel the existence of racial bias in policing. My gut says that it does exist at some level. Do I think it is widespread and systemic like we are led to believe by some in the media and activists looking to “defund the police”? The statistics tell me no. Also, this discussion does not delve into other variables related to encounters with police such as addiction, mental illness, poverty, compliance and – the big one in my opinion – culture (maybe in another post I will explain why I think culture is the “big one”.) which all may play a role in use of lethal force by police.
(author’s note, I have linked some background below on Prof. Fryer’s study as well as two similar studies on police use of force)
Hopefully, by reading this, at the very least I will make readers pause and think critically. My goal is not to change your mind but to open it. Don’t ever be fearful of having an opinion but always make that opinion an informed one, rooted in raw statistics and data as opposed to anecdotes and emotions.
To truly work toward solutions on specific issues I believe we must first tell the truth. For example, to minimize, ignore or outright deny the fact that males are often the victim of IPV means that those victims have no voice (and probably no resources). Further, recognizing the male victims existence does not in any way undermine or weaken the debate surrounding female victims – it adds more voices to the debate on IPV.
Saying that the pay gap is due to a single variable, gender, does not address issues such as the lack of adequate parental leave in some countries, regardless of gender. Making the discussion about gender does little to uncover why more women are attracted to disciplines in university which generally result in them working in lower paying careers than their male counterparts.
Creating a false narrative that police are hunting young black men does not help issues related to policing like recruitment, compensation and training – specifically how officers are equipped to deal with issues on the job related to mental health and addiction. Nor does it address some of the cultural issues prevalent in some high crime communities.
Here is one final piece of advice for all of us individually and as a society. Always opt for the red pill over the blue one – even it makes you uncomfortable – because I believe the truth will set you free.
tribal social warfare and how it is poisoning and polarizing our society
“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life, your right to say it.”Voltaire (1759)
Why has the world become so polarized? What has changed in my lifetime to make our society more… divided? When I say divided, I mean divided by a tribal mentality – meaning if you are not in my “tribe” you are not my friend – in fact you are my enemy.
Even more troubling is that if you do not hold a position on an issue at all you are cast in a negative light as well by those who push specific narratives. Phrases like “silence is violence” have become part of the buzzword terminology wielded to condemn not just those who may oppose a position but individuals who do not have any clearly defined belief on a subject. Group-speak and group-think are no longer just fictional social concepts from George Orwell’s novel “1984” they are the underbelly of our so-called free society.
I remember when I attended university, having a different opinion did not necessarily mean that we could not be friends. I had many lively discussions with individuals I considered close friends (I am looking at you Peter Guest!). After some very heated verbal exchanges we were able to put that aside and not pass judgement upon the other side based on their opinion. We based our perception of that person primarily on their actions – not their opinions. Character mattered and this was defined more by what you did than what you said.
The idea of judging a person’s character on what they do seems to be something that is taking a backseat in today’s world. We now pigeonhole individuals on the basis what they have to say on a specific issue. You tell someone you are not pro-choice (or pro-life for that matter) and there is no question – you must be a terrible person. Somewhere along the line, having a different opinion seems to be not only an indicator of your character but the defining aspect of that character. Many seem to take the position that should you sit on the opposite side of an issue at best you are someone who lacks any moral compass and at worst you are someone who should be silenced. Either way this type of person becomes someone with whom we (meaning people in general) would never associate.
What has this led to in society? Tribal mentality. That tribalism has meant that groups are trying to gain what I call “righteous ground” (I am going to refer to this term by RG for simplicity) on key issues. As an individual you MUST conform to certain dogmatic opinions or you are the enemy – part of the opposite tribe. There can be no nuance in how you think on these issues. You either agree entirely or you are not granted access to the tribe. Should you be part of the tribe that has seized that moral RG on an issue you seem to have been granted some arbitrary power to silence ANY debate on that specific issue.
How often have some of us heard that expressing an opinion on something related to race, gender, sexual orientation is verboten if it challenges the dogmatic doctrine of the people on RG? For members of the tribe which has taken hold of RG, discourse and dialogue with the other tribe is for the most part not tolerated.
Some of you reading this may say “what is wrong with belonging to a tribe”? We see them in other aspects of society and there is no real negative impact. Leafs Nation is not causing any social upheaval (other than giving a whole group of people false hope… but that is a discussion for another day). Having a girls (or boys) night out is perfectly healthy. Tribes have been part of the human social structure in various forms for as long as humankind has existed. Many tribes that we see in society today are not a threat in any way.
However, when tribalism is about seizing RG with an eye on silencing any discussion it becomes a very dangerous prospect for all of us. Further, make no mistake, when the goal of a tribe is more about subjugating others than just existing and creating a better life for the tribe without negative impact for those outside of the group it becomes an insidious element of our world. Think about the rise of fascism and communism in the first half of the 20th century as extremes of this type of unabated tribalism and the negative outcomes that resulted from tribal mentality.
How can we as individuals address this issue which threatens speech, expression and ultimately freedom in our society? We must make it our goal to ALWAYS allow others to express opinions freely without threat of recourse/retribution. Further, we shouldn’t be afraid to make our own positions heard for fear of being labeled or ostracized. I know people will say “what about speech which is hateful and could incite violence and/or put vulnerable individuals at risk?” To that I say we have laws to address any type of hateful opinion which tries to hide behind the shield of free speech. All speech needs to be protected – not just speech with which we agree.
Maybe I am an anomaly in our current world as I actively seek out opposing viewpoints. This approach only serves to better informs my chosen position on a topic. Making a conscious decision to seek out opposing positions in some cases (but not all) may even change my mind – or at the very least allow for some nuance in my stance on a specific topic.
I think the words “let him/her/them speak”have largely disappeared from our society. This has done nothing but create a multitude of silos and echo chambers. Everyone should make the commitment to start a revolution and make “let him/her/them speak” become the rally cry of this revolution.
Check out a new feature – the poll – on the right side of the page. As always, comments and feedback are not only welcome they are encouraged!
to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge
Readers of this blog (my first entry in over five years) may be asking why I opened this essay with a definition. The explanation for this begins with my previous foray into the world of online writing. I started my blog as a cathartic exercise to help me at a difficult juncture in my life. A breakdown in my marriage, the loss of my job (for the second time in about five years) were difficult to cope with but I found some relief in putting some thoughts out there in the digital universe (even if my audience was mostly limited to friends and family). Many (but not all) of the topics of my posts were related to my own experiences and my feelings surrounding the family court system in Canada (and in other western countries).
The opinions were mine but they were supported by both empirical and anecdotal evidence. I did not want to play the victim card but rather point out that narratives surrounding gender inequality are often (always?) focused on the plight of women. Mention men when it comes to systemic imbalance and you might expect to be met with a virtual eye roll from many online. The idea that men can be treated unfairly just does not register with a large portion of our population – even if the evidence is as plain as day. My experiences touched enough people so much so that friends and sometimes friends of friends reached out to me for advice on how to navigate the family court system. In a very small way I was making a difference.
Many people see the acknowledgement that men may have to overcome discrimination as absurd and, even further, as an attack on women. It is, of course neither. One can affirm the need to support men on some issues which may impact them almost exclusively or at the very least at a greater proportion then women (think suicide and parental rights) and still do the same for women on issues which impact them exclusively or more routinely than men. The problem is that just by pointing this out one can be attacked and ridiculed online, labeled a sexist, a misogynist or worse be threatened with retribution for holding an opinion which goes counter to popularly accepted narratives.
My blog elicited each of these type of responses. I was attacked online and labeled, people I knew for years unfriended me on social media. I did not care because as the saying goes, you really find out who your friends are when times are the toughest. These people were never my friends in reality and I was better off not having them as any part of my life. However, the final straw for me was when someone warned me that I was about to be doxed (there is the much anticipated tie-in with the opening of this post) for doing nothing more than expressing my well-thought out and statistically supported opinion. Here is a brief chronological background:
April 4, 2016: I launched my own blog during a time where I needed an outlet to express myself
December 2016: I am downsized at my work (the second time this has happened in five years)
August 2017: I start a new job
September 2017: I stop publishing my blog after receiving an anonymous email
The last point on the list is the one I would like to home in on and provide more context. I received the email from an individual who was not known to me and did not reveal their identity. The thrust of the communication was this, someone with whom I worked had read my blog (the author of the email did not/could not reveal the alleged co-worker’s identity); the alleged co-worker did not agree with the opinions I expressed; the alleged co-worker was active online in chat groups; some members of one chat group encouraged the individual to go to my boss and “out” me as a sexist. (author’s note, I use the word “alleged” when describing the person who wanted to seek retribution against me for holding an opinion because without evidence I do not know for certain that this co-worker actually existed).
This email made me pause and think. What had I written that was so offensive to have someone label me a sexist? Why was the expression of an opinion so toxic that it seemed to justify doxing me publicly? Would the person really contact my employer and if so would my boss’ response result in my termination? I read over all my posts dozens of times each and I still saw nothing which one would deem offensive. Even if someone took offence I have come to realize that being offended is a choice each person makes.
When met with a conflicting point of view on anything an individual has two rational options, in my opinion. Stand up for your beliefs in a respectful manner and engage in dialogue in attempt to present an opposing viewpoint or… ignore them entirely. Engage or ignore has become my mantra. Cancelling someone or seeking to punish that person for doing nothing more than holding an opinion should not be an option in a democratic and free society – full stop. This does not seem to be what is happening today in the world. People are ending relationships, families are being torn apart, careers are being destroyed – just because of opinions.
Back to my story. Since I had bills to pay and two young children to support I had to error on the side of caution. I confided in my brother whom I trusted to keep the information I shared between the two of us. He had read my blog and saw absolutely nothing overly provocative about the content of any of my posts. However, his advice was one which focused on risk assessment. Meaning that I had to make a decision based on the worst case scenario. Did I value my job more or did I want to continue writing?
The decision was simple given that one paid the bills and the other was something that, although it was a passion and provided me with a level of therapeutic relief, was not bringing in any income. I made the choice to pull the plug on my blog and avoid the potential backlash the anonymous emailer had warned me about. I have pondered whether I made the correct decision. I am all about standing on principles but in this case I backed off that position to avoid personal loss – both financially and to my reputation.
The continued revisiting of my decision over the past five years is what has brought me to this moment. I have decided that telling the truth – not a narrative which is safe and easy – is what I am about as a person. No more giving in to the mob online who have a hard time hearing opposing points of view from those which they hold. No more being silenced due to a fear of being (wrongly) labeled. I now know that individuals who label people are often unable/unwilling to engage in dialogue when confronted with ideals and opinions which challenge their own (further, I know what I am as a person and it is not what some have labeled me). There are some people who wish to silence debate while I choose to engage those with whom I disagree – engage or ignore!! Even after debating an issue we can still break bread together. The idea of concepts such as middle ground and compromise when it comes to political, social, moral and philosophical opinions is not dead and it certainly will not die on my watch!