“A man’s character is his fate.” – Heraclitus

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This is part two of my attempt to deconstruct Donald Trump. If you haven’t read it already, please read part 1 here, as it provides context for what’s below.

Read it? All right… let’s begin!

In trying to deconstruct Trump himself, to me there’s an obvious starting point: he is, or is he not a narcissist. Before I go any further, three things need to be said.

The first is that narcissism in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Psychologists have pointed out that there is such a thing as “healthy narcissism“. Studies have shown that many world leaders, from politicians to businessman to professional athletes, have a certain level of narcissism, but one that provides a deep-seeded sense of self-confidence to face a given task, and a sense that they are up to it and can properly lead those around them.

Secondly, there is a huge difference between having narcissistic tendencies, like taking a dozen selfies whenever you use the bathroom, and having an actual diagnosis of Narcissistic Personal Disorder (NPD).

Finally, while there has been much debate online about Trump’s mental health, there are very few qualified mental health professionals that will come out and say “this is the truth about Trump” because of what’s called the “Goldwater Rule“, which states that unless you have personally examined a person, you are not qualified to make an actual diagnosis of them.

I have talked to friends who work in the mental health field, including one with a PHD in Psychology, specifically focused on personality disorders. When we compared notes he said “while I haven’t obviously examined Trump in person, there’s enough public evidence that a reasonably justifiable case could be made that he has narcissistic personality disorder”. While this isn’t a formal diagnosis, and nor should it be seen as such, I agree with my friend that there is enough evidence to say it’s a possibility.

Here are the traits from the DSM-5:

1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others

2. Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.

3. Self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions

4. Needing constant admiration from others

5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others

6. Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain

7. Unwilling to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs

8. Intensely envious of others and the belief that others are equally envious of them

9. Pompous and arrogant demeanor

I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not they describe Trump. What I can say is that because of his 40 years in the public spotlight, there is a trove of public record information to go through that we rarely have with political figures. Trump has shown himself to be fixated with power, recognition, and with people knowing who he is. He has shown a need to be center of attention, for people to be awed by his wealth and power, and the inability to handle either being questioned. He has shown that he takes any slight, real or not, as a deeply personal attack, and has shown a need to get back at anyone who feels has wronged him. He has shown that he has no problems purposely stonewalling anyone who dares question his authority, legality or decisions.

When it comes to the Goldwater Rule, there are some who believe that this specific situation requires a breaking of normal ethical protocol. John D. Gartner, a psychotherapist who has taught at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said in an interview with US News & World Report that Trump “is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president” and has “malignant narcissism,” which while not listed in the DSM, has been studied and described as NPD, but with severe anti-social and self-destructive tendencies and a need to see any opposition not just overcome, but humiliated.

From the campaign trail to the Oval Office, Trump has consistently referred to himself as “the best”, having “the best temperament”, being “really smart”, and so on. When challenged on photos that indicated that his inauguration crowd was smaller than the one for Barack Obama in 2009, he and his staff retorted that it was the “biggest crowd in inaugural history”, with an attendance figure of “1.5 million” but failing to offer any credible data as evidence. It’s been similar responses when he’s been challenged about practically anything to do with himself, his business success or his campaign.

A particular sore spot for him has been his losing the election’s popular vote by 3 million votes. His response was to say that “3 to 5 million illegal immigrants” voted and that is what cost him the popular election. The Washington Post reported that there have been only 4 verifiable cases of vote fraud in the 2016 election.

This brings up a point that needs to be addressed: If Trump does have NPD, it needs to be stated that people with NPD literally can not see a negative side to any of their actions. They are incapable of it. For someone with NPD and/or malignant narcissism, the one and only litmus test of whether a choice is good or bad is “will this get me what I want”, with the goal being instant gratification.

That desire could be power, it could be adoration, but whatever it is, it’s all that matters. Beyond that, the person themselves is the only one who matters. Their ego being given the attention and praise it deserves is all that matters. If someone gets hurt or negatively affected in some way, it’s their own fault for not agreeing with that need or desire in the first place. Simply put, there is no empathy, no consideration of others, just selfish, self-indulgent behavior.

Tapping into that self-need is the basis for why facts are so easily and quickly dismissed by him. Facts don’t matter to Trump because “facts” are simply a means to an end. If someone disagrees and says “no, here’s the real truth” and provides facts and data to back it up, Trump simply says publicly “this person is lying to you and trying to hide the truth from you”. For those who don’t trust the media, or see academia as full of self-serving know-it-alls, his discrediting of their countering his statements takes on an almost religious effect. “I alone hold truth, and I alone can protect you from all the evil lies that see to hurt America being great again”.

Another cause for concern is that NPD also voids any sense of loyalty. Loyalty exists to the extent of “are you giving me what I want” in some fashion. As soon as that enabling ceases, that person no longer has any function for someone with NPD and is usually removed from the inner circle. This is very dangerous in a political sphere because it means that those in high-ranking positions (such as advisory positions) are only there because they play into, in some fashion, Trump’s ego or paranoia.

This might also shed light on why he has been nominating people to head government departments that they have previously shown hostility towards: it’s a show of force, a “you don’t think I’ll do it? Just watch” power play, and way to automatically create fear inside that department of showing any public dissension. A leaked memo from the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the EPA had been effectively given a gag order, along with almost every science-based government office except for NASA. Why do this? So you can control the flow of information.

If you can control the flow of information, you can much easier control what people think. This also explains his attacks on all forms of media, calling any outlet that disagrees with him or provides evidence contrary to what he says as being “fake news”. If Trump does have Narcissistic Personal Disorder, it makes complete sense that he would try to deny and belittle anyone who goes against his own self-proclaimed reality. Simply put, he doesn’t handle “no” very well, no matter the evidence or legality that challenges him.

While he doesn’t handle any situation where he’s told “no” very well, he has a predictable pattern here as well: he’ll often threaten “see you in court!“, as he instantly tweeted when an injunction was handed down against his travel ban, but history shows the threat of legal action often has no follow-through.

While he has been the target of several investigations by various government agencies over the years, his preferred tactics against them won’t serve him well here. When the Justice Department would go after him, he would keep pushing back court dates time and time again, saying he needed more time to get the requested files ready. He’d repeatedly do this until the delays became so lengthy that the Justice Department would drop the case because of a lack of evidence, meaning little chance of conviction, and how costly the delays had become. This doesn’t mention the fact that there’s evidence Trump used delays to destroy documents the Justice Department had requested.

The problem for him now is that there are big differences between how a government official can act, as opposed to a private citizen. If Trump, let’s say, is found destroying evidence that’s been subpoenaed, that’s grounds for impeachment. If he interferes with an on-going investigation the way he has in the past as CEO of the Trump Organization, that too is ground for impeachment.

Despite all this, I have no doubt that Trump will remain in office until the Republican party stops finding him useful. As long as he’s in power, Republican party leaders will do everything they can to look the other way and they’ll do so because it suits their interest. In regards to this, a quote from Upton Sinclair comes to mind: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it”.

The question now becomes trying to fathom what would be enough for the Republicans, who have political power now that they haven’t had since 1928, to say enough is enough. With the new revelations that Trump’s election campaign team was in contact with known Russian political figures will definitely put those bonds of loyalty to the test.

Will even that not be enough? We’re in a time when there has been a strong current of obstructionism from the Republican party for the majority of Obama’s presidency. It didn’t matter what was, if the Democrats were for it, the Republicans were against it. It really did feel like that if the Democrats put forward a motion saying “kittens are cute”, Republicans would decry it and put forward their own motion saying “kittens are adorable”. It’s never a good thing when American politics remind me of the divisions between the nations of Lilliput and Blefuscu in Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, with their biggest political argument being whether you should crack an egg at the bottom (the Big-Endians), or the top (the Small-Endians).

Unless something causes Trump’s presidency to fall apart, or there is a massive changeover in the midterm elections in 2018, we’re in for a very long few years, politically speaking. If things don’t change, we’re going to find ourselves run by a government that is ultimately in favor of the rich and the privileged and those who have the most money to invest. Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, to rid Washington of the corruption, but instead all signs point to him pursuing self-enrichment in a way never before seen.

Despite Trump’s claim of making America great again, it remains a simple fact that you can not make a society great by ignoring those who are most at-risk and most vulnerable. A Great Society is built not on how the richest or the most influential are treated, but by how those who have the least to give are treated.

Taking away rights and services, imposing threats on freedom of speech and dissension, and willful ignoring of science can not make a society prosperous… those are not the signs of progressive government, nor one that has its citizens’ interest at heart.

The truest sign of a Democracy is not the right to vote, but understanding the responsibilities that the freedom to choose inherently brings: the responsibility is not on the government to make the country better, but on her citizens. That is, after all the intent behind Lincoln’s famous words of “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. Lincoln was saying that our fate isn’t in the hands of our government, despite the power they wield, but in our actions towards each other.

While Trump and his inner circle may do all they can to ignore marches, protests, social media posts and the like, there is one thing the average citizen can do that they have no power to do anything about: treating your neighbor with kindness and respect, no matter their race, color, or creed.

Do that and, believe you me, it will be just a tremendous success.

 

Author’s note: since the publication of this post, the debate among mental health professionals about publicly diagnosing Trump’s behavior has only increased.

While some are in favor of it, others aren’t.

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“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

“Personal branding? That’s what ranchers do to cattle, right?”

That was my first comment when I was asked what I though of personal branding. Personal branding is simply marketing oneself and career in a way that promotes you as being distinct in a specific way. Personal branding is something I personally loathe. It’s not that I think the concept is bad in and of itself. I think everyone promotes a specific desired image of themselves in some way through fashion choices, media preferences, beliefs, people they associate with and so on. But personal branding, well, there’s something that feels very facetious about it all.

Dan Mullin wrote his thoughts on personal branding and it made me think of the conversations we’ve had about it and why we, each in our own way, see it as a necessary evil. A friend advised Dan to control his “brand”, and to stay away from controversial topics such as politics and religion, “all the fun topics” as Dan put. Like Dan, I tend to be contrarian and when told “you shouldn’t do this” I often answer with “why not”, which can be both a good and bad answer.

While Dan forms his opinions based on academia as his peer group, my group is different: members of the media. While media, like academia, does have it’s intelligentsia, those attracted to deep thoughts and big questions, media is much more “image obsessed” than academia. In some ways image is everything in media. At the risk of sounding cynical, when I look through what’s popular in pop culture, it seems to be that if you have a good enough beat, enough big explosions and some zombies thrown in for good measure, substance isn’t really needed.

I’ve worked in TV and film for many years and have had the opportunity to conduct workshops and be part of media advisory council. Especially in working with the media advisory council I’ve pushed myself to know how a news story is covered, the difference between “soft” and “hard” news, to know what’s going on in my hometown of Hamilton, and to know my media theory as well as anyone else in the room.

Personal branding presents me with a problem: how do I present myself to fellow media members? The key in the TV and film worlds is networking. It’s often not so much what you know and how well you can do it, but who you know. I will readily admit that networking isn’t my strong point. I can be charming and friendly when I need to be but I would never be described as a social butterfly.

So how do I present myself? I’m a man of walking contradictions. While on the one hand, I’m always reading about philosophy, theology, physics, social justice and many other topics, I still take far too much childish glee in whenever I come across the section in Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” where he gives advice on how to deal with someone with stinky armpits. While I’ve given intelligent public discourses on everything from the problem of evil to aboriginal rights to media theory, I still giggle like a three year old whenever someone farts. When it comes to personal branding do I put my best, most polished self out there or do I present an honest picture of who I am, warts and all, and say “this is me, take it or leave it”?

Along with figuring what “me” I want to brand, there is another issue at play here: my ethnicity. I’m Native. Or Aboriginal, if you’re more into the politically correct phraseology. Being a Native in Canada at this point in time is both a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, Natives are standing up for their rights and heritage in a way never seen before, but it’s also bringing to light the abuse, neglect and despair they’ve faced for generations. Where I live, in Hamilton, Ontario, there is still bitterness and resentment towards Natives because of a Native occupation several years ago in nearby Caledonia. That resentment has led to me being the target of several racial remarks, despite neither me nor any of my relatives being involved in the Caledonia incident.

Racial slurs aside, there is another reason being open about being Native can be a problem for me, branding wise: roughly 50% of Natives in Canada have a high school diploma, compared to roughly 80% of Canada’s non-Native population. The number drops to roughly 14% for university/college diplomas, compared to 35% for the rest of Canada. As I’ve written about before, I fall into that 86% of Natives without a university diploma. Along with education issues, another roadblock Natives face is that they are over-represented in Canada’s jail population, to the point where Supreme Court justices in both British Columbia and Manitoba have stated publicly that “something needs to be done” to address why so many Natives end up behind bars.

You might be asking “what does this have to do with personal branding?” and the answer is this: As much as we might believe we are a progressive society, especially here in North America, we still have a long way to full acceptance of those different from us. I’ve unfortunately had to face that stigma of racism when being assessed for a job. I guess I could highlight that being Native means hiring me helps fill government-mandated quotas for equal opportunity employment, but branding myself as “Hire me, I’m government quota-friendly!” doesn’t exactly scream “best qualified”…

However, when I think about it, “best qualified” doesn’t seem to matter all that much. It used to, but now that seems to have been replaced with “best promoted”. As I wrote earlier, I’m not the best at self-promotion. Self-promotion is something that is profoundly uncomfortable for me. Part of it is because of my upbringing. My adopted parents were children during the Great Depression and then World War II. What they were taught is that you’re part of a team, that we all have to work together, you should let your work speak for itself, and that self-promotion comes at the cost of social goals. They were also raised under the mantra of “a craftsman’s worth is shown by the quality of what he produces”.

Personal branding, in many cases, goes against that mantra. One thing I’ve learned from attending film industry meetings and networking get-togethers is that often the person promoting themselves loudest is, ironically, the person who has the least to actually give in terms of talent and ability. It’s the old “you can talk a good game” experience we’ve all had. With the explosion in social media, self-promotion is easier than ever and it’s no longer confined to just your personal sphere of influence. You can now post something on the internet and have it found around the world. The global village as led to global outsourcing of things you’d previously have to find either in your hometown or the nearest large city.

This isn’t necessarily a good thing. When TV was first becoming the media staple it is now, newsman and TV interviewer Edward R. Murrow said during an industry speech “It is not necessary to remind you that the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other”.

Applying this to social media, the danger of over-estimating our wonderment to the world at large should be very apparent. It’s easy to let our egos run away with us, especially knowing that the anonymity of the internet means consequences and proving of one’s abilities aren’t much of a priority. For example, I could brag that I’m now an internationally-read blogger, since according to WordPress’ tracking data for Shaneisms my posts have been read by people from North America, to Europe, to Asia, to Africa and everywhere else in between. That might sound cool, but what does it mean? Humbly speaking, not much. I think it’s cool that people from all the planet have take time to read my words, but like Murrow said, that doesn’t confer upon me any greater wisdom or understanding.

*Note to self: add “internationally-read blogger” to bio*

It’s far too easy to assign yourself a title that sounds good and impressive on a bio, even if those words are a stretch of the truth. For example, if I wanted to make myself sound far more impressive than I actually am, I could list all the jobs and volunteer activities I’ve done. I could list times I’ve been featured in some form of media, or things I’ve given lectures and sermons on. Using that criteria of self-promotion my titles list could go as follows:

Maintenance man, security guard, waiter, carpenter, roofer, Philosopher, on-air video game reviewer, stand-in elf, snow shoveller, grass cutter, card shark, dog sledder, Marilyn Monroe impersonator, videographer, filmmaker, writer, TV producer, media adviser, social activist, workshop leader, amateur pilot, Christian, die hard fan of the Toronto Blue Jays and Maple Leafs, Theologian, tour guide, fake superhero, philanthropist, cat herder, dog walker, snowfort builder, poetry quoter, babysitter, haunted-house mummy, carpet cleaner, comic book writer, internationally-read blogger, imitation midget, podcaster, alternate Pope, fake mustache enthusiast and, finally, the man behind the Great Moon Hoax of 1835.

All of those descriptions could be correct. Okay, maybe some of them are made up. They could all be made up. That doesn’t really matter though, does it? When it comes to personal branding, truth doesn’t seem to exactly be the main thing in mind. It’s all about setting yourself apart, saying “I’m unique, just like everyone else, and this why!” as loudly as possible. It’s about careful control of one’s personal image, the idealization of who you could be, even if it doesn’t match up with who you actually are.

Should that matter? Nah. Put your best foot forward, wear a snappy suit, and use buzzwords and phrases like “stakeholder” “political capital” and “synergy”. Branding doesn’t actually have to mean anything if it sounds really important when you say it. I really do think Winston Churchill was on to something when he said “however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”. After all, he knew a little something about putting forth a strong public image when it mattered most.

Personal branding does give me the chance to tell the world who I am on my own terms, which means I can present myself as the person I’ve always wanted to be. After all, my parents told me as a child that I could grow up to be anyone I wanted to be, even if it turns out as an adult this is called “identity theft“…

Maybe I should just be honest about who I am, warts and all. Honest is the best policy, right? But if I tell everyone who I am, warts and all, what if they don’t like me? What if they’re only interested in the snappy-suited, buzzword-using Shane? After all, it’s all about image, right? My actual talent doesn’t matter. I work in TV and film… we can greenscreen in my talent later, right? I’m so confused…

I guess I should go hire a personal brander to tell me who I really am…

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

There is a growing movement in Canadian Aboriginal circles called Idle No More. Its mission statement is to call “on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth”.

The driving force behind Idle No More is opposition to a piece of legislation before Canada’s Parliament, an omnibus bill with everything from changes to Senatorial pensions to the construction of a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit. The two sections causing the issues in Aboriginal circles are changes to the Indian Act and further changes to the Environmental Assessment Act.

Changes to the Indian Act include changing the rules about what kind of meetings are required to lease or grant interest in designated lands, as well as giving the Aboriginal Affairs minister the authority to call a band meeting or referendum for the purpose of considering the absolute surrender of the band’s territory to the federal government.

The Environmental Assessment Act changes include making major pipeline and inter-provincial power line projects exempt from requirements that they prove they wouldn’t damage or destroy navigable waterways in Canada. A list of lakes and rivers was attached to this section of the bill and anything mentioned on it is no longer under federal protection.

The effects the omnibus bill can have are potentially devastating to Aboriginal land claims. The changes to the Indian Act make it far easier for the Federal government to make expropriation claims on Aboriginal lands. Expropriation might be better known as “eminent domain”, meaning authorities have the right to buy private property for public use as long as there is fair compensation. This by itself isn’t detrimental to Aboriginal land claims, but there are other factors which make the timing of this legislation very suspect. We’ll get to those in a moment. The Environmental Assessment Act changes have taken protection off many Aboriginal-controlled lakes and rivers, making them open for development and resource harvesting. Again, it’s not the changes themselves that are the problem, but discussing what has come before the omnibus bill will make things clearer.

Let’s turn back the clock a bit:

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons and gave a solemn apology for Residential Schools, where thousands of Aboriginal children were taken from their parents and subjected to mistreatment, including physical and sexual abuse. This apology was seen as a strong step towards reconciliation for Aboriginal peoples across Canada and a government with which they have for decades viewed with mistrust.

On October 28, 2011, the Aboriginal community of Atiwapiskat declared a state of emergency for the third time in three years, resulting from multiple issues including housing, utilities, inadequate water and sanitation systems. The media attention the story quickly gathered brought the poverty of many Aboriginal communities to the screens of millions. The Harper government’s response was seen as slow, inadequate and willfully ignorant of the facts of the situation. Many Aboriginals I talked to saw this as a turning point in fighting the sense of increasing marginalization of Aboriginal communities.

On January 24, 2012, Harper met with Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo and while calling for an overhaul and updating of the Indian Act, promised that “Our government has no grand scheme to repeal or unilaterally rewrite the Indian Act”.

On June 4, 2012, Bill C-428, the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, was introduced by Saskatchewan Conservative MP Rob Clarke. The bill had mixed reactions in the Aboriginal communities. While the bill called for greater authority for Aboriginal chiefs and councils and less authority for the Native Affairs minister and federal government, it was also seen as a step against Prime Minister Harper’s promise to not repeal or unilaterally rewrite the Indian Act. The bill passed its first reading on December 5, 2012, by a vote of 156-129, with Prime Minister Harper voting in favor of it.

This brings us back to the omnibus bill that set Idle No More in motion. The bill, also known as Bill C-45, was passed on December 5 as well, by a vote of 156-128, again with Prime Minister Harper voting in favor of it.

So now what? From the joy of reconciliation to anger over changes in the Indian Act, it’s been a turbulent few years for Canadian Aboriginals. The timing of the bills, and their affect on Aboriginals is suspect because of the Harper government’s push to build a new oil pipeline, one that would most likely have run through Aboriginal land. The changes in how expropriation claims are made, to me, feels like the government is gearing up to start making claims on Aboriginal lands that run along the proposed pipeline routes by simply saying “the government has need of this land”. The taking away of protection status on some 16,000 lakes and rivers, again to me, seems like a move to make expropriation claims that much easier. What bothers me most is the giving the Aboriginal Affairs minister the authority to call a band meeting for the purpose of considering the absolute surrender of the band’s territory to the federal government. This feels to me like nothing more than a end-game solution for getting land that has politically valuable purpose.

The use of the omnibus bill, in which literally hundreds of amendments to law are pushed together, seems like a tactic designed simply to make it impossible to adequately argue against the proposed amendments in the House of Commons. With so many things pushed together, it becomes overwhelming to try to fully anticipate all intended affects of each section of the bill. The irony in this is that when Stephen Harper was first elected to Parliament, he was an outspoken critic of omnibus bill usage by the Liberal government, calling it an injustice to democracy.

I have no desire to turn this into an anti-Harper tirade. That’s not going to help anyone, especially in a situation as politically fragile as what we find ourselves in now. What I will say is this: when I see ads on TV promoting the proposed pipeline I smirk to myself because I can only imagine the amount of money and political wrangling behind that advertisement. Let me put it this way: if the pipeline was not such a political minefield, you wouldn’t need commercials to sway interest because there would be little opposition to it to begin with.

As for Idle No More, here’s my take on it: I myself am an Aboriginal of Ojibway descent and part of the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations. I was not raised in an Aboriginal home but was adopted by a Caucasian family. In this way I am, in many ways, an outsider looking in at my own culture. At the risk of opening up a firestorm, I am glad that I was adopted because it has given me opportunities that wouldn’t have been there if I had been raised by my birth family. Unfortunately my birth family falls in the category so many other Aboriginals have found themselves in, one where the cycle of addiction and brokenness only repeats itself with each passing generation.

A friend of mine teaches in a school in Fort Albany, Ontario, on James Bay. It is a mostly Aboriginal community and the stories of broken families she’s relayed to me are heartbreaking. Many of her students often miss class because they have to take care of their parents, who often spend their days and nights getting drunk. A number of those parents went to residential schools, and the abuse they suffered there has left them hardened and bitter towards any non-Aboriginal person. My friend, who is Caucasian, has said to me several times that “if you’re not Aboriginal, the chances of you being accepted in the community drop greatly”.

I say all this because I want to try to convey to you what’s at risk for the Aboriginal community. This isn’t just about land claims or bitterness over past treatment. There is a very real sense among Aboriginals that this a move to slowly do away with Aboriginals as a distinct society within Canada. If you slowly take away land claims, legally and politically assigned rights and privileges, eventually there will no distinction between Aboriginals and any other Canadian citizen. Perhaps the best way I can phrase this is that it’s “assimilation via the installment plan”.

I spoke at an Idle No More gathering and said that the time has come for Aboriginals to stop letting ourselves be marginalized and that it’s time to break free from that cycle of brokenness that has affected so many families. Most importantly, the time has come to forgive those who wronged us, whether it be by sending our children to residential schools, or putting us on reservations that limited our livelihood, or by any other way that we’ve been wronged.

Shawn Atleo, Aboriginal First Nations Chief, said ” We can’t work in isolation. The status quo has to be significantly changed, and these young people in the communities where I go need to see, taste and feel results sooner than later. I hope we’re in the kind of tipping point movement that other movements have experienced, whether it’s civil rights, women’s rights, the environmental issues”.

I do find myself torn when it comes to the Idle No More movement. On the one side, I can see where the merits are, where the possibility of change lies, but on the other, I really do wonder what lasting affect this activism will have, especially in seeing self-implosion of the Occupy movement. That said I do dream of a day when Natives are able to live up to their full potential in Canadian society. I dream of a day when the vicious cycles of addiction are finally broken. I dream of a day when I no longer have to worry about slurs and vitriol being flung at me simply because of my ethnic heritage.

Aboriginals have a voice and they have a vote that counts as equally as any other Canadian’s but up to now we’ve squandered that voice. For too long we’ve heard cries of “I’ve been wronged” instead of “I have something to contribute”. We are guilty for our predicament in that we stopped believing we could be more than what we were constantly told we were.

The first step is forgiveness. If we can forgive, we can move forward. I’m excited to see so many of my Aboriginal brothers and sisters coming together in a way never before seen. I just wish it didn’t take the threat of the end of our status as Aboriginals to ignite the fire.

“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was saddened to hear of the suicide of 15 year old Amanda Todd. She was cyber-bullied repeatedly by a man who circulated a photo of her flashing the camera. The fallout from that picture’s circulation led to her family moving and her changing schools. It didn’t stop the same cyber-bully from going after her again. And again the fallout caused her life to descend into shambles.

She posted a video on Youtube in September in which she detailed her life and what happened after the cyber-bullying began. I watched it with my wife and we were both heartbroken because we realized that even though the video was posted a month ago, it was most likely too little too late for Amanda. It wasn’t that it wouldn’t be viewed and people wouldn’t reach out to her. It was that, in all honesty, it felt like a suicide note, a last will and testament for a girl who felt she could never again have the privacy and dignity that all people inherently deserve.

Dr. Brenda Morrison, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, as well as a board member of SFU’s Centre for Restorative Justice, said in an article about Amanda’s suicide, “Once we’re in a downward spiral our negative self-talk can be so detrimental to us. And especially around issues around sexually, it cuts us at our core. Other kids pick up on that, we get labelled, the label becomes self-perpetuating and can end in tragedy, as we all know now”.

My last post on Shaneisms was about my distaste for social media. The sad case presented to us here is a reminder of the dangers of social media. While having almost limitless information at our fingertips is a wonderful resource, it is just as dangerous as a loaded gun when used maliciously. We can find addresses, social networking profiles, tweets and almost any information we want about someone with just a few keystrokes. And once a picture is posted online it can be just a matter of minutes before it’s impossible to wipe off the digital web.

Once we find information about someone, it can take only a few more keystrokes to set them on a self-destructive path. And because of the anominity of the internet there is often no fear of reprisal by those who use it to bully and abuse others. All you have to do is set up a profile under a false name and off you go, knowing it will be that much harder to find you. If you’re worried about your computer being tracked down via it’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) address you can always go to the library or an internet cafe, adding another layer of anominity for authorities to work through.

Here’s where we start to look at ourselves and our behavior, our reactions to a life lost long before it should have been.

After looking through videos and articles related to Amanda Todd, I started looking at online reactions. Many of these saddened me as much as Amanda’s story itself. I could not believe the number of people calling for revenge on those who bullied her. One young man on Youtube went as far as to call out the bullies, giving them directions on how to find him. While I admire his conviction, he became symbolic to me of our society’s wrong-headed notion of what Justice means.

When I worked through many of the comments I came across, I saw that, at the core of them, they called for what can only be described as “vigilante justice”.

“If the police won’t do something to stop them, then we should”, “let’s let the bullies have a taste of their own medicine”, “do you think they’d be laughing if it was their privacy invaded and their dirty laundry out there for the world to see?” “yeah you’re so tough picking on a teenage girl. think you’d be so tough against a grown man?”

The list of similar comments went on and on. I saw several Facebook posts that echoed the same sentiments. I understand completely where they are coming from. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” is a golden rule throughout the world. Unfortunately, in times of crisis and fear, we have a tendency to interpret this as “they did it to us, so doing it back is completely justified”. Is it really?

There was a time, a few years ago, where I had the chance to pay back in full kind someone who had made my life hell, with no possibility of any consequence to me. It was a free, wide open opportunity to give that person punishment for everything he had put me through. I won’t lie… knowing I could get away with it made it very tempting. But in the end I chose not to take vengeance and I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve often reviewed that day, going over every detail in my mind, every possible outcome. I came to the realization I would have become the very thing I hated: I would have become the bully. I would have become the coward.

These calls for “justice”, saying “repay them in kind” is nothing more than vigilantism. It’s about nothing more than one’s own gratification, about nothing more than satisfying one’s own need for vengeance, with the wrongful belief it will bring us a sense of balance. But will it really? How does becoming the bully to repay bullying lead to a higher form of justice?

If we truly desire justice, change, and healing, it can only come when we end our desire to see the other person hurt.

Am I saying that those who bullied Amanda should get away scot free? No. They crossed a line and there have to be consequences and prevenative measures. What does need to change is our instinctive desire for revenge as a means of seeking justice. We must put our pride, ego, and desires aside and work towards a greater Good.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate:
only love can do that.

I believe with all my heart that love is more powerful than hate. It is also far more difficult to act out of love because it requires us to make ourselves vulnerable to attack. It requires us to give with no thought of repayment. It asks of us everything with no guarantee of even our own safety. Revenge allows us to stay within our comfort zones. Love often requires we leave them. Especially tough love. It too easy to forget that often the schoolyard bully comes from a home where they’re the one bullied. It is very rare the person that bullies and attacks for no reason and not out of some hurt in their own life. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to say that whether you were the bully or the one being picked on really came down to your social environment. Another roll of the family situational dice and you could have been in the opposite role you found yourself in grade school.

Amanda Todd felt like an outsider, someone who had been misunderstood and labeled by someone else’s abuse. She didn’t realize how far and wide her life and her passing would affect people. Perhaps she will spur you to act, to prevent further tragedies. If you’re asking “but what can I do”, use some keystrokes and look up positive ways to combat bullying in your community. I’ll even give you a head start. Head on over to thejackproject.org and read how you can help. The Jack Project was started in memory of Jack Windeler, an 18 year old who committed suicide after falling into a deep depression.

For all the negative posts I saw about Amanda Todd’s death, I did come across many sensitive, sorrowful and caring ones, like this one: “I’m sorry you had to go through all that, I’m sorry that people are that horrible and cruel, I’m sorry you had to experience being that alone and I’m sorry that you had to end your life so short of its potential.”

Maybe one day, if we work together, other boys and girls, other men and women, in Amanda’s position will find the encouragement and strength to reach that potential.

Maybe.

“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.” – Groucho Marx

EA Games, makers of the upcoming Medal Of Honor: Warfighter video game, recently removed a blog that gave reviews of the real-world weapons used in the game itself, as well as links to the manufacturers’ websites. The blog was put up to promote a charity partnership, with EA’s proceeds from the partnership going to the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provide scholarship grants and couselling services to families of fallen special operations personal as well as financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personal.

Now, let me state this straight away: I am in full support of the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. War is a horrible thing and anything done to heal the wounds suffered in battle, both physical and psychological, should be done with everyone’s full support. What I am against is EA Games’ decision to promote real-world weapons as a video game tie-in.

I’m not worried about those who use weapons properly, with proper training and proper securing of weapons when not in use. I am worried about kids going to the game’s website and blog and seeing the weapons promoted as being something so awesome you can’t live without them. My reason? Well, let me put it this way: curiosity and hindsight rarely go hand in hand.

Most of the blog postings about the weapons have been taken down after criticism of the partnership. A common criticism on posts regarding the program I’ve seen is the irony of promoting weapons to raise money for families whose lives have been torn apart by weapons themselves, in some cases including ones promoted on the blog itself.

I am all for promotional tie-ins, especially ones with charitable donations involved. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve donated an extra dollar or two to a charity drive while getting fast food or making a purchase at a department store. I’m all for cross-promotions and I usually find them fun to look into, like the James Bond series’ on-going promotion with Aston Martin. As it stands right now, one of the books I currently have on the go is the novelization of “The Dark Knight Rises”, after buying and enjoying the novelizations of the previous two Batman movies. If you, as a media company, have created a cool world to get lost in, the geek in me is going to want to take part of that world home with me. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Here we get into a murky ethical area. If someone buys a first person shooter game like MoH: Warfighter and then decides the weapons are cool, buys one and then opens fire on an innocent crowd, I wouldn’t hold the game manufacturer responsible anymore than I would hold the Beatles responsible for the Manson Family killing because of Manson’s misinterpretation of songs on the Beatles’ “White Album”. Case in point: when the Columbine shooting happened it was revealed the shooters were huge fans of the video game “Doom”, which lead to many wanting the game banned outright. However, subsequent studies, including ones done by Harvard Medical School and the US Department of Education found playing violent video games, including Doom, was not a cause for violent school attacks.

Where EA has gone wrong, in my opinion, is being realistic about the target audience for the game. Yes, it’s rated “M for Mature”, meaning it can’t be bought by those under 18, but there are numerous documented cases of underage kids getting M-rated games as gifts or by pestering their parents into buying it for them. I myself have seen it firsthand while standing in line at stores like EB Games, a parent buying a game with their teenage child right next to them. You can tell which one of the two the game is for. Hint: it’s not the one footing the bill.

If someone decides to go the illegal route of getting the game, namely via downloading a pirated copy off the internet, there’s not much you can do to stop them, let alone make sure they are of legal age to play the game. Sure the websites for M-rated games are often requiring age verification but any teenager knows all you have to do is enter a date of birth prior to 1994 and you’re golden. EA knows this. They are well aware of the problems and loss of revenue caused by piracy, hence new forms of Digital Rights Management (DRM) such as one-time activation (also preventing re-sale in the used game market) and the requirement of an always-on internet connection to play the game. And again, I’m all for protecting your intellectual property and any produced product, even if it does treat the honest buyer the same way as the dishonest scammer.

I guess what I’m calling for is a sense of responsibility from companies in how they market their products. With the recent shootings in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, we need to be more aware than ever of the seduction a weapon can have on someone who feels singled out or comes from a rough background. A gun can be far too empowering for someone who feels like they don’t have any control over the world around them. In working with at-risk youth I can tell you first hand the personality change that someone can go through the moment a weapon comes into their posession. The Warfighter blog showcasing the real-world power of the in-game weaponry is, to me, too close to lighing match under a power keg. The whole purpose of advertising or promotion is to make you believe you can’t live without something you may have not even known existed ten minutes ago. And a high-powered weapon can seem like an easy way out of your problems when things are going bad.

EA Games knows their games are big hits among the under-30 crowd. Multiplayer deathmatches are a way I and many friends have passed (far too much) time during our high school and university days. I used to work at a gaming cafe where teens from the local high school would come in after class and have Call Of Duty deathmatches. There wasn’t a bad kid in the bunch. Issues including being socially awkward and having questionable hygiene where very prevalent but no one who played in the daily deathmatches set off alarms for potentially violent behavior.

Here’s a better idea for EA, if they’re so adamant about raising money for soldier-related charities: donate a portion of sales from Warfighter and other EA Games titles. If they gave one half of one percent of their stated 2012 earnings (4.14 billion dollars) to the Navy SEAL and Special Operations Warrior Foundations, that would work out to over twenty million dollars in donations. Too much to ask of EA? Probably. Especially with all the piracy going on in the video game market. I guess the real world isn’t as cool as video games make it out to be.

“Listen, everyone is entitled to my opinion.” – Madonna

Maybe the most fitting quotation for asking “why blog” is the comment above from Madonna because, really, why spend all the time crafting something that could end up only finding a niche audience? Like anything worth doing it takes time and effort, but there’s no assurance of any pay-off. But is pay-off the reason for doing it in the first place?

We could do it for promoting something we’re involved in or something that interests us. We could do it to build community. We could do it simply for vanity. There’s a dangerous trend in our society to over-value our self-worth and the importance of our point of view. This shouldn’t be surprising.

More and more studies are appearing from a variety of sources looking at the increase in narcissistic behaviour in accordance with the rise of social media. Where it used to be that only a select few had the ability to broadcast ideas and opinions, now anyone can do it anywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, podcasting and blogging make it so anyone can say “here I am”. For the attention seekers, all you need to do to stroke your own ego is to record you doing a stunt, write something purposely saying something infuriating, or post a picture of yourself that garners attention for all the wrong reasons.

I’m not saying posting stuff is only done out of wanting attention for attention’s sake. I have friends who’ve fostered rewarding online communities through their social media efforts. I’ve seen friends raise money for charities, bring attention to worthy causes and help people realize “you matter” when it seems the world is saying “no, you don’t”.

The rise of social media presents us with a double-edged sword. For all the intelligent debates social media can foster, it can give as much rise to ignorant ranting. For all the educational value it can have, there can be as many areas that will leave you feeling like you’ve willfully given yourself a lobotomy.

In 1958, Edward R. Murrow gave a speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association. He talked about the then new medium of television, but the words, I think, can be equally applied to the new medium of social networking: “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.”

So here is my battle cry: This blog will be dedicated to trying to make you think, even as opposed as you might be to that idea. That’s not to say we can’t have some fun and some laughs along the way. All I ask is that you keep an open mind. I give you my word I’ll endeavor to do the same. Think of this as an area of “edutainment”.

In the upcoming weeks there will be more activity on Shaneisms, but here’s where I need your help. I want suggestions of what to write about. It can be anything, from current events to a random question that’s been on your mind. Think of it as putting the “social” in “social media”. For now, dear reader, I leave you with a final parting quote about the responsibility inherent in social media, again courtesy of Edward R. Murrow:

“You will forgive me for not telling you that instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated. It is not necessary to remind you that the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.”