The Importance of Objectivity

Objectivity:  expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.Merriam-Webster

Fellow Pollyanna’s are hard to come by these days. Objective thinkers who are willing to look for the good in people and examine the “what if”, or the “if X than Y”  of a situation, free from personal opinion and emotion. The human animal is primarily ruled by emotion over reason; so much so that perception is often distorted into fact. 

I talked in a previous post about my feelings on fairness, equality and impartiality. Fairness: being free from prejudice and self-interest. Equality: recognizing every individual as being equal under the law, both natural and man-made. Impartiality: setting aside personal bias and keeping an open mind. I also talked in my last post about the words “I’m sorry” and “accountability” disappearing from the English language. I would like refer back to both of those posts, because all of these things have been lost recently on account of one topic:  a perceived incident of racism.

Yes, I said perceived and in the name of impartiality and Pollyanna’s everywhere, I stand by it. I’ve endured quite a bit of flack on Twitter for presenting a Pollyanna angle on the Wayne Simmonds incident, hoping (not unlike the player himself) that it wasn’t racially motivated and perhaps the banana tosser would come forward and say “I’m sorry”.  Thinking with the Pollyanna mindset does not in any way mean I don’t have my doubts as to the intention behind the act, because I do, and therein lies the overall point of this post.

If there is room for  any sort of doubt in my mind as to a person’s guilt or innocence, I have a hard time playing judge and jury. I have experienced and witnessed racism first hand.  In my ‘Welcome‘ post I tell you that I have a story, and that is one fraction of it.  I have endured slurs, bullying and violence because of the friend I chose as a child, and the colour of her skin.  We fought back with our words, with education and often times, with humour.  And it made us stronger, more compassionate and more tolerant.

I have my doubts based on my emotions and personal experience, but I still have to ask: where and what are the facts in this case? I have seen very few.  What we know: two bananas (or were they peels?) were thrown on the ice at two different times, while the same player was on the ice. No slur or statement is heard on the video which shows one of the two tosses, which would confirm the act had racial intent. There is no statement from the tosser or anyone who knows him that would suggest he is a racist. In fact, the statements from ‘friends of friends’ to the contrary suggest that it was a dumb, drunken act and was against the player, not his race.

The perception of it being an act of racism is based on the emotion of those who witnessed the event, and who later relayed the story to the world. Their opinion, and now the opinion of much of the public, is formed solely on the fact that it was a banana thrown at a black player.  A player who has stated himself he wasn’t 100% sure of the intent. If it was a white player this debate would not exist.That is a given.

Honestly, is that enough evidence to charge, convict and publicly flog the person responsible as being a vile racist that we must expose and destroy? Not in my opinion, and I know – thankfully – I am not alone. Why I am thankful for that knowledge and not quick to play judge and jury comes down to this:

Last week in the United States, the night before the banana tossing incident at the JLC, a man named Troy Davis was executed in the state of Georgia.  This came after several years of appeals and several “eyewitnesses” rescinded their testimony stating police coercion as the reason. Reasonable doubt should have saved him from execution, but at the eleventh hour, the U.S. Supreme Court decided his appeal would not be heard any further. A potentially innocent man died that night. Meanwhile, on the same day, in the same state, a confessed killer was granted clemency and his sentence was commuted from death to life in prison.

If you are not angered – nay, outraged – by what I have just told you, then there is no hope that my post will help you see objectively, now or in the future. While different in the severity of their crimes, both men, Troy Davis and the JLC Banana Tosser, are victims of being denied “the benefit of the doubt”.  Both have been convicted without a fair review of the facts. As a good friend so succinctly put it, “The court of public opinion has one harsh bitch as a judge.”

It has been my opinion since the beginning that the incident – whether racist in it’s intent or a result of dumb drunkenness – was wrong, and if the culprit had any decency or morals an apology should have been forthcoming.  We could debate all day over the intent and implications, but without the facts to support it there is no right or wrong answer, and the debate will continue in circles. Where does it end?

Racist or drunken, the perpetrator has to live with that demon. We have done our part to show the world that while one person’s actions can be perceived as being so negative and hateful, it is not reflective of the status quo.  Every person who has felt emotion and anger over this should pat themselves on the back for having a heart and a conscious. But in my opinion, it’s time to let it go, and I don’t think Wayne Simmonds would disagree.

Anger and hatred breed rapidly, especially when fed. Seek out the positive and let it breed instead.  Be objective in your thinking and fair in your judgement, and accept that maybe – just maybe – this incident had no racial intent.  Perception does not equate to fact. Be responsible in your judgement, because judging in the absence of fact may do more harm, where you think you are doing good.

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What’s so wrong with saying, “I’m Sorry”.

I’m sorry dear readers, I must confess something:  I am apologetic.

If I dial the wrong number, I apologize.  If I let the door go at the mall, not realizing someone is walking behind me, I apologize.  If you were to run over my foot with your cart at the grocery store, I would most likely be the one to apologize. Yup. Even if you were lost in space, zigzagging through the aisle,  head spun around like Linda Blair looking everywhere but where you need to be…  I would say “I’m sorry”. (But that one would be difficult.)  And if I’m wrong in my actions or words, I apologize.

I know some of you will have the urge to criticize me for this “character flaw”, and that’s okay. (Don’t be surprised if you apologize for it later.)  But I will save you the trouble now and reply, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I regret that it is too difficult to teach this old dog new tricks, and I hope you will excuse me.”

Never underestimate the power of a sincere “I’m sorry”.  Two words that many have forgotten how to say, along with another forgotten word:  accountability.  It’s never anybody’s fault anymore.  Fingers fly in each direction, and nobody will take responsibility and say, “I was wrong.”

Three recent, very disappointing incidents in London, Ontario demonstrate this, two of which have made national news.

The first incident took place at a local weekend market, Trails End. Three transgendered individuals, who were working at a booth selling candles, were told by the market owner that they were not welcome.  The owner cited concerns as to which washroom the transgendered individuals would use, and the attention they drew from customers as his reasons for asking them not to return.  It wasn’t anything they said or did, it was just simply that “they” were “them”; discrimination due to lack of education.  A petition in protest of the market owner’s decision has collected more than 2100 signatures in a little over a day.  This is absolutely a case where an apology could go far;  saving not only the owner’s reputation, but also the reputations of the market vendors who rent space from him.

The second incident occurred yesterday afternoon when a 17 year old was subdued with a taser – partially in the head – by police during a fist fight with another young man.  I invite you to watch the video and decide for yourself if the officer was justified in his use of the taser or not.  My opinion is unimportant and still forming.  What is important is the fact that  nobody has taken accountability for it.  The young men who were fighting have not said, “I’m sorry. We shouldn’t have been fighting, and this wouldn’t have happened.”  They are the victims of their own actions, and they should accept responsibility as such.

Public response to the incident is divided as to whether or not the officer was justified in his use of the taser, and appears to lean slightly more heavily on the side of it being an excessive use of force.  The Chief contends the officer was justified due to the threat of harm the young man posed by wielding a chair.  However, the fact that he shot the young man in the head, which provincial guidelines advise against, and did not give him any sort of warning take the attention away from any justification he may have.  Case #2 where an apology on the part of the officer for bad aim and failing to warn the kid could work wonders to quell public anger.

The third and final incident has been discussed around the world today and occurred last night when the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers played an exhibition hockey game at the John Labatt Centre.  An unidentified attendee is accused of throwing a banana (or two, by some accounts) at player, Wayne Simmonds.  Simmonds is one of very few black players in the NHL.

Those who were at the game and witnessed what happened were appalled, and news of it quickly spread through social media and across the sports stations.  Many argue that without a statement from the alleged banana tosser, the media and public are being too hasty to condemn this as a racially motivated act.  While true, this is case #3 where an apology would be very welcome right about now.  Whether racially motivated or not, it was unnecessary and has been upsetting to many people.  If it was a misunderstanding, an apology should not be so difficult  to give.  A simple, “I’m sorry.” would go a long, long way. And it shouldn’t have to come from us.

London residents should not have to feel apologetic for the incidents we had no hand in last night, yesterday or last week, but we do.  We feel embarrassed and ashamed by it and we make apologies to the world; begging forgiveness from many for the actions of few. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion.  After all, I apologize for everything even if it isn’t my fault, right?  (Again, sorry ’bout that.)  But it’s time we start demanding society return to individual accountability, from ourselves and from others.  Let’s bring back the value of a few small words because honestly, I don’t know what’s so wrong with saying, “I’m sorry”.

Remembering 9/11

As I sit watching the memorial for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, I am once again reminded of my own memories of that day.

I was working at an inbound call centre for London Life Insurance and I had just started my shift.  It was a fairly steady morning and I answered my third call.  The client came on the line inquiring about funds available for withdrawal on her policy.  We began the process of confirming her information when suddenly she yelped in horror.

“Oh my God!” she said, “A plane just flew into the building!”

“Ma’am,” I said, “Do you need to get to safety? Are you okay??”

“Not my building,” she replied, “The World Trade Centre!”  She was in shock by what she was seeing on the news, and we quickly went through her request and ended the transaction. I turned to my colleague to relay what had transpired on the call to her. “Where is the World Trade Centre again?” I asked, and she explained it was in New York City.

“Odd accident”, I thought to myself. I assumed the pilot of a small plane must have lost control, flying freakishly into the building. Never in a milion years was I prepared for what was to come on the next call.  As we spoke, the client told me she was watching the news footage of what had happened a few moments before in New York City. There were no details, she explained, as to whether it was an accident or what size plane had hit. We shared theories and possibilities and agreed, it was an odd accident.

Within moments the client shrieked in terror. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Another plane has hit the second tower! Oh my God!” she cried, “This is no accident.  The United States is under attack!” My jaw dropped and the colour must have drained from my face, as my colleague came over to my desk to ask what was happening. I scribbled a note for her as I finished my call with the client who was distraught by what she witnessed on the TV and said she would call again later.

I immediately pulled the CNN website up on my computer to see for myself what was happening.  Photos were very slowly trickling in showing smoke billowing from the 2 buildings, and a wave of panic spread over us all.  The phones seemed to slow right down as the news of what was happening spread.

A television set was brought into our lounge and we took turns sitting glued to it on our breaks and lunch, filled with utter disbelief.  I will never forget some of the first images I saw that day.  People jumping for their lives from the top floors of the building.  I cannot imagine being forced to make a choice like that, and what must have been going through their minds:  jump to your probable death, or stay on the top floors and be burned to death.  The image is forever imprinted in my mind, and I cannot shake it no matter how hard I try.

The North American world as we know it changed that day. Canadians and Americans alike shared this tragedy, and we can never forget it.  We must remember, however, that this is the reality for many around the world every single day.  We must count our blessings that, for most of us, this is the first horror we have witnessed in our lives and think of those struggling against dictators who deny them food, freedom and the safety we take for granted.

Take some time today to reflect on the incidents of 9/11, and of all the men, women and children who lost their lives that day.  Their loss cannot be in vain.  We must stand together to create a world of peace where incidents like the 9/11 attack, and those that occur every single day around the world, are things of the past.  We are all part of one human family, and the infighting among us must stop.  It has to begin with each of us.

Count your blessings, love your human brothers and sisters and please, stop the fight.  World Peace starts with each of us.  No truer words: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Fairness, Equality and Impartiality

I am hearing a refrain of “It’s not fair!” lately, and no, it’s not from my kids.  It’s election season in Ontario, which means it’s platform and promises time, which in turn means it’s “you can’t please everybody” time.  People listen for promises from each party that they hope will ease their burden just a little, and when there is nothing recognizable to benefit them in the platform, they cry “unfair”.

Is it truly unfair, or does it just not fit our own personal agenda? It’s a question worthy of consideration in the current social and economic climate we live in.  In many parts of Canada, employment is at an all time high.  Especially here in London, Ontario.  The numbers released today show a slight drop in the unemployment rate, and I might have heard a very faint cheer as the news spread.

It is welcome news, but I won’t to get too excited yet.  The drop can easily be attributed to the transient, student population in London. The return of the school year always means a few more positions re-open, easing the burden on the unemployed population – a little.  The reality is there is still a lot of work to be done at the municipal, federal and provincial levels to create the much needed jobs. Like, yesterday.

We need jobs.

Of course, job creation is a very hot issue in this election.  The Liberal Premier, Dalton McGuinty, has come forward with a couple of ideas to stimulate our workforce that have created a buzz in the media and subsequently, the voters.  As the incumbent, and not an overly popular one at the moment (self admittedly), he has an uphill battle.

Yesterday at the University of Western Ontario, Premier McGuinty announced 200 jobs (plus the potential for spin off jobs) planned for London thanks to the Samsung, green energy plant that will locate here.  Opposed to McGuinty’s green energy plans, Progressive Conservative leader, Tim Hudak,  has said the Conservative Party will tear the Samsung contract up should they be elected, and the entire green energy program would be scrapped.

Energy is a very complex issue and, in my opinion, is not something we should politicize in this manner. Coal, a non-renewable energy that takes millions of years to create, has numerous emissions that pollute the air we breath.  Nuclear, well, it scares the beejeezus out of me.  The possibility of a reactor meltdown is the stuff horror movies are made of.  Wind is possibly, and reportedly, harming people who live near the turbines, and wildlife is suffering. There is not enough evidence to the contrary to debate or doubt that what is happening is real, and these concerns must be taken seriously.  Solar panels seem to be the least harmful form of power generation, but are proving to be costly to manufacture for what they in turn produce.

Each energy option has it’s downfalls, yet we know something has to be done.  Instead of politicizing the issue, we need to defer to the experts to weigh the benefits and risks further.  We, personally, need to weigh the immediate financial cost versus the future financial and health costs of each option to ourselves and our environment. The rising costs of energy sting, yes, but avoiding discussion and exploration of the issue will only hurt us down the road. We need to be forward thinking, and a little less self-centred.

The proposed $10,000 tax incentive to hire recent, skilled immigrants who have come to Ontario from other countries is another hot button issue that has come under attack.  I must admit, when I first heard of it I was a bit taken aback.  After all, I am a recently unemployed Ontarian heading out into a competitive market with too few jobs.  The thought that Sally from the UK could possibly be hired over me for 10,000 reasons (that would likely have nothing to do with suitability for the position) nearly had me seeing red.

“That’s not fair!”, I said.

I did some investigation and realized the positions covered under the credit are not positions I would qualify for based on my education anyway. So I decided to look at it from another perspective. It’s not “fair” to me, but who is it “fair” to?

I thought of my husband’s co-worker who is an immigrant and fully qualified x-ray technician, working on an assembly line in an auto plant who’s future is still unsure. He doesn’t have the required credentials to work as an x-ray technician in Ontario, and trying to get accreditation has historically proven very difficult.

I thought of physicians – too many to count – who drive taxi cabs in my city and elsewhere.  Not out of choice, but necessity, and I thought of how desperately I need a family doctor. The red tape they face to earn the accreditation to practice medicine in Canada has held immigrants back for years.  Tell me, is that “fair”?

Opportunity exists for all of us based on our need.  Through the Ontario Government Second Career program, I or any other unemployed Ontarian may apply for assistance to return to school and find a second career.  I  personally would not qualify for it, based on the education I have under my belt and I accept that.  I don’t mind leaving that opportunity and the funding open for someone else who can use it. But the opportunity is there. That’s fairness.

All Ontarians deserve the opportunity to better themselves, and to be assisted in that process by any means we can make available.  Out of equality, we should not begrudge helping them. Equality does not mean sameness. We need to put aside our personal biases of  what is fair or unfair, and look past our self-interest. That is impartiality.

There is a need among many of us, and that includes our immigrant population in Ontario who – for the record – are included in the 8.9% unemployment rate in London, and the 500,000 unemployed across Ontario.  They are us, and we are them. That is Canada.

Keep an open mind as you go into this election season.  You may not agree with the policies and promises for your own, personal reasons.  And that is okay.  But be aware of other perspectives, take them into consideration, and try to look past the end of your own nose.

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. John Lydgate, poet.

A poll on polls

In my last post about polls, I cautioned “Don’t believe the hype.”  And I meant it.  I’ve become a little skeptical about the accuracy of opinion polls in the last few years due to the increase in trend in homes abandoning landlines for cell phone service.  I’ve never had a call on my cell phone or home phone, and not many people I speak to have either.

I decided to do a little ‘unscientific research’ into the matter.  Out of my

I was assured by Frank Graves of Ekos Research, however, that they do call cell phones

Then election 41 happened.  Anyone who has been following it closely knows these last two weeks have been all about “they hype”.  The surge of the NDP in the polls and the sharp decline of the Liberal party, and the unwavering support of the Conservative faithfuls.  It has been, quite frankly, quite exciting.