“How do we explain our findings that redistributive spending that mainly benefits the poor is significantly larger in representative democracy than in direct democracy? We argue that the most likely explanation is that direct democracy is more prone to capture by (rich) local elites than representative democracy.4 In direct democracy, local elites are able to deter the entry of political parties, in particular pro-poor left-wing parties. Moreover, poor people are often relatively isolated and less organized collectively. These reasons thus make it very hard for the voices of the poor to be heard (Robinson 2010). In addition, the typical absence of a secret ballot in town meetings means that the local elite can control the voters (Baland and Robinson 2008) (Hinnerich and Pettersson-Lidbom 2010-10-20).”

Representative democracy “increases political participation, redistributive spending, and the size of government. The estimated effects on public spending to the poor (poverty relief, child welfare and basic public education) are on the order of 35-70 percent while the effect on political participation is between 150-200 percent (Hinnerich and Pettersson-Lidbom 2010-10-20).”

Direct democracy “is more prone to capture by (rich) local elites than representative democracy (Hinnerich and Pettersson-Lidbom 2010-10-20).”

Hinnerich, Björn Tyrefors; Pettersson-Lidbom, Per. 2010-10-20. “Democracy, Redistribution, and Political Participation: Evidence from Sweden 1919-1950.”

(Hinnerich and Pettersson-Lidbom 2010-10-20)

Venice, Louisiana is aptly nicknamed “the end of the world.” The community of 1000, which includes Venice, Orchard and Boothville, is south of New Orleans is the most southerly terminus of the Great River Road and the last community on the Mississippi River. Venice was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. East of Venice, LA is a human-induced oxygen deprived dead zone on the Gulf of Mexico seabed with too little oxygen to support fish, shrimp, crabs and other forms of marine life, that expanded to its largest on record by 2008 of c. 8,000 square miles.

One of Venice’s main industries is to provide service and transport for off-shore petroleum platforms, including BP’s  Deepwater Horizon oil rig which exploded 2010-02-20 killing eleven people and causing a huge oil spill.

Deepwater Horizon, built in 2001, was a Transocean-owned semisubmersible drilling rig but it was leased to BP (65%), with partners Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Mitsui & Co. owning the remainder.

BP plc founded in 1909 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (See wiki for its Iranian-British-American history), which became The British Petroleum Company plc then BP Amoco plc now called BP) “is a British global energy company that is also the third largest global energy company and the 4th largest company in the world. As a multinational oil company (“oil major”) BP is the UK’s largest corporation, with its headquarters in St James’s, City of Westminster, London.[2][3][4] The company is among the largest private sector energy corporations in the world, and one of the six “supermajors” (vertically integrated private sector oil exploration, natural gas, and petroleum product marketing companies). BP’s 2009 reports a revenue of $246.1 billion, a net incomeof US $16.58 billion, a total equity of US $101.6 billion with 92,000 employees worldwide. wiki source

See dramatic photos here.

BP’s Gulf of Mexico Deepwater operations which include Atlantis Oil Field, Thunder Horse, Mad Dog, Pompano, Holstein, Horn Mountain, Marlin, Nakika and Tiber oilfield (announced 2009; production not commenced) operates from Houston, Texas.

“Transocean LTD is the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor. The company rents out floating, mobile drill rigs, along with the equipment and personnel needed for operations, to oil and gas companies. The company was spun-off from its parent, Birmingham, Alabama based Sonat, Inc. in 1993 and was originally called Sonat Offshore Drilling, Inc. Sonat Offshore acquired the Norwegian group Transocean ASA in 1996 and adopted its name. In 2000 the company merged with Sedco Forex, and was renamed Transocean Sedco Forex. In 2001 the company bought Reading & Bates Falcon. The name of the company was simplified to Transocean in 2003. Sedco Forex was originally part of Schlumberger until 2000 when it was spun off. Sedco Forex was originally formed from the merger of two drilling companies, the Southeast Drilling Company (Sedco) and French drilling company Forex. Transocean employs approximately 26,300 people worldwide and has a fleet of 136 vessels and units as of March, 2009. It was incorporated in the Cayman Islands while the principal office is in Houston, Texas. On December 8, 2008, the company’s shareholders voted to move its incorporation from the Caymans to Zug, Switzerland. The company has offices in 20 countries around the world, with major offices in Stavanger, Aberdeen, Perth, Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia. On July 23, 2007, Transocean announced a merger with GlobalSantaFe Corporation. The merger was completed on November 27, 2007.” wiki source

Steven L. Newman, CEO became CEO of Transocean in March 2010 just before the explosion. Newman joined the company in 1994 in the Corporate Planning Department. Mr. Newman holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and an MBA from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.

Macondo prospect:
“The Macondo prospect is located on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in the Gulf of Mexico in a water depth of 4,993 feet (1,522 meters). BP serves as the operator and holds a 100% interest in the prospect, which was acquired at the MMS Lease Sale #206 in March 2008. On Feb. 23, 2009 an EP was submitted to MMS (OCS-G 32306) proposing to drill and temporarily abandon two exploratory wells on the field. Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon semisub, which caught fire on April 20, 2010, was drilling the Macondo prospect. According to Dow Jones, the well had reached a depth of at least 11,500 feet (3,502 meters), when BP filed a permit with MMS to temporarily abandon the well. The rig sunk after erupting into flames from a blowout. BP may drill a relief well, if required, and will utilize a nearby drilling rig, which is available to commence drilling immediately source.”

Old age is monetized and pressure is placed on older adults to strategically outsmart future financial markets to ensure a personal portfolio protection against poverty in their final years. Women remain at highest risk of poverty since statistics show that women do not save for their retirement. The subtext of this Financial Post article on “Your Money” is one of individual responsibility to strategically manage money factoring in the potential economical situation from twenty to sixty years in the future. Given that the financial experts themselves were unable to foresee the financial meltdown even months in advance or to respond to it effectively even months afterwards this is just another callous empty article providing adult children of the elderly and social agencies with another excuse to blame impoverished elderly for their own demise.

As the extremes of wealth and poverty intensify, insurance companies, banks and financial institutions entangle webs of potentially lucrative and increasingly complex refinanced, repackaged and unregulated debt, credit and insurance schemes that reap huge dividends for a handful while stripping the most vulnerable of everything including their homes, their incomes, adequate health care provided in a respectful dignified environment and finally a place to die  with dignity in a truly respectful care giving environment.

Webliography and Bibliography

Allentuck, Andrew. 2020-01-20. “Living longer — will poverty stalk the very elderly?Financial Post.

long term care insurance, retirement strategies, retirement, life expectancy, boomers, health, at-risk, belonging, moral topography, humiliation, dignity, at risk populations, Social Justice, social exclusion, vulnerability to social exclusion, moral mathematics, poverty, extremes wealth poverty, policy research, @twitter,

Governing Board of the European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF). 2009-06. “An Ethical Perspective on Today’s Economic Crisis: A statement from the European Baha’i Business Forum.”

“The world is passing through an economic and financial crisis unprecedented in modern times. Its global scope transcends the cyclical adjustments of national economies and the corrective instruments usually used by business and national governments. The general malaise and loss of confidence point to deeper issues and more fundamental flaws in the economic system, extending to a crisis of leadership and values. This unprecedented crisis, together with its accompanying social breakdown, reflects a profound error of conception about human nature itself. We are being shown that, unless the development of society finds a purpose beyond the mere amelioration of material conditions, it will fail to attain even this goal. That purpose must be sought in spiritual dimensions of life and motivation that transcend a constantly changing economic landscape and an artificially imposed division of human societies into “developed” and “developing”. The European Baha’i Business Forum recognizes in this situation an opportunity to reshape the fundamental concepts and structures that will not only lift us from this crisis but set us on a road towards a new set of institutions and behaviours which will enable humankind to prosper. As the present crisis is fundamentally one of trust and integrity, and therefore ethical in its foundation, its solution cannot be a mere institutional reorganization or some additional regulatory measures. It needs an ethical response at all levels: the individual, the corporation and the government and regulatory entities. There is no quick fix to this situation. Several principles must be considered while reshaping our thinking on institutions and the individuals that compose them. We need to replace the concept of self-centred materialism with that of service to humanity, competition with cooperation, corruption with ethical behaviour, sexism with gender balance, more authoritarian legislation with personal ethics, national regulation with international supervision, protectionism with world unity, and injustice with justice. EBBF promotes and welcomes engagement with the widest possible community to develop together the new framework. Given the importance of the business community in the world, we should draw on its special capabilities and resources, in collaboration with governments, international organizations and NGOs, to design the institutional framework and the guiding principles of the new economic system. We call on peoples from all businesses, countries, and walks of life to work together to build a new economic system based upon equity and justice (EBBF 2009-06).”

Who’s Who

“EBBF is a network of over 400 women and men, a community of people passionate about bringing ethical values, personal virtues and moral leadership into their workplaces. Its membership is diverse and crosses generations, borders, sectors and beliefs. It began in 1990 and is now present in over 60 countries. EBBF’s vision is to enhance the well-being and prosperity of humankind. It believes that positively influencing the world of business, starting from the inspiration of action by each of its members, is an important step in this direction (EBBF 2009-06).”

Notes

“EBBF promotes seven core values that it feels are of strategic importance in enhancing business performance: Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Sustainable Development, Partnership of Women and Men, A New Paradigm of Work, Consultation in Decision-Making, Values-Based Leadership (EBBF 2009-06).”

Webliography

Governing Board of the European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF). 2009-06. “An Ethical Perspective on Today’s Economic Crisis: A statement from the European Baha’i Business Forum.” Chambery, France.

Displaced workers mysteriously drop out of civic, business, political, neighborhood groups, social and leisure activities, country clubs, sports teams and weekly gatherings with friends, Brand and Burgard (2008). UCLA-University of Michigan, Ann Arbor study researcher claims, “Everybody loses when people withdraw from society.”

However, membership in professional and political organizations did not decline in the study group. “Displacement seems to change their whole trajectory of participation (Brand 2008).”

“Even a single involuntary displacement has a lasting impact on a worker’s inclination to volunteer and participate in a whole range of social and community groups and organizations, found the study, which appears in the September issue of the international scholarly journal Social Forces.”

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“Social participation is important to participatory democracy, to healthy neighborhoods, and to effective schools (Putnam 2000). Individuals who participate may also be advantaged in the labor market: social and economic resources are embedded in social networks (Bourdieu 1983; Coleman 1988; Granovetter 1973),1 networks that may be formed through involvement in various social organizations and associations. Social participation is also associated with better physical and mental health and well-being, important outcomes in and of themselves, but also important for the labor market (Berkman 1995; Durkheim 1933; House 1981; House, Landis, and Umberson 1988). From the mid 1940s to the early 1970s, there was an unprecedented increase in social participation in the U.S. This trend coincided with unprecedented and widespread economic prosperity, marked by a low rate of unemployment and generally increasing real earnings. In recent decades, however, average rates of social participation have declined (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, and Brashears 2006; Putnam 2000). Likewise, the trend toward increasingly widespread economic prosperity in the U.S. has reversed (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:3).”

“[I]s the effect of job displacement on social participation mediated by post-displacement psychological distress and/or reduced feelings of social trust or reciprocity, above and beyond experiences of downward socioeconomic mobility? To address this question, we examine the potential mediating role of measures of depression, self-acceptance, and social reciprocity on the relationship between displacement and participation, net of downward social mobility (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:5).”

“Job displacement usually includes a sequence of stressful events from anticipation of job loss through the loss itself, to a spell of unemployment, to job search and training, to reemployment, often at reduced wages and status. Initial movement into unemployment is associated with a number of economic pressures, new patterns of interaction with family members, and personal assessment in relation to individual values and societal pressures (Pearlin et al. 1981). It is therefore not surprising that a significant association has been found between job displacement and psychological distress over the life course: Displaced workers report lower levels of self-acceptance, self-confidence, morale, and higher levels of depression and dissatisfaction with life (Burgard, Brand, and House 2007; Dooley, Fielding, and Levi 1996;Gallo et al. 2000; Kessler, Turner, and House 1989; Turner 1995; Warr and Jackson 1985) (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:5).”

“Expanding on Durkheim’s theory, Wilensky (1961) found that orderly careers, i.e. a succession of jobs related in function with elevations in status, free of unexpected periods of unemployment and disorderly shifts in jobs, occupations, and industries, were associated with strong attachment to one’s community and society (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:6).”

“[T]he “spillover” theory asserts that being employed in a job that encourages initiative, thought, and independence also indirectly encourages social participation (Kohn and Schooler 1982; Rain, Lane, and Steiner 1991; Staines 1980; Wilson and Musik 1997) (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:7).”

“[V]alues and attitudes towards oneself and one’s society may influence levels of social participation. Putnam (2000) argues that where positive social roles, social trust, and norms of reciprocity flourish, individuals participate socially. However, displacement may negatively alter individual attitudes and self-perception, and thus, reduce participation. Thus, the strain of insecure employment, actual displacement events, periods of unemployment, reemployment in jobs with lower earnings and/or lower quality, psychological distress, and the erosion of commitment to social reciprocity may all contribute to decreased levels of social participation among displaced workers (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:7).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Brand, Jennie, and Sarah Burgard. 2007-05. “Effects of Job Displacement on Social Participation: Findings over the Life Course of a Cohort of Joiners.” PSC Research Report No. 07-623. May 2007.

Abstract: “Career disorder and economic distress have been identified as potential causes of the observed decline in social participation in the U.S. We examine the causal effect of job displacement, a career disorder-producing event that is associated with subsequent socioeconomic and psychological decline, on social participation. Using more than 45 years of panel data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and difference-in-differences regression estimation, we find significant and lasting negative effects of displacement on subsequent social participation for workers displaced during their prime earnings years, ages 35-53, while no effect for workers displaced in the years approaching retirement, ages 53-64. Results also suggest that socioeconomic and psychological decline resulting from job displacement do not explain the negative impact of job displacement on social participation (Brand and Burgard 2007-05).”

Brand, Jennie, and Sarah Burgard. 2008-09. “Effects of Job Displacement on Social Participation: Findings Over the Life Course of a Cohort of Joiners.” Social Forces, .

Burgard, Sarah, Jennie Brand, and James S. House. 2007. “Toward a Better Estimation of the Effect of Job Loss on Health.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48: 369-384.

Price, Richard H., and Sarah Burgard. 2008. “The new employment contract and worker health in the United States.” In Making Americans healthier : social and economic policy as health policy. New York : Russell Sage.

Putnam, Robert D. 2001. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Public Release. 2008-09-01. “Bowling alone because the team got downsized.” Social Forces. Eureka Alert. Accessed September 2, 2008.

Ross Levin, a NYC hedge fund analyst with Arbiter Partners, who calls himself a “passive speculator in securities” met Lionel Lepine, a member of the Athabaskan Chipewyan First Nation whose family and friends living on the contaminated watershed upriver from the oil sands’ effluence are suffering from unprecedented numbers of cancerous tumours.

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A number of recent stories intersect here: Harper’s apology for past treatment of Canada’s First Nations, the pollution of the Athabaskan River north of the oil sands, the impatient development of nonrenewable resources, the meteoric rise of oil commodities market directly caused by irresponsible speculators playing with volatile, unpredictable hedge funds that play havoc with the market making a fortune for some while destroying economic, social and ecological environments all around them.

In a rapid visit to the local library yesterday I grabbed Jake Bernstein’s How the Futures Markets Work. Although it is quite old for the fast-paced risk management industry, there are certain fundamentals that ring true. He briefly traced the history futures contracts leading to the volatile environment where agricultural futures were replaced by the less predictable currency markets. Of course, his book was written long before the meteoric rise of private equity funds.

My concern remains with the absent ethical component on trading floors. Ethical responsibilities are as elastic as the regulations that govern the centuries old practice of hedging. In the period of late capitalism and the emergence of risk society, the cost of destructive unintended byproducts have created havoc in ways that far exceed the commodities/service value. The road to profits and impatient money, is paved with casualties.

Berstein’s facts of market life are telling. He encourages simple methods and systems which require few decisions and little mental conflict. Too much thought is not conducive to successful trading. Too much analysis costs lost opportunities. Keep systems simple. Control your emotions. Practice caring less so that you remain more objective. Don’t ask why. Knowing why may hinder you more than it will help you. Patterns are the best indicators available (What feeds into a “pattern” however is not a science). Timing is what makes money in the futures market (Bernstein 2000:282-3).

In other words, futures’ gurus encourage young hedge fund analysts to not think too much about factors such as displacement of peoples, the degradation of living conditions and the way in which they unwittingly contribute to making vulnerable ecologies and peoples even more vulnerable. Their gurus tell them to not think about the impact of their actions. They are told to not ask why the prices of essential commodities like fuel and food that they are playing with, are pushing certain groups into unimaginable levels of social exclusion. In the end groups at-risk to health degradation are always those least able to protect themselves. How convenient that the gurus do not factor in these social issues. They are entirely absent from finance reports.

But then a lot of information is purposely not included in financial and business reports. Bernstein argues that the simpler systems that take fewer things into consideration will lead to more profits. Yet when he lists off all the potential factors in operation in even a simple fundamental analysis, it is not at all simple. It begins with the highly complex. The algorithms involved may appear to be simplified through the use of databases that seem to generate accurate, objective hard facts. In reality, the accuracy of any query depends on what was fed into it.

Futures trading, also known as commodities trading, the final frontier of capitalism, became a popular speculative and investment vehicle in the US in the 1960s (Bernstein 2000:1). These financial instruments offer unlimited profit potential with relatively little capital. Speculators are drawn to the possibility of quick money or what I like to call impatient money. The great wealth accumulated from speculative financial instruments has spawned careers in brokerage, market analysis, computerized trading, computer software and hardware, accounting, law, advertising which themselves subdivide into more recent opportunities such as those related to risk-management.

While gurus such as Bernstein argue that gambling is for anyone but speculation is for professionals, the chaos and unpredictability of the current global economy have been linked to a growing culture of gambling in futures trading rather than level-headed professionalism. Gamblers create risk simply by placing a bet; professional speculators “transfer risk from the hedgers to the speculators” and it therefore called risk management instead of gambling.

“It rained last night so the price of soy beans will be down today.” Although the basis of fundamental analysis in economics is supply and demand, the actual fundamental analysis of specific markets that might generate accurate price predictions are complicated as numbers of factors overlap and massive quantities of data need to be considered. The simple equation involves how much of a commodity or service are buyers willing to pay at a given time and place. There used to be a correlation between price and consumption. Factors that impact on price of commodities include the state of the economy (local, regional, national and international – inflationary, recessionary with rising or falling employment), availability of alternate products or services, storage possibilities, weather, seasonality, price cycles, price trends, government subsidies, political influences, protectionist attitudes, international tensions, fear of war, hoarding, stockpiling, demand for raw materials (sugar, petroleum, copper, platinum, coffee, cocoa), currency fluctuations, health of the economy, level of unemployment, housing starts. Most technical systems are not effective in making traders money.

In spite of this there is still a persistent belief that there is an invisible hand that guides market correcting imbalances like a living organism or finely-tuned machine.

“Markets work perfectly as they respond to the multiplicity of forces that act upon them. It is our inability to find, parse, and correctly weight the impact of these factors that limits our results and success of our fundamentally based forecasts (Bernstein 2000:162).”

The bottom line is that wealth disparities continue to intensify and that these inordinate extremes of wealth and poverty destabilizes society. These distorted economic relationships deprive us of any sense of control over economic forces that threaten to disrupt the foundations of our existence. National governments have been either unwilling or unable to deal effectively with this situation in which we live where the deplorable superfluity of great wealth exists alongside the acute suffering of those living in miserable, demoralizing and degrading abject poverty even in countries like Canada.

Social equality is an entirely impracticable chimera. Even if equality could be achieved it could not be sustained. Wages and income should be unequal and should correspond to different efforts, skills and capacities. However, equal justice for all is not only necessary but urgently needed.

As long as those involved in the financial and energy industries remain in denial of their role by hiding behind economic and ideological polemics and simply dismissing concerns from others there can be no productive change. A fresh look at the problem should involve people like Lionel Lepine who are directly involved with decisions, along with experts from a wide spectrum of disciplines. There will not be a voluntary ethical turn so for now we desperately need public policies that will regulate industries.

Selected Timeline of Critical Events

1710 The first modern organized futures exchange began with the Dojima Rice Exchange in Osaka, Japan. The Japanese feudal landowners began to use certificates of receipt against future rice crops. As these futures certificates became financial instruments in the general economy the value of the certificates would rise and fall as the price of rice fluctuated. The Dojima Rice Exchange emerged as the world’s first futures market where speculators traded contracts for the future delivery of rice or “certificates of receipt.” The Japanese government outlawed the practice when futures contracts (where delivery never took place) began to have no relationship to the underlying cash value of the commodity leading to wild and unpredictable fluctuations (Bernstein 2000:30).

1848 The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) was formed as a price risk occurred in the grain markets of Chicago.

1865 The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) organized trading of futures contracts.

1919 – 1945 The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) traded futures in eggs, butter, apples, poultry and frozen eggs (Bernstein 2000:70).

1960s Futures trading, also known as commodities trading, the final frontier of capitalism, became a popular speculative and investment vehicle in the US in the 1960s (Bernstein 2000:1).

1970s There was increasing volatility in international currency exchange rates as the Bretton Woods agreement began to break down. Business people transferred risk of volatility in international markets by hedging with speculators willing to take the risk. Futures markets began to expand into foreign currencies as fluctuated wildly competing against each other and the US dollar.

1972 The total volume of futures contracts trading was 18 million and the top ten most actively traded future contracts were agricultural futures (Bernstein 2000:71).

1974 The US Congress passed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Act and established Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to protect participants in the futures market from fraud, deceit and abusive practices such as unfair trading practices (price manipulation, prearranged trading, trading ahead of a customer), credit and financial risks, and sales practice abuses (Bernstein 2000:32). Individual nation states have similar regulating bodies.

1982 Futures trading in the US was self-regulating and anyone in the business had to become a member of the National Futures Association (NFA).

1986 The total volume of futures contracts trading was 184 million and the T bonds were among the most actively traded future contracts (Bernstein 2000:71).

1990 The price of crude oil rose dramatically when Hussein invaded Kuwait.

1999 The most actively traded future contracts were interest rates, futures, stock index futures, energy futures, currency futures and agricultural futures (Bernstein 2000:72).

2000 The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) trades futures in livestock futures, currency futures, interest rate futures, stock index futures (Bernstein 2000:70).

2000 More than 90 foreign futures exchanges emerged with the ever-increasing demand for new financial instruments “to hedge against fluctuating interest rates, changing foreign exchange rates and institutional securities portfolios (Bernstein 2000:46).

2008 Calgary has a high percentage of young millionaires with lots of disposable income. There are also c.4000 homeless people in Calgary, the oil capital of Canada. c. 40% of the homeless are working poor who are unable to afford housing.

Webliography and Bibliography

Bernstein, Jake. 2000. How the Futures Markets Work. New York Institute of Finance.

Of the countless adjectives associated with the much-acclaimed work of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, “stupid” is what we would expect from someone who has not read more than a paragraph of Taylor’s cautious, thought-provoking and thoughtful writing.

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Lakritz, Naomi. 2008. “Canada Great the Way It Is.” Calgary Herald. May 28. A20.

Of the countless adjectives associated with the much-acclaimed work of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, “stupid” is what we would expect from someone who has not read more than a paragraph of Taylor’s cautious, thought-provoking and thoughtful writing. But then the slow reading of political philosophy just does not fit into the tight time-constraints of the demands of everyday life where text-messaging, character-reduction, the quick read and the fast response are the only way to keep up the pace.

The lengthy, robust, inclusive and mature consultative process behind the report on reasonable accommodations resembled the pioneering participatory research methodology used by Chief Justice Thomas Berger and I predict will also become a made-in-Canada model used globally as a way of delving into the most complex questions of our time, such as, social inclusion in highly pluralistic communities.

At first the media portrayed these open, inclusive forums held across Quebec, as a place where xenophobia was welcome, but it was soon revealed that racist viewpoints were in the minority in Quebec. The final report reflects the potency of this complex methodology especially when enhanced with guidance and input from the most well-trained minds (Bouchard and Taylor) engaged in inquiries into the complexity and richness of modern identity in Quebec (and some might argue in Canada).

We are fortunate in Canada to have human and material resources available to us that allow for such groundbreaking studies to inform public policy. It is unfortunate that so few people will read the final report and will rely solely on a few words or sentences quickly written filled with knee-jerk reactionary emotions and not much careful thought. So far the Calgary Herald has responded to this report by publishing a letter to the editor by someone who is grateful to be in Canada and an opinion piece by Naomi Lakritz. Neither of them is concerned by any form of social exclusion in Canada (access to housing, health services, education or employment) or conversational racism (the colour of racism in contemporary Canada) based on class, religion, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, accent. While it always feels good to know that some individuals have been untouched by discrimination (a privilege status not enjoyed by everyone equally in Canada), the mandate of the research on reasonable accommodation, was not intended to preserve a sense of home and familiarity to those who already feel it. The goal of this report is to extend a new form of hospitality within a renewed democracy that is urgently needed in the highly complex social reality in which we live.

The rich social history of Quebec is only partially reflected in unique cultural-religious (Catholic-Christian), highly-treasured artifacts from the baroque (17th century) period onwards. But over fifty years ago Quebec’s social history timeline took a sharp turn away from blind acceptance of what was being done under the name of Catholicism in Quebec, particularly in regards to local, regional and provincial politics. Gradually as a result bans on “indexed” books in universities were lifted, for example, and an era ended. (It is interesting to note however, that the philosophical journey undertaken by Charles Taylor has been at times indirectly informed by spiritual teachings of Catholicism although not directly cited.)

Even when we invite guests into the privacy of our homes, hospitality includes glancing around our spaces to see how we can decrease our guests’ discomfort to make our guests really feel welcome (within reason). Sometimes by looking at spaces we occupy through the eyes of others we learn something about ourselves that can reasonably be changed to accommodate others. Maybe it is something so familiar to us that we no longer see it for what it represents and it no longer reflects who we have become. Or maybe it does still reflect who we are but not in the way that the symbol is usually interpreted so the object-symbol needs to be contextualized so as to not misrepresent our contemporary values and beliefs. Some parts of our authentic selves need to remain. And this is only in our private lives.

Cultural symbols are not innocent or frozen in time. They become symbols because of long and deep histories and their meanings are acquired. They can be taught as part of public curriculum but first they have to be chosen by mutual agreement. Symbols displayed while in municipal, regional, provincial or national public office and/or spaces representing governance cannot be compared with symbols that give us a private sense of identity and belonging. Public symbols in these spaces of governance are purposefully selected to convey collective values and beliefs. Individual and communal values and beliefs change. As we become aware of dissonance between our present and past values and beliefs, we discard traditions that do not successfully cross generations, and in the case of a nation-state planted on First Peoples’ traditional lands and farmed by immigrants, successfully crossing cultural borders. Museums and galleries are filled with cultural symbols highly-valued as communal heritage. These icons cannot be compared to hockey or the colour of your living room walls which are part of popular culture and are probably more informed than we realize by market trends than by national identity or even personal tastes.

And in 2008 in this highly pluralistic nation-state Canada just who is the “we” who “owns” these shores? And how exactly did “we” get to “own” this nation-state?

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