J. K. Rowling Defending Offense

The other day, I wrote about my thoughts On Free Expression and Being Offensive. This morning, I came across an article on Vox.com with a video of J.K. Rowling defending offensive speech.

I thought she put it very well:

The tides of populism and nationalism currently sweeping many developed countries have been accompanied by demands that unwelcome or inconvenient voices be removed from public discourse. Mainstream media has become a term of abuse in some quarters. It seems that unless a commentator or television channel or newspaper reflects exactly the complainers’ worldview, it must be guilty of bias or corruption.

Intolerance of alternative viewpoints is spreading to places that make me, a moderate and a liberal, most uncomfortable. Only last year we saw an online petition to ban Donald Trump from entry into the UK. It garnered half a million signatures. Now, I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.

His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine. Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination.

If my offended feelings can constitute a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the right for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand along tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification.


On Free Expression and Being Offensive

There are times when I am simply stunned (by the way, that has been considered a derogatory term – I can recall in primary school, some pupils asking others, “Are you stunned?” meaning, “Are you stupid? A dunce?”) by the arguments put forth by some for “safe places,” and “trigger warnings” in universities. It has got to the point in some circles, where even discussing the merits (or lack of them) of so-called safe spaces and/or trigger warnings is considered “offensive.” Some apparently even see it as a lack of respect or lack of empathy to someone who has experienced a “traumatic” experience.

I for one don’t deny that traumas occur and can have dramatic effects on individuals. I’ve experienced more than a few traumatic experiences in my life. That doesn’t make me special, but it does mean I have some experience with trauma. I also get “flash backs” from one in particular – responding to a call of gunshots and being first on the scene to discover a young person shot in the head. His brains were oozing out on to the sidewalk. And I was pretty much helpless to do anything except remove my jacket and put it over his shivering body while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I still have flashbacks from time to time, recalling how utterly helpless I was to save this individual.

Perhaps I should have posted a trigger warning alert before writing about that experience.

I’ve also had a few other traumatic experiences in my life that have included spending the better of a four year period as a child on strict bed rest and having to use a wheelchair when mobility was required. I had to learn how to walk all over again – and I did that on my own, against “Doctors Orders” at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto.

As a teenager, I experienced the shame (to me) of being sexually assaulted by another man, and I know first hand how these predators operate.

I am not writing about these traumatic experiences to ask for your empathy or to read your “Sorry for your experiences.” Indeed, I can recall from back in high school, some of my school mates expressing a sentiment of being sorry for my earlier illness and its consequences; but deep down, I actually felt embarrassed when the sentiment was expressed. I don’t doubt for one minute that they were genuine – but my perspective was that I was Very Happy to somehow have managed to overcome the illness and could walk when I had been told that I might never walk again. I also believed that the experience actually gave me some positive ways to look at life in ways others could not. In high school, I tended to try to make friends of some of the friendless and defend those who were bullied or made fun of for their own background or physical limitations. Yes – bullying did go on back then as well.

The reasons I am including my experiences is to show that I do have some ideas of what many people go through.

The Problem With Empathy

Actually, there is no problem with empathy, and it’s a very important human characteristic and one I value. I wish more of our law enforcement types understood and had empathy. I remember following the trial of Constable Forcillo in Toronto who shot a knife wielding young man. During the trial, Forcillo mused, “If you are pointing a knife and are refusing to do what I say, why will things magically be OK if I ask if he wanted a glass of water?”

I wanted to exclaim to Forcillo, “We don’t know if it would be magically ok, but you’re showing empathy and in doing so, immediately changing the dynamic of your relationship with Sammy Yatim (the man who was shot). You’re coming up with a surprise element that Yatim likely was not expecting. Yes, offering a glass of water while showing empathy could have changed the outcome of that event completely.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that empathy ought to be a consideration in universities when teaching difficult material. Universities ought to be places where professors and students have the freedom to express ideas, regardless of how some might find them offensive or “triggering.” Indeed, it seems to me that many students have missed out on some basic philosophy: that words and symbols are merely the expression of ideas, and neither ideas or words are “things.” A word or symbol in of itself cannot be offensive unless there is some offense in the mind.

Additionally, every word has at least two meanings. If someone uses a word in a way that expresses an idea that they are communicating, but you stubbornly refuse to accept that meaning of the word, and insist that somehow the word is “offensive” because you are refusing to consider other ways it can be used, it is you that is being childish and probably ought not to be in university. You are actually refusing to learn about other meanings that a word can have.

Learning and facing up to this fact – that words are merely an expression of ideas – might actually be helpful to you in your road to overcoming traumas. If you have been traumatized in life, that is your goal, isn’t it? To get past being a victim of trauma, and to find ways to thrive in life, despite your experiences? I don’t care what your therapists tell you: The best way to overcome your trauma is to meet them head on. Demanding empathy of others, and thereby requesting or forcing them to alter educational content is NOT going to help you get over your traumas.

Words indeed can have power – until one grows up and recognizes that words are expressions of ideas. You may not like the ideas being expressed, you may not agree with them, but so what? Are the only ideas that ought to be expressed are the ones you agree with, or that give you warm fuzzy feelings inside? Or only words that you’ve decided on because you reject that they can have more than one meaning?

You can never ever change this truth that words are expressions of ideas. If they offend you, it is you that needs to take ownership of your offense that is in your mind. Stating this is not a lack of empathy on my part. It’s just a simple fact. If by pointing out this fact, it offends you, that is your problem. It does not mean I am not an empathetic person. It does not mean I don’t have empathy for your traumas or life situations. While I do think empathy is very important, valuable, and a quality I admire, I have a higher value of defending the free expression of ideas.

In fact, I believe that the freedom of expression actually leads to more empathy and I respect your freedom to talk about your traumas and express them. When you, as a person who claims trauma or marginalization, demand a limit on words that are acceptable, or a limit on expression of ideas, so that no one’s feelings are “hurt,” you’re actually being tyrannical.

You are infringing on my right to hear someone else’s ideas, because you don’t want them to express them because of your “feelings.” How are your feelings more important than my right to hear someone’s ideas, just because they hurt your feelings?

On The Importance of The Expression of Offensive Ideas

I’ve changed my own beliefs over the years, dramatically. Some of my friends and family who have not come along on the same journey as I have, don’t appreciate how my core values and beliefs about many things have changed. That actually could be “trauma” for me; and indeed, sometimes it has been traumatic.

Reading and hearing the expressions of ideas that I once found offensive at one time motivated me to deeper thinking about my own premises. They challenged me, and I am glad those expressions were not censored. Some of those ideas expressed “hurt my feelings.” But those were my feelings, and I am the one who needs to take ownership for the projection and emoting that was in my mind.

There are also many ideas expressed that I have issues with – and would never support, but I support the right and the freedom of their authors to express them. Some of their ideas have motivated other ideas in me, and further argument and support for “negative rights” of human kind. I have learned to enjoy controversial subjects, and have learned, within myself, to not emote or project over them. I support and will continue to support the satire of anything, even so called “cherished beliefs.” If you want to regulate that, then perhaps a better place for you is in a cave; you can try to regulate it and you might be successful for a time, but you’ll never ever be able to universally and totally eliminate the expression of ideas that offend you.

The freedom to express offensive ideas is vital. It is vital to learning, it is vital to you, and indeed, to individuals who have somehow felt repressed or traumatized, this defense of freedom of expression of even ideas that might be “offensive” is vital to you.

It is vital to defend the expressions of that which you vehemently disagree with. Or even are offended by. And you ought to also have the freedom to express your own opinions – and the can all be tested by logic and checking premises.

Look.. don’t emote on what I have written here. I’m a man that’s had a challenging life at times. I’ve been in a wheelchair. I’ve been sexually abused. I’ve seen people die. I saved a son from being adopted out. I am not an “unfeeling” person but when it comes to the expression of ideas, feelings have nothing to do with it.

I invite offensive ideas. I often toss away those that have premises I know to be invalid, but I still accept their right to be expressed.

I’m very worried about this new idea of limiting expression based on “feelings” and trauma some have had.

Please feel free to comment and show me where I am wrong.

Casting Doubt On Solar Panel Energy Efficiency

For many years, I’ve expressed my doubts in regard to the efficiency of solar energy. I have never been convinced that solar energy with today’s technology is cost-effective or energy efficient. In addition, here in Ontario, I question the use of arable land being turned into “solar farms.”

I have not been able to locate it, but there used to be a website where you could look at the project specs of all the solar and wind farm installations in the Province of Ontario. I am not sure if they have been removed or are just harder to find. But I do recall that many of the solar farms that were being planned or that were in operation seemed to generate about 10MW of power for every 100 acres of land.

To my mind, that is a total waste of land. Don’t forget that this figure of 10MW is a maximum amount, and on cloudy days or at night time, power generation from solar is zero. Yet we have a Liberal government led by a Nanny Stater, Premier Kathleen Wynne, who seems intent on taking this province down the road of inefficient, expensive, and economy killing “green energy.”

I am fully supportive of the use of “green energy” where it makes sense, and where it indeed provides an economical and clean source of energy. However, I believe that over the long run, today’s technologies do not have a net gain either in CO2 reduction or in energy production. There is also the problem of what to do with solar panels once they have reached their end of life. It is my understanding that many of them cannot be recycled, and under many of the governments’ environmental regulations, they cannot even be shipped off to landfills due to the toxic chemicals they contain.

Today, I came across a study that was published in the peer reviewed Energy Policy journal, entitled “Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation.

The findings of the authors of the paper support my doubts and skepticism about the efficiency of photovoltaic sources of energy. We really need to re-examine the use of solar power as an energy source, especially when the findings include this:

In other words, an electrical supply system based on today’s PV technologies cannot be termed an energy source, but rather a non-sustainable energy sink or a non-sustainable NET ENERGY LOSS.

Of course, this paper was not covered much in the mainstream media – and I’m not sure why. From the stats provided by Altmetric, only one news outlet reported on the paper; nrc.nl.

Politicians and proponents of solar energy need to wake up, and fast.

The Modus Operandi of A Child Abuser

I am not really sure what triggered it – living with it all the years that I have… I had mostly tucked it away in a dark corner of my mind. But it came out.. in some dark moments, and I told my friends on Facebook how I had been sexually abused by a man when I was a child.

Even though people say “you do not need to feel shame,” there is. And you tuck that feeling of shame away… as much as you can. There is a shame in that maybe you even enjoyed what happened.. but it is not what you wanted to happen, nor is it something you wish was in your life history. There is a shame knowing you probably could have stopped it… but stopping it would mean questions… and at the time, a sense of ideas of others wondering why you did not say anything sooner.

So you let it happen.

The child abuser likely knows this psychology. That’s what they work off of.

They work off the fact that most of us are kind… as children… and they use that. They might take years to “conquer” and will act in a way such that their actions are seen as “kind acts” while attempting to go to the edge as far as they can.

They will also be a “family friend” – which makes it even harder and difficult for the intended victim to communicate or share concerns. How does a 14 year old.. or even an 18 year old, communicate concerns when the rest of the family likes the person so much? The person has been so “kind” to them all.

In my case, it was many years of grooming by the abuser. When I was in the hospital, he would come and visit me… and then later, he would give me gifts… and work on my interests. He came across as being very kind and caring. I actually have some great memories of doing things that were payed for by Bud Brown.

He took me up in a Cessna airplane…. and I got to hold the controls of the plane. It was pretty amazing. And who on earth would actually suspect a man paying to take a kid up for an airplane ride was an abuser? I cannot blame my parents for not knowing what was going on; any parent would be so very happy that someone was helping their child experience wonderful things!

To this day, I am still thankful for being able to go up in a Cessna and fly it, with the pilot. But that is part of the shame. There were so many activities that were awesome…. and I’m thankful for.

Bud took me to see theater… some Gilbert and Sullivan. Pirates of Penzance. And he laughed with me when I laughed. And put his arm around me. I was not comfortable with the arm, but I was comfortable with the laughs. So I gave in to the arm.

I don’t really want to talk and share details of when exactly…. and what exactly happened.. but it was after many years of this “grooming” by him. The grooming made me feel … as if I owed him something. Even if I did not want it to happen, but he had been so kind to me. He even told me that he was going to leave all his cameras and photographic equipment to me in his Will.

But I was not the only boy Bud was working on. There were others. Some were younger than me, some were older. I did not know the extent of it until I was an older teenager, and my young 20’s, but Bud was arrested. He asked me to help him out… and although I did not want to, I also felt a kindness to him for things he had done in the past.. the airplane rides, the theatre, the visits when I was in hospital.. etc. And combined with that was the shame.. that if I refused to help him, would others suspect that I too, was a “victim” of Bud Brown?

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I had a key to his apartment on Weston Road. He was in jail and asked me to remove stuff from his apartment, mostly books, and dispose of them. I agreed to do it… and nearly vomited when going through all his books, there were so many about “men loving boys.”

I don’t remember all the details… but Bud tried to stay in touch with me… and we had this “secret,” you know? I would often put on “airs” of things being okay…

Then, my eldest son was born… and Bud wanted to come and visit. He wanted to come and take photos of Alex with his mom and me.

That is when I ended all contact with Bud Brown. There was absolutely no way… no way in hell… was I going to let this man have anything to do with my son. I think my wife at the time suspected something.. but we never talked about it.

But there was just no way… none at all as far as I was concerned, that Bud Brown would ever meet or know or have any relationship with my child.

I kept the entire thing to myself… for ages. Some years ago, I was dating a lady who loved Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil. One day, there was a television with Dr Phil.. and he had men on the show that had been victimized by other men when they were boys. And I remember thinking, “Okay.. this is perhaps a good time to share my ‘secret’ about what happened to me…. ”

Bad idea. I was looked at as if I were lying. Admitting what happened to me with this person that I thought loved me made it even worse… I wasn’t on the Dr Phil show…. my experience wasn’t … “a good enough story,” I guess.

it’s only good enough if you are famous, or on Dr. Phil.

And the fact of the matter is.. I’ve done okay. My life has experienced so many things… you just keep moving on… and you share what you can… and you learn to not share. You learn to let others share.. and you have empathy for others.

And when you have children… you fight hard… sometimes with a fight that you can not admit to what is motivating it… and you don’t even want your children to know… why.

And you fight to be “normal.”

But you know that are not. And you fight your demons, daily… and you also wonder… “How many other people out there, are fighting demons, and you don’t know the fight they have had?”

Protect your children. And know that not everyone who is kind, is suspect…. But..

We need to communicate more… and without judgment.

I know I am not alone.. I have heard many life stories of others…. that are even worse than mine. But I have never told my story before.

Protect your children.

I Do Not “Support The Police”

It never fails. Some incident with the police – whether it’s a police shooting or the police shooting someone, the memes on social media go crazy on both sides – with many claiming that they “support the police.”

This is a stupid emotional attitude – on both sides.

I do not support the police. I support justice and the rule of law. I support inherent rights, and I support the original ideas of Sir Robert Peel, when he “invented” modern policing.

Policing is actually, contrary to what you might believe, a pretty easy job most of the time. Oh yes, it does and can have its moments and its dangers, but statistically, there are far more jobs that carry more risk of danger than policing. I am saddened every time a police officer is shot and killed (or injured), but there is a sense of sadness that goes beyond reality. According to a recent Time Magazine article, policing doesn’t even make the “top ten” of riskiest occupations. Logging is #1.

When was the last time you mourned the death of a logger who was working hard to bring you paper products, wood for your new deck, or lumber for the new housing development you plan on living in?

When was the last time you saw huge headlines in the newspaper, “Farmer Killed While Producing Your Food?” Yes .. even farm worker death rates far outnumber police killings in the USA. When was the last time you attended a candle light vigil for a dead farm worker?

I’ve actually worked on farms – and had a job in the field of “law enforcement.” For full disclosure, I was not actually a “cop,” but the job I had was described as “social policing.” We pretty much did whatever the local constabulary did: We responded to domestic conflicts, investigated criminal activity, arrested criminals, acted in a way to prevent criminal activity, and got into some pretty tense situations. I have been shot at, have had to fend for my life with combatants wielding knives, and have to deal with couples involved in physical altercations with each other. I’ve experienced arresting a husband or boyfriend for assault, and then having the spouse turn on me.

I know the fear that can go through a person when faced with death. I’ve actually known it many times throughout my life – as a child, I was diagnosed with several diseases for which, at the time, there was a chance I might not live. As a teenager, I faced fear in some situations I worked in – a hay wagon incorrectly parked and rolling toward me fully loaded and stopping only inches away – if it had continued, it would have crushed me between the wagon and the tractor wheel. That is when I actually understood and experienced the sensation of “having your life pass before your eyes.”

In that moment… I experienced and saw my entire life go zipping through my mind while I was certain I was about to be crushed. I think it was my brain’s response to the situation, and perhaps my sub-conscious mind was exploring every past experience to try to figure out how to escape the danger. As the wagon loaded with hay came to a stop due to a rut that the wheels got stuck in, my heart was beating like crazy as I was trying to prepare myself to either jump out of the way if I could, or experience what I thought was going to be my body crushed.

I understand fear and I understand danger and risk. I will never forget the day, a day just days before I was to have my last day working after I put in my resignation notice, of nearly having my head blown off at Lawrence Heights in Toronto. It was at the rear of 11 Flemingdon Park – a routine call about “disorderlies.” I had responded to such calls hundreds of times before, and had usually been able to build up some rapport with at least some of those involved and find a resolution. But that one night.. about two or three nights before I was to leave that job – instead of being able to build rapport, a shot rang out and the sound of a bullet hitting the overhang of the entrance I was standing under.

I was so shocked by it, I did not even report it as an attempted shooting. So many thoughts and emotions were going through me at the time. I did not want the group of disorderlies to detect any fear in me. I was also so looking forward to my last “day on the job,” and the idea of having some ongoing investigation that I would need to be involved in after that day was not something I wanted. So, I reported the incident as an unknown “projectile” in my direction instead of what I knew it to be – an attempt on my life.

Fear – that is the worse thing that you can project to those you are trying to negotiate or deal with. You have it, but you have to show strength. You only have a moment – less than a second – to process what just happened. And how to respond, along with a brief.. very very brief… millisecond to realize and be thankful you’re still alive.

I write this because I want it known that I do understand the experience of fear, of risk, of situations where one might experience the idea that death might be imminent. Some might call it “courage,” but it’s not really courage. In fact, most of the time, I’m so cowardly that I’d put myself in a situation where I felt I could protect myself and still see a positive resolution to a circumstance. Anyone who goes running headlong into a situation without thinking ahead of time is an idiot. They are not heroes.

I’ve seen a lot of idiots. And I’ve seen a lot of egotistical personality disordered people in the field of “law enforcement” that ought not to be working in that field. I’ve seen them exaggerate circumstances in order to justify their own far over-reaching responses to situations. I’ve seen police officers who make themselves appear “tough” because they knew their opponent was weaker than them, but when it came to a stronger opponent, act entirely differently. I’ve seen police officers and others in law enforcement roles act on “gut feelings” instead of evidence, and ruining other peoples’ lives.

Just because they can, and there will be zero repercussions for doing so. A police officer can falsely arrest a person, come up with some “justification” for it, forcing the other person to defend themselves in court, at great expense to themselves or the public, and found “not guilty,” and the police officer has to face zero consequences. It’s just another stat, and there is no personal responsibility.

While many police forces deny the idea of “quotas,” I can tell you from experience that instead of “quotas,” another term is used: Benchmarks. Police officers and others in law enforcement roles are often assessed on how close or not they come to “benchmarks.” If you are interested in prevention, it is truly a wretched idea to assign “benchmarks.”

If the philosophy is “prevention,” then, having benchmarks for tickets, summonses and arrests is a negative and indicative of failure of the philosophy. If it is my job to prevent criminal or other legal activity, then ever stat I have ought to be seen as a failure. If I have been assigned a “benchmark” of handing out 30 parking tickets a month, but I instead choose to advise people when I can that they need to park somewhere else, and they comply with my requests, so I have no need to issue a parking ticket, isn’t that a better outcome?

At one point in my career, I had a very inexperienced supervisor – who was promoted based on the fact he/she was of a minority group – and not on any idea of merit or experience – tell me that I “failed to use legislated authority.” In other words, I did not charge, arrest or issue enough “POT’s.”

I am not bitter about the fact this person was promoted above me; I never applied for promotion. But I point it out that there is so much insanity and poor thought and training that even goes into supervision of others in this field. When I was evaluated, I invited the supervisor to go out on a patrol with me and see if there were actually issues during my shift, and whether my philosophy of prevention and rapport building provided superior results and outcomes than the “benchmarks.” The supervisor declined my invitation.

I do not support this type of policing.

I realize that there are some pretty decent police officers out there. I realize that they sometimes face dangerous times. I realize that there are some police officers and law enforcement workers who are indeed courageous…. and who think rationally, and not just out of fear. I would like to support them, and will support them, when they also remove themselves from “The Blue Wall” idea. They need to take their fellow officers to task for the idiotic things some of them do, behind that “Blue Wall” and lack of accountability.

Just a few years ago, I had a most disturbing interaction with two members of the Orangeville Police Services, here in my small town. The incident left me fearful as well as quite anxious about any future involvement with them that might occur. It left me anxious for what might happen with my own sons, and other people who do not have the legal knowledge I have. I knew that the two officers involved were really looking for an excuse for a fight; they were not really looking for the idea of prevention and protection. Their actions were horrible.

I will tell you their names: Sergeant James and Constable Mulligan. I was accosted by them while walking home along a sidewalk. The experience was frightful to me, and when they finally released me to continue my walk home, the things that were yelled at me as I walked away made me fearful about any future contact with them. They also made me fearful during the episode of their “No, you are not under arrest but you are being detained” – the seriously were looking for a fight.

I put in a complaint. I requested a mediation meeting with the officers involved – but during that meeting, the officers lied through their teeth about what happened. It was obvious to me that the “internal investigation” into their conduct that night was a farce.

In my own experience, walking streets, patrolling areas, and sometimes needing backup – I can tell you there were times I nearly arrested my backup (who I did not have a choice about) for actually making situations worse. One incident in particular comes to mind – I was myself, backing up an officer at Moss Park on a domestic conflict and after some time, realized we had to make an arrest. It was one of those “last resort” situations. A struggle ensued, and we needed more back up. Oh yes.. it arrived alright… but instead of assisting with restraining the suspect, the “back up” decided it was appropriate to kick the suspect in the head, face, and groin area. It was the most disgusting and unnecessary thing.

At shift change time, “Buddy” was bragging to the others how he had “kicked the shit” out of someone that he was “helping” me with.

To this day, I regret that I did not press charges against my so called “back up.” Perhaps I was part of the problem.

Fear. I’ve feared for my life, but also experience the fear of being looked at in a “bad way” if I reported my peers for illegal and terrible activity. I don’t have an answer for that kind of fear, but I can say that I will be supportive of others involved in law enforcement for having the courage to stand up to the bullies they work with.

I do not “support” the police, but I support lumber jacks. Lumber jacks who have the most riskiest and dangerous job in North America.