It was the time of Covid…

It was 2020/2021. It was the time of Covid. It was a pandemic. Salvation, as measured by epidemiologists, seemed an intolerably long way off. Reassurance, as expressed by politicians, was an imaginary conceit. Comfort, though, can be shared through love. Jesus told us that, and we should never have doubted.

In a recent article titled Keeping a diary at the end of the world, The Atlantic magazine talked about how the early days of COVID spurred multiple public and private journaling project, as individuals grappled with the awareness that they were living through history.

Some, of course, were built around letters to family and friends, some were destined to be published widely, and others were public, though targeted to a specific population. My collection of short essays, titled Solitude, is one of the latter: as a council chair for a Lutheran faith community, I felt called to provide reflections for the comfort and consideration of the congregations during a pastoral vacancy. Eventually, the reflections seemed to track the waves of infection, recovery and hope.

This little book “is what it is” and while I hope readers enjoy and find meaning in it, I make no promises. It is available at Amazon HERE or through other retailers at Draft to Digital HERE

Chocolate Bunnies and the Apocalypse

For many of us in Canada, we celebrate this Sunday as a happy day, if we choose to believe it so. On a cultural level we have come through a deeply religious week, filled with images of revelation and salvation: Ramadan celebrates Gabriel revealing the Quaran; Passover celebrates the Israelites’ liberation from slavery; Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus following his crucifixion.

Let us hope the messages of this last week are embraced as being spiritual as well as cultural. So easily, in our prayers and celebrations, we forget that celebrations of religious culture have not resulted in salvation from being trampled underfoot by the four horsemen of our never-ending apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death). This week, while we are busily replaying in Ukraine the most recent version of “the war to end all wars”, we are also being forced to remember that our cultures – and often our religiosity – have led us to oppress and murder even children in our endless quest to dominate one another, along with the very earth on which we depend for our mortal lives.

Each of us has a way – widely shared or deeply hidden – to understand the world we live in. For me, that way is expressed as the signal article of my faith: “Love one another as I have loved you”. That is the only command Jesus told his followers before his crucifixion. That is why we have Easter. That is why we paint eggs and eat chocolate bunnies… to remind us to celebrate our faith. Enjoy them!

pgk

Things to think about…

Embrace Social Media

On many days, it is hard to love – and harder to respect – social media. But, like printing presses, television and radio in their day, social media is the tool we are given on this day. To step away and leave the field open to the ignorant and malevolent alone is the equivalent of burning books and smashing television sets. We must stay engaged, embrace the media, speak out, and hold our ground against ignorance. Oct. 20, 2021

Irony

In 150 years, we have invented (and used) weapons of mass destruction, conducted two world wars, suffered through two global pandemics, experienced multiple continent-scale droughts and made the AR-15 available through mail-order. Despite all of that, the world’s human population has tripled to well beyond its carrying capacity and rich people are fretting over gun control. Nov. 11, 2021


Peter Kingsmill, Author

It wasn’t supposed to be this way…

First published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix ePaper March 12, 2021.

In a March 7, 2021 article in the New York Times, Lisa W. Foderaro writes that, after authorities in Thailand banned international flights because of the Covid-19 pandemic, “…leatherback turtles laid their eggs on the usually mobbed Phuket Beach… the first time nests were seen there in years, as the endangered sea turtles, the largest in the world, prefer to nest in seclusion.”

If that’s the good news, unfortunately it doesn’t get better. Nature tourism has long been touted as a benign force for conservation. Developing countries bought-in to the so-called “ecotourism” explosion back in the early nineteen-nineties, with the full encouragement and participation of the hotel and air travel corporations. Since then, destinations have needed to use tourism revenue to offset the costs of conservation and enforcement. That revenue has dried up over the last year, and in many cases so have the conservation activities that all those nature-tourists had supported.

Commercial tourism is always a mixed blessing, whether it’s to view nature from a comfortable (and usually expensive) space, or to gawk at “the locals” when your 2500-passenger cruise ship drops in for the afternoon, or even to whoop it up at the massive sporting events that drag the last weary ounce of volunteerism and good will out of community members.

It would indeed be a good thing if we took this one-to-two year hiatus as an opportunity to seriously consider what we want to see as our new normal. For example, can we take a break from endlessly adding to the lodging sector’s already-overbuilt capacity, used to justify bidding for ever-larger events? Can our provincial parks reduce costs – and expectations – by simplifying their offerings and going back to providing access for our own families to celebrate being out-of-doors together rather than cater to the whims of our neighbours to the west?

And, of course, there’s you and I. Could we contemplate travelling smaller, ourselves? A century ago, the earth’s population was about 1.6 billion. In 1950, it was about 2.5 billion, and the global tourism industry saw fewer than 200 million arrivals. Fast forward to 2020, the earth’s population was over 7.7 billion and global tourism arrivals were in the order of 1.5 billion. International travel used to be a privilege for the wealthy few, and a curse for those whose travel was required for work, military service or migration. In 2017, travel and tourism directly contributed $2.6 trillion to global GDP.

For those who enjoy mathematics, that is roughly equivalent to the size of the UK economy, and it’s hard to imagine all that petty cash suddenly pouring out of the sky and back into our pockets. The pandemic has dug a deep hole in the global economy, and crawling out of that hole will require re-thinking the meaning of the word “sustainability”. If we do not take the time to consider a more sustainable approach to how we live, we will almost certainly be mired in that hole for our lifetimes.

How we live includes how, where, and why we travel. If we are careful, we may again be able to make some of those choices.

Peter Kingsmill

Not The First Rodeo – Let’s Hope It’s Not The Last

As I write, America and her international audience are anticipating an election that – regardless of how the numbers work out – is certain to decide nothing. Well, I suppose after some kicking and screaming and not a few riots (complete with gunshots), some old white guy will get to sleep in the presidential palace for four years, if he lives that long. And, there will be many more books published – and much hand-wringing on CNN – by the faithful who still believe in American exceptionalism and the oft-repeated mantra, “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

The trouble, of course, is the people. In his 1953 novel In The Wet, British novelist Nevil Shute has a protagonist explain the following: “I doubt if history can show, in any country, in any time, a more greedy form of government than democracy as practiced in Great Britain in the last fifty years… The common man has held the voting power, and the common man has voted consistently to increase his own standard of living, regardless of the long term interests of his children, regardless of the wider interests of his country.”

An ocean away, and not a century earlier, Abraham Lincoln delivered that “government of the people, by the people, for the people” mantra to an audience of dead neighbours at Gettysburg. And here we are, a century and a half later, watching the folly unfold once again. “The people,” we moan, “are letting us down! They are uneducated, lazy, greedy. They don’t trust the media, they don’t trust the science. They’re going to riot in the streets if they don’t get their way. They’re too stupid to understand…”

Excuse me: of course they understand. They understand all too well. They understand that at least fifty percent of the population considers them “the deplorables” and refuses to pay for the education they need to succeed, the health care they need to survive, and the environment and infrastructure they need to thrive. They don’t care to hear promises about searching for solutions and working to fix problems… they need their “government of the people” to cough up the damn money and actually fix the problems by enacting the solutions, one of which would be to train and pay them properly to work on the things that are important to our shared society.

Making it to the next rodeo will mean that we cannot adopt Nevil Shute’s somewhat nihilist view of “the common man” and allow our society to shrivel into at least an oligarchy or at worst a full-blown dictatorship. Democracy may seem to be an imperfect tool for governing a state, but for it to have any chance at all of success we must pay more than lip-service to maintaining a healthy, educated and prosperous common society.

Neither is democracy a meritocracy; embracing it means we must accept that every single human being has exactly the same rights and responsibilities as every other single human being at every stage of life. If we do not rise to that call, we will forever receive exactly what we deserve: government by the greedy.

pgk

… so many friends

It’s October, 2020, and I feel ancient. I have so many friends.

These have been my friends:

The young Indigenous man who gently undertakes a ceremonial fast in front of a provincial legislature, fighting not the noisy battles of treaties and nation-building, but a quieter battle to support mental health in his community.

The cop whose idea of a perfect day is one spent caring for the community he loves before returning home and being cared for by the family that loves him.

The young reporter who lies violated and charred in a ditch in a faraway country, executed for the crime of investigating corporate malfeasance.

The apprentice mechanic with first aid training who requested two hours off this afternoon to take the town ambulance to a high-school game.

The Sailor First Class who has been deemed emotionally unfit for service and discharged for having the temerity to report her own rape by a senior officer.

So many friends. They blur together with the passage of time. How did I meet them? Did they turn up in the bar one night, like the cute little babe with the nice boobs and the red hair? Or – wait a minute – maybe that one turned up on page 312 of my second novel. Or maybe not. I think she was in the second chapter of the first book. If it’s her, she was more blond than red, but whatever.

Never mind. They are all my friends. Well, maybe not all of them. Some of them were downright evil, no friends of mine. Killers, thieves, misogynists. Nobody would call them friends, not even I. But, after all, I am a writer and I need friends, so I’ll just write about them differently: soldiers, politicians, priests! There, that’s better. So many friends.

Do you remember the old guy at the garage, the one who could fix anything as long as it didn’t have a computer in it? I do. And I remember his wife, too… the one with the sad eyes. They didn’t have kids, but there were rumours that long ago they had a daughter. There had to have been a story there, but I never did find out. Or maybe I ran out of space. So many friends.

In 1637, or maybe it was 1644, French philosopher René Descartes wrote I think, therefore I am. (Latin scholars amongst us will have first heard it as Cogito Ergo Sum, but it means about the same thing in English.) Actually, Descartes was French, so at first he actually wrote, je pense, donc je suis but in the interest of maintaining a snooty sense of clarity it is most often quoted in Latin. Really.

In any case, for me it is a piece of crap wrapped up in a pretty language, apparently for the sole purpose of reinforcing a false distinction between different classes in society… between all my friends, in fact. Hell, horses think. Even cows think, only slower. Not even counting the four-legged ones, all my friends think. But the thing that makes them unique is how they feel. How they feel makes them who they are. Indeed, some of my friends may not even think as well as the dumbest of cows, but they all feel, and therefore they are.

These have been my friends:

The coastguard officer who retired early to start his own business at a village in cottage country.

The brilliant young biologist who is passionate about birds and wild places, wrestling with greedy politicians and bureaucrats in an effort to measure the harm human beings inflict on our tiny globe.

The oilfield truck driver with a somewhat warped sense of justice but a heart of gold.

The elderly lady who took a young man to bed one night, sharing wisdom and comfort.

It’s still October 2020, but now I feel even older as I realize that some of my friends may have physically moved on, even as they linger in my soul, or on my pages, or both.

I feel them close, therefore they exist.

pk

Gonna leave this here, and wait about four months:

Quote from Barton Gellman, in The Atlantic, in late September, 2020:

Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.

Trump’s invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before.

A culture of greed focused through a lens of pure evil

The USA under the presidency of Donald J. Trump

Every race, every country, every culture and every religion has its share of bigots, extremists and misogynists. Such people may be fellow citizens, they may be neighbours or relatives, and yes, some may be people whom we have called “friends”.

In Canada and the USA, as in many other countries, there are constitutions, bills of rights and so forth. Good for them, but those praiseworthy documents are truly just paper and won’t fix the problem when a country is lit by an inherent culture of greed focused through a lens of pure evil. Laws are worthless when they are willfully ignored.

pgk

About Going Back to School in a Pandemic

Things that going back to school during a pandemic are not about:

  • Forcing overworked Moms to go back to work for low wages to keep the economy strong.
  • Enabling parents to pursue business and lifestyle dreams in which their children come second.

Things that going back to school during a pandemic are absolutely about:

  • Ensuring that children receive the best possible education, period.
  • Ensuring that children receive the best possible health care, period.

How does society accomplish this?

  • Develop plans by listening to education and healthcare professionals, not school boards and politicians.
  • Collectively pay the full cost. Period.

There. That was simple, wasn’t it!

pgk