Essay

Paradise, Your Name is Canada

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Canada Day 2011 Maple Leaf Shireen Jeejeebhoy 2011-07-01 Though not my native land, Canada is my home. She was the place my grandparents first felt settled after being kicked out of Burma by the Japanese during WWII and wandering India for decades. She was where my mother’s mother learned about “ice hockey” in her 60s and became an aficionado of Hockey Night in Canada. She is where my father made his mark, and my mother stretched her wings. Canada raised me, nurtured me, educated me (for the most part). She gave my family hope and a home.

I remember my first days here as a child. I saw empty streets, clean pee-free sidewalks, trees and more trees, and even more trees, and cool grass under the tootsies. Most amazing of all, everyone had a car!

As I grew up, I noticed other differences. Racism infected my schoolmates and Canadian society in general, yet it was not nearly as invasive as in India where there was always some reason to look down upon or despise "others" whoever the "others" were. Weather never stood still. It showed more than the two Indian  moods of hot and rain. Here hot saunas cool down into breezy nights, and trees turn red and gold. Then golden trees give way to soft white flakes falling from the sky, and in turn the greyed white blanket melts under fresh rain and warming days. In concert with the crack of the bat, growth emerges slowly over weeks in the south and up in the Yukon in a single day.

And yet…

Indians revere education. Yet Canadians did not seem to. I often heard that learning takes childhood away from children as if children by necessity do not learn every minute. Without learning, how would our young leave diapers behind, learn to speak, learn to share, learn to work with others? Children love to learn; it’s innate. It’s adults who hate it. Children are smart, for in the current information and knowledge revolution the country that respects education and begins formal learning at the youngest age possible is the one that will prosper.

And yet…

Our ancestors set us up to lead the knowledge revolution. They did not relish living in the stone age; they toiled to build a modern, prosperous, just nation from dark forests, raging waterways, and feuding peoples.

I wonder what drove them? For it seems to me that that gushing desire to create, to build a home for everyone has trickled into a puddle of complacency.

I discovered part of the answer when I travelled north, way north. Canada’s spirit lives in her wilderness. We here in Toronto can glimpse it in our deep, leafy ravines and the wildness of Lake Ontario on a stormy day. But only in the northern territories can one feel it. Seeing the young mountains of the Yukon, experiencing chicken lunch time in a small store in a small place on the one road snaking north, marvelling at a forest burnt down fifty years ago with nary a new leaf to be seen, boggling at the rigorous hike men and a few women endured to get to Dawson City while gazing upon the river churning nearby, imagining that river flowing into all the large and small waters that nourish our land, all that and more makes you feel the deep, dangerous heart of Canada, a heart that beats for her people and expects much.

That heart must’ve been what impelled our ancestors to claim cities out of impenetrable flora, to ambitiously build a railroad from coast to coast, to declare the 20th century ours, to forge a national identity on bloody battlefields, to imagine and build places like Chalk River that used to heal the world, to create a social safety net that alleviated so much worry, to bring the Constitution home, to aver that we are strong and mature enough to handle free trade. Our past leaders spoke into being vast northern dreams, and we followed them, cheering, kicking, screaming but never slowing down. Their courage, their persistence, their imagination built us a paradise.

I wish all my fellow Canadians a happy day in Paradise and for us all to remember how we came to be. On this Canada Day, I wish that we as a people will invite into ourselves that burning northern Spirit again, that we will drive ourselves off the comfortable couch to continue on with the creation our ancestors began.

Canada.com printed a shorter version of this piece of their Real Agenda web page in honour of Canada Day.

Personal

My #elxn41 Experience

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It’s almost 2:00 am as I begin to write this, the morning of May 3rd, and I’m watching the local election results and now the BC election results on CBC. It’s been one of those elections that are so unexpected that even though I’m not happy with the Conservative Party majority, I’m finding it hard to wind down. I blame Twitter.

I’ve never had an election experience like this before. Usually, in the weeks leading up to the election, I read the papers, I watch the short TV news stories, and in the last one, I also followed opinions on Twitter. Then on election day, I watch the results on TV and have short convos with people I know in real life about the results. Ho hum.

This year was different. First so many reporters came onto Twitter and live tweeted events, shared pix, cracked wise or trivial — that they gave me an inside picture of the leaders’ campaigns I’d never seen before. It was relevatory and fun, especially when the unthinkable happened — the Orange Crush. And second, so many more people were tweeting about the election today than have done so before (at least that was my impression) that it truly felt like I was part of the entire country. I saw results come from Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada in real time, not as a 2-second clip prior to the Ontario and Québec results being released. I got a glimpse into the electoral map on our east coast in a personal way. And it made me feel closer to that part of the country. The same with British Columbia. In fact, seeing Canadians in east and west opining on national and their own local results caused me to notice the absence of those in the North tweeting their territorial results.

Because I was so caught up with what was going on nationally from east to west in Canada on Twitter, TV, and online streaming, I forgot all about my own local results. I wasn’t too concerned because I honestly felt that, as usual, Toronto would resist the wave of change.

I was wrong.

People in Toronto historically, for the most part, vote Liberal and seemingly always vote incumbent. The familiar name is the safe name, never mind that our MPs just do not represent our needs and interests in Ottawa despite the billions in taxes we send that way. We vote them in time and again, and they reward us with big words, magnificent promises, no action. Our city is crumbling, and our MPs do nada. Apparently, fellow Torontonians noticed, and many decided to take a massive risk and vote for a new name, a different party. Awesome. Unfortunately, around Toronto, voters went blue instead of orange or green.

The Twitterverse, usually not in sync politically with the non-Twitterverse, was not happy with the Conservative win. All sorts of complaints flew around about it’s all the NDP’s fault for vote splitting. But as one of my followers said, vote splitting has benefitted the Liberals in the past. This is not new. And that is not a reason to impose upon us a stuffy, stultifying two-party system. The Canadian Alliance came from the Progressive Conservative Party so the unite-the-right was essentially fixing that split. But NDP came from CCF not Liberals, and Greens are not left. So unite the left is not the same as unite the right.

What is new in this election is that so many Canadians right across Canada chose NDP in enough numbers to make them the Official Opposition. They are not the Liberals, and they will bring a different tone to our Parliament because NDP Leader Jack Layton has demonstrated an ability to negotiate with Harper, because he doesn’t huff and puff dramatically then quits, because Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (though only one person has a strong voice) will be there and will back up Layton in trying to bring a more respectful tone to the House, because they have not wavered in policy goals, and because they learn.

One thing that both Harper and Layton have demonstrated is that patience and persistence pay off for those who do not lose hope, who don’t quit, flip, or switch. Those of us yearning for electoral and Parliamentary reform to restore our democracy, would be wise to learn from that and to see that the NDP, the only big-three party for reform, is one step away from government and being in a position to effect reform instead of crying that all is lost with a five-year Harper majority. (Yes, it’s bad, but Canada will survive.) This is the time to persuade Tory voters that democratic reform is very important, too important to ignore in the next election.

Brain Health

Capt. Trevor Greene Points to the Future of Brain Injury Recovery

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Reader’s Digest. Canadian edition. Capt. Trevor Greene. Axe in head. Remarkable recovery. Against all odds. Miracle. Not.

I really shouldn’t read these kinds of stories; they just put me in a bad mood, and I have to admit I tossed the Digest down after it asked the question of how Greene did it — why did he have such a remarkable recovery? How did he defy the doctors’ prognosis of being a vegetable, of being permanently paralysed?

Simple. The doctors are ignorant, and they’re not all that interested in coming out of that comfortable place, using their uninjured brains to help those of us with injured ones have good, productive lives.

Capt. Greene recovered because he received the two most important things for brain injury recovery: (1) full-time rehabilitation over years, for as long as he needed, not for some predetermined prescribed too-short time period; and (2) the unwavering, committed, involved support of a family member.

No miracle. Just what happens when someone gets proper care.

The damaged part of the brain has to “grow up” again. It has to do all over again what happens in the first twenty years of life, and it has to do it with damaged or dead or missing neurons in an environment of bleeding and swelling and perhaps secondary damage too (current knowledge of what happens exactly in the moment of injury and months after is not that clear). The brain does have cells dedicated to reconnecting neurons — and it is a strange feeling when that last connection is made, like suddenly a part of you is plugged in and is no longer off or sparking — but these work very very very slowly. So there will be spontaneous healing. Over decades.

But you don’t have a child sit around, watching TV, expecting it to learn how to walk, bathe, eat, read, write, think all by itself. You teach it. Every single day. The whole day. For years. Even play is teaching. So why would you expect a person with a brain injury to be able to learn all these things sitting around or with one or two hours per week of rehab in only six months to two years (the prescribed length of time doctors opine is the window of healing; as I said, ignorant)? And why would you ignore the fact that a person with a brain injury has to relearn what a child learns in twenty years in way less time? Why would you throw away a life? Giving it back requires effort and thought, sure, but that’s part of a doctor’s job. Isn’t it?

Greene had his “miracle” cause his fiancée Debbie Lepore did for him what we do for our chidren: support them full time, encourage them always, teach them full time. Lepore was really the miracle. A person willing to do for him what she did is a rare bird and the most beautiful one anyone can find on planet Earth. What makes her especially rare is that it sounds like she did it on her own (with professionals doing some of the rehab) with no other family members to spot her.

What makes me so very angry is that most of us don’t receive that. We don’t have families who are willing to make that years-long sacrifice of full-time, hands-on rehab and caring. Some of us even have families who tell us to get over it or that we are thinking ourselves into a brain injury, as if we can reach our hands into our skulls and rearrange neurons.

Worse. No medical establishment is willing to provide that kind of intensive, years-long rehab, especially not cognitive rehab, in Canada anyway, not because of funding but because in their ignorance, they prefer to take the easy route, to think of us as fit only for day programs, not as having the potential to become members of society once again. I fought for my life; but few have my kind of background, and not everyone is persistently stubborn like me, to be able to do that for themselves. I don’t know if I will ever not be angry about that injustice.

Greene is no miracle. He is what everyone with a brain injury should be. Perhaps one day it will happen.

 

Lifeliner

Last Day Lifeliner eBook on Sale!

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To finish the old year with a flourish, I have put Lifeliner on sale. Only $2.99! An inspirational story about a woman who suffered the catastrophic loss of all her bowels but whooped it up for another 20 years without eating a morsel, it is gripping readers all around the world. It will light up your New Year with Judy’s zest for life.

Click on the link, choose your preferred eBook format of choice, enter coupon code MS55X, and you’ll be immersed in this true life story in no time! http://bit.ly/aNroTb

Or if you’re an Amazon buff, check out Lifeliner on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Bonus: now you can lend your copy of Lifeliner to anyone with an eReader or iPad.

If you need help putting the eBook on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, see my previous posts at http://jeejeebhoy.ca.